Richard’s Rearview Mirror, an auto industry recap for the week ending Mar. 11, 2023


In what is its 5th price adjustment so far this year, Tesla dropped the prices on its two most expensive models, the Model S sedan and the Model X utility vehicle. The change affects U.S. market vehicles, with Model S prices cut by $5,000, and Model X prices by $10,000. The two vehicles comprise a very small percentage of Tesla’s sales in the States, with the less expensive Model 3 sedan and Model Y utility vehicle accounting for the bulk.



The VW Group, which includes Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, and other makes, reported its 2022 global financial results. The combined marques sold just under 8.5 million vehicles, which included almost 600,000 EVs. Boosted by sales of higher-priced models, VW reported a net income of €16 billion ($17 billion), up 2.6% from the previous year.



During its Investor Day presentations earlier this month, Tesla announced that future vehicles, perhaps starting with the soon-to-be-released CyberTruck, will abandon 12V systems, which have been the industry standard since the 1950s (unless you drove a Beetle). The announcement included a plea to the rest of the industry to join Tesla in this switch, which may not be so far-fetched. A number of hybrids, including my 2023 Volvo V60, run on a combined 12V / 48V system.



Based on two reports it has received claiming that the steering wheels in Tesla Model Y vehicles became detached while driving, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration took the first step in launching a probe into the cause. According to NHTSA, both vehicles were missing the bolt which secures the wheel to the steering column.



Ford recently surveyed F-150 pickup owners, asking how the trucks were used, and what type of vehicle was replaced by their new pickups. Lightning EV owners reported a higher percentage of usage for home improvement projects and for camping compared to F150 ICE owners. Over 50% of Lightning purchasers replaced a non-pickup, while that was true for only 1/3 of ICE F-150 buyers. In my opinion, these results squash any naysayers who may claim that the Lightning “isn’t as good as a real pickup truck” (not sure what’s not real about it). To Ford’s credit, the Lightning is capturing a large number of buyers who up until now may not have had a pickup on their shopping list.



Car & Driver magazine reported a discovery that in three separate cases, with three different EVs, the cars became inoperable during routine recharging. In all the incidents, the vehicles were being recharged at an Electrify America public charging station. It happened to an F-150 Lightning, a Chevrolet Bolt, and a Rivian R1T. Owners reported hearing a large boom (according to the story, possibly the sound of a circuit breaker tripping) after which the vehicles would not power up and needed to be towed. The details are too lengthy to get into here, but you can read the C&D story at this link.



VW got some negative publicity recently, when a VW Atlas was carjacked with a child inside the vehicle. Law enforcement wanted to use the car’s vehicle tracking software, but the vendor was slow to respond to the request, replying that the owner’s subscription to the service wasn’t paid for. (The story ended happily with the child rescued unharmed.) In response to the pushback, VW will offer its Carnet service free for 5 years for 2020-2022 vehicles which are equipped with the software.



VW, which had previously announced plans for EV battery factories throughout Europe, is backpedaling. Executives with the German auto maker have realized that the IRA makes the idea of battery plants in the U.S. a much more attractive proposition, and VW is looking to the EU to possibly come out with its own version of the IRA. Expect similar stands from other European automobile manufacturers.



BMW released its 2022 financial results: while vehicle sales at 2.4 million units were down 4.8% compared to the previous year, other results were positive, with the company posting a profit of €18.5 billion ($19.8 billion) on revenue of €142 billion ($151.8 billion), respective increases of 49% and 28%.



Richard’s Rearview Mirror – Auto industry recap, week ending Feb. 18 2023

This week is the start of something new at Richard’s Car Blog: the introduction of a weekly “Rearview Mirror” column focusing on the auto industry. Gathering news items of interest from various sources, the post will provide a succinct summary of the week’s highlights. Whether the reader is an industry veteran, is interested in the car business, or wants to know about the latest trends, my new weekly report provides a quick and easy way to digest the week’s happenings. Future Rearview Mirror columns may expand to include collector cars. Stay tuned as we take this new approach for a ride!



Autoblog posted an interview held with Chrysler’s CEO, Christine Fuell, during which she acknowledged that the 300 sedan, launched in 2005, will go out of production later this year. At that point, the solitary vehicle in Chrysler showrooms will be the Pacifica minivan, and that won’t change until 2025, when the first in what she states will be a series of new EVs will launch. She further stated that some of these EVs will be in market segments new to the brand.



Subaru, a brand which has been slow to embrace electrification, announced that a hybrid Forester should hit the market within the next year. Subaru shares some technology with Toyota (the Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86 twins and the Toyota bZ4X/Subaru Solterra EVs), so it’s no surprise to read that this upcoming hybrid might share its drivetrain with the Toyota RAV4 Prime. If true, that will plant an inline-4 cylinder ICE in the Forester, and by my reckoning, it would be the first Subie since the 360 with an engine that is NOT horizontally-opposed.



Thefts of Hyundais and Kias have been way up, after a video was posted online showing how easy it was to steal the cars. It turned out that the affected vehicles did NOT have a transponder chip in the ignition key (and it was news to me that this was not a Federally-mandated requirement). The problem got so bad that a few insurance companies refused to insure the cars. Hyundai announced this week that they are launching a free software upgrade to remedy the issue. A total of 8.3 million Hyundais and Kias are affected. One hiccup: the new software works on most, but not all of the affected cars. Until that is rectified, Hyundai will reimburse owners who purchase a steering wheel lock. No word yet if a video has been released showing how to remove one.



VinFast is the Vietnamese EV manufacturer with big plans to sell their cars in the U.S. market. (Photos of Vinfast’s EV lineup at the 2022 NY Auto Show can be found at my blog post here.) The initial shipment of cars has arrived, and they were due to begin sales in late 2022, but the launch has been delayed numerous times. The company is blaming the latest delay on a change in the posted driving range, which must be certified by the U.S. EPA. The company also cut their U.S. staff headcount by about 80. Vinfast claims to have a number of deposits from U.S. customers, but there is still no word as to when the vehicles will go on sale.



The Ford Motor Company announced that they will build an EV battery plant in Michigan, investing $3.5 billion and creating 2,500 jobs in the process. The plant will be operated in conjunction with Ford’s Chinese partner CATL, and Ford was quick to point out that they, Ford, will have 100% ownership, but use CATL’s technology and equipment within the plant. One goal is to find ways to reduce battery costs which will of course also reduce the price of EVs.



Tesla, which might be almost as famous for its nationwide network of superchargers as it is for its outspoken CEO tremendous EV sales, reached an agreement with the Federal Government to open that network to EVs other than Teslas. The plan is that by the end of 2024, about 3,500 highway-based superchargers, plus an additional 4,000 slower chargers found at non-highway locations, will be able to be used by drivers of non-Tesla EVs. Tesla in turn will become eligible for some of that $7.5 billion which the Feds have earmarked to build up the EV infrastructure in this country. Those funds are there thanks to the IRA (Inflation Reduction Act).



Tesla’s China factory will temporarily halt production of the Model 3 while certain vehicle upgrades are made. Tesla has been mum as to how extensive these upgrades might be, and whether they will include any exterior styling changes. The factory is expected to reopen by the end of February.



Ford this week issued a combined “stop-build” and “stop-ship” order for the F-150 Lightning EV pickup trucks while a potential battery issue is investigated. The batteries are sourced from South Korean manufacturer SK On. The order did not include a “stop sale”, so it does not affect any vehicles already at Ford dealerships. Ford is trying to ramp up production to meet what continues to be strong demand for its EV pickup. The company has not stated when Lightning production might resume.



The French car company Renault is reportedly in discussions with U.S. retail giant AutoNation to import Renault/Alpine sports cars. Renault has a long history with the Alpine name, and it was a storied model for them for many decades. Recently, Alpine was relaunched in Europe as its own brand, and the company wants to expand its availability. Renault acknowledged that given its long absence from the U.S. market, any such attempt will not be easy, but AutoNation, with 300 retail locations nationwide, could be one shortcut to putting French cars in front of Americans again.

Quick side story: to the best of my knowledge, Renault Alpine cars were never officially sold here. If they were, it would have been in extremely limited quantities. One of the few times I ever laid eyes on an Alpine in the metal was around 1979, when I worked at Autosport. The dealer has just signed up to take on the DeLorean franchise, and since no DeLoreans existed yet, the company sent a Renault Alpine to the dealer instead. Huh? Well, the Alpine had a few things in common with John Z’s upcoming dream: two seats, a rear engine, and power from Volvo’s PRV (Peugeot/Renault/Volvo) V-6. How I desperately wanted to drive that Alpine, but of course, was not given permission.



Volkswagen’s automotive EV lineup has featured model names all beginning with ID, as in ID.4 and ID.Buzz. One upcoming vehicle, the ID.2, is going through some changes before launch. The company, recognizing the legacy value in its iconic Golf name, has renamed the car the ID.Golf. Further, the ID.2’s futuristic styling has been completely canned. The refreshed styling comes courtesy of Andreas Mindt, the new styling chief. It’s been said that the revamp gives the ID.Golf an appearance evocative of previous generation Golfs.



Kelly Blue Book, which keeps track of these things, reported that new vehicle prices in the U.S. dropped ever so slightly from December 2022 to January 2023. While 0.6% does not sound like a lot, at an average transaction price of $50,000, that amounts to a $300 savings. Of greater interest to consumers weary of shady dealer practices, the average ADM (Additional Dealer Markup) dropped to ‘only’ $310 compared to $900 in January 2022.



The NHTSA pushed Tesla into recalling 362,000 vehicles in order to modify their FSD (Full Self Driving) software. Tesla did get NHTSA to agree to allow this to be done via an OTA (over the air) update, avoiding the necessity of owners driving to Tesla service centers. NHTSA required the recall after concluding that the FSD mode did not always obey posted speed limits, and did not always correctly slow or stop at intersections.

Father’s First Ford: The 1967 Mustang

My dad was a GM man throughout the first two decades of his marriage. Although it was a Willys station wagon which served as family transportation when he and my mom got married in 1950, he bought a new Chevy 210 sedan in 1953 (the car which brought me home from the hospital), and a new Corvair wagon in 1961. The ‘60s saw the Corvair augmented with a ’63 Pontiac Catalina wagon, then replaced by a used 1966 Buick Sport Wagon.

When the Ford Mustang was introduced in 1964, this 10-year-old car-crazy boy was infatuated with it. Some magazine advertisement at the time offered the chance to buy a promo model, which I did (and which I disassembled so I could paint it.) One advantage of growing up in New York City was the opportunity to visit the 1964-1965 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow Park. The family went six times! Of course, the new Mustang, having been introduced there, was always on prominent display. Dad, who normally didn’t say much, ever so slightly let it be known that he “liked” this new pony car.

1964 1/2 Ford Mustang promo model (hand painted)
1964 1/2 Ford Mustang promo model (hand painted)


From the book "Images of America; The 1964-1965 New York World's Fair (author's collection)
From the book “Images of America; The 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair” (author’s collection)


In the mid-sixties, we were a typical suburban American family with two cars, what with two working adults and three school-age children in the household. At that time, our transportation needs were met with station wagons (the Corvair, Catalina, and Sport Wagon). But by the late ‘60s, perhaps there was room for something more fun. (Was it a coincidence that my father turned 50 in 1969 and may have been having something of a mid-life crisis?) To my surprise and delight, “we” got just that in the form of a Ford Mustang.

In 1969, my father found a used ’67 Mustang for sale in our hometown of Staten Island, NY. It was a Lime Gold coupe, 289 2V, automatic, vinyl roof, full wheel covers, whitewalls, AM radio, and nothing else. My dad paid $2,050 for it; the number always stuck in my head because of the odd $50. I was 15, and, just two years away from a driver’s license, hoping that someday it would become my car.


My dad's '67 Mustang, photo taken by me in our yard in 1969
My dad’s ’67 Mustang, photo taken by me in our yard in 1969

In 1971, with that freshly minted license, the Mustang was ‘mine’ to drive. Dad bought a third car so that he and Mom would each continue to have their own wheels. Giving a 17-year-old a V8 Mustang was maybe not his best decision, although I used the car responsibly as transportation to a part-time job, as well as a weekend “cruisemobile” with my high school buddies. Like many teenagers, I considered myself a good driver, but in retrospect, my driving was aggressive, cocky, and naively self-assured.

It is ironic then, that on the morning of December 23, 1971, at the speed of perhaps 10 mph, I rolled through an intersection, having failed to see a stop sign, and was punched by another car. The accident was 100% my fault. The car had 2-point lap belts, but mine wasn’t on. My head hit the steering wheel, I was knocked unconscious, suffered a concussion, and required 10 stitches. (The hospital needed to shave my hairline to sew me up. Today, the scar is well below the hairline!)

The wrecked Mustang in 1972
The wrecked Mustang in 1972

This happened in Brooklyn, which is why my speed was so low. I didn’t know the neighborhood, and was looking at street signs. Dad drove to the hospital to see me. I dreaded his scolding, but he didn’t. He was upset, but took it all in stride. The Mustang was totaled. For reasons possibly having to do with insurance, the car was towed to our house, where it sat for several months before he sold it to a salvage yard. My father went back to new GM cars (Buicks and Oldsmobiles), a new Dodge Dart, and eventually moved to import vehicles (Renault, Datsun, Mazda). “Father’s first Ford” turned out to also be his last; he never bought another Ford.

Fast forward to August 2003: I purchased my first collector Mustang, a ’68 California Special, in Lime Gold (my first color choice for sentimental reasons). Dad was in failing health, and never got to ride in it. He passed away in 2006. My ’68 is a story for another time. But every so often, I think back to that ’67 coupe and wonder: did someone rescue it from the junkyard, or did it give itself up for parts so that other Mustangs could stay on the road to be enjoyed today?

The 1968 Mustang California Special in Lime Gold
The 1968 Mustang California Special in Lime Gold

All photographs copyright © 2016 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.