AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO – December 12 2021; Every Sunday Larry Nutson, The Chicago Car Guy and Executive Producer, with able assistance from senior 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: Full 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 bold headline and then inserting into any Site Search Box.
Nutson’s Automotive News Wrap-up – Week Ending December 11, 2021; Below are the past week’s important, relevant, semi-secret, or snappy automotive news, opinions and insider back stories presented as
expertly crafted easy-to-digest news nuggets.
* New-vehicle prices increased further into record territory in November, including a modest increase from the month prior. According to new data released by Kelley Blue Book, average transaction prices (ATPs) are sharply elevated from last year, up more than 13% from November 2020. New-vehicle inventory levels remain tight, and with sufficient consumer demand, dealers have been able to hold prices at or above the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). In November 2021, the average luxury buyer paid $61,455 for a new vehicle, a record-setting sum nearly $1,000 more than sticker price. In comparison, one year ago luxury vehicles were selling for more than $3,000 under MSRP. The average price paid for a new non-luxury vehicle last month was $43,144, also a record high and more than $900 over sticker. For each of the last six months, the average price paid by consumers was above the MSRP.
* Rising New Car Destination Charges;There’s been a lot of talk in the auto industry lately about rising destination charges on new cars. Some assume that automakers are pushing up the prices to cushion their profits, but there’s perhaps a more straightforward answer: It’s gotten much more expensive to transport vehicles due to the pandemic. Vehicle carrier cost per mile increased nearly 18% from 2019 to 2021. So says Cox Automotive.
* Trade War?: The AIADA reported that The European Union warned U.S. congressional leaders and members of President Joe Biden’s administration that the aggressive use of electric-vehicle credits in the pending Build Back Better Act could run afoul of international trade rules and create “friction” in the transatlantic relationship. According to Bloomberg, the EU’s trade chief, Valdis Dombrovskis, sent a letter dated Dec. 3 to U.S. officials saying that the government subsidies would discriminate against European car manufacturers. The American plan would offer an additional $4,500 in tax credits to consumers who buy cars made by U.S. manufacturers with union-represented workers.
Canada has spoken out against the subsidies and Mexico has threatened to retaliate.
* Autonomous Taxis Shanghai: Reuters reports Momenta and Chinese automaker SAIC will begin offering robo-taxi rides in Shanghai on a limited basis, testing their AV tech in the real world. Momenta is a Chinese autonomous vehicle company backed by General Motors, Toyota, Mercedes and some big suppliers. And, Waymo, the former Google self-driving car unit, had a big lead in automated vehicle technology a dozen years ago, but today rivals – including Cruise, Argo, Aurora, Tesla and the above-mentioned Momenta – are closing the gap. Waymo once projected having tens of thousands of vehicles operating as robo-taxis by now. But the company’s Phoenix ride operation remains limited. Waymo’s caution reflects a big reality check for the whole self-driving vehicle industry.
* Gasoline Companies Plugged In: BP, yes, the oil company, is buying U.S. EV charging startup Amply and projecting it will have 70,000 EV chargers ready to take your credit cards by 2030. The deal is one more sign that companies already in the vehicle refueling business are not going to sit by and watch their businesses die. “Gas station” operators already have the real estate and the junk food infrastructure in place to serve travelers.
* Jeep Electronics: The new differentiator in vehicles is software. The Jeep brand posted “Path Connected,” a video that provides a glimpse into how the Jeep community could personalize and enhance their off-road experience in the future with the use of connected software technology. The piece explores ideas, such as a subscription service offering pre-loaded trails, over-the-air updates, vehicle-to-vehicle communication capabilities – even without cellular connectivity – and augmented reality display.
US Government Choose Your Fuel: * President Joe Biden signed an executive order to transition to the acquisition of only zero-emission vehicles by 2035 for the federal vehicle fleet, the White House said. The U.S. government owns more than 600,000 vehicles. Biden’s executive order also pledges 100 percent zero-emission light duty vehicle acquisitions by 2027, according to a fact sheet seen by Reuters. Will the next Presidential limo be a GMC Hummer EV?
Electric Companies Going For Profit*: A coalition of dozens of U.S. electrical utilities announced plans to collaborate on a charging network for electric vehicles (EVs) with a goal of charging ports along all major U.S. travel corridors by 2023. The project, the National Electric Highway Coalition, comprises 51 members of the Edison Electric Coalition (EEI), as well as cooperative Midwest Energy Inc, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. The coalition has not set a specific target for number of charging ports, but said its goal is to back the construction of enough for EV owners to travel major corridors “with confidence” by the end of 2023. It is estimated that 22 million EVs will be on the road by the end of the decade.
* Less Travel, Less Gasoline : Because of the pandemic, there was a substantial reduction in 2020 in vehicle miles traveled. The biggest drop was in April 2020 (a reduction of 40% compared with April 2019) followed by a gradual rebound later in the year. In December 2020, the reduction was 11% compared with December 2019. Overall, vehicle miles traveled in 2020 were down 13% compared with 2019. Total gasoline consumption for highway use dropped from 136,076 million gallons in 2019 to 117,251 million gallons in 2020, a drop of 14%. Consumption per capita dropped from 414 gallons in 2019 to 356 gallons in 2020, again a drop of 14%. The last time the consumption per capita was lower than in 2020 was in 1965. See all the data here:
* Better Than Tesla From Mercedes-Benz: Mercedes-Benz is the first automotive company in the world to meet the demanding legal requirements of a Level 3 autonomous system. The German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) has granted system approval thus paving the way for offering such a system internationally, provided that national legislation allows it. As a result, the first customers will be able to buy an S-Class with DRIVE PILOT in the first half of 2022, enabling them to drive in conditionally automated mode at speeds of up to 60 km/h (37 mph) in heavy traffic or congested situations on suitable stretches of highway in Germany. The special DRIVE PILOT equipment takes the strain off the driver and allows them to perform ancillary tasks on the central display such as online shopping or sending e-mails in their in-car office. Mercedes-Benz is initially offering DRIVE PILOT on 8,197 miles of highway in Germany. Higher speed Autobahn driving still leaves it all up to you, the driver. Editor’s note: Mercedes is the first. Tesla doesn’t have any Level 3 systems.
* Chrysler Airflow : Fiat-Chrysler parent company Stellantis gave us a closer look at the Chrysler Airflow concept, it’s new EV. We got a better look at the Airflow’s interior and exterior but no new news about its powertrain.
* On The Road Again: Americans are getting back on the road again, but not to commute to downtown office towers. A new traffic scorecard by transportation data company Inrix finds that trips to downtown offices are still down by double digit percentages in many big U.S. cities. New York City is down by 18% and Los Angeles by 28%. Boston, Chicago and Miami are each down over 20%.
* Mitsubishi 40 Years In USA 28 Years On The Auto Channel Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. is celebrating its 40th anniversary in the United States. From operations initially based in Fountain Valley, Calif.; then in Cypress, Calif., for more than 30 years; and now based in Franklin, Tenn.; MMNA marked the day to look back on a unique history, and a day to look forward to many more years in the U.S. For its 40th anniversary year, the company has planned special Anniversary Editions of its top-selling Outlander which will combine special features and badging, and offer a special value.
* Truck Modification Banned: A law banning the “Carolina Squat,” a truck or SUV with a lift on the front axle and a non-lifted or lowered rear and a popular modification in the Carolinas, took effect on Dec. 1 in North Carolina. Under the new law, any vehicle with a front fender that’s 4 or more inches taller than the height of the rear fender is illegal. Repeat violators of the law can have their driver’s license revoked for up to one year. Critics say it’s dangerous because the angle can obstruct a driver’s view of the road and can affect a truck’s brakes. We enjoy amazing freedoms in the U.S. to the extent we get stupid about it.
* DC Auto Show Electrifies:The Washington, D.C. Auto Show will return to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center from Friday, January 21 through Sunday, January 30, 2022. The Auto Show will introduce a brand new element to its programming – the EV Pavilion. Catering to the growing electric mobility market and its record-hitting 2020 year, this Pavilion aims to educate show attendees on what the future of mobility looks like. Browse from electric vehicles, charging stations, bikes, and even busses.
* Verstappen champion: The 2021 Formula 1 racing champion will be decided in just one race. Today’s race, which may already be over when you read this, is the last and final in the 21-race series. Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes and Max Verstappen in his Red Bull are tied in points after last weekend’s chaotic inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. It’s the first time since 1974 the championship leaders have been tied going in to the final race.
* Subaru Motorsports USA took a 1-2 finish in the 2021 Nitro Rallycross driver’s championship and secured the Nitro RX teams championship at the season’s final round in Florida, as Travis Pastrana and Scott Speed finished the year in a thrilling tie at the top of the standings with 219 points each, one point clear of Timmy Hansen with 218. Pastrana was crowned overall champion on the tiebreaker with two event wins to Speed’s one. Together with Pastrana’s American Rally Association championship secured less than a month ago, Subaru Motorsports USA becomes the first team to win the American rally and rallycross titles in the same year.
* Al Unser Sr., one of only four drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 four times and a stalwart of one of auto racing’s most accomplished families, died on Thursday. He was 82. Unser’s four Indianapolis 500 wins came in 1970, 1971, 1978 and 1987. The final victory made him the oldest driver, at 47, to win the United States’ premier auto race.
Stay safe. Be Well.