As it turns out, the American car market is just midsize SUVs and midsize SUVs alone. All that and more in The Morning Shift for January 25, 2021.
1st Gear: Midsize SUVs Up 61 Percent
I had sort of thought that pickup trucks would be what’s blowing up right now, There is so much to say about the Nissan Xterra, which was left on the market basically unchanged from 2005 to 2015 before Nissan remembered it was on sale and cancelled it. The body-on-frame midsize SUV was a relic, part of a stagnant and obsolete segment.
Not anymore, though!
Midsize SUVs are taking off, and that includes even ancient body-on-frame ones enjoying a moment in the sun, as Automotive News reports:
The pickup-based sport-ute, once referred to as “the car that saved Nissan” for bringing an infusion of sales to the then-struggling brand in 1999, was discontinued after the 2015 model year, a casualty of new safety regulations and a consumer pivot from truck-based utility vehicles to lighter unibody crossovers.
Nissan veered away from the midsize sport-utility market.
But the mood is changing after the segment grew 61 percent in the past decade.
Given the sales success of the Jeep Wrangler and Toyota 4Runner, Nissan is leaving money on the table, said Tyler Slade, operating partner at Tim Dahle Nissan Southtowne in suburban Salt Lake City.
“The rugged body-on-frame utility segment is on fire, and we’re missing out on key business for the brand,” Slade said.
I can’t believe gas is so cheap that body-on-frame SUVs are a hot market, but that’s really where we are at these days.
There’s a lot more in the article about how the original Xterra was a hit in part because Nissan thought it’d be a flop and put almost no money into it. There is not a lot about the brief moment in which Nissan made a hydrogen-powered Xterra, but I can live with that.
2nd Gear: Ford: All Our New-Car Delays Are Fine, Actually
Ford bungled the launch of the Explorer and made a big deal about how it would do better, had to do better with other prominent launches of the Bronco, Mustang Mach-E and F-150. This has been slightly complicated by delays on the Bronco and Mach-E as well as weird things happening with the F-150.
Today, Ford responded. It’s all fine! Don’t worry. This is all normal, as Ford told Automotive News:
Initial deliveries of the Bronco SUV, originally due this spring, have been pushed back to summer because of COVID-19-related supplier issues, Ford said last month. Last week, the automaker said shipments of “several hundred” Mustang Mach-E crossovers could be delayed as long as eight weeks for additional quality checks.
But Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s vice president of product development and purchasing, told Automotive News that the issues are “very typical” of any new- vehicle launch and might not have been noticed but for the added transparency created by Ford’s new online reservation system.
“Overall we’ve been very happy with the launches so far,” Thai-Tang told AN. “If you think about this last year, we had three big launches, and we hit all of those launch dates and ramp volume curves pretty much to plan after we adjusted for the COVID shutdown.”
Ford’s VP of product dev and purchasing went on to tell AN that things are as normal as can be with F-150s sitting in amusement park parking lots, and that the Mach-E’s delays are just fine, too:
Thai-Tang said reports of new F-150 pickups parked around plants in Michigan and Missouri are not related to the launch and are a normal part of Ford’s build-and-hold process, and that they do not impact delivery of production vehicles to customers. Early metrics for the F-150 and Mach-E are positive, he said.
The Mach-E delay, Thai-Tang said, stems from an “industrialization issue” with a single supplier he declined to name. It’s not unlike the Bronco situation, caused by problems with roof supplier Webasto.
“In both cases, they’re complex issues with tools that were installed with overseas support,” he said. “It was complicated by COVID absenteeism, but we’re on the right path.”
This is all great to hear. I’m sure Ford is going to be just fine.
3rd Gear: Renewables Produced More Of EU’s Electricity Than Fossil Fuels For First Time
This is a sweet landmark, particularly for a market that is heavily boosting electric cars at the moment, as Bloomberg Green reports:
Renewables produced 38% of the EU’s electricity in 2020, up from 34% in 2019. That was just enough to surpass fossil-powered generation for the first time, which dropped to 37%, according to analysis of grid data by research organizations Ember and Agora Energiewende. The report adds to data that showed last year was the greenest ever for British power generation.
“At the start of a decade of global climate action, it is compelling that Europe has reached this green power tipping point,” said Dave Jones, an electricity analyst at Ember and the lead author of the report. “Rapid growth in wind and solar has forced coal into decline, but this is just the beginning.”
The EU still needs to double that by the end of the decade, according to Bloomberg, so it still has a lot of work ahead.
4th Gear: Taiwan ‘Has Not Received’ Letter From Germany Pleading For More Semiconductors
We’ve talked a lot about how the car industry is facing a global shortage in semiconductor chips, which are going to consumer electronics before cars. This has already caused delays for VW, and the German government has jumped into action: by writing a letter.
Shockingly, this has not brought about instant change, as Bloomberg reports:
The German minister called on the Taiwanese government to make this clear to its main chip producer, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.
Altmaier’s letter followed an intervention by Germany’s car lobby group, VDA, which has warned that the current shortage in global chip production affects the country’s automobile manufacturers. Next to China, Taiwan is the main producer of semiconductors. TSMC is the main supplier for Germany’s car industry, according to the ministry.
Taiwan has not received Altmaier’s letter, its Ministry of Economic Affairs said in a statement on Sunday.
When Germans start sending letters, everyone please be warned.
5th Gear: Please Enjoy An Optimistic Story About Trains
The freight train business had a bad 2020 here in America, but Bloomberg reports that things are looking better for 2021. That’s great...for trains! We love our trains here at Jalopnik.
From Bloomberg’s “U.S. Railroads Chart Steadier Course After Wild 2020 Ride”:
In the week that marked the anniversary of China’s initial lockdown of Wuhan to curb spread of Covid-19, three of the U.S.’s biggest rail companies coming off wild rides last year tried to spell out what 2021 may bring.
Supply-chain disruptions moving goods from factories and farms through ports and warehouses to businesses and homes saw rail volumes in the world’s biggest economy plummet last April, reaching multi-year lows, though still above the usual year-end drop in carloads, data from the Association of American Railroads show.
With health protocols encouraging those who could to work and learn from home, consumers stocked up on goods to turn rooms into makeshift offices and to entertain themselves, leading to a rundown in inventories. A push to replenish shelves saw rail carloads soar to record levels just before the holiday gift-giving season.
Take a read on the whole review of our train scene. Trains: We still have them!
Reverse: I Love This Headline
Neutral: Why Not The Chevrolet Tracker?
Dealers are up in arms about the Nissan Xterra, but I do not see a single news article about Chevrolet dealers threatening walkouts if GM doesn’t get its act together and bring highlighter-yellow two-door convertible Trackers back to showrooms across the country. Why the disparity?