How Important Are Trucks to Ford?

In a word: Very

By Gary S. Vasilash

Microchip shortages notwithstanding, despite dealer lots with fewer vehicles on them, Ford reported a sales increase for the month of November of 5.9% compared with November 2020.

In terms of what people bought in November, the F-Series, which will be the best-selling vehicle for its 45th consecutive year, is absolutely essential to the total U.S. sales.

(Image: Ford)

The company sold a total 158,793 vehicles (Ford and Lincoln brands).

It sold 3,767 cars. 72,795 SUVs. And 82,231 trucks.

Of the trucks, F-Series accounts for 60,418 units.

All of Lincoln had sales in November of 6,405.

All of Ford SUVs consisted of 66,390.

So there’s F-Series, with nearly 10x the sales of Lincoln and almost equal to the sales of the EcoSport, Bronco Sport, Escape, Bronco, Mustang Mach-E, Edge, Flex, Explorer, and Expedition combined.

The nameplate that is second to the F-Series in sales for November is the Explorer.

There were 18,268 Explorers sold.

Yes, the F-Series makes that much of a difference.

Without it the total November sales would have been 98,375.

Not nothing.

But not as impressive as it is.

A Box of Springs for the Holidays

Who needs another gaming console?

By Gary S. Vasilash

Let’s say that you want to give that auto enthusiast in your life something special for the holidays. Really special.

You could get that person a sweater. Which will probably be ugly.

But that won’t necessarily be really special.

Unless you opt for a sweater from Mopar, yes that source of more than 500,000 parts and accessories for your favorite Jeep, Ram, Dodge and Chrysler vehicles.

One thing to know about the people of Mopar: They are nothing if not authentic.

So this is what that sweater is all about:

Mopar ugly holiday sweater ($66.95 – see link): Custom-knit design sweater features various Mopar logos with engine and racing icons, surrounded by blue and white snowflakes. The Omega M-stacked Mopar logo is front and center and each sleeve carries the 426 Hellephant crate engine logo. Available in sizes small to 3X.  

No punches pulled there.

But what strikes me as being most amusing authentic is the JPP 2-inch lift kit for the Wrangler 4xe.

(Image: Mopar)

Yes, the four springs, four FOX shocks, front lower control arms, front and rear stabilizer links, front and rear bump stops, JPP badge and various fasteners, all contained in a crate, is absolutely something that the adventurous owner of the Jeep plug-in hybrid would be happy to get.

Still, it does seem odd, “Oh, this is great! A box of springs for Christmas!”

By the way, if you decide to go for the Jeep lift kit know that you can get free shipping within the continental U.S. through December 31 if you shop at store.Mopar.com and use the promo code FREEDEC75.

That’s because they’re offering free shipping on orders more than $75 and that kit will set you back $1,495.

The free shipping is also good at WearMopar.com, but you’ll have to add something to your sweater order to bump it up a few bucks.

That shouldn’t be a problem.

Major Commercial Euro EV Truck Order

This is a serious commitment to electric logistics

By Gary S. Vasilash

DB Schenker has been around since 1872, moving things first between Vienna and Paris, then, with time, around the world. Clearly the company knows what it is doing to have existed for so long.

It is not unusual for a logistics company to announce that it is buying some electric trucks. Generally the number announced is not all that large. After all, when you are being depended on by someone to get whatever from here to there within a set period of time, you don’t want to depend on some technology that is still somewhat new.

It is one thing for someone to have an electric passenger car.

It is entirely another for a company that could be moving critical goods to put it on an electric 16-tonne electric truck.

Note the clever cab design of the truck–high visibility for the driver to make driving in city centers (or “centres”) easier. (Image: Volta Trucks)

So it is notable that DB Schenker has announced that it is purchasing 1,470 such trucks to transport goods from distribution hubs to city centers from Volta Trucks.

Volta Trucks?

A Stockholm-headquartered company established in 2017. An objective of the founders is to “decarbonize last-mile logistics and to make city centre environments safer, more pleasant and sustainable places to live and work.”

And to do so with the development of commercial vehicles like the Volta Zero.

DB Schenker will be working with Volta to develop a 12-tonne variant of the Zero, as well.

The logistics company will test a prototype of the Volta Zero during the spring and summer of 2022, then the learnings from that will be rolled into the production trucks.

It will utilize the vehicles at 10 locations in five countries.

Cyrille Bonjean, executive vice president, Land Transport at DB Schenker said, “The large-scale partnership with Volta Trucks allows us to significantly increase the pace of electrification of our fleet and invest in greener transport solutions, brings us closer again to our goal of carbon neutral logistics.”

Cox Finds EV Interest Not Yet Sparking

Sure, there are lots of people who want to buy Teslas, but one brand does not a solid segment make

Cox Automotive took a look at what real people think about their likelihood when it comes to the possibility or potential of their buying an EV the next time they’re in the market for a new vehicle and it seems that they are more likely to buy an ICE-powered pickup truck or SUV.

That is:

  • 38% are considering an EV within the next 12 months. Let’s face it, all of us consider lots of things. But when it comes to actually signing the documents. . . .
  • 21% say they are >50% confident their next vehicle will be an EV. There are a couple of ways of looking at this. Is the 21% a subset of the 38%. Or are these confident people, people who are likely to buy a new vehicle. . .oh, sometime.
  • 3% are 100% confident their next vehicle will be an EV. It so happens that 3% is the share of market that EVs will have this year.

Here’s something that’s not surprising:

If an EV is available for $5,000 less than a comparable gasoline vehicle, 71% will consider the EV.

Price is the second-highest barrier to buying, at 51% citing EVs and being too expensive.

The others are:

  • 57% think there’s not enough charging stations in their local vicinity
  • 42% are worried the battery won’t hold a charge
  • 41% are concerned with the cost of potential battery replacement (shouldn’t that be 42%, or is it that 1% who are worried about the lack of a sustained charge will just live with it?)
  • 37% still have range anxiety—although the positive news for EV purveyors is that two years ago 47% cited low range as a concern

Here’s something that ought to be of concern of the marketers at Nissan (LEAF) and Chevy (Bolt EV): 63% of those surveyed don’t know that Nissan offers an EV and 69% are unaware that Chevy has one in the showroom.

Oddly enough, 21% are aware of and considering a Toyota EV. Which leads one to wonder whether this is in anticipation of the bZ4X coming next year or that there are actually people who are aware of the fact that although the Mirai is powered by a fuel cell, it actually is an EV, just not a BEV (battery electric vehicle).

Startling Projected Sales Numbers

This is what happens when there’s little supply and plenty of demand

By Gary S. Vasilash

Back in November 2020, the Centers for Disease Control determined, “The overall weekly hospitalization rate is at its highest point since the beginning of the pandemic, with steep increases in adults aged 65 years and older. Based on death certificate data, the percentage of deaths attributed to PIC for week 48 was 12.8% and, while declining compared with week 47 (18.6%), remains above the epidemic threshold.”

In other words, horrible times.

As we come forward to now, here is something that seems nearly inexplicable: J.D. Power and LMC Automotive estimate that new-vehicle retail sales in November 2021 will be 12.6% lower than they were in November 2020.

Thomas King, president of the data and analytics division of J.D. Power, explains, “For November—as has been the case since August—new-vehicle sales are being constrained by available inventory.”

Less to buy.

King continues, “Retailers continue to sell a large proportion of vehicles almost as soon as they arrive in inventory. This November, a record of nearly 55% of vehicles will be sold within 10 days of arriving at a dealership, while the average number of days a new vehicle sits on a dealer lot before being sold is on pace to fall to 19 days, a record low and down from 48 days a year ago.”

Think about that. A year ago vehicles were on lots for nearly 30 days longer than they are now.

And the people on the short end of the proverbial stick are customers. The research firms estimate that average transaction prices—the prices actually paid by people—will be $44,043, which is 18.1% higher than they were in November 2020.

As a result, the total retail profit per vehicle will hit a record $5,164, which is up $3,060 last year.

$5,164 now. $2,104 then.

And then there’s this:

Two years ago, November 2019, COVID wasn’t even on the radar of most people.

Yet the J.D.P.A. and LMC estimate that the total aggregate profit from new-vehicle sales in November 2021 will be 226% higher than in November 2019.

Keep that in mind when you visit the nearly empty lot of your local dealer. You might think they’re hurting. But that may not be the case.

Dashing Through. . .Manhattan

Santa rolls in style with Ram

By Gary S. Vasilash

When Santa arrives at his destination at Macy’s on West 34th at Herald Square, his sleigh will have traveled the 2.5-mile route down Central Park West to Columbus Circle to Central Park South then 6th Avenue to West 34th to the end, he will have been pulled not by reindeer (after all, the sleigh is earth-bound, not in the air) by a Ram 1500 Limited (RAM)RED Edition.

Propelling Santa through NYC. (Image: Ram)

That’s right: Not Rudolph, but Ram.

Ram is the Official Truck of the 95th Macy’s’ Thanksgiving Day Parade and Ram trucks will tow all of the floats, as it has done for the previous six years.

It is worth knowing that Ram Trucks, along with partner brands Jeep and FIAT, have committed a minimum of $4-million between 2021 and 2023 to the Global Fund to help fight health emergencies with (RED).

(RED), established in 2006, has funded HIV/AIDS programs. It is now expanding to help deal with the COVID 19 pandemic.

Credit to (RED). And in this case, Ram.

GM Takes to the Water

Electric vehicles don’t all have to have wheels

By Gary S. Vasilash

From 1919 to 1979 General Motors owned Frigidaire, the appliance company that made, primarily, refrigerators.

Toyota was once cracked for making “appliances.” GM once did, literally.

(The Toyota comment was related to the fact that its designs were rather innocuous, like those white rectangles that are in kitchens and laundry rooms. Of course, a positive spin would go to the point that many major appliances are often highly reliable. . . .)

GM has announced that it is taking a 25% ownership in Pure Watercraft.

Seattle-based Pure Watercraft make boats.

But not your ordinary run-of-the-lake boats but electric boats. For the sake of argument, these are not “EBs” but bona fide “EVs.”

Said Dan Nicholson, GM vice president of Global Electrification, Controls, Software and Electronics, “GM’s stake in Pure Watercraft represents another exciting opportunity to extend our zero-emissions goal beyond automotive applications.”

The company recently announced that it is working with Wabtec Corp., a locomotive builder, providing batteries and its hydrogen fuel cell technology.

So obviously they’re serious about “beyond automotive.”

If you think back to the last time you were trying to take a snooze on a beach and then a boat with a massive outboard came blasting by, the whole notion of the silent running of a battery-powered boat seems all the more understandable.

At the very least the GM investment is going to expand scale to boat electrification, which should make it more accessible to more people.

And let’s face it: GM’s involvement in watercraft makes a whole lot more sense than refrigerators.

Developing the ’22 Toyota Tundra

The inside story from the vehicle’s chief engineer

By Gary S. Vasilash

Let’s face it: Trucks have a pull on people in a way that is almost unimaginable. Who—outside of someone who either has a vocational reason (contractor, landscaper, etc.) or who has an avocation that makes a truck a necessity (putting a snowmobile in the box; having the torque and capability for pulling a trailer)—really needs a truck?

If you take a look at the numbers of trucks sold the answer to that question seems to be “Damn near everyone.”

Toyota, while not the leader in the truck sales segment by any means, has long been building things that have remarkable capabilities, like the Land Cruiser that has been going to places in the world that are simply extreme.

Hybrids are generally associated with fuel efficiency. An objective of the hybrid in the Tundra is not to pay tribute to the Prius, but to provide the kind of torque that truck drivers like. (Image: Toyota)

It does build the midsize Tacoma which is a leader in that segment despite the best efforts of GM and Ford. Yet GM and Ford best Toyota in the full-size truck segment (with the Silverado, Sierra and the F-150).

But Toyota continues on with the Tundra. And has just launched an all-new truck which, coincidentally enough, now shares its underpinnings with the Land Cruiser.

One could argue that neither Ford nor GM has anything that is in the Land Cruiser category, so that is something serious to be said about the 2022 Tundra.

On this edition of “Autoline After Hours” Mike Sweers, executive chief engineer in charge, among other things, of the Tundra, talks about how this new truck was developed with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, Joe DeMatio of Hagerty, and me.

Sweers is not only an engineer, but he happens to live on a small farm. Consequently, for him a truck isn’t just something he works on from the development point of view, but something that he uses in his off-hours. (Does someone who develops pickups and then uses a pickup at home ever really have off-hours?)

From how the suspension is setup so that it doesn’t “ride like a truck” to why they decided to use a composite box (e.g., it doesn’t break or corrode like aluminum and steel do) are among the topics that Sweers discusses.

And what is interesting to know is how a guy who really, really wanted a diesel (and Toyota has a new 3.3-liter diesel) discovered that a hybrid powertrain setup met his requirements for torque.

You can see it all here.

Kia Introduces Angular EV Concept

What the American family may be rolling in sometime in the not-too-distant future

The Concept EV9 is a concept EV SUV that Kia has introduced. It is a three-row vehicle that is 194 inches long, 81 inches wide, 70 inches high, and has a 122-inch wheelbase. It rides on 22-inch wheels.

Kia Concept EV9: a three-row family hauler with an EV powertrain. (Image: Kia)

While it is not clear exactly what the battery or motor are, according to Kia the Concept EV9 has a 350-kW charger that would allow the battery to go from 10 to 80% in 20 to 30 minutes. The driving range is said to be 300 miles.

The design of the vehicle is based on Kia’s “Opposites United” design language.

It seems that it might be influenced by a Ford Flex having a collision with a Tesla Cybertruck.

NACTOY Announces 2022 Finalists

There are some very, very good vehicles out there. . . .

By Gary S. Vasilash

Sitting on a plane this afternoon I was asked a question that many of my colleagues get from someone who finds out that we write about the auto industry:

“What kind of car should I buy?”

Once it was fairly easy to provide an answer, a specific make, a specific model.

And now, arguably, it has gotten somewhat easier.

My answer:

“Whatever kind of car you like.”

It is clear that with some outliers, the quality of cars, trucks and utes the are available on the market right now as really good. It would be hard to go wrong.

The game for all of the OEMs has been elevated.

There is not only attention being paid to quality but also value and features that consumers want.

The OEMs are providing vehicles that are not only things that people need to get to work or school or to run errands, but vehicles that people actually want to drive.

That as prologue, it is worth knowing that today the jurors of the North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year (NACTOY) awards announced the finalists for the 2022 awards.

The vehicles are:

Car

  • Honda Civic
  • Lucid Air
  • Volkswagen Golf R, GTI

Truck

  • Ford Maverick
  • Hyundai Santa Cruz
  • Rivian R1T

Utility

  • Ford Bronco
  • Genesis GV70
  • Hyundai IONIQ 5

These nine vehicles were winnowed by the 50 jurors from magazines, newspapers, websites, and television and radio station from a group of 23 semifinalists.

What’s interesting is that in all three categories there are electric vehicles: the Lucid Air, the Rivian R1T, and the Hyundai IONIQ 5.

There is a compact sedan (Civic) and a set of hot hatches (the Golf R and GTI).

There is a pair of trucks that have a compact footprint (Maverick and Santa Cruz), something we haven’t seen for years.

There is a utility that is designed and engineered to take on the tough trails (Bronco) and another that have high levels of refinement (GV70).

It would be hard for a consumer to go wrong right now in the market (assuming that they can actually get a vehicle due to the supply chain issues).

It would be impossible to go wrong making a selection from that list.

(Full disclosure: I am one of the 50 jurors.)