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Nutson's Weekly Auto News Roundup - Week Ending April 24, 2021



AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO April 25, 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 April 24, 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.

* We celebrated Earth Day this week and companies around the world made commitments to preserve and protect the environment. Here in the U.S. President Biden held a virtual global climate summit and is moving to correct the last four years of ignoring our environment by the previous administration.

* Joe White for Reuters writes: President Biden has set a goal of cutting U.S. carbon emissions in half by 2030 from 2005 levels - a target that will require significant changes across the economy, not least in what Americans drive. The U.S. auto industry knows the easy road on CO2 offered by the former administration's vehicle emissions standards is now blocked. The debate now is how steep the slope will be from current vehicle fleet carbon levels to a level consistent with the Biden administration's new targets, and how much financial and policy support the government will offer. One challenge among many will be changing consumer behavior. The average fuel efficiency of new vehicles sold in the U.S. fell in 2019, reflecting the shift toward pickup trucks and larger SUVs that has only accelerated since. A dozen states led by California, New York and other Blue and Purple states called on President Biden to join California and set a 2035 deadline for phasing out sales of new internal combustion vehicles. The letter from the states underscores the divide over how far and fast to push tough climate measures.

* Sales growth of both electric and hybrid vehicles outpaced overall market performance in the first quarter, according to an analysis of the U.S. auto market by Cox Automotive and Kelley Blue Book. Electrified vehicles – automobiles featuring large battery packs and electric motors in the propulsion system – accounted for 7.8% of the total U.S. market, up from 4.8% in Q1 2020. Electrified vehicle sales growth of 81% far outpaced industry growth. Sales of electric vehicles (EVs) – battery only – grew by 44.8% year over year, reaching nearly 100,000 sales in the quarter, a record. Sales of hybrid vehicles outpaced both the market and EVs, doubling to more than 200,000 in the quarter. The overall automobile market increased by 11.4% in Q1.

* Electric vehicles will account for more than half of light vehicles sold globally by 2026 according to projections by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). BCG said it sees the transition to EVs playing out in three phases: incentive and early adopter-driven electrification; ownership cost-driven electrification; and supply-driven electrification. The automotive industry is shifting toward electric vehicles even faster than we envisioned only a year ago. With steady support from governments and leading automakers in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, the global market share of electrified cars, SUVs, and other light vehicles grew from 8% in 2019 to 12% in 2020, and has shown continued strength in early 2021. Zero-emission vehicles will replace internal combustion engines (ICEs) as the dominant powertrain for new light-vehicle sales globally just after 2035.

* The 2021 World Car Awards have been announced. The Volkswagen ID.4 is the World Car of the Year. Luxury car is the Mercedes S-Class, Perfomance car is the Porsche 911 Turbo, Urban car is the Honda e, Design of the Year is Land Rover Defender.

* Honda announced key targets for sales of electrified vehicles in North America, with a plan to make battery-electric and fuel cell electric vehicles to represent 100% of its vehicle sales by 2040, progressing from sales of 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2035.

* The 2021 Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition happened this week with many new model debuts. Genesis introduced its first-ever EV model, the Electrified G80. Volkswagen is spotlighting its new ID.6 battery-electric SUV. Then we had the debut of the all electric Toyota bZ4X (That's bZ — or “Beyond Zero”) Lincoln debuted the Lincoln Zephyr Reflection preview car, showcasing the best of Lincoln’s global design expertise in a vehicle designed solely for the China market. The all-new Lincoln Corsair plug-in hybrid (PHEV) also made its debut as Lincoln’s first locally produced new energy vehicle (NEV). Audi presents its fully electric luxury-class A6 e-tron Sportback concept car. Honda exhibited the world premiere of the Honda SUV e:prototype. The BMW iX is first model in the brand’s line-up to feature the new Operating System 8 and the latest generation of BMW iDrive.

* Volkswagen of America announced the results of a survey of 1,000 SUV owners and 500 SUV shoppers and found most haven’t driven an EV, but most are more interested than they were a year ago. Six in ten shoppers in the market for an SUV say they will consider an EV. Four in five say more EVs on the roads can help the environment. Vehicle cost is one of the top purchase barriers for both SUV owners (58%) and shoppers (57%). For both owners and shoppers, cost (both vehicle cost and home charging station cost), limited charging station availability, limited range and charging time are the top hurdles to EV ownership.

* Meanwhile, Kansas City plans to piggyback electric vehicle charging on existing streetlights as a way to improve access in areas currently lacking charging options. The federally funded pilot project is being led by the nonprofit Metropolitan Energy Center, whose partners include the city and utility Evergy. They hope to install chargers on 30 to 60 streetlights before the end of the year. The light poles would be equipped with one charger each. Customers would pay for each kilowatt-hour of power, although a rate will have to be established by state utility regulators.

* FCEVs are coming too. Toyota is developing hydrogen engine technologies through motorsports. Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota) announced that it is developing a hydrogen engine in an effort to move toward a carbon-neutral mobility society. It has installed the engine on a racing vehicle based on Toyota’s Corolla Hatchback, which it will enter in competition under the ORC ROOKIE Racing banner. The first race will be the Super Taikyu Series 2021 Powered by Hankook Round 3 NAPAC Fuji Super TEC 24 Hours Race on May 21-23.

* Sivak Applied Research monitors key transportation indexes and has updated several new data points. Population-adjusted changes for January 2021 compared with January 2019 are: Road vehicle miles: down 10%; Air passenger miles: down 59%; Rail passenger miles: down 73%; Unlinked trips on public transit: down 62%. Changes for March 2021 compared with March 2019 are : Vehicle sales: down 2%; Price of gasoline: up 7%.

* There are NO fully autonomous or self-driving cars! Two men are dead after a 2019 Tesla traveling near Houston, Texas crashed into a tree. NO ONE WAS DRIVING the vehicle, officials say. The car burst into flames after hitting the tree. There was a person in the passenger seat of the front of the car and in the rear passenger seat of the car.

* Concerns about partially automated driving are not unique to the United States or Tesla. In the U.K., insurers are urging the government to slow down plans to encourage automated lane keeping systems on highways, or at the least make clear that so-called ALKS is not really "automated driving." Humans must still stay ready to drive. The debate turns in part on what the word "automated" means and whether it should be used to describe technology that can only handle driving under ideal circumstances.

* Prosecutors have charged two more senior managers in a growing diesel emissions scandal for Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler). The charges against the Stellantis managers who live in Italy accuse them of being part of a conspiracy to cheat U.S. diesel emissions tests on approximately 100,000 2014-16 EcoDiesel Ram 1500 pickups and Jeep Grand Cherokees. The two join an Italian citizen who lives in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and who had already been named in the case.

* The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led to the cancellation of yet another signature auto event in Detroit. The 69th annual Autorama, scheduled for April 30-May 2 at TCF Center, will not take place, according to Peter Toundas, president and owner of Championship Auto Shows Inc. Toundas said Championship Auto Shows Inc. and its partner Michigan Hot Rod Association plan to resume Autorama at TCF Center in 2022. The event has featured hot rods and classic cars over its nearly seven decades. Thanks to the Detroit News for this brief.

* The Tokyo Auto Show has canceled its 2021 event and will rebrand as 'mobility' show. The auto show, which survived a recession, an earthquake-tsunami and the rivalry of bigger, bolder auto events in China, has finally folded under the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic. The biennial show is normally held around late October to early November.

* Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced that it will have up to 135,000 fans at the Indianapolis 500 on May 30, approximately 40% of capacity. It would make it the largest sporting event since the start of the coronavirus pandemic by nearly 70,000 fans.

* A specially prepared Volkswagen ID.4 electric SUV will enter the National Off-Road Racing Association (NORRA) Mexican 1000 race on April 25-29 in the Baja peninsula of Mexico. Driven by professional racer and Volkswagen brand ambassador Tanner Foust and managed by Tanner Foust Racing, the Rhys Millen Racing modified rear-wheel-drive ID.4 1st Edition model will run its stock powertrain and 82 kWh battery pack with a modified off-road suspension and racing interior for the 1,100-mile competition. The aim is to show the capabilities and performance of an EV in an extreme environment.

* Chargin' Charlie Glotzbach, who earned that nickname for his qualifying prowess during NASCAR's speedway expansion and aerodynamic wars died on Friday. He was 82. Glotzbach won four NASCAR Grand National Series races driving for numerous Hall of Fame team owners -- including Junior Johnson and Cotton Owens. He finished second in the Daytona 500 in 1969 and 1972 for the Owens Racing team.

Stay safe. Be Well.