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Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Wrap-up March 31-April 6, 2024



Auto Central April 7, 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 31 - April 6, 2024.

* 2024 Q1 Sales. First-first quarter new auto sales rose almost 5% in the US, for an annual rate of 15.4 million vehicles, but sales of electric vehicles grew at a slower pace of 2.7% in Q1. Ford Motor, Honda/Acura, Hyundai/Genesis, Nissan/Infiniti, Rivian, Toyota/Lexus and VW/Audi were among those with a growth in sales in Q1, while General Motors, Kia, Stellantis and Tesla were among those with a Q1 decline in sales. Vehicle inventories on dealer lots are growing but EVs and large SUVs and trucks are gathering dust. More details: HERE

* Zero-emission trucks. The Environmental Protection Agency set strict emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks, buses and other large vehicles, an action that officials said will help clean up some of the nation's largest sources of planet-warming greenhouse gases. The new rules, which take effect for model years 2027 through 2032, will avoid up to 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the next three decades and provide $13 billion in net benefits in the form of fewer hospital visits, lost work days and deaths, the EPA said. The rule for trucks is more complex, with a range of electric-vehicle or other non-traditional sales projected, depending on the type of vehicle and use, the agency said. For instance, 30% of “heavy-heavy-duty vocational” trucks would need to be zero-emission by 2032, the EPA said, while 40% of short-haul “day cabs” would need to be zero emission vehicles.

* US DoE Factoid of the Week: Sixty percent of the 33 million EVs expected by 2030 are projected to be in suburban areas, according to a report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Of the remainder, 20% will be in rural locations and another 20% in urban areas. The charging network needs for EVs are different depending on whether EV owners live in rural, suburban, or urban areas. While electricity from public DC fast chargers would be the most utilized in urban areas (40%), in rural and suburban areas, Level 1 (L1) 120V AC and Level 2 (L2) 240V AC chargers in single family homes are expected to meet the majority of EV electricity needs (82% and 64%, respectively). Although DC fast charging receives a lot of attention, increasing the availability of L1 and L2 charging is critical for the overall transition to EVs.

* You need a garage. Yes, if you are considering a car with a plug, a BEV or a PHEV, you need a garage. Suburbs have lots of single family homes with garages that can house EV chargers. This will makes it relatively painless to use an EV for daily commuting or medium-distance driving. PS - clean out your garage so the car will fit in it.

* Baltimore Bridge. The Baltimore bridge collapse closed automakers' top port. About 750,000 to 850,000 new vehicles go in and out of the port each year on haulers carrying about 1,000 cars each, auto industry experts said. Some parts, used in vehicle assembly, also pass through the port. This month, Mazda had the most imports through Baltimore by dollar value, followed by Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, Mitsubishi and Volkswagen, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The "big question" is what impact this disruption will have on new vehicle pricing, if any.

* Gas prices up. The Wall Street Journal reports prices at the pump typically rise in the first half of the year as more Americans get back on the road and refiners transition to less-polluting summer blends. But costs in 2024 have ramped up faster than normal, thanks largely to severe weather at home and geopolitical disruptions abroad. Unleaded gasoline ran $3.54 a gallon on average across the U.S., according to AAA, up 3% from a year ago and about 14% higher than at the start of 2024. Among the regions that have seen the fastest increases: the Salt Lake City area, where gas stations raised prices by about 61 cents to $3.77 a gallon over the past month. In metropolitan St. Louis, drivers have seen a roughly 51-cent price hike to $3.44 during that period. In Chicagoland, costs are up by roughly 39 cents to $4.07.

* Put the Phone Away. U.S. traffic deaths fell 3.6% in 2023 but remain above pre-pandemic levels. NHTSA estimated that 40,990 people died in traffic crashes last year compared to 42,514 deaths in 2022. Estimated total vehicle miles traveled notched up a little more than 2% during the same period. Authorities are still concerned with the current rate of driving deaths, particularly those caused by distracted driving, which accounted for more than 3,000 deaths and more than a quarter million injuries in 2022. People outside a vehicle, like pedestrians and bicyclists, are also still at increased risk from distracted drivers: The proportion of fatalities by those outside the vehicle in a crash have been increasing for years. In 2022, non-occupant fatalities in traffic crashes reached their highest rate since 1981. On April 1 the NHTSA launched a new "Put the Phone Away or Pay" awareness campaign to reduce distracted driving. During the first week of April it will focus on drivers from 18 to 34 years old, who are statistically most likely to die in distracted driving crashes.

* Driverless in Detroit. A partnership between the city of Detroit and Perrone Robotics will deploy four autonomous Ford E-Transit shuttles along a 10.8-mile route between Detroit's East Riverfront and Michigan Central Station, with a goal of developing and refining AV transit services. Officials announced $1.5 million in funding for this pilot project has been secured for first-year operations, which includes wheelchair accessibility and zero costs for riders. Full story: HERE

* Number 1 in EVs. Norway could be the first country to have more electric vehicles on the road than gas-powered vehicles by the end of 2024, according to an analysis by Reuters. Meanwhile, sales of EVs in Ireland dropped 14.2% for the first quarter as EV sales also slowed down in other European countries such as Germany. Read here for details and take note on how many years it has taken: EVs could overtake petrol cars in Norway by end-2024

* You need to plug it in. A recent study by the European Commission confirms what many in the industry have suspected about plug-in hybrids (PHEV): People don't actually charge them very often to take full advantage of the EV driving mode. Real-world fuel economy and CO2 emissions data from 600,000 vehicles from 2021, discovering a significant gap between the type-approval figures for PHEVs and real-world data. More here from Autoweek. HERE

* Their two cents. Hagerty Media's thoughts on some of the worst industry predictions that influenced cars or buying habits but proved to be dead wrong? Two of them are quite current. HERE

* Curbside EV charging. In 2021, New York City signed an agreement with FLO, a Canadian company that specializes in curbside chargers, to install and maintain 100 curbside chargers for the pilot program, as well as chargers located in front of municipal buildings to charge electric vehicles owned by the city. The installations were completed in January of 2024. The street spots for the general public cost $2.50 per hour, or $1 per hour at night, which covers both parking and charging. They are located in all five boroughs, with the majority of them in Brooklyn. The 100 chargers that FLO installed so far are online 99.9% and the New York City Department of Transportation says the average utilization rate across the entire system has been 72% so far in 2024. More details: HERE

* Ford shifts focus to hybrids. Ford Motor Company said it is retiming the launch of upcoming electric vehicles. The company continues to invest in a broad set of EV programs as it works to build a full EV line-up. In parallel, Ford is expanding its hybrid electric vehicle offerings. By the end of the decade, the company expects to offer hybrid powertrains across its entire Ford Blue lineup in North America. The market launch of Ford’s all-new three-row electric vehicles will be re-time to 2027 from 2025. Ford’s next all-new electric truck is now planned to begin customer deliveries in 2026, one year later than originally planned.

* A BMW station wagon returns. The upcoming 7th generation of the BMW M5 sedan will be joined – for the first time in the US – by a Touring variant. Enthusiasts across the country have made their voices heard, and their wish has been granted. BMW confirmed that the BMW M5 Touring will be available to customers in the US for the very first time. Production of the 2025 BMW M5 Touring will begin in the fourth quarter of 2024.

* No low-priced Tesla. Reuters reported that Tesla has shelved plans to develop a line of EVs that could sell for around $25,000 and do for EVs what Henry Ford’s Model T did for combustion vehicles more than a century ago. Instead, sources told Reuters Elon Musk is doubling down on creating a line of self-driving robo-taxis – a bold bet given the technology, regulatory and societal hurdles facing automated vehicle technology. Tesla’s retreat would leave the field open for Chinese automaker BYD – and potentially other Chinese EV makers – to dominate the market for mass-market electric vehicles anywhere that policymakers do not raise steep tariff walls to keep them out. But tariff barriers may not keep Chinese EV makers out of other markets for long, as the history of Japanese automakers and later South Korean automakers shows.

* Lexus floats a new boat: The LY 680 luxury yacht with a sticker topping $5 million. The new Lexus flagship model has twin 1,000-hp engines and seating for 15. The LY 680 will make its debut with a 1/20 scale model at the Japan International Boat Show 2024. HERE

* Auto show protest. At the New York Auto Show, climate activists shifted their focus to electric vehicles (EVs), staging a dramatic protest against what they perceive as misguided environmental solutions. Members of the well-known climate activist group Extinction Rebellion made a bold statement by pouring oil on a Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup during a presentation. Activists were wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the message “No EVs on a dead planet.” Their actions aimed to highlight concerns about the carbon-intensive production processes associated with electric cars.

* Hit the pause button: The Detroit Concours, a classic car show with roots stretching back 45 years, to the 1979 Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance, is taking 2024 off. Its return in 2025 isn’t assured, but Hagerty, the automotive lifestyle firm that owns it and two other leading classic car shows, is evaluating new dates, locations and a general reboot. The Detroit Concours’ future may become clear at a later date. Hagerty also owns classic car shows on Amelia Island, Florida, and in Greenwich, Connecticut. Full story here: HERE

* Mustang turns 60. Ford Mustang is celebrating its 60th anniversary with an owner and fan event at Charlotte Motor Speedway on April 17. Nearly sixty years ago, Ford unveiled the original Mustang at the World’s Fair in New York. Attendees will get a first look at the limited-edition Mustang 60th Anniversary Appearance Package – and hear about new experiences for Mustang owners. Mustang owners can register for the April 17 event now and secure their spot for a day of track and drift ride-alongs, the latest Mustang news, and a first-hand look at the world’s racing Mustangs

Stay safe. Be Well.