Crews-ing time

Subaru's Stellar Care Awards for 2014 went out this spring to 229 dealers in 43 states, but just one in South Carolina - Crews Subaru of Charleston.

According to the Japanese carmaker's U.S. operations, the award is "the highest honor a Subaru dealer can achieve."

Company outlets that earn the trophy all meet one overriding objective.

"Thoughtful customer care is delivered with relentless dedication to customer satisfaction," Subaru of America Inc. noted in a two-page advertisement in Automotive News this month.

Crews Subaru of Charleston opened in the late 2000s at 8261 Rivers Avenue in North Charleston next to Crews Chevrolet. H.R. Hicks joined four years ago as general manager, according to the dealership website at www.charlestonsubaru.com.

BMW plant in S.C. an 'initial quality' leader

Over the past two decades, the BMW auto plant in Upstate South Carolina has accomplished quite a lot, including retooling from roadster to SUV production.

But until now, the factory hadn't won a prestigious award that measures motorists' first impressions of the new cars they buy.

Automotive researcher J.D. Power, which BMW Manufacturing calls "a trusted source for evaluating customer satisfaction regarding new vehicle quality," recently honored the South Carolina factory with the Bronze Plant Quality Award in the North America and South America region.

The award stemmed from J.D Power's 2014 U.S. Initial Quality Study, which covers responses from more than 86,000 purchasers and leaseholders of new model-year cars, trucks and "multi-activity vehicles" surveyed after 90 days of ownership. The study took place from February to May of this year.

According to the German carmaker, "Other BMW Group plants have received this award, but this is the first ever for the Spartanburg plant."

At the same time, the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study ranked the BMW X3 crossover as second best in its "compact premium SUV" segment.

"This is truly an extraordinary accomplishment for this plant," says Manfred Erlacher, president and chief executive of BMW Manufacturing Co.

"Building quality vehicles for our customers is our top priority, and this award is a demonstration of the commitment of our entire workforce," he says.

BMW Manufacturing is the global producer of the BMW X3 and X5 "sports activity vehicles" and X4 and X6 sports activity coupes. In its early days, the plant built the Z3 roadster.

South Carolina so-so for teen drivers

Earning a driver's license can be a big deal for young motorists but can also bring safety, economic and regulatory challenges.

In that vein, online consumer site WalletHub rolled out a survey this month on the Best and Worst States for Teen Drivers.

South Carolina placed tied for 42nd with Missouri, surpassing just seven states. Dragging down the Palmetto state's ranking were comparatively high numbers for teen driver fatalities as a share of all teen motorists and for the average cost of car repairs.

By contrast, the state placed at least in the top third with lower numbers for teen per capita numbers of "under the influence" traffic violations and premium increase after adding a teen driver to car insurance. It also scored well in impaired driving laws, and quality of roads.

Meanwhile, South Carolina finished near the bottom in distracted driving-texting while driving laws. But the figure should improve in the future, given local and statewide efforts in the past two years to ban texting behind the wheel.

South Carolina, as it turns out, has more than its share of drivers age 19 or younger. It trails just three states in the percent of teen population with drivers' licenses and only five states in the share of total drivers who are teen drivers, notes WalletHub, which bills itself as the "social network for your wallet."

The website publicized the survey in June because "more teens obtain their driver's licenses during the summer than any other season." As a result, "their parents' auto expenses also rise accordingly," WalletHub said.

"With an average of 260 teen deaths resulting from auto accidents during the summer months, our study is especially timely for parents of young drivers," the online site added.

WalletHub said it broke down its findings into three categories "that examine the safety conditions, economic environment and driving laws of each state." South Carolina placed 44th in safety, 37th for economics and 32nd in driving laws.

For more information, visit www.wallethub.com.