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Nutson' s Weekly Auto News Wrap-up February 12-18, 2023



Auto Central February 19, 2023; every Sunday Larry Nutson, The Chicago Car Guy and Auto Channel 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.

LEARN MORE: Complete versions of today's news nuggets, along with thousands of pages of relevant news and opinions, information stored in a million-page library published and indexed on The Auto Channel during the past 25 years. Complete information can be found by copying a headline and inserting it into any Site Search Box.

Here are Larry's picks among 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.

Weekly Auto News Wrap-up Week Ending February 18, 2023.

* Kelley Blue Book released its January new vehicle average transaction price (ATP) report showing a slight decline from December’s record high price. The average price paid for a new vehicle in January was $49,388—a decrease of 0.6% from December’s ATP. The average price paid for a new non-luxury vehicle in January was $45,344—a decline of $271 compared to December. The average luxury buyer paid $65,953 for a new vehicle, down $1,560 from December. Luxury brand sales jumped to a record 19.6% share of total sales. The average price paid for a new EV decreased in January by $3,363 (down 5.4%) compared to December. The average new EV sold for $58,725, according to Kelley Blue Book estimates.

* Consumer Reports ranked 32 automobile brands based on the Overall Scores of their models, which include road tests, reliability, satisfaction, and safety. BMW claimed the top spot this year, followed by Subaru, MINI, Lexus and Honda. Have a look here:

* US DOE factoid of the week: The production share of vehicles with all-wheel or 4-wheel drive has increased rapidly over the past 10 years, reaching 59% in 2022. All-wheel drive/4-wheel drive systems are popular because they can improve traction and handling performance, especially in inclement weather. But all-wheel drive/4-wheel drive systems have extra components that increase weight and mechanical friction, which can negatively impact fuel economy. However, manufacturers have made technological improvements to minimize the impact on overall vehicle efficiency. In 1975, rear-wheel drive was the predominant drive type, installed on 91% of all light-duty vehicles produced. By 1985, front-wheel drive became the most common drive type and remained dominant until 2017. Since 2017, all-wheel drive/4-wheel drive has become the most common drive type.

* The Biden-Harris Administration, through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), announced funding to accelerate the creation of zero-emission vehicle corridors that expand the nation’s electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. The Department has awarded $7.4 million to seven projects to develop medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicle (EV) charging and hydrogen corridor infrastructure plans that will benefit millions of drivers across 23 states. Additionally, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Transportation through the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, DOE announced its intent to release funding to address barriers to a cleaner, safer, more affordable, and more reliable Made in America EV charging network. These funding measures, in coordination with additional clean transportation announcements from the Federal Highway Administration and the White House, will be critical to achieving President Biden’s goals of building out a national network of 500,000 EV chargers and ensuring that 50% of new light-duty vehicle sales are electric by 2030.

* The B-H Admin announcement also said Tesla, for the first time, will open a portion of its U.S. Supercharger and Destination Charger network to non-Tesla EVs, making at least 7,500 chargers available for all EVs by the end of 2024. The open chargers will be distributed across the United States. They will include at least 3,500 new and existing 250 kW Superchargers along highway corridors

* California is already becoming more healthy because of electric car penetration, which has resulted in cleaner air in areas where electric cars are more prevalent, according to a new study. The study was published last week by the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. It tracked real-world pollution levels, electric car penetration, and emergency room visits across California between 2013 and 2019, and controlled against overall improvements in California air quality during the study period. Each increase of 20 cars per 1,000 people (which is roughly equivalent to 2% of cars – since CA has 840 cars per 1,000 people) was associated with a .41ppb (parts per billion) drop in nitrogen dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. California law sets average NOx standards at 30ppb, so a drop of .41 is a pretty big chunk, especially when compared to just 2% of EV penetration.

* Reuters reports the European Parliament approved a law that will allow only the sale of new zero-emission vehicles as of 2035, effectively ending sales of gas- and diesel-powered vehicles in the 27 nations that make up the EU. The landmark rules will require that by 2035 carmakers must achieve a 100% cut in CO2 emissions from new cars sold, which would make it impossible to sell new fossil fuel-powered vehicles in the 27-country bloc. The law will also set a 55% cut in CO2 emissions for new cars sold from 2030 versus 2021 levels, much higher than the existing target of a 37.5%. New vans must comply with a 100% CO2 cut by 2035, and a 50% cut by 2030, compared with 2021 levels. We note: Some pundits believe PHEVs should still be permitted.

* The adoption of electric vehicles in the US could repeat the same pattern of tractors replacing horses on farms or diesel locomotives replacing steam locomotives. In both cases, it took at least 20 years for the newer technology to surpass the previous one in market penetration, writes Michael Lynch, a distinguished fellow at the Energy Policy Research Foundation.

* Hertz and BP announced the intention to bring fast charging infrastructure to car rental locations in major cities across the United States as part of a $1 billion investment in electric vehicles (EVs) by the gas company. The companies will prioritize the fast-charging installations in major cities, including Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Miami, New York City, Orlando, Phoenix, San Francisco and Washington, DC. The hubs will serve rideshare and taxi drivers, car rental customers and the general public at high-demand locations. Hertz’s goal is for 25 percent of its fleet to be electric by the end of 2024. BP has 22,000 EV charge points worldwide and aims for more than 100,000 globally by 2030, around 90 percent rapid or ultra-fast.

* From the Detroit News we read Zoox, the self-driving startup owned by, carried passengers in its fully autonomous vehicle on public roads for the first time. Last week, the electric vehicle, which doesn't have a steering wheel, ran a mile-long route carrying staff between Zoox's two main buildings in Foster City, California, the company said in a statement. The firm will now operate a shuttle for employees on the same trip while it seeks additional clearances to expand its service to the public. The company said the robotaxi trip marks the first time that a vehicle designed without human controls has carried passengers on a public road.

* On the heels of the new Ram 1500 Revolution battery electric concept vehicle making its first auto show appearance at the Chicago Auto Show, the production-version Ram 1500 REV all-electric pickup truck made its debut in a one-minute Super Bowl TV spot. The production Ram 1500 Rev features front grille and lighting and rear lighting styling cues from the futuristic Revolution concept truck. The basic truck body has more of a classic Ram truck look.

* The 2023 Super Bowl highly anticipated and ultra-expensive automotive commercials didn't quite cut it this year. Stellantis gave the game a boost with its Ram 1500 Rev "Premature Electrification" TV ad. Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan and Toyota sat the game out.

* In response to increasing thefts targeting Hyundai vehicles without push-button ignitions and immobilizing anti-theft devices in the United States, Hyundai is introducing a free anti-theft software upgrade to prevent the vehicles from starting during a method of theft popularized on TikTok and other social media channels. The technology will be launched as a service campaign for a total of almost 4 million vehicles beginning on February 14, with the upgrade rolling out first to more than 1 million model year 2017-2020 Elantra, 2015-2019 Sonata and 2020-2021 Venue vehicles. The software upgrade is scheduled to be available for the remaining eligible affected vehicles by June 2023. All Hyundai vehicles produced since November 2021 are equipped with an engine immobilizer as standard equipment.

* Ford stopped producing as well as shipping already-completed F-150 Lightning pickups due to a battery fire in a truck parked at the Ford assembly plant. The company said it is working to identify the cause of the fire and the population of trucks that may need inspection. Production is expected to be down for about three weeks. Owners are still able to use their vehicles.

* Tesla is recalling more than 362,000 cars equipped with its "Full Self Driving" driver-assistance system after government regulators found it increased the risk of accidents. The company’s technology, which can steer, accelerate, brake and change lanes on its own, allows vehicles to travel above legal speed limits and through intersections in “an unlawful or unpredictable manner,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said. The safety agency noted that the recall addressed only one set of concerns it had with "Full Self Driving" and that it was continuing to investigate the system and less advanced technology that Tesla calls "Autopilot". Despite their names, neither system can drive cars on its own. Tesla’s “Full Self Driving” system is labeled as a “Level 2” driver assistance system requiring full-time human supervision. The recall involves all four of the models the company makes and covers vehicles produced from 2016 to 2023.

* Stellantis will recall 306,165 of its Ram HD pickups and chassis-cab trucks from the 2021 through 2023 model years. An intake air heater grid relay on trucks equipped with the 6.7-liter Cummins diesel engine could overheat and cause a fire. The automaker has asked owners not to park the vehicles indoors until the issue can be addressed.

* Nissan is recalling more than 463,000 older vehicle because the Nissan emblem on the steering wheel air bag cover can come loose when the air bag deploys and injure the driver. The recall covers Frontier, Titan, Xterra, Pathfinder and Armada models from 2008 through 2011 and Quest models from 2008 and 2009.

* The history of post-WW II auto imports in America is certainly interesting. A new book about a Manhattan-based importer, distributor and car dealer who represented Jaguar, Porsche, Mercedes, Fiat, Lancia, BMW and more has just been released: “Max Hoffman — Million Dollar Middleman” by long-time automotive journalist Myles Kornblatt. Unbeknownst to many, Max Hoffman was the unseen puppet master behind some of today’s best classics.

* The 2023 motorsports season got underway in January with the Rolex 24 at Daytona. This weekend the Daytona 500 really kicks things off. NASCAR has Kevin Harvick running his last season. Jimmy Johnson returns to NASCAR as a team owner and driver after two years at IndyCar. NASCAR champ and team owner Tony Stewart will return to driving in NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster. NASCAR hopes its changes to soften the rear structure on the Next Gen race car will reduce the risk of driver's sustaining a concussion. Kurt Busch was forced into retirement due to ongoing effects of a concussion. Extreme sports star Travis Pastrana is checking another box on his bucket list locking in a spot in the Daytona 500 starting field during time trial qualifying. And, a modified NASCAR Next Gen car will compete in the 24 hours of Le Mans in the experimental Garage 56 program.

* Shoichiro Toyoda, who as a son of the company’s founder oversaw Toyota’s expansion into international markets has died. He was 97. Toyoda, the company's honorary chairman, died Tuesday of heart failure, Toyota Motor Corp. said in a statement. He was the father of Akio Toyoda, who recently announced he was stepping down as president and chief executive to become its chairman. Shoichiro was the eldest son of Kiichiro Toyoda, who founded Toyota in 1937. After becoming Toyota's president in 1982, Shoichiro Toyoda helped direct Toyota’s transformation into a global automaker, especially in the vital U.S. market.

Stay safe. Be Well.