Despite gas prices falling to their lowest levels since 2010, fuel economy – for a fourth consecutive yea – remains the most influential factor among the majority of new-vehicle buyers in determining which vehicle they select, according to the J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Avoider StudySM.

New-vehicle retail sales in January are expected to reach the highest levels for the month in a decade, both overall and on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) basis, according to a monthly sales forecast developed jointly by J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.

“The year is off to a great start with exceptional growth in retail sales,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power.

“The sales momentum seen throughout 2014 is continuing into 2015 and, unlike last year, inclement weather has not slowed vehicle sales thus far. With an additional weekend in January this year, the industry is on a trajectory to post the second-largest year-over-year retail sales growth in the past 17 months,” stated Humphrey.

Humphrey also mentioned that with the continuation of low gas prices, consumers are purchasing more trucks. So far in January, trucks, vans and SUVs account for 55.4 percent of sales, the highest level for a January since 2004.

The falling prices at the pump are a product of global oil prices tumbling to multi-year lows. While gas prices are likely to increase this spring due to seasonal demand and maintenance, barring any major increase in the global price of crude, AAA expects the national average to remain below $3 per gallon during 2015.

Stolen Vehicle Clones: Hot Cars in Cool Disguises


ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), January 25, 2015 – The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is warning consumers to be careful when buying a used vehicle, especially one that’s priced “too good to be true.”

Recently, an innocent woman in Lancaster, Wisc. bought a used GMC Denali for $30,000 and for the last two years she has been enjoying its use. Meanwhile, Carfax notified NICB that the Denali might be a “clone” since Carfax had information that an identical Denali was currently registered in Peabody, Mass.

Investigation by NICB quickly revealed that the vehicle in Peabody was the legitimate vehicle and that the one in Lancaster was most likely a stolen vehicle. The vehicle owner in Lancaster was contacted and agreed to bring her Denali to the police department for an inspection. NICB senior special agent Larry Burzynski confirmed that it was a stolen vehicle taken from Palm Beach County, Fla., in 2007.

Fortunately for the clone buyer, Wisconsin state law mandates that all new and used car dealers be licensed and bonded. If law enforcement confiscates a vehicle from an individual who purchased the vehicle from a dealer, then the dealer must make the buyer whole again. Since the buyer in this case bought the clone from a dealer and it was confiscated by law enforcement, she will not suffer any financial loss from the transaction. But in most other states, this same situation could result in the complete loss of a buyer’s investment.

The NICB offers these tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of vehicle cloning:

Check the VIN with the department of motor vehicles
Use NICB’s free VINCheck service
Be careful when purchasing a used vehicle from someone advertising it online or in the newspaper
Have a private company conduct a vehicle history report
Trust your instincts. If a used vehicle deal sounds too good to be true …walk away

Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422), texting keyword “fraud” to TIP411 (847411).

Gov. Nixon Discusses Project Lead the Way, STEM Education


ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), January 25, 2015 – Gov. Jay Nixon visited Marion Elementary in the Ritenour School district recently to discuss the school’s Project Lead the Way program, a program the Governor highlighted in last night’s State of the State Address. Project Lead the Way is a rigorous, project-based program that provides hands-on learning experiences for students in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

“We know that the fastest-growing, highest-paying jobs in the global economy are in science, technology, engineering and math. But right now less than 20 percent of undergrads at our public universities are getting degrees in these demanding academic disciplines,” Gov. Nixon said. “Project Lead the Way gives students the opportunity to see and experience the real-world applications of math and science. It’s a game-changer when it comes to helping spark – and hold – students’ interest in these critical subjects.”

The Ritenour School District in North St. Louis County is one of only a few school districts in the state to offer Project Lead the Way at the elementary level. The Governor has included funding in his Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal to expand Project Lead the Way to an additional 350 elementary schools throughout the state.

“Ritenour School District’s Project Lead the Way program engages students in hands-on learning activities and projects that combine science, technology, engineering and math skills relevant to their everyday lives,” said Superintendent Chris Kilbride. “These types of learning experiences are helping our students become critical thinkers and better problem-solvers as they prepare for their futures in any career they choose. I’ve witnessed how Project Lead the Way provides new and exciting opportunities for our students to excel in STEM-related learning that go beyond traditional classroom instruction.”

“Missouri is number one in the nation in the number of Project Lead the Way computer science programs, but right now there are only 34 schools using Project Lead the Way on the elementary level. Working together, we can expand this opportunity to more students,” Gov. Nixon said. “That’s why my budget proposal includes $2 million in matching challenge grants to local school districts to add 350 Project Lead the Way elementary school classrooms throughout Missouri, expanding this program tenfold across the state.”

In addition to the $2 million challenge grants for Project Lead the Way, Gov. Nixon’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget and legislative proposals also include continued record funding for K-12 education, with an additional $150 million for Missouri’s public schools.

Through Project Lead the way, Missouri offers 351 programs to 319 participating schools, ranking 10th in the country in number of programs. Missouri’s rate of growth in the program ranks behind only California and Texas. Missouri leads the country in PLTW computer science programs and is second behind California in new elementary school programs. Missouri also houses the third most biomedical science programs of any state. Project Lead the Way began in Missouri in 2002 with just one school participating.