AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO March 7, 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 March 6, 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.
* As reported by Automotive News, U.S. light-vehicle demand fell at Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Subaru and Kia in February, matching forecasts for a weaker month, with fewer selling days and severe weather dampening sales, even as the industry slowly recovers from the pandemic. Volvo and Genesis volume rose.
* Automotive consulting firm AutoPacific’s recently released forecast of U.S. light vehicle sales predicts 2021 will reach a total of 15.7 million vehicles sold. Up from 14.6 million units sold in 2020, the improvement of over 1 million sales is powered mainly by a strong decrease in Covid-19 infections across the nation and associated economic recovery. Despite the ups and downs of the economy and vehicle sales challenges, consumer demand for truck products, which include crossover SUVs, traditional SUVs, pickups and minivans, will continue to climb. AutoPacific expects trucks to comprise 77.6% of total light vehicle sales volumes in 2021, compared to 76.4% in 2020. AutoPacific forecasts approximately 375,000 EV sales in 2021, up from 262,000 in 2020.
* Automakers can’t catch a break. Automotive News reports now a foam shortage is looming over seating suppliers and auto production. Automaker purchasing teams are scrambling after the Texas winter storm that shut refineries and pinched supplies of needed byproducts. “This problem is bigger and closer than the semiconductor issue,” one auto executive said.
* The 2021 Toyota Yaris was named CAR OF THE YEAR at the Geneva Auto Show. “The Car of the Year” trophy, which has been awarded since 1964, is the most prestigious and coveted award in the automotive world. A 59-member jury, made up of automotive journalists from 22 countries, selects the winner from seven models that have made it to the round of finalists in the first round of voting. The finalists for “The Car of the Year 2021” were: Citroën C4, Cupra Formentor, Fiat 500, Land Rover Defender, Škoda Octavia, Toyota Yaris and Volkswagen ID.3. Due to the ongoing global health crisis, the 2021 awards ceremony – which usually takes place at the annual Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS) – was live-streamed for the first time from the city’s empty Palexpo convention centre. The motor show was cancelled for 2021 as well as in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The hope is that carmakers will be attracted back to Switzerland for the next event in 2022.
* The World Car Awards announced the Top Ten and Top Five finalists in five 2021 World Car Awards categories. Additionally, a new highlight of the 2022 World Car Awards program will be the debut of the World Electric Vehicle of the Year award. This new award is intended to recognize, support and celebrate the global transition to electrically-powered vehicles that is now underway and the efforts of automakers around the world in developing these climate-conscious vehicles. The 2021 finalists are list here. https://www.worldcarawards.com/files/2021_WCA_TheCountdownBegins.pdf
* Reuters asks: Do people want to buy used cars online without visiting a traditional showroom? Carvana’s latest results appear to settle that question, and the answer is yes. Not everybody, of course. The U.S. used car market is vast and Carvana has just a small slice of it. But that slice is growing rapidly. The online car company increased its revenue by 42% in 2020 over the year before, and sold 37% more vehicles. Carvana isn’t profitable, and told investors it plans to “invest in our building our business,” and turn another, narrower loss in 2021. Editor’s Comments; Left out of the story; Carvana Lost $171,114,000 in 2020, traditional dealers are making record profits…do we really need these stock scammers?t.
* Volvo aims to be an electric-only brand in less than a decade and plans to sell all its EVs exclusively via its online store. When asked what this means to Volvo’s global retail network, Lex Kerssemakers, head of global commercial operations, said no closures are planned. As part of the announcement, the Swedish automaker unveiled its second fully electric car, a compact SUV that is a follow-up to last year’s XC40 Recharge. Volvo said its goal is to have half of its global sales to be fully electric cars by 2025, with the remaining half made up of hybrids.
* Reports are that Ford began building a small compact pickup last month at its plant in Hermosillo, Mexico. Dubbed the “C Pick Up”, Ford only built 21 units….probably a pilot-series production to see if everything came together as it should. The truck is expected to be called the “Maverick” and shares its platform with the Bronco Sport. That means unibody architecture, four-cylinder, and front-wheel or all-wheel drive. The truck is expected to go into full production in July.
* Joe White writing for Reuters reports: Anyone who’s traveled around the wide open spaces of the American West knows that off-road vehicles – variously known as side-by-sides, UTVs and ATVs – are incredibly popular (and really noisy.) Now, Polaris, a leading ATV/UTV manufacturer, is promising an electric version of its Ranger utility vehicle, launching in 2022. The American Outback is still fossil fuel country. A capable electric UTV might do as much as any street-legal electric car to sell battery-electric powertrains in the Middle. Meanwhile, motorcycle and scooter makers Piaggio, Honda, Yamaha and KTM said they are forming a consortium to develop swappable batteries for their bikes and light electric vehicles.
* A Fiat Chrysler U.S. executive admitted the automaker conspired to break federal labor laws by paying more than $3.5 million in bribes to union leaders, marking a new stain for an auto industry beset with scandals in recent years involving vehicle emissions and faulty equipment implicated in hundreds of deaths. In pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act, the transatlantic automaker also agreed to pay a $30 million fine to settle a criminal investigation into auto executives breaking federal labor laws. The fine is part of a broader settlement with federal authorities that includes the appointment of an independent monitor for three years to oversee company compliance with labor laws and oversee dissolution of a joint training center the United Auto Workers operated with Fiat Chrysler, now part of Stellantis NV.
* Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, a brand within the Volkswagen Group, said with their Autonomous Driving R&D program they plan to introduce autonomous systems for traffic use in 2025. VW said this year, for the first time, they are conducting field trials in Germany, in which the self-driving system by Argo AI will be used in a version of the future ID. BUZZ. The aim is to develop a ride-hailing and pooling concept similar to what MOIA offers today. In the middle of this decade, customers will then have the opportunity to be taken to their destination in selected cities with autonomous vehicles.
* Honda unveiled a version of its Legend luxury sedan equipped with what the company said is a “Level 3” automated driving system capable of piloting the car while the driver uses the on-board infotainment system or otherwise take eyes off the road while the car navigates a traffic jam. The system operates up to 50 kph (31 mph). Honda now becomes the first to launch formally a Level 3 system to consumers. (Note: Tesla drivers using current Autopilot must be prepared to retake control of the car and cannot take their eyes off the road.) The Level 3 Honda Legend with “Traffic Jam Pilot” will be offered in just 100 of the cars in Japan, for lease only, at a price equivalent to about $102,000.
* The city of Petaluma, California has become the first in the nation to ban the construction of new gas stations in the city, as part of its aggressive goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2030. The new ordinance also prohibits the addition of new pumps at currently-existing gas stations. And it seeks to make it easier for stations to add electric vehicle chargers as well as other potential alternative fuel sources at their sites. The Coalition Opposing New Gas Stations (CONG) has been working to stop the construction of new gas stations in Sonoma County, its nine cities and beyond.
* Ford is recalling its popular 2021 Bronco Sport for a second time, now for an incorrect lower control arm that could result in reduced vehicle stability and increase the risk of a rollover crash at maximum roof load. This recall involves 106 vehicles built on Dec. 9; Ford estimated 50% are defective. A supplier used an incorrect part in the front suspension assemblies.
* ClassicCars.com Journal has shared a series of stories exploring car clubs. They’ve gathered a list of national clubs (and a few international clubs) to help you find a community of like-minded collector car enthusiasts. Have a look here: https://journal.classiccars.com/2021/03/01/car-club-directory/
* NHRA is preparing for expansion of electric vehicle racing and is calling for manufacturer and industry input. With an eye towards future expansion, NHRA isset to host a panel discussion regarding electric vehicle racing program during the upcoming NHRA Gatornatioanls in Gainesville. The proposed expansion of EV drag racing has the potential to expose the sport of NHRA Championship Drag Racing to an entirely new and oftentimes younger demographic. NHRA has continued to work to provide a platform for the development of high-performance EV technology. Electric-powered cars and motorcycles have been classified in the official NHRA Rulebook for many years.
* The 24 Hours of Le Mans race was postponed from June to August in the hope that fans can attend by then, organizers said. The iconic race was scheduled to take place on June 12-13 but was moved to Aug. 21-22. The race was first held in 1923, and in 2019 it drew 252,500 spectators. There were none in 2020 when the race started three months late because of the coronavirus pandemic.
* Aston Martin is back at the pinnacle of global motorsport after the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team proudly revealed its 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship contender. The stunning new AMR21 heralds the beginning of a truly significant chapter in the 108-year history of the brand, and carries the hopes of racing fans around the globe ahead of its debut in the Bahrain Grand Prix later this month. The new Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team car returns the British ultra-luxury marque to the pinnacle of world motorsport for the first time in more than 60 years.
Stay safe. Be Well.