Forecasters expect U.S. auto sales to decline in August 2021 vs. August 2020, because new vehicles are in relatively short supply, and factories can’t seem to keep up. The ongoing computer chip shortage, and the global rebound in coronavirus cases, are disrupting auto industry supply chains. At the same time, consumer demand is robust. Dealers report they could sell a lot more cars and trucks, if only they had the inventory. High retail prices are the other result of high demand and low supply.
Porsche customers can now access the entire U.S. dealer inventory from the internet to find their perfect next vehicle. On Thursday, Porsche Cars North America announced it has expanded its Porsche Finder (finder.porsche.com) e-commerce platform to list the inventory for all of its 193 U.S. dealers. Porsche Finder also lists the options of each vehicle. It lets customers estimate trade-in values based on Kelly Blue Book data and compare Porsche Financial Services financing options, including a payment calculator and a credit application. Last year in May, Porsche Finder added the full inventory of used and certified pre-owned vehicles at its U.S. dealers.
Source: Motor Authority
General Motors will keep its Orion Assembly plant idled and not start repairs on the nearly 141,000 recalled Chevrolet Bolts EVs and EUVs until it is confident its supplier can make a defect-free EV battery that does not pose a potential fire risk. And right now, GM does not believe its battery-maker, LG Chem, can do that. GM and LG Chem have "hundreds of people" working around the clock, seven days a week, to find the cause of the defective battery modules connected to some Bolts catching fire without impact, said GM spokesman Dan Flores.
Source: Detroit Free Press
Ram trucks topped J.D. Power’s ranking of new vehicles by quality for the first time ever. Across the industry, the annual study showed drivers complained the most about new high-tech features, such as infotainment systems. Dodge landed in second place, with Lexus and Mitsubishi tied for third for new vehicle quality. Toyota’s luxury Lexus brand was the highest-ranked luxury vehicle brand, followed by Hyundai’s Genesis. Ram and Dodge trucks are both produced by Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler.
In the better-late-than-never column, Ford is reportedly working up a hybrid version of the original Mustang coupe and plans to have it in showrooms by 2025. That news was presented to dealers during a meeting in Dallas last week, according to reports in Automotive News and elsewhere. Ford has not confirmed the report and normally refuses to comment on future product programs — except those that it decides to make public.
Source: The Detroit Bureau
Premium brands occupy most of the low spots in the customer-survey-based 2021 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study in which the Ram pickup truck ranks No.1 with the fewest reported problems. It may seem ironic that many luxury brands lag behind mainstream nameplates, but there are a couple of logical explanations for that, says Dave Sargent, J.D. Power’s vice president-automotive quality. First, upmarket vehicles contain more new and complex technology. “Customers tend to struggle with it,” he says. It’s less of an issue than something not working right.
Volkswagen AG on Tuesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse an Ohio court ruling that cleared the way for the state to move forward with a lawsuit over its diesel emissions scandal and manipulation of emissions-control systems. The German automaker previously asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review an appeals court ruling that said two counties could seek diesel-related financial penalties that could total billions of dollars. That request is pending.
While much of the effort to extend the distance EVs can travel on a charge is centered on batteries, the industry should also set its sights a little lower in the vehicle, says the head of Australian wheel maker Carbon Revolution. Specifically, Carbon Revolution CEO Jake Dingle says his company's one-piece carbon fiber wheels could add significant range for electric vehicles. They're the only company that makes them.
BMW AG is set to effectively bail out its flailing Chinese joint-venture partner. For the German carmaker, that’s a smart move. Beyond alleviating the debt troubles of its China partner’s parent, premium carmaker BMW’s move to pick up production assets out of the restructuring in its biggest market is a clever one — especially right now. With this potential purchase, the German company can make more quality cars at increasingly affordable prices. That’s in keeping with Beijing’s focus on “common prosperity,” or a more equitable distribution of incomes across the country.
Volkswagen’s U.S. unit has agreed to a $42 million settlement covering 1.35 million vehicles that were equipped with potentially dangerous Takata air bag inflators, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Miami. The settlement is the latest by major automakers and much of the funding goes to boosting recall completion rates. To date, seven other major automakers have agreed to settlements worth about $1.5 billion covering tens of millions of vehicles.
As electrification gains momentum, automakers like Porsche are looking to synthetic fuels as a way to keep the internal-combustion engine alive. Proponents claim these fuels will offer lower emissions than conventional fossil fuels, and will be compatible with current gasoline cars. But is it too good to be true?
Jason Fenske, host of the YouTube channel Engineering Explained, thinks so, and in recent video he laid out a few reasons to be skeptical of synthetic-fuel claims. Synthetic fuels are supposed to be better than gasoline or diesel because they are allegedly carbon neutral. The production process involves capturing carbon and combining it with other elements. Ideally, carbon capture would cancel out the emissions from actually burning the synthetic fuel. One problem with this is the amount of energy needed to create synthetic fuel. If the energy used doesn't come from renewable sources, synthetic fuel is no cleaner than gasoline. That's backed up by a study published earlier this year, which said synthetic-fueled vehicles may cause more carbon emissions than battery-electric vehicles, in part because producing synthetic fuels requires more electricity than charging a fleet of EVs.
Synthetic fuels also require similar infrastructure to fossil fuels for production and transportation, making the whole process inherently less efficient than charging an electric car. Fenske concludes that synthetic fuels might be a better fit for aviation or marine applications than cars—something we've noted in a range of pieces on the topic, pointing to the simple math of energy density and the great weight of bringing enough battery cells along for the ride.
There is still quite a lot enthusiasm for automotive synthetic fuels, however. Startups have sprouted over the potential viability of synthetic fuels in the laboratory, attracting the interest of automakers like BMW and McLaren. Porsche recently claimed that synthetically-fueled vehicles can be as clean as EVs (based on lifecycle emissions), and the automaker is backing a synthetic-fuel plant in Chile. However, Porsche CEO Oliver Blume has admitted that synthetic fuel is currently much more expensive than gasoline.
So with California's shift away from internal-combustion vehicles by 2035 and the Biden administration's target for 50% BEVs, plug-ins, and fuel-cell models by 2030, is there a place for synthetic fuels?
Source: Green Car Reports
Honda Warns Dealers
Honda is warning U.S. dealers that vehicle deliveries to retailers could fall by 40 percent in the coming weeks compared with previous estimates, due to parts supply problems out of Asia, according to a letter sent to retailers. The letter, which was confirmed by a dealer who expressed disappointment over the cuts, said the resurgence of the coronavirus in Southeast Asia had converged with already-tight microchip supplies to impact Honda production more than had been expected.
Source: Automotive News
Daimler Cuts Production in Europe as Chip Shortage Bites, Report Says
Daimler is extending reduced working schedules at Mercedes-Benz factories in Germany and Hungary as the global shortage of semiconductors continues to impact automakers. Volkswagen also said this week it will extend production cutbacks at three German plants into September due to a lack of chips. Daimler will halt production next week at its German factories in Bremen and Rastatt and in Kecskemet, Hungary, the German News Agency (dpa) reported on Friday. Output will be reduced at the automaker's home plant in Sindelfingen, Germany.
Source: Automotive News
Chip Supply warning
Japan’s Rohm Co. says that vital semiconductors for automobiles and industrial machinery will likely remain in short supply at least throughout next year, adding to ominous warnings about further fallout from the global chip crisis. The Kyoto-based chipmaker, whose customers include Toyota Motor Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co., has been hampered by a severe shortage of key materials as well as full production lines, said Chief Executive Officer Isao Matsumoto. The most severe bottleneck is a lack of materials like those required to make leadframes – the metal structure inside a semiconductor unit that communicate signals with the outside of the package.
More down time for F-150
Ford Motor Co. on Wednesday informed employees that it would be extending downtime for the nation's bestselling vehicle, the F-150 pickup, and scaling back production of some of its largest, most-profitable models because of the ongoing semiconductor shortage. The automaker said in a memo that the truck side of its Kansas City Assembly Plant, where workers build the F-150 pickup, will remain down the week of Sept. 6. Truck production there has been idled the past two weeks.
Minivan Plant idled
Stellantis has once again idled production at its minivan plant in Windsor, Ont., due to the ongoing global shortage of semiconductors. The plant will be down the weeks of Aug. 30 and Sept. 6, according to the union that represents hourly workers there. “This chip issue has been a disaster; very frustrating,” Unifor Local 444 President Dave Cassidy said in a post on the chapter’s official Facebook page. Stellantis resumed regular output at the factory on July 5, after being idle nearly every day since March 29.
Ford’s Microchip Crisis Arose From A Bad Bet And A Poorly Timed Fire
The microchip crisis has persisted for months now, impacting Ford more than any other North American automaker. With no end in sight until at least next summer and perhaps even longer, it’s worth asking why this microchip crisis happened in the first place, as well as how long we can honestly expect it to last. The origins of the semiconductor chip shortage can be traced back to the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring when lockdowns forced the temporary closure of manufacturing facilities across the globe. Automakers like Ford canceled chip orders, anticipating a major slowdown in sales amid the pandemic as travel decreased significantly, as Vox recently reported.
At the same time, demand for 5G devices, gaming consoles, and laptops skyrocketed, particularly as more people were suddenly working from home, which caused tech companies to order more chips. Once automakers realized that consumers weren’t in fact going to stop buying new vehicles, it was too late, as those stockpiles had been depleted and semiconductors can take up to six months to produce.
There are many other obstacles to recovery from the chip shortage as well. For starters, the cost of shipping has increased tenfold since the onset of the pandemic, according to BBC News. Chipmakers have been running at maximum capacity for months, trying to make up the shortfall, and are investing millions to expand production even further. Unfortunately, that process takes years to complete, especially for U.S.-based chipmakers like Intel that are looking to get into automotive chip production.
As Ford Authority reported last month, Ford’s production has been stymied even further thanks to a recent fire at a Renesas chip plant in Japan. According to Blue Oval executives, 75 percent of Ford’s 50 percent loss in Q2 production can directly be attributed to the fire, which nine of the automaker’s Tier 1 suppliers rely on.
Unfortunately, there is no easy or quick fix for these problems, which is why Ford and a number of chipmakers believe the shortage will persist until at least next summer, and likely even longer than that.
Source: Ford Authority
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