Auto Industry Shocked To Learn People Just Want To Be Able To Buy Cars Again

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People who buy used don’t have time for gimmicks, Subarus are reliable and Aston Martin may be doubling back on its motorsport plans. All that and more in this Friday edition of The Morning Shift for February 18, 2022.

1st Gear: IIHS Study Reveals Surprising Find That People Just Want A Dang Car

Sometimes the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety brings insightful data to our attention, but lots of the time it just tells us things we could probably already surmise for ourselves. For example: Did you know that used car buyers know less about the special tech features in their future cars than new car buyers do? The eye-opening report from the Institute, by way of Automotive News:

IIHS looked at owners of 2016 to 2019 model year vehicles and surveyed 402 people who bought their cars new and 362 who bought them used. The survey asked specifically about features such as blind spot warning, lane-departure warning and adaptive cruise control.

Buyers of new vehicles were more likely to know more about the specific features and presented a higher level of trust in them than the used-car buyers, IIHS said in a press release.

Some 84 percent of new-car drivers knew their vehicles were equipped with blind spot warnings, while only 72 percent of used-car drivers knew this. Similarly, only 66 percent of used-car buyers could accurately describe what the lane-departure warning does compared with the 77 percent of new-car buyers that could, the press release said.

Obviously a salesperson trained on the bells and whistles of a new model is going to play up tech in a showroom more than a used car seller, who isn’t mandated by corporate to parrot such gimmicks and is just going to go with the classically vague, eternally convincing “I know what my car’s worth.” But what makes this report especially pointless is that it completely disregards the elephant everyone can plainly see in the room, which is that used car buyers do not give a fuck about any of that because they just need a car.

If you’re looking to buy new in this hellish market, you have the luxury to be picky about gadgetry like lane departure warnings and pedestrian detection. If you’re buying used, your next car might not have those things. Even if it did, they probably matter less to you than say, having a vehicle to get to work and get the kids to school. And hopefully not having to overpay for it, though that ship has pretty much sailed.

So thanks, IIHS, for reminding us that the prospective 2016 Chevrolet Trax buyer is less likely to know or much care what blind spot monitoring is. As ever, insurance companies and automakers have their finger squarely on the pulse of the real priorities and concerns of the average American consumer.

2nd Gear: Subaru Is Having A Time

In this case though it’s the good kind of time. Amid sales slumps stemming from the semiconductor shortage, the Pleiades squad should at least be encouraged to know that Consumer Reports’ product testers really do love the peace-of-mind instilled by all that gratuitous plastic cladding. Via Automotive News:

Subaru climbed two spots to first place in Consumer Reports’ annual ranking of the most well-performing, safe and reliable automotive brands.

Mazda, which was No. 1 in 2021, finished second this year.

Six of the top 10 brands this year were Japanese; the highest-ranking U.S. brand was Buick, which was 11th.

Jeep dropped three spots to last, replacing Alfa Romeo, which rose four places to 28th.

We covered Consumer Reports’ latest rankings yesterday as they pertained to Tesla, but we didn’t highlight Subaru for leading the list. Good for Scoob. Regardless, I will never understand why so many people buy Crosstreks. Maybe I should drive one?

3rd Gear: Man Deletes Tweet

On Wednesday Tesla CEO Elon Musk compared Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Hitler on Twitter, probably because he was bored. On Thursday, he deleted that tweet. Courtesy of Bloomberg:

Musk, 50, was replying to a post by cryptocurrency trade publication CoinDesk about Trudeau’s emergency orders aimed at cutting off funds to protesters who have blocked border crossings and camped out in Canada’s capital. Musk tweeted a photo of Hitler with the text “Stop comparing me to Justin Trudeau” at the top, and “I had a budget” at the bottom.

Reading the description without having seen the tweet, I assume it was formatted with white Impact font, in the way that all memes were in 2009.

Hey, it was! Outdated meme formats and Holocaust jokes; the world’s richest guy continues to be a tastemaker. Maybe he’ll tweet a link to Newgrounds next.

Anyway, the American Jewish Committee put out a statement beginning with the phrase “Once again, Elon Musk…” Of all the entities a rational, conscientious person wouldn’t want calling them out for repeat offenses, the American Jewish Committee is pretty high up on that list.

The tweet generated backlash from groups such as the American Jewish Committee, an advocacy organization, which called on Musk to apologize for making reference to the dictator who oversaw the genocide of millions.

“Once again, Elon Musk has exercised extremely poor judgment by invoking Hitler to make a point on social media,” the group said in a statement earlier Thursday. “He must stop this unacceptable behavior.

I wouldn’t hold my breath.

4th Gear: Two Estranged Lovers Reunite In The Name Of Battery Recycling

Once upon a time, Ford and Volvo used to be like this (picture a fingers intertwined gesture). But then Ford dismantled its Premier Automotive Group that also, at one time, included Jaguar and Land Rover. Now the two are joining forces again to do something with used up EV batteries, which is really important because there are a lot of them out there now and only going to be like seventy billion times that by the end of the decade. From Reuters:

Ford Motor and Geely Automobile’s Volvo Cars will join battery recycling startup Redwood Materials in developing processes, starting in California, to collect end-of-life batteries from electric and hybrid vehicles and recover the materials for use in new batteries, the companies said Thursday.

Redwood Materials, founded by former Tesla executive JB Straubel, formed an earlier partnership last fall with Ford to develop a “closed loop” or circular supply chain for electric vehicle (EV) batteries, from raw materials to recycling.

On Thursday, Redwood Materials said it would work directly with dealers and dismantlers in California to identify and recover end-of-life battery packs. The materials in those packs will be recovered and recycled at Redwood Materials facilities in northern Nevada.

I’d go so far as to say it’s frankly irresponsible for carmakers to push EVs as hard as they have while recycling remains an “eh, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it” type of problem. Nobody’s talking about ongoing support of software in older EVs either, leading to a doomsday scenario in my brain where your car gets updates for about as long as a $200 Android phone does, and discarded just as quickly. I can’t wait until we have to reconcile these things — it’s going to be great.

5th Gear: Aston’s Had A Rethink About Endurance Racing

Now some good news for the evidently four people who read Jalopnik and also care about endurance sportscar racing. (Just know that I see you, and I love you.)

Aston Martin was the earliest manufacturer to support the Le Mans Hypercar regulations when they were first minted in 2018. Then, due to a combination of various political and economic factors, the plan collapsed. A major factor was the dissolution of the marketing and tech-sharing partnership with Red Bull as Mercedes-Benz simultaneously agreed to buy a sizable chunk of the British brand. Another element was the FIA’s decision to performance balance IMSA-backed LMDh cars alongside Hypercars, even though LMDh vehicles cost a hell of a lot less to build. Aston felt like it got the short end of the stick, so it left.

Now though, it might just be gearing up to return to the table. From Motorsport.com:

Marque co-owner Lawrence Stroll, who led a buy-out of the British manufacturer in early 2020 and renamed his Racing Point Formula 1 squad as Aston Martin, has revealed an intent to return to the Le Mans 24 Hours as a factory.

He told to a group of automotive journalists during a briefing at last week’s launch of the Aston Martin AMR22 F1 car that the marque is “in discussions” to go back to the French enduro and that the return would come “in whichever category aligns with the message we are trying to deliver”.

Stroll has stated that the Aston Martin Performance Technologies division being set-up within the new F1 facility under construction at Silverstone will become in involved in the brand’s line of mid-engined supercars, including the Valkyrie conceived by Red Bull Racing technical director Adrian Newey.

This ties in with indications that the Valkyrie LMH programme, which was put on hold early in 2020, could be about to be revived.

The new performance division will employ resources within the F1 organisation freed up by the budget cap introduced for the 2021 season.

These could be deployed on the Valkyrie LMH, which was originally under the remit of the Canadian Multimatic organisation that partnered with Aston in development of the road car.

When Stroll took over Aston Martin and rebranded Racing Point in the carmaker’s image, Formula 1 became his full focus. The F1 budget cap, however, could leave a little wiggle room to mount a sportscar effort as well. Time will tell, but at this rate there are almost going to be too many factory-backed prototypes at Le Mans for the grid to hold. It’s a good problem to have.

Reverse: “The Most Important Race In Stock Car History”

February 18, 1979 — 43 years ago — marked the 21st Daytona 500. It was the first Daytona 500, or indeed any 500-mile race, to be televised nationally form start to finish, leading some to call it “the most important race in the history of NASCAR.”

The 1979 500 was also the first event where in-car camera views were broadcast. It helped, too, that the race was extremely close and dramatic: A last-lap crash between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison that opened a lane for Richard Petty to break through for the win.

Neutral: How Are You?

This is a staple of TMS when my coworker Erik does it. I hope he doesn’t mind that I’m borrowing it in the interest of finishing this as quickly as possible.

Oh, me? I’m OK. It helped that it was like 60 degrees in the Northeast on Thursday, but the fact it was unseasonably warm and windy did distinctly make me feel like the world was ending.