AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO January 24, 2021 Every Sunday, Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy and Executive Producer, with the expert support of Senior Editor Thom Cannell of the Auto Channel Michigan Bureau, put together the “take” of the past week’s Auto Channel in easily digestible news nuggets .
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Nutson’s Automotive News Wrap-up – Week Ending January 23, 2021, The following is key, relevant, semi-secret, or snappy automotive news, opinions, and insider backstories from the past week, presented as expertly crafted, easily digestible news nuggets.
* President Joe Biden’s candidate for Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, was on the way to swift endorsement. He announced that he would be undoing a Trump administration rollback on federal fuel economy standards for motor vehicles to cut greenhouse gas emissions and encourage the use of electric vehicles, for example by adding half a million charging stations across the country. Buttigieg didn’t say where money for large infrastructure investments might come from, and didn’t rule out a tax hike. He raised the possibility of a major change in the way freeway funding is available, such as moving the current Highway Trust Fund, which is paid for by gas tax, to a “vehicle miles” alternative, which tax drivers based on their road mileage.
* Say goodbye to Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot. Say hello to Stellantis – the world’s fourth largest automaker by sales with 14 brands and a highly respected CEO. Yes, 14 brands: Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Citroën, Dodge, DS, Fiat, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, Opel, Peugeot, Ram and Vauxhall. CEO Carlos Tavares has promised investors € 5 billion in annual cost savings by streamlining product and purchase overlap. He has assured Stellantis employees (and the political leaders they represent) that there will be no plant shutdowns – despite significant overcapacity in the company’s operations in 30 countries.
* Traffic congestion in the US cost US drivers $ 88 billion in 2019, but driving was reduced in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Personal finance website WalletHub released its report on the best and worst states in the US in 2021. The US has five of the 25 worst cities in the world for traffic and 19 of the 25 worst cities in North America. However, due to COVID-19, traffic congestion should be lower overall in 2020. The five best states to drive are Texas, Indiana, North Carolina, Iowa, and Tennessee. The worst is Hawaii, which California precedes.
* Edmunds says that the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show, which was virtually the first time due to the pandemic, was a different tone than in previous years. Automakers have been cautious in their announcements compared to previous years, but the new technical features described at CES 2021 show that the future of automotive advancement will be one of incremental improvements rather than one sweeping, rapid revolution. Ford, Honda and Toyota did not participate. Audi, BMW, GM, Mercedes-Benz and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (Stellantis NA) have done this.
* In the US, 2.9 million pickups were sold last year, which is around 20% of the total automotive market. Cox Automotive took a look at the growing market for electric battery-powered pickups. Cox reports that nearly 2 out of 5 consumers in the market will consider an electric pickup for a pickup in the next 2 years. Research shows that younger consumers are more likely to consider an electric pickup, with 44% of 18- to 34-year-olds saying they are interested in both internal combustion engines (ICE) and EV options.
* Our friends at the Detroit Bureau report that VW is delaying the launch of its ID.Buzz Electric Microbus by a year. The modern version of the classic VW Microbus is now expected to hit the market in 2023. It was originally planned for 2022.
* Various media reports state that Ford has renewed trademark protection for the Thunderbird name. A Ford spokesman said this doesn’t mean a new or revitalized two-seater is planned. The T-bird reappears for a few years in 2002. Who knows what we’ll see next Maybe something purely electric, battery operated.
* Mazda’s short-lived attempt to bring diesel engines to the US market has ended. Plans to offer the SkyActiv-D diesel in the Mazda6 sedan have been dropped and the engine has been removed from the CX-5 product range. Long delayed and finally made available in the CX-5 in 2019, declining interest in both the US and Europe led to its decline. The matter with the Volkswagen Dieselgate didn’t help either.
* If you want a Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, it might be too late. Dodge said there would only be a year-long run of this hot Durango. Dodge is no longer taking orders and will build around 2,000 units. Some retailers may have unsold units if you shop nearby.
* The Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) announced finalists for MAMA’s annual Family Car of the Year and Luxury Family Car of the Year awards. The 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe / Suburban, 2020 Hyundai Sonata and 2020 Toyota Highlander are finalists for the MAMA Family Vehicle of the Year Award, and the 2021 Cadillac Escalade, 2021 Genesis G80 and 2020 Lincoln Corsair are finalists for the luxury category . The two winners will be announced in February via a virtual event.
* The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has finally enacted regulations on the production of low volume automobiles and the launch of replica cars that resemble vehicles made at least 25 years ago. Back in 2015, Congress passed a law to streamline requirements for small-volume automakers to manufacture replica vehicles pending final guidelines from NHTSA. Congress has ordered that these rules be announced by December 4, 2016. They were finally released this week. The law on replicas and the implementation regulations enable a manufacturer with small numbers of pieces to build up to 325 such replicas per year.
* A federal recall of Takata airbags is costing Ford Motor Co. $ 610 million, the company reported in a federal filing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rejected a motion from Ford and Mazda Motor Corp. from not being allowed to recall 3 million vehicles that had potentially deadly airbag inflators in them. The Ford vehicles that need to be recalled are the Ford Ranger from 2007 to 2011, the Ford Fusion from 2006 to 2012, the Ford Edge from 2006 to 2012, the Lincoln Zephyr and MKZ from 2006 to 2012, the Lincoln MKX from 2007 to 2010 and the Mercury Milan from 2006 to 2011.
* The highest motorcycle museum in the world went up in flames. Fans of European automotive history are wavering after Austria’s Top Mountain Crosspoint Motorcycle Museum suffered a catastrophic fire on January 18. Nestled at the foot of the Austrian side of the Timmelsjoch Pass – where Austria and Italy meet in the depths of the Alps – the museum was founded in 2016 by twin brothers Alban and Attila Scheiber to present their collection of classic iron. The museum housed around 230 classic, mostly European motorcycles from Sunbeam, Brough Superior and Zundapp, as well as a smaller collection of classic cars, including Porsches and Ferraris. Vintage American Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Indians, and even a flying Merkel were also part of their collection.
* Due to the ongoing health emergency in the District of Columbia and around the world, the Washington, DC Auto Show 2021 cannot open during the previously scheduled March 26 through April 4 period. The show organizers are working closely with the county government and the Walter E. Washington Convention Center to set up dates to host the event later this spring.
* We’re back in motorsport this weekend with the Roar ahead of the Rolex 24 test session ahead of the IMSA Rolex 24 season opener in Daytona next weekend. The 59th Rolex 24 in Daytona is the unofficial annual start of the car racing season. The 24-hour sports car endurance classic attracts a typical star field, which includes NASCAR and IndyCar champions as well as winners of the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500.
* Gerald Wiegert, creator of the Vector supercar, has died at the age of 76. The Vector W8 should join the ranks of supercars from Italy.
Stay safe. Be good