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0:08 Manchin Bill Gets Blocked
0:47 EPA Gives Big Trucks Big Loophole
2:07 Goodbye Toyota e-TNGA
3:28 These Shoes Are Made for Walking
4:15 Mercedes First to Get SAE L3 Approval
5:09 Audi Reveals Big Off-Road Electric Concept
6:39 Is Audi Developing 4×4 EV Based on Scout Vehicles?
7:59 Ford Broncos Put Big Dent in Jeep Sales
9:02 What Tesla Learned from Selling Car Insurance
9:55 Lightyear Declares Bankruptcy
This is Autoline Daily, the show dedicated to enthusiasts of the global automotive industry.
MANCHIN BILL GETS BLOCKED
Yesterday we reported that Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat from West Virginia, introduced a bill to prevent foreign-made electric cars from getting US tax subsidies. Today, that legislation looks like it’s dead in the water. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat from Michigan, blocked the bill. And since Republicans are not going to come to the aid of a Democrat like Manchin, that effectively kills it. Senator Stebenow already announced she’s not running for reelection, so she doesn’t need to fear any retribution for going up against a powerful member of her own party.
EPA GIVES BIG TRUCKS BIG LOOPHOLE
The EPA issued stricter emission regulations for heavy-duty trucks for the first time in two decades. As we reported before, the new rules go into effect in 2027 and are 80% stricter. They’re expected to reduce NOx emissions by 45%. But now we’re learning of a loophole. Bloomberg reports that the standards are relaxed in colder temperatures, since pollution control systems don’t work as well in the cold. But they start relaxing the limits at only 77 degrees F, or 25 degrees C. Under 41 degrees F, the limits are scrapped altogether. The Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association successfully lobbied the EPA to include the loophole. It argued that the pollution controls would need more heat, which would use more fuel, which would boost greenhouse gas emissions. CARB and other environmental groups don’t buy that argument and want the EPA to get rid of it. In California alone, CARB says the loophole will result in an extra ton of NOx pollution per day in 2037, which is the equivalent of adding an extra 780,000 vehicles on the road.
GOODBYE TOYOTA e-TNGA
Well that didn’t take long, just a day after Akio Toyoda said he’s stepping down as CEO of Toyota, a report out of Japan says the company is developing a clean sheet EV platform. Akio was outspoken about not wanting to shift to EVs too quickly which drew criticism from environmental groups. Toyota is currently using its e-TNGA platform for EVs, like the bZ4x, which is a modified version of its modular ICE platform. But now it looks like the company is changing course and will go with a clean sheet EV platform. There aren’t many details about the new architecture but it’s expected to debut in 2027 or 2028.
THESE SHOES ARE MADE FOR WALKING
One supplier is turning automotive waste into something useful. Toyoda Gosei, which makes automotive components, teamed up with shoe maker, Asics, to come out with a shoe made from scrap airbag material and steering wheel leather. It looks like a pretty average sporty shoe design to us that could appeal to a wide range of people. And one of the big benefits is that the materials are difficult to recycle and would probably otherwise just be thrown out. The shoes are on sale in Japan right now for 16,500 yen or about $127. Toyoda Gosei says it also used airbag material and steering wheel leather to make bags, pen cases, and other products.
MERCEDES FIRST TO GET SAE L3 APPROVAL
Mercedes is the first and only automaker to receive SAE Level 3 certification for its DRIVE PILOT system in the U.S. When active it allows the driver to take their hands off the wheel and do other things. For example, apps can be opened in the infotainment screen that otherwise aren’t available while driving. But there are some limitations. Its certification is currently only for the state of Nevada and DRIVE PILOT will only work on certain sections of freeway at speeds up to 40 MPH. The system will also only be available on the S-Class and EQS to start with and those won’t be delivered until sometime in the second half of this year. But Mercedes says it’s filed the paperwork in California and hopes to get certification there sometime this year as well.
AUDI REVEALS BIG OFF-ROAD ELECTRIC CONCEPT
Audi revealed the fourth and final of its sphere concepts, the activesphere. It rides on the Group’s new PPE platform, which will be used for large electric vehicles from Audi, Porsche and Volkswagen. And this is a large vehicle. Think of this like an off-road version of the Cadillac Celestiq. The two EVs have roughly the same wheelbase and length. But the Audi is more SUV-like than the Cadillac. Or should we call this a truck? The back window can slide up and the tailgate folds down to reveal a small truck bed, large enough to fit a pedal bike. One of the cool pieces of tech we like is the active suspension system, which can raise the height by 40mm or a little over an inch and a half. But because of its EV construction, it looks like the body lifts away from the lower section that houses the battery. With the activesphere’s introduction, we’re also starting to get a better idea on PPE. It’s an 800-volt architecture that can support AWD. The activesphere features two electric motors, one in front, one in the rear, that combine for 325 kW or 435 horsepower. As well as a 100-kWh battery pack that’s said to return up to 600 kilometers or 372 miles of range.
IS AUDI DEVELOPING 4X4 EV BASED ON SCOUT VEHICLES?
And it looks like luxury off-roading could be on Audi’s agenda. The head of Audi design, Marc Lichte, told Autocar it’s working on a new electric 4X4. That should come as little surprise with the activesphere debut, but what is surprising is that he says the EV would ride on a platform from somewhere else in the VW Group. So, Autocar speculates that Audi could get its own version of the Scout vehicles. That would make it primed to take on the Mercedes G-wagon and Land Rover Defender. But it could be awhile. Those Scout EVs aren’t supposed to be out until 2026, so the Audis would have to come after that.
FORD BRONCOS PUT BIG DENT IN JEEP SALES
Next month Stellantis is going to idle its plant in Belvedere, Illinois because sales of the Jeep Cherokee have essentially collapsed. They fell 55% last year with sales totaling only 40,000 units, which is not enough volume to keep the plant open. Analysts generally attributed the drop to an old design that hadn’t been updated in years. But we think something else is going on here, and it’s called the Bronco Sport. Ford is selling about 100,000 of them a year and it sure looks like it bit a chunk out of Cherokee sales. And its bigger brother, the Bronco, looks like it’s hurting sales of the Wrangler, which fell 11% last year, while the Bronco surged 71%. Wrangler still has a commanding lead, with 181,000 sales to the Bronco’s 117,000. But Jeep’s glory days of meteoric sales growth might be over.
WHAT TESLA LEARNED FROM SELLING CAR INSURANCE
Elon Musk says that Tesla’s car insurance policy is forcing other insurance companies to offer better rates for Tesla’s. On the earnings call this week Musk told analysts, “Now the gigas of the world have to compete with Tesla and cannot charge outrageous insurance for Teslas.” Offering its own insurance gave Tesla better insight into how to design its cars to lower repair costs. Musk added, “It’s remarkable how small changes in design of the bumper and improving the logistics of providing spare parts for collision repair have an enormous effect on the repair cost.” Tesla earned $300 million in insurance premiums last year, and the business is growing 20% a quarter, which is faster growth than Tesla’s car sales.
LIGHTYEAR DECLARES BANKRUPTCY
Earlier this week, solar EV company Lightyear, announced it’s suspending production of its 250,000-euro Lightyear 0 model. And now we know why, the company says its bankrupt. When it revealed plans to idle production of the 0, it said it was shifting focus to its affordable Lightyear 2. But as of now, it doesn’t look like Lightyear will survive.
And that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching and have a great weekend.
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Seamus and Sean McElroy cover the latest news in the automotive industry for Autoline Daily.