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Kathy Ward, CEO of Canadian Black Book .
Kathy Ward, CEO of Canadian Black Book .

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The online book on used car values Add to ...

New- or used-car buyers wondering what their current vehicle will net them on trade-in, or what their new wheels may be worth down the road, now have a new free resource available to them, produced by the Canadian Black Book folks who crunch the numbers that most banks and dealers use to appraise such vehicles.

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The CBB's consumer website at canadianblackbook.com officially launches today, and lists not only the trade-in values, but also the average retail asking prices and predicted future values of both new and used cars. It promises used-car values for every consumer vehicle on the Canadian market since 1997, dealer ads for new and used vehicles, as well as various auto news, reviews and specialist features on buying or leasing a new (to you) car.

"This is something consumers have been asking for, for quite some time," said Kathy Ward, president and CEO of Canadian Black Book. "It also serves dealers by delivering informed buyers to their showrooms."

That last bit may be contentious for some dealers, who may not like to give up the power of knowing what the value of a customer's trade-in is, but it's undoubtedly useful information for the buyer. Ward argues that dealers enjoy working with informed customers, because it means more serious buyers walking through the door, instead of tire kickers.

"Dealers know that the buying decision is made closer to the Internet level than the dealership level, so they're happy to have a more informed buyer, because they're ready to buy by the time they come in," Ward said in an interview.

Poking through the site, which has been live for the past few days before its official announcement, the obvious main benefit to the site is its ability to assess and predict trade-in values. This contrasts with other classified auto sites that just tell you what other vehicles like yours are selling for, not what the dealer paid for it at trade-in. Plus, on other sites, if there doesn't happen to be a car of your vintage, mileage, options and overall condition for sale in your area, then you're out of luck on finding out a realistic selling price.

The Trade-In part of the site also seems the most accurate, as researching Future Values and Average Asking Prices for the family 2003 Pontiac Vibe netted what seemed to be sometimes contradictory values. For example, if the AAP now lies between the site's suggested $10,000-$14,000 - which seems fantastically high - then I wouldn't expect its future value to be $0 by next year, which sounds low, if sadly the more realistic of the two. By contrast, the Trade-In values feature listed a range between a $2,902 low and a $4,784 for a pristine, low-mileage example of a base, automatic, and air-conditioned Vibe, figures which sound most accurate of all.

Ward suggests that potential buyers may use info gleaned from the site to tap into car-buying advice from friends or contacts on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter on their top few choices, although there's not yet any functionality for that, as of this writing.

Tesla Roadster

Toyota-Tesla pairing earns political, green points in California

The $50-million (U.S.) Toyota is putting toward a new partnership with electric car maker Tesla could prove to be the most inexpensive environmental investment the auto maker has yet made.

Toyota is lining up with Tesla, a start-up California firm that has put egg on the face of every major car maker by being the first in North America to develop a financially viable, highway-capable electric vehicle, the Tesla Roadster. It is the car former GM vice-chairman Bob Lutz once said helped spur the decision to bring the Chevrolet Volt to market.

The companies have agreed to jointly develop electric vehicles, and Tesla also agreed to take over Toyota's NUMMI plant in Fremont, Calif., which previously built Pontiac Vibes, Toyota Corollas and Tacoma pickups in a joint venture with GM. The plant, the only Toyota facility in the U.S. to employ UAW workers, closed last month.

"This seems like a good deal for both parties, especially Toyota, from being able to avoid the political fallout from shutting NUMMI down to being able to offer a new electric vehicle with just a low initial investment cost," Jeremy Anwyl, CEO of auto-industry researcher Edmunds.com, told Bloomberg's Businessweek.

The size of Toyota's stake is still up in the air, Tesla co-founder Elon Musk told the magazine, as an upcoming IPO will help determine what kind of equity in Tesla the investment will buy.

At the same time, the move inexpensively elbows aside rival Daimler, which had signed a deal last year to receive batteries for its electric test vehicles; however, Daimler scaled back the investment a few months later. A Daimler spokesperson told Businessweek that the Toyota link-up will not impede Daimler's deal for car batteries from Tesla, but it also doesn't bode well for the possibility of expanding any Daimler-Tesla deal.

"The best thing Toyota gets from this deal is great PR," commented Wired.com's Autopia blogger, Chuck Squatriglia, noting the heat Toyota was taking for the plant closing, on top of its recall issues, in one of its largest markets. "Now it's handing the place over to Tesla and getting credit from the likes of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for helping create green jobs."

2010 Mazda3 Sport

Mazda3 dethrones Civic for sales crown

The Mazda3 has pried the Honda Civic off its long-standing perch atop the Canadian car sales charts. The Mazda3's slightly higher April sales total put it ahead of the Civic, both for the month and so far this year, threatening to end the Civic's decade-long reign atop the sales charts.

The Mazda3 has long been hugely popular with Canadians, and Mazda Canada officials have lamented many times privately that the title would have been theirs earlier, but they simply could not get their hands on more 3s, due to its popularity around the globe.

No such upsets in the making on the truck side, where the Ford F-150 is again the best-selling vehicle overall, and well ahead of the Dodge Caravan and Dodge Ram, in April and to the beginning of May.

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Lower price set on new Grand Cherokee

Chrysler Canada has released final information for its 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee, mere weeks before it arrives in Canadian showrooms in June, and it promises an all-new and more fuel-efficient V-6 engine, new suspensions and a new lower price.

The base GC will be the Laredo E model, which will start at $37,995, plus $1,400 for freight, or $3,650 lower than the 2010 model's MSRP. The top-line Overland model rings in at $49,995, with freight extra.

The interior is touted as world-class, which hasn't been said about any Chrysler interior for a long time outside of company promo materials, but the real highlight will likely be the engine. The new Pentastar 3.8-litre V-6 promises a range of more than 1,000 kilometres, thanks to a large tank and claimed best-in-class fuel consumption that averages 8.9 litres/100 km.

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