Nissan puts a beard on a soft-roader, the chip shortage rages on, GM recalls some tonneau covers. All this and more on today’s edition of The Morning Dump.
Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If you’re morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.
Up Rock Creek Without A Skid Plate
People really seem to be craving lumberjacked-up crossovers on all-terrain tires, so Nissan is giving folks what they want with the 2023 Pathfinder Rock Creek.
How do you add off-road pretensions to a standard crossover SUV? Start by making it uglier, of course. The Pathfinder Rock Creek gets a slab of unpainted plastic across the front bumper that’s sure to age poorly in sunny climates despite being a boon for anyone who parks by feel. Above this plastic pouty face sits a black grille with three silver slots across the upper edge and mesh replacing slats. While the mesh is a rather nice addition, I could do without the silver – it’s a bit tacky. Not that you asked me.
Nothing says rugged like a tubular roof rack, so the Rock Creek wears a futon frame on its roof. Don’t worry about this piece of jungle gym equipment blocking the view through the sunroof because there’s no window to the skies in the Rock Creek. Hey, costs have to be cut somewhere. Rounding out the exterior appearance is a set of orange badges, a 5/8-inch (16 mm) lift, LED fog lamps, and a set of 265/60R18 Toyo Open Country A/T all-terrain tires wrapped around a set of faux-beadlock alloy wheels that would’ve been a hit at SEMA in 2008.
On the inside captains’ chairs take the place of the second-row bench, while natty black pleather-and-cloth upholstery with orange stitching adds an appropriate amount of pop for a mid-range model. You’ll never forget it’s a Rock Creek model either, as the Rock Creek logo is embroidered in huge orange stitching on the seats and center console lid.
While a hilariously minuscule boost in ride height and a chunky set of all-terrain tires will likely be enough for most fire trail camping enthusiasts, the Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition is absolutely not an off-road vehicle. It doesn’t gain additional skid plates or recovery points, nor does it feature limited-slip front or rear differentials. It really just offers the appearance of an SUV without any added capability. The only real performance addition is a premium fuel map in the ECU that bumps output to 295 horsepower and 284 lb-ft of torque when running hi-test. So it’s an odd sell; the regular Pathfinder is actually quite handsome and should be able to go everywhere the Rock Creek can go.
Anyone actually looking at a crossover to do occasional off-road duty will want something much more capable than the Pathfinder Rock Creek. However, if you just want to look like the toughest dad in the Arby’s drive-thru, the Rock Creek should do just fine.
All Dip, No Chips
It’s 2022 and everyone from car shoppers to finance bros are anxiously awaiting news of the chip shortage tapering off. Bad news, I’m afraid. According to Automotive News, it looks like semiconductor scarcity may continue for longer than expected.
Arno Antlitz, Volkswagen’s CFO, spoke with Boersen-Zeitung about the chip shortage, and his predictions aren’t rosy. On the plus side, Antlitz expects supply issues to ease somewhat toward the end of this year. On the minus side, easing does not imply capacity to meet full demand. Despite chipmaker Infineon expecting core chip production to be back to normal in 2023, Antlitz isn’t expecting all chip suppliers to support full demand until 2024. “The situation should improve in 2023, but the structural problem will not yet have been fully resolved,” said Antlitz in the aforementioned Automotive News story.
While just one prediction could be easily brushed off as speculation, two similar predictions from different industry experts add credibility to a concept. Oliver Zipse, BMW Group’s CEO, is saying roughly the same thing as Antlitz. In a recent interview with German newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung, Zipse said, “I expect us to start seeing improvements at the latest next year, but we will still have to deal with a fundamental shortage in 2023.”
That’s not exactly reassuring news. If you’re thinking of buying a new car but want to wait for a deal, you might be waiting for some time yet.
A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More Touchscreen
Mind you, waiting to buy a new car isn’t all bad news. Toyota’s new infotainment system is so much better than its old one that Toyota’s fast-tracking implementation across its lineup. No fewer than 20 nameplates across the Toyota and Lexus range, including the recently-debuted Corolla Cross, are expected to get this new infotainment system this year. That’s right, a major electronics revision in a product’s second model year on the market.
Zack Hicks, Toyota Motor North America’s chief digital officer, elaborated on this massive undertaking in a media round-table last week. “Normally that would have taken us five to eight years to get this out, based on the remodel cycle,” said Hicks.
Honestly, it feels about time that Toyota implemented rolling tech upgrades. Mazda, Stellantis, Ford and Volkswagen haven’t been afraid to offer tech refreshes before major model refreshes, much to the delight of consumers who want the newest tech experience as soon as possible.
Perhaps more importantly, every single Toyota and Lexus vehicle is expected to get the new-generation infotainment system within the next three years. Could the Lexus LC 500 become absolutely perfect in every single way come 2025? Here’s to hoping.
Ejecto Tonneau, Cuz
Most truck accessory designs should be pretty simple, right? Side steps that people can step on, mud flaps that prevent rocks from launching into the windscreens of following cars, a good tonneau cover that doesn’t fly off while you’re driving. It seems that someone must have missed that last point because certain GM half-ton trucks have been recalled for randomly-detaching flying tonneau covers.
Funnily enough, this isn’t even GM’s first recall for flying tonneau covers. They actually managed to miss a few units of this particular model of tonneau cover the first time around. Both hard and soft varieties of the Truck Hero tri-fold tonneau cover sold through GM Accessories may come loose while underway, fly off in spectacular fashion and leave a trail of destruction wherever they may go.
Only 1,236 2019-2022 Chevrolet Silverado 1500s and GMC Sierra 1500s are reportedly affected, so your chances of experiencing some real Final Destination shit are fairly slim. Still, giving half-ton GM trucks with tri-fold tonneau covers a wide berth isn’t a bad idea for now. Owner notification letters won’t be mailed out until May 16, with fixes expected to be available shortly thereafter.
Whelp, time to drop the lid on this edition of The Morning Dump. It’s Monday morning once again and we’d love to hear what wrenching you got up to on the weekend. Whether performing a quick and dirty pad slap or seam-welding a chassis, every minute in the garage counts. As the front pads on my friend’s XC90 were getting thin, we threw on a fresh set of Akebono pads and Zimmermann discs. Low noise, low dust, decent bite for daily driving. Exactly the sort of braking characteristics people want in a family hauler.