Nutson's Weekly Auto News Wrap-up May 8-14, 2022
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Nutson's Automotive News Wrap-up - Week Ending May 14, 2022 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-understand automotive universe news nuggets.
* The Lundberg Survey reports the average U.S. price of regular-grade gasoline jumped 15 cents over the past two weeks to $4.38 per gallon. The current price sits five cents below the highest average price in history--$4.43 set on March 11. The average price at the pump is $1.36 higher than a year ago. Nationwide the highest average price is in San Francisco Bay Area at $5.85 per gallon. The lowest average price in in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at $3.80.
* U.S. DoE factoid of the week: In 1975, the sedan/wagon class had the highest average fuel economy of all new light-duty vehicles produced, at 13.5 miles per gallon (mpg). By 2021, the average fuel economy for the sedan/wagon class had risen to 31.7 mpg. From 1975 to the mid-1980s, all vehicle classes experienced a sharp increase in fuel economy. This was followed by a period where the average fuel economy among vehicle classes remained relatively flat. Beginning around 2000, fuel economies began to rise again. While all vehicle classes have experienced impressive gains in fuel economy over the past two decades, the car SUV class (see note) has seen a 70% improvement since 2000. The sharp increase in the van/minivan class in the last few years is likely due to the introduction of hybrid and plug-in hybrid models. Large pickup trucks are among the best-selling vehicles in the United States, and they also have had the least impressive gains in fuel economy over the past six years.
* Michael Sivak of Sivak Applied Research has updated his monthly monitoring of key U.S. transportation indexes with several new data points. The population-adjusted changes for February 2022 compared with February 2019: Road vehicle miles: up 2%; Air passenger miles (domestic): down 10%; Rail passenger miles: down 40%; Trips on public transit: down 42%. Details can be found here; https://www.greencarcongress.com/2020/10/20200923-sivakindex.html
* VW is going to revive the International Scout name as electric utility vehicle and pickup in the U.S. VW purchased rights to the Scout badge with its 2020 deal for Navistar International. The VW Group announced the Scout will be a brand within the VW portfolio of brands with its own management team. Current thinking is that the SUV would be similar in size to VW’s Atlas, a big seven-seat rugged utility vehicle (RUV) built in the U.S. The pickup truck is expected to be about the size of VW’s Amarok. VW officials said vehicles built under the Scout badge would aim to rival electric off-road offerings in the midrange segment, rather than big trucks such as Ford’s electric F150 Lightning. The vehicles will be designed, engineered, and manufactured in the U.S. for American customers. Prototypes are expected to be shown next year with production in 2026.
* On the subject of the new Scout brand from the VW Group, Automotive News reports that U.S. VW dealers are scratching their head. Will the Scout brand be sold at unique Scout dealers, just like Audi is for example? Or will VW dealers who have been asking for a pickup for decades get to sell this new brand?
* Reuters reports California officials delivered a grim warning about the risks to the state’s electric grid, which is also bad news for proponents of electric vehicles. California faces blackouts and brownouts this summer, and is looking toward an 1,800 mega-watt capacity shortfall by 2025. California’s shaky grid is just one of the infrastructure challenges automakers are worried about as they roll the dice on EVs. Toyota Chief Scientist Gil Pratt emphasized to the FT conference audience that Toyota’s plans to go all-electric by 2030 in the US, Europe and China come with a significant caveat: “Infrastructure permitting.”
* AutoPacific, recently issued an exploratory survey into what features and technologies consumers want on their next new vehicle. The survey of over 650 current vehicle owners in the U.S., which precedes AutoPacific’s annual Future Attribute Demand Study of over 15,000 new vehicle intenders with results expected in June 2022, reveals that rearward and forward automatic emergency braking systems are desired by over three-quarters of consumers and are must-haves (defined as features that consumers want no matter the cost) for more than one-third of respondents. Another driver assist technology, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, is desired by 70% of consumers and is a must-have for 31% of respondents.
* For the last five years, driverless car companies have been testing their vehicles on public roads. These vehicles constantly roam neighborhoods while laden with a variety of sensors including video cameras capturing everything going on around them in order to operate safely and analyze instances where they don't. While the companies themselves tout the potential transportation benefits their services may one day offer, they don’t publicize another use case, one that is far less hypothetical: Mobile surveillance cameras for police departments. “Autonomous vehicles are recording their surroundings continuously and have the potential to help with investigative leads,” says a San Francisco Police department training document obtained by Motherboard via a public records request.
* Rivian is recalling 500 of its R1T pickup trucks for a sensor defect that could cause the air bags to improperly deploy when a child is in the front passenger seat. Rivian has built 5,000 vehicles to date and is on track to produce 25,000 vehicles the year. In regard to children in the front seat we note, children should ride in the back seat through age 12. After age 13 it is usually okay for a child to ride in the front seat.
* Hyundai is recalling more than 215,000 midsize cars in the U.S. – most for a second time – because fuel hoses can leak in the engine compartment and cause fires. The recall covers certain 2013 and 2014 Sonata sedans, many of which were recalled for the same problem in 2020. In the 2020 recall, dealers inspected the hoses and replaced them if they were damaged. If not, heat-resistant tape was installed. This time all of the faulty hoses will be replaced.
* Mercedes-Benz has issued a "do-not-drive" recall after they determined that on certain model year 2006-2012 ML, GL and R-Class vehicles, the function of the brake booster might be affected by advanced corrosion in the joint area of its housing. MBUSA will conduct a voluntary recall of approximately 292,287 ML-, GL- and R-Class vehicles produced for the 2006-2012 model year period. The company said it will offer complimentary towing to owners of affected vehicles. If a repair is needed, a Mercedes dealer will help coordinate alternate transportation.
*Tesla is recalling nearly 130,000 vehicles in the U.S. because the infotainment central processing unit may overheat during fast-charging, causing the center display to lag or appear blank. The recall covers 2021-22 Model S and X vehicles and 2022 Model 3 and Model Y vehicles operating with certain firmware releases.
* Kia America is geared up and ready to tackle Rebelle Rally 2022, the iconic all-women off-road rally. Kia will campaign for the third year in a row, this time with the all-new 2023 Sportage X-Pro. The newest generation of Kia’s longest-running nameplate will compete in the X-Cross class. In 2021, two 2022 Sorento PHEVs earned podium spots in the X-Cross class, as driver Verena Mei and navigator Tana White finished second overall and Kia’s returning team, Alyssa Roenigk and Sabrina Howells, came in third place overall. The previous year, Roenigk and Howells piloted a 2020 Telluride to achieve a close second place in the X-Cross class. Details about this year’s team, vehicle builds and photos will be revealed closer to the start of the Rebelle Rally, which begins on October 6 and ends on October 15.
* Last weekend's Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix was very successful and proved delightful to the fans. Ferrari grabbed the one and two pole positions. Max Verstappen in his Red Bull car quickly jumped into second place and eventually took the lead to win the race. Now with Austin, Texas along with Miami, in 2023 we can look forward to an F-1 race also in Las Vegas.
* A few weeks ago we reported that Formula 1 drivers were reminded to wear fireproof underwear and also to not wear certain types of jewelry while racing. F1 drivers are now saying jewelry gets personal. Religious icons and wedding, for example, are in discussion. Seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton was critical of the decision, and received a temporary exemption for his pieces of jewelry that cannot easily be removed, while Sebastian Vettel made a point of wearing briefs over his race suit before getting in the car for Friday practice. Hamilton wore a lot of jewelry in a press conference, along with three watches, and quipped that next time he’ll wear four.
Stay safe. Be Well.