Not As Big 3 for SUVs

Toyota leads in SUV sales in the U.S.–by a non-trivial amount

By Gary S. Vasilash

Although it might seem that when it comes to trucks and SUVs, “trucky” things, that Ford, General Motors and the company formerly known as FCA which was formerly known as Chrysler, would be dominant.

When it comes to pickups, yes. The numbers of F-150s, Silverados and Rams is truly extraordinary. Who knew that so many people were in need of boxes on the back of their vehicles? (Yes, people who actually do work with their trucks, do, but somehow that guy down the street who uses the bed to carry mulch once a year. . . .)

According to analysis firm Inovev, SUVs represented 53.5% of the U.S. market during the first quarter.

Toyota RAV4: best selling SUV in the U.S. (Image: Toyota)

And of them, most carried the Toyota “T.”

Inovev notes that Toyota has outsold both Chevy and Ford by about 50,000 units, with Toyota sales being just shy of 250,000 units and the other two slightly below 200,000 for Q1.

Inovev points out that Toyota also leads the Big Three in the sedan category (Camry, Corolla).

So if there are three big categories–trucks, SUVs and cars–the Big Three is now only dominant in one.

Something Surprising About SUVs

Yes, they are selling in the U.S. and Canada in great numbers, but the Mexican market still likes cars, LMC finds

By Gary S. Vasilash

Although SUVs (yes, including crossovers under that omnibus name) continue to proliferate in the U.S. and Canadian markets, turns out that things aren’t quite the same in the other USMCA country, Mexico.

According to LMC Automotive, while SUV sales surpassed those of cars in Canada in 2015 and in the U.S. in 2016, in 2020 cars outsold SUVs in Mexico. And not just by a little.

Nissan still sells cars in Mexico. (Image: Nissan)

The LMC data show that cars outsold SUVs by more than 2:1.

That said, there is growth in SUV sales in Mexico notes LMC Americas Vehicle Sales Forecasts analyst David Oakley, but there is an issue: “The overarching obstacle is cost, with SUVs still carrying a larger price tag than many high volume cars.”

Complicating matters for Mexican consumers is the fact that Ford and Chevrolet have pretty much given up on cars, about which Oakley says, “these brands seem to have jumped the gun with regard to Mexico’s readiness for such a shift.”

Although it is estimated that cars and SUVs will reach parity in sales by 2030 in Mexico, there are still several years of sales between now and then, sales that will probably go to brands like Hyundai and Nissan.

2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV

Advanced tech in a car for today

Although General Motors is bullish on the whole notion of people driving around in electric vehicles (EVs), for the most part that’s something that is off into the future because there aren’t a whole lot of EVs out there for people to drive—vehicles from GM or any other OEM, for that matter.

GM has had the Bolt EV in dealerships since 2017, a compact car. Compact cars of any type aren’t exactly high on the lists of consumer gotta-haves, and let’s face it: GM’s offering in this space hasn’t been such that people are likely to think when they go out shopping, “Hmm. . . I think I’ll go check out GM compact models.”

Which is to say that the company needs to modify its approach, and with the Bolt EUV it has done that—a bit.

2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV: Second EV in the Chevy lineup. (Image: Chevrolet)

According to program engineer Rob Manitian, the Bolt EUV shares no sheet metal with the Bolt EV. That said, the Bolt EV has undergone a midcycle refresh so in its new execution, it has a different look, as well.

The rationale for the Bolt EUV is to make the vehicle have more of a “utility” appearance, because if there is something that market wants—and that Chevy has on offer from small to medium to large—its something that seems “utile.”

Seems is pretty much the operative word for the Bolt EUV when it comes to utility vis-à-vis its stable mate.

That is, the Bolt EUV is bigger than the Bolt EV:

The EV has a wheelbase of 102.4 inches; the EUV 105.3.

The EV has an overall length of 163.2 inches; the EUV 169.5.

The height difference is just 0.2 inches.

The size difference is manifest in the rear legroom:

The EV offers 36 inches; the EUV 39.1.

But here is where the seems kicks in: Cargo volume.

The cargo volume behind the rear seat in the EV is 16.6 cubic feet and it is 57 cubic feet with the rear seat folded.

The cargo volume behind the rear seat in the EUV is 16.3 cubic feet and it is 56.9 cubic feet with the rear seat folded.

While those numbers are not significantly different—especially that 0.1 cubic foot difference—one might imagine that the EUV might offer a significant difference when it comes to accommodating stuff, which it clearly doesn’t. (OK. It has standard roof rails. But. . . .)

If you’re not putting someone in that rear seat, then one could say that the choice between the two is pretty much a wash, given that the vehicles have the same platform and propulsion system.

The vehicle is powered by a 150-kW permanent magnet motor. (A.k.a., 200 hp) There is a 65-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that provides an estimated range of 250 miles on a full charge. With a Level 2 charger (240 V) the battery goes to a full charge in 7 hours; with a DC fast charge system, up to 95 miles in 30 minutes.

Because of the increase in the wheelbase, there is a different driving dynamic, one that is appreciated when using. . . Super Cruise.

That’s right: the hands-free driver assistance technology that has been heretofore available only in Cadillac models has moved to the Bolt EUV.

The Super Cruise system makes use of sensors—radar, cameras, on-board—and a LiDAR map. (No, it doesn’t have LiDAR but the mapping of some 200,000 miles of roads—like freeways—that has been done with a LiDAR system. What does that mean? Simply that it is really accurate. In addition to which, GM has a contract with a company that is out there right now, scanning more roadways and updating existing ones, information that goes to Super Cruise via over-the-air updates.)

You activate the system, set speed for adaptive cruise, and assuming you’re on roadway that is good to go, you center the car in the lane, it then gives you a lightbar on the steering wheel indication that it is ready, so you push the button a second time. . .and remove your hands from the steering wheel.

The Bolt EUV then maintains speed—adjusted based on the set spacing via the adaptive cruise—and maintains the lane. The road curves; the steering wheel makes the adjustment.

You are not permitted to take a nap or read a newspaper because there is an unobtrusive “Driver Attention System” that uses infrared lighting and a small camera on top of the steering column that keeps an eye on your eyes (even through sunglasses) so that if you’re paying insufficient attention to what’s going on, the system let’s you know that’s not acceptable behavior.

But to return to the wheelbase for a moment. When driving at freeway speeds in the adjacency to big rigs, unless you’re in a full-size SUV or pickup truck, you’re going to feel buffeting. The addition six inches of wheelbase undoubtedly helps keep things from feeling too unsettling when the Bolt EUV is, essentially, driving itself (I suppose that this point I ought to have in big red letters something that says YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR BEING IN CONTROL OF THE VEHICLE because as modern as it is, you’re still in charge).

The interior of the vehicle is fresh and contemporary without being too overtly “futuristic” in execution. I actually wish it did seem to be a bit more advanced because let’s face it: this is still leading-edge technology compared to about 95% of everything else on the road, so those who are adopting it ought to get a nod that they’re participating in the creation of the future. (It is worth noting that the front end of a white Bolt EUV does resemble a Star Wars stormtrooper, however.)

But perhaps the biggest takeaway of the Bolt EUV is that while it is a technologically sophisticated vehicle, it is a normal vehicle. It is a vehicle that anyone can drive without feeling as though they’re in something that is uncomfortably different (“Uh, how do I ________________”).

Which is what will really matter in order to get more people behind the wheels of EVs.–gsv

Chevy Adds a Bolt

Another electric vehicle from the mainstream brand, one that resembles a compact SUV. . .

Chevrolet is launching a new variant of its Bolt EV* electric vehicle—the Bolt EUV—as well as a refresh of the Bolt EV itself for model year 2022. The Bolt EUV, says Bolt chief engineer Jesse Ortega, combines an EV with design cues of an SUV.

The 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV with Spaceship Earth in EPCOT at the Walt Disney World Resort. (Image: Chevrolet)

While the take rate of EVs is on the order of approximately 2%, Steve Majoros, vice president of Chevrolet Marketing, notes that the Bolt EV is the number-two best-selling EV in the market (in 2020 Chevy delivered 20,754 Bolt EVs, a 26.5% increase compared with 2019; the number-one selling EV in the U.S. in 2020 was the Tesla Model 3, with an estimated 158,000 deliveries), and that it attracts more people to General Motors than any other vehicle in the company’s lineup.

While both vehicles share the same underlying architecture, the Bolt EUV is six inches longer than the Bolt EV.

Both vehicles share the same propulsion system and lithium-ion battery. Ortega says the Bolt EV has 259 miles of range on a full charge and that the Bolt EUV will have an estimated 250 miles of range. Ortega notes that the Bolt EUV is taller, longer and a bit heavier than the Bolt EV, which explains the difference in range.**

Charged Up

GM is working with EVgo for a build out of public charging stations, with plans to add more than 2,700 chargers by the end of 2025.

What’s more, Chevy will cover standard installation of Level 2 charging capability for customers of the 2022 models (either of the two), working with Qmerit, a company that specializes in finding EV equipment installers.

“’Range anxiety’ is a term we have to get rid of,” Oretga says.

According to Rob Mantinan, program engineer, the Bolts can achieve about 25 miles per hour of charge.

Inside Softer

As they had to develop the interior for the Bolt EUV, the Bolt EV is getting an interior upgrade, as well. Phil Zak, executive design director, Chevrolet, says there are “tech-focused interiors, with more premium materials, which are key to our growing EV portfolio.”

There is a new instrument panel, a flat-bottom steering wheel, a gear shift that uses toggles and buttons, a 10.2-inch-diagnoal infotainment color touchscreen, and more soft-touch materials. The EUV is available with an optional sunroof.

A notable offering for the EUV is Super Cruise, the hands-free driver assistance technology that has migrated from Cadillac. It allows the driver to her to remove her hands from the steering wheel on some 200,000 miles of mapped roadways in the U.S. and Canada.

Outside Edgier

On the exterior, the EUV features a crease line that runs from the front fascia through the center of the hood, horizontal body lines and standard roof rails, which are said to signify more of an SUV approach. LED headlamps are standard.

The EV has a more upright front fasica and new front and rear lighting.

One thing that can be said about the exterior designs of both vehicles is that they look far more like 21st century EVs than the current Bolt EV or the now-out-of-production Volt (a.k.a., the “extended range electric vehicle”).

Cost Down

The base price of the 2022 Bolt EV, including destination, is $31,995. That’s $5,000 less expensive than the base 2021 model.

Majoros says that the price decrease is predicated on the build-out of a supply chain, process improvements through the past few years and economies of scale. There is an emphasis that this is not an approach of decontenting.

The Bolt EUV starts at $33,995.

A Launch Edition for the EUV is being offered. It includes Super Cruise, sunroof, unique wheels, special badging and an illuminated charge port. Its price is $43,495.

Disney Magic

To launch the Bolt EUV Chevy put the reveal at the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom with a presentation by Nick Cho, who is known for his @YourKoreanDad on TikTok, and a special video that GM and Disney collaborated on.

Unlike the MY 2000-2003 Chevy Venture, which offered the Warner Bros. edition, which included a Bugs Bunny badge, this apparently will not include a Tinker Bell.–gsv

*The “EV” is part of the name of the “Bolt EV.” So in contexts where the type of vehicle is appended to the name, it is the “Bolt EV EV.” (The EUV avoids that with the addition of the vowel.

**Bolt EV dimensions (inches): 102.4 wheelbase; 163.2 length; 69.5 width; 63.4 height

 Bolt EUV dimensions (inches): 105.3 wheelbase; 169.5 length; 69.7 width; 63.6 height

Why the Big 6 (But One) Abandoned Small Cars: It’s Not Just the Margins

Americans are big. Really big. Which might explain the absence of small cars (or almost any cars) being offered by the major OEMs

The accepted wisdom seems to have it that one of the primary reasons why vehicle manufacturers are getting out of cars and pouring more resources into crossovers is because they can make better margins on the latter. Which may be true, but is likely only part of the story.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American adults are, well, large. The average male over 20 is 5-foot 9-inches, weighs 199.8 pounds and has a 40.5-inch waist. The average female is 5-foot 3.5-inches, tips the scales at 170.8 pounds, and has a 38.7-inch waist. According to the CDC, 73.6% of adult Americans are overweight.

Seems like a fairly compelling rationale for large vehicles.

So what’s someone who wants to buy a small car to do? Well, the answer to that is “Look for something that is not all that small.”

That is, of the U.S. Big 6 automakers—GM, Ford, Stellantis NA, Nissan, Toyota and Honda—only GM has a car that can be considered “small.”

Chevrolet still offers the Spark. This car has a 93.9-inch wheelbase, is 143.1-inches long, 62.8 inches wide, and 58.4 inches high. It has a passenger volume of 83 cubic feet, and a cargo volume behind the rear seat of 11.1 cubic feet.

2021 Chevy Spark. Small. But big. (Image: Chevrolet)

The next smallest is the Fiat 500X, although the company positions it as being a crossover rather than a car, but for the sake of argument, let’s include it since it has a design that is very much like the now-departed (and tiny) 500. The 500X is gargantuan compared to the Spark, with a 101.2-inch wheelbase and length, width and height dimensions of 167.2, 73.2 and 63.7 inches, respectively. It has a passenger volume of 91.7 cubic feet and cargo area behind the rear seat of 14.1 cubic feet.

Then there’s the Nissan Versa. It has a wheelbase of 103.1 inches—9.2 inches more than the Spark—and an overall length of 177 inches, or almost three feet longer than a Spark. Its other dimensions are 68.5 inches width, 57.3 inches height, a passenger volume of 88.9 cubic feet and a cargo volume of 14.7 cubic feet.

Whereas people might associate “Honda” with “small cars,” with the Fits remaining on dealer lots the only ones left, the smallest car in the lineup is the Civic Hatch. Which isn’t all that small. It has a 106.3-inch wheelbase, is 177.9 inches long, 70.8 inches wide and 56.5 inches high. It has a passenger volume of 97.2 cubic feet and a cargo volume of 25.7 cubic feet.

The smallest Toyota car is now the Prius, which has a wheelbase of 106.3 inches and an overall length of 180 inches—or more than three feet longer than a Spark. It is 69.3 inches wide, 57.9 inches high, and offers 93.1 cubic feet of passenger volume and 27.4 cubic feet of cargo capacity.

Finally, there’s Ford, the company that was the first mass producer of passenger cars, the company that is now shifting its offerings away from, well, passenger cars. It currently has two cars on offer, and production has stopped for the Fusion, so that leaves the Mustang. Which is a completely bizarre thing to have in the context of a Spark. But here it is. The Mustang has a 107.1-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 188.5 inches. It is 81.9 inches wide, 54.3 inches high, and has a passenger and cargo volume of 82.8 and 13.5 cubic feet, respectively.

But consider this: the Spark actually offers more passenger volume than the Mustang. Not much more (0.2 cubic feet, or about the size of a football). But more.

So it might be a reasonable choice for a big American looking for a small car.–gsv

Car Gigs Chuck Palahniuk Didn’t Take

Chuck Palahniuk, earlier this year, published Consider This: Moments in My Writing Life After Which Everything Was Different. In some ways, it is a book that writers who hope to be as successful as Palahniuk is can read so as to get some insights into the way Palahniuk went about getting to where he is.

Arguably, Palahniuk’s star went nova with the release of Fight Club in 1999, directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt and some other guys.

And as everybody—particularly those who have perhaps not (a) read the book or (b) seen the movie knows—the first rule of Fight Club is “You don’t talk about fight club.” (What these people may not realize is that they also know the second rule of Fight Club, which is essentially see Rule 1.)

Anyway, in the world of freelance writing, one could imagine a rule that says, “You don’t tell people about jobs you didn’t get/take.”

However, Palahniuk reveals in Consider This a number of OEMs who wanted to take advantage of his celebrity to do advertising:

  • “First there was Volvo.” He relates that they’d wanted him to write a series of stories “about an obscure hamlet in Sweden where an enormous number of Volvos were being sold.” (Fun fact: the population density of Sweden is 64 people per square mile. The population in Germany is 623 people per square mile. “Obscure hamlet” is relative.) Palahniuk: “They were offering. . .tens of thousands of dollars.” He didn’t take it.
  • “After Volvo came BMW.” The Bavarian builder wanted him to write a series of short stories that would be turned into an audiobook, loaded onto a CD and provided to those who bought Bimmers. Given BMW’s approach toward audio entertainment, such as CarPlay, one imagines had he taken them up on the idea there would have been a line item on the Monroney for the disc. Fortunately for consumers, he didn’t accept the offer.
  • Here is a case of (1) the tentativeness of memory of (2) an indication that some people don’t quite care as much about cars than others. “In the year 2000 or 2001, Chevrolet offered me five thousand dollars for the right to mention Fight Club in a television commercial for the Ram pickup truck.” Ah, right.
  • And an example of artistic purity or insanity: Jaguar Land Rover “offered me a half million dollars to write a story that could be made into a film that would feature a Land Rover in some crucial, high-profile way.” Palahniuk notes, “And maybe I was stupid, but I still said no.” What can be said about that?
The Volvo 70 Series had a run from 1996 to 2016, so possibly this would have been featured in the stories about the obscure Swedish hamlet. (Image: Volvo)