Americans Are Buying Cars Again

Connected-Car Hacking is a Perennial Worry and a Constant Fight

Automotive Weekly

Americans Are Buying Cars Again


Ford F-150

Ford Motor Co said on Thursday it will idle production of its highly profitable F-150 pickup truck at a plant in Michigan through Sunday due to the global semiconductor chip shortage. Ford and other automakers have stressed they are trying to protect production of its most profitable vehicles, but the loss of even some full-sized pickups shows the shortage has hit Ford where it least wants. Ford’s Dearborn, Michigan, plant will be idled from Friday through Sunday, and resume work on Monday. A spokeswoman declined to say how much volume would be lost.

Source: Reuters

Chrysler Pacifica Minivan

The global chip shortage slamming the auto industry will shutter the Windsor Assembly Plant, which has more than 4,500 workers, for a month, according to the union representing employees there. Unifor Local 444, in a Facebook post Thursday evening, said the plant, which produces the Chrysler Pacifica minivan, would shut down beginning Monday and urged workers to take direction from their supervisor. The newer version of the Ram 1500 is produced at Sterling Heights Assembly Plant. A decision to cut minivan production while maintaining production at SHAP could be seen in the context of the company trying to preserve for as long as possible its profitable truck sales.

Source: Detroit Free Press

BMW, Mercedes Keep U.S. Plants Humming

The semiconductor shortage that has been undermining worldwide auto production has spared the U.S. operations of two luxury manufacturers so far — the critical Southern assembly plants of Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Both operations say they have not been pinched by the chip shortages that have been halting production at companies including Stellantis, Volvo and Honda in recent weeks. Some analysts believe BMW and Mercedes-Benz are shielding their U.S. plants from the industrywide problem. The analysts say that is because the luxury makers' U.S. plants are simply too important to their well-being.

Source: Automotive News

Auto-Chip Maker Needs Up to Four Months to Recover From Fire

Japanese auto-chip maker Renesas Electronics Corp. said Tuesday it has found more damage from a recent factory fire and predicted it would take three to four months to recover full production. The latest forecast is more bad news for the auto industry, which was already struggling with a semiconductor shortage for months before the March 19 blaze at Renesas’ factory in Hitachinaka, Japan.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Chip Shortage impact adds up

The global shortage of semiconductors and winter storm that devastated Texas last month probably cost carmakers production of about 1.3 million vehicles this quarter, according to IHS Markit. The recent fire at major auto-chip maker Renesas Electronics Corp. could disrupt operations in Japan and the U.S. for at least a month, leaving the industry’s second-quarter output “as exposed” as in the first three months of the year, the researcher said in an emailed statement. Semiconductor supply may not stabilize until the fourth quarter, according to the firm’s analysts.

Source: Bloomberg


A possible listing of luxury division Porsche AG is not at the top of the agenda of Volkswagen, Chief Executive Herbert Diess told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an interview. “The issue of a Porsche listing currently does not have a high priority for me,” Diess was quoted as saying by the newspaper. Even if only a part of Porsche were to be freely traded, Volkswagen would lose a part of its cash flow, Diess said. “At the moment much speaks in favour of using the money for our structural change,” Diess said.

Source: Reuters


Volkswagen will claim damages from former Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn and former Audi boss Rupert Stadler over its diesel emissions scandal, the carmaker said on Friday, trying to draw a line under its biggest-ever crisis. The German company said that following a far-reaching legal investigation it had concluded Winterkorn and Stadler had breached their duty of care, adding it had found no violations by other members of the management board.

Source: Reuters


Criminals are savvy but automakers have backup from NHTSA, which is urging them to build cybersecurity into the entire vehicle development cycle.

  • More and more cars are becoming connected, but fears about hackers getting into your vehicle have been around for a decade, at least.
  • NHTSA's nonbinding Best Practices guidance, currently being updated, says automakers should use a "layered approach to vehicle cybersecurity," one that understands that some vehicle systems might get hacked but that will keep the hack from causing too much damage.
  • The UN has regulations concerning vehicle cybersecurity that will go into effect in Japan and South Korea in 2022 and in Europe in July 2024.

With greater connection comes greater vulnerability, and hacking a connected vehicle has long been a source of concern. In 2011, we wondered "Can Your Car Be Hacked?" and in 2017, we were asking "Can a Connected Car Ever Be Safe from Hacking?" Now, in 2021, the answer seems to be that maybe connected cars will always have at least some theoretical opening, but that doesn't mean automakers aren't trying and trying and trying to secure your car.

A March 18 story in the New York Times confirms just how tempting connected vehicles can be to hackers. A cybersecurity company called Karamba Security connected a vehicle electronic control unit (ECU) online and found that hackers made more than 25,000 breach attempts in three days. Only one succeeded, but what the hackers didn't know was that this ECU wasn't real; it was a trap to see who would try to hack in.

While hackers see value in trying to get into connected vehicles, having someone worm their way into your car is not exactly top of mind for people thinking about autonomous and connected vehicles. In 2019, PC Magazine conducted a poll of over 2000 people that found safety concerns and technology failures were the biggest fear when it comes to autonomous vehicles for 45 percent of respondents. Only 15 percent said hacking threats were their top fear.

Still, the auto industry and government regulators are constantly working to keep out the people who shouldn't be sneaking their way into connected cars. In January, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) asked for public comment on an update to a 2016 best practices document regarding NHTSA's nonbinding guidance to the automotive industry to make vehicles safer from cybersecurity threats. While NHTSA isn't forcing any automaker or supplier to take any specific steps, it does say that "a layered approach to vehicle cybersecurity, an approach that assumes some vehicle systems could be compromised, reduces the probability of an attack's success and mitigates the ramifications of unauthorized vehicle system access."

The United Nations has passed regulations about vehicle cybersecurity with more teeth, rules that force auto manufacturers to assess risk and report intrusion attempts in order to certify that their connected components are secure. The Times notes that this regulation will go into force in 54 countries, including in Japan and South Korea in 2022 and in Europe in July 2024. Given the global nature of the auto industry, though, the fact that the U.S. is not among the signatories for these rules isn't going to mean vehicles sold here won't have the same or similar defenses.

"The UN regulation is a global standard, and we have to meet global standards," a General Motors spokesperson told the Times.

Source: Car and Driver


Barrett-Jackson held its annual auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, over the weekend and this year there were several vehicles with final bids over the seven-figure mark, including a 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake previously owned by Carroll Shelby himself. It was the third time since 2007 that the car, bearing chassis number CSX3015, was sold by Barrett-Jackson and this time it went for $5.5 million. The price shouldn't come as a complete shock as another Shelby-owned Cobra 427 sold in January at a Mecum auction for $5.94 million.

Chassis no. CSX3015 started out life in 1965 as a Cobra 427 Competition race car. After a brief promotional tour in Europe, it was brought back to the United States the following year at which point it was converted into a road car and reclassified as a Cobra 427 S/C (Semi-Competition)—a process that saw it fitted with road-car items like a windshield, mufflers, and bumpers.

However, chassis no. CSX3015 also received Shelby's Super Snake designation, due in part to the addition of twin Paxton superchargers that boost output of the car's 7.0-liter V-8 to around 800 hp. Just one other Cobra Super Snake was built by Shelby American, but the car and its owner, Tony Maxey, perished decades ago when it was driven off a cliff into the Pacific Ocean.

There were also newer cars at the Barrett-Jackson that reached seven-figure territory. One was the 2022 GMC Hummer EV bearing the VIN ending in 001, which sold for $2.5 million. The vehicle, or more accurately the rights to the vehicle since Hummer EV production only begins this fall, was donated by General Motors and all proceeds from its sale will go to benefit the Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Foundation.

The 2021 Ford Bronco with the VIN ending in 001, a two-door variant, was also put up for a charity sale by Ford. It sold for $1.075 million, with all proceeds going to the National Forest Foundation and Outward Bound. The Blue Oval also donated the rights to the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 with the VIN ending in 001. The car sold for $500,000 at the Barrett-Jackson auction, with all proceeds going to JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). Other highlights included a matching-numbers 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 for $2.475 million, a 2018 Ford GT ’67 Heritage Edition that sold for $1.21 million and a 1965 Ford Shelby GT350 that brought in $962,500.

Source: Motor Authority


March 29 - German automaker Volkswagen AG’s U.S. unit confirmed Tuesday it will rename its U.S. operations as “Voltswagen of America” as it shifts its focus to electric vehicles. The revised name takes effect in May and the announcement came after several outlets on Monday reported on a draft release mistakenly posted on the automaker’s U.S. website. The German automaker has committed to sell one million EVs worldwide by 2025.

Source: Reuters

March 30 - Volkswagen of America’s purported name change to “Voltswagen” was an April Fools’ joke gone bad. On Monday, the automaker briefly posted, then removed, a draft press release on its website supposedly announcing it was changing its name to promote electric vehicles. VW then put out a media release Tuesday pledging to rebrand itself “Voltswagen” in the U.S. as “a public declaration of the company’s future-forward investment in e-mobility.” Later Tuesday, the company fessed up.

Source: Bloomberg

March 31 – The fake release could land Volkswagen in trouble with U.S. securities regulators because its stock price rose 5% on Tuesday, the day the bogus statement was officially issued. James Cox, who traches corporate and security law at Duke University said the SEC should take action to deal with such misinformation, which can distort stock prices.



Daimler AG shares have soared since the pandemic forced the Mercedes-Benz maker to postpone its annual shareholders’ meeting around this time a year ago. Its chairman’s swan song will still hit some low notes. Investigations into diesel emissions have been on the agenda of almost every supervisory board meeting of late, Chairman Manfred Bischoff wrote in a letter to shareholders ahead of Daimler’s annual meeting Wednesday. A separate European Commission probe into whether the company colluded with German peers Volkswagen AG and BMW AG on emissions technology also remains an important issue, he added.

Source: Bloomberg


Stellantis is looking at nearly tripling its global sales of electric vehicles this year, the head of holding company Exor, the carmaker’s main shareholder, said on Thursday. The world’s fourth largest carmaker targets global sales of 400,000 high voltage vehicles this year from 139,000 in 2020 thanks to the launch of 11 additional models, John Elkann, who also serves as Stellantis chairman, said in a letter to Exor shareholders.

Source: Reuters

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