This was supposed to be the year all the non-Tesla electric vehicles showed up in force to reset the American car landscape. That was the theory, anyway. The reality is, not so much—while EV adoption is rapidly growing here and this year’s due to be a record one, sales aren’t as up-and-to-the-right as many predicted, thanks to anxieties with charging and high EV prices. On today’s morning news roundup, we learn why the Chevrolet Blazer EV isn’t helping with that situation.
Plus, we’ll look at Ford’s plans for hybrids; peek into Aston Martin’s turnaround; and learn why the new Nismo Z left the manual gearbox option behind. Let’s go!
Chevy Blazer EV Gets A Price Hike Right Out Of The Gate
This spring, when the new EV tax credit scheme was finalized, General Motors was quick to brag that its full lineup of electrics would qualify for the breaks. Problem was, as several critics were quick to point out, that lineup doesn’t really exist yet. There was the Chevy Bolt, which is about to be discontinued before being revived later, and… well, that’s it for now. The rest are “coming soon.” Several have been delayed (Cadillac Lyriq, Chevy Blazer, etc.) and others (GMC Hummer EV) have had some notable problems.
I’m confident GM will get there eventually, but a lot of early hype around this lineup hasn’t turned into actual products you can buy quite yet. Making EVs is hard. Adding to those headaches is the fact that now, the Blazer EV—an ostensible Mustang Mach-E competitor—will be much more expensive than initially announced. Here’s The Detroit Free Press to elaborate:
In July 2022, when Chevy revealed the Blazer EV, it estimated the base trim would start at $44,995, pushing it up-market from its gasoline-powered counterpart at $35,100. The finalized pricing for the trims rolling out this year are above that estimate.
“Our initial launch editions are highly contented with features we know our customer’s want and showcase the technology and customer choice the Blazer EV offers,” [GM spokesperson Chad Lyons] said of the pricing.
RS AWD starts at $60,215.
RS RWD starts at $61,790.
2LT AWD starts at $56,715.
Range for the 2LT and RS AWD are 279 miles on a full charge. GM expects to achieve an estimated 320-mile range on a full charge for the RS RWD trim.
A cheaper 2LT FWD model (yes, it’s a weirdo car that can come in all three configurations) is due to debut next year and that should be cheaper too. Still, that’s quite a price hike, even with the tax incentives. I’m not convinced the world needs another $60,000 EV crossover, but we’ll see how this one does.
Ford Sticks With Hybrids
Ask Ford about the challenges of rolling out battery-powered cars. It’s why I’m not framing this as some “What is GM doing?” story. This is hard for all the legacy OEMs, just as the startups have their own problems. But Ford, unlike GM, is doing something I think is smart: sticking with hybrid cars even as it invests more into full battery EVs too. Here’s another one from The Detroit Free Press today:
A deep dive into sales data over the past three years helps explain why he disclosed that Ford will reveal a refreshed Ford F-150 hybrid at the Detroit auto show in mid-September. Many competitors are touting a desire to shift completely to electric vehicles. Ford is pumping the brakes.
While consumers are purchasing electric vehicles, the market pricing is still dynamic and Ford is losing billions on the pivot from old internal combustion engines (ICE) to battery electric. Meanwhile, traditional F-Series trucks are selling like crazy and continuing to generate profits that have sustained Ford for decades.
[CEO Jim Farley] spotlighted hybrids, which increase fuel efficiency for truck owners while allowing them to go to the gas pump in times of need rather than find a charging station to plug in. As automakers figure out how many EVs to build, and what prices will work, Ford says it will work to tip-toe consumers away from internal combustion engines into electrification.
And he means specifically non-PHEVs here. Just hybrid-hybrids. But apparently the F-150 hybrid is a kind of secret weapon here, and as we see in other segments, sales are picking up:
Since its introduction of the Ford F-150 hybrid during fourth quarter 2020 through June, the automaker has sold 103,709 vehicles. In the last three months, F-150 hybrid sales spiked 33% over the same period a year ago with 13,285 vehicles. It was the best quarter since its introduction. Meanwhile, the Ford Maverick hybrid is the No. 2 selling hybrid truck in the U.S.
Plus, as that story notes, a lot of F-150 hybrid owners love that they can power various devices and tools with that truck, too.
Maybe it’s more awareness of climate issues amid a brutal summer; maybe people are waking up to the potential of EVs, but reluctant to go full-bore for now and see this as a nice compromise; maybe they’re just sick of paying a lot for truck gas. All of those are valid reasons, and I say good on Ford for offering this as a choice. I’d like to see other OEMs get out in front on this.
Aston Martin’s Big Turnaround Seems To Be… Working?
Did you know Aston Martin has declared bankruptcy seven times in its 110-year history? I did not, but yeesh. Wow. These days, however, things seem to be looking up. The much-criticized acquisition and IPO led by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll (it’s certainly a nice benefit for his son, Aston Martin F1 driver Lance Stroll) appears to be working. Via Bloomberg, which compares it to Ferrari here:
But, whisper it quietly, things do seem better now. With former Ferrari boss Amedeo Felisa at the helm since last year, the company has dealt with a surfeit of cars at dealerships and focused on boosting exclusivity by selling cars at higher prices. The average price per vehicle sold (include special editions) increased to £212,000 in the first half of 2023, compared with less than £160,000 in 2020.
New higher-margin models like the DB12 have won rave reviews and racked up strong orders, while the DBX SUV has been a hit with US customers — some of whom are discovering the brand for the first time thanks to its successful association with F1 (Aston Martin is currently ranked third in the constructors’ championship).
Aston Martin’s business and capital markets performance remain well short of Ferrari, though, whose successful 2015 stock market listing encouraged premium automakers to aspire to the lofty valuations that fashion houses like Hermes International enjoy.
Just yesterday, Aston Martin raised £216 million (about $276 million) in a share sale, which will help with its electrification strategy in partnership with Lucid. Meanwhile, it also has an engine partnership with Mercedes and lots of Saudi money. Financially speaking, things could be a lot worse for Aston these days.
More Nismos On The Way?
Like all of you, I was utterly baffled that the new, more powerful Nissan Z Nismo only comes with an automatic gearbox. And not even a truly great automatic, like the Toyota Supra’s ZF8; an in-house nine-speed auto that they claim is “better” on track for its quicker shifting times. Whatever you say, guys!
But Motor Trend says the people demanded faster lap times, so here we are:
[Nissan Product Planning Director Paul Hawson] tells MotorTrend that Nissan customer research showed Z buyers want quicker lap times. They want a car that can punch above its weight at a track day, and good modern automatics shift quicker than the best manuals.
We already know the auto is 0.6-second quicker to 60 mph and through the quarter-mile, and it’ll likely post a quicker lap time on a circuit as well. If it does, it’ll be in part because this version of the automatic has revised clutch packs with extra plates promising quicker shifting, particularly downshifts which now take half as long as other models, Nissan says. It also says the car’s new Sport+ drive mode is so good on the track that you don’t need to use the paddle shifters.
Still, Hawson isn’t ruling out adding a manual transmission option in the future. If enough customers demand it, he tells us, the company will make it happen.
Just like what happened with the Supra, I guess. Meanwhile, Nissan’s had a lot of production problems to fix with the regular Z. I haven’t seen any of these on the road yet, period. Have you?
Let’s do something fun instead of talking about EVs and car prices. What’s the best option available right now for taking your car to a track? I’m not convinced it’s the porky Nismo Z, though I’m sure it’s blast. What would you pick, especially on a reasonable budget?