By on February 22, 2021

While the global semiconductor shortage is often reported as this out-of-nowhere surprise that has totally rattled smartphone and automotive manufacturers, 2020 was rich with signals that trouble was afoot. Global lockdowns forced factories to shut down, creating a lapse in demand in damn-near everything. By the time lines started firing back up, supply chains had become a disorganized mess. Nobody knew quite where to focus their efforts. But it was clear that everyone was going to be spending a lot more time indoors, resulting in an elevated need for the sort of components that go into mobile devices, television sets, personal computers, and other electronic gizmos.

Automobiles saw demand suppressed by around 15 percent (year-over-year) in 2020. However, the year ended with increased demand the industry figured would carry over into 2021. That, in conjunction with vehicles needing more semiconductor chips than ever to make sure they’re equipped with the latest features and perpetually connected to the internet, has automakers sweating. Practically every name in the industry has announced production shortfalls. But just exactly how many vehicles are we expected to lose from this?

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By on February 19, 2021

Honda has announced that CEO Takahiro Hachigo will be succeeded by the automaker’s head of research and development, Toshihiro Mibe. The company’s board held a meeting on Friday to finalize the decision, noting in a release that Mibe would officially be taking over leadership responsibilities on April 1st. A resolution of the general shareholder meeting is scheduled for June 2021, at which point Hachigo is assumed to be retiring from the business.

Mibe joined Honda’s engineering team in 1987 and had worked his way up to head of R&D in 2019. Since 2020, he’s also been working as the brand’s senior managing director. He’s to be tasked with taking the manufacturer into “the next era” — which we’re guessing entails strengthening its commitment to electric vehicles. Though the manufacturer also stated that “a new value system is spreading all around the world” adding that this change in management would help reflect that as it strives to solve social issues.  (Read More…)

By on February 16, 2021

Japan was struck by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake over the weekend. The Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures were hit the hardest, offering a physical reminder of the 9.0 magnitude quake that devastated the region in 2011. Scientists have claimed that Saturday’s tremor was actually an aftershock from the horror show that occurred a decade earlier.

While still a large systemic event, authorities aren’t reporting widespread injuries or even damages. However, many citizens were left without power and numerous industrial facilities were idled for inspection. This includes automakers, with Toyota making an announcement that it will be stalling nine factories for several days this week. Though only some of that time is needed for safety assessments. The automaker is fretting over a batch of suppliers that were impacted by the quake and is anticipating a parts shortage.

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By on February 12, 2021

Goldman Sachs is creating a joint venture that will help it capitalize on automotive technology firms while they’re consistently being overvalued on the New York Stock Exchange. Automotive startups have become a hot item, so long as they’re trading on the assumed merits of new technologies, and there’s no shortage of new companies being propped up by established players. The last few years have been a merry-go-round of establishment automakers and financial intuitions investing in startups on the off chance they might have something useful.

Meanwhile, burgeoning electric vehicle companies are using special purpose acquisition firms (aka blank-check companies) to maximize their advantage. Even though some have argued this is being done unfairly, there’s not much accountability in general. The iron could not be more primed for striking if you happen to be one of America’s largest banks.

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By on February 10, 2021

While Europe often appears as a safe haven for punchy subcompacts, the reality is that the continent’s biggest sellers happen to be reasonably sized automobiles equipped with a tepid engine option. The Volkswagen Golf, Toyota Corolla, and Škoda Octavia (especially if you happen to travel through any former satellite states of the Soviet Union) are absolutely everywhere. Europe also has a strong taste for many of the compact crossovers that are popular here in North America, giving subcompacts an increasingly small share of the overall market. And it’s projected to get smaller (globally) under the existing European regulations.

Pint-sized economy vehicles aren’t exactly profit leaders for automakers and their margins are only going to become slimmer. The EU is now reaching a point where building them won’t make sense, as tailpipe regulations will eventually force some amount of electrification. This will jack up their price to a point where the kind of people that might have been considering them will probably shop used. But don’t take our word for it; Audi CEO Markus Duesmann recently said this is probably what will kill the A1.  (Read More…)

By on February 9, 2021

Tesla CEO Elon Musk came under fire this week after Bloomberg wrote a piece accusing him of playing nice with totalitarian China following years of showing totalitarian California a complete lack of respect. With the semiconductor shortage leaving the industry in a holding pattern, tabloid journalism seems to be filling in the gaps to the dismay of yours truly. However, Musk’s relationship with both countries remains relevant since they represent the two largest automotive markets on the planet and will dictate the trajectory of the business.

He’s being accused of being extremely apologetic to Chinese regulators, despite having become infamous for acting in the exact opposite manner in the United States. As you might recall, American Musk is all about flagrantly ignoring the rules and telling the government regulators to take their concerns into the bathroom where they’ll have the privacy necessary to stick them where the sun doesn’t shine. When it comes to high-IQ billionaires, our Elon is the bad boy’s bad boy. But Chinese Musk is said to be deferential and happy to comply with the request of oversight groups before they become official mandates.

He sounds like a total traitor! At least, that’s how China’s state-run media framed it before Western outlets took the reporting and made Elon seem even worse on Tuesday. The story has since been spreading online, encouraging this website to take another look to see if Mr. Musk is actually the double-crossing villain that’s being claimed.  (Read More…)

By on February 5, 2021

Residual complications from COVID-19 lockdowns and overdependency on Central Asian suppliers have left most of the automotive industry fretting over where they’ll be sourcing their semiconductor chips in 2021. What started as an issue forcing a handful of manufacturers to rejigger their assembly schedules has evolved into a worldwide problem. This week, practically every automaker with a global footprint announced that it would be suspending production at key facilities to contend with the shortage or issued warnings that their Q1 earnings might be negatively impacted if supply failed to stabilize.

On Thursday, Volkswagen Group decided this was unacceptable and demanded that something be done about it in Europe — which is the region that has arguably been hit the hardest.  (Read More…)

By on February 5, 2021

General Motors will reportedly be making a $75 million investment into Toledo Transmission later this year. This follows an earlier $39 million investment from GM set aside for the eight-speed rear-wheel-drive transmission, which came as a package deal offering another $32 million for Defiance Casting Operations.  (Read More…)

By on February 4, 2021

While the Great Semiconductor Shortage of 2021 probably isn’t going to the defining historical topic of the modern era, it’s presently doing a number on the automotive industry. Volkswagen Group, Ford, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru Corp., Toyota, and Stellantis have all reported the need to scale back production this year.

On Wednesday, General Motors said that it would also have to handle the issue by closing down four plants next week. Affected sites include Kansas’ Fairfax Assembly, Ontario’s CAMI Assembly, and Mexico’s San Luis Potosí Assembly. GM Korea will likewise be operating Bupyeong 2 at half capacity, according to Reuters(Read More…)

By on December 14, 2020

An alliance of European truck manufacturers have pledged to stop selling vehicles that produce any emissions by 2040 — pushing up its previous target date by a full decade.

The group, which includes Daimler, Scania, Man, Volvo, Daf, Iveco, and Ford, have all signed a pledge to focus on developing hydrogen and battery technologies so that petroleum-derived propulsion can be phased out of the trucking industry.

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By on December 7, 2020

The 2021 Chicago Auto Show will be delayed until sometime in the spring of 2021 because of the COVID-19 epidemic that has forced the entire world to pretty much cancel everything. Of course, we didn’t need to tell you that because the pandemic has been the default reason or excuse (depending on the situation) for literally every decision that has taken place in 2020.

Originally scheduled to be held between February 13th and 21st, the event will now be held sometime in the spring. The Chicago Auto Show’s official website has been updated to represent the change but lacks any specifics that might help people actually plan a trip to the venue. It only reads “Spring 2021” before listing the address and ticket prices, requiring some clarification from organizers.

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By on December 7, 2020

When the United States announced it would be offering payroll relief to the countless small businesses it impacted with government shutdowns intended to combat COVID-19 earlier this year, everyone breathed a sigh of relief into their mask. Unfortunately, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) became a confusing bureaucratic mess almost instantly. It wasn’t clear how companies would account for part-time or contracted employees, numerous banks denied help to those with less than stellar financial histories, and the application website repeatedly crashed — which was awful for a service that was designed to accommodate candidates on a first-come-first-serve basis.

There were also numerous provisions that allowed big business to take advantage if their individual locations were small enough and loopholes for companies that weren’t even required to shut down operations. Criticisms understandably began to surface, followed by months of commercials asking concerned citizens to report instances of fraud. One such example came into focus this week after a former sales representative for a Pennsylvania-based dealership group launched a federal lawsuit against their ex-employer alleging that it had violated the False Claims Act in relation to PPP.

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By on November 23, 2020

The United Nation Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a report on Monday stating that Carlos Ghosn’s extended detention in Japan was an unacceptable infringement on his rights — adding that the matter would be forwarded to the UN’s rapporteur on torture, cruel and other inhuman or degrading treatment.

While there are undoubtedly larger examples of human rights abuses inside the automotive industry — Volkswagen’s apparent reliance on Chinese slave labor springs to mind — Japan’s bizarre treatment of the former head of the Renault-Nissan alliance garnered plenty of attention. Accused of financial crimes relating to the Japanese automaker he formally chaired and was once praised for saving, Ghosn was subjected to repeated arrests and strict limitations on who he was allowed to contact. Despite his having fled the country in a form befitting of a secret agent, the UN is still claiming his treatment ahead of the repeatedly delayed trial was tantamount to abuse.

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By on November 17, 2020

If you think the political class is interested in what kind of policies citizens would like to see implemented, you’ve clearly never heard of lobbying groups. While we’re stuck at home writing thoughtful letters to congressional interns in the faintest hope that they’ll be dictated to a senator, corporately supported lobbyists are taking legislators out to dinner so they can discuss how best to govern on a single issue. They’re important in determining the trajectory of the nation but many get criticized for placing the needs of the business over that of the individual voter.

Buckle up, because we’re getting another one. On Tuesday, the Zero Emission Transportation Association (ZETA) held its own coming-out party and announced its mission to advocate for “national policies that will enable 100 [percent] electric vehicle sales throughout the light-, medium-, and heavy-duty sectors by 2030.”

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By on November 10, 2020

german flag and reichstag

Germany is eager to see the United States abolish trade barriers implemented by President Donald Trump now that it looks like Joe Biden has won the 2020 election. While that could all be undone by the sudden influx of legal actions taken by the Trump campaign as presumptive evidence of election impropriety streams in, Germany would still like to get the ball rolling on trade with the Democrats.

The nation’s automotive industry is petitioning leadership in the U.S. and European Union to align technical/regulatory standards and minimize the existing trade barriers. The German Association of the Automotive Industry (Verband der Automobilindustrie) or VDA has already endorsed the proposal with the lobby group’s president confirming its position in a recent webcast hosted by the Frankfurt business media club ICFW (Internationale Club Frankfurter Wirtschaftsjournalisten).

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