Listen to “AD #3545 – U.S. Running Out of Space for New Plants; ATP Down for 1st Time in Nearly 2 Years; Ford Cars Drive Themselves Off the Assembly Li” on Spreaker.
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0:00 U.S. Running Out of Sites for New Plants
1:15 ATP Down for 1st Time in Nearly 2 Years
2:17 Mercedes Nearly Doubled EV Sales
3:32 Ford Expands BlueCruise to Europe
4:24 Ford Cars Drive Themselves Off the Assembly Line
5:29 New Zeekr X Meant to Take on Tesla
7:27 VW Improves Its EV Drive Unit
8:08 SUVs More Likely to Injure Bike Riders
9:07 Volvo Using Special Sun-Like LEDs
This is Autoline Daily, the show dedicated to enthusiasts of the global automotive industry.
U.S. RUNNING OUT OF SPACE FOR PLANTS
Since the Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law, the auto industry has committed more than $120 billion in electric vehicle and battery manufacturing investments in the U.S. And while that’s great for creating new jobs and hitting environmental goals, there’s one big problem with all these new plants, there’s not enough large pieces of land to build them on. There is a lot of open space in the U.S., but there are not many places to put factories on what are called “megasites.” These are locations with at least 1,000 acres of land, have access to transport, renewable energy and a skilled workforce. Reuters spoke to one site selection executive who says there are fewer than two dozen megasites still available across the country. And it can take years to create new ones because of environmental regulations or local opposition. So companies will have to settle for smaller sites or hurry up and secure what’s available now.
ATP DOWN FOR 1ST TIME IN NEARLY 2 YEARS
With record prices for new vehicles in the U.S., it should come as no surprise that car payments are reaching all-time highs. According to Edmunds, the average new car payment in the first quarter of the year was $730 a month, that’s up from $656 a year ago. And consumers paying more than $1,000 a month are on the rise too. In the first quarter of 2021, 6.3% of car buyers paid at least that much, but in the first quarter of this year that jumped to nearly 17%, which is a record. But hopefully this is a sign that payments will ease up. The average transaction price for a new vehicle was just over $48,000 in March according to Kelley Blue Book. That was down 1.1% from February and it was the first decrease in nearly 2 years.
MERCEDES NEARLY DOUBLES EV SALES
Like its rival BMW, Mercedes significantly boosted sales of its fully electric vehicles in the first quarter. It sold 51,600 BEVs, up nearly 90% compared to a year ago. That total was less than BMW, which sold nearly 65,000 BEVs in the first three months of the year. EVs now account for 10% of Mercedes’ overall sales. But unlike BMW, which saw its sales dip 1.5% in Q1, Mercedes sales were up 3% overall to more than half a million units.
FORD LAUNCHES BLUECRUISE IN THE UK
Ford launched its hands-free Level 2 driver assistance system, called BlueCruise, in the U.S. and Canada in late 2021 and now it’s making its way to the UK. The Mach-E just received regulatory approval to operate on roadways in Great Britain with BlueCruise on. Ford says there’s currently 3,700 kilometers or 2,300 miles worth of pre-mapped roads where the technology will work. But it has plans to expand in the future, including more roads as well as other countries and models. However, payment will be a little different. In the U.S. and Canada, owners pay $600 for a 3-year plan that unlocks BlueCruise. But in the UK, users will pay a monthly subscription of 18 pounds.
FORD CARS DRIVE THEMSELVES OFF THE ASSEMBLY LINE
Speaking of Ford and self driving, it’s testing cars that can drive themselves off the assembly line in Germany. The technology doesn’t use any of the car’s sensors, but rather relies on 140-200 cameras installed around the plant to detect people or objects around the vehicles. It allows them to drive off the assembly line to a final testing station and then finally to a parking area before being shipped off to customers. It’s even testing how EVs could drive themselves to a robotic charger, so they have a full charge when they arrive at the dealership. We already know it takes less people to make EVs and incorporating technology like this could require even fewer people to make cars. And we’ve seen other automakers use similar technology, so it’s likely to become more widespread, but that could take a little while. Ford says its test will last for 2 and a half years.
ZEEKR X MEANT TO TAKE ON TESLA
Chinese automaker Zeekr, which is a premium EV brand owned by Geely, is going to expand into Europe and just showed off an all-new electric crossover, called the Zeekr X. It’s powered by either a single 200 kW or 268 horsepower electric motor or a dual motor AWD setup that puts out 315 kW or 422 horsepower. That version will do 0-100 km/h in 3.7 seconds. All models feature a 66 kWh battery pack, which provides up to 560 kilometers or nearly 350 miles of range. Priced at under $30,000, the Zeekr X is meant to take on Tesla and other premium EV makers and by launching into Europe this year it hopes to double its sales, which came in at 72,000 vehicles in 2022.
And be sure to join us for Autoline After Hours this afternoon. Our special guest is Ken Morris, the head of Electric, Autonomous and Fuel Cell Vehicle programs at General Motors. So for an inside look into GM’s future technologies, join us at 3PM eastern time today on our website or YouTube channel.
VW IMPROVES ITS EV DRIVE UNIT
Volkswagen is introducing a new rear electric drive for its ID family of vehicles. The company says the new drive offers higher performance while also improving efficiency. The new powertrain has an output of 210-kW or 281 horsepower and maximum torque of 550 Nm or 405 lb-ft, depending on the vehicle’s gear ratio. VW says it was able to improve the efficiency with a new cooling system that operates without an electric oil pump. The new drive will debut in the ID.7 before the end of the year.
SUVs MORE LIKELY TO HURT BIKE RIDERS
Automakers have improved the safety of SUVs so they’re not as dangerous to other vehicles in an accident. But the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or IIHS says companies need to do more to protect cyclists. SUVs tend to knock riders down, where they could be run over, instead of vaulting them onto the hood like a sedan. That’s because of SUVs higher point of impact. The IIHS says ground-pact injuries, which can cause head injuries, are twice as likely to happen in SUV crashes rather than ones with cars. In 2010, there were 621 bicyclists killed on U.S. roads, which jumped to 932 in 2020. The IIHS says that’s likely because there are more trucks and SUVs in the U.S. vehicle fleet.
VOLVO USING SPECIAL SUN-LIKE LEDs
Volvo is bringing the power of the sun into its vehicles. The upcoming EX90 will feature 72 special LEDs that are called SunLike LEDs, which are said to provide a near-sunlike experience on the interior. Volvo claims this makes the colors on its interior look more natural, helps magnify the aesthetics of the interior and even says it can reduce eyestrain and headaches. The Polestar 3 will also use SunLike LEDs.
And that brings us to the end of today’s show. Thanks for joining us and please like, comment or subscribe.
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Seamus and Sean McElroy cover the latest news in the automotive industry for Autoline Daily.