Car Prices Might be Unsustainable for Buyers

Automotive Weekly



For the average American, paying off a new car at current prices demands 42 weeks of income, according to data from Cox Automotive, up from around 33 before the pandemic. Bargains have been hard to come by on the used-car lot as well, where the average vehicle listed for about $27,000—up more than 30% from prepandemic levels, according to Cox’s data. Higher interest rates have made the situation more difficult for buyers. Today’s average new car loan has a monthly payment north of $750, with an interest rate of 9.5%. For used cars, the average rate is above 13.7%, according to Cox.

Source: The Wall Street Journal 


A new technology may give automakers the ability to shut down a vehicle's power or turn off selected features, if warranted. Ford Motor Co. has received a patent for a technology that would allow it to shut off air conditioning, radio, cruise control, remote key fobs or other systems for whatever reason — a safety issue, perhaps, or a customer has neglected to keep up with car loan payments.

Source: Automotive News 


Automaker Stellantis Has Discussed Moving Pickup Truck Production from the U.S. to Mexico, Union Leader Says
Automaker Stellantis has threatened to move production of the current Ram 1500 pickup truck from a factory in suburban Detroit to Mexico, a union leader said Sunday. United Auto Workers Vice President Rich Boyer, who heads the union’s Stellantis unit, said the automaker has discussed the move during ongoing contract negotiations that are occurring simultaneously but separately between the UAW and General Motors, Stellantis and Ford Motor.

Source: CNBC 

Other Deals that might impact UAW negotiations
If the Detroit 3 want a glimpse of how contract negotiations with the UAW may play out in the coming weeks, they can look to a handful of deals struck recently by that union and others. In the last two years, the UAW has negotiated new contracts with John Deere, Caterpillar and Case New Holland that achieved much of what it seeks from the Detroit 3: double-digit wage gains, elimination of multiple wage tiers, addition of pensions and restoration of cost-of-living adjustments.

Source: Automotive News


When the pandemic and the ensuing chip shortage reduced new-vehicle supply, many consumers switched from new to used models and snapped up the best inventory. Now, the supply of used models remains constrained, both by the loss of production in recent years and by the reduction in leasing as a share of that smaller market. In response, dealers are getting creative to find the inventory they need. In some cases, they're even scaling back used-vehicle operations to match the current state of the market.

Source: Automotive New


Results of the American Customer Satisfaction Index Automobile Study 2022-2023, based on a random survey of 8,941 consumers, show increased satisfaction with nearly every facet of the vehicle they owned. Overall, Automobiles scored a 79 on the satisfaction index based on the survey results collected between June 2022 and June 2023, up two points from the previous year. Overall, Automobiles ranks in an eighth-place tie in consumer satisfaction with other industry sectors, trailing top-ranked Athletic Shoes by only two points.

Source: WardsAuto 


What About When We All Have One? 
“EVs must improve before automakers can justify the price differential for a broader audience,” he said. EVs were No. 1 in the survey, in the sub-categories of Technology and in Warranties, Morgeson said. The bad news is, EVs ranked last for dependability and customer expectations for reliability, and they have the highest complaint rate, according to [the latest customer satisfaction survey from the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Source: Forbes 


U.S. auto safety regulators on Monday proposed expanding and enhancing reminder systems to boost seat belt use and reduce traffic crash deaths and injuries that have been rising in recent years. The proposed new warning system by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would extend to both rear seat and front seat passengers and expand current warnings for the driver. It would apply to passenger cars, trucks and most buses that weigh 10,000 pounds or less.

Source: Reuters


Where are the electric convertibles? It’s time for summer cruises and drive-in movies, segueing into the time when crisp autumn air and colorful leafy backroads beckon. Such weather inspires many to enviously ply the auto market, pondering the possibility of a convertible. Could that open-air delight be an EV? The simple answer is no. There isn’t a single factory-made electric convertible offered in the U.S., and the best option for those who must have one now is likely a specialty conversion shop. Nor is there a single hybrid or plug-in hybrid convertible (unless you want to count the Jeep Wrangler 4xe) that might allow you to cruise a beachside strip and take in the people and the sound of the surf.

EV packaging is part of it
Building a from-scratch electric convertible or roadster is especially challenging. That’s because the future of electric vehicle production rests largely on so-called skateboard platforms—including the Hyundai Group’s E-GMP, for instance, or GM’s Ultium tech—that package a flat battery pack under the floor and between the axles. That allows different “top hats” to be designed and engineered over the skateboard with a minimum of changes to the skateboard. But sedans are challenging, and coupes and convertibles are even more daunting—simply because it’s hard to engineer a satisfying roadster or sport-sedan shape with several inches of the floor height dedicated to the battery pack down below.

For that reason, industry insiders have suggested to Green Car Reports that convertibles built on a legacy internal-combustion platform—or taking a non-skateboard approach—might actually be more likely for production, simply because they would overcome that dimensional challenge of squeezing a battery pack under the floor. That might mean using a T-shaped pack, or separating the pack into two modules front and rear; but in the EV world either of those approaches is going against the grain.

Weight and safety are other challenges
Crash-test hurdles are also higher for convertibles as it is, because they require portions of the car’s body structure other than the roof to bear more of the collision forces. Automakers in the 1990s and 2000s, when roadster popularity surged, came up with innovative safety tech to help shield occupants—pyrotechnic rollover hoops, for instance. But in an era of electric vehicles all of that hardware would need to be proven out for vehicles with much more weight thrown into the mix. Convertibles already tend to be heavier than coupes; add a hefty EV battery pack into the mix and the effect can be compounded.

Further, all this extra engineering costs a lot of extra money, and convertibles have limited appeal and therefore limited sales potential.

MG Cyberster: Leading edge of electric roadster 2.0?
With the Tesla Roadster 2.0 long overdue and likely starting around $200,000, the closest to a no-frills production convertible sports car is the upcoming MG Cyberster. 

The MG Cyberster is about two feet longer than the MX-5 Miata. Since the Cyberster packs a base 64-kwh battery pack and tops 4,000 pounds even in single-motor rear-wheel-drive form, it weighs around 1,700 pounds more than the U.S.-spec 2023 Mazda MX-5 Miata—or about as much as two original 1960s-era MGB roadsters. Up close at last month’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, it impressed more as an electric equivalent to the gasoline Jaguar F-Type convertible than to those smallest roadsters. 

The Cyberster won’t likely be U.S.-bound, though. MG recently told Green Car Reports that “there is no definitive answer” on whether the Cyberster might come to the U.S. eventually. For now, plans are limited to the U.K., Europe, Australia, and markets in Asia. The Cyberster was engineered in China by owner SAIC and will be built in Shanghai, although there was a lot of input from MG’s Marylebone, England, design team and there will be some local chassis-tuning input. With a starting price just above 50,000 British pounds (around $64,000), it won’t exactly be cheap either, but it might bring a new segment to life.

Future electric convertibles: A mirage at the moment
If you’re in Europe, there are a few convertible options now, or will be very soon. A Mini Cooper SE Convertible is now a production reality—in a very limited run of 999 vehicles—and Fiat is offering a convertible (fold-back-roof) version of the electric 500, called the 500C

In the U.S., it’s going to take a bit longer. Future product plans that even fit the convertible form are a rare breed. Examples of fully electric sports-car models set to arrive in the next several years include the Polestar 6 and a Porsche 718 EV—in addition to a number of very exclusive electric supercars.

In the high-priced luxury market, the Fisker Ronin due in a couple years might allow an open-air electric driving experience. Genesis has considered the idea of an electric drop-top with its X Convertible Concept from 2022. And Rolls-Royce has hinted that a Spectre convertible is a distinct possibility. This all still leaves the idea of a light-and-lean electric convertible on the table. At the time the current generation of the MX-5 Miata arrived, Green Car Reports pondered whether it’s the greenest new sports car. Looking ahead, Mazda first confirmed in 2021 that the next MX-5 Miata will have some form of electrification, and since then it hasn’t offered many, if any, hints of which powertrain a production version might have.

A fully electric version is probably the least likely. Perhaps with a small rotary range extender plus enough battery for a commute or backroad blast, Mazda could provide a check-all-the-boxes sports car where dropping the top keeps it simple.

Source: Green Car Reports


There's another charging connector transition underway that affects far more vehicles and exponentially more consumers. And it's coming to an instrument panel and rear seat near you — if it hasn't already arrived. The Universal Serial Bus-A connector — the thin, rectangular hole with the plastic tongue that's been a part of automotive equipment since 2006 — is being replaced by the smaller, more efficient USB-C. The USB upgrade has been ongoing in the larger world since 2014, with computer, cellphone and electronics manufacturers migrating steadily to the new standard. In the auto industry, the transition remains a work in progress.

Source: Automotive News


Hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles may not be dying as fast as some predicted in the auto sector’s rush to develop all-electric models. Ford Motor is the latest of several top automakers, including Toyota and Stellantis, planning to build and sell hundreds of thousands of hybrid vehicles in the U.S. over the next five years, industry forecasters told Reuters. The companies are pitching hybrids as an alternative for retail and commercial customers who are seeking more sustainable transportation, but may not be ready to make the leap to a full electric vehicle.

Source: Reuters

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