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Which Vehicles Avoid Downward Price Impact Amid Heavy Lease-Return Volume?

June 3, 2013
By Auto Remarketing Editor Joe Overby

The rising tide of off-lease volumes looks like it will stick around for the next few years, and the influx of supply has already been downwardly impacting used-vehicle values in the opening half of 2013, according to AutoTrader.com’s Trade-In Marketplace.

That is, with one huge exception.

Putting values on an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 used units each day, data analysis from Trade-In Marketplace indicates that TIM Instant Cash Offers have dropped hundreds of dollars this year.

(The TIM Instant Cash Offer is a guaranteed price given to the consumer for his or her trade that’s good for 72 hours;  the shopper can use this offer to put toward buying a vehicle or simply take home in a check)

More specifically, since Jan. 1, there has been average decline of $700 on these offers, according to a report provided by Trade-In Marketplace director of operations Juan Flores. The year-over-year drop is even steeper at $1,100.

What’s more, since April 1 alone, there has been an average drop of $500 on TIM Instant Cash Offers. The report from Flores details some of reasons for this decline.

Among those he listed are as follows: the fact that dealers have been able to take care of their inventory needs via upstream channels; the sales rates for off-lease or program vehicles at auction has stayed below 40 percent; projections are for off-lease values to stay low; near-luxury (down $600) and luxury (down $1,200) segments are underperforming the market.

But there’s that one exception to these declines: fully equipped models coming off lease.

Specifically, the analysis indicates, these lease returns with amenities like technology packages, navigation, premium sound, leather and V6 engines are the ones bucking the trend.

Trade-In Marketplace has noticed fully equipped lease-returns have notched sales rates between 70 percent and 80 percent. What’s more, TIM Instant Cash Offers for these vehicles have climbed $200 on average, since April 1.

Conversely, standard-equipped editions of the same models have fallen $800 in the same time period. To illustrate this more concretely, Trade-In Marketplace provided the table below, which breaks it down model by model.

And in what’s great news for dealers, Flores said this TIM Instant Cash Offer increase “completely translates” to the retail sales side. In other words, dealers aren’t the only ones paying more for these cars – consumers will, too.

Read more: Autoremarketing | Which Vehicles Avoid Downward Price Impact Amid Heavy Lease-Return Volume?

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Recycling Helps, but It’s Not All You Can Do for the Environment

May 28, 2013

Michael Stravato for The New York Times

A lone recycling bin alongside trash cans on a street in Houston, which recycles only about 3 percent of its trash.

By ALINA TUGEND

LIKE most households, we recycle pretty religiously. It’s easy, though, because our town in suburban New York allows us to throw pretty much everything into one bin, and it gets picked up at the curb.

Recycling has become so automatic that if we’re out and there’s no place to recycle that soda can or bottle, it feels slightly illicit to just drop it in the trash. It’s like littering. You just don’t do it.

Lately, however, I started wondering — are we really doing anything with all this recycling besides feeling better about the stuff we buy?

Much of the discussion has focused on the economic impact. That issue has been batted back and forth with mixed results, although most experts now agree that cities have become more experienced and more effective — and therefore made it more cost-efficient — to recycle most products rather than dump them in landfills.

I’m more curious about what impact it has on other environmental behavior. And when I started looking at that more closely, I discovered that there’s an intense debate going on about this issue.

Recycling “is good civic behavior,” said Samantha MacBride, an assistant professor of public affairs at Baruch College, City University of New York, but it’s oversold as a panacea to a whole host of environmental ills, from overflowing landfills to global warming. “I wouldn’t say that people who do recycling feel they’ve done everything they can by participating, but they think there’s a lot more being achieved than there actually is,” she said. Nationally, said Professor MacBride, who is the author of “Recycling Reconsidered” (MIT Press, 2011), recycling prevents only about one-third of all trash from ending up in landfills.

Partly, she said, that is because people are not recycling everything they can. Partly it’s because the recycling model in most municipalities of picking up a bin with all the recyclables mixed together, especially the plastics, doesn’t work well.

“There’s a huge range of plastic materials and hundreds of different resins,” Professor MacBride said. “We need markets and processes to route them back into production and for the most part, those processes don’t exist.”

So some plastics are sent in bales to China and developing countries, and some are disposed of in landfills.

The emphasis, she said, has to be much more on regulating and recycling waste from manufacturers rather than consumer waste.

The other problem is that while “recycling is a wonderful thing to do if we’re comparing it to throwing stuff away, it has become a reward for consumption,” said Michael Maniates, a professor of environmental science at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania.

Gernot Wagner, an economist with the Environmental Defense Fund and author of “But Will the Planet Notice: How Smart Economics Can Save the World,” (Hill and Wang, 2011), agrees. “There’s a well-documented phenomenon known as single-action bias, where people do one thing and move on,” he said. “People don’t explicitly think, ‘I’ve recycled a cup and solved global warming,’ but rather once they’ve done an action like recycling, they feel consciously or subconsciously like they’ve done their part.”

Or as the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, which is affiliated with the Earth Institute at Columbia University, says on its Web site: “Although recycling is important, it should be but one activity in a series of behavior changes aimed at reducing climate change. Switching to wind or other renewable energies, consuming less meat, conserving daily energy use and eating locally grown food are other effective ways to mitigate climate change, to name but a few. However, if individuals and institutions participate in recycling programs, they may be prone to the single-action bias and feel like they are already doing enough to protect the environment.”

Hold on there, said Allen Hershkowitz, senior scientist and director of the solid waste project at the environmental organization the Natural Resources Defense Council. “I’ve never dealt with a person or company who said, ‘We recycle so we don’t have to do anything else.’ It’s, ‘We recycle, what else can we do?’ ”

In his role as an adviser to the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association, among others, he said he found that recycling was “an entry activity that leads to other activities such as buying recycled, energy effectiveness and fan education.”

Juliet Schor, a professor of sociology at Boston College, said that a number of European studies had demonstrated that people who bought green products or did some sort of similar “conscious consumerism” didn’t stop there, but continued on with other types of environmental activism.

A study conducted by Professor Schor and a graduate student, Margaret Willis, and published recently in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, called “Does Changing Light Bulbs Lead to Changing the World? Political Action and the Conscious Consumer” looked at the concern that “individual action substitutes or ‘crowds out’ civic and collective action.”

Part of the study included 2,271 survey responses from people identified as being “conscious consumers” through an ecologically oriented nonprofit organization the Center for a New American dream. These respondents, largely white, female and highly educated, were asked questions like how often (ranging from “never” to “very consistently”) they engaged in such activities as choosing to drive less, contacting government representatives to express an opinion and buying local or green goods.

While the study didn’t look at recycling in particular, it found that those who chose to do individual green actions were also more involved in other broader political activism.

But Professor Schor said she was troubled that recycling “is what they’re teaching kids in school is going to save the world.”

And that was the point Professor MacBride wanted to emphasize.

“We don’t want to hear the bad side of recycling,” Professor MacBride said. “That’s a child’s view of the world. It’s time to grow up.”

So what can we do? Remember that there’s two other Rs — reduce and reuse — that are far too often ignored.

“As it has turned out ‘reuse’ is something that our kids learn in school as part of the ‘three Rs,’” Professor Maniates said. “But it has no resonance or meaning in mainstream or popular environmental politics and living. I brought my hangers to the dry cleaner and said, ‘Maybe you can reuse these’ and they said, ‘Sure, we’ll recycle them.’ ”

David N. Pellow, a professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, offered a similar perspective. “I would urge people to buy fewer things, buy higher quality, fix things when they’re broken. I would encourage people to recycle as a last stage after they’ve done all these other things.”

And remember not to buy into single-action bias. As Mr. Hershkowitz said: “We are dealing with a gigantic problem and there is no one large undertaking that any individual or business or country can do to solve our ecological problems. It will take billions of people making highly intelligent ecological choices.”

Full article

A version of this article appeared in print on October 20, 2012, on page B5 of the New York edition with the headline: Recycling Helps, but It’s Not All You Can Do for the Environment.

Cities Get So Close to Recycling Ideal, They Can Smell It

May 20, 2013

PORTLAND, Ore. — Stephanie and Matt Murphy plan on using cloth diapers instead of disposable ones once their first baby arrives next month. They want to be good environmental citizens and reduce what they send to landfills, but there is another incentive, too.

“It’ll be nice not to have it sitting out there in the trash,” Ms. Murphy said. “That’s the main reason we’re doing it: to improve the odor of Portland.”

Just when their infant girl is due to arrive, Portland will be experiencing its first summer of biweekly garbage pickup. The change to every other week, introduced in cool weather last fall along with a weekly collection for food scraps, has reduced the amount of garbage that this progressive city is shipping to landfills by 44 percent.

The experience has not been entirely smooth. Since the garbage pickups were spaced out, the city’s main recycling company has complained that more garbage — disposable diapers included — is showing up in recycling bins. Residents complain about strong smells from garbage that has stewed for two weeks in the driveway.

Yet while some grumble, many say the inconveniences, and occasional startling whiff, are prices they are willing to pay to live on the leading edge of recycling.

“It was fuller and stinkier, but for the overall sake of the mission, we were willing to deal,” Penelope Miller, a resident with a 2-year-old daughter, said of her trash can.

Pioneers like Portland, Seattle and San Francisco have become so good at waste diversion that it is becoming harder to get much better. San Francisco reuses a whopping 78 percent of what enters its waste stream, compared with the national average of 34 percent.

As some press toward a goal of “zero waste,” the challenge is asking residents to conquer what officials call “the ick factor” of organic waste, endure fewer garbage pickups, become more sophisticated sorters and live without things like plastic grocery bags and polystyrene containers for their takeout food.

At the same time, the cities are exploring novel solutions for recycling challenging materials that take up relatively far more space at the dump than they did before recycling took hold. Those targets include construction debris from small haulers, complex plastics, polystyrene foam and the smelliest of the smelly: cat litter, dog poop and diapers.

“We have the infrastructure in place that could theoretically take us to 85 percent,” said David Assmann, the deputy director of San Francisco’s Department of the Environment. “The challenge is going to be that last 15 percent. We don’t have a blueprint yet that says exactly how we’re going to get to zero.”

The march to this moment has taken more than three decades. It began with newspaper and cardboard recycling in the 1970s; expanded to glass, aluminum, plastics and other materials; and is now conquering the last relatively easy-to-divert target: food scraps and yard debris that can be turned into compost. In some cases, the compost it creates is sold or given right back to the residents who threw it out.

The West Coast became a leader in part because it has easier access to markets in Asia that buy recyclable materials like paper and plastic. It also has significantly higher landfill costs than many other regions.

The leading cities have long traditions of environmental progressivism and are relatively small, with 800,000 or fewer residents apiece. Portland and Seattle in particular have many single-family houses, where the most responsible recycling takes place.

This summer, Seattle is opening a mammoth new transfer station in an industrial area south of downtown. With a far larger floor area, it will be able to sort waste more thoroughly, including construction debris.

The building puts a bright face on what some people might otherwise deem a dirty industrial endeavor. Old street signs decorate its entrance, a former drawbridge is a sculpture out front, the landscaping is irrigated with captured rainwater, and waste is misted to keep odors down. Windows allow abundant natural light.

“People who have had a hard time finding their transfer station aren’t going to have a hard time now,” said Juwan Williams, a scale attendant for 18 years at the gritty old South Transfer Station. “You can see this place from space.”

Seattle requires composting as well as recycling. Dick’s Drive-In, a beloved local burger chain that has been around since 1954, provides multiple bins with photographs clarifying for customers which piece of waste goes where.

“A shake is all three,” said Eli Hays, who works at the restaurant’s Wallingford neighborhood location. “The lid is recyclable, the straw is garbage, and the cup is compostable.”

Not everyone supports the mandates.

Chris Baldwin, a Dick’s regular, said he had “issues with being told I have to recycle.” Turning to three colleagues who had joined him for a late lunch spread across the bed of a pickup truck, he said, “We wait until Seattle police go by, and we throw it all in the garbage.”

Next month, Seattle will begin a pilot program for biweekly garbage pickup. By 2018, it wants to provide some neighborhoods with a fourth curbside bin for diapers and pet waste. The feces would be placed in anaerobic digesters to produce power.

“It doesn’t look any weirder now than collecting food waste looked weird to us 12 years ago,” said Tim Croll, the head of the solid waste division of Seattle Public Utilities.

Still, there are aggravations for trash handlers.

In Portland, the move to collecting food scraps added to a problem with sea gulls at one of the city’s main transfer stations. In January, a falconer was hired to patrol the site with three falcons to deter the gulls.

“When we started, there were about 400 birds,” said the falconer, Kort Clayton. “Today, the average is less than a few each day.”

Mr. Clayton noted that the gulls had easy pickings in the piles of food scraps but flocked to the garbage as well — evidence that some residents and businesses are not separating their waste. “There’s still food in the garbage,” he said.

And the week after Portland switched to biweekly garbage collection on Oct. 31, Far West Fibers, which handles more than 70 percent of the city’s recyclables sorting, saw a 50 percent increase in the amount of garbage in the weekly recycling loads, said the company’s president, Keith Ristau.

While dirty diapers make up only a small amount of the contamination, he said, “that doesn’t make it any less disgusting” for workers at the recycling plant.

“They have to stop the line and pull the diaper off,” Mr. Ristau said. “You can’t really grab it when it’s going 150 feet a minute on the conveyor belt.”

For Joe Gatto, a driver for Portland Disposal and Recycling for the past 13 years, the new nemesis on his biweekly garbage route is the steep rise in cat litter.

“It smells really bad,” he said. “And you get the added negative that it’s really heavy.”

Full article

A version of this article appeared in print on June 28, 2012, on page A14 of the New York edition with the headline: Cities Get So Close To Recycling Ideal, They Can Smell It.

Recycling Electronics

May 12, 2013

Re “Unwanted Electronics Gear Rising in Toxic Piles” (front page, March 19):

As innovations in consumer electronics produce thinner, lighter televisions that use fewer materials and less energy than their cathode ray tube predecessors, our industry has decreased its collective environmental footprint.

In late 2011, our association and the Environmental Defense Fund co-sponsored the first-ever “C.R.T. Challenge,” a crowd-sourced technical challenge to find new uses for old C.R.T. glass.

The winning solutions from that challenge resulted in ideas for new processes for separating lead from glass for use in a variety of industries, using an energy-efficient, electrically heated furnace, and a new way to merge C.R.T. glass with cement to create tile and bricks for applications where lead shielding is required, like X-ray and fluoroscopy rooms.

Through the eCycling Leadership Initiative begun in 2010, manufacturers of consumer electronics have committed to recycling a billion pounds of consumer electronics responsibly by 2016.

In 2011 alone, these manufacturers spent more than $100 million to responsibly recycle more than 460 million pounds of old electronics.

Our commitment to producing better and more environmentally sensitive products has never been higher, nor has our industry’s commitment to innovative, responsible recycling solutions.

WALTER ALCORN
Arlington, Va., March 22, 2013

Full article

The writer is vice president for environmental affairs and industry sustainability at the Consumer Electronics Association.

Epic EV Torq: Three Wheels + One Electric Motor = Interesting

May 2, 2013
Epic Electric Vehicles said it expects to build 50 of the 2013 Torq E.V.Epic Electric Vehicles Epic Electric Vehicles said it expects to build 50 of the 2013 Torq E.V.

Morgan Motor Company’s 1930s-retro 3-Wheelers are cool. Of that there’s little doubt. They’re light, fast and guaranteed conversation starters. But what if you took that same Morgan, made it look all futuristic and replaced its noisy V-twin motorcycle engine with a silent, powerful electric motor?

You’d get Epic Electric Vehicles’ Torq Roadster, which resembles an escape pod from a ’90s space movie and has an electric motor, carbon-fiber body and, yes, only one rear wheel. Like the Morgan 3-Wheeler, the Torq EV is basically a sporty toy for people who have extra money lying around. But it is a mean-looking little buggy. If you’re the sort of car-loving playboy who is into 3-wheeled cars (come on, you know you’re out there) and prefers “Star Trek: The Next Generation” machines to ones like those featured in Lawrence of Arabia, the Torq could be what you’re looking for.

David Vespremi, a former Tesla Motors executive, became Epic’s first customer in an official-looking handoff ceremony last month. Judging by his blog post on the subject, Mr. Vespremi is pretty amped on having a Torq, and said the electric 3-wheeler is nearly as quick off the line as a Tesla Roadster. Mr. Vespremi commended not only the Torq’s quickness, but also its silence — the electric drivetrain means he can sneak out of the house at dawn for “spirited driving” without waking his entire family with the roar he’d subjected them to with his 400-horsepower Toyota MR2.

Epic Electric Vehicles said in a news release that it would produce about 50 Torqs for 2013. Prices start at $65,000 in the United States. If you want to play, be prepared to pay a $10,000 deposit. The company is also taking $5,000 deposits for a 2014 model.

I wish I could say more about the car, but since I’ve neither seen it in person nor driven it, I’ll leave you with a kernel of utter nonsense (which seems in keeping with chatter about a 3-wheel electric roadster that costs more than a couple of average family sedans): I have to wonder if driving one feels more carlike, or more like one of those speeder bikes the Ewoks ride in “Return of the Jedi.”

Read the full article.

Green Wheels: 2013 Lexus CT 200h Premium Hybrid Compact

April 27, 2013

eaturing recyclable, plant-based materials and a regenerative braking system for improved fuel efficiency, this hybrid is the ultimate in greener driving.

2013 Lexus CT 200h side Green Wheels: 2013 Lexus CT 200h Premium Hybrid Compact

2013 Lexus CT 200h. Photo courtesy of Lexus.

If you are in the market for a new car this holiday season and sustainability is important, take a look at the 2013 Lexus CT 200h Premium Hybrid Compact. According to Green Car Reports, “There wasn’t a lot wrong with the (2012) CT 200h, but Lexus has updated it for the 2013 model year with some small changes to ensure it remains competitive.”

The EPA rates the CT 200h for 43 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city, 40 mpg on the highway and an overall 42-mpg rating. As with the 2012 model, the 2013 CT 200h incorporates a drive-mode selector that allows the driver to toggle between four distinct modes: Normal, Sport, Eco or EV.

  • The Normal mode gives the driver naturally progressive power.
  • The Sport mode can be selected when the driver wants a more lively driving experience.
  • The Eco mode adjusts air conditioning settings and the throttle response is reduced relative to the pedal angle to emphasize fuel economy.
  • The EV mode allows the vehicle to be driven in its electric mode for as long as the battery lasts.

2013 Lexus CT 200h interior Green Wheels: 2013 Lexus CT 200h Premium Hybrid Compact

The interior of the 2013 Lexus CT 200h. Photo courtesy of Lexus.

Some updated features for 2013:

  • The CT 200h’s regenerative braking system helps recharge the hybrid battery pack and improve fuel efficiency. An explanation of regenerative braking from the Lexus site: “During braking, coasting and deceleration, energy that would normally be lost as heat is captured as electrical energy, which is then used to recharge the battery.”
  • The standard six-speaker audio system features the world’s first automotive speakers constructed with sustainable bamboo and resin.
  • Ecological plastics with 30% plant-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET) materials are used for the floor mats, deck side and deck board trim. The vehicle is more than 80% recyclable and is designed to be easily unassembled. The recycling symbol has been placed on the front, rear and tailgate trim to make recyclable parts as clear as possible.
  • Careful aerodynamic detailing of the lower bumper and finned rear undercover improves both vehicle stability and fuel consumption.

The CT 200h also has an exhaust heat recovery system that captures the heat of spent exhaust gases to speed engine coolant warm-up and allows the hybrid system to stop the engine earlier and more often in the driving cycle when it is not needed (for example, during city driving, when the power demand is lower).

2013 Lexus CT 200h front Green Wheels: 2013 Lexus CT 200h Premium Hybrid Compact

Finding Alternatives to Autos That Run on REEs

April 15, 2013

ARPA-E’s REACT program aims to develop the next generation of hybrid vehicles: electric motors without rare earths.

Baldor Electric Company 303x303 Finding Alternatives to Autos That Run on REEs

Baldor Electric Company’s rare-earth-free traction motor. Image via ARPA-E.

Hybrid cars’ efficiency and condensed fuel consumption are stellar examples of their positive impact on the environment. The lower the fuel intake, the fewer greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere.

But, The Advanced Research Projects Agency- Energy team is trying to do one better: design electric motors that do not require the use of rare earth elements.

With the skyrocketing demand and depleting supply of REEs, the U.S. Department of Energy is exploring solutions to this increasingly growing concern. From the miniscule neodymium magnets that control a cell phone’s speaker, to the terbium-containing LCD screens of a computer monitor, these finite minerals power many of our electronics.

So, what does this mean for the way our society functions as the volume of REEs continues to dwindle? Recycling is a must. Finding alternatives is even more important.

In 2011, the ARPA-E began funding its Rare Earth Alternatives in Critical Technologies program to do just that. National companies and established research institutions comprise the 14 projects that are attempting to generate substitutes in two main areas: motors and wind generators.

Of the $27.5 million currently invested in REACT, about $8.7 million is being funneled into three separate projects tackling the electric motor design. Baldor Electric Company’s rare-earth-free traction motor is a lighter, less costly option than the common bulkier model used in today’s electric vehicles.

Similarly, the double-stator motor design the University of Texas at Dallas is fostering targets low-cost manufacturing, and the two stators’ composition will also allow the vehicle to drive in more ragged conditions and under harsher temperatures.

QM Power is experimenting with iron-based magnetic materials to provide torque to the wheels in its efficient, high-torque electric vehicle motor, while still being more cost efficient.

According to the ARPA-E’s website, the potential success of these unique electric motors will not only benefit the environment, but can also help boost the economy with the creation of thousands of jobs and bring energy security by relying on abundant materials.

Head here to learn more information about REACT’s projects and initiatives.