Analysts from Edmunds, the vehicle shopping research firm, have discerned some clues in the market that they feel bode well for consumers. (They have also found some not-so-good things, like the unlikelihood of getting a lease deal and rising interest rates, but let’s put those things aside.)
Edmunds found that while the average transaction price (ATP) for a new vehicle hit a record high in November, at $47,681, November was the first month since July 2021 that the ATP was below the Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP).
The average MSRP in November was $47,696.
So $15 to the consumer’s side of the ledger.
For buyers of large trucks, there was an average save of $1,210.
However, on the other end of the spectrum, compact cars, there was a price $703 higher than the MSRP.
Go big, save big(gish). Go small, pay more.
The ATP for the large truck was $61,076 and that represents a ~2% saving from the MSRP.
The ATP for a compact car was $26,398, or a ~3% premium over the MSRP.
That said, the folks at Edmunds think that if you’ve been waiting for a time to buy, that time might be right now.
Although some think of Honda as a Japanese company—yes, that’s where its HQ is located, so there is that—in 2021 Honda produced 1,300,804 cars, trucks and SUVs in North America and just 615,587 in Japan. Or said another way: more than twice as many in North America.
Honda opened two research facilities in the U.S. in 1975. One in Torrance, California, where American Honda is headquartered, and a test lab in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Even though it has a massive manufacturing footprint in Ohio—Marysville Auto Plant, East Liberty Auto Plant, Performance Manufacturing Center, Anna Engine Plant, Ohio Transmission Plant—the next facility it opened was in. . .Denver, Colorado, in 1980, an operation that focuses on high-altitude emissions tests and catalyst aging. The most recent: this year, in East Liberty, Ohio, HALO: Honda Automotive Laboratories of Ohio. It is a wind tunnel facility that performs aerodynamic, aeroacoustics and racing testing.
That, Tony Roma, chief engineer of the Cadillac CELESTIQ, says was the mandate he and his team received from GM management to develop a vehicle for the brand that is more like an aurora borealis than a mere halo.
This is a full-size uber-lux electric vehicle that customers will commission, not simply buy.
It is a sedan that has aluminum mega-castings at the base of its overall structure and an exterior skin made primarily with carbon or glass fiber panels. Roma says that the doors are made with SMC—because the material is transparent to radar, and there are radar units in the doors. Yes, the vehicle is also ladened with plenty of technology, including Ultra Cruise, which will allow hands-free driving in multiple driving scenarios, going well beyond the Super Cruise that GM offers in Cadillacs and other brands.
The CELESTIQ has an 111-kWh Ultium battery pack and a two-motor, all-wheel drive system that generates an estimated 600-hp and 640 lb-ft of torque: Roma says that the car goes faster in a straight line than a CT-5 Blackwing—but the vehicle, he says, is powered such that it provides confidence for the driver and is not meant to have performance for performance’s sake.
This is not simply another vehicle in the Cadillac lineup: the companies benchmarked for the CELESTIQ included Rolls-Royce and Bentley. The pricing for the vehicle is on the order of $300,000+.
Roma says that the production rate of the hand-built vehicles—and the building is going to occur not in a factory, but at the GM Global Technical Center in a special clean-room like facility that is called the “Artisan Center.” The company has made an $81-million investment for producing the vehicle. Within the Artisan Center there will be no more than six vehicles being built at any given time.
Speaking of the development of the vehicle Roma says, “This is all-in house. We didn’t write a check [to another company] and put our badge on it.”
The CELESTIQ, in effect, is a vehicle that makes a statement that Cadillac is a brand that is competitive at the highest echelon within the auto industry.
Roma talks about the engineering that goes into the CELESTIQ on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, Frank Marcus of MotorTrend and Richard Truett of Automotive News.
It is arguably one of the most comprehensive insider looks on what will be a landmark vehicle, not only for Cadillac, but for the overall auto industry.
While Jeeps have been rolling along—literally and figuratively—since 1941, and while the competitors have come, gone, and come back again, it seems that the brand has essentially stuck to its knotting,* building vehicles that allow drivers the freedom to go places where other vehicles would fail to get beyond the parking lot.
Jeeps now come in a wider range than ever, with the iconic Wrangler at one end of the spectrum and the Grand Wagoneer at the other.
Spend some time driving a Wrangler on the highway and you’re going to hope that you get to your destination sooner rather than later—and you’re going to hope that the destination includes some serious off-road driving.
Spend some time driving a Grand Wagoneer and you’re going to hope that you get to your destination eventually (no hurry)—the comfort and amenities make the term “first class” seem numerically weak.
To help get a better understanding of what is this on-going phenomenon, on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” we talk with Jim Morrison, senior vice president and head of Jeep brand North America.
Morrison was appointed senior manager of Product Marketing for Jeep in 2010 and he has been involved with Jeep in several positions since, getting his current one in 2019.
Like other vehicle brands, Jeep is making the transition to electrification, with current plug-in hybrid versions of the Grand Cherokee and Wrangler (both with the nomenclature 4xe) proving themselves to be well accepted in the market.
Jeep has announced that there will be a full battery electric vehicles coming by 2024, the Jeep Recon and the Wagoneer S (with the latter name being a place holder as the Jeep community is getting an opportunity to provide potential names for the vehicle).
Morrison talks about where Jeep has been—and where it is going—with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, Roman Mica of TFLcar, and me on this edition of the show.
Last year at the Honda Performance Manufacturing Center (PMC) in Marysville, Ohio, there were 124 Acura NSX sports cars produced. That was a smidge off the volume built in 2020, which was 128.
Perhaps because it was the proverbial and actual end-of-the-line for the NSX, through October 2022 there were 236 built.
These numbers are probably useful to keep in mind regarding an announcement that Honda made today:
It will produce a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (FCEV) at the PMC starting in 2024.
The vehicle will be based on the current Honda CR-V crossover.
In addition to hydrogen for fuel, it will also have plug-in capability.
Gail May, who is the PMC plant leader, said, “This facility is perfect for the production of a new Honda fuel cell electric vehicle, as our small-volume capability enables us to really leverage the skill and expertise of our team to produce quality zero-emissions vehicles here in North America.”
No doubt, there is superb craftsmanship.
But doesn’t the mention of small volume and the numbers of NSXes built give you the feeling that there aren’t going to be a whole lot of FCEV crossovers?
To be fair, however, according to stats from the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, if you’re looking for a public hydrogen refueling station and you don’t live in the proximity of either San Francisco or Los Angeles, you might wand to find an alternative mode of transportation.
One of the aspects of the industry’s transition to electric vehicles that doesn’t get a whole lot of attention is that suppliers are responsible for large portions of a vehicle, so as there is the move from internal combustion engines to electric motors, as there is an increase in the importance of software, suppliers need to undergo a transition. . .or they will find themselves under water in short order.
However, making the switch isn’t like throwing a switch.
There are existing competencies within an organization—the things that allowed it to be selected as a supplier in the first place.
But now those competencies, while not completely irrelevant—let’s not lose sight of the fact that internal combustion engines aren’t going away for several more years—are less important within a supplier’s portfolio.
And there is the abiding issue of having the financial wherewithal to make the change, both from the standpoints of people and installed base of capital equipment.
Regardless of what list of the top suppliers you consult, you’ll find ZF right up there.
Martin Fischer heads up ZF’s operations in North America.
He describes what ZF is now as “a technology supplier to the mobility industry.”
Were you to ask someone in the industry about what ZF is just a few years ago, they’d probably answer, “The company that makes those impressive eight-speed automatic transmissions.”
While the company continues to produce those eight-speeds, Fischer says on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” that they’re not going to be making more investments in eight-speeds.
There are other things on the agenda.
Fischer says the focus today is on technologies related to autonomous driving, electric drive systems and components, and integrated safety, technologies that are both physical and digital.
To help the company move to new places, Fischer says they first started out with small teams that developed products, then integrated those people into the larger company so that everyone becomes involved.
The classic portfolio that ZF has had is undergoing a significant change, with everything from controllers that it is collaborating with NVIDIA on to electric motors to steer-by-wire systems and more. Not the sort of things that one might imagine a “classic” supplier would have the wherewithal to do–at automotive scale and quality.
What ZF is doing is essentially a masterclass in maintaining relevance in a changing industry.
That’s because those trucks were in the semifinalist category, too, and as there are groups of three. . .
As for the cars, there is something of an interesting divergence.
There are the Acura Integra, the Genesis G80 EV and the Nissan Z.
The Integra and the Z are both sporty cars from brands that are, comparatively speaking, well established.
Genesis is a comparatively new marque. And not only is the G80 EV an (obviously) electric vehicle while both the others have internal combustion under their hoods, it is more of a stately, stylish sedan, not something that would likely end up as a screensaver on the gear of pre-licensed teens.
And then there are the utilities.
All electric vehicles:
The Cadillac and the Genesis are both in the luxury category, while the Kia is a mass-market vehicle.
The LYRIQ is Cadillac’s first major step toward becoming an all-electric company. The GV60 is the first purpose-built EV for the Genesis brand (e.g., there is a non-EV G80). And in the case of Kia, it is no stranger to EVs, as it has had both the Niro and Soul with that powertrain option for a few years.
Every year the NACTOY judges have some challenging choices. This year I’d say they are particularly demanding.
One thing is certain, however: an electric powertrain will certainly be under the hood of one of the winners, and it is completely possible it could run the table.
*I am a NACTOY juror, so I don’t want to make any specific predictions beyond that EV one.
The last Acura NSX, a Type S, was built today at the Performance Manufacturing Center (PMC) in Marysville, Ohio.
The NSX–this, the second generation–has been in production since 2016.
The supersports car is powered by a hybrid that combines a 520-hp, twin-turbo V6 with a motor generator in the rear and a twin traction motor in the front, all of which means the NSX has a combined horsepower of 600.
And while no one probably spent too much time thinking about this who had the chance to drive one, the EPA fuel economy ratings are 21 city, 22 highway and 21 mpg combined.
The car has a top speed of 191 mph and gets 21 mpg.
Today’s build was #350 of 350.
The associates at the manufacturing center are now building the 2023 Acura TLX Type S PMC Edition. There will be a build of 300.
Noise-canceling headphones work not by adding something like the hissing of white noise to take the place of the annoying sound that you’re trying to minimize, but by, well, canceling the noise.
That is, sound takes the form of waves. The headphones determine that nature of those waves then generate a counterwave which has the effect of canceling the original wave.
Automotive OEMs have been using tech of this sort to make the cabins of cars quieter. Again it is a matter of detecting the noise that is to be eliminated, creating a counter wave, then playing it through the speakers of the audio system.
So sound is waves, or vibrations.
There is something else that vehicles encounter that create vibrations: road surfaces. Because they are not absolutely smooth, there are some vibrations. Because most ordinary roads are far from being absolutely smooth, there are lots of vibrations.
What about detecting those vibrations and then setting up counter vibrations in the suspension system?
That is, simplistically put, what Massachusetts-based ClearMotion is doing with a system that is one part software and one part mechatronics. The software portion takes care of determining what the vibrations are that need to be countered; the mechatronics portion produces the motion that is necessary to perform the task. There are four Activalve units for a given vehicle, one on each corner.
Christian Steinmann, ClearMotion CEO, says that not only does the setup provide a smoother ride—something that will be increasingly important as there are increased levels of autonomy, which means that people will be able to do things like read or watch videos rather than keeping their eyes on the road—but it enhances the overall handling of the vehicle.
Steinmann talks about the system on this edition of “Autoline After Hours.” Joining “Autoline’s” John McElroy and me is freelance auto journalist Jack Nerad.