Tesla brings its Enhanced Autopilot Level 2 assist suite back into play, German authorities raid Hyundai and Kia, Ford recalls the F-150 Lightning. All this and more on today’s issue 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.
Tesla Revives Enhanced Autopilot
In a classic move of reviving old options, Tesla is bringing back its Enhanced Autopilot driver assist system to bridge the gap between its Autopilot and Full Self Driving Beta assist systems. As such, it shouldn’t be surprising that Enhanced Autopilot now starts at $6,000, or half the price of Full Self Driving Beta. But wait, what exactly does Enhanced Autopilot do, and what prompted Tesla to bring it back?
Enhanced Autopilot takes the standard Autopilot Level 2 assist system and adds features focused on controlled-access freeway driving, like interchange navigation, on-ramp and off-ramp assistance on navigation, and suggested lane changes on cruise control. It’s a much more honest representation of Tesla’s hardware and software capabilities than Full Self Driving Beta, although it’s still very much an assistance suite rather than anything approaching autonomy.
As for why Tesla brought it back, it’s a simple money-making proposition. The current $12,000 charge for Full Self Driving Beta is a stiff one for most consumers, so this $6,000 option could see higher take rates and thus increase profits for the Texas-based company. For context, the optional advanced driver assistance system on the BMW iX retails for $1,700, while the Mercedes-Benz EQS includes high-spec Level 2 driver assistance as standard. The Genesis GV60 small electric crossover includes Highway Driving Assist on its top-level Performance trim for $68,985 which splits the difference between Long Range and Performance trims of the Tesla Model Y, and the Polestar 2 gets upgraded driver assistance through the $3,400 Pilot pack. Consumers may also have very well-justified fears about Full Self Driving Beta putting them into dangerous situations, so this intermediate step may be an acceptable compromise for some consumers.
While more choice is usually a good thing, Tesla now has three different Level 2 driver assist systems, all with incredibly confusing names. Autopilot is really just a fairly basic Level 2 assist system and not in keeping with society’s image of an autopilot system. Enhanced Autopilot doesn’t really spell out what its enhancements are, while Full Self Driving Beta definitely isn’t self-driving. It’s not even Level 3 autonomy, let alone a higher level of mind-off automation. However, Enhanced Autopilot seems more competitive against the latest crop of Level 2 driver assist suites, and as long as informed consumers make themselves aware of Enhanced Autopilot’s limitations and don’t use the stupid summon feature, it seems possible to use safely.
German Investigators Raid Hyundai And Kia Over Emissions Allegations
I’m sure we all wondered how big the industry fallout would be from Dieselgate, but I’m not sure any of us expected it to go on for this long. Reuters reports that German authorities have raided properties associated with Hyundai and Kia on the grounds of suspected defeat devices that may have been used on 210,000 diesel vehicles.
See, German authorities believe that Hyundai and Kia employed software developed by Bosch similar to the software used by Volkswagen to cheat diesel emissions tests, although that’s a bit vague as we’ve seen defeat devices function in different ways. Some run a different engine map when a vehicle’s sensors detect that it’s on a chassis dynomometer, while some crank up urea injection metering under testing conditions. Whether or not Hyundai and Kia actually used defeat devices is yet to be seen.
Honestly, it’s going to be interesting to see how this all plays out. The use of defeat devices is a pretty serious allegation and while an alleged 210,000 affected units pales in comparison to Volkswagen’s number of cheaty diesels, it’s no small number if authorities’ claims turn out to be true.
Ford Recalls The F-150 Lightning
The all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning may feel like the truck of the future, but it’s definitely not immune to mistakes of the present. What do I mean by that? See, EVs are heavy, which often means increased tire pressures over combustion-powered cars to cope with extra load. While cold tire pressure spec for the F-150 Lightning is 42 psi, Reuters reports that the tire pressure monitoring systems in many units are only programmed for a cold tire pressure of 35 psi.
Hey, direct tire pressure monitoring is just about everyone’s least-favorite automotive gizmo due to being expensive and temperamental, so I’m not surprised lower values were punched in. However, because tire pressure monitoring is deemed a safety issue, Ford has recalled 2,886 F-150 Lightnings in owners’ driveways and on dealers’ lots. That breaks down to 2,666 American-market trucks and 220 in Canada, so we’re not talking about a massive recall here. What’s more, no recall-related crashes have been reported, and owners won’t have to do much to get their trucks fixed. F-150 Lightnings in dealer inventory get a simple 20-minute reprogramming, while owners who don’t want to visit the dealer will receive an over-the-air update in the next 30 days. Easy as pie.
New Vehicle Sales Forecast Slip Lower
While many automakers predicted the chip shortage to ease this year, I’m not sure if anyone expected the general supply chain shortage to last this long. Automotive industry analysts at Cox Automotive think the way out of the woods is a long, rutted path, and have slashed their 2022 new vehicle sales forecast from 16 million vehicles to 14.4 million.
According to Automotive News, Cox Automotive’s predictions for 2022 aren’t particularly pretty. New vehicle supply has declined by around 280,000 units year-over-year, with a massive 1.6 million vehicle deficit compared to this time in 2020. Worse still, supply chain shortages are still expected to create shortfall in the new car market, even as rampant inflation pushes some buyers out of the market. “Even though economic conditions have worsened in the past months, the lack of supply is still the greatest headwind facing the automotive industry today,” said senior economist Charlie Chesbrough.
While it’s easy to take the opinion of one analysis firm with a grain of salt, it’s a bigger deal when multiple specialists are forecasting similar shortfalls. Edmunds also announced expectations of a year-over-year decline on Tuesday, while LMC Automotive is forecasting a year-over-year sales decline and total expected new vehicle sales of just 13.1 million units in 2022. That latter figure is a rather worrying 2.3 million unit decline over 2021 sales. Buckle up, everyone. Things might be getting even bumpier.
Whelp, time to drop the lid on today’s edition of The Morning Dump. With the car market expected to stay absolutely batshit for a very long time, I want to know how your car buying plans have been affected. Have you been pushed around by a dealer lobbing markup in at the last possible moment? Is a cheap, reliable used daily driver out of your reach? Are you holding off on acquiring a new toy? Whatever the case, I’d love to hear your stories of trying to shop for cars in this seller’s market.