Congratulations, Autopians, because 2022 is nearly over! We sure showed this dumb year who was boss. Since we’re all winding down before New Year’s Eve there isn’t a ton of news today, but we can talk about the biggest, shiniest new cars coming in 2023, Southwest’s recent holiday air travel disaster, and the problem with gigantic electric pickup trucks. Let’s light the tires and kick the fires. Something like that.
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.
New Cars, Weird Time
It’s that time of year, isn’t it? Automotive News (sub required) has the big annual rundown of new cars we can expect to make debuts next year, and it’s a pretty interesting list. I think 2023 will be the year the electric vehicle market really gets serious and people start to realize Tesla isn’t the only EV out there.
Of course, that happens as supply chain issues, rising interest rates, an uncertain economy and absurd prices (both on the dealer and MSRP side) continue to be the dominant trends. Basically, we can fully expect 2023 to be another weird year on the car-buying front.
But CNBC speculates the auto industry could go from a supply problem to a demand problem as car prices skyrocket and people avoid big purchases ahead of a possible recession:
“Ongoing supply chain challenges and recessionary fears will result in a cautious build-back for the market. US consumers are hunkering down, and recovery towards pre-pandemic vehicle demand levels feels like a hard sell. Inventory and incentive activity will be key barometers to gauge potential demand destruction,” said Chris Hopson, manager of North American light vehicle sales forecast at S&P Global Mobility, in a statement.
Put another way, will higher interest rates, growing recession fears and too much inventory force automakers to cut prices − and give up profits − to draw potential buyers to showrooms?
To which I say: Maybe? It feels hard to believe car prices will really go down, especially as automakers need to charge big premiums for their EVs and need the cash to scale up their electric ambitions. The used car market will also stay rough for a while, probably (???). It’s a supremely weird market based on unprecedented economic factors. Nobody really has this figured out.
If you are in the market for something new next year, however, Automotive News lists a few notable releases: the Chevy Silverado EV, the Kia EV9 SUV, a pretty big onslaught from Toyota (including a hybrid Tacoma) and the Acura Integra Type S, just to name a few.
There’s also the Tesla Cybertruck if they can get it out—and that’s probably still a big “if.” Elon Musk could probably do well to put down his phone, stop tweeting and get that one over the line.
Me, I’m especially excited about the Hyundai Ioniq 6, the super-rad cyberpunk EV sedan that runs on vibes. I probably won’t be buying one, but I am looking forward to seeing those on the road.
How Southwest Spent Its Money Ahead Of The Christmas Travel Catastrophe
I’m still relatively new at hanging with The Autopian kids and the usual suspects are on the road today, if they haven’t killed each other in a knife fight yet. So I’m not really sure how much we cover aviation news around here. But lots of car people are also plane people, it’s a slow news day, and who doesn’t love whining about air travel?
You’re well within your rights to do that if you flew Southwest over Christmas. One of the worst nationwide winter storms in decades brought air travel to its knees, but Southwest—the airline you begrudgingly book when Delta didn’t work out for some reason—had an especially rough go. More than 2,500 flights were still canceled a week after the storm, leaving customers stranded.
It’s so bad that U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is… well, he’s very upset! And he is going on the news to talk about how upset he is. From Reuters:
The rest of the aviation system and other airlines seemed to be back from the weather disruptions, Buttigieg said.
“So what this indicates is a system failure (at Southwest), and they need to make sure that these stranded passengers get to where they need to go and that they are provided adequate compensation, not just for the flights itself … but also things like hotels, like ground transportation, like meals because this is the airlines’ responsibility,” he said, adding he had spoken to the company’s leadership.
What’s particularly egregious is the fact that Southwest had the money to upgrade its systems but chose to hand it to shareholders instead. The airline recently announced it would pay a dividend again that amounts to $428 million a year. Southwest also received more than $7 billion from the U.S. federal government to shore up its operations during the pandemic. It paid a quarterly dividend for years before the coronavirus struck, signaling to Wall Street that the airline had cash to spare.
Did you get stuck trying to travel over the holiday?
EV Trucks Bring Their Own Problems Because They’re Huge
EVs tend to be very heavy because batteries are heavy, and since the car market has skewed more toward huge trucks and SUVs in recent years, that means heavy behemoth electric cars could become the norm; that isn’t great for pedestrian safety.
While there may be environmental benefits from driving a Cybertruck instead of heavy-duty gasoline or diesel pickups from Ford or General Motors (which have their own battery-powered models), the large amount of energy, aluminum and mined materials needed to build it and an initial price that’s likely to be $70,000 or more seem to be at odds with Musk’s original climate-preserving principles. And while those mined battery materials might eliminate tailpipe emissions, extracting them can have environmental harms, including groundwater pollution from mining scraps and chemicals, and human costs when underage labor is used, such as at cobalt mines in Congo.
But let’s not pretend this is a Tesla-specific issue because I think that would be unfair. It isn’t. The entire car industry is about to deal with this stuff. Here’s Dan Becker, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Safe Climate Transport Campaign, in that same story:
“The increasing weight of electric vehicles is going to be a real problem in time. It’s not when they’re only a tiny fraction of the production,” Becker said. “All these trucks are going to require a lot of battery. Those batteries are going to require a lot of electrons. And those electrons are going to require a lot of power plants.”
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