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!
CHRYSLER SAYS GOODBYE TO THE 300
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.
A SUBARU WITH IN INLINE 4?
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.
HAVE A HYUNDAI? GET A FREE STEERING WHEEL LOCK
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.
NOT SO FAST, VINFAST
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.
NEW FORD EV BATTERY PLANT COMING
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.
IS THAT A MACH-E IN A TESLA SUPERCHARGER SPOT?
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).
NEW TESLA MODEL 3 COMING?
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 FORCED TO STOP LIGHTNING
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.
WILL A FRENCH CAR AGAIN BE AVAILABLE IN THE U.S.?
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.
VW’S ID EV BORROWS BACK A FAMILIAR NAME
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.
STICKER SHOCK RELIEF FINALLY COMING?
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.
TESLA RECALLS CARS FOR FSD FIX
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.