AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO June 20, 2021 Every Sunday Larry Nutson, The Chicago Car Guy and Executive Producer, with able assistance from senior editor Thom Cannell from The Auto Channel Michigan Bureau, compile The Auto Channel’s
“take” on this past week’s automotive news, condensed into easy to digest new>s Nuggets.
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Nutson’s Automotive News Wrap-up – Week Ending June 19, 2021; Below are the past week’s important, relevant, semi-secret, or snappy automotive news, opinions and insider back stories presented as expertly crafted easy to digest news nuggets.
* New research from IHS Markit shows that the average age of light vehicles in operation (VIO) in the U.S. has risen to 12.1 years this year, increasing by nearly 2 months during 2020 and elevated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The increase in average age will further drive vehicle maintenance opportunities from an increasingly aged vehicle fleet. The pandemic-induced rate of increase in average age is expected to be short-lived as 2021 will see a return of new vehicle registrations and increased activity in used registrations as we adapt to post-pandemic norms. The ongoing microchip shortage is expected to continue to challenge new vehicle production volumes through the fourth quarter 2021, but IHS Markit expects U.S. light vehicle sales to reach 16.8 million according to current forecasts.
* Joe White writing for Reuters reports General Motors said it is increasing its spending on electric vehicles to $35 billion through 2025 – 75% more than its pre-pandemic plan – accelerating an industry wide spending race that AlixPartners forecasts will total $330 billion by 2030. That forecast is up 41% from the comparable number AlixPartners issued a year ago. The problem for automakers is that EV demand, globally and in specific markets, is not on track to absorb all the new models and production capacity. GM doesn’t plan to get stuck with stranded investments, nor do Tesla or Ford, Volkswagen or Daimler. But some companies are going to miss their targets, either for profits or volume or both. Look for the electric vehicle discussion to shift even more aggressively toward governments, as manufacturers make the case that their investments in decarbonization merit equivalent public investments in charging, grid infrastructure and consumer incentives.
* Lincoln will debut its first global fully electric vehicle next year, the first step toward electrifying its entire portfolio of vehicles by the end of the decade. The new electric vehicle will debut as the brand celebrates its 100th anniversary next year and accelerates growth in North America and China.
* Li Shufu, chairman of Chinese automaker Geely, said the company is continuing to research the use of methanol as a vehicle fuel, even as most automakers are focusing on battery electric vehicles or hydrogen. Methanol can be made with coal – a plentiful resource in China.
* The BMW Group is beginning to test near-standard vehicles with a hydrogen fuel cell drive train in everyday conditions on European roads. Prototypes of the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT will examine how effectively the CO2-free drive train, model-specific chassis technology and vehicle electronics systems work together under real-life conditions. The BMW i Hydrogen NEXT is a pure electric vehicle that uses hydrogen as fuel by converting it into electricity in a fuel cell.
* A week after warning it could go out of business, Lordstown Motors replaced CEO Steve Burns and CFO Julio Rodriguez, brought in restructuring consultants AlixPartners and acknowledged that management had overstated the quality of preliminary orders for its electric trucks in the runup to going public via a SPAC.
New management has confirmed production would begin as planned at the end of September with the first production-ready vehicle set to be delivered in 2021.
* The new Ford Bronco two-door and four-door are finally in production after a nearly six month delay. More than 125,000 Broncos orders have been placed, with a total of more than 190,000 reservations in the U.S. and Canada to date. The pandemic plant shutdowns and production of the SUV’s removable roof are two of the reasons for the long delay.
* Jaguar Land Rover said it was working on the prototype of a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle, with testing of the concept slated to start later this year. The vehicle will be based on the new version of the company’s Land Rover Defender, and is part of JLR’s broader attempt to meet a target of zero tailpipe emissions by the year 2036. Testing of the vehicle will focus on areas such as fuel consumption and off-road capabilities. Yes, BEVs you need to plug in to recharge are not the only game being pursued.
* Reuters reports FedEx will test Nuro’s low-speed R2 self-driving vehicles to carry packages. Nuro has focused on low-speed vehicles that could, for example, shift packages from a store to a depot across town. FedEx said it will test Nuro’s low-speed R2 self-driving vehicles to carry packages.
* Senior executives of Hyundai and General Motors told attendees at the Reuters Events Car of the Future conference their companies see real potential in aerial vehicles and services, aka flying cars. The interest of the big automakers coincides with a swell of investor and media enthusiasm for electric air taxi startups. However note as one exec said, “there’s a lot of work to be done on the regulatory side as well as the actual technology side.” The FAA and Homeland Security certainly will play a role in this business.
* The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) claims that it is illegal to modify street vehicles and convert them into dedicated race cars. This assertion and enforcement makes is nearly impossible for amateur racers to convert their vehicles into a dedicated race car and start their career like so many professional drivers we know today. Additionally, it affects manufacturers of those parts ability to manufacturer, and sell products to assist amateur racers. First introduced as a bill in 2016, the RPM Act has received strong legislative support and although versions of the bill have passed the House Energy & Commerce Committee, it was never fully voted on before the end of any Congressional year. While the RPM Act is gaining momentum and currently has 65 cosponsors in the House of Representatives, business throughout the country continue to be negatively impacted by EPA overreach.
* The all-new 2022 Ford Maverick small pickup will make its global auto show debut at the 2021 “Special Edition” Chicago Auto Show being held July 15-19. The Maverick adds to Ford’s already engaging vehicle lineup, including the all-new F-150, all-electric F-150 Lightning, Bronco, Bronco Sport and Mustang Mach-E, all of which fans will be able to experience at the Chicago Auto Show thus July.
* The North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year (NACTOY) Awards said it expects a total of 38 cars, trucks and utility vehicles will be eligible for the 2022 awards. As of now, automakers are planning to launch 12 all-new or substantially new cars, eight trucks and 18 utility vehicles this year in North America that meet the eligibility requirements. Electric and hybrid vehicles, including at least nine full battery electrics, will vie for awards across all three categories, and several new OEMs emerge on this year’s list with start-ups Lucid Motors, Karma, and Rivian offering vehicles that compete with those of established automakers.
* The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration disclosed that it has opened 30 investigations into accidents involving Tesla vehicles, including 10 fatalities. Most of the crashes under investigation by NHTSA’s Special Crash Investigations staff involve vehicles operating on the Autopilot assisted driving system. Eight of NHTSA’s investigations have been opened since March.
* Mopar has named Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Performance as the supplier of officially licensed engine components for the 2015 and 2021 Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak. The Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak is the limited-production, purpose-built muscle car for grassroots and professional drag racers competing in events sanctioned by the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) and National Muscle Car Association (NMCA). The quickest, fastest and most powerful Drag Pak ever built made its on-track debut this past March with a 7-second quarter-mile run at the NHRA Gatornationals in the Sportsman’s Factory Stock Showdown (FSS) class with DSR pilot Leah Pruett at the helm. The new DSR Performance online catalog offers engine components for the supercharged 354-cubic-inch Gen-III HEMI V-8 engine that powers both the 2021 model year and previous-generation (2015) Drag Pak.
* Stunt rider Alex Harvill died from injuries sustained while attempting to set a world-record motorcycle jump in Moses Lake, Washington. Harvill, 28, was trying to jump the length of a football field and crashed during a practice run.