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:
The deal, still subject to board approvals, will see Renault reduce its stake in Nissan to 15% from around 43%, it said. That will see Renault put around 28% of the Japanese automaker in a French trust, crucially making the two more equal partners.
Their unequal relationship had long been a source of friction among Nissan executives. While Renault bailed out Nissan two decades ago, it is the smaller automaker by sales.
The future shape of the Franco-Japanese alliance has implications for both companies as well as the global auto industry. It also highlights how the immense technological upheaval in the auto industry is forcing companies to both partner and compete with a dizzying number of newcomers and tech firms.
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:
Renault, for instance, has said it will partner with companies from China’s Geely Automobile Holdings to semiconductor giant Qualcomm Inc.
The French company is separately working to finalise a deal with Geely and to bring Saudi Arabian state oil producer Aramco in as an investor and partner to develop gasoline engines and hybrid technologies, Reuters has reported.
Anyway, I wish them all the best. Including Mitsubishi. I hope she doesn’t get hurt in this whole thing. She’s been through enough already.
I Told You Toyota’s Back, Baby
Say this about Akio Toyoda: He’s hardly leaving the place in a state of chaos and disrepair after he bounces from the CEO’s office for good, presumably to spend his time at track days. At least, that’s what I hope for him. But Toyota’s sales numbers for 2022 are in, and the Japanese automaker is once again the biggest car company in the world.
Reuters reports Toyota moved 10.5 million cars globally in 2022, marking its third straight year in a row as the world’s best-seller. That’s incredibly impressive, given the chip shortage, supply and production issues, skyrocketing prices and an uncertain global economy.
Meanwhile, the Volkswagen Group—the top spot is usually occupied by one of those two companies—had its lowest sales in over a decade, Reuters reports, at 8.3 million cars, implying VW couldn’t navigate those issues (and the war in Ukraine) as well as Toyota did.
Tesla Wants To Cut Repair Costs
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.)
Insurance carriers, meanwhile, are writing off low-mileage Tesla Model Ys that have been in crashes, and sending them to salvage auctions after deeming many too expensive to repair.
During Tesla’s fourth-quarter earnings call on Wednesday, Musk said premiums from third-party insurance companies “in some cases were unreasonably high” and that the EV maker’s insurance arm was putting pressure on those carriers by offering lower rates to Tesla owners.
Musk also said “we want to minimize the cost of repairing a Tesla if it’s in a collision,” citing changes to vehicle design and software.
“It’s remarkable how small changes in the design of the bumper (and) providing spare parts needed for collision repair have an enormous effect on the repair cost,” he said. “Most accidents are actually small — a broken fender or scratched side of the car.”
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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The car that I would see in the Coparts or IAA yards that was a total every time was the Mini. That car would keep the people inside alive by sacrificing itself by digging the engine into the road and loosing every part of the front. I totaled quite a few by how tightly everything was put together. There was no room for an impact to move a fender or bumper around.
Now the Nissans were pretty tough and I saw a lot of them get sold to go overseas since the cost to repair the older models ran up pretty fast versus the book value (I would be around 50% of the value of the vehicle to declare it a total).
I got out of the auto property damage game before the Teslas came out, but I have been hearing that it is a nightmare to get parts in to fix the vehicles and some of the modules are pretty pricey in Mitchell.
never owned a sedan, hatchbacks and wagons are what I like.. these have the same utility as trucks, SUVs and crossovers, with the lower running costs and better handling of sedans. But if sedans are endangered species, wagons are functionally extinct.. shame.
I own one remaining midsize sedan. 1 Pickup truck, one scout(it is the halfcab), so not sure if it is pickup or SUV. 2 coupes, one SUV and a motorcycle. I would likely not swing over to a CUV just because the big three decided they can’t build them anymore. a Camry or Accord seems like a smokin deal for a longish commuter daily driver.
A good garage for my needs: Tiguan for most of the winter here in the Midwest. Needs a few more HP but nimble enough for me with good storage/hauling. MPGs are adequate so far with less than 3k she hasn’t broken in yet.
M235i xDrive Fun/3 season/ road trip “gran coupe” sedan/saloon. Fun all around vehicle with 30+ MPG even with spirited driving. Although getting in/down and out/up are beginning to cause a few challenges but the fun factor still outweighs that. Rear seat and trunk space is limited, but I have the Tig for that as needed. Fun car should have been a Golf R after 2 GTIs but availability and/or godawful pricing killed that for me, at least for now.
Yes, have a sedan, a 2014 Fusion, and will probably always have a sedan. We have a bigger vehicle (a crossover, ugh) for hauling all the family stuff when we go on a road trip or whatever, but for the normal day-to-day a sedan works great. Enough room for school drop-offs, runs to the grocery store, etc., all while getting much better fuel economy and being vastly more enjoyable to drive.
If Honda were to bring the Civic or Accord Wagon I may be willing to jump into one from my Sportwagen. Until then, I will have to make due with used luxo-wagens.
I came from a family that loved their station wagons and vans–a 2004 Ford Focus wagon; a 2010 Ford Flex, and three different Econoline vans over the past few decades (including my own that I used as a daily driver for seven years, a conversion van).
My limited sedan experience came from driving a relative’s 2005 Buick LeSabre.
It was….fine. But compared to the rest it’s unnerving to have the rear window *not* also represent the back of the car, when backing up.
These days I drive a Prius v. Not sure what I’d be looking for if/when it’s gone, though…there’s engine issues across all years of the v that I didn’t know about (associated with the EGR system getting clogged, leading to a blown head gasket) and I don’t know any other vehicle with this excellent compromise of fuel economy and storage space. And I’m not quite at the spot to afford a good used gen 4 Prius.
Still, I wouldn’t rule out a Camry or similar. Prefer hatches, but I’d deal with a sedan. Can’t really say anything positive about them beyond fuel economy and the security of an opaque trunk, though.
I sold my Charger for a Challenger. Same car with two less doors. However, I’m looking at adding another car keep the Challenger as a toy. I’m looking at Chargers again, along with the Alfa sedan, I’m also waiting to see how the new Charger pans out next year since I know that they’ll be available also as a sedan and with the new inline six. The idea of a big Charger sedan with an inline six gets me kind of excited.
So yeah. I do prefer a sedan. A large sedan, in fact. So much so that I booked a BMW 5 series for an upcoming trip to stay with family in Germany.
my only issue withthe Charger is they stopped offering the AWD Hemi variant. Lived with a 300 in the snow belt and regretted it if I did not get it parked in the driveway or garage before the snow hit.
‘Sedans: Do you own one?’
Yes. A Honda Accord. It’s been a great car!
‘Will you only buy them?’
My ownership of a microvan indicates no. Sliding doors FTW!
What are they good for when trucks, SUVs and crossovers do provide more utility in a lot of cases?’
It can fit in my garage for one, even under bikes dangling from the ceiling. It also has a trunk that carries a lot of stuff completely hidden from prying eyes and FWIW locked away.
I’m no prude but fwiw I’m glad the toilet humor language in the morning dump (and now the name?) has been going away. Fwiw
You definitely sound like a prude.
Ceap attitude there 🙂
This. Crudity is only funny in small amounts. Use it too often and people start feeling bad about themselves
I don’t own sedans anymore unfortunately, because of one simple reason: back issues.
I like them, but it’s much harder for me to get in and out unfortunately, and the feet-forward seating position with a low H-point doesn’t help either.
The other reason is small kids in their car seats. Way harder to put those in a low sedan.
I suspect a lot of older people experience issues getting in and out of a low sedan.
And people on average are getting older, so as sad as this is, I understand why sedans are less preferred these days.
I have thought the original Scion Xb was the ideal oldster’s car. H-point where their hips could just slide over and scoot in, relatively upright driving position and nimble size to nip around in traffic. The Kia Soul is in the same mold.
Nothing better than a nice big sedan for chewing up highway miles.
This afternoon I came across an honest to god Lincoln Town Car on the road. In our SUV era, it now has an amazing presence that it never had before – low and wide, like an American Aston Martin Lagonda.
Its all relative I guess. I started off driving tiny roadsters as my daily, graduated to 2 door coupes and hatchbacks, including an RX7 and Nissan Sentra SE-R, and have had two door door sedans as my “big, practical” vehicles since then. In the old days that was car/life progression, some kind of sporty two door, followed by a respectable foot door after you got a big person job and or had kids.
Anyway, to me the sedan is the big practical upsize option, not the sporty downsize option.
For me, every vehicle I buy will be the one that provides the best combination of utility I need (storage capacity, human capacity, efficiency, cost of ownership) and desirability I want (looks, driving dynamics, uniqueness).
First car purchase out of college, I had a beater already and so the purchase was 100% on desirability – easy choice for a two-seater sports car. The next few were commuters. I didn’t need a lot of space for stuff, only enough seats for a few people as I was still single, and wanted good fuel economy to get to and from work. Sedans they were. Family started, needed a few more seats in a 3rd row and some storage capacity. But still wanted some fun, so got a zoom-zoom SUV. Family got bigger, house got bigger, needed room for both tasks – minivan come on down.
All that to say, yes I will buy one if they fit my need again. I think they destroy SUVs when it comes to desirability, so as long as I have a larger people and stuff hauler, a sedan will probably be it.
As for Mitsubishi, they’re more like a 17-year old arthritic lapdog that no one can bring themselves to take to the vet for a final visit.
I love Accords, but when I test drove a previous-gen 2.0T Sport with a manual I could have gotten for a song, I just wasn’t that enamored with it. Yeah, it was nice, but not THAT much nicer than my old TSX. Godspeed to the Accord and Camry, but I’ll keep to the old row-your-own options…