Kia updates the Soul, Carvana’s set to blur the lines between retail and wholesale, Stellantis makes plans in Ontario. All this on today’s edition of The Morning Dump.
Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.
It’s been three years since the third-generation Kia Soul debuted which means it’s time for a mid-cycle refresh. A bit of new styling, some trim level re-jigging and some tech downloading will go a long way toward satiating hamsters, and it looks like Kia’s happy to oblige. On the outside, the new Soul is good news for split-headlamp haters everywhere. The main lamp units mid-way down the front bumper have been banished in favor of expanded traditional lamps conjoined by a fake grille. Honestly, this really feels like the move. The new front fascia looks brighter, cleaner and stronger with a large lower grille and a bit of metallic trim doing all the talking.
In terms of other styling updates, the taillights and rear bumper have been revised, and the GT-Line features a comically oversized, USB Micro-B connector-shaped center-mount exhaust tip, but otherwise it’s the same familiar tune. Perhaps Party Rock Anthem. Really, the other big exterior news is the addition of a positively wonderful Surf Blue color that’s bright, optimistic and fun.
Granted, some minor cuts have been made along with the Soul’s facelift. The cladded-up X-Line model has been taken behind the woodshed and shot, presumably because the Seltos does the fake-capability thing better and can be had with all-wheel-drive. Let’s be honest, nobody is going to miss the Soul X-Line. Nobody has ever looked at a small hatchback and thought, “Do you know, I reckon this would look better with big slabs of unpainted plastic around its wheel arches.” What some people will miss is the plucky Turbo model, a pleasant warm tall hatchback with a very reasonably 201 horsepower from its 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Still, economy is the word of the day, and a two-liter port-injected four-cylinder engine hitched to a continuously variable transmissions sees EPA combined fuel economy of 30 to 31 mpg (7.84 to 7.6 L/100km).
Fortunately, many features from the discontinued Turbo trim filter their way down the lineup, sometimes unexpectedly far. All trims but the base LX trim get a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system with native navigation along with a smart keyless entry system, pretty nice touches for a small hatchback. Perhaps nicer still is the fact that all models now get a digital gauge cluster that looks pretty slick and easy-to-read. Otherwise, not much has changed inside the Soul. The funky speaker-shaped air vents still sit proudly on the dashboard, almost everything seems to be controlled by a proper button or knob, and headroom is still superb. Pricing for the 2023 Kia Soul hasn’t been announced yet, but I’d be surprised if it strayed too far from the current car’s entry point in the low $20,000 range. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how pricing looks closer to the new Soul’s on-sale date this summer.
Carvana Blurs The Lines Between Wholesale And Retail
Normally, there’s expected to be a level of separation between wholesale used car auctions and used car dealers. According to Automotive News, that’s about to change. Used car vending machine company and dropper of Genesis Coupes Carvana is set to acquire used car wholesale auction company ADESA this week, and I have a bad feeling about it.
While wholesale auction and digital service company KAR Global will reduce its debt with a sale of ADESA, an acquisition by a used car retailer brings about a whole host of other issues. See, ADESA is the second-largest wholesale used car auction house in the country, with 351,000 vehicles sold through its facilities in the first quarter of 2022. Imagine for a second that one retailer could get their pick of the pack each quarter and force other dealers to fight for less well-kept vehicles. Slightly unpalatable, yeah?
Additionally, there’s the matter of whether or not Carvana will survive in the long run. According to Forbes, the used car retailer has been burning through monstrous amount of cash, with a significant chunk of incoming cash arriving by way of packaging securities. In addition, Moody’s downgraded Carvana’s debt rating on April 25, citing the retailer’s weak credit, lack of profit and a huge burn rate. Whatever the outcome of Carvana’s ADESA acquisition bay be, it doesn’t exactly seem rosy from where I’m standing.
Stellantis Invests In Canada
My home province of Ontario has a long history of vehicle manufacturing with triumph, hardship, pride and loss all in equal measure. While we’ve made some brilliant stuff like the current Ford GT, the Dodge Challenger Demon, the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and the Acura CSX Type-S, we’ve also lost a lot of production. We lost Ford’s Ontario Truck plant in Oakville in 2004, we lost GM’s Oshawa Truck Assembly plant in 2009, we lost Ford’s St. Thomas Assembly plant in 2011 and we almost lost GM’s Oshawa Car Assembly plant in 2019. So when a major automaker announces a massive investment in Ontario, it’s worth at least a glance. Especially when Automotive News is reporting that these investments may total up to $2.8 billion.
The Windsor assembly plant where the Chrysler Pacifica, Chrysler Voyager and Chrysler Grand Caravan minivans are built is getting a $1.1 billion re-tooling that Stellantis says will “diversify the company’s capacity by introducing battery-electric or hybrid models to the production line to meet growing consumer demand for low-emission vehicles.” Stellantis already introduced a hybrid model, the Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivan, to the Windsor assembly line back in 2016, so let’s hope this announcement signals the addition of electric vehicle production or another vehicle to the Windsor assembly line.
More importantly, the Dodge Charger, Dodge Challenger and Chrysler 300 are getting a bit long in the tooth, so Stellantis also has a plan for its Brampton Assembly Plant. The plant in Brampton is getting a flexible assembly line that can produce both hybrids and electric vehicles, fairly critical stuff considering that a hard cut to EVs will leave some customers out in the cold. Hey, if it means even one less straight-piped V6 Charger out on the roads, I’m all for it. As an added bonus, Stellantis is committing to two research and development centers in Windsor for electric vehicles and battery tech. Nice.
Combined with a $3.96 billion battery manufacturing facility in Windsor, it really looks like the imminent future of Canadian-produced EVs lies in the hands of Stellantis. Honestly, I’m here for it. It’s not really a matter of national pride either, as national pride is a very foolish thing and it’s not like Canadians can screw a car together better than anyone else. When I see a vehicle with a VIN that starts with a 2, I can’t help but feel stoked that people living just down the road from me had a hand in that vehicle’s assembly, and that they have well-paying, possibly unionized jobs. Employment stability is a beautiful thing.
Whelp, time to drop the lid on this issue of The Morning Dump. As for the big question of the day, I’d love to know what your nearest automotive assembly plant is and what they make. My nearest plant is Multimatic’s assembly plant where the final few Ford GTs are in the works. While the second-generation Ford GT definitely isn’t as awe-inspiring as the last one, it still feels pretty cool that they build it just up the road from me.
Lead photo credit: Kia