Despite the automotive industry collectively promising to commence deliveries of self-driving cars in 2019, autonomous vehicles have remained test platforms for technologies that don’t yet seem ready for mass consumption. Public perception of the concept has also endured a few setbacks after several fatalities involving partially autonomous vehicles received national media attention. Today, the relevant technologies have failed to mature as swiftly as indicated and there are a whole host of legal ramifications to contend with.
Selling an automobile that’s marketed as being able to drive itself (even partially) are exposing automakers to a whole new demographic of lawsuits, so they’re desperate to install failsafe measures that places the onus of responsibility back onto the driver. Their current favorite is driver-monitoring cameras, which the American Automobile Association (AAA) likewise believes are probably the best solution. The outlet recently shared the results of a study attempting to determine which driver-engagement systems worked best and decided that in-cabin cameras were the leading choice in a batch of bad options.
With electric vehicles getting a lot of press, you might be wondering which models are scratching consumers in all the right places.
According to J.D. Power’s U.S. Electric Vehicle Experience Ownership Study, the Kia Niro EV is the best thing the mainstream BEV market currently has to offer. The Korean model garnered a satisfaction rating of 744 points out of a possible 1,000. However, it wasn’t the top dog overall. That honor fell to the Tesla Model 3, which achieved a score of 777 points — besting the industry average for premium electrics by a whole seven points.
Following the Virginia shutdown of Interstate 95 that left countless people stranded in freezing weather overnight earlier this month, there was a surprising amount of news coverage making offhand comments about how victims would have been better off if they all were driving electric vehicles (Ed. note — there was also this Washington Post op-ed in which the author worried that an EV would be a poor vehicle to be stranded in And this Vice rebuttal to that article). While it seemed an inopportune time to advertise for EVs, it’s an interesting premise and encouraged Car and Driver to conduct a head-to-head experiment between a Tesla Model 3 and Hyundai Sonata N-Line to see who could keep the cabin warm for the longest period of time when stranded.
Realistically, you’d be better off in whatever vehicle is yielding the heaviest fuel tank or least-depleted battery when traffic stops. But there are other factors to consider. Idling an internal-combustion car for extended periods of time is not recommended and doing so when totally snowed in could potentially trap harmful exhaust gasses if the exhaust is not kept clear. Meanwhile, EVs are notorious for having their battery chemistry altered by colder temperatures. This is especially true if they lack the relevant thermal management systems, resulting in the maximum range being diminished by as much as 30 percent.
Car dealers have been polled for the fourth-quarter Cox Automotive Dealer Sentiment Index (CADSI) and they’re still incredibly optimistic, despite losing some of their earlier confidence that new-vehicle sales would be relatively healthy.
The dealer optimism – especially among franchised entities – seems to be wholly tied to profitability here. New vehicle sales dropped in 2019 and absolutely cratered in 2020 due to the nation’s response to the pandemic. In spite of there being plenty of talking heads in the news media telling you not to stress about the economy, inflation has created pricing increases across the board and automobiles are at the tippy top of that list. With inventories remaining relatively lean due to production slowdowns, staggering dealer markups have become the norm. Basically, stores just seem happy that they can charge more per car while they’re in short supply. But they’re also starting to have concerns about the long-term viability of the market and are are feeling the pinch of rising operating costs.
Since the hottest news surrounding the automotive industry today happens to be rolling updates about supply shortages, factory downtime, and how it’s not impacting manufacturing profits as much as anticipated, I’ve been diving back into studies and research pertaining to the future of the automotive industry. It’s a little more enjoyable for my own gray matter to process and might provide readers with a touch more to ponder than another story about how automakers are stalling production because an insufficient number of doodads were placed on a boat that’s waiting off the California coastline.
Earlier this week, we examined research exploring how much electric vehicles actually cost to run and that theme will persist. There’s a new study suggesting EVs boast lower repair bills than gasoline-driven alternatives. But there’s an interesting tipping point that occurs early in a vehicle’s lifespan that makes it happen. Before that, it’s cheaper on average to maintain something equipped with an internal combustion engine.
Consumer Reports just released the findings of a year-long stud y looking into the latest trends in automotive loans and car payments. The resulting information highlights just how explosive the debt growth has been over the last 10 years and the arbitrary way in which borrowers are now being treated.
Long story short, we’re all being swindled.
With vehicle prices ballooning and the associated loans becoming longer than ever, dealers and lenders seem to be operating whatever way yields the steepest profit margins with only a modicum of consideration being given to the established frameworks designed to act as a guard rail. This has led to U.S. citizens carrying around a record $1.37 trillion in automotive load debt and customers with good credit being treated no different than those that fall into the subprime category. Sadly, the issue appears only appears to be worsening as new economic perils are only making things more expensive. Meanwhile, data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is projecting national auto debt to swell to $1.42 trillion by year’s end.
With the volume having been turned down on just about every business sector imaginable, automakers have spent most of this year explaining how supply chain shortages are impacting production and making promises about electric vehicles. However, the rhetoric surrounding electrification has gotten so aggressive that it’s fast becoming another contentious issue, leading to vicious arguments as people square up to take sides. Part of this is due to the enterprising way in which zero-emission vehicles are being marketed and subsequently embraced by world leaders that don’t know jack about the manufacturing or the environment. Much of the discourse surrounding electrification (pro or con) lacks nuance and leads to businesses promising whatever they can in an effort to obtain your unquestioning belief.
For example, EVs are frequently promoted as boasting substantially lower operating costs due to there being no reliance on liquid fuel. Though finding the truth actually requires one to make a comparative analysis while taking into account how, where, and what you’re driving. There’s even a new study out from the Anderson Economic Group (AEG) attempting to determine the true savings of swapping to an EV where the researchers ultimately decided gasoline-powered cars were actually easier on the wallet. However, that likewise requires loads of clarifying context and conditional factors.
A new study from the American Automobile Association (AAA) has found that rain can severely impair advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). Similar to how highway traffic slows to a crawl when there’s a sudden deluge, modern safety equipment can have real trouble performing when a drizzle becomes a downpour.
On Thursday, the motor club organization released findings from closed-course testing that appeared to indicate some assistance suites had real trouble seeing through bad weather. AAA reported that 33 percent of test vehicles equipped with automatic emergency braking traveling collided with a stopped car when exposed to simulated rainfall at 35 mph. The numbers for automatic lane-keeping was worse, with 69 percent drifting outside the lines. Considering the number of times the people writing for this website have anecdotally criticized ADAS for misbehaving in snow, sleet, rain, fog, or just from an automobile being a little too dirty, it’s hard not to feel a little vindicated.
Annual automotive-content indexes have grown in popularity since trade restrictions and tariffs have become increasingly relevant issues. But they’re usually pretty generic, often providing the broad strokes of product origin while placing a few cars housing the most regional content on a pedestal. Not so with the Kogod School of Business’ 2021 Made in America Auto Index. While the metrics used are a little different from what’s found elsewhere, it offers a more comprehensive data set than other catalogs.
Though most people still like to know which vehicles were dubbed the “most American” and Kogod’s percentage-based scoring system makes it pretty easy to figure out. We won’t leave you hanging. For the 2021 model year, the Ford Mustang GT was evaluated as the car boasting the highest level of North American hardware and labor. But you have to get a manual transmission for the necessary 88.5 percent total domestic content rating (TDC). Select the automatic and that number drops to 51 percent, which is still better than the Mustang Mach-E’s paltry 15-percent score.
As luck would have it, hiring thousands of drivers to cruise around a city in search of their next fare has some negative environmental impacts. That’s the word coming from expert researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, who we can only hope are prepared to tackle similarly impossible quandaries — like establishing what happens to an object when it’s dropped or reaching a final determination on the wetness of water.
The study is inextricably linked to one we covered in 2018 asserting that ride-hailing services actually created more traffic congestion because it treads extremely familiar ground and seems like something that we should have already figured out on our own. But it’s also at odds with the years of messaging we’ve gotten from technology firms that have promised on-demand services (like Uber or Lyft) would usher in a new era of urban transportation striving for clearer roads and cleaner air. Based on little more than the conjecture of executives, we’ve generally accepted ride-hailing as “greener” than the alternatives and it’s well past time that we started actually thinking about it.
The average cost of owning a vehicle is now $9,666 per year, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). While the sum is up substantially over the 2019 average of $9,282, 2020 was sitting at a much tighter $9,561.
Of course, none of this means anything to you unless you happen to drive the most typical vehicle in the most likely manner imaginable. The problem with coming up with a representative figure is that it doesn’t actually represent any one driver or automobile. But AAA was good enough to provide some basic calculation tools to help determine where you fall on the spectrum and some pointers on how to bring those rates down. Though the biggest factor remains which hunk of metal happens to be occupying your driveway.
One of the reasons electric vehicles have been so polarizing is down to the near-constant proclamations that they’re the superior mode of transportation. But truth is usually a mixed bag and spending some time with EVs has shown them to have some serious blind spots that will need to be addressed if they’re ever to supplant internal combustion vehicles. Electrics aren’t always the better option, though they do boast features that make them extra desirable to some.
Among those was the promise that owning an EV yielded lower maintenance costs. But there’s a new study out claiming that’s not entirely true. Data is pointing to electrics actually having average servicing fees higher than traditional automobiles.
As you’re undoubtedly aware, now isn’t the best time to purchase a new vehicle. While you can currently sell your ride for more than it’s realistically worth, the economy is anything but stable as inflation and supply shortages gum up the works. A lack of semiconductor chips has caused the automotive industry to stutter endlessly throughout 2021, with the issue getting so bad that some manufacturers have been building unfinished vehicles just to give their employees something to do. Ford is even mulling over a strategy to ship those units directly to dealerships so they’ll have something on the lot — effectively making its retail network responsible for final assembly.
But the logistics nightmare is only part of the story. Automotive loans are also becoming untenable as terms stretch out endlessly. Cars continue getting more expensive and the average consumer is losing their buying power. The preferred solution is for financiers to extend agreements so customers can continue making the same monthly payments while accruing more on interest over the duration. While effective in the short term, and bound to make banks money as we’re all driven deeper into debt, one wonders how this plays out on a grander scale.
It’s always nice to get a break from the endless stream of industry marketing materials about electrification, though this week’s impromptu theme still involves going green. Following news that General Motors is considering changing its drug testing policies to exclude marijuana, there has been heavy coverage of an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) study claiming states that have legalized recreational use of cannabis are seeing more crashes.
But the framing seems wildly irresponsible as it fails to highlight the problem being heavily tied to individuals operating a vehicle under the influence of marijuana and alcohol combined. It’s more or less what the IIHS attempted to do in 2018 with help from the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI). Our guess is that the duo is seeking out fresh reasons for insurance companies to raise rates in regions that have legalized pot because even their own research complicates the issue.
We’ve been covering the staggering increase of automobile pricing all year, starting with the second-hand surge created by rental industries sucking up used models to replace all the vehicles they dumped during the pandemic. A year of suppressed demand and prolonged restrictions absolutely crippled supply chains and placed the automotive sector in an extremely difficult position going into 2021. We wish we could say things were improving but the most heartening news we’ve come across was the possibility that select manufacturers might soon have a line on semiconductor chips — hopefully encouraging new vehicle production.
But the used market is still heading into uncharted waters. According to data collected by CarGurus, the typical price for a used automobile increased by about 30 percent against this time last year. Though more worrying is how much of that spike is consolidated within the last 90 days.