The Next New Acura Will be Electric, And All the Ones After That

The Integra marks Acura's final gas-powered new model before the Prologue-based electric SUV arrives in 2024.

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Photo: Steve DaSilva

We’ve already seen the last new Acura model with an internal-combustion engine, the CEO of the world’s second-biggest auto manufacturer sees nothing wrong with doing business in a hotbed of grave human rights atrocities, and vans. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Tuesday, May 31, 2022.

1st Gear: A Send-Off for Internal Combustion

The 2023 Acura Integra is a civilized entry-level sports sedan, as our Steve DaSilva found first hand. In bringing back the Integra name, Acura dug deep into its history in a way it typically hasn’t, historically. That makes a little more sense now that we know the Integra will be Acura’s final new gas-powered nameplate.

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The confirmation comes courtesy of Automotive News’ little summary on the new liftback, which mostly doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know about the car, so it’s not really worth pulling a quote from. In truth, we should have noticed this all along. The oldest car in Acura’s current lineup — if you don’t count the NSX which leaves us with the Type S this year — is the RDX, and that last received a new generation in 2019.

Acura is due to get its own flavor of the Honda Prologue EV in 2024 built in collaboration with GM, and another electric SUV (perhaps built on Honda’s own architecture this time) may follow two years later. The roadmap for the next five years appears pretty set; the Integra, TLX, RDX and MDX figure to continue on pretty much as they are until they’re slowly phased out closer to the end of the decade. That’s not to say they won’t be tweaked and developed further, and those particularly skeptical of the Integra’s enthusiast value could get their Type S one day; I’m speaking rhetorically, of course. But this, right here, is the end of Acura as we know it — take it or leave it.

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2nd Gear: Wiring Harnesses

They’re tough to get these days, and Reuters just published a story well worth a read that explains how their shortage could expedite automakers making the transition from internal combustion to EVs:

Supplies of the auto part were choked by the war in Ukraine, which is home to a significant chunk of the world’s production, with wire harnesses made there fitted in hundreds of thousands of new vehicles every year.

These low-tech and low-margin parts - made from wire, plastic and rubber with lots of low-cost manual labour - may not command the kudos of microchips and motors, yet cars can’t be built without them.

The supply crunch could accelerate the plans of some legacy auto firms to switch to a new generation of lighter, machine-made harnesses designed for electric vehicles, according to interviews with more than a dozen industry players and experts.

“This is just one more rationale for the industry to make the transition to electric quicker,” said Sam Fiorani, head of production forecasting firm AutoForecast Solutions.

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Manufacturers are trying to get by with new production lines in other countries, but carmakers’ key issue here is that wiring harnesses need to be made by hand. EVs employ simpler harnesses where more of the production can be automated. Tesla is often name-dropped as a pioneer of “revolutionary” wiring systems, though those ideas haven’t seemed to reach production. Again, from Reuters:

Many of the executives and experts interviewed said fossil-fuel cars, which face looming bans in Europe and China, would not be around long enough to justify redesigns to allow them to use next-generation harnesses.

“I wouldn’t put a penny into internal combustion engines now,” said Michigan-based auto consultant Sandy Munro, who estimates EVs will make up half of global new car sales by 2028.

“The future is coming up awful fast.”

3rd Gear: Volkswagen Is Totally Cool With Running Factories in Xinjiang

Herbert Diess, the CEO of Volkswagen, evidently has no regrets or second thoughts about continuing to operate facilities in Xinjiang, China — the region home to 12 million Uyghur people facing internment, torture and genocide. From Reuters, which reported on an interview with the chief executive conducted by German paper Handelsblatt:

“I believe that the presence of SAIC Volkswagen leads to the situation improving for people,” Chief Executive Herbert Diess was quoted as saying.

“We travel there, and like everywhere in the world we ensure our labour standards are implemented, and that cultural and religious differences are respected,” Diess told Handelsblatt.

He said any evidence of wrongdoing at the Xinjiang plant would be met with a “massive” response, according to the report.

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That sounds great, if it’s even true, for the conditions inside the plant. But that’s not just our skepticism; the German government reportedly won’t support the automaker’s investments in China, or those of any company that chooses to operate in Xinjiang or partner with firms that do. Once again, the right thing to do is pretty obvious to everyone except a dude running a multinational colossus.

4th Gear: Batteries and Britain

The U.K. needs more battery-making factories of its own, instead of importing all its cells from Europe. From Reuters:

Ambitious plans from automakers to ramp up production of battery-powered electric vehicles (EV) and a looming change in post-Brexit trading rules that will limit options to import cheap Asian batteries mean there is no time to waste.

But a shortage of suitable sites for “gigafactories”, and the decision by some local manufacturers to import EV batteries from mainland Europe, are creating challenges that executives and politicians say the government must do more to address.

Without enough battery plants, some fear automakers could leave, hitting an industry that employs about 170,000 people.

“It’s not just about gigafactories, it’s about the whole infrastructure” of local auto suppliers, said Jim O’Boyle, a councillor in Coventry, central England, which has approved a site for a potential plant, but has yet to find an investor. “If we don’t get it right we could lose the whole bloody lot.”

The government has allocated up to 1 billion pounds ($1.2 billion) to support Britain’s EV battery supply chain.

Industry experts predict the country needs four to six large battery plants to sustain a healthy car industry. It currently has one small 1.9 gigawatt-hour (GWh) Nissan plant in Sunderland, northeast England, and two larger ones planned.

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This is the perfect storm of what happens when you have a new component in high and rising demand mired in politics, thanks to a country that’s economically shot itself in the leg. The U.K. doesn’t have many potential sites for massive battery-making facilities, according to Reuters. But even if it did, the clock is ticking and these things can’t be built in a month or even a year.

To avoid tariffs in their main EU market, UK-built cars must meet “rules of origin” that from 2027 will include a stipulation that 70% of an EV battery pack is either EU- or British-made.

As EV batteries are heavy and expensive to transport, local production is seen as crucial to a thriving car industry.

A wave of new EV models is coming around 2025. Lead times for new vehicles are long and EV battery chemistries vary, so production contracts must be concluded soon.

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We’re on the precipice of a new era in this industry, and the next few years are going to decide the U.K.’s place in it.

5th Gear: Stellantis and Toyota

They’re joining forces to make vans for Europe. Vans! From Automotive News:

Stellantis will build a large commercial van for Toyota Motor Corp. in its factories in Poland and Italy starting in mid-2024, including a full-electric version.

The collaboration will give Toyota a large van to sell in Europe for the first time.

Stellantis currently builds compact and midsize vans for Toyota, in both commercial and passenger versions. No name was announced for the new van, but Toyota’s compact van is called the Proace City and the midsize van the Proace.

The Proace has been built at Stellantis’ factory in Hordain, France, since 2012, and the Proace City in Vigo, Spain, since 2019.

The new model will be built at Stellantis’ Sevel factory in Atessa, Italy, and Gliwice, Poland. The move will give Stellantis five brands on common van platforms: Citroen, Fiat, Opel, Peugeot, Toyota and Vauxhall.

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Part of this was spurred on by the European Union, which read the merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot Citroen as a way of crowding too much of the commercial van market in the region. In the interest of competition, Stellantis was told it’d have to extend its existing agreement with Toyota and cut the Japanese brand a better deal, too. So here we are.

Reverse: Capitalism, Communism and Henry Ford

On this day in 1929...

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Neutral: I Can’t Stop Thinking About it Either

Andy Kalmowitz introduced the terror that was the banned Chrysler Concorde sex commercial upon my eyes and ears four days ago, but it all still feels so fresh. I don’t know how I’d never seen it before, but I guess I’m thankful I spent almost 30 years alive before it scarred me.