AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO January 24, 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 January 23, 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.
* President Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of transportation, Pete Buttigieg, was headed down a smooth path to quick confirmation. He indicated he would reverse a Trump administration rollback in federal automotive fuel economy standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage use of electric vehicles, such as by adding a half-million charging stations nationwide. Buttigieg did not specify where money could come from for big investments in infrastructure, and wouldn’t rule out a tax increase. He floated the possibility of a major change in how highways are funded, such as by converting from the current Highway Trust Fund, which is paid for through the gas tax, to a “vehicle miles traveled” alternative that would tax drivers based on their road mileage.
* Say goodbye to Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot. Say hello to Stellantis – the world’s fourth largest automaker by unit sales, with 14 brands and one highly regarded CEO. Yes, 14 brands: Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Citroën, Dodge, DS, Fiat, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, Opel, Peugeot, Ram and Vauxhall. CEO Carlos Tavares has promised investors 5 billion euros in annual cost savings through rationalizing product and purchasing overlaps. He has assured Stellantis workers (and the political leaders who represent them) there will be no plant shutdowns – despite significant overcapacity in the company’s operations across 30 countries.
* With U.S. traffic congestion costing U.S. drivers $88 billion in 2019 but driving reduced in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. the personal-finance website WalletHub released its report on 2021’s Best & Worst States to Drive in. The U.S. has five out of the world’s 25 worst cities for traffic, and 19 of the worst 25 in North America. Due to COVID-19, though, 2020’s traffic congestion numbers are likely to be lower overall. The top five best states for driving are Texas, Indiana, North Carolina, Iowa and Tennessee. The worst is Hawaii, preceded by California.
* Edmunds says the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show, held virtually for the first time due to the pandemic, struck a different tone than in years past. Automakers were restrained in their announcements compared with years past, but the new tech features outlined at CES 2021 demonstrate the future of automotive progress will consist of incremental improvements rather than a sweeping, rapid revolution. Ford, Honda and Toyota did not participate. Audi, BMW, GM, Mercedes-Benz and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (Stellantis NA) did.
* Cox Automotive took a look at the growing electric battery-powered pickup market. 2.9 million pickups were sold in the U.S. last year, making up roughly 20% of the entire auto market. Cox Automotive took a look at the growing electric battery-powered pickup market. Cox reports nearly 2-in-5 consumers in market for a pickup truck in the next 2 years are considering an electric pickup truck. Research shows that younger consumers are more likely to consider an electric pickup truck with 44% of 18-34-year-olds indicating that they are interested in both internal combustion engine (ICE) and EV options.
* Our friends at The Detroit Bureau report that VW is delaying the launch of its ID.Buzz Electric Microbus by a year. The modern take on the classic VW Microbus is now set to debut in 2023. It was originally planned for 2022.
* Various media reports say that Ford has renewed the trademark protection of the Thunderbird name. A Ford spokesman said this doesn’t mean a new or revived two-seater is planned. The T-bird reappears in 2002 for a few years. Who knows what we’ll see next? Perhaps something all-electric battery-powered.
* Mazda’s short lived foray into offering Diesel engines in the U.S. market has ended. Plans to offer the SkyActiv-D diesel in the Mazda6 Sedan have been dropped and the engine has been deleted from the CX-5 product program. Long delayed and finally made available in 2019 in the CX-5, declining interest in both the U.S. and Europe brought about its demise. Also, the Volkswagen dieselgate matter didn’t help.
* If you want a Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat it may be too late. Dodge said there would only be a one-year run of this hot Durango. Dodge has stopped taking orders and will build about 2,000 units. Some dealers may have unsold units if you shop around.
* The Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) announced the finalist for MAMA’s annual Family Vehicle of the Year and Luxury Family Vehicle of the Year awards. The 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban, 2020 Hyundai Sonata and 2020 Toyota Highlander are the finalists for the MAMA Family Vehicle of the Year Award, and the 2021 Cadillac Escalade, 2021 Genesis G80 and 2020 Lincoln Corsair are the finalists for the luxury category. The two winners will be announced via a virtual event in February.
* The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has finally issued its regulations regarding low-volume motor vehicle production and the start of sales of replica cars resembling vehicles produced at least 25 years earlier. Back in 2015 Congress enacted a law streamlining requirements for small-batch automakers to produce replica vehicles, pending final guidelines from NHTSA. Congress mandated that those rules be announced by December 4, 2016. They finally were issued this week. The replica car law and implementing regulations allow a low volume manufacturer to construct up to 325 such replica cars a year.
* A federal recall of Takata air bags will cost Ford Motor Co. $610 million, the company reported in a federal filing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rejected a request from Ford and Mazda Motor Corp. to allow them not to recall around 3 million vehicles that had the potentially deadly air bag inflators inside them. The Ford vehicles that must be recalled are the Ford Ranger from 2007 to 2011, the Ford Fusion from 2006 to 2012, Ford Edge from 2006 to 2012, the Lincoln Zephyr and MKZ from 2006 through 2012, the Lincoln MKX from 2007 to 2010, and the Mercury Milan from 2006 to 2011.
* The highest elevation motorcycle museum in the world went up in flames. Fans of European motoring history are reeling after Austria’s Top Mountain Crosspoint Motorcycle Museum suffered a cataclysmic fire on January 18. Nestled at the base of Austrian side of Timmelsjoch Pass—where Austria and Italy meet in the depths of the Alps—the museum was founded in 2016 by twin brothers Alban and Attila Scheiber as a way to show off their collection of classic iron. The museum housed around 230 classic, mostly European bikes from the likes of Sunbeam, Brough Superior, and Zundapp, along with a smaller collection of vintage cars, including Porsches and Ferraris. Vintage American bikes from Harley-Davidson, Indian, and even a Flying Merkel were also part of their collection.
* Due to the ongoing health emergency in the District of Columbia and around the world, the 2021 Washington, D.C. Auto Show will be unable to open during the previously-scheduled March 26 through April 4 timeframe. Show organizers are working closely with the District government and the Walter E. Washington Convention Center to find dates later in the spring to host the event.
* We’re back to motorsports this weekend with the Roar before the Rolex 24 test session preceding IMSA’s season opener Rolex 24 at Daytona next weekend. The 59th Rolex 24 at Daytona is the unofficial annual start to the auto racing season. The 24-hour sports car endurance classic attracts a typically star-studded field that will include NASCAR and IndyCar champions and winners of the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500.
* Gerald Wiegert, creator of the Vector supercar, has died at 76. The Vector W8 was intended to join the ranks of the supercars from Italy.
Stay safe. Be Well