Nutson’s Weekly Auto News Review



AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO April 18, 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 news Nuggets.

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Nutson’s Automotive News Wrap-up – Week Ending April 17, 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.

* Ford and VW almost had the plug pulled, so to speak. A deal between the South Korean battery makers LG Energy Solutions and SK Innovation over a trade dispute will allow a the two companies to work together. A new $2.6 billion battery factory SK is building in Georgia was in jeopardy. The deal creates more American jobs and helps the switch to BEVs. President Biden was going to get involved but the deal negated that need.

* Research firm AutoPacific reports a dearth of semiconductor chip production is cramping new-vehicle production, limiting the availability of certain models in the coming months and threatening to raise used-car prices as buyers hunt for alternatives. The shortages of chips, a result of the pandemic, are rippling through the automotive industry, undercutting production at General Motors, Ford, Honda, Toyota and other companies. The upshot is that the used-car market is poised for significant disruption – likely in the form of higher prices. A similar thing happened in 2020 when automakers were forced to temporarily stop the production of most new vehicles due to COVID-19 lockdowns. That drove more buyers into the used market, increasing prices.

* To address the shortage of semiconductor chips kneecapping auto production, CEOs of the Detroit Three used a virtual meeting with major tech companies to ask the Biden administration to help bolster chip production for the automakers. But the administration has indicated privately to semiconductor industry leaders that it would not support “special treatment” for the auto industry, Bloomberg reported — even as auto industry interest groups used the run-up to the White House meeting to press for exactly that.

* A new survey finds that more U.S. and European consumers are ready to consider an electric vehicle, but there’s a catch. Consumers told OC&C Strategy Consultants they would pay only $500 extra for an all-electric vehicle. That’s not enough to cover the added costs of an EV battery, at least not today.

* Reuters reports plug-in hybrid vehicles – petroleum- burning motor plus a rechargeable battery-electric system – were supposed to be the best-of-both bridge that allowed automakers a long wind-down for investments in internal combustion. European automakers especially had embraced the technology. But now, EU regulators and environmental NGOs have soured on PHEVs as research shows that they still emit plenty of CO2 in real-world driving. Draft rules could prevent automakers from listing PHEVs as sustainable investments past 2025, and other proposed rules could make such vehicles more costly. The shift against PHEVs comes as Europe’s city dwellers are telling pollsters from YouGov they support bans on internal combustion vehicles by 2030.

* Reuters reports the Washington State legislature passed a bill calling for phasing out sales of internal combustion vehicles by 2030, but with a significant caveat. The ban on new internal combustion engine vehicles would go into effect only if the state enacts a new road tax scheme based on vehicle miles travelled (aka VMT.) In practice, that means automated tolling or tracking on every road — if the state wants to capture all the available revenue.

* For the second straight year, Ford Mustang – which celebrated its 57th birthday this week on Saturday – is the world’s best-selling sports car. The famed pony car also retained its title of best-selling sports coupe for the sixth straight year. Led by a surge in sales in high-performance Bullitt, Shelby GT350, Shelby GT350R and Shelby GT500 models, Mustang led all competitors with 80,577 global sales in 2020, according to the most recent vehicle registration data from IHS Markit*. That sales total represents 15.1 percent of the sports coupe market, up from 14.8 percent a year earlier.

* In the world of commercial use autonomy: Cruise, the self-driving car company controlled by General Motors, said it will launch a robotaxi service in Dubai in 2023. Silicon Valley AV startup Nuro will supply robotic vehicles to deliver Domino’s Pizza, starting in Houston. Intel’s Mobileye unit will provide the automated driving system for startup Udelv’s automated delivery vehicles, expected to deploy in 2023.

* Mercedes-EQ unveiled the all-electric luxury sedan EQS in a digital world premiere on the Mercedes me media online platform. The EQs is the Mercedes S-class of BEVs but with a radically different design esthetic both outside and in. Driving range is said to be around 480 miles. The tech-laden EV will face intense competition in the market for $100,000-plus EVs from incumbents Tesla and Porsche, and upstarts such as Lucid Motors.

* Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) announced (at long last) the introduction of the all-new Mazda MX-30, the brand’s first battery-electric vehicle, to the US market beginning in fall 2021 with California dealerships. The battery-powered MX-30 will begin Mazda’s introduction of additional electrified models, including a series plug-in hybrid with a rotary generator for MX-30, a plug-in hybrid for a new large platform, and a traditional hybrid for a new American-made crossover.

* We traveled to Tucson for a first-drive of the new 2022 Hyundai Tucson and Tucson Hybrid. It’s got more safety, more technology, a new design and better economy. Look for our full report here later this week.

* Hyundai took the wraps of its new Santa Cruz Sport Adventure Vehicle. Hyundai says its not a truck and its not an SUV. The Santa Cruz is for the urban/city dweller to get out an about both in their daily city social life and weekend adventures on water, in the mountains or on bike trials.

* From Joe White writing for Reuters we read: How fast will electric vehicles replace internal combustion as the dominant transport technology? Ahead of Earth Day and a White House climate summit, several forecasting shops have put out takes on how quickly consumers and businesses will go electric. IHS Markit, which has deep expertise in both energy markets and auto supply chains, predicts battery electric vehicles could be 50% of auto sales in Europe by 2030, with China and the United States reaching EV shares of 40% and 25% electric shares respectively. Price parity between BEVs and ICEVs is expected in 2025-2030. Thus, the big issue really is charging infrastructure especially in densely populated cities with many drivers living in high rise condo and apartment buildings.

* The Detroit Free Press reports new cars, trucks and SUVs will fill six parks in downtown Detroit, along with food trucks and entertainment, this August as the Motor City Car Crawl showcases vehicles from just about every brand and raises money for southeast Michigan charities. In what could be the beginning of a new tradition, the MC3 will help charities make up for contributions they missed because of the COVID-19 cancelation of the North American International Auto Show’s annual event. The auto show is on a two-year pause, with a smaller event, Motor Bella, planned for Sept. 21-26 at M1 Concourse in Pontiac.

*Subaru is recalling more than 800,000 late-model Imprezas, Crosstreks and Foresters. The Japanese automaker issued the recalls of 2017-19 Imprezas, 2018-19 Crosstreks and 2019 Foresters to fix engine control module issues and problems with rear stabilizer bars.

* Toyota is recalling about 279,000 Venza crossovers for airbag deployment issues. Damaged wires could cause airbag sensors to become inoperable, preventing the deployment of the side and curtain airbags on the driver side and increasing the risk of injury during a crash.

* Robert W. ‘Kas’ Kastner, the man who turned Nissan into one of the most powerful and successful players in North American racing during the 1980s and 1990s, died at the age of 92. Well prior to his post at Nissan, Kastner earned respect as a mechanic and fabricator who built and raced his own sports cars. Kastner’s achievements with tuning and driving small British cars in SCCA events established him as a man whose automotive talents were destined for bigger opportunities. He was hired by Triumph to run its racing department in the early 1960s.

* Richard Parry-Jones, Ford’s former product development boss was killed in an accident on his farm in Wales, according to British media reports. Parry-Jones is considered the architect of some of Ford’s greatest hits. He is the executive credited with making modern Fords handle and drive so well, starting with the 1990s Ford Mondeo, Ka and Focus. He was 69.

Stay safe. Be Well.