AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO May 2, 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 May 1, 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.
* From Cox Automotive we read: April U.S. auto sales, when announced next week, are expected to reveal a very hot new-vehicle market. The April sales pace is expected to finish near 16.5 million, which is down from last month’s robust 17.7 million level but still a healthy pace for the industry. Sales volume is expected to finish near 1.36 million, up nearly 640,000 units, a near 90% increase from last April’s historic low result. Given the shock to the market last spring, a better comparison to measure the strength of the market is calendar year 2019, the last year the industry saw a robust 17.0 million market. Versus April 2019, vehicle sales are expected to increase more than 30,000 units, or 2.3%, which suggests automobile sales are normalizing.
* The Environmental Protection Agency announced that it is reviewing a major Trump-era action that blocked California’s legal authority to set tailpipe emission standards for cars and SUVs that are tougher than federal regulations. After seeking the public’s input, as required by law, the agency intends to rescind the Trump administration’s decision, a spokesman for the agency said. The EPA’s action has national significance as transportation remains the largest source of planet-warming emissions in the United States. Thirteen other states and the District of Columbia follow California’s more stringent standards, altogether accounting for nearly 40% of auto sales in the United States.
* A top Senate Democrat is urging U.S. anti-pollution standards that would follow a deal brokered by California with five automakers and then set targets to end sales of new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035, a goal that reaches farther than President Joe Biden’s climate plan. In a letter sent late Thursday to the Environmental Protection Agency, Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, says the administration must move forcefully in the auto sector to achieve Biden’s plan of slashing America’s greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.
* According to a new study published in the journal Nature Energy by University of California Davis researchers Scott Hardman and Gil Tal that surveyed Californians who purchased an electric vehicle between 2012 and 2018, roughly one in five plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) owners switched back to owning gas-powered cars, in large part because charging the batteries was a pain. Of those who switched, over 70% lacked access to Level 2 charging at home, and slightly fewer than that lacked Level 2 connections at their workplace. WeKnowDis: Convenient access to a 240v-Level 2 charger is a must-have for BEV and PHEV ownership.
* Reuters reports that sports car maker Lotus said it plans to go all electric by 2028, and heralded the July launch of what would be its last gasoline-fueled new model line, the Emira. Lotus’s transformation into an all-electric brand will be funded by its Chinese parent, Geely, and co-owner Etika Automotive of Indonesia. Lotus sees the handwriting on the wall as more governments crack down on CO2, and rivals such as Rimac persuade wealthy consumers that electric cars can offer more extreme performance than those fueled by petrol. The first Lotus electric hypercar, the Evija, is due out later this year.
* Three Democratic Senators said they will push legislation requiring driver monitoring systems that could keep drivers focused on the road even when their cars are sort-of driving themselves. The legislation – and a separate set of guidelines proposed by the Alliance for Automotive Innovation – would codify the cautious approach of established automakers toward so-called Level 2 and 3 systems that mimic automated driving on freeways or in traffic jams, but cannot handle every potential emergency or road hazard.
* Lyft is selling its autonomous vehicle division to Toyota, with the Japanese automaker setting up a new subsidiary, Woven Planet Holdings, to pick up the reins of the self-driving car project. Lyft established Level 5, its driverless division, back in mid-2017, and at the time had no shortage of promises for what autonomy would bring to the ride-hailing service.
* The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has opened an inquiry into the U.S. unit of Volkswagen AG over a marketing stunt in which it falsely said it was changing its name in the United States to “Voltswagen,” a person briefed on the matter confirmed. Der Spiegel first reported the inquiry and the SEC’s request for information about the issue made in early April and quoted VW as confirming the investigation.
* Honda revealed its new 2022 Civic compact sedan that is bigger and also equipped with more new features and technology. This 11th-generation Civic has all-new styling and takes on a look more akin to the Accord. It goes on sale this summer. Americans still do buy sedans, in case you wondered.
* Honda also shared its EV strategy for the next two decades, announcing plans to have 40% of its North American offerings be battery-electric (BEV) or hydrogen fuel-cell (HFC) by 2030, and 100% by 2040.
* Travel & Leisure magazine reports: As travelers flock back to Hawaii, the supply and demand of rental vehicles in the state has driven up car costs to as much as $1,000 a day, since many companies sold off parts of their fleets when bookings were low during the pandemic. But now, some savvy travelers have found a new way to ensure they’re able to cruise around the Aloha State on wheels — by renting a U-Haul. The moving truck company says that most of the requests have been for their smaller vehicles. Currently on its site, both an eight-foot pickup truck and a nine-foot cargo van are listed for $19.95 a day (plus $0.89/mile) in Honolulu this week.
* The International Olympic Committee announced plans to introduce the Olympic Virtual Series for baseball, cycling, rowing, sailing and motorsports. While we can understand introducing digital versions of popular Olympic sports, the addition of virtual motorsports is an unexpected–although interesting–move for the IOC. Specifically, the Olympic Virtual Series is meant to “mobilize virtual sport, esports and gaming enthusiasts all around the world in order to reach new Olympic audiences” in compliance with the IOC’s new “Agenda 2020+5,” which aims to bring back some sort of normalcy to the Olympics following the events of last year. So yes, that means that this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo will feature individuals competing in Gran Turismo and sanctioned by the FIA. Currently, the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is scheduled for July 23 through August 8 of this year, having been postponed for 2020. The OVS is set to take place May 13-June 23, just before the Olympic Games. Thanks to Grassroots Motorsports for this news.
* After being canceled for 2020, the Tire Rack One Lap of America Presented by Grassroots Motorsports Magazine returns for 2021, starting May 1 at Tire Rack headquarters in South Bend, Indiana. The 2021 route will have participants compete in time trials, drag races and skidpad challenges at locations that require a bit of driving. The Tire Rack One Lap of America dates back to 1984 as the spiritual successor to the Cannonball Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash.
* NASCAR Ford driver Joey Logano got bumped while going near 200 mph at Talladega raceway, flipped over and landed on the roof. Logano is okay. But, he questions the safety of this dangerous high speed entertainment. Ryan Newman experienced a similar crash last season.
* Racer magazine reports the tumultuous life of Bill Whittington came to a fiery end in a private airplane crash outside Winslow, Ariz. Whittington, 71, and another passenger perished but details were still sketchy as of this report as local officials and the National Transportation Safety Board have yet to officially confirm his death. Along with brother Don, the Whittingtons became a fixture in American sports car racing in the late 1970s and early 1980s after they teamed with Klaus Ludwig to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1979. That was the same year they purchased Road Atlanta. They came to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time in 1980 and both qualified five times for the Indy 500 during the next six Mays. Bill qualified sixth fastest in 1982 but lost an engine in the race and his best finish was 14th in his swan song in 1985. Best known for his exploits in sports car racing, Whittington was one of IMSA’s most famous marijuana-smuggling drivers who financed his participation in the sport from profits earned in the drug trade.
* Dick Mann, long considered one of the best all-around motorcycle riders in the world, passed away. A two-time AMA Grand National Champion (1963 and ’71) Mann was the first person to win all five disciplines: road racing, short track, TT, quarter-mile and mile flat track. He also scored AMA Pro Motocross points in 1972 when he finished 14th at the Cal-Expo 250 National outside Sacramento aboard a BSA motorcycle. Mann also participated in the International Six Day Trails (now known as the International Six Days Enduro or ISDE for short) in 1975, earning a bronze medal on the Isle of Man, which is off the coast of England. Mann rode his last professional races in the mid-seventies, and then raced vintage for many more years. He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1993, and would later be a charter member of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, which inducted him in 1998. Dick Mann was 86 years old.
Stay safe. Be Well.