10 Tiny Bits of Automotive News – February 21, 2012

1. Kia is preparing to launch its first rear wheel drive car – code name KH will share the Equis platform. It is a world car and we don’t know whether it will reach US shores or not.

2. The average price of gas is up according to AAA and it predicts that the usual summer increase in gas prices will be more severe than usual.

3. Think you’re saving money by buying a cheaper car? Not necessarily. Cheaper cars are often more expensive to insure – according to insure.com. Of course you can go too far the other way. An R8 is one of the most expensive cars you can buy and also one of the most expensive to insure. The Toyota Sienna the cheapest.

4. U.S. Department of Transportation head Ray LaHood has announced a new set of proposed distracted driving guidelines for automakers that would limit the use of in-car tech solutions that are “not directly relevant to safely operating the vehicle, or cause undue distraction by engaging the driver’s eyes or hands for more than a very limited duration while driving.”

5. The latest J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study shows a 13-percent improvement in new car dependability over the first three years of ownership. Lexus was the highest rated brand followed by Porsche, Cadillac, Toyota and Scion.

6. Tesla and Daimler are planning to build a new electric Mercedes-Benz. Teslay is set to supply a full powertrain for an unnamed electric Mercedes-Benz in the near future. Those components include a motor, transmission, inverter and all of the software necessary to keep the car whirring along.

7. Robb Report Car of the Year named – Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 followed by the Maserati GranTurismo MC, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster, Audi A7, Bentley Continental GTC, Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG, Aston Martin Virage Volante, Nissan GT-R, Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, Jaguar XKR-S, BMW 650i Convertible, Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca, and Chevrolet Volt.

8. The Governors Highway Safety Association reveals that the number of 16- and 17-year-old driver deaths went up 11 percent during the first half of 2011 despite the fact that overall driving deaths are down.

9. Maserati introduced the GranTurismo Sport, replacing the GranTurismo S, slotting in between the base GranTurismo and the GranTurismo MC. The biggest upgrade is found under the engine, where the 4.7-liter V8 has been boosted from 434 horsepower to 460.

10. Polk Research says American drivers kept their new vehicles an average of 71.4 months — up 4.7 months from March. Both the length of ownership and the rate of increase set records.

2012 Hagerty Hot List: 10 Future Collector Cars Under $100,000

Hagerty, a classic car insurance company and host to the largest database of classic cars, announced its annual “Hagerty Hot List” of new vehicles that stand above their mass-produced peers.

“After more than twenty years of witnessing car-collecting trends, we have the unique ability to look at new cars through the eyes of a collector,” said McKeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty Insurance. “This year’s Hot List includes cars that are sure to develop a cult-like following because their characteristics resonate with driving enthusiasts.”

Each year Hagerty asks its team of valuations experts to select which mass-produced vehicles with a MSRP of less than $100,000 will one day become collectible. The 2012 Hagerty Hot List (along with base price) is:

1. Buick Regal GS ($32,535) – It has been quite a long time since we could say “that isn’t your Grandpa’s Buick.” Surprisingly, at a time when allegedly more sporting makes don’t offer real three-pedal manual transmissions, Buick is doing it with the Regal GS.

2. Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca Edition ($48,100) – Ford is calling this a “race car with a license plate,” and it pays homage to the original and very collectible Boss 302. It is a beast on the race track, yet tame enough to drive on the street – and all for less than $50,000.

3. Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 ($61,785) – Let’s face it, Americans love SUVs. The problem is most SUVs don’t handle as impressively as they look. The SRT8 version of the Grand Cherokee takes the rugged, go-anywhere look of an SUV and combines it with performance characteristics that would earn respect on a race track.

4. Fiat 500 Abarth ($22,000) – With a 160 horsepower, 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, Abarth-tuned suspension, brakes and dual exhaust, the latest in-house-tuned Fiat recalls the “small but wicked” models from the past. Fiat’s performance division also includes complimentary admission to the Abarth Driving Experience with each purchase. The cognoscenti line has formed.

5. Volkswagen Golf R ($36,000) – The Golf’s ancestor, the MK I GTI from the early 1980s, is now a legitimate collectible, and the rare 2004 Golf R32 is headed in that direction. The new, all-wheel drive Golf R is geared towards someone who enjoys driving and evokes the same “pocket-rocket” characteristics of its forbearers.

6. Porsche 911 ($82,100) – The Porsche legacy is built around the 911. Every generation runs the course from being fun used cars for good buys to eventually swelling in value. If you are most concerned about a car holding its value over the long term, then this is the car on this list to buy now and lovingly keep.

7. Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 ($54,095) – Since 2005, the current generation of Shelby Mustangs has owned the king-of-the-hill position in the pony car segment. The new ZL1 Camaro with 580 horsepower brings Chevy back into the hunt and demonstrates that old-school muscle is alive and well.

8. Nissan GT-R Black Edition ($95,100) – Until this year, this is the car that young people in the U.S. have only been able to experience on video games. It manages to squeeze 530 horsepower out of a six-cylinder engine. While the invoice price is out of reach for most in the younger generation, we predict they will remember these cars years down the road after their student loans are paid off.

9. Dodge Charger SRT8 ($46,795) – What won us over is the giant touch screen in the center of the dash. And not for the reasons you are thinking. It has “performance pages” that feed input to the driver about performance statistics such as available horsepower and torque.

10. Audi TT RS ($56,850) – For people who won’t buy a Porsche because they haven’t won Le Mans in quite a while, the Audi TT RS is the answer. This is a car with global appeal, which means it will have global demand several decades down the road.