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0:08 U.S. Using 6% Less Gasoline a Day
0:58 Hyundai & Kia Have Theft Solution
1:38 GM Signs Big Chip Contract
2:58 Subaru Completely Redesigns the Crosstrek
4:15 VW Eyes PHEV Or BEV U.S. Pickup
5:05 M-B’s PHEV Maybach
6:05 M-B Wants Your Car to Get to Know You
7:19 80% Of BEVs Could Use Gigacastings
8:29 Mustang Gets Carbon Wheels
9:15 China Exports Record EV Batteries
10:02 U.S. Robot Sales Set Record
This is Autoline Daily, the show dedicated to enthusiasts of the global automotive industry.
U.S. USING 6% LESS GASOLINE A DAY
Looks like electric cars are really having an impact. Americans are using less gasoline and demand will not return to pre-pandemic levels. The Energy Information Administration says the U.S. used 8.78 million barrels of gas a day last year, which is a drop of 6% compared to before COVID. And the EIA expects gas consumption to continue to fall this year and next. Another reason for the drop is that Americans are driving about 10% less than before the pandemic, since more people work remotely or have a hybrid schedule. Another reason is that ICE cars are more fuel efficient. But it’s also because more and more people are buying electric vehicles.
HYUNDAI & KIA HAVE THEFT SOLUTION
No doubt you’ve heard about all those Hyundais and Kias getting stolen. Well, there’s a software fix on the way. Some models built before 2020 didn’t have an engine immobilizer, which prevents the car from starting if the key isn’t near the vehicle. Owners of those vehicles were hit with a wave of thefts after videos on social media showed how to start cars with a fairly simple hack. State Farm and Progressive insurance companies even refused to insure those cars in some states. Hyundai and Kia say they have a fix and they’re now equipping all new vehicles with immobilizers.
GM SIGNS BIG CHIP CONTRACT
Looks like that $52 billion Chips and Science Act is showing some real results. General Motors signed a deal with the semiconductor maker GlobalFoundries to get the chips it needs. And that includes GM’s suppliers. GlobalFoundries will make the chips at an existing factory in New York under a 3-year agreement. Even though the number of chips going into cars is growing, GM is going to chop the number of unique chips it uses by 95% and make them in higher volume to lower costs. The Chip Act was enacted last summer to bring chip manufacturing back to the U.S. and was passed with strong bi-partisan support.
SUBARU COMPLETELY REDESIGNS THE CROSSTREK
Subaru pulled the wraps off the all-new Crosstrek for the American market at the Chicago auto show. It’s about the same size as the outgoing model, so it looks fairly similar, but in our opinion all the angles have been dialed up a notch and the grille is bigger too. The use of more structural adhesive improves chassis stiffness by 10%, which Subaru says should provide better ride and handling. Two engines are available; a 2.0L or 2.5L 4-cylinder. The 2.0L makes 152 horsepower, while the 2.5L makes 182 horsepower. And both are mated to a CVT, which means the Crosstrek’s manual option is dead. Hill start assist, hill descent control, AWD and electronic power steering are all standard. The updated interior falls in line with other new Subarus and is highlighted by a large center screen laid in portrait mode. Because the manual trans is gone, the Crosstrek’s base price is up, but at just over $26,000, including destination, it’s only about $70-bucks more than a comparable 2022 model.
VW EYES PHEV OR BEV U.S. PICKUP
Looks like Volkswagen is stepping up its pickup truck game. In January, we reported about plans to make an electric pickup based on the Ford Ranger that will be for markets outside of the U.S. But it also has something in store for North America. Executives for the company say they’re exploring an electrified pickup, either PHEV or fully electric, for the U.S. that would leverage existing platforms within VW. Specifically, the Atlas and Taos were mentioned, along with “other platforms that we have not launched yet.” A decision on the truck will be made in the second half of the year. But one thing is for sure, it won’t be gas or diesel only.
M-B’S PHEV MAYBACH
Maybach is releasing its first plug-in hybrid, a version of the Mercedes S-Class sedan. The Maybach S 580 e features a 367 horsepower 3.0L inline 6-cylinder engine, paired with a 110 kW or 150 horsepower electric motor, which combine for a total output of 510 horsepower. Mercedes claims a 0-100 km/h time of 5.1 seconds. Working with a 28-kWh battery back, range is estimated at 100 kilometers or 62 miles on the WLTP cycle. The S 580 e will initially be available in China, followed by Thailand, Europe and other countries. But Maybach won’t wait around too long to introduce its next EV. It says it will present its first fully electric model as early as this year.
M-B WANTS YOUR CAR TO GET TO KNOW YOU
Mercedes is offering an over-the-air update for its MBUX infotainment system that adapts to the driver’s behavior. The system remembers typical settings and routes and will suggest personalized infotainment, comfort and vehicle functions that are tailored to specific driving situations. The update also places functions automatically on the screen if they are relevant with the help of artificial intelligence. The free OTA update is available for C- and S-Class models built in 2021. And the feature is standard on all models built after that.
80% OF BEVS COULD USE GIGACASTINGS
We already knew that the gigacastings Tesla is using replace about 140 separate stampings in a car. Idra, the company that makes the giant casting machines that make those castings, tells Reuters that they can cut the cost of a chassis by 40% and the cost of the parts that go on the chassis by 30%. Idra has orders for gigapresses from three unnamed automakers, but Reuters reports that one of them is the Hyundai Group. Idra also predicts that 80% of BEV platforms will use them by 2035. Maybe that’s why Idra is now facing competition from the Buhler Group in Europe, the Ube Corporation and Shibaura Machine in Japan, and Yizumi and Haitian in China. Even so, Idra says fixing a design flaw is a lot easier with a bunch of smaller stampings than with one giant casting. And maybe that’s why automakers like Volkswagen and BMW are not interested in using gigacastings.
MUSTANG GETS CARBON WHEELS
Mustang is getting a new pair of lightweight shoes. Ford announced a collaboration with Carbon Revolution on a unique set of carbon fiber wheels that will be available on the new Dark Horse version of the Mustang. They’re 19-inch wheels that weigh about 20 pounds each, which is 37% lighter than Dark Horse’s aluminum wheels. Ford says they’re the first production carbon wheel from Carbon Revolution with the wheel with lug nuts located between spokes and the first to use blue fiber, which is located near the rim, between the spokes. No price was given, but a set of carbon fiber wheels still easily sits in the $5-10,000 range. Sometimes more.
CHINA EXPORTS RECORD EV BATTERIES
China is using its dominance in EV batteries to become an export powerhouse. Last month it exported nearly 8 gigawatt hours of batteries, with about 85% of them being NMC batteries. Presumably the rest were LFP. One gigawatt hour is the equivalent of a million kilowatts. So if we assume an average battery pack size of 70 kilowatt-hours, then China exported enough batteries to make over 114,000 BEVs in one month. Look for that to go up even more. CATL and BYD are the top two battery makers in the world, and they’re adding more capacity.
U.S. ROBOT SALES SET RECORD
With a super tight labor market, more and more companies are buying robots to get the work done. North American companies bought an all-time record of 44,100 robots last year worth over $2.4 billion. More than half of those robots were ordered by automakers and suppliers and a lot of them are going into new plants to build electric vehicles. Even though robot orders slowed in the fourth quarter, the underlying demand for them should stay strong. The U.S. unemployment rate is now the lowest it’s been since 1969, and the tight labor market shows no signs of letting up.
And that brings us to the end of today’s show. Thanks for joining us and I hope you have a great weekend.
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Seamus and Sean McElroy cover the latest news in the automotive industry for Autoline Daily.