due to the continuing effects of the coronavirus, travel on american roads was down 11.3 percent (or 28.2 billion miles) this january compared to january 2020. overall last year, road travel fell 13.2 percent and americans spent 42 percent less on travel than in 2019. ready or not, some metrics now suggest a return to pre-pandemic travel habits: the tsa screened more airline passengers last friday than on any day since march 15, 2020.
this week in sheetmetal
pagani showed the $3.1 million huayra r, an 838-hp track-only monster with a v-12 engine that can reach a screaming 9000 rpm. it represents the end of the huayra line. you'll probably never even see one in real life, but isn't it nice to know it exists?
you're more likely to see a hyundai staria in real life, but only when you're on vacation. hyundai's cute new van can be configured to seat two, seven, nine, or 11 people and was designed to evoke a spaceship. sadly, hyundai has no plans to bring the van to the u.s.
bmw unveiled the i4 gran coupe, an ev analogue to its 4-series. the i4 promises 530 horsepower and 300 miles of range. it should hit dealer lots early next year. bmw hasn't released pricing information yet, but the i4's competitors hover around the $100,000 mark.
shelby showed its take on the heavy-duty truck segment with the f-250 super baja, a 475-hp off-road-ready three-quarter-ton diesel truck. shelby will build 250 super bajas, and you can have one for a mere $125,805. also this week, shelby rolled out four new mustang builds, three of which make more than 800 horsepower.
electric boogaloo, cont'd
bmw and volkswagen both say they expect to double sales of electric vehicles this year compared to 2020. bmw also said it aims to increase sales of electrified vehicles (so, hybrids and plug-in hybrids in addition to evs) this year, while volkswagen said it expects evs to account for 70 percent of its european sales by 2030. that news, plus the announcement that vw plans to build six new battery factories in europe by the end of the decade, drove the company's stock up 32 percent at one point this week, though it later dipped slightly.
the shift to evs may not be as simple as investors hope, though. electric motors and lithium-ion batteries require certain metals and minerals, many of which are expensive or hard to transport and some of which have thorny supply chains—child labor has been used in the democratic republic of congo to mine cobalt, for example. the u.s. department of commerce hosted a meeting this week with american automakers and battery manufacturers and canadian mining companies in hopes of boosting production from north american (read: not chinese) sources of those minerals.
supply chain woes, cont'd
ford, honda, nissan, toyota, and volvo all announced their intention to idle production at certain plants this week due to ongoing problems with the automotive supply chain. most of the production stoppages were attributed to the lack of semiconductors, but nissan and toyota also cited a shortage of the petrochemicals used to make the foam in seat cushions after damaging winter storms in texas last month.
ford is now building some f-150s without an electronic module that controls functions such as the windshield wipers and infotainment system and will hold the cars until the modules can be sourced and inserted. gm said this week it is entirely forgoing the module that controls its cylinder shut-off technology in certain pickup trucks. trucks without the module will earn 1 mpg less in the combined cycle. the company said the move will not impact its compliance with federal regulations, but we'd bet the legal department spent some time reading up on hyundai's fuel-economy settlement before assenting to the change.
don't stop reading yet
nürburgring hero sabine schmitz died this week after a long illness. if you're not familiar with her work, take some time to be awed by her mastery of one of the world's most demanding tracks.
ever worry about people hacking your car? maybe you should. china's government will restrict the use of teslas by military personnel and certain other key government employees because of the amount and variety of data the cars collect, reportedly concerned that the information could end up in the hands of the u.s. government. for more on why car hacking is a concern, read this rundown in the new york times.
if you're more susceptible to fear-mongering of the good-old-fashioned sort, read our coverage of the recent increase in catalytic converter theft in los angeles county.