Tag: reports

By on July 31, 2020

The automotive industry has borrowed an estimated $132 billion since the world started taking the coronavirus more seriously, according to a recent analysis by Bloomberg.

Despite migrating around the planet months before anyone thought to close down a single airport or suggest masks were necessary, March is broadly viewed as the start of the pandemic in the Western World, as that’s when most governments started taking direct action and businesses started looking for handouts. Still, it’s exceptionally difficult to follow the money if you didn’t devote yourself entirely to the task of tracking payments while under shelter-in-place orders.

We do know that a lot of money was being thrown around, however. Car dealerships were among the largest recipients of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds in the United States, garnering anywhere from $7.5 billion to $12 billion in government aid to maintain staff. Plenty of criticism over exactly where that money went arose as the press questioned which businesses were more deserving and who was just taking advantage of the system.

But it’s only the tip of the iceberg. PPP funds don’t need to repaid unless they weren’t earmarked entirely for payroll purposes; the government also used the program to send over $600 billion to support banks in extending low-interest loans to companies during the pandemic. The automotive industry was one of the largest beneficiaries of that arrangement.

(Read More…)

By on July 23, 2020

Los Angeles car thefts hit record highs in the second quarter of 2020, with some claiming the matter is the direct result of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite LA being infamous for car crime, the general trend over the last decade was a downward one — until very recently. A report from the USC Annenberg School for Journalism’s non-profit analysis publication Crosstown analyzed data from the Los Angeles Police Department, citing a 57.7-percent uptick in vehicle theft between April and June against the same period in 2019.

COVID-19 was theorized to have only been part of the problem. While the study notes that lockdown measures meant more vehicles sitting around unattended for longer periods of time, making them tempting targets for thieves, it also references the California Judicial Council’s passing of new zero-dollar bail policy as a contributing factor. Enacted in April, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said the measure was taken so courts could set individual bail for those accused of looting. Meanwhile, most non-violent crimes (and some low-level felonies) are supposed to be bail-free, allowing jail populations to be kept at a minimum during the pandemic. (Read More…)

By on July 22, 2020

Dodge was deemed the mainstream automotive brand with the most appeal in a recent survey conducted by J.D. Power. While that likely means a quadrant of our readers will probably discount it outright, these accolades are always fun to mention so they can be picked apart in the comments. Still, it really shouldn’t be all that bewildering to see Dodge ranking high on the list. The brand’s fleet of V8-equipped products certainly sets it apart from its rivals, even if its lineup isn’t quite so varied as its historic rivals.

The conflict comes when you see what Dodge is surrounded by. J.D Power’s Automotive Performance Execution and Layout (APEAL) study tabulates owner assessments of vehicles after 90 days of ownership using some pretty broad metrics (available here). The goal here is to uncover which brands offer the best overall experience. Apparently, Dodge owners aren’t quite as happy with their purchase as those who went to a Porsche dealership. Hardly surprising. Yet we were fairly gobsmacked to see the same was true for both Lincoln and Cadillac.  (Read More…)

By on July 20, 2020

When I was a young lad, I had a box set of the goofball quiz show You Bet Your Life. Hosted by deceased comedy legend Groucho Marx, the program aired on both television and radio just as they were beginning to swap roles in terms of market dominance in the mid-20th century.

After ribbing guests, Marx would pause to acknowledge the sponsor. More often than not, they were Chrysler products — especially the now defunct DeSoto brand. While I had no idea if Groucho actually cared about the cars beyond the paycheck they offered, something about the format of having someone you actually liked pushing the product stuck with me. I’ve been a fan of DeSoto for years, despite having been born decades after it stopped existing as a brand.

It seems things might be coming full circle. With television now losing prominence to the internet, advertisers, in search of new avenues for income, and have stopped at podcasts. A recent Nielsen study estimated that roughly half of would-be vehicle shoppers visited a website for more information if they heard about it via an audio-focused medium with a strong personality behind it.  (Read More…)

By on July 15, 2020

Subaru Legacy 2018 Logo Emblem Grille

J.D. Power’s Automotive Brand Loyalty Study dropped this week, with Subaru and Lexus predictably topping the charts. Subaru actually edged out Toyota by a hair in the mainstream segment by retaining 60.5 percent of its owners, and is assumed to be aided by younger generations just getting into vehicle ownership. This is something we can back up anecdotally, as many drivers look back fondly at the nameplate and are eager for a second helping.

If your author had a nickel for every person that happily reminisced about the hand-me-down Subaru Legacy or Forester wagons they drove during their formative years, he would have a jar full of coins wasting space on a shelf somewhere because nickels aren’t particularly valuable.  (Read More…)

By on June 23, 2020

When Sir Thomas More coined the term “utopia,” he lifted two words from Ancient Greek that roughly translate into “not a place.” Turns out people from the 16th century still understood satire, perhaps better than we do today. After all, we are the ones operating under the assumption that we can remap society in order to build consequence-free transportation network without a shred of humor to keep us grounded.

We may not need satire in this instance, however. A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health asks questions about how just effectively the shift to autonomy will benefit society as a whole. Industry leaders have broadly framed the shift toward self-driving as kicking down the door to an idyllic universe where no one wants for transportation, with autonomous taxis serving as the first wave of this planned paradise. The reality may be vastly different that what’s being sold, however.  (Read More…)

By on April 22, 2020

It’s been a long month and change for most Americans, and by no means is anyone out of the woods, either employment-wise or health-wise. Same goes for new vehicle sales, which remain depressed after falling off a cliff in late March.

The difference now is that sales are rising.

Not on a year-over-year basis, with gains made over “normal times” tallies. No, nothing like that. But they have started a slow climb out of the pit after hitting rock bottom, which represents another brick laid on the pathway to normality. (Read More…)

By on April 7, 2020

Auto loan terms have been creeping up for as long as anyone can remember. Back in 1997, the average financing period on a new car was somewhere around 54 months. That crept up to over 60 months by 2004 and has only continued to climb. Over the past decade, the typical automotive loan term has ballooned by almost 30 percent. According to an analysis by Edmunds, the average financing period on a new vehicle sold in the United States surpassed 70 months in March of 2020.

While automakers’ recent introduction of loans extending up to 7 years (especially now that COVID-19 is hampering sales) has exacerbated the issue, we were already sitting on a 69-month average in October of 2019. Why would someone voluntarily agree to such a lengthy agreement? They may not have much of an alternative due to similar growth in vehicle transaction prices.  (Read More…)

By on March 27, 2020

News arose yesterday that General Motors’ and Ford Motor Company’s battle plans rely heavily on SUV and pickup sales, rather than electric vehicles. Details of the corporate strategies, first shared by Reuters, soon circulated through the media, with many outlets upset that the pair seem to have oversold the role electrification will play in their respective lineups through 2026. One wonders how they could possibly be this surprised.

Using data issued to parts suppliers from the two automakers, AutoForecast Solutions predicted North American production of SUV models from GM and Ford will outpace the assembly of traditional cars by more than eight to one in 2026. Roughly 93 percent of those models are expected to be dependent upon gasoline. Meanwhile, Reuters compared the manufacturers’ strategy against Tesla — a company that only exists for the explicit purpose of selling EVs and has never assembled a gas-powered automobile — as if all manufacturers are equal in scope and cater to the same type of customers.  (Read More…)

By on March 25, 2020

Road traffic across the United States is dropping drastically, thanks to social-distancing efforts taking place to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. For yours truly, traffic in New York City has gone from frequently hectic to downright pleasurable and relaxed. While there’s a statewide initiative in place to keep residents in their homes, the days leading up to the shelter-in-place order saw a decline in roadway activity I’d only previously witnessed during Hurricane Sandy.

According to INRIX, a Washington-based firm providing traffic analytics, road use in the United States dropped by about 30 percent last week — with regions affected by state-mandated shutdowns seeing even larger declines. The study compares the national traffic volume from the 14th to the 20th of March to volumes recorded between the 22nd and the 28th of February — noting that March 13th was the first day traffic started trending downward in most regions. Moving forward, INRIX says it wants to continue offering up a weekly synopsis of national traffic volume until the health crisis ends.  (Read More…)

By on March 16, 2020

Domestic automakers are enamored with the full-sized pickup segment because it’s a reliable way of securing hundreds of thousands of sales in North America on an annual basis. Here, Ford’s F-Series reigns supreme. That might not always be the case, however, especially with younger buyers opting to purchase their pickups at competing brands.

Last month, Edmunds released a study claiming Ram is leading the charge with buyers under 35 — saying the brand had won over “the most coveted section of the market.”  (Read More…)

By on March 12, 2020

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has issued a set of guidelines for advanced driving aids, suggesting that the key to automated safety is making sure drivers are perpetually engaged with the vehicle’s operations. Unfortunately, this has turned out to be a Catch-22 scenario due to the way these systems function. Semi-autonomous features are supposed to be there to help promote safety by adding an extra layer of protection; however, many encourage motorists to disengage by nature of their design.

Adaptive cruise control with lane keeping is probably the worst offender. Implemented as a way to keep cars a safe distance apart on the expressway, it offers an experience that borders on having the car chauffeur you around. The effectiveness of these systems vary widely, with none actually being capable of any legitimate self-driving functionality. You’re also not supposed to be able to tune out while they’re in use, but they all seem coyly contrived to do exactly that. The IIHS is concerned this phenomenon will only get worse as driving aids evolve and become increasingly commonplace.

“Unfortunately, the more sophisticated and reliable automation becomes, the more difficult it is for drivers to stay focused on what the vehicle is doing,” said IIHS President David Harkey. “That’s why systems should be designed to keep drivers actively engaged.” (Read More…)

By on March 11, 2020

Anyone who’s laid a substantial amount of rubber in a local parking lot will tell you that the scent emitted doesn’t smell particularly healthy for the environment (burnt clutch smell is even less appealing — don’t ask how I know). And while the typical driver doesn’t burn through tires via successive smoke shows, regular road use effectively does the same thing over a much longer timeline — and a new study claims it’s up to 1,000 times worse than what actually comes out of a vehicle’s exhaust system.

The report, penned by UK-based independent research firm Emissions Analytics, has circulated within the media for a few days and claims that pollution stemming from tire and brake wear is a growing problem. With European lawmakers clamping down on tailpipe emissions, the firm suggests “non-exhaust emissions” will be the next big regulatory challenge.  (Read More…)

By on March 2, 2020

In a report that harkens back to the grim days of World War 2-era Germany, several automakers are accused of benefiting from forced labor.

An Australian think tank claims upwards of 80,000 Uighurs, a persecuted ethnic minority in northwest China, have been transported from state-run re-education and internment camps to the factories of Chinese suppliers. Among the companies said to benefit from the forced labor are Apple, Sony, Nike, Volkswagen, BMW, and General Motors. (Read More…)

By on February 26, 2020

A report from the National Transportation Safety Board concludes that a fallible driver-assist system, and the driver’s overreliance on it, were the main causes of a fatal March 2018 crash on US-101 in Mountain View, California.

The violent crash of a Tesla Model X that killed a 38-year-old Apple software engineer is a perfect example of both Silicon Valley excess and the teething troubles facing our tech-obsessed world. (Read More…)

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