Auto Outlook: Auto repairs, big trucks most stolen vehicles

By AL SWANSON, UPI Auto Writer  |  July 14, 2013 at 5:30 AM
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Early in our relationship my wife deferred to my competence in all things automotive.

Maybe it was confidence after hearing about my high school shop classes in auto mechanics and auto electrics, or my part-time job as a pump jockey at the local gas station, but when it came time to repair or purchase a vehicle my word had weight.

Granted this was back in the time when an average car owner could do much routine maintenance from an oil change to a tune-up. But with the proliferation of computers, tune-ups quickly became a thing of the past as did doing most repairs.

Now you likely need a computer to spit out a code just to determine what needs to be repaired.

Things change, but not all things.

A study by researchers at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and, an auto repair website, found that a typical female car owner seeking auto repairs paid more than a man for the same repair -- but women were better able to negotiate a discount than a man.

Researchers had motorists of both sexes get telephone quotes for replacing a radiator on a 2003 Toyota Camry. Callers were divided into three groups: those indicating they had no clue what the repair might cost, those who were misinformed and expected a higher price ($510) and those with a good idea of what the repair should cost ($365).

You can find estimates of average prices for many auto repairs on several Internet websites.

Both men and women who expressed knowledge of the repair cost received similar quotes for the job, but men who acted uninformed generally received a lower price quote than women who seemed uniformed. Callers of both sexes who expected to pay more were quoted above average prices.

Meghan Busse, associate professor of management and strategy at the Kellogg School, said analysis of the findings indicates repair shops were more likely to assume men were more knowledgeable about the price range of specific repairs and they were more likely to be quoted the average price.

"Our findings suggest that auto shops may assume men know the market price of a given repair, so they automatically grant it," Busse said in a release. "They may not expect women to be knowledgeable in this area, so the perception is they can charge more."

Auto shops assumed women did not know that much about auto repairs and they could overcharge (to make the "boat payment" as NPR's savvy Click and Clack car repair show experts would say).

The unexpected finding was that when both genders tried to negotiate women were able to lower a price quoted by a repair shop more often than men, 35 percent of the time compared to 25 percent of the time for men.

However, most auto repair shops were not willing to negotiate their prices. The researchers suggest vehicle owners try to appear well-informed and get multiple quotes before getting repairs to get the best deal. And don't be afraid to ask for a discount.

Ford F-250 most stolen vehicle

Car thieves like big trucks.

Data collected by the Highway Loss Data Institute show the full-size Ford F-250 pickup has replaced the Cadillac Escalade as the most stolen vehicle in the United States. The four-wheel drive F-250 crew cab was stolen at a frequency of seven per 1,000 insured vehicles from 2010 to 2012 -- six times the average for all vehicles.

The F-250 had the second most claims for theft per 1,000 insured vehicles in the 2008-10 survey.

The data does not distinguish between the theft of what was inside the vehicle from the theft of the entire vehicle, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found a motor vehicle is stolen every 44 seconds and only 52 percent of stolen vehicles are recovered.

"General Motors has put a lot of effort into new anti-theft technology, so that may help explain the decline in the Escalade's theft rate," Highway Loss Data Institute Vice President Matt Moore told The Detroit News. He said falling Escalade sales also may have lowered the SUV's theft rate.

Following the F-250 Crew Cab 4WD on the most stolen list was the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab, the Chevrolet Avalanche 1500, GMC Sierra 1500 Crew Cab, Ford F-350 Crew Cab 4WD, the Cadillac Escalade 4WD, Chevrolet Suburban 1500, GMC Sierra 1500 Extended Cab, GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe.

The all-wheel-drive Dodge Journey 4WD, Volkswagen Tiguan 4WD and Audi A4 sedan were among vehicles with the lowest theft claims.

Detroit Three love June sales

June had one less selling day than June 2012 but sales by U.S. automakers were strong.

U.S. vehicle sales hit 1.4 million in June, up 9.2 percent from the same month a year ago, Autodata said. Truck sales were three times the pace of overall sales during June, a sign of the recovering economy.

Ford led the way with a 24 percent gain in sales of full-size F-Series pickups and Chrysler saw Ram truck sales up 23 percent while sales of GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado trucks rose 33 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

Overall Ford sales were up 13.4 percent compared to last June with a 39 percent gain in sales of the subcompact Ford Fiesta, compact Focus, the world's top selling car, and hybrid C-Max. Chrysler sales jumped 8.2 percent last month, the automaker's best June in six years.

General Motors reported a 6.5 percent sales increase, with Cadillac sales up 14.9 percent and sales of the compact Chevrolet Cruze up a monthly record 73 percent.

Among foreign automakers, Japan's Nissan saw sales rise 12.9 percent, Toyota was up 9.8 percent and South Korea's Hyundai was up 1.9 percent while Volkswagen of America saw June sales slip 3.2 percent.

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