AAA SURVEY SHOWS INCREASE IN FEAR OF AUTOMOTIVE AUTONOMY
For the last few years, the AAA (American Automobile Association) has been conducting an annual survey of consumer attitudes toward “automated driving”. The most recent survey, results of which were released last week, showed a marked increase in the percentage of drivers who are afraid of fully automated vehicles. The number jumped 13%, from 55% in 2022 to 68% this year. Yet many are supportive of ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) in their cars, such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, and emergency braking. The AAA survey shows that there is confusion among drivers in distinguishing between ADAS-equipped vehicles and fully autonomous vehicles, leading to some level of mistrust in them.
U.S. PEDESTRIAN FATALITIES IN 2021 REACHES 40-YEAR HIGH
In spite of more and more safety systems in modern automobiles, the number of pedestrians killed on roadways in 2021 was the highest it has been in 40 years. Additionally, the first six months of 2022 resulted in 3,434 pedestrian lives lost, a 5% increase from 2021. Highway traffic experts blame a number of factors, including more aggressive driving, heavier vehicles, and roadway and sidewalk infrastructure which favors vehicle speed over pedestrian safety.
F-150 LIGHTNING PRODUCTION TO RESUME MID-MARCH
The Ford Motor Company, having stopped all F-150 Lightning EV pickup production several weeks ago because of an unspecified battery issue, announced that Lightning production will resume on March 13, although the company has not as of yet stated any details about the problem or what was done to resolve it.
TESLA’S INVESTOR DAY MEETING LACKS ANY NEW PRODUCT INFO
Elon Musk and a team of executives held what they billed as an Investor Day meeting on March 1, announcing plans to cut costs, build a factory in Mexico, and streamline operations. However, those (i.e., Wall Street) who were hoping for big product news such as a new, lower-priced EV, or more details about the soon-to-be-released CyberTruck, were left disappointed, and the drop in stock value reflected that disappointment.
TESLA SHAREHOLDERS SUE COMPANY OVER FALSE FSD CLAIMS
FSD, or “Full Self-Driving”, is a Tesla option which costs up to $15,000 above the cost of the vehicle itself. A group of Tesla shareholders has sued the company, claiming that they were misled, both by the promise of “SAE Level 4” autonomous driving which in reality is Level 2, and by the failure of Tesla to reveal certain inherent dangers in FSD.
RIVIAN PINS HOPES ON 2023 AFTER REPORTING BIG LOSSES IN 2022
Rivian, the all-EV manufacturer which builds the R1T pickup and R1S sport utility, reported that it lost $1.7 billion in the 4th quarter of 2022, bringing calendar year ’22 losses to $6.8 billion. Yet the company hopes to produce 50,000 vehicles in 2023, which would be about twice its 2022 total. While the company claims that demand for its trucks remains strong, its primary objective for this year will be, like so many other auto manufacturers, to drive down costs. Down the road, Rivian plans to put up a new plant in GA to produce two smaller and presumably more affordable models, the R2T and R2S.
J. D. POWER EV SATISFACTION SURVEY: RIVIAN AND MINI ARE TOPS
The consulting firm J. D. Power has released its 3rd annual “Electric Vehicle Experience (EVX) Ownership Study”. While the survey continued to segment vehicles into premium and mass-market segments, the ownership focus changed this year to first-time EV purchasers. In the premium segment, the Rivian R1T pickup came out on top, with the Tesla Model 3 in 2nd. The Model 3 was in first place the previous two years. The Mini Cooper Electric ranked 1st among mass-market models, beating out the 2nd place Kia EV6. The Kia Niro EV was on top the previous two years.
VW TO BUILD SCOUT PLANT IN SC
VW announced that it has chosen SC as the location for its new U.S. manufacturing plant, where the Scout EVs will be built. The company will invest $2 billion in the operation, which will bring around 4,000 jobs to the area. Production could begin in 2026, with VW hoping to churn out up to 200,000 Scout vehicles annually.
FOUR-DOOR CORVETTE MAY BE ON ITS WAY, ZORA SPINS IN GRAVE
Rumors continue to swirl that GM is planning to extend the Corvette as its own brand, coming out with a 4-door EV followed by a crossover EV, both named “Corvette”. Instead of sharing a platform with other GM EVs, these vehicles will use a platform unique to them, and tuned more for performance. Before you write your scathing letters to GM, know that the 2-door ICE Corvette is intended to continue, at least for now.
VINFAST DELIVERS FIRST U.S. VEHICLES, DROPS LEASE PRICE
Vietnamese EV maker Vinfast delivered its first 45 vehicles to U.S. customers last week. Further, the company announced a drop in its published lease price. The monthly number has decreased from $599 (in January) to $399 (on Monday) to $274 (via messages sent to those who paid a deposit). Initial deliveries are scheduled only in California for now.
FISKER OCEAN EV DELIVERIES TO BEGIN THIS YEAR
Fisker announced plans to begin deliveries of their Ocean EV in 2023. The Ocean, which was shown in prototype form at the 2020 CES and then in final form at the 2021 L.A. Auto Show, has obviously been in the works for some time. The company claims that the base model, the Ocean Sport, will start as low as $37,499. Fisker, relying on Magna as a manufacturing partner, plans to build 42,000 units of the Ocean this year.
USPS TO PURCHASE FORD EV VANS
The U.S. Postal Service announced that it will buy over 9,000 Ford E-Transit vehicles, and will install 14,000 charging stations at its post office facilities across the country. Deliveries of the Ford E-vans will begin later this year. To fulfill a shorter-term need, the USPS will also be buying the same number of Ram ProMaster ICE vehicles. No word on whether consumers would have access to the chargers (“let me drop off this package for mailing and top up the F-150 Lightning while I’m there”). Now that I think about it, allowing customer access to these chargers could put the USPS back in the black….
AUDI AND POLESTAR SAY ‘NO’ TO EV PRICE CUTS
After Tesla slashed its prices, giving rise to concerns of an all-out price war, Ford cut its EV prices, but GM and VW said they would not follow suit. Now other companies have also spoken up. Jens Puttfarcken, the head of Audi Europe, said that Audi will adjust prices only when it is right for Audi to do so. And Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath told analysts that Polestar will not play the price game, as it plans to stay in the luxury EV segment and will not chase volume like mass-market manufacturers.
EU POSTPONES ICE BAN AFTER “NEIN” FROM GERMANY
The EU had scheduled a vote on approving a new law effectively banning the sale of ICE cars after 2035, but that vote has now been put on hold. Germany wants the EU to consider allowing the use of synthetic fuels; it’s suspected that Germany, a country well-vested in automotive manufacturing, wants to afford some protection for its legacy auto makers. Italy, which had earlier declared it would not support the total ban of ICE vehicles, also supports the use of renewable fuels.
AM RADIO GOING THE WAY OF THE DODO BIRD?
Many new vehicles are being produced without an AM radio. The trend has been growing for years among EVs, and now, even some hybrids and ICE cars lack AM radio. (My 2023 Volvo V60, which is a mild hybrid, has no AM radio, and frankly, I miss it. For up-to-date traffic and weather reports in the NY Metro area, AM radio was the best.) Concern is increasing, though, among some government officials who believe that access to an AM signal is a necessity during national emergencies. There is some rumbling that Congress may take action, and either request or insist that car makers include AM radio in their infotainment systems.