Nutson's Auto News Weekly Wrap Up - March 21-27 2021
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Nutson's Automotive News Wrap-up - Week Ending March 27, 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.
* In spite of complete ignorance about low emissions ethanol, California Senators Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein urged President Biden to set a date for phasing out sales of internal combustion vehicles nationwide. California last fall said it wants sales of new ICE vehicles to end by 2035. The Senators also called on Biden to make an emissions deal worked out between California and several (but not all) major automakers the new standard for the country. That would mean automakers have to cut emissions by roughly 3.7% a year from 2022-26, vs 1.5% under rules approved by the prior administration, and 5% under standards enacted by the administration before that.
* But....Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the Biden Administration does not support setting a firm date - such as 2035 - for banning internal combustion engine vehicles. The comment matters because the chorus of Democrats, mainly from coastal states, are demanding that Biden set a deadline for phasing out ICE. As a native of Indiana, however, Secretary Buttigieg knows how that would go down in heartland states where pickup trucks rule.
* The news about the global shortage of semiconductors keeps getting worse. Linchpin Japanese automotive chip maker Renesas said a fire at a factory in Japan could hobble production for a month. Renesas has a 30% share in certain automotive chips. Separately, chip shortages are forcing new rounds of production cuts by Stellantis and Ford in North America, and by Volkswagen in Brazil.
* To make matters worse, automakers and suppliers are bracing for supply disruption from the Suez Canal ship blockage. Audi is among companies that expect supply chain disruptions after the Suez Canal was blocked by a huge containership that ran aground.
* Both VW and Audi said they will discontinue the development of internal combustion engines for their vehicles as they move to all-electric power. They join the ranks of many other automakers who are moving to zero emission all-electric vehicles for the future.
* Rivian is planning a network of 3,500 fast-charging sites at 600-plus locations by the end of 2023. Like the Tesla superchargers these will be meant just for Rivian customers. They will start by offering 200-kW charging, enabling them to add up to 140 miles of range to the R1S and R1T in 20 minutes. Rivian says they will be powered by 100-percent renewable energy and located near shops and restaurants.
* A new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) projects that the U.S. pedestrian fatality rate rose 20% in the first six months of 2020 as speeding, distracted and impaired driving, and other dangerous driving behaviors increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. From January through June 2020, 2,957 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle crashes – six more than the same period in 2019. Factoring in a 16.5% reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) nationwide, the rate of drivers striking and killing pedestrians jumped to 2.2 deaths per billion VMT, a significant and unsettling increase from 1.8 deaths the year before.
* Dodge announced an automotive software upgrade designed to further thwart theft of Charger and Challenger models equipped with 392-cu.-in. HEMI V-8 or supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI V-8 engines. Using the Dodge owner’s four-digit security code, the enhanced deterrence feature limits the vehicle’s engine speed to idle (675 rpm) and helps prevent auto theft. The software upgrade can be installed free of charge by any Dodge dealer on 2015 through 2021 model-year Dodge muscle cars. The complimentary enhancement applies second-level vehicle security encryption via Dodge’s Uconnect 4C infotainment system.
* Joe White for Reuters reports Tesla wants legacy automakers to pay it more for the electric vehicle credits it generates. That appears to be the bottom line motive of the electric automaker's decision to ask a federal court to order that legacy automakers - mainly the Detroit Three - face stiffer fines for failing to meet carbon emissions/fuel efficiency standards. Detroit got a break from the prior administration, which ordered fines for blowing Corporate Average Fuel Economy targets reduced - an action the government said would save the automakers $1 billion a year. But that reduced the value of the emissions credits Tesla sells to Stellantis and other piston-engine manufacturers. Tesla reported generating $1.58 billion from emissions credits in 2020 - an amount equivalent to about 27% of EBITDA. The Biden Administration is reviewing the issue, and has rebuffed Tesla's calls to reinstate the tougher penalties ($14 for every 0.1 mpg a company falls short of the CAFE target.)
* Reuters reports that Volkswagen wants former CEO Martin Winterkorn and former Audi chief Rupert Stadler to pay for the damage done by the Dieselgate scandal. The company is taking legal action against the former executives. Both have denied wrongdoing.
* The Jeep brand and Jeep Performance Parts (JPP) teams again joined forces to create a lineup of custom-built concept vehicles to conquer the iconic trails in Moab, Utah. Enthusiasts from all over the world will gather March 27 to April 4 in Moab for an extended holiday week of trail rides and technical off-roading on some of the most challenging and picturesque terrain. This year, seven distinctive Jeep brand and JPP concept vehicles are equipped with an array of advanced and potent powertrains – highlighted by the first battery electric vehicle (BEV) from Jeep.
* As part of this year’s Easter Jeep Safari, the Jeep brand is taking electrified propulsion beyond the paved road with the innovative 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid, partnering with Electrify America to create the Jeep 4xe Charging Network by installing Jeep-branded EV charging stations at or near the trailheads of Jeep Badge of Honor off-road trails over the next year, allowing owners to take full-advantage of their electrified Jeep SUV. Jeep 4xe charging stations are scheduled to open this spring at three of the most-popular off-road sites and icons for the Jeep brand – Moab, Utah; the Rubicon Trail in Pollock Pines, California; and Big Bear, California. Additional Jeep 4xe Charging Stations are scheduled to be operating around the country by the end of 2021.
* The 2021 Miami International Auto Show, which had been rescheduled for May 2021, has been postponed once again. Organizers say they’re now looking at mid-October for the new dates of the annual show at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
* Hagerty, the automotive enthusiast brand, announced the acquisition of the esteemed Concours d’Elegance of America, which joins the company’s expanding portfolio of automotive events. This announcement follows the acquisition of the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance (acquired September 2019) and the California Mille (acquired October 2020). The 42nd annual Concours d’Elegance of America takes place July 23-25, 2021 on the beautiful grounds of the Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth, Michigan.
* Stellantis NA is recalling more than 20,000 Ram trucks mainly in the U.S. and Canada. The company says the 2021 pickup and chassis cab trucks have heater electrical relays that can short, overheat and in rare cases cause fires. The fires can start even if the engines are turned off. The recalled trucks are equipped with 6.7-liter Cummins diesel engines.
* GM is recalling nearly 95,000 vehicles over potentially faulty seat belts. The recall covers 2021 Cadillac Escalade, Cadillac Escalade ESV, GMC Yukon, GMC Yukon XL, Chevrolet Suburban and Chevrolet Tahoe full size SUVs.
* In a highly competitive 2021 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, Cadillac had the top result in another IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship endurance race at Sebring International Raceway. The No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac of Sebastien Bourdais, Tristan Vautier and Loic Duval claimed JDC Miller MotorSports’ first victory in the 69th edition of the sports car endurance classic and the No. 5’s first win since Long Beach in 2019. The No. 55 Mazda of Harry Tincknell, Oliver Jarvis and Jonathan Bomarito finished second. The No. 60 Acura of Meyer Shank Racing with Dane Cameron, Olivier Pla and Juan Pablo Montoya into the third and final podium spot.
* As reported by Autoweek, for the first time since 1970, the NASCAR Cup Series will race on dirt this weekend, but it’s not going to take place on a traditional dirt track. Instead, Speedway Motorsports Inc. has temporarily converted Bristol Motor Speedway into a half-mile dirt track, covering its concrete surface with nearby ‘Bluff City Clay’ for a Cup Series - Truck Series doubleheader replete with heat races to set the starting lineups. The inclusion of a dirt race is just one of many changes to the Cup Series schedule this season, in addition to seven races on road courses, and with a downtown city street course event also under consideration for future seasons alongside the debut of the next-generation race car.
* The storied High Performance Driving School is writing a new chapter. After purchasing the school in May 2019, completing an extensive multi-million-dollar renovation and revamping its curriculum, the school’s owners – a small group of auto enthusiasts, collectors and graduates of the school – have renamed the facility the Radford Racing School. The renaming marks the school’s new association with the team behind the Radford brand, a name legendary among auto enthusiasts for its coachbuilding legacy. The Radford Racing School is the Official High Performance Driving School of Dodge//SRT. Continuing as the school’s primary sponsors, Dodge//SRT provides a fleet of vehicles for driving instruction.
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