Hyundai Reveals the 2022 Santa Cruz

Four doors and a box on the back of a compact vehicle

By Gary S. Vasilash

Of the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz, which will be available late this summer, Jose Munoz, president and CEO, Hyundai Motor North America, says, “Our customers will wonder just how they managed before owning one.”

He also says the vehicle “breaks open all new segment territory, both for Hyundai and the industry as a whole.”

What is it?

A compact crossover with a box on the back like a tiny pickup. The bed length is 48.4 inches on the upper level and 52.1 inches below.

Think of it as about four feet.

Really not much for those who are looking for a pickup-like capability.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz. (Image: Hyundai)

But to be fair to the Santa Cruz, a 2010 Ford Explorer Sport Trac has a bed length of 49.2 inches, so the Santa Cruz is right there.

Which leads one to wonder about opening up a new segment.

One could argue that although the Honda Ridgeline is positioned as a pickup truck, it is in many ways like an Accord with a 63.6-inch box on the back instead of a truck (and the reference to the Accord is a good thing).

Which leads one to wonder about opening up a new segment. Or living without it.

Oh, well.

Hyundai isn’t referring to the Santa Cruz as a pickup. Nor is it calling it an SUV. Rather, it is a “Sport Adventure Vehicle.”

When BMW brought the X5 to market in 1999, it didn’t like the “sport utility vehicle” nomenclature. So it insisted that the X5 was an SAV—a Sport Activity Vehicle.

That didn’t stick.

In customer research, Hyundai found that people—“often living in urban environments”—wanted something that they could use for stuff, whether it is stuff that they bought at REI or Home Depot. Throw and go: the bed is ready to accommodate whatever.

Again, not a whole lot of stuff, but if you’re living in an apartment in an urban setting, you don’t have a whole lot of stuff.

Hyundai makes comparisons of the Santa Cruz with pickups. When it comes to beds, there is really no comparison—the Nissan Frontier is the next shortest, at 59.4 inches.

The Santa Cruz is wider than the Frontier—75 v. 72.8 inches—and just a smidge narrower than the Toyota Tacoma, which is 75.2 inches. The Tacoma, however, is 212.2 inches long, compared with 195.7 inches for the Santa Cruz.

A comparison with a traditional pickup doesn’t really play to the potential advantages of the Santa Cruz.

Credit to Hyundai to delivering on the concept that it showed at the North American International Auto Show in 2015 in a manner that looks extremely close to the show car.

2022 Honda Civic Sedan Breaks Cover

Yes, small(ish) sedans still matter to some companies—and some consumers. After all, there were 55,903 Civics sold through March, and that is notable

By Gary S. Vasilash

While I must confess I don’t completely understand the “breaks cover” term for a vehicle reveal, it seems that that is de rigueur in headlines for events like that, so I figured I’d use it. Breaks cover.

2022 Honda Civic. It will become available later this year. (Image: Honda)

There isn’t a whole lot of information about what will be the eleventh generation of the venerable Civic (any car that’s been around for 11 generations gets that honorific—at the very least).

It will be a model year 2022.

The sedan will be produced at Honda of Canada Manufacturing, which is in Alliston, Ontario.

There will be a Civic Hatchback coming a few months after the Civic Sedan. It will be produced at Honda Manufacturing of Indiana in Greensburg.

Honda will offer more information about the Sedan on April 28, during its first 20th anniversary Honda Civic Tour event, headlined by H.E.R. One wonders whether the fans at the concert will be interested in specs of the songs.

This, of course, will be a virtual tour.

The car, which has, to remind you, broken cover, will be real.

The Polestar 2 Expands

New models mean the Polestar 2 is now 3–sort of

By Gary S. Vasilash

The Polestar 2—which comes from a company named “Polestar”—has now become three.

That is, there is the Polestar 2 Launch Edition, an EV with two electric motors. That’s one.

Now there will be two others: One that is the single motor Polestar 2.

The Polestar 2 (Image: Polestar)

Another that is a dual motor Polestar 2.

Which makes three.

Now the Launch Edition has motors on both the front and rear axles. It has a combined output of 408 hp. (Yes, it is an electric vehicle, but people are more familiar with horsepower than kilowatts. For now.)

Then there will be the Polestar 2 with one motor. The motor will be on the front axle. But rather than a motor with an output of 204 hp—as is the case for the Polestar 2 Launch Edition—the output of that motor will be 231 hp.

The third is the dual-motor Polestar 2, which, motor-wise, is like the Polestar 2 Launch Edition, but which can be ordered with different amenities, thereby permitting people to get into it for less than the price (although Polestar has yet to release pricing) of a Polestar Launch Edition.

Sometimes people complain about companies (think Audi or Cadillac) using alphanumerics instead of names.

This is one case where maybe that would be a better idea.

Chips: Yes There Is a Difference

Back in ’92, Michael Boskin, then Bush 41 economic advisor, said it didn’t matter whether a country produced potato chips or microchips. Guess what?

By Gary S. Vasilash

“CEO Summit on Semiconductor and Supply Chain Resilience.”

That’s what a meeting held yesterday in Washington and Cyberspace was named, which included CEOs from a number of companies, including General Motors, Ford and Stellantis.

The point is that there is no resilience in the supply chain for semiconductors.

Evidently it is something that hadn’t been deemed to be necessary.

But then there was the pandemic.

Then people suddenly started working from home. Students started studying from home.

And there was a recognition that—oops!—the home compute equipment wasn’t (1) up to snuff and/or (2) not in sufficient numbers to accommodate the whole family.

Meanwhile, people at companies like Sony and Microsoft were busy working on their new gaming consoles. And things like PlayStations and Xboxes require sophisticated microprocessors.

The auto industry shut down for a couple of months last year. There were thoughts that it would be down for longer.

When you’re not making cars and trucks you don’t need lots of things, from steel to tires to. . .semiconductors.

But the auto industry came back.

And the number of semiconductors on the shelves began decreasing—and not replenished just-in-time, or at any time.

Some vehicles were built without control modules that would be added later. Which is not exactly a tenable way of doing things.

So factories were put on hold. When you don’t have the parts, you can’t build the vehicles.

Consequently, the meeting in Washington.

Within the Biden $2-trillion infrastructure plan there is money—some $50-billion—for semiconductor manufacture.

Odds are, the $2-trillion infrastructure plan is going to remain just that. A plan. It is going to be difficult to get sufficient support to pass it.

President Biden told attendees at the meeting that there is bi-partisan support for addressing the semiconductor dearth.

There ought to be. Left or right, urban or rural, 99% or 1%–this country’s infrastructure is predicated on private vehicle drivership and everyone needs one (or economic access to one).

As vehicles get more technologically sophisticated, the number of chips needed is only going to grow.

If this issue isn’t significantly and substantially addressed, then not only is this going to affect the vehicle manufacturers, but everyone who would like to get a new vehicle.

Creating a Micromobility Company

A surprising story about the use case for electric mopeds

By Gary S. Vasilash

Matt Brueggeman says that when he was growing up in suburban Chicago, his family had three Chevy Tahoes. He acknowledges that they were good vehicles. But he also admits that it occurred to him that the Tahoe wasn’t the most efficient vehicle to transport a single person to, say, go visit a nearby friend or to go pickup a carton of milk.

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, where he studied Chinese, he moved to Beijing for six years.

While there the absurdity of the Tahoe really became evident to him, as he watched people riding on electric mopeds.

The Flux EM1: It won’t replace a car. But it offers an alternative for those quick trips. (Image: Flux Mopeds)

When he returned to Madison he and his colleagues decided to start a company to allow people to sensibly take local trips. Brueggeman is the co-founder and CEO of Flux Mopeds.

With time, research and development they came up with the Flux EM1. It is an electric moped that has a limited range—50 miles on two batteries. A limited top speed—38 mph. A limited capacity—300 pounds.

It also has a comparatively limited MSRP: $2,400.

And on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” Brueggeman talks about how the vehicle came to be and how it is doing in the market. He talks with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, John Beltz Snyder of Autoblog Green and me.

Brueggeman explains that while the mopeds are produced in China there was extensive engineering developed in the U.S. He says that while the owner of a moped in China can get a broken part fixed by a corner repair shop, that’s not the case in the U.S., so they’ve engineered the units to be as robust and reliable as possible.

He says that the company is keeping its costs down by not selling through dealerships and not carrying inventory: it is build to order.

And while you might think that this is a vehicle that would be on college campuses or being ridden in downtowns by urban hipsters, Brueggeman says that the big market for the company is. . .RV owners. (Why tow a car when you can stick an EM1 on the back?)

If you’re interested in micromobility, you’ve got to watch this show. Right here.

Would It Be Called the “iCar” or “Apple Car”?

That assumes it (1) is a car and not a different type of vehicular architecture and (2) comes to exist

By Gary S. Vasilash

Apple’s head Tim Apple Cook talked with the New York Times’ Kara Swisher earlier this week and had some interesting comments about what is reportedly known as “Project Titan,” the Apple vehicle project that seems to be one of those on again, off again undertakings.

There is something, based if nothing else than the fact that there are Apple-owned vehicles that are racking up miles in California, according to the state’s DMV.

Three interesting quotes from Cook:

  1. “An autonomous car is a robot.” Generally we think of robots as things that have arms, not tires. But in terms of the sensors and processors and the fact that it is meant to perform specific tasks under various conditions, that is indeed the case.
  2. “We love to ingrate hardware, software and services, and find the intersection points of those because we think that’s where the magic occurs.” Perhaps this indicates that if there is going to be a vehicle, there is going to be some serious vertical integration going on: Apple doing most of it. (Which leads to the question about producing the vehicle, because this is a difficult thing to do. Of course, there are no capital constraints that Apple would face in terms of facilities, resources and people, so maybe it could pull a DIY.)
  3. “We investigate so many thinks internally. Many of these never see the light of day. I’m not saying this one will not.” Of course, he’s also not saying this one will. For some reason motor vehicles (that’s motor as in “electric motor”) have become interesting things to all manner of tech companies. Remember when Detroit was dismissed as the “Rust Belt”? Now it seems that vehicle development and manufacturing—although not necessarily being done in the Rust Belt—seems to be an appealing thing for tech companies large and small, from lidar companies none of us have ever heard of to, well, Apple.

Remember When Nissan Was Noticeable?

Not all that long ago the Japanese Big Three were Toyota, Honda and Nissan. Nowadays the last-named seems to have lost its momentum in the market while the other two keep driving forward. Why?

By Gary S. Vasilash

“Remember when driving was fun?” actress Brie Larson opens a new Nissan commercial rhetorically asking before she blitzes her way through the array of new vehicles that Nissan has launched, or is about to.

At one point she’s being the wheel of the Z Proto and acknowledges that there are three pedals down there. Enthusiasts will get it. Others may be confused.

Will Brie boost Nissan? (Image: Nissan)

Nissan is rolling out 10 new or improved products over 20 months, so its showrooms will be fresh with sheet metal.

For those who are interested in one-pedal driving, Larson drives in a Nissan Ariya, the new EV that is anticipated to launch this year. (EV drivers will get it. Others may be confused.)

Although Nissan showed improvement in the first quarter, with its sales up 14.8% from Q1 2020, it really isn’t a good reflection of what it has on offer right now.

Consider: the Nissan Division had sales of 266,482 units. That’s Versa, Sentra, Altima, Maxima, LEAF, 370Z, GT-R, Kicks, Frontier, Titan, Pathfinder, Armada, Rogue, Murano, NV, and NV200.

Ford sold 277,233 trucks. F-Series, Ranger, E-Series, Transit, Transit Connect, and Heavy Trucks. 203,797 of those were F-Series.

What accounts for Nissan’s lack of traction in the market is certainly mystifying.

The question is whether Captain Marvel will save the day.

The Auto Market Right Now

Yes, it is hot, as the pent-up demand looks for a release valve. But. . .

“The quarter ended strong, setting the market up for an incredible spring from a demand perspective, with $1,400 stimulus payments starting to be issued, tax refund season beginning, rising consumer sentiment because of the vaccination progress, and, literally, it is spring which normally causes people to think more about buying vehicles. All those things are coming together right now, and the industry would likely be setting all-time sales records if it were not for tight supplies and elevated prices.”—Jonathan Smoke, chief economist, Cox Automotive

It’s that second thing that can be troubling.

According to Experian, in 2020 U.S. consumer debt was $14.88 trillion, which is a 6% increase compared to 2019 and the highest growth rate in more than a decade.

And of that, auto loan debt was at an all-time high of $1.35 trillion, a 3.8% increase over 2019.

Gen X has the largest auto loan debt balance, at $22,307, followed by the Boomers, at $19,306, which is just ahead of the Millennials, at $19,011.

(Seems like Gen X is big on debt, as it leads all generations in all categories, including credit card debt, student loans and mortgages.)

Toyota, Subaru and “Ever-better Cars”

A new 86/BRZ is being launched. But this is about a different approach

By Gary S. Vasilash

Toyota and Subaru developed a car that is tailored for each brand’s character, the 86 for Toyota and the BRZ for Subaru. The collaborative vehicle, which was launched in 2012, is built by neither, but by Magna in a plant in Austria.

The companies have introduced the new version of the vehicle, the GR 86 for Toyota and still BRZ for Subaru.

Toyota GR 86 (Image: Toyota)

What is interesting to note about this is that the companies have developed the rear-drive vehicle with a bigger engine—no surprise there—but they’ve gone from a 2.0-liter to a 2.4-liter that produces 232 hp.

Yes, bigger, but not in the least bit like the mill that would be likely installed in an American performance vehicle.

(Performance? According to Toyota, 0 to 100 km/h (this is a global intro, so km) in 6.3 seconds. This is an improvement from the previous car, which was 7.4 seconds.)

This is a lithe vehicle: it weighs just 2,800 lb.

If it is like the previous generation—and it probably is—then when you’re behind the wheel you feel like you’re wearing it, not just driving it.

This is a sentence from the press release that is worth pondering: “Going forward, Toyota and Subaru intend to further ally their respective strengths, deepen their relationship, and so pursue the possibilities of making ever-better cars.”

It isn’t often you hear car companies about creating “ever-better cars.”

Strange that they don’t.

Laudable that Toyota and Subaru do.

Automotive Encyclopedias

A historian and a design strategist walk into a virtual studio. . . .

By Gary S. Vasilash

If a person who was interested in a career in the auto industry did just one of the things that Karl Ludvigson has done in his time on the scene, that would be a notable accomplishment.

Ludvigson has been a:

  • Designer at General Motors
  • PR guy at GM
  • VP of Corporate Affairs at Fiat Motors of North America
  • Technical editor of Auto Age and Sports Car Illustrated
  • Editor-in-Chief of Car and Driver
  • VP of Ford of Europe

And there are more items on his resume.

In addition to which he has been deeply involved in motor sports, which has given rise to a book shelf worth of tomes on racers including Jackie Stewart, Juan Manuel Fangio, Emerson Fittipaldi and more.

He has written another shelf’s-worth on companies including Porsche and Ferrari, on specific vehicle, and even on vehicle components.

His knowledge of the auto industry is, in a word, breathtaking.

Ostensibly, Ludvigson came on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” to promote his most-recent volume, Fast Friends, in which he writes about an array of people who he had the opportunity to know. But functionally, Ludvigson shares a portion of his wealth of knowledge not only about people he has known, but about the design and development of a number of important vehicles.

Joining him on the show—in addition to “Autoline’s” John McElroy and me—is Jim Hall, a walking Wikipedia of automotive knowledge and recent GM retiree, who was working on strategic design before he departed the automaker.

This is a show where the depth of discussion of, primarily, the recent past of the auto industry is discussed, although how those developments have come to affect what is on the road today is revealed, with a particular emphasis on automotive design, which Ludvigson and Hall are particularly well-versed in.

And while this may sound as though it may be a dry recitation of what once was with a glance at what is, know that it is anything but.

And you can see the show in its entirety here.