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Nutson’s Weekly Auto News Wrap-up: February 20, 2022

Nutson’s Weekly Auto News Wrap-up: February 20, 2022



AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO – February 20, 2022; Every Sunday Larry Nutson, The Chicago Car Guy and Executive Producer, with able assistance from senior editor Thom Cannell from The Auto Channel Michigan Bureau, compile The Auto Channel’s “take” on this past week’s automotive news, condensed into easy to digest news Nuggets.

LEARN MORE: Full versions of today’s news nuggets along with thousands of pages of relevant news and opinions, information stored in a million page library published and indexed on The Auto Channel during the past 25 years. Complete information can be found by copying a bold headline and then inserting into any Site Search Box.

Nutson’s Automotive News Wrap-up – Week Ending February 20, 2022 Below are the past week’s important, relevant, semi-secret, or snappy automotive news, opinions and insider back stories presented as
expertly crafted easy-to-understand automotive universe news nuggets.

* Was the Super Bowl game better than the commercials? There were no fewer than five electric vehicle commercials broadcast during the game. The average Super Bowl spot this year cost a record $6.5 million for 30 seconds, so it’s telling that General Motors, BMW, Kia, and Polestar have gone all in on ads featuring electric cars and SUVs. Nissan, one of the few car companies that chose not to solely advertise an EV, gave its electric SUV Ariya a brief cameo.

* U.S.DoE factoid of the week: The United States imports many of the minerals used in EV batteries, such as cobalt, graphite, lithium, manganese, and nickel, with lithium being the predominant mineral. Although use of these minerals is not restricted to battery production for EVs, they are nonetheless important for meeting the increasing demand for EV production. From 2016-2019, over 90{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} of the lithium imported to the United States came from Argentina (55{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809}) and Chile (36{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809}). During this same time period, Gabon produced 69{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} of the manganese imported to the United States, while imports of cobalt, graphite and nickel were not as heavily dependent on a single country. In terms of U.S. net import reliance, 100{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} of graphite and manganese was imported, 76{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} of cobalt was imported, and about 50{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} of lithium and nickel was imported in 2020.

* Quote of the week: “We urge investors to dial-back expectations of autonomous car/robotaxi commercialization at scale over the next 5 years at least.” Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas on the hype surrounding self-driving vehicles. Hat tip to Phil LeBeau of NBC News.

* Reuters reports that Ontario and Windsor Canada authorities cleared out truckers blockading the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit, reopening a critical link in the North American auto manufacturing supply chain. Auto plants that shut down because parts could not move across the bridge should be able to reopen, though Toyota and Honda said production will be curtailed this week.

* The world’s power grids were not designed to replace the energy for transportation that is currently supplied by petroleum. In Europe, utilities and charging startups are behind in a race to deploy smart charging technology that can automatically program EVs to pull current from the grid at off-peak hours, and return electrons to the grid if demand from homes and workplaces spikes. A study by Ernst and Young warns Europe’s grid faces an “enormous challenge” if Europeans actually hit an EU goal to deploy 130 million EVs by 2035. This news from Reuters.

* MotorTrend announced that the Porsche 911 GT3 has been named MotorTrend’s 2022 Performance Vehicle of the Year. MotorTrend says the competition was fierce for this inaugural award, with the GT3 besting twenty-one other contenders including the Lamborghini Huracán STO and the Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series.

* The latest Kelley Blue Book Brand Watch Report for Q4 2021 is out. The year closed out with a new leader in non-luxury brand consideration, with Ford – fueled by hot new products and more plentiful inventory – dethroning longtime leader Toyota, which previously held the top spot for nearly four years straight. Among luxury shoppers, Lexus eked past BMW as the most-considered brand, while Tesla remained hot on their heels.

* GM plans to resume production of the Chevrolet Bolt EV and larger Bolt EUV on April 4 after many months of production stoppage. It is the longest-known production stoppage for a safety defect in GM’s history. Production was stopped in August as GM gave priority to provide new batteries to recalled customer-owned Bolts. GM recalled more than 140,000 Bolts to replace battery modules after a series of fires.

* State Farm and Ford announced the launch of Drive Safe & Save Connected Car usage-based insurance (UBI) for customers with eligible connected Ford or Lincoln vehicles. State Farm customers with eligible connected vehicles can opt into the State Farm UBI program, Drive Safe & Save, which adjusts premiums to an individual vehicle’s mileage and customer driving behavior. State Farm will debut Drive Safe & Save Connected Car in Alaska, Idaho, Montana and Oregon, for policies effective on or after Feb. 27, 2022, followed by a rollout across more states (excluding Calif., Mass. and R.I.). You will need to let big brother watch over you for this program.

* Michigan U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence sent a letter signed by 65 other House members urging the Department of Transportation to update safety standards to require the use of accurate female crash test dummies. There is no crash test dummy that represents the average female body used in car safety testing, despite women making up more than half of all licensed U.S. drivers. Experts say that may contribute to a disparity in crash outcomes: Women get in fewer car accidents than men. But when they do, they’re up to 73{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} more likely to be injured and 28{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} more likely to die, according to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

* Joe White at Reuters shared that in a Reddit chat covered by Automotive News VW Chairman Herbert Diess suggests VW is considering a new electric station wagon derived from the Space Vizzion concept (attention shooting-brake obsessed auto writers,) and the CEO responded to a question about an electric VW pickup truck for the United States with an enthusiastic “Good idea!” VW has been shut out of the U.S. pickup market in part because of the ancient 25{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} “chicken tariff” the U.S. imposes on imported trucks, a legacy of a 1960s U.S.-Europe trade war. The success of Ford’s compact Maverick compact (Euro-sized) pickup and the huge interest in Tesla’s Cybertruck and the electric F-150 must be getting attention in Wolfsburg. And we add, VW owns Navistar which owns the international Harvester name.

* Diess also said the Beetle might return in an all-electric version using VW’s scalable MEB platform. Ironically, when the new Beetle appeared as the Concept 1 back in 1994 the original design idea by J Mays and Freeman Thomas was for it to be an all-electric car. But, that never happened.

* PPG, the paint company, said 67{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} of the vehicles sold in 2021 were white, black or grey. The share of red cars decreased by 1 percentage point to just 7{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809}. PPG tried to put a happy face on this, saying two-tone paint jobs are rising in popularity. A lot of color choice has to do with what dealers order for inventory that they know they can sell easily. Will we see more color variety on the road when more new vehicle buyers place orders with an automaker?

* A cargo ship carrying about 3,965 Volkswagen Group vehicles—VW, Audi, Porsche, Bentley and Lamborghini, destined for North America was abandoned in the Atlantic about 1,000 miles off the coast of Portugal after a fire broke out in the hold. The 650-foot-long Felicity Ace has a crew of 22 that have all been rescued safely.

* Subaru climbed two spots to first place in Consumer Reports’ annual ranking of the most well-performing, safe and reliable automotive brands. The rest of the top ten are: Mazda, BMW, Honda, Lexus, Audi, Porsche, Mini, Toyota and Infiniti. The Ford Mustang Mach-E was selected by the group as one of its Top Picks, climbing ahead of Tesla. See more details here:

* Blinded by the light no more. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a final rule allowing “adaptive driving beam headlights” on new vehicles. It will go into effect when published in the Federal Register in the next few days. The headlights, commonly used in Europe, have LED lamps that can focus beams on darkness such as the driver’s lane and areas along the roadside. They also lower the intensity of the light beams if there’s oncoming traffic. Camera sensors and computers help determine where the light should go.

* Dodge is putting its money where its parts are when it comes to Direct Connection, the brand’s exclusive new source of factory-backed performance parts. The Direct Connection Contingency Program will offer Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak racers $10,000 to win at National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Factory Stock Showdown and National Muscle Car Association (NMCA) Factory Super Cars events, giving Drag Pak competitors multiple shots at taking home a five-figure winner’s purse during the 2022 season. The $10,000 purse, the largest available contingency award from a manufacturer in both NHRA Factory Stock Showdown and NMCA Super Cars classes, will be up for grabs for Drag Pak drivers at 14 total events. The NHRA Factory Stock Showdown schedule includes eight stops during the 2022 season, while NMCA Factory Super Cars will feature a slate of six races.

* NASCAR will begin a new season — and a new era — today, Sunday February 20, at the 2022 Daytona 500. The race will be the first full event for the new Next Gen cars. The race is sold out. The stands are full There are no covid restrictions and limits. Forty cars will roll onto the starting grid for the 64th edition of the Great American Race. Reigning Cup Series champion Kyle Larson earned the pole position in single-car qualifying. The Hendrick Motorsports driver turned a 49.680-second lap (181.159 mph average speed) on Daytona’s 2.5-mile superspeedway oval.

* Autoweek paid tribute to Bill Robinson, whose career spanned a time of remarkable change, and whose influence extended beyond his own work. His story shows how people still make a difference in an industry that is heavily focused on hardware. Robinson began his career as an automotive designer in 1948, went on to work on the classic Packards of the 1950s. Later, he became a teacher at the College for Creative Studies, the automotive design school in Detroit. At CCS, Robinson was a mentor to a generation of aspiring designers who have since become leaders in the industry, including Ralph Gilles of Stellantis and Richard Vaughan of Rivian. Robinson died this week at 96.

* Autoweek also sadly reports Kevin Olson, a two-time USAC National Midget Champion, was killed in a car crash on February 11 in Janesville, Wisconsin. The head-on crash also critically injured wife Nancy, according to multiple reports. Olson, 70, had retired from racing in 2020, according to the Gazette, in Janesville. Olson, who resided in Evansville, Wisconsin, is a member of both the United States Auto Club (USAC) Hall of Fame and the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame. He began his career on the national stage in a USAC National Midget race in 1972 at Springfield (Ill.) Speedway. His final national USAC National Midget race was 2014 at Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.

Stay safe. Be Well.