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Autopias - Car Utopia

Best Cities that Make Your Car Happy

How happy is your car? If your automobile could talk, it might tell you it wants frequent trips to the car wash, traffic-free commutes, and fill-ups with high-quality gasoline. And if your automobile lives in New Orleans, then it's probably very happy indeed. According to the "Shell America's Autopias" study released today by Shell Oil Products US, New Orleans is the city where cars would most want to live if they had their way.

Shell believes using high-quality gasolines is an important aspect of overall car care, and the company commissioned the "Shell America's Autopias" study to better understand how vehicles are cared for and maintained in the United States. The study evaluated the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in the contiguous United States and found that New Orleans is "America's Autopia," followed by St. Louis; Kansas City, Mo.; Atlanta; and Phoenix. The study measured a variety of factors to identify which metro areas are best suited for automobiles, including traffic congestion, road conditions, motorists' use of quality gasolines and motor oils, and routine car maintenance practices.

"The study showed that some cities clearly have an edge in how vehicle-friendly they are, and New Orleans topped the list, thanks to the time and effort local drivers invest in caring for their vehicles," said Mary Jackson, an automotive expert and author of the best-selling book "Car Smarts." "A vehicle is typically the second largest purchase that most consumers make, so it's important to protect that investment. And while motorists may not be able to control traffic, road conditions and other factors that affect the wear and tear of their automobiles, they can take an active role in protecting their cars by performing routine maintenance and using high-quality products, such as gasolines that meet TOP TIER Detergency Standards."

The Criteria for an Autopia or Car Care Utopia

To determine the rankings, researchers from Decision Analyst, Inc., a Texas-based independent research firm, scored and ranked each MSA in three primary areas that can impact the overall care and operation of a vehicle — quality of fuel and motor oil, routine car care and maintenance, and road conditions and congestion. Within each of these key areas, the research organization weighed the following variables equally to determine each metropolitan area's level of car care and identify America's Autopias:

Quality of Fuel and Motor Oil. Variables included the percentage of gasoline sold by retailer based on consumer survey data, specifically taking into account those retailers that sell TOP TIER Detergent Gasoline, as well as the amount of high-mileage, semi-synthetic and full-synthetic oil that is purchased. TOP TIER Detergent Gasoline is a new standard for gasoline that surpasses minimum government standards for gasoline detergency additives. According to BMW, General Motors, Honda and Toyota, the automakers that developed the standard, TOP TIER Detergent Gasoline will help keep vehicle engines clean and reduce deposit-related problems, helping vehicles achieve optimal performance as well as reduced emissions.

  • Routine Car Care and Maintenance. Variables included the number of maintenance facilities (gasoline stations, car washes and oil change facilities) in the market per vehicle and the amount of money spent at these facilities. Purchases of routine car care products and services, such as oil changes and tire rotation and replacement, also were taken into consideration.

  • Road Conditions and Congestion. Variables included the physical conditions of roadways and the amount/duration of traffic congestion within the metro area, which can have an impact on the wear and tear of a vehicle. Also included was the percentage of roads in disrepair in urban areas and the amount of money that is spent to improve them.

The 'Big Easy' Eases to the Top

New Orleans' top ranking in the Shell survey was based in part on its No. 1 ranking in the quality of fuel and motor oil category and the fact that local residents spend more on car care than residents in most other areas. According to The NPD Group/Motor Fuels Index, 54.3 percent of gasoline purchased in the city was sold by a brand that has been certified as TOP TIER Detergent Gasoline. Additionally, nearly 49 percent of all motor oil purchased is in a premium category, with the remainder of motor oil sales falling into the standard, conventional oils category. The city ranked third among all MSAs for its spending on car maintenance products and services. And while the Big Easy ranked No. 21 for road conditions and congestion out of the 50 MSAs studied, it was not enough to unseat the city as America's Autopia.

Nearly every top-10 MSA also ranked in the top 10 in at least one of the three areas that were studied. New Orleans, Kansas City and Las Vegas have a higher percentage of residents purchasing TOP TIER Detergent Gasoline and high-quality motor oils. St. Louis, Nashville and New Orleans ranked at the top of the car maintenance category, while Atlanta, Phoenix, and Cleveland — not a top-10 city in the overall study — scored the best in the road conditions category.

Measurement Criteria

To determine each city's level of car care, the Shell study examined variables in each of the three categories, which were compiled and analyzed using advanced modeling techniques to form the final "Shell America's Autopias" Index. Decision Analyst then ranked the 50 largest MSAs according to the index. Key measurement criteria necessary to rank highly in the study included a high percentage of TOP TIER Detergent Gasoline sales and premium motor oil sales, a high percentage of car care facilities per vehicle, good road conditions and little traffic congestion. An MSA is defined as a geographic area that consists of a city with a population of 50,000 or more people, including suburban communities adjacent to the city.

The Shell study utilized data collected by the United States Census Bureau, the Surface Transportation Policy Project/Federal Highways Administration, The NPD Group, Inc., and the Texas Transportation Institute.

The Shell Approach to Quality Fuels

Shell believes practicing routine vehicle maintenance and choosing quality gasolines are important steps to protect what is likely to be the largest or second largest purchase a consumer will make in their lifetime.

"Most people don't realize that all gasolines are not the same, and when choosing a gasoline, consumers should look for a high-quality fuel with added cleaning power," said Jackson. "Shell gasolines have more cleaning power than required by minimum government standards to help keep your car's engine free of carbon deposit build-up that can negatively affect an engine's performance."

Four of the world's top automakers — BMW, Honda, GM and Toyota — agree that carbon deposits can decrease performance of a vehicle's engine and increase emissions. To raise the bar on fuel quality, these auto manufacturers recently introduced the new TOP TIER Detergent Gasoline standard, which requires added detergency above the minimum government standards.

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Shell Oil Products US, a subsidiary of Shell Oil Company, is a leader in the refining, transportation and marketing of fuels, and has a network of nearly 6,600 branded gasoline stations in the Western United States.

(Source: Shell Oil Products)