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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has revealed its annual list of Top Safety Picks, an award that highlights automobiles it says offer "superior crash protection." A new and still more significant award, the Top Safety Pick+ honor, is given to those vehicles that earn good ratings for occupant protection in four out of five areas of measure. And while some 117 vehicles were given the TSP seal of approval for 2013, just 13 passed muster for TSP+.
To be fair, IIHS only evaluated 29 vehicles with its new testing procedures for TSP+ (we'd expect that the number of qualified cars will rise substantially for 2014). Luxury and Near Luxury midsize cars were the first groups evaluated, followed by midsizers in the Moderately Priced Cars category - unsurprisingly, it's only midsize cars that you'll find among the class this year.
Only two luxury sedans made the list of 13 for 2013: the Acura TL and Volvo S60. The other 11 cars on the list included entries from domestic, Japanese and German car makers: Dodge Avenger, Chrysler 200, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord (sedan and coupe), Kia Optima (but not its close kin, the Hyundai Sonata, strangely), Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy and Outback, Suzuki Kizashi and the Volkswagen Passat all made the grade.
Bloomberg reports American Suzuki is set to borrow up to $45 million to to close its automotive dealerships and freshen up its it motorcycle and marine business. Suzuki Motor Corporation will loan American Suzuki the funds at three percent below the London Interbank offered rate in order to offer dealer owners a cash payment in exchange for voluntarily abandoning franchise agreements. The company's 216 dealers have 10 days to make a decision on the matter. Under the plan, Suzuki would give dealer owners half of what they're owed in one lump sum, and the dealers would then be able to pursue the remaining debt through the company's bankruptcy procedure.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Scott C. Clarkson granted American Suzuki interim authority to borrow the funds, but Bloomberg reports the company will likely return to court in a few weeks to seek up to $100 million. According to Richard Pachulski, a lawyer for Suzuki America, the automaker may owe its dealers somewhere around $50 million.
After watching the Tata Nano post sales numbers smaller than its engine displacement, Renault gave up on its much publicized intention to build a truly inexpensive car to rival it. Then, a month ago, reports emerged that Renault was resuming work on a couple of low-priced cars for emerging markets, but this time it would work with its in-house partner, Nissan. That plan envisions an offering for €3,000 ($3,888 US) and another for €5,000 ($6,400 US), both of which would be more spendy than the Nano but might avoid the charge of being cheap - and nasty - and instead be considered affordable.
A report in Reuters talks to the man in charge, Gerard Detourbet, who has been in Chennai, India since at least August working on the program. Detourbet led the Dacia Logan project and is considered "Renault's low-cost car specialist" and "the father of entry-car programs." This one is reportedly codenamed A-Entry and will create a "'sub-entry' architecture" that will provide roominess beyond the vehicle's price and class, and use an engine with a displacement of 800 cubic centimeters.
It isn't aimed at the Nano, though - it means to take on the products that make up 45-50 percent of India's car market, like the Maruti Suzuki Alto and Hyundai Eon. According to Reuters, out of the 2.6-million-strong Indian car market the Maruti Suzuki line-up alone nabs one million registrations annually. The Alto 800 begins at 244,000 rupees ($4,440 US), the Eon at 300,000 rupees ($5,559 US), the Chevrolet Spark at about 316,000 ($5,750 US); if Renault can nail its price targets it will just about bracket those three and be right in the game.