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Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Wrap-up March 24-31, 2024


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Larry Nutson
AUTO CENTRAL - March 31, 2024; Every Sunday Larry Nutson, The Chicago Car Guy and Auto Channel Executive Producer, with able assistance from senior Detroit 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 story picks from this past week's important to you, relevant, semi-secret, or snappy automotive news, opinions and insider back stories presented as expertly crafted easy-to-understand automotive news nuggets.

Nutson's Auto News Weekly Wrap-up March 24-March 31, 2024.

* Q1 sales. Cox Automotive forecasts U.S. new-vehicle sales in Q1 will increase 5.6% year over year and reach 3.8 million units. The year-over-year increase in Q1 sales suggests that the new-vehicle market in the U.S. continues to recover slowly from the 10-year low – 13.8 million total sales – recorded in 2022. 2. Sales volume in March, when announced early next month, is expected to show gains over March 2023 and 2022 as the market continues to expand. The forecast of 1.45 million sales (retail and fleet) in March would be an increase of 4.5% year over year and close to the 10-year average for the month, historically one of the strongest sales months in a given year. The March seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR), or selling pace, is expected to finish near 15.5 million, up 0.6 million over last year's pace but down slightly from February's surprisingly strong 15.8 million level. Interestingly, Q1 compact car sales are forecasted to be up 11.8% while full-size pickup sales are forecasted to be down

* Shopper enthusiasm. Kelley Blue Book, a Cox Automotive company, announced the winners of the 2024 Consumer Choice Awards. These awards - formerly known as the Brand Image Awards – are based on annual new-car shopper perception study data. Award categories are calculated among in-market luxury and non-luxury, including truck and electric vehicle (EV)/hybrid shoppers who plan to purchase within the next 12 months. Honda is the big champion in consumer perception for 2024, sweeping all but one of the non-luxury category awards. Ram claims the Best Overall Truck Brand Award for 2024. Lexus wins Best Overall Luxury Brand and Most Trusted Luxury Brand. Click here to read more

* More on data sharing. The Detroit Free Press reports General Motors said it is severing ties with two data brokers following a lawsuit that connected the automaker to sharing driver data that resulted in higher auto insurance rates for that plaintiff. In a lawsuit filed March 13, Romeo Chicco of Florida claims GM, its connected-services subsidiary OnStar and data and analytics company LexisNexis Risk Solutions violated privacy and consumer protection laws. Click here to read more

* World Car winners. On the opening media preview day at the New York Auto Show, the Kia EV9 was named the 2024 World Car of the Year and 2024 World Electric Vehicle by World Car Awards. 2024 World Car Design of the Year is the Toyota Prius. 2024 World Urban Car is the Volvo EX30. 2024 World Performance Car is Hyundai Ioniq 5 N. 2024 World Luxury Car BMW 5 Series / i5.

* Pre-NY Auto Show. Genesis intends to put more emotion into its brand, as it set out to prove during a Monday evening news event ahead of the New York International Auto Show. The South Korean luxury brand confirmed plans to launch an all-new lineup of performance models starting with the GV60 Magma, a version of its compact all-electric SUV. Separately, Genesis also unveiled the Neolun Concept, an all but ready-for-production SUV flagship.

* NY Auto Show. Hyundai and Kia took center stage at New York auto show. Hyundai debuted freshened versions of the Tucson compact crossover and Santa Cruz compact pickup. Kia introduced the new compact K4 sedan and hatchback (a surprise), the fourth generation of the formerly-badged Forte. Polestar debuted the new Polestar 4 all-electric crossover utility vehicle and the 2025 MINI Cooper S made the scene. Ford is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Mustang this year and revealed a special trim and color package for the "pony" that was introduced at the 1964 World's Fair in New York.

* NY Auto Show redux. The New York International Auto Show for 2024 was somewhat reduced in content, as has been the case at major global vehicle/mobility expos. The only presence from Stellantis NA was its very popular Camp Jeep full immersion experience. The Euro luxury performance brands, namely BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Jaguar-Land Rover were not to be seen.

* Big gaps on EVs. According to the 2024 Edmunds EV Sentiment Survey, there are sizable gaps between what consumers say are critical EV purchase considerations — namely price, brand trust, vehicle body type and ddriving range — and the actual vehicles available for purchase. When it comes to the EV mismatch in consumer perception vs. market reality: EV shoppers are seeking prices far below current EV costs--Consumers want EVs below $40,000 (47% of respondents), but most available EVs are priced higher. The average transaction price of an electric vehicle was $61,702 in 2023. EV shoppers want cars and SUVs, not pickups--Among all survey respondents interested in an EV purchase, 43% are interested in a car purchase, 42% would consider an SUV/crossover and only 10% would consider a truck. EV pickup trucks remain niche products with a limited consumer base despite the variety available in the market. Click here to read more

* SEMA. Mike Spagnola, President and CEO of Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) spoke of the Biden Administration's new tailpipe emissions standards that will significantly impact their industry. Thirty-three percent of consumer spending on their industry's products were ICE-related parts. Putting it more bluntly, that's roughly $112 billion of impact on the U.S. economy that could be largely wiped out if EV mandates are allowed to move forward. Click here to read more

* Tesla sales push. Reuters reports electric carmaker Tesla will offer U.S. customers a month's free trial of its driver-assist technology, Full Self-Driving (FSD), CEO Elon Musk said, as softening demand and price competition pressure the company's sales and margins. Musk has long touted the driver assistant software, priced at $12,000, as a potential profit generator for the company, but has fallen short of his promise of full autonomy for years, amid regulatory and legal scrutiny of Tesla's safety and marketing. He has also told Tesla staff to give demonstrations of FSD to new buyers and owners of serviced vehicles, according to two emails verified by a source who sought anonymity. The FSD software, which Tesla says does not make its vehicles autonomous and requires active driver supervision, has also been offered at a subscription of $199 a month.

* Used car prices rise. Carfax in their Used Car Index reports the slide is over. They knew it had to happen – used car prices have stopped their slide in most categories and are starting to increase. Why is that happening? Because of the new-car shortage in 2021, it's going to be harder to find late-model off-lease used cars in 2024. With new cars more expensive than ever before, increased demand for less-costly used cars means higher prices. Click here to read more

* Cooperate on EV charging. Shailen Bhatt, federal highway administrator, said public and private entities will need to cooperate to build electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the US at the EV Charging Summit & Expo in Las Vegas last week. Bhatt said the goal is to build "a network so you can go from coast to coast and within your city with an EV and it'd be a safe and efficient and effective trip for you." The summit took place on the Strip within days of the Environmental Protection Agency announcing new automobile emissions standards, which The Associated Press reported would limit tailpipe emissions with the aim of boosting EVs and making 56% of new vehicle sales electric by 2032. There's 177,000 public EV chargers currently available, Bhatt said, and the Biden administration wants there to be 500,000 by the end of the decade. The U.S. will reach that goal by 2027, Bhatt said.

* EVs and tires. EV owners are surprised and unhappy with faster tire wear. EV owners aren't being told the heavier vehicles with higher torque will wear tires faster, a J.D. Power study found. The satisfaction gap with original equipment tires between electric vehicles (EVs) and gas-powered vehicles is widening, as EV owners say their tires are wearing faster, according to the J.D. Power 2024 U.S. Original Equipment Tire Customer Satisfaction Study. The study shows that EV owners have similar expectations of tire wear as do owners of gas-powered vehicles, despite EV tires naturally wearing faster due to greater vehicle weight and higher torque. Click here to read more

* No cars wanted. New York City completed a crucial final step in a decades-long effort to become the first American city to roll out a comprehensive congestion pricing program, one that aims to push motorists out of their cars and onto mass transit by charging new tolls to drive into Midtown and Lower Manhattan. The program could start as early as mid-June after the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state agency that will install and manage the program, voted 11-to-1 to approve the final tolling rates, which will charge most passenger cars $15 a day to enter at 60th Street and below in Manhattan.

* Drivers wanted. New York City announced a new permitting system for companies interested in testing autonomous vehicles on its roads, including a requirement that a human safety driver sit behind the steering wheel at all times. A small handful of companies, including Waymo and Cruise, have deployed driverless vehicles, also known as Level 4 automation — but issues around traffic obstruction and safety have stymied their rollout. As cities like San Francisco continue to grapple with the problems posed by fully driverless for-hire vehicles, New York City is trying to get ahead of the problem.

* Around the world in an EV. Adventurer Lexie Alford (@LexieLimitless) set the official record of being the first person to circumnavigate the globe in an electric vehicle using the new all-electric Ford Explorer designed for European customers. Crossing the finish line in Nice, France, the Explorer's incredible journey crossed six continents, drove through 27 countries and covered more than 30,000 kilometers, all on electric power alone. Challenges along the way included power outages in Africa, a lack of charging infrastructure in the Atacama desert of Chile, unmade roads, mountain passes and freezing conditions. The vehicle Lexie used for the challenge was a pre-production version of the Ford Explorer that is now available to order. Over the course of the journey it used a variety of charging solutions from 2.2 kw AC wall outlets to DC fast chargers and a portable battery pack.

* Jeep safari. Jeep made its annual trek to the 58th annual Easter Jeep Safari, March 23-31, 2024, in Moab, Utah, with four new eye-catching and mission-capable concept vehicles. Jeep has created two concepts based on the Wrangler, a customized Gladiator and a retro-styled Wagoneer for the 58th annual Easter Jeep Safari this week. Each spring around 20,000 Jeep enthusiasts descend on the southern Utah town of about 5,000 residents for the gathering that's organized by the Red Rock 4-Wheelers' club.

* Recall. Subaru is recalling 118,723 utility vehicles and sedans in the U.S. over an issue that prevents air bags from deploying in a crash, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said. The recall covers certain Outback and Legacy models produced between 2020 and 2022.

* Recall. Kia is recalling 427,000 Telluride crossover utility vehicles over risk of rolling. Kia is advising owners to move the gear shifter to the "park" position and manually engage the electronic parking brake before exiting their vehicles.

* Electric quarter mile. One of Ford's goals with its Ford Performance Electric Vehicle Demonstrators is to redefine what's possible in racing with electric powertrains. With the Cobra Jet EV demonstrator, they've now done that twice. The electric car broke the world record for the fastest quarter-mile pass with a full-bodied drag car with a blistering time of 7.759 seconds at 180.14 miles per hour at the National Hot Rod Association Winter Nationals. It's the second time the Cobra Jet EV Demonstrator has made history with NHRA, following its original record of 8.128 seconds at 171.97 miles per hour, set back in 2021.

Stay safe. Be Well.