Good Monday morning to you all, and welcome to another edition of The Morning… Something. Renaming TMD is TBD but it could happen by EOW, if not sooner. Or later. Anyway, today’s roundup of auto industry headlines includes the resilience of the mighty Honda Accord, updates on Nissan and Renault’s marriage counseling, news about Toyota’s global dominance and a look at Tesla’s repair costs. Let’s dig in.
You Have To Get Up Very Early In The Morning If You Want To Kill The Honda Accord
Back at The Old Site, we used to call it the Sedanocalypse: the rapid erosion of the four-door sedan market as buyers flocked to crossovers, SUVs and trucks, and automakers couldn’t be more thrilled to accommodate them. After all, the car business is one of margins, and all of those larger vehicles command higher prices than sedans and small cars at generally the same cost of production. (How do you think all these car companies plan to finance their big battery EV plans? Through truck and SUV sales.)
While sedans have fared somewhat better in the luxury arena—stuff like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes E-Class always do fine, especially globally, and the Tesla Model 3 is a powerhouse—they’ve all but evaporated from the more mainstream brands. Ford doesn’t even make them anymore. I had to check to make sure Chevrolet still makes the Malibu (it does!) The Japanese and Korean brands have kept the fire burning, but sales still aren’t what they once were.
But there are sedans, and then there’s the Honda Accord. (The Toyota Camry too, obviously.) It’s still a power player, even if its sales have been down in recent years, either because of demand or supply chain issues, or both. It remains a massively important car for Honda and for the market as a while. And according to Automotive News, Honda’s dealers in the U.S. are still demanding the automaker keep the sedan party going:
[…] Woelfer expects inventory to move quickly in 2023, even as the automaker builds more vehicles. Honda has said it projects its sales to increase about 25 percent this year.
Honda’s move with the Accord was to take it a little more upmarket. The new-for-2023 Accord not only looks great, but it also offers turbocharged and hybrid powertrains and a ton of new tech like built-in Google Assistant, Google Maps and Google Play. The last Accord was great; this new one will be even better. If Honda’s dealers are right about demand being there, this thing could go down a lot harder than most other sedans in the world.
[Editor’s Note: I actually think sedans aren’t going anywhere. Sure, sure, crossover SUVs are absurdly popular — far more so than sedans — but as the world electrifies and consumers begin placing more and more importance on range figures, keeping Vehicle Demand Energy Down will be key. That term, by the way, refers to the amount of energy needed to move a car down the road; if that’s high, then to get the same range as a vehicle with a significantly lower VDE, you need a bigger battery pack (or a much more efficient powertrain, which is hard to do with an EV), and a bigger battery means more cost. So, it’s better to keep VDE down so a small battery can get you farther, and you know where sedans defeat SUVs quite handily? VDE. They’re lower and sleeker. Granted, SUVs have really gained ground through aerodynamic improvements, among other things, but every mile counts when infrastructure sucks and charge times are slow. -DT].
Nissan And Renault Are Working On It
When my sister got married a few years ago, the toast I offered at her wedding implored her and her new husband not to try to have a perfect marriage. That’s because there’s no such thing; it doesn’t exist. Marriages are made of people, and people aren’t perfect. It only holds up when the parties involved work at being better and growing together over time.
It seems like those crazy kids Nissan and Renault might actually make it, and for that, we’re extremely happy for them. After years of infighting—including the humiliating Carlos Ghosn scandal—the two partners in this alliance are restructuring their deal to be more on equal footing.
This is a complicated story that involves a lot of moving parts, including the aforementioned Ghosn thing, the heavy involvement of the French government in partly-nationalized Renault, their different strengths in different markets, and the Japanese executives at Nissan never really loving the fact that some shots were called by foreigners part of a technically smaller company. (I don’t know where Mitsubishi nets out in this marriage analogy; maybe they have a girlfriend? Maybe it’s an open-ish thing? Hey, whatever works as long as nobody’s getting hurt.) Here’s Reuters on the latest update in terms:
Why does any of this matter beyond complicated deals around shares? It’s starting to more and more as both of these global automotive giants figure out the future-technology-mobility stuff, which involves yet more complicated deals and tie-ups:
EVs are generally cheaper to own and fix than their ICE counterparts. You have a battery, the body, the interior, some motors, brakes, suspension parts, electronics and… well, you get the idea. Fewer moving parts here, literally.
But the costs to repair a Tesla are high, leading to high insurance costs, Reuters reports. There are apparently tons of written-off Model Ys out there with fewer than 10,000 miles on the odometer that insurers just didn’t want to deal with. (Side note: That means more Tesla batteries and motors for EV swaps, so hit up Copart if you want to electrify a vintage 911 or something.)
This is part of why Tesla launched its own insurance arm, and it’s a rapidly growing business. But it may also be why Tesla’s supposedly working on an updated Model 3: to bring down costs and, I’d assume, repair costs as well.
You know, another thing Tesla could do to fix this problem is to make a version of Autopilot that won’t crash into a fucking Arby’s after just three months of ownership. Just sayin’.
Sedans: Do you own one? Will you only buy them? What are they good for when trucks, SUVs and crossovers do provide more utility in a lot of cases?
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