Uber announced this week it would partner with Walgreens to allow users to book a COVID-19 vaccine and a ride to the appointment at the same time. It also announced that users can now book rental cars through the app, thanks to new partnerships with Avis and Hertz. And there’s one more gimmick they should have tried a long time ago: riders can now order and collect food delivery orders while they are on a ride-hail trip. Just remember to tip your driver extra if you make them wait in the Taco Bell drive-thru line.
This Week in Sheetmetal
It was a slow week for reveals after the flurry of activity related to last week’s Shanghai Auto Show, but we caught a glimpse of the C8 Corvette Z06 and Zr1 in a video posted to a Corvette-themed YouTube channel. The cars were heavily camouflaged, but there’s no hiding the sound of a flat-plane crank V-8.
Volkswagen announced a GTX Performance trim for its ID.4 electric crossover. The new variant will have all-wheel drive and 295 horsepower compared to the base model’s rear-wheel drive and 201 horses. The trim name is intended as a nod to our beloved GTI, but we’ll have to drive one before we decide if the souped-up ID.4 is worthy of that association.
Mercedes will bring its 503-hp GLC63 S SUV to the United States after previously limiting U.S. customers to the sleeker-looking but less useful GLC63 S Coupe. That power comes from a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 engine, and if the coupe is any indicator, it should be blazing fast.
Hyundai has announced the details of its Kona N crossover. The Kona will be the second member of the N family in the U.S. (the first was the Veloster N, which we love). It will hit dealerships this fall with 286 horsepower from a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine.
Ford gets the batteries for its Mustang Mach-E EV from LG Chem, which also supplies batteries for the Chevrolet Bolt and other EVs. But the best supplier is no supplier at all, which is why Ford has announced a new battery production R&D project in southeastern Michigan. The endeavor, called Ion Park, started as a pilot last year. Ford has already spent $100 million on the project, which it hopes will uncover cheaper, quicker ways to build electric vehicle battery cells at scale. If the project bears fruit it could be well worth the investment. Ford is due to launch an electric F-150, which we now know will be called the Lightning, in the middle of next year.
Porsche also gets its EV batteries from LG Chem and is also investigating the possibility of building its own. Porsche says it will build a battery factory in Tübingen, Germany. Volkswagen, Porsche’s parent company, has separate plans to build half a dozen battery factories throughout Europe, but the Tübingen factory will specialize in what Porsche CEO Oliver Blume referred to as “high-performance” battery cells.
General Motors has already invested scads of cash in its proprietary battery project, called Ultium, but may be wishing it had independence of a different kind after its workers’ union, the UAW, raised objections to a GM plan to spend $1 billion on a new EV factory in Mexico. The plant would manufacture batteries and other components for EVs to be sold in the United States and around the world. But the UAW says that since GM is courting government subsidies and investment for its EVs, the company should build its cars (and hire its employees) in the United States. GM didn’t outline its side of the argument, but presumably it can be summed up thusly: $.
Supply Chain Disasters, Continued
The semiconductor shortage continues to upend the car world. Ford says the shortage could result in a 50 percent cut to production in the second quarter, and Volkswagen has recently announced new plant shutdowns. But that’s old news. The new thing to worry about is an impending summer fuel shortage, brought on by a shortage of drivers qualified to drive the fuel tankers. The key takeaway from the story is that the fuel shortages are likely to be minor and isolated as long as people don’t panic and start to hoard fuel. So don’t do that.
And if you’ve spent fourteen months daydreaming about a vacation to Hawaii, be warned that that fantasy may have to include some creative transportation solutions. As the vaccinated and the incautious head out on vacation there has been a run on rental cars in Hawaii that has pushed rates for rental cars above $200 per day. One rental company was even advertising a Toyota Camry at $700 per day last month. In the face of those prices, some vacationers are choosing to rent wheels from U-Haul, so it’s probably only a matter of time before those prices skyrocket, too. We suggest turning to Craigslist instead, where industrious locals are listing their personal cars for rent at more reasonable prices.
The New York Times has a delightful look into the lives of long-haul truckers who take their pets on the road.
Or read about the Vietnamese electric car company that’s hoping to make a splash in the U.S. and European markets.
And don’t think we’ve forgotten about everyone’s favorite capsized cargo ship. Here’s an update on the Golden Ray, still stuck off the Georgia coast and still full of doomed (and dangling) cars.
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