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Nutson';s Weekly Automotive News Round-up April 7-13, 2024


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Larry Nutson
AUTO CENTRAL - April 14, 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 April 8 - April 14, 2024.

* Keep on truckin', or not. Sales of pickups in the US dropped 6.4% in the first quarter as customers shifted to light vehicles, which saw a 5.6% increase in Q1. Sales of the Ram 1500 pickup and Ford F-Series line of pickups from Ford Motor fell 15% and 10%, respectively, in Q1, though total pickup sales for Nissan and General Motors were up. Analysts say payment-conscious consumers may be pulling back from discretionary purchases of big pickups as prices and interest rates climb, instead choosing smaller and less-costly vehicles— including the compact Ford Maverick pickup, which surged 82 percent. Sales of subcompact and compact crossovers rose roughly 25 percent. Thanks to Jalopnik for this update.

* EV buyer interest. The doom and gloom reports from the media and manufacturers are affecting consumer confidence. A re-boot is needed. Seven percent of Americans, up from 4% a year ago, report that they own an electric vehicle. That increase is matched by an equal decline in the percentage saying they are seriously considering buying one, from 12% to 9%. Upper-income Americans are the subgroup most likely to own an EV, with 14% doing so, up from 6% last year. Sixty-one percent of lower-income Americans say they would not buy an EV, up 18 percentage points from 43% in 2023, the biggest increase among major subgroups. Click here to read more

* Tesla Model Y on-sale. Tesla is slashing prices of its best-selling vehicle in a bid to clear its biggest-ever stockpile. The company is marking down Model Y sport utility vehicles it has in inventory, with the rear-wheel drive version going for $4,600 less than the cost to custom order the sport utility vehicle. Long-range and performance Model Ys are discounted by at least $5,000. Click here to read more

* US DOE factoid of the week: According to the 2022 National Household Travel Survey, diesel vehicles averaged 17,500 annual miles and gasoline vehicles averaged 14,100 miles. Average annual miles for plug-in hybrid vehicles and hybrid vehicles were in between those of diesel and gasoline while electric vehicles averaged 12,400 miles. For all household vehicles, the average was 14,200 in 2022.

* EV weight and safety. Raul Arbelaez of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) poses the question: How safe are electric vehicles? His biggest concern is how heavy they are and what all that extra vehicle weight means for the safety of people on the road, specifically occupants of lighter vehicles as well as pedestrians and bicyclists. The ability to travel 400 miles on a charge is convenient but unnecessary for most commutes. As charging speed and infrastructure improve, it will arguably be less important for road trips too. As for horsepower, is the kind of rapid acceleration the new models boast really important or even a good idea? Click here to read more

* Drivers return. Reuters reports General Motors' autonomous driving startup, Cruise, said it would reintroduce a small fleet of human-driven vehicles in some cities, starting with Phoenix, about six months after it suspended operations following an incident in San Francisco. The company had suspended its U.S. operations last October after a pedestrian in San Francisco hit by another car was dragged by one of its robotaxis. Its rival Waymo, Alphabet's self-driving startup, has been operating and expanding services in Phoenix for several years and recently began offering driverless rides on freeways in the Arizona city.

* Pay per mile. Michigan officials are exploring whether to replace gas taxes with "usage charges" as the auto industry's shift to electric vehicles is expected to cut into tax revenues for road repairs. With fuel taxes projected to decline by hundreds of millions of dollars in coming years, the $82 billion budget Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed last week supports ongoing efforts to explore one possible alternative: charging motorists for each mile driven, rather than each gallon of gas consumed.

* MINI road show. MINI USA announced the all-new next generation 2025 MINI Countryman S ALL4 is making its North American debut in a unique way, hitting the road to be revealed at 96 MINI dealers across the United States. MINI customers and enthusiasts will have the opportunity to see the new MINI Countryman up close and personal during the roadshow ahead of the new model's arrival for sale later this spring. Starting April 9 through the end of May, the roadshow will follow four regional routes concurrently, across MINI's central, southern, eastern, and western region dealer networks.

* How did they do that? INFINITI revealed its all-new 2025 INFINITI QX80 at New York City's Edge in Hudson Yards, the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere. Getting the full-size luxury SUV onto Edge took 40 days, 4,300 man hours and nearly 100 elevator trips to execute. The stakes were high. And this reveal was a feat like no other. The solution? Disassemble the vehicle into thousands of pieces, remove the engine and fuel systems and precision-cut it into modular pieces – then reassemble the all-new QX80. Watch how they did it in the video below:

* Recall. Ford is recalling nearly 43,000 compact SUVs because gasoline can leak from the fuel injectors onto hot engine surfaces, increasing the risk of fires. Ford said fuel injectors can crack, and gasoline or vapor can accumulate near ignition sources, possibly touching off fires. The recall covers certain Bronco Sport SUVs from the 2022 and 2023 model years, as well as Escape SUVs from 2022. All have 1.5-liter engines. The recall remedy does not include replacing fuel injectors that potentially might leak. Dealers will install a tube to let gasoline flow away from hot surfaces to the ground below the vehicle. Cracked fuel injectors will then be replaced when and if this occurs. NHTSA said it is evaluating the adequacy and safety consequences of this remedy. Ford has NOT issued a park outside warning.

* Drive those classics. Vintage car owners in Michigan are primed to enjoy this driving season and many more with a little more freedom thanks to the passing of House Bill 4183. Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the bill, which vastly expands the ability to use classic cars, into law on April 2nd with immediate effect. According to the way the law was previously written, a vehicle with historic or authentic license plates could only be used for “participation in club activities, exhibitions, tours, parades, and similar uses, including mechanical testing, but is not used for general transportation.” The new legislation expands the definition of “exhibition” considerably saying, "use of the vehicle during the period from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day each year is considered an exhibition." Hat tip to Hagerty Media.

* Motorcycle champ. The Quail Motorcycle Gathering announced that it will honor AMA Motorcross and Supercross icon Ricky Johnson as its Legend of the Sport on Saturday, May 4, at The Quail Golf Club. The highly anticipated two-wheel event will celebrate motorcycles from the past, present and future, featuring over 300 on display, as well as a family-friendly environment with diverse offerings from food trucks and local vendors. Born in El Cajon, California, Richard "Ricky" Johnson Jr. grew up in an avid motorcycling household and was gifted his first mini-bike by his father at three years old. The young Johnson instantly found his passion and went on to earn his professional license at just 16 years old.

Stay safe. Be Well.