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



Auto Central March 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 March 12-18, 2023.

* US DoE factoid of the week: Over 14% of all the light-duty vehicles produced in 2022 had fuel economy of 35 miles per gallon (MPG) or higher, with 6.9% achieving fuel economy of 60 MPG or higher. The “Above 60” fuel economy band is composed of electric vehicles whose fuel economy is measured in miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) where 33.7 kilowatt-hours are equal to 1 gallon of gasoline. In 1975, about two-thirds (67%) of all light-duty vehicles produced had fuel economy of 15 MPG or less, but in 2022 just 0.3% fell into this category.

* We read in the Detroit News U.S. and European refiners are scrambling to get enough octane to make high-quality gasoline. There are several potential reasons for the shortfall, including the fallout of Russia's war in Ukraine, the impact of U.S. environmental regulations and a lack of refining capacity. The net effect is that it's making the fuel even more expensive than usual, when compared with regular unleaded. In the U.S., the price gap is around 75 cents a gallon - about 15% more than during the same period last year - data from automotive group AAA show. In the U.K., the premium has widened by 25% on an annual basis, the most recent monthly data show. (just a reminder Flex-fuel has an octane rating of more than Hi-test for about 2 bucks a gallon less...'nuff said)

* Most midsize SUVs offer inadequate front crash protection for passengers seated in the rear, the latest crash test ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety show. “All these vehicles provide excellent protection for the driver,” said IIHS President David Harkey, “but only a handful extend that level of safety to the back seat.” IIHS recently updated its longstanding moderate overlap front crash test to add a rear passenger dummy positioned behind the driver. Although the test still includes a driver dummy, rear passenger protection is the main thing currently differentiating vehicles in this test. Of 13 midsize SUVs tested, only four — the Ford Explorer, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Subaru Ascent and Tesla Model Y — earn good ratings. Three others, the Chevrolet Traverse, Toyota Highlander and Volkswagen Atlas, earn marginal ratings. Six more, the Honda Pilot, Hyundai Palisade, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Wrangler 4-door, Mazda CX-9 and Nissan Murano, are rated poor.

* The Detroit News reports President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met to try to complete a plan that the White House hopes will turn the page on a spat between the U.S. and European Union over electric vehicle tax credits. Biden and von der Leyen were expected to agree to open negotiations between the U.S. and the EU on a deal that could boost the use of European minerals critical in the production of electric vehicle batteries that are eligible for U.S. tax credits through Biden's roughly $375 billion clean energy law that passed last year, according to White House officials.

* J.D. Power reports electric vehicle owners' satisfaction with the home charging experience declined last year because of high costs of charging, slow charging speed and limited charging education. This according to the J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Electric Vehicle Experience Home Charging study. More than two-thirds (68%) of EV owners use a Level 2 permanently mounted station, but their overall satisfaction declined. Increases in electricity rates and the lack of educational information is a concern.

* Thank You American Taxpayers, From Bloomberg we read the Biden administration outlined the next step in its plan to deploy 500,000 new EV charging stations over the next five years, as the Department of Transportation begins accepting applications for $2.5 billion in grants to run public charging sites in urban, rural and tribal communities nationwide. The Charging and Fueling Infrastructure (CFI) discretionary grant program, funded through the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure law, is part of $7.5 billion in federal money geared at building out a national network of public EV chargers. In February, the White House published a set of rules for recipients of charging grants, focused on ensuring that chargers are reliable, easy to use and well-maintained.

* Oregon is temporarily suspending its rebate program for buying or leasing an electric vehicle for a year starting in May. Too many people are applying and the program is running out of money. Oregon has over 60,600 EVs registered in the state. The Clean Vehicle Rebate Program has distributed more than $71 million over five years to help people buy or lease about 25,000 EVs. Twenty percent of the rebates went to low- and moderste-income households.

* The 2023 Kia Niro has been named the 2023 Women’s World Car of the Year. While the Niro initially earned the “Urban Car of the Year” award from the all-women association earlier this year, the jury panel ultimately recognized the Niro as the overall “Supreme Winner” among all other category winners. Created in 2009 by New Zealand automotive journalist Sandy Myhre, the Women’s World Car of the Year is comprised exclusively of women, with 63 journalists spanning 43 continents. To determine the winner, a total of 59 vehicles were tested and evaluated on safety, quality, value, design, performance, and environmental impact, among other important factors based on the same principles that drivers consider when making a vehicle purchase.

* Catalytic converter theft has been a serious threat to car owners for years, but it turns out there have been far more incidents than previously reported, new Carfax data shows – as many as 153,000 in the U.S in 2022. Carfax data scientists came up with that estimate after a deep dive into catalytic converter replacements from millions of service records. The total is up 2% from 2021, when media reports had put the number of insurance claims for catalytic converter replacements at roughly 52,000. Read the whoel story and find which vehicles are most targeted.

* Plan ahead! Two people suspected of burgling a Sam's Club store in Buford, Georiga were arrested after they stopped to charge their Tesla Model X at a charging station just 15 minutes from the store that they were accused of ripping off. Although the Model X has a range of more than 300 miles, the suspects were arrested when they stopped at a Tesla Supercharger a short distance away.

* John Deere plans to ramp up production of electric construction vehicles with the aim of offering more than 20 electric and hybrid-electric vehicles by 2026. "We see the clear and growing need for battery and charging solutions for the off-highway industry," said Jennifer Preston, director of John Deere Electric Powertrain. John Deere revealed its first electric excavator, the 145 X-Tier, at CES 2023 in January and used the CONEXPO Show in March to continue showcasing its electrification strategy. Targeting excavators because they are the “most heavily used machine form on the jobsite,” Deere said the 145 X-Tier is powered by batteries from Kreisel Electric, in which Deere acquired a majority stake in early 2022.

* Kia is recalling over 188,000 K5 vehicles in U.S. for airbag defect. The recall involves side curtain airbags that were installed incorrectly, causing them to not deploy properly during a crash. The recall covers certain 2021-23 K5 vehicles.

* Ford is recalling more than 1.3 million Ford and Lincoln cars globally for a braking defect. The recall covers certain 2013-18 Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ sedans. The front brake hoses can rupture and leak brake fluid resulting in reduced braking effect. Another recall covers more than 222,000 F-150 pickups from 2021. The windshield wiper arms can break.

* Honda is recalling a half-million vehicles in the U.S. and Canada because the front seat belts may not latch properly. The recall covers the 2017 through 2020 CR-V, the 2018 and 2019 Accord, the 2018 through 2020 Odyssey and the 2019 Insight. Also included is the Acura RDX from the 2019 and 2020 model years.

* Ahead of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season-opening Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, 16-time NHRA world champion John Force, who drives the PEAK Antifreeze and Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car, applied one more exclamation point to a career punctuated by superlatives when he was inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame as part of a 2023 class. Founded in 1990 by “Big Daddy” Don Garlits and his late wife, Pat, and housed at the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in nearby Ocala, the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame recognizes the most accomplished straight-line racers in the world with inductees from North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Stay safe. Be Well.