A new documentary is currently in production and promises to be of interest to many of our readership. It’s about everyone’s favorite underdog automaker, American Motors Corporation (1954-1988)! Pride of Kenosha, Wisconsin. The team behind the production of The Last Independent Automaker is assembling a deep dive into the brand’s history, which started in 1954 when car and refrigerator manufacturer Nash-Kelvinator Corporation acquired Hudson Motor Car Company, and formed AMC.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has proposed comprehensive rules changes regarding dealership advertising and how finance and insurance offices are handled. However, dealers, specifically the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), aren’t happy with these new ideas and have issued formal challenges to the regulatory scheme.
It’s time once again for more Kia large sedan goodness. Like last time, we pick up in the early 2010s. Kia’s second full-size sedan developed under Hyundai’s controllership was the K7, or Cadenza in all markets outside South Korea. Pitched as a value-priced premium front-drive car, it competed against the likes of the Toyota Avalon and Nissan Maxima, but lacked any defined comfort or sporty characteristics. Cadenza also had a bland corporate design courtesy of the company’s new Euro-like styling mission, and former VW designer Peter Schreyer.
Shortly after the Cadenza went on sale, Kia turned its sights toward an even larger sedan: A new rear-drive one to occupy the luxury space, a class above the Cadenza. It was the largest car Kia offered in nearly two decades, the first rear-drive Kia since the (Mazda Sentia) Kia Enterprise of 2002, and the first rear-drive sedan Kia ever sold in the North American market. It’s time for K9.
We return to Kia’s large sedan history today, at a point shortly after the launch of the K7. Kia’s full-size front-drive for the 2010s, the K7 was called Cadenza in all export markets, and was a successor to the unfortunately styled Opirus (Amanti in North America). Kia hired Peter Schreyer from his longtime employment at Volkswagen Group in order to usher in a new stylistic era at Kia.
Though it went on sale for the 2010 model year, Kia wasn’t quite ready to send the Cadenza to the North American market. With the market’s general rejection of the Amanti in mind, Kia called on Schreyer to refresh the Cadenza and lux it up before its North American launch.
We resume our Ford Cruise-O-Matic transmission coverage today, as the original two- and three-speed automatics of the Fifties transition into the new C family. C transmissions were designed to be lighter (aluminum) and more efficient than their cast iron predecessors. The wonder of alloys!
In our last entry, we covered the first two C transmissions, the C4 (1964-1981) and C6 (1966-1996). Since we’re proceeding chronologically, we step back to Cruise-O-Matic for a moment, and a mix-and-match transmission: FMX.
Younger drivers have reportedly had it with the dealership experience, with Gen Z even more disenfranchised than Millennials. Though it’s difficult to imagine anybody visiting a showroom within the last 12 months having any other reaction. Incentives are down, prices are up, and there’s a good chance whatever you wanted to buy isn’t going to be on the lot anyway. Someone saying they had an exemplary dealer experience is becoming about as common as people claiming they enjoy going to the DMV.
However, CDK Global Inc. still opted to conduct a survey in the hopes of determining just how much less tolerant younger shoppers might be compared to older generations. The takeaway probably isn’t going to shock you, even if the sheer volume of first-time buyers that don’t care for dealerships might.
Last time on our Abandoned History coverage of Ford’s historical Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmission, we spent some time in Russia. Communist automaker GAZ liked Ford’s automatic and decided to lightly rework it into their “own” transmission rather than pay Ford to build it under license. The GAZ two- and three-speed automatics remained in use in the company’s passenger cars well into the Eighties, which was a very long time for a late Fifties transmission to live.
Shortly after GAZ made its copies, the real versions of the FX/MX Cruise-O-Matic and Ford-O-Matic were nearing the end of their respective service lives. The two-speed was naturally the first to go.
Edsel received an honorary mention a couple of weeks ago, in our current Rare Rides Icons series on the Lincoln Mark cars. Then it was mentioned again the other day in Abandoned History’s coverage of the Cruise-O-Matic transmissions. It’s a sign. We need to talk about Edsel.
In 2021, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) asked manufacturers to begin reporting vehicle accidents where Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and/or semi-autonomous driving aids were engaged. The agency was specifically interested in incidents where such systems were active at least 30 seconds prior to the crash, hoping it might shed some light as to the technologies at play while the industry continues to make it standard equipment.
We pick up our Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmission coverage again today, as Ford’s first mass-produced gearbox found its stride in the Fifties. As consumers turned toward automatic transmissions in their two- and four-door domestic iron, they also turned toward more powerful V8 engines and big chrome bumpers and tail fins. Detroit’s manufacturers had to respond, and Ford’s answer was a second-generation Ford-O-Matic, the FX and MX. Both transmissions were marketed under the new Cruise-O-Matic moniker, while a new generation two-speed auto became the bargain basement Ford-O-Matic.
As we discussed in our last entry, in 1957 and 1958 Ford offered fiddly Keyboard Control. The whiz-bang new feature meant the Cruise-O-Matic was operated by confusingly marked dash-mounted buttons on select Mercury vehicles. And while Keyboard Control was limited to Mercury, an even worse version of the same idea was reserved for Edsel.
On Monday, General Motors, Ford, Stellantis, and Toyota Motor North America reportedly asked the United States Congress to lift the existing cap on the $7,500 federal tax credit for electric vehicles. Though automakers petitioning the government for free money is hardly new business.
The United States has requested that Mexico investigate worker rights violations that were alleged to have taken place at one of the parts factories owned by Stellantis. Officials are curious about what’s been happening at Teksid Hierro de Mexico, a facility located in the border state of Coahuila that’s responsible for manufacturing iron casings, in regard to unionization. According to U.S. officials, this is the fourth such complaint under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
Having supplanted the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed into law by the Clinton administration in 1993, USMCA sought to rebalance trade laws the Trump administration believed had disadvantaged the United States. However, it also sought to advance worker protections in Mexico and give employees an easier pathway toward unionization.
We continue our Abandoned History coverage of the Ford Cruise-O-Matic transmission today, shortly after the three-speed automatic established itself as a reliable motivation source for Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury products. Developed by the Warner Gear division of Borg-Warner, the new automatic caught Ford up to the competition as far as an automatic offering was concerned. Efficient and economical to build, Studebaker got in on the Cruise-O-Matic action for their cars too.
After the box proved itself on Ford and Mercury cars, it spread to the luxurious ’55 Lincoln lineup where it replaced the four-speed GM Hydra-Matic. We pick up there, as efforts got underway to improve upon the original Borg-Warner design and add whiz-bang features. This entry doesn’t end up where you’d expect.
While the semiconductor shortage was long considered the excuse par excellence for why the automotive sector couldn’t produce enough vehicles during the pandemic, some manufacturers have begun pivoting to blaming supply chains that have been stymied by Chinese lockdowns. Toyota is probably the best-known example. But the matter is hardly limited to a singular automaker and market analysts have already been sounding the alarm bell that strict COVID-19 restrictions in Asia will effectively guarantee prolonged industrial hardship around the globe.
Back in April, Shenzhen was emerging from a month-long lockdown. However, the resulting downtime severely diminished the tech hub’s output which exacerbated global component shortages. While Chinese state-run media claimed regional factories maintained full-scale production during the period, the reality was quite a bit different. Meanwhile, Shanghai has remained under harsh restrictions since March and more look to be on the horizon. As an important industrial center and the world’s busiest port by far, the situation has created an intense backlog of container ships that are presumed to create some of the sustained problems that we’re about to explore.
As a fan of the midsize luxury sedan class, it’s sad to see how many manufacturers have given up on the segment. The German trio still has their stalwarts, but Japan gave up in 2020 (RIP Lexus GS), the only American still in the ring is the Cadillac CT5, and its outlier status is accompanied by newcomer Genesis with the G80.
It’s a dying class, which is why your author was especially pleased to spend the Memorial Day weekend with a longstanding headliner of the German luxury sedan genre: A 2021 BMW 5-Series.
While plug-in vehicles are catching on in Europe, representing 21 percent of all new registrations in the first quarter of 2022, they’ve been less popular in the United States. Only about 5.2 percent of American registrations were of the plug-in variety (representing hybrid and purely electric vehicles) during the same timeframe. Despite the industry spending billions to develop and market these vehicles, with some progress being made, the overall take rate within North America remains underwhelming.
Ardent fans of battery based powertrains will undoubtedly disagree. But a couple of studies came out this month that drove the point home. Autolist’s Annual Electric Survey dropped earlier this month, effectively outlining why EVs haven’t been able to make more headway in the states.
As we finished up our coverage of General Motors’ Turbo-Hydramatic family of transmissions, I asked which gearbox you might like to see covered next by Abandoned History. The comments honed in on Ford, and the various versions of the C family of automatics. Fine by me! Today we head back to the Fifties to learn about the genesis of all the Cs. It was the extremely Fifties-sounding Cruise-O-Matic, built with pride in Cincinnati, Ohio.
S&P Global Mobility has reported that the average U.S. automobile is now 12.2 years old, which it said represented a 2 percent increase since 2021. While relatively modest, the general trend for the last five years has been for vehicles to get older as drivers attempted to milk more life from beleaguered hardware.
Much of this has been attributed to North America’s broadening wealth gap and general improvements in vehicle longevity. If you look back at Department of Transportation data from the 1990s, the average age of a car was under nine years. By 2007, the typical car would see its 10th birthday before scrappage and the number has continued to climb from there. Much of that is due to households having to make do with tighter budgets, which was arguably made easier by modern powertrains that can easily exceed 100,000 miles before needing any serious maintenance.
General Motors, Stellantis, and Ford Motor Co. collectively decided to reinstate masking mandates in Michigan over the weekend — stating that the impacted factories were in areas with high levels of COVID-19.
The automakers had lifted mask requirements for employees after the backlash against government-backed restrictions and mandates hit a fever pitch in March. While protests had begun swelling by the fall of last year, the Canadian Freedom Convoy that was forcibility disbanded in February drew national attention to the issue. Despite Detroit manufacturers suggesting they would walk back restrictions (if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was okay) for months, ditching masks initially involved a series of stipulations about vaccinations and job titles. It wasn’t until public outrage spilled over into the real world that sweeping changes began to occur.
The last few years have certainly been interesting for Nissan. After clawing its way back from financial disaster in the early 2000s, the company endured one of the most high-profile and scandal-ridden management shakeups in automotive history by 2018. It also became desperately unprofitable while incurring negative growth, with the remaining leadership deploying an aggressive restructuring plan designed to help get the business back on track.
Those efforts appear to have been successful.
Best known for manufacturing small electronic devices for companies around the world, Foxconn will soon be branching out to assemble automobiles in Ohio. On Wednesday, the Taiwanese Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. (traded as Foxconn) closed on a deal with Lordstown Motors to purchase a 6.2 million-square-foot plant that used to belong to General Motors.
The $230 million deal leaves Foxconn with the facility and 400 Lordstown manufacturing employees it’s supposed to use to assemble the delayed Endurance pickup. Though the long-term plan is to use the plant to become a contract manufacturer akin to Magna Steyr, with an emphasis on all-electric vehicles.
Volkswagen Group is reportedly considering reviving the Scout name for North America. Following the merger of trucking subsidiary Traton and Navistar in 2020, VW found itself in possession of the farm-focused International Harvester. While the brand technically hasn’t existed since 1985, the German company effectively owns its intellectual property — including the Scout name — and is keen to leverage some of its nostalgia for an alleged sub-brand specializing in sport utility vehicles.
We return to our coverage of Kia sedans today and discuss a midsize from just prior to the flagship Enterprise we discussed last time. Kia offered the first midsize car to bear its branding in 1987 when it introduced the new Concord. Concord was essentially a broughamed, front-rear clip swap take on the GC platform Mazda 626. Mazda discontinued the GC 626 that year and immediately sold the platform and tooling to Kia. A couple of years later, the Concord spawned a lesser sibling called the Capital. Capital looked very similar to the Concord but sold to a more economically-minded customer with its much lower level of equipment and low-powered engines.
When the Capital finished up its run in 1997, it was replaced by a compact car Kia had on sale for a few years already: The Sephia. Sephia wouldn’t do for Concord-level customers though, and upon the sedan’s discontinuation in 1995 they were directed to an all-new Kia. The company was ready with its new midsize to bookend the Concord, and it went on sale the same year. Though the new car was again on a donated platform, it was the first time Kia had some leeway to design a midsize of their own. It’s time to discuss Credos.
We’ve reached the end of the Nineties in Kia’s midsize-or-more sedan story. It was a time of modernization across Kia’s portfolio, and 1998 and 1999 were years of expansion in particular: Kia introduced an impressive nine all-new models across those two years.
For its larger sedan lineup, the dated Potentia (a rework of the Eighties Mazda Luce) continued on in its popularity in the South Korean market. Potentia was updated from its original 1992 looks for 1998. However, that same year Kia introduced a new large luxury sedan to its lineup. The company once again relied on friendly product partner Mazda. Let’s talk about Enterprise.
The automotive sector is currently suffering from ongoing component shortages and supply chain bottlenecks stemming from regional restrictions relating to the pandemic. However, it’s assumed that those problems will gradually abate, only to be supplanted by a global deficit of the raw materials necessary for battery production. Analysts have been warning about the shift toward electric vehicles, spurred on by government regulations, for years. But they’re starting to get some company from within the auto industry.
On Tuesday, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares suggested that there was a very real possibility that manufacturers could begin confronting serious issues in terms of battery production by 2025 if the shift toward EVs continues at pace. Though his concerns aren’t limited to there being a new chapter in the already too long saga about parts shortages. Tavares is also worried that Western automakers will become overwhelmingly dependent upon Asian battery suppliers which already dominate the global market.
Hyundai Motor Group has been considering where to establish its planned EV manufacturing hub for the United States for roughly a year now and is reportedly zeroing in on the State of Georgia as a final destination. It’s even said to have conducted some preliminary meetings with local leaders about the possibility of breaking ground in an area that could be strategically aligned with its existing facilities – namely Montgomery’s Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) and West Point’s Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG).
Aston Martin Lagonda will be seeing new leadership. Tobias Moers will be surrendering his role as chief executive to make way for former Ferrari CEO Amedeo Felisa.
While the formal announcement was made on Wednesday, rumors about Moers getting the boot had been circulating ever since Aston Martin Racing head Otmar Szafnauer left the company in January after repeatedly butting heads with executive chairman Lawrence Stroll. Szafnauer was said to have resigned, however, reports suggested that the Canadian financier was displeased with his performance. At the time, there were claims that Moers’ head was next on the chopping block.
Our Abandoned History coverage of the Turbo-Hydramatic transmission series continues today. The THM was a singular solution to two different automatic transmissions in use by Oldsmobile, Cadillac, and Buick in 1963. Turbo-Hydramatic arrived at a time of modernization for the automatic, which prior to the mid-Sixties was regarded as inefficient and less than smooth.
The THM400 was the 1964 replacement for the Hydra-Matic and Buick’s Dynaflow and established itself as a smooth and reliable gearbox. It proved useful in a variety of luxury and heavy-duty applications and shrugged off weight and torque easily. In short order, it took off as the transmission of choice for various small manufacturers outside of GM. However, no matter how excellent the THM400 was, it found itself squeezed by a drive toward greater fuel efficiency. It was also a bit hefty to be of broad use in smaller or lighter passenger cars. GM needed more Turbo-Hydramatics!
Rivian Automotive Inc, purveyor of the all-electric R1T and R1S, will receive $1.5 billion in incentives from state and local governments to build a new manufacturing facility in Georgia. Eager to become home to the company’s planned $5 billion assembly plant, the state is offering a comprehensive incentive package that includes tax breaks. The government has a few stipulations, however.
Under the new agreement, Rivian’s factory would be required to produce 7,500 jobs and its existing investment target by 2028 to receive the full $1.5 billion. That includes a sizable battery production site and may explain why the state is offering up the largest corporate incentivization package in its history.
In a captive import enterprise that began in 1979, Dodge sold Mitsubishi’s compact pickup (aka Mighty Max in North America) to compete with the likes of the Ford (Mazda) Courier and the Chevrolet (Isuzu) LUV. Badged as the Ram 50, the truck was sold through two generations, 1979-1986 and 1987-1994. By the Nineties, the second-gen was showing its age, and Dodge decided it would rather focus on its own midsize truck, the Dakota.
But there was another captive import that arrived at the very same time as the second edition of the Ram 50. Say hello to the Raider.
We pick Kia’s large-car story once more today, at a point when the Korean manufacturer was in the midst of establishing itself as a proper full-line automaker, albeit with contributions from various other automotive firms. After Kia built Fiats and Peugeots via knock-down kits, it moved on to a light rework of the early Eighties Mazda 626. It made two cars out of the 626, its first midsize offerings. They were the upscale Concord and lesser (but still sort of upscale looking) Capital. But before we move on to the company’s first truly full-size car, we need to talk about the Mercury Sable for a moment.
Dodge’s import truck story began in 1979, when the Mitsubishi Forte (or L200) arrived on North American shores, rebadged as the Dodge D-50 and Plymouth Arrow. A captive import like the Colt, the durable Dodge D-50 (later Ram 50) proved itself a solid entrant into the compact pickup truck market. What proved unpopular was the Plymouth Arrow, which did not make it past its initial 1979-1982 outing. The Ram 50 was refreshed in 1982 but was certainly due for replacement in 1987 when the second generation arrived.
Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess has explained that the automaker would very much like to get back in to the United States’ good graces now that it has cut ties with Russia. With the future of Europe looking shaky, VW is hoping to maintain its position as the best-selling brand in China and start making inroads in America after burning a few bridges there.
Despite the Dieselgate scandal being seven years in the rearview mirror, the automaker is still coping with the resulting financial penalties and the resulting decision to scale back its U.S. aspirations a tad until its electric models hit the road. But the company has always had an issue understanding what American drivers wanted, resulting in boom and bust phases for the company until it manages to solve the puzzle. The most common issue was an inability to adhere to ever-changing emissions standards. But there are also periods where the manufacturer was snubbed for offering subpar electrical equipment or simply having a lineup that was out of sync with American tastes. But Volkswagen has historically enjoyed a resurgence after making the necessary changes and Diess is hoping for another comeback.
We finish up our Abandoned History coverage of the long-lived UltraDrive transmission today. The pursuit of simplification, modernization, less weight, and better fuel economy lead to the creation of the electronically controlled four-speed A604 marketed as UltraDrive. The idea floated around at Chrysler in the Seventies and then was greenlit and put into production (before it was ready) by an eager Lee Iacocca. A case of unfortunate timing, the new transmission arrived in 1989 at a time when there was almost no exciting news in Chrysler’s product portfolio. Thus the UltraDrive name was coined by marketing, and the new and advanced transmission was featured heavily in the company’s PR materials in 1989 and 1990.
The UltraDrive’s debut version was prone to numerous types of failures because of fluids and sensors, build quality, parts, really everything. But engineers at Chrysler quickly massaged the A604 into the improved 41TE that was ready for use midway through the 1990 build year. UltraDrive was up and running within acceptable reliability standards per Chrysler. Clearly, it was time to create more UltraDrive variations!
The 2022 New York Auto Show isn’t the first major auto show to be held since COVID-19 shut the world down in March 2020 – Chicago had shows in 2021 and 2022, and Los Angeles was in its usual slot last year. And there was Motorbella in Detroit last summer.
Still, for whatever reason – the loosening of COVID restrictions, the fact it was the first New York show since COVID, the presence of NY-based journos who don’t deign to travel west of the Hudson for those other shows – there was a pre-show feeling that this was it. This would be the show that marked the return of normalcy. Not LA in 2021 or Chicago just a couple of months ago – no, it would be this one.
Now that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) looks poised to reinstate California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act — allowing the state to establish stricter tailpipe emissions than the federal limits — the coastal region has resumed its quest to abolish gasoline-powered vehicles in earnest. While the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has yet to finalize all the details, the latest proposal calls for strengthened emissions standards for new light-duty vehicles in anticipation of the necessary approvals.
The scheme would require pure electrics and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) to make up 35 percent of new-vehicle sales for the 2026 model year. By 2030, that number will become 68 percent before hitting 100 percent for MY 2035. CARB said zero-emission vehicles comprised 12.4 percent of the state’s new market in 2021, hinting that the number could have been higher without the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule Part One having stifled its progress.
France has grown suspicious of Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares’ compensation, which the government has dubbed irregular and indicative of a need for further financial regulations in Europe. The issue doesn’t appear to have much to do with where the money is coming from, but rather the size of his current payment package.
Tavares oversaw the merger between PSA Group and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in 2021 while he was still CEO of the former company. Having previously climbed the ranks at Renault, the executive has served as chairman of PSA’s management board since 2014. Now heading Stellantis, Tavares is positioned to receive roughly $20.5 million in compensation for 2021. In addition to that, he’s reportedly eligible for a stock package worth an extra $34.7 million and long-term compensation of about $27.2 million — which the French government believes is too much.
We started our coverage of GM’s Eighties and Nineties branding adventures last week, with the short-lived experiment that was Passport. The dealership network was an amalgamation of GM-owned or influenced brands from Japan, Sweden, and in the case of the Passport Optima, South Korea. Passport lasted from 1987 through 1991 before GM changed directions. In addition to axing an unsuccessful sales channel, Geo and Saturn cars had arrived during Passport’s tenure and made things more complicated. Let’s learn some more about GM’s Canadian dealership networks.
Automotive manufacturers are currently on a quest to secure supply chains to avoid any future embarrassments relating to absent materials or missing components. If the last few years have taught the industry anything, it’s that it is always better not to get caught with your pants down. So we’re now seeing most of the major players trying to lock down raw materials necessary for battery production as they pitch upward in value in anticipation of numerous firms transitioning to all-electric vehicles.
Cobalt has been of particular interest to automakers and General Motors recently entered into a formal agreement to purchase the chemical element from the Anglo-Swiss commodities trader Glencore Plc.
With the United States Department of Transportation having formally announced upgraded Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards starting in 2024, the Biden administration was quick to point out that the decision would likely make automobiles even more expensive than they already are. However, the caveat to this was that it also assumed fuel prices would come down as improved efficiencies reduced North America’s hunger for fuel.
This effectively undoes fueling rollbacks instituted under the Trump administration on the grounds of reducing costs to consumers and cutting regulatory red tape for a prospective future where fuel prices are reduced without the need to spur oil production. But what does that actually mean in terms of dollars and cents?
Even though the global semiconductor shortage has been going strong for about two years now, the world has failed to successfully manage the situation. Production stoppages remain relatively common within the automotive sector, with manufacturers continuing to attribute factory stalls to an inability to procure a sufficient number of chips. But the excuse seems to have evolved into a catch-all explanation for supply chain issues that continue that go beyond a single missing component.
That makes it a little hard to determine precisely how much of the ongoing production shortfalls can be pinned on semiconductors. But AutoForecast Solutions (AFS) was keen to take a whack at it and determined roughly 1.4 million vehicles have been removed from the automotive industry’s targeted output for 2022 — that’s on top of the 10.5 million units we lost in 2021. While the issue is indeed global, AFS stated that the last batch of vehicles to get the ax was predominantly from Europe.
Last night, Tesla held a “ Cyber Rodeo” to celebrate the Gigafactory that’s opening in Austin, TX. The invitation-only event saw thousands of attendees, fireworks, a drone light show, Elon Musk in a cowboy hat, and a list of manufacturing promises so long that you almost have to believe that one of them will actually come true.
Among these were claims that Cybertruck would undoubtedly enter into production in 2023, along with the similarly delayed electric semi and Roadster. The CEO also touted Tesla’s often-criticized Full Self Driving (FSD) as poised to revolutionize the world after its public beta test is expanded later this year. Robotaxis are also said to be in the works and a humanoid robot, named Optimus, will help usher in “an age of abundance.”
The Biden administration held another meeting with automotive executives about how to ensure electric vehicles go mainstream. But this time it included Elon Musk, who runs the most successful EV brand in the entire world.
After taking criticism for shunning the Tesla CEO in earlier meetings, senior officials held an event on Wednesday where he and other industry leaders could contribute as to how the United States should handle a national charging infrastructure and spur adoption rates. Despite Musk having often expressed a dissenting opinion in regard to President Biden’s strategy, the White House said that the meeting was productive and resulted in a “broad consensus that charging stations and vehicles need to be interoperable and provide a seamless user experience, no matter what car you drive or where you charge your EV.”
The recent Rare Rides Icons post on the 1990 Chrysler Imperial Super-K Gingerbread Cookie Edition generated a few comments not only about the subject in question but its four-speed UltraDrive transmission. It seems more than one of you wants a discussion – no – an essay on the UltraDrive. Wish granted! Here we go.
Practically every automaker on the planet has begun signaling a desire to change with the times by collectively revising their business strategies. The new hotness involves lower volumes, higher margins, and electric vehicles with the ability to push connected services allowing manufacturers to charge you piecemeal for just about every feature imaginable.
While Volkswagen Group has been at the forefront of those trends since the 2015 Dieselgate scandal helped force its hand, it often suggested that the shift to EVs would be a boon to low-income families. It was hardly the only automaker to make such promises, nor has it been the first to break them after deciding that perhaps there’s more money to be made with premium vehicles. VW has decided that its ideal strategy involves culling internal combustion vehicles by 60 percent over the next eight years and focusing on higher-margin products yielding superior profitability.
Renault SA is reportedly mulling over the possibility of undergoing extensive restructuring, followed by an initial public offering for its electric vehicle assets. While the company had hinted that splitting itself into separate EV and combustion brands was a possibility in February, it wasn’t taken all that seriously. At the time, numerous automakers had suggested dividing themselves along similar lines.
But Ford Motor Co. announced it would actually be going ahead with the plan in March and Renault appears to be similarly warming to the idea, based on a meeting held last week between upper-level management and analysts. This included CEO Luca de Meo and CFO Thierry Pieton, both of whom allegedly acknowledged the real possibility of a split at the French automaker and the subsequent IPO.
In the Eighties and Nineties, General Motors of Canada decided to try new distribution strategies for its imported cars. Like in the recent Dodge Colt series, General Motors had its own captive import cars and trucks that were manufactured by other brands. But because of dealership arrangements in Canada, GM took things a step further than Chrysler and established a separate distribution network for its imported wares. The efforts lead to the thrilling Passport and Asüna brands for the Canadian market. First up, Passport.
We arrive at the end of our Dodge Colt journey today. Colt started in 1971 as a cooperative program to provide Mitsubishi with a sales outlet in North America, and Chrysler with a compact and fuel-efficient car it didn’t have to design or build. Over the years the Colt evolved with the needs of the consumer and branched out into several different body styles.
Eventually, the tides shifted. Mitsubishi established their own dealerships in the United States (but not Canada) and started selling identical cars as were on Dodge/Plymouth dealer lots. Then, as Eagle came into being it also needed product to sell. Chrysler turned Eagle into its de facto outlet for imports and Mitsubishi cooperative products: Colts of regular and wagon persuasion became Eagles called Vista and Summit, in addition to their Dodge and Plymouth twins.
Last time we left our tale it was the dawn of 1993, and Colts were badged at Eagle dealers as a new generation of Summit. The Vista Wagon name was dead, now called Summit Wagon. Dodge, Plymouth, and Eagle dealers had an exciting new Colt as well! But it didn’t last long.
Ford Motor Co and General Motors will be individually suspending production in Michigan next week due to supply chain constraints. However, it’s difficult not to notice that the chosen facilities are responsible for lower-volume models they could probably afford to idle.
GM is stalling Lansing Grand River Assembly and Stamping, citing a parts shortage it said had nothing to do with the ongoing deficit of semiconductor chips. The company later stated that the Russo-Ukrainian war had not played a factor, abandoning the two most popular excuses for why something isn’t being done in 2022. Meanwhile, Ford has said the chip shortage has everything to do with its temporary closure of Flat Rock Assembly.
Several executives from perpetual automotive startup Faraday Future have reportedly been subpoenaed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as part of an investigation into inaccurate statements made to investors. Though, considering the nameplate’s history, it would be impossible to assume which item the SEC will be focusing on thanks to FF’s exceptionally long history of industrial misgivings.
We’ve covered Faraday Future’s long and bizarre story from the early days of delivering half-baked, though otherwise impressive, concepts to its more recent status as an automaker in the ethereal sense. It’s promised the moon and only managed to deliver a handful of production husks that never surpassed the body-in-white phase and some “production-intent” prototypes of the FF91. Though the larger story is the SEC’s sudden interest in electric vehicle startups that went public via mergers with blank check firms, better known as special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), over the last two years.
General Motors’ joint venture in Shanghai is reportedly having employees sleep on factory floors to remain operational during regional COVID-19 lockdowns. The facilities are operated collaborative by GM and state-owned Chinese partner SAIC Motor Corp, with government restrictions being in place until at least Friday. Due to the tens of million people affected, it’s one of the largest lockdowns instituted since the pandemic started.
Initially reported by Reuters, the situation was framed as GM finding a workaround to ongoing Chinese lockdowns while other companies simply stopped production. But that seems to be glossing over some of the relevant context, mainly that the plant is now loaded up with workers who are sleeping inside the factory and living in relative isolation to ensure the facility is compliant with China’s stringent zero-tolerance policy while still managing to remain competitive.
There has been much speculation over the past week regarding General Motors’ trademark application for a new Buick logo. Likely related to a swath of new EVs on the horizon (but not yet confirmed), the news fired up the old Abandoned History thought box. Why not take a look at all of Buick’s past logos? We began yesterday in 1903, and pick up today in 1942.
According to a recently filed trademark application, Buick’s familiar tri-shield logo may be going the way of the dodo. It’s been suggested the potential logo change is in pursuit of a revised image, in preparation for the Brave New World of EVs that Buick will soon unleash upon millions of eager customers. However, given the company has been around for over 120 years this is far from the first time Buick has swapped its badge.
Volkswagen Group will be moving some of its European production out of the continent and into facilities located in China and the United States, citing the war in Ukraine as the largest contributing factor. Though if you’ve been following the company, it had already signaled a desire to raise its capacity in China ever since the region shifted into becoming its largest market.
In fact, Chief Executive Herbert Diess said during Tuesday’s press call that China will be taking precedence as the automaker reorganizes its manufacturing.
Tesla is receiving a lot of attention for having increased prices twice in one week. The Model 3, often presented as the company’s most-affordable option catering to the masses, now starts at $48,440 in the United States. Its crossover equivalent, the Model Y, now starts at a whopping $64,400 while larger products have surpassed the six-figure point of entry. Despite being the brand’s oldest model, the Model S saw increases over the summer (when it was just $90,000) and has since settled into $101,200 before you’ve even said the words Plaid or Full Self Driving. But the Model X remains even more expensive at $116,200.
Worse yet, those who can afford such vehicles won’t even be able to get them in a timely fashion. Despite weathering COVID restrictions rather well vs legacy automakers, supply chain issues seem to have caught up with the EV manufacturer. Wait times on order vehicles are now several months long. Some customers are being told that they’ll likely have to wait until 2023, specifically those hoping to score a Model X.