What Vehicles Are People Considering and Why?

By Gary S. Vasilash

Kelley Blue Book puts together an interesting study on what people are interested in by examining what they are searching for automotive-wise both on desktops and mobile.

For Q1 22 in the non-luxury space the number-one brand is Toyota, with 34% brand consideration. In Q4 21 it was Ford on top. They’ve switched places. Ford is at 32%. Chevy is on the rise because in Q4 it was at 25% but has risen by five percentage points.

What is somewhat sad is Fiat, which was at 0% in Q4 and is at 0% in Q1.

And just above it are Mitsubishi and MINI, both at 1%, which is where they were last quarter, too.

Perhaps people just know all they need to about those brands.

Ram Laramie 1500: Imposing and comfortable. (Image: Ram)

KBB slices, dices and rices data in various ways. Like looking at four categories: SUVs, Cars, Pickups, and Minivans.

The top SUV is the Honda CR-V (besting the Tahoe, Durango, RAV4 and Highlander).

The #1 car is the Honda Accord, edging out the Civic (sibling rivalry). The Camry, Charger and Challenger follow.

In Pickups it is the Silverado 1500, followed by the F-150, F-250/F-350/F-450, the Silverado 2500/3500 HD, and the Tacoma.

In Minivans it is the Sienna followed by the Odyssey, Pacifica, Pacifica Hybrid and Voyager.

Of those categories, 66% looked at SUVs, 37% Cars, 35% Pickups, and 5% Minivans.

Perhaps there is some life in Cars, although the considerations were down 31% in the last quarter and 33% in the last year, so clearly things aren’t moving in the right direction.

Another potentially encouraging sign for Cars is that in the top 10 models considered, there are three Cars on the list (Accord, Civic and Camry), which is the number of SUVs on the list (CR-V, Tahoe, Durango).

What are the top three factors driving consideration?

Durability/reliability is in the top spot, which is not a surprise, nor is the fact that Toyota is the one that takes it.

Second is safety, and while you might imagine that would be Volvo, Subaru is actually in that position.

And third is driving comfort. This is taken by Ram. Who would have thought that a pickup truck would win the comfort honors?

Ford & Tesla: Go Figure

By Gary S. Vasilash

Jim Farley, Ford CEO, said to the assembled audience on hand for the production launch of the all-electric F-150 Lightning on April 26, “We plan to challenge Tesla and all comers to become the top EV maker in the world.

“That’s something that no one would have believed just two years ago from us. They’re going to look at this truck and believe it.”

That’s something I have a hard time believing right now.

Not that Ford doesn’t have a shot at becoming the lead EV builder at some unspecified time in the future. It probably will. Electric pickups and full-size crossovers will undoubtedly roll out of its dealerships in huge numbers one Ford has them.

But that a company that has pretty much been synonymous with “auto industry”–as it was established in 1903 and has had factories churning out cars, trucks and crossovers the world over for more than a century–uses Tesla as the point of comparison.

This is not to diminish the accomplishments of Tesla in any way. In 2021 it delivered more than 936,000 the world over.

While Tesla doesn’t break out its numbers by country, Cox Automotive estimates that the U.S. sales of its vehicles were 352,471 in 2021.

Ford had one EV in 2021, the Mustang Mach-E. It sold 27,140.

It’s not like Tesla just started selling cars last year. It has been on the market for more than 10.

Yes, it started out small.

And so was ignored by the traditional OEMs like Ford.

But Team Tesla kept at it and the traditional OEMs kept doing what they were doing by and large their efforts toward producing EVs were simply to meet regulations, not customers.

Now these companies (and know that it isn’t just Ford and GM, but even other stalwarts like Mercedes and BMW) have recognized that not only is Tesla selling a lot of vehicles, but that customers really want them, which is a good characteristic for products to have in a market.

It is sad that Farley (yes, he gets something of a pass as he didn’t become Ford CEO until October 2020) has to compare what the Ford Motor Company will do with Tesla.

One would like to think that the company founded by a guy who was certainly more advanced than many of his contemporaries would be the one other companies would be comparing themselves to, not Tesla.

F-150 Range Considerations

The EPA-estimated range of a Ford F-150 Lightning XLT SR is 230 miles. Ford had been targeting 230 miles and nailed it.

The EPA-estimated range of a Ford F-150 Lightning XLT ER is 320 miles. Ford had been targeting 300 miles, so that extra 20 miles is a positive accomplishment.

F-150 Lightning. Gets you there. Just not too far away. (Image: Ford)

Still, some people look at those number and are, well, underwhelmed.

Of course, take into account that this is a pickup truck, so that means it is big and heavy, which doesn’t do wonders for electric vehicle range.

Ford offers a 5-liter V8 for the F-150.

A 4×4 with the engine returns a combined 19 mpg.

The truck can be specified with gas tank size. The smallest is 23 gallons. The largest is 36 gallons.

A V8 F-150 with the 23-gallon tank has a range of 437 miles.

A V8 F-150 with the 36-gallon tank has a range of 684 miles.

Somehow really makes those Lightning numbers seem, well, underwhelming.

The Ford E-Transit Explained

By Gary S. Vasilash

Imagine: a 266-hp electric motor that generates a maximum torque of 317 lb-ft located between the rear wheels for operational performance. . .and it is in a cargo van.

That’s the Ford E-Transit, a Class 2b vehicle that comes in eight configurations: You can get it as a chassis-cab or a cargo-van, you can get three different roof heights, you can get three different wheelbases.

The 68-kWh battery is good for about 126 miles. Pulling into a DC fast charger will bring the battery from 15% to 80% in 34 minutes. Plugged into a Level 2 charger will take it from 0 to 100% in about eight hours.

Tim Baughman of Ford Pro North America sees a transition to electrification in commercial applications and acknowledges that there are some applications that are not necessarily applicable. (Image: Ford)

The e-Transit is a work truck, something that Ford knows more than a little something about. As Tim Baughman, general manager of Ford Pro North America—and know that Pro is the organization that focuses on the commercial side of things for the Blue Oval—points out, Ford has about 40% of that market, the leader in the space.

So as they were developing the E-Transit they had the opportunity to talk with the people who get fleets of vehicles of this type, whether it is a handful or a lot-full, so that their interests and concerns could be taken into account.

One of the things that they did when developing the E-Transit was to pretty much take the existing gasoline-powered Transit and use it for the electric truck. (There is the addition of an independent rear suspension for the E-Transit because things like battery packs are rather heavy.) While some might think that this is something of a quick-fix approach to getting an electric cargo van out there, as there are things like the BrightDrop ev600 and the electric Amazon delivery van being built by Rivian, Baughman points out that by having the same interior dimensions and mounting points, it is much simpler for upfitters to configure the e-Transit because of their experience with the Transit.

On this edition of “Autoline After Hours” there is a comprehensive examination of the Ford E-Transit as Baughman talks with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, Chad Kirchner of EV Pulse, and me.

Not only do we discuss the truck itself, but the Ford Pro software solutions that the organization has developed in order to do things like track and charge vehicles in order to keep the fleet up and running at its maximum efficiency, again taking into account Ford’s experience in this commercial space. And you can see it all here

Electric Vehicles Need Batteries. Battery Plants Need (Cheap) Electricity

By Gary S. Vasilash

One of the key things needed for an electric vehicle is—surprise, surprise—batteries.

One of the things that OEMs are doing is not simply depending on suppliers to build the battery plants, but, in efforts to better control their supply chains, participating in the build of the factories with suppliers, such as GM and LG in Ohio and Ford and SK Innovation in Tennessee.

Ford’s $5.6 billion mega campus, BlueOval City, is not being built in Michigan. It will go up in Tennessee. One reason: electricity is cheaper there. (Image: Ford)

While GM and Ford are both headquartered in Michigan, they’ve not picked Michigan as a place to build a battery plant.

So, reports Bridge Michigan, on Wednesday the Michigan Public Service Commission voted to do something that could help make the state more appealing, and not just to the home-state OEMs:

Allow utility companies to offer industrial customers a reduced rate for electricity.

Presently industrial customers in Michigan pay 7.85 cents per kilowatt hour. Just across the border in Ohio the rate is 6.85 cents.

And for companies operating battery plants or semiconductor fabs, those pennies add up. Fast.

Ford Using Waste Plastics from Oceans

But the amount is, well. . .

Citing a figure from the Pew Charitable Trust, Ford Motor says that there are up to 13 million metric tons of plastic deposited in the world’s oceans each year.

Part of that waste consists of plastic fishing nets.

So working with DSM Engineering Materials, Ford is taking the discarded nylon fishing nets, transforming them into pellets, that are then injection molded by HellermannTyton into wiring harness clips.

Clip made with recycled plastic from the ocean. (Image: Ford)

The clips are used to guide the wires that power side-curtain airbags in the Bronco Sport.

While this is certainly laudable, there’s one thing to take into account.

Each of the wiring harness clips weighs about five grams.

One ounce is equal to 28 grams.

There are 35,274 ounces in a metric ton. Or 987,672 grams.

A lot of clips are going to be necessary to put a dent in the ocean.

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.

Auto Numbers: Something to Consider

The math is. . .surprising

By Gary S. Vasilash

A few numbers.

In the first three quarters of 2021, these are the U.S. sales numbers of the leading luxury brands:

  • 259,237 BMW
  • 245,864 Lexus
  • 230,855 Tesla
  • 213,708 Mercedes

That’s right: Tesla outsold Mercedes.

And then there is this, the market capitalization (on 11/11/21) of the three companies that were once known as the “Big Three”:

  • GM: $89.14 billion
  • Ford: $77.5 billion
  • Stellantis: $64.21 billion

(It is worth noting that in addition to Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Mopar and Ram, Stellantis includes Abarth, Maserati, Open, Alfa Romeo, Citroen, DS Automobiles, Fiat, Fiat Professional, Lancia, Peugeot, and Vauxhall. Meaning it is a much larger company back when it was part of the Big Three.)

Here’s the kicker:

  • Tesla: $1.068 trillion

Tesla could buy all three.

But then what would become of its value?

A New Old Truck Concept from Ford

Something a couple of electric motors can do

By Gary S. Vasilash

Ford Performance, working with MLe Racecars and the Roadster Shop, has developed the F-100 Eluminator concept—an electric truck.

It is based on a 1978 F-100 pickup, which explains the retro styling (i.e., because it is retro).

F-100–customized with electric motors. (Image: Ford)

But bringing the truck up to the moment, it features two electric traction motors—front and rear—which are the same type as those used in the Mustang Mach E-GT.

The traction motors produce 480 hp and 634 lb-ft of torque.

Eric Cin, Ford global director, Vehicle Personalization, Accessories and Licensing. “Our F-100 Eluminator concept is a preview of how we’re supporting customers as they go all-electric and embrace zero-tailpipe emissions performance, even for our heritage vehicles.”

One can only imagine that were a truck like the Eluminator pull up along side a [fill-in-the-blank performance car] at a stop light it would get a glance from the other driver. . .who would then stare at the taillights as the truck has left him behind.

Thinking About Buying a New Vehicle? Think Hard

. . .because (a) you’re going to be spending more than you might think and (b) you may be buying something that you aren’t necessarily considering

By Gary S. Vasilash

If you’re thinking about buying a new car, ute or truck—and “new” may mean “new to you,” as in “used”—then you ought to hear what Charlie Chesbrough, senor economist and senior director of industry insights for Cox Automotive has to say about the current market conditions.

As Cox Automotive encompasses a variety of businesses that know more than a little something about, as they say, the conditions on the ground—as in Kelley Blue Book and Manheim Actions—Chesbrough’s observations and understanding are grounded in what’s really happening, not some theoretically calculations.

The fundamental thing is this: Although it might seem that COVID is behind us, that everything, with a few hitches here and there, is getting back to normal, that is far from being the case with regard to the availability of some things. Things like motor vehicles.

This is because COVID helped cause a semiconductor chip shortage. In part this came from everyone working or playing from home, which led to a sudden demand for PCs and PlayStations, both of which use silicon.

Because the auto companies faced shutdowns of their factories last year, they canceled their orders with the semiconductor providers, who then readily found anxious customers who were making things like PCs and PlayStations.

So the vehicle manufacturers had to go to the end of the line.

It is also worth noting that some of the chips that go into vehicles don’t have the types of margins that chips that go into other products do, so the semiconductor manufacturers realized that they’d do well by just serving the non-automotive customers fulsomely while providing the auto manufacturers—who are famously thrifty when it comes to paying suppliers—with a reduced number of chips.

This has led to two things, Chesbrough notes:

  1. Overall reduced number of available vehicles
  2. Overall increases in the prices being charged for vehicles—new and used

While the first part of the year seemed to be improving when it came to the availability of vehicles (relatively speaking—2020 was a horrible year for sales and 2021 was an improvement on that), things have gone south since then.

Chesbrough suggests that things won’t get back to what may be considered “normal” until sometime next year (if at all).

At present, OEMs are concentrating on putting chips in vehicles that are high-ticket items, which is good for returns, but which put many consumers in a bind (unless they are high-end buyers).

There are some companies, like Ford, which are recommending that people order vehicles, something common in Europe but not a practice that is at the basis of the auto market as it has developed in the U.S., which is all about moving the metal.

Chesbrough talks to Keith Naughton of Bloomberg, Joe White of Reuters and me on the show.

In addition to which, Naughton, White and I talk about Ford’s massive investments in electric vehicle/battery manufacturing capacity in Kentucky and Tennessee—and how Michigan didn’t even make a proposal for the investments, as well as about GM’s Investor Day presentations, which were clearly designed to make Wall Street look at GM more as a “tech company” with a wide range of product in the pipeline and technology and capacity that will make money sooner rather than later.

And you can see it all

.