Rare Rides Icons: The Ford Festiva, a Subcompact and Worldwide Kia by Mazda (Part IV)

We reached a conclusion to the first Ford Festiva (or Kia Pride, Mazda 121, SAIPA, etc.) in our last installment, which saw the little hatchback finalize its Ford duties in 1993 and its Kia responsibilities in 2000. And while it continues life today as a Wallyscar in Tunisia, our coverage here moves on to Ford’s not-so-anticipated follow-up entry to Festiva, another Festiva! It’s an Aspire to you.

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How Shanghai Lockdowns Are Changing the Auto Industry

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.

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Rare Rides Icons: The Ford Festiva, a Subcompact and Worldwide Kia by Mazda (Part III)

We return to the Ford Festiva once again today, as the subcompact Mazda-designed hatchback stormed North American shores. It did so wearing a Ford badge and a South Korean VIN, courtesy of a Kia factory. But North America wasn’t the only place it landed.

As we learned last time, the Festiva was built in several different countries and assumed many identities over an extensive history. The Festiva still has not reached the end of its life, but we’ll cover that in a separate article. We pick up today in North America, circa 1987.

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Rare Rides Icons: The Ford Festiva, a Subcompact and Worldwide Kia by Mazda (Part II)

We return to our Rare Rides Icons coverage of the Ford Festiva today. An important world vehicle for the likes of Ford, Mazda, Kia (and eventually many others), the Festiva arrived at a time when rear-drive subcompacts were being replaced by much more efficient models that were front-drive. And the Mazda-designed Festiva was certainly more efficient and more front-drive than the Fiesta it replaced.

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Rare Rides Icons: The Ford Festiva, a Subcompact and Worldwide Kia by Mazda (Part I)

We embark on the important and global tale of a subcompact hatchback today. Your author referenced it last week in Part I of our Kia large cars series, and now it’s time for the promised comprehensive Rare Rides coverage! Manufactured in various places around the world, our subject vehicle lived a long life and had no fewer than 10 identities over its impressive 17-year span. We’re going to party, karamu, Festiva, forever.

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Audi Urbansphere: A Trojan Horse

Back when everyone still bought into the hype surrounding self-driving cars, automakers were releasing concept vehicles framed as a “lounge on wheels.” The theory was that once autonomous vehicles hit the mainstream, companies would begin dropping futuristic models with swanky interiors because drivers would no longer be responsible for piloting the car for the duration of its journey. However, the public eventually learned that autonomous driving technologies had failed to progress as promised and would likely come with a host of restrictions plenty of drivers wouldn’t be interested in once the wrinkles had been ironed out.

But there are a whole host of markets to be tapped, the public has a relatively short-term memory, and there’s always a chance that some major headway was made during the last few years of development. So we’ve seen a resurgence of mobility talk from the industry, especially as it relates to all-electric vehicles. Case in point is the Audi Urbansphere — an autonomous concept vehicle designed for “Chinese megacities” but allegedly perfect for a metropolitan area near you.

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Chip Shortage Lambasts Europe, Supply Chains Confront New Problems

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.

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VW Plans Mass Culling of Combustion Cars, Loftier Margins

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.

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SEC Subpoenas Faraday Future Executives

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.

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GM China Has Employees Living Inside Factories

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.

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Tesla Pauses Production in Shanghai

Tesla Inc. is briefly suspending production at its Shanghai factory for two days, starting today, as China upgrades restrictions pertaining to a new COVID outbreak. While the rest of the world has been scaling back pandemic-related restrictions, the Chinese Communist Party has begun issuing new mandates after locking down 51 million people at the start of the week. The government has said its part of its no-tolerance approach to the virus after citing roughly 1,700 infections spread across a dozen cities.

This has already started impacting supply chains that have been beleaguered by two years of restrictions already, apparently catching Tesla in the process. Despite Shanghai not having been issued any official orders, there’s been mounting pressure for businesses to temporarily shut down or reinstate protocols to have people work from home.

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Volkswagen Shifting Production Out of Europe, Into U.S. and China

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.

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GM Introducing New Premium Import Brand for China

General Motors is plotting to create a new premium brand for the Chinese market comprised primarily of halo cars shipped in from the United States. Details are scant at the moment, primarily due to GM getting caught with its pants down on the news breaking. The automaker doesn’t appear to have reached the point where it feels comfortable sharing. But Chinese media has been sharing the story for several days, forcing the company to issue an official statement confirming that it’s true.

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Audi Approved for $3.3 Billion EV Factory in China

Audi and FAW Group, the state-owned partner it is effectively required to have in order to preferential treatment from the Communist Party of China, received some good news this week. Government officials have approved the duo for a new, jointly operated production facility in Changchun.

With Volkswagen Group having shifted its focus toward China in recent years, the market has become all-important for the German company. VW is currently the top-selling brand for the entire region, with its Audi subsidiary typically being the highest volume premium automaker from Europe. Building in China is good optics for brands hoping to remain popular there and has the added benefit of placing manufacturing complexes closer to relevant suppliers, especially if you’re swapping to electric vehicles.

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Toyota Confronting Widespread Factory Stalls in Asia

Toyota Motor Corp is currently having to contend with idle factories in Asia, reducing the automaker’s estimated output by over 47,000 units this month. Shockingly, it’s not alleged to have anything to do with the semiconductor shortage that’s been wreaking havoc on Western markets.

With chip production having been localized primarily in China and Taiwan, Asian suppliers have had better access to them. But Eastern markets have still been subjected to other routine plant closures due to supply chain restrictions stemming from the pandemic. Existing protocols in China, combined with renewed restrictions in Japan, have created a situation impacting numerous automakers with Toyota announcing this week that it probably won’t reach its goal of manufacturing 9 million cars this year — though it made sure to include the ongoing semiconductor issue as relevant.

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  • Mike Beranek "Fuel Economy, U.S.17 city / 19 highway / 18 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)":What in the world are these people thinking?
  • ToolGuy "We’ll see what happens with Haas." I wonder what happened with Haas?
  • ToolGuy Auction is 2 days away now. I've been setting aside some spare change here and there - have you? (You forgot again, didn't you?)
  • Luke42 I like the Metris quite a bit, but I never bought one.Two problems kept me from pulling the trigger:[list=1][*]It was expensive for what it was.[/*][*]For the price they were asking, it needed to have a plug for me to buy it.[/*][/list=1]I wanted a minivan that could tow, and I test drove one and liked it. The Mercedes dealer stocked both cargo versions and conversion vans. It was a nice vehicle, and I really wanted one for a while.This is the inevitable fate of cars that I like, but don't actually buy.
  • Garrett I would have gone for one of these if it had AWD. If they had offered it, it could have done far better.