We return to our Abandoned History coverage of Daewoo Motors in the early part of the Sixties. Korea was a newly independent nation still in the process of building its economy after many decades of Japanese occupation. The new Korean government seemingly relied on two tenets in its earliest years: Centralized control and openness to bribes.
Both those factors were at play when the government handed the production of all passenger cars to a single company, Saenara Motors. Via a huge loan and technical assistance from Nissan, Saenara built Korea’s first car, the Saenara (Datsun) Bluebird via knock-down kits assembled in South Korea. But once the government noticed there was too much capital flowing out of the country, they banned Saenara from buying more kits from Japan. The scraps of bankrupt Saenara were picked up by another company, Shinjin.
With a majority of automakers snubbing the upcoming auto show in Detroit, there’s not likely to be much to talk about in terms of new product beyond the next-generation Ford Mustang. But there are interesting things happening elsewhere on the planet if we’re using interesting as a polite euphemism for strange.
General Motors’ joint operation in China, SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co., is releasing a poverty-tier convertible that makes the long-dead Chrysler Sebring look positively decadent by comparison. Based on the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV – a boxy microcar that only measures 114.8 inches in length – the Cabrio will be a limited production convertible requiring Chinese customers to participate in a lottery.
Ford increased pricing on the F-150 Lightning EV substantially this week, citing “significant material cost increases and other factors.” The all-electric model now comes with an MSRP that ranges between $46,974 (for the base Pro trim) and $96,874 (for the Extended Range Platinum). All told, the decision has made the pickup anywhere from $6,000 to $8,500 more expensive than it was just a few days earlier. In exchange, Blue Oval has ever so slightly upgraded the maximum range of some of the lower trims. But some of us would probably prefer a more comprehensive explanation as to what’s causing EV prices to surge in general, because it’s not just Ford that’s been raising the sticker price of in-demand electric vehicles.
It would seem the engineers at GM have been busy doing their sums. Super Cruise, their take on hands-free driver assistance technology, is set to double its reach. At present, SC will only work on certain divided highways and interstates around the nation. After this update, which is scheduled for later this calendar year, it’ll be functional on hundreds of thousands of additional miles of roads in the U.S. and Canada – including a combination of undivided and divided highway infrastructure.
As a luxury brand, Cadillac doesn't have the same racing pedigree as other manufacturers that spent a considerable amount of their time at the track during the latter half of the 20th century. But the American brand hasn't ignored motorsports in the subsequent millennia and deserves some real credit for fielding — and winning with — models like the CTS-V.R Coupe (Pirelli World Challenge GT series), ATS-V.R (GT3), and DPi-V.R (Rolex 24 at Daytona, WeatherTech Championship, Michelin Endurance Cup).
Cadillac would like to remind everyone of that fact and has introduced the GTP Hypercar as the keystone of its next attempt to embarrass rival manufacturers on the world racing stage — which will reportedly include the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The 2023 CT4-V Blackwing Track Edition, intended for regular customers, is the other part of that equation. To be offered in three flavors, each honoring a different course on the International Motor Sports Associations (IMSA) schedule, the models will exist as a kind of purchasable victory lap.
General Motors has announced a national network of quick charging stations for electric vehicles to be installed at Pilot and Flying J truck stops. Managed by EVgo (a subsidiary of the South Korean LS Group), the network may be the final piece of the puzzle for GM to make good on its promise to go all-electric. It’s already spent oodles on development, created partnerships with global battery suppliers, and now has a glut of EVs on the way –a glut of product that GM is hoping will resonate with consumers.
Cadillac has been meticulously stoking the fires of the hype train of the Celestiq to ensure the model has a full head of steam before its debut on July 22nd. The forthcoming flagship model is rumored to become the most expensive product in the luxury brand’s 120-year history and will bring back a level of opulence not seen on American cars since the golden era of the 1950s.
Frankly, it sounds like General Motors may be setting expectations a little high — especially since the last handful of Cadillacs haven’t exactly been able to check the luxury box with the kind of gusto necessary for a nameplate that’s supposed to specialize in providing exactly that. The brand’s best offerings now tend to be focused more on performance than comfort and are accompanied by sporting names that include terms like “Blackwing” and “V.” But that may soon change if the latest teasers of the Cadillac Celestiq are anything to go buy, as the company seems to be returning to its roots.
In 2017, General Motors bowed out of the European market. The tactical retreat came after nearly two decades of struggling to make the region profitable and freed up cash the company could use to expand more profitable endeavors located elsewhere. This basically entailed widening its footprint in China, eliminating modestly sized passenger vehicles from its North American lineup, and setting aside any extra money for electric vehicle development. However, the automaker’s Western clientele has been slower to embrace EVs than hoped, even with gas prices becoming astonishingly high, and market analysts expect the United States to be the very last developed nation to see alternative powertrains go mainstream.
One possible solution for this conundrum is to sell those all-electric vehicles elsewhere — namely Europe.
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.
On Wednesday, Buick formally committed itself toward an “all-electric portfolio” by 2030 — saying that it would be embarking on a brand transformation that would fundamentally change the company forever. This includes an entirely new horizontally oriented badge that doesn’t stray too far from Buick’s traditional tri-shield design.
“The Buick brand is committed to an all-electric future by the end of this decade,” stated Duncan Aldred, global vice president, Buick and GMC. “Buick’s new logo, use of the Electra naming series and a new design look for our future products will transform the brand.”
Honda has begun teasing out the electric Prologue in earnest, with its latest offering being a sketch of what appears to be a lifted Civic. Though what we’re actually seeing is the brand’s newest “adventure-ready” SUV tapping into the same inoffensive design language that now graces the ever-popular sedan.
The styling is neutral, perhaps even a little dull. But it’s unlikely to put anybody in a bad mood and is still rounded off in all the places one would expect from an EV. The Prologue looks as though it could come from Lucid, just with a dash of rugged design from Rivian and underpinned by Honda’s current design language. There’s little to gripe about, though there’s also not much to ogle.
We return to the Turbo-Hydramatic once more today, and our third installment sees us at a critical point in the timeline of the automatic transmission. Fuel economy pressure from the government and performance demands of the consumer increased considerably in the intervening years since the THM’s debut in 1964. That meant the creation of lighter, more compact, and cheaper versions of the Turbo-Hydramatic compared to its flagship shifter, the THM400. GM branched out into the likes of the THM350, THM250, and the very problematic THM200.
In 1987, GM stepped away from the traditional THM naming scheme and switched to a new combination of letters and numbers. Number of gears, layout, and strength combined to turn the THM400 into the 3L80. But the hefty gearbox was already limited by then to heavier truck applications; passenger cars moved on to four forward gears after the dawn of the Eighties.
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.