Click Now - Nutsons Weekly Auto News Digest - January 2-8, 2021
LAST WEEK: Detroit Free Press Cars Of The Year, Stellantis Takes Off, Gas Prices Rising, 14.5 Vehicles Sold In 2020, Car Stealing Rises, 2020 Average MPG Drops To 24.9, No More "Self-Driving", 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee Revealed, Cadillac Blackwing Reveal, New GM and Kia Logos Revealed, Amelia Concurs Delayed, Aston Martin Returns, Dakar Begins, RIP Car Guys Pat Patrick and John Hogan
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Nutson's Automotive News Wrap-up - Week Ending January 8, 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.
* Executives from Ford, General Motors and leading industry groups condemned the actions of a mob that temporarily halted the certification of president-elect Joe Biden's victory. The National Association of Manufacturers who usually don't get involved in politics described the insurrection as an attack on “the vision of America,” and called for the use of the 25th Amendment to oust President Trump.
* Tesla produced more than half a million cars in 2020, a milestone that seemed unreachable just three years ago. In a news release posted on its website, the company said it had delivered 180,570 cars in the fourth quarter, bringing its total for 2020 to 499,550, a new milestone for the electric carmaker. The 2020 sales total represents a 36 percent increase from 2019. And Tesla’s production of 509,737 cars in 2020 was up 40 percent from 2019.
* Detroit Free Press and auto editor Mark Phelen have announced the picks for their 2021 Vehicles of the Year. One might view this as a bellwether for the NACTOY winners. The Free Press winner for car is the 2021 Hyundai Elantra, truck is the 2021 Ford F-150 and utility is the 2021 Cadillac Escalade. NACTOY winners will be announced tomorrow, Jan 11.
* Joe White for Reuters reports shareholders of Peugeot and Fiat Chrysler approved the merger of the two automakers into Stellantis, putting CEO Carlos Tavares within a few weeks of formally taking over the world's fourth largest automaker by sales volume. Tavares has a lengthy to-do list, including finding 5 billion in euros of cost-savings while keeping a promise not to close factories. Analysts at LMC Automotive reckon that Stellantis will begin life with as much as 7 million vehicles worth of overcapacity and a seriously troubled business in China. European union leaders are expressing concern that the no plant shutdowns promise won't be kept.
* Stellantis will have the capacity to produce 8.7 million cars a year, falling in behind Volkswagen, Toyota and Renault-Nissan. The new company will pull together the storied and iconic brands Peugeot, Citroen, Jeep, Maserati and Alfa Romeo. It sets the stage for Peugeot to have a U.S presence again. The new combined automaker will have a total of 14 brands.
* The Detroit Free Press reports a former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles executive who was a key figure in the UAW corruption probe will be spending less time behind bars than initially planned. Alphons Iacobelli, FCA's ex-lead labor negotiator, had his sentence reduced by a year and a half. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Borman, noting Iacobelli's "significant" cooperation with the government and good behavior in prison, ordered Iacobelli's sentence reduced from 66 to 48 months.
* GasBuddy expects a modest recovery in U.S. spending on gasoline this year following a nearly $100 billion decline in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The fuel data company is forecasting gasoline spending this year to increase to $325.6 billion, up 16.3% from $280 billion in 2020. The increase this year will be assisted by a 27-cent-per-gallon average increase in gasoline prices, according to GasBuddy. GasBuddy expects gas prices to average $2.44 per gallon in 2021, up from $2.17 per gallon in 2020.
* Automakers estimate the industry sold 14.5 million cars and light trucks last year. That amounts to a 15 percent decline from 2019, and the lowest level since 2012. Most every auto brand was down in sales for 2020. A few, like Hyundai, Kia snd Mazda hung on with minimal increases. GM racked up its best fourth-quarter U.S. retail sales since 2007 while light trucks fueled Toyota, Subaru, Kia, VW brand and Mazda gains. Ford Motor, FCA, Honda and Nissan Group all posted lower volume in the final three months of 2020, amid signs consumer demand spiked across the industry in the closing days of December. The SAAR topped 16 million for the third month since bottoming out at 8.74 million in April.The Ford F-series truck line hung on to be the best-selling vehicle line in the U.S. market for the 44th year in a row.
* Car thefts appear to be surging in cities and suburbs all over the country. This new wave of car thefts seems to stem from a combination of simple carelessness and the same technological advancement that once made stealing cars nearly impossible: the key fob. The broad adoption of keyless ignitions that began in the late 1990s ushered in a dark era for car thieves.Technology, it seemed, had largely solved the problem of stolen vehicles. Until people started leaving their fobs sitting in their cup holders
* U.S. vehicle fleet fuel efficiency fell in 2019 to 24.9 mpg, EPA says. The EPA said fuel economy for the U.S. fleet fell by 0.2 mpg and most manufacturers are using banked credits to meet current compliance requirements. The government report says gas mileage for new vehicles dropped and emissions increased in model year 2019 for the first time in five years. The mileage increase comes as Americans continue to buy SUVs and trucks, and shift away from more efficient vehicles. In 2019 utility vehicles and light trucks were 72% of U.S. sales. That rose to near 76% in 2020. In 2012 the portion was just 49%.
* Waymo says goodbye to phrase "self-driving." Waymo, the self-driving arm of Google's parent company Alphabet, and which pioneered the self-driving car business, says it's done with the term "self-driving." Waymo says that some automakers are using the phrase "self-driving" inaccurately, giving the public a false impression of what driver-assist systems are capable of. Waymo will instead refer to its vehicles as "fully autonomous," and hopes the shift will differentiate it from technologies meant to merely assist human drivers.
* In spite of no January auto show this week's reveal of the all-new 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee felt just like one as we sat in the comfort of our home. The new Grand Cherokee L will have three-row seating for six or seven-passengers.
* The 2022 CT4-V Blackwing and CT5-V Blackwing will be revealed via livestream Monday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT. Viewers can tune in on Cadillac.com, the Cadillac Twitter page or Cadillac’s media site to watch the reveal. During the event, viewers will be immersed into both ultra-high-performance sedans, which combine on-track excitement with next-level craftsmanship. In addition, those watching Rolex 24 at DAYTONA on Saturday, Jan. 30 will be treated to a special sneak peek of the V-Series Blackwing cars prior to reveal. The CT4-V Blackwing and CT5-V Blackwing will be available in late summer 2021.
* The industry saw two new redesigned logos introduced this week. Both Kia and GM have "restyled" their logos to reinforce their corporate position in the marketplace. GM is moving to electrification and the automaker's marketing strategy will be centered on EVs. The GM logo will be modernized with a sky-blue hue and lowercase letters. Kia said this rebranding comes as it plans to roll out numerous new electric cars in the coming years.
* The 26th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance events have been postponed because of pandemic concerns, moving to May 20-23 from the original dates of March 4-7, Bill Warner, founder and chairman of the world-acclaimed automotive event, has confirmed. A message to concours volunteers posted on Facebook noted that moving the northeast Florida collector car celebration “allows more time for the vaccine to be distributed.”
* The Aston Martin name is back in Grand Prix racing for the first time in six decades. The Aston Martin Formula One Team will make its race debut in Melbourne, Australia, on 21 March 2021, marking a return to top-flight single-seater competition for the luxury carmaker. The British marque has enjoyed great success in sportscar racing in recent years, highlighted by multiple class victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and now the time has come for Aston Martin to commit to the most famous of all motorsport arenas: Formula 1.
* The world's toughest and biggest rally, the Dakar Rally, got underway week ago. Racers are now half way to the finish line with the last stage ending this week on Friday. The 43rd edition of this nearly 5,000 mile started with 268 vehicles and 34 have withdrawn over the course of this week.
* Visionary and architect of modern day F1 John Hogan has died at 77. Hogan was instrumental in F1 championships for several drivers, including Michael Schumacher, James Hunt, Alain Prost, Mika Hakkinen, Emerson Fittpalidi and Ayrton Senna. Hogan controlled the purse strings for major racing sponsor accounts at Marlboro during his career. He helped transform the sport into a global business. Later in his career, he became a mentor to American businessman Zak Brown, who is now head of the McLaren F1 team.
* U.E. “Pat” Patrick, three-time Indy 500-winning car owner and co-founder with Roger Penske of Championship Auto Racing Teams, died this week in Phoenix at the age of 91. Patrick Racing's greatest season was 1989. That year, Patrick won both the Indianapolis 500 and the CART championship with driver Emerson Fittipaldi. Patrick was a 2018 inductee into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
Stay safe. Be Well.