My daughter is a diligent saver and rarely dips into her allowance. For a while, she was talking about spending her money on a Nintendo Switch. This excited me. Now she’s thinking of donating it to a wildlife charity. I’m proud, of course, but a Switch would have been cool for me—I mean, for her. Thankfully, Toyota’s handing out Nintendo Switches with Grand Highlanders so maybe I’ll just buy one of those.
In less fun news, Republican senators want to roll back heavy-duty truck emissions rules and Volvo had a mixed 2022. In more fun news, Skoda and dogs!
The First Toyota Grand Highlander Customers Get A Switch And Mario Kart 8
I linked above to our writeup on the new Grand Highlander, which is a longer Highlander with a third row. This isn’t an exciting development if your house isn’t densely populated with little ones, but it’s a big segment and more competition is good for consumers. Toyota understands its customers and those customers want a third row.
They also want mushroom thumpin’, Rainbow Road’n, Yoshi-flippin’ Mario Kart and Nintendo Switch Consoles. And they’re going to get it, according to this excellent press release I just read:
With the Nintendo Switch – OLED Model, 500 Grand Highlander customers will also receive a Mario Kart 8 Deluxe game, which allows them to hit the road anytime, anywhere. Plus those with a paid Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack membership can also pick up the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Booster Course Pass, downloadable content which adds an additional 48 courses in six waves through the end of 2023.
To celebrate the collaboration, a 2024 Grand Highlander was customized and outfitted with a Nintendo Switch – OLED Model system + Mario Kart™ 8 Deluxe themed wrap and will be on display at the Chicago Auto Show starting February 9-19, 2023. To take the party a step further, large screens, speakers and a Nintendo gaming console were installed in the vehicle for Chicago Auto Show attendees to experience the spaciousness of Grand Highlander and games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe while at the Toyota booth.
When I started my career in automotive journalism I felt like the vibe was: Toyota doesn’t get it. Akio Toyoda has done a ton to improve Toyota’s reputation among enthusiasts, even if he didn’t prep the brand for an EV-centric future. There’s a new CEO and, while he probably had nothing to do with this, I think it’s a good sign that Toyota manages to both reach enthusiasts like me (Hello GR Corolla!) and also its bread-and-butter customers.
Plus, I like Mario Kart! You know what, if my daughter does give her money to charity maybe I’ll just buy her a Switch, anyway. That way everyone wins!
Republican Senators Want EPA To Reverse Trucking Rules
It’s been more than two decades since there were any serious new clear air standards applied to heavy-duty trucks in the United States, but the Environmental Protection Agency took a big step at the end of last year to fix that. The newer emissions standards are summarized by the EPA in this release. Compared to current standards, the new standards are 80% stronger.
Republican senators, led by Nebraska’s Deb Fischer, want to challenge the rule. They argue that it’s too strict and may force some operators either to quit trucking or keep older, more polluting trucks running. Some members of the trucking industry are also worried these regulations could force shipping costs to increase, which might cause the cost of goods to increase.
What can the senators actually do about this? David Shepardson explains in his Reuters write-up on the issue:
Under the Congressional Review Act, a simple majority vote in both chambers of Congress can reverse recently finalized rules. Democrats hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate, while Republicans narrowly control the House.
Republicans currently have less than 40 members on board, so it’s probably a steep climb. What are the benefits of this rule change? According to the EPA:
Up to 2,900 fewer premature deaths
6,700 fewer hospital admissions and emergency department visits
18,000 fewer cases of childhood asthma
3.1 million fewer cases of asthma symptoms and allergic rhinitis symptoms
78,000 fewer lost days of work
1.1 million fewer lost school days for children
$29 billion in annual net benefits
As with all projections, take this with a grain of salt. Since this period is over the next 22 years, maybe take it with a handful of salt. Still, as a parent of a kid with asthma, it sucks how often our lives are disrupted by it. You can guess where my bias is here.
Volvo Didn’t Have The Best (Or Worst) 2022
Volvo made money last year. That’s good. They sold fewer cars. That’s bad. The cost of building cars was higher in 2022. That’s also bad. They expect an increase in sales next year and an improvement in supply costs. That’s good.
Despite being a part of the larger Geely Extended Universe, Volvo isn’t a Toyota-sized automaker and therefore the costs of doing things can run higher and it can’t lean on suppliers quite as hard. The company, for instance, pointed out in its year-end report that the cost of lithium is way higher than the company expected. Tight supplies meant Volvo only managed to sell 615,000 cars, a decrease of about 12% from last year. Revenues were up 17% to about $32 billion, but operating income dropped to $1.7 billion. (Some of the increase in revenue can be assigned to contract production for its sister company Polestar, which is a little left pocket/right pocket).
Where’s all this going? Volvo’s CEO Jim Rowan sees more sales and better margins:
So, if 2022 marked the acceleration of our strategic journey in the face of unprecedented global disruption, 2023 will be a pivotal year as we further accelerate on that transformation path. We will launch our new small fully-electric SUV during the year, which will take us to a new demographic, and start production of the Volvo EX90.
This year, we will also transform UK from a traditional wholesale business to become direct consumer facing with seamless consumer experience and national pricing. NOVO Energy, our JV company with Northvolt, will take a crucial step towards developing sustainable battery technology with the start of construction of one of Europe’s largest battery cell plants in Gothenburg. We expect a solid double-digit growth in retail sales during this year, provided there are no unexpected supply chain disruptions. We intend to continue increasing our volumes for fully electric cars in 2023, taking the full year share higher than last year’s share of 11 per cent.
There’s some hedging there, which is both CYA and the admission that no one really knows what’s going to happen this year with the War in Ukraine, China, the Mets bullpen…. so much uncertainty.
Skoda’s Gone To The Dogs
Exemplary Czech VW-subsidiary Skoda is nosing its way into the British market and what better way to do that then by becoming the Official Automotive Partner of Crufts, which is the UK’s “biggest and most prestigious” dog event. Hell yeah. I assume it’s like their Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. I don’t really know, I’m just always looking for a reason to write about Skoda.
Škoda will be at Crufts with its charity partner, Dogs for Good. Škoda has been working with the charitable organisation since 2022, to help raise awareness of the amazing cause, which brings people and dogs together to help make life possible for people with a range of disabilities. Dogs for Good staff are always out and about, whether it’s driving dogs in training to and from their Temporary Boarders, visiting and supporting Puppy Socialisers or taking Community Dogs to the different organisations they work with. The two Škoda Kamiq compact SUVs that starred in the brand’s recent TV advert, were donated to the organisation to support their invaluable work.
Ok, here’s some pics of very good dogs and very good Skodas:
The Inside Straight
What’s the goofiest thing that would get you to buy a car? Clearly, the value of a Switch is way below the value of a car. It’s a rounding error, but… it is enticing.
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Photos: Skoda, Toyota, Volvo, Freightliner
I personally think cars should come with your choice (or choices, if you go uplevel) of one of the OEM accessories that lots of the auto companies sell now.
There’s always a ton of cool stuff in the catalog that nobody ends up buying but later on often becomes a selling/owning point, at least for this crowd here.
I always end up buying some myself, and I’m then glad years later that I got it, long after it’s no longer available anywhere.
Like, my Focus has this cool Ford resin trunk liner that’s got a lip to contain spills (has come in real handy), convex bumps to keep things from sliding around, and (my favorite part) a embossed “Focus” in the correct style/font. Makes me happy every time I open the trunk.
As someone who gets insanely bad headaches from diesel exhaust fumes, stricter diesel emissions rules are needed, shit while they’re at it, ALL commercial diesel vehicles should be regularly tested to make sure they are still within compliance and funds should be set aside to help bring in the ones that aren’t or help get a newer vehicle that is. This would be a win for everyone.
For goofy things that would get me to buy a car? An included scale model of the car would be nice.
China has moved this way, operators can see fines beyond the cost of the truck for not meeting emissions in use. Technology also exists to meet new standards, including the more stringent upcoming CARB standards, here’s just one example- https://www.greencarcongress.com/2022/04/20220420-achates.html
The new standards could be met with a new engine that uses conventional aftertreatment, has better fuel economy to save operators money, and is lighter, simpler, and costs less up front, but the industry is too opposed to change.
It’s weird but I really like the smell of diesel exhaust. Not that I go around huffing it all the time. It is probably some form of nostalgia from driving tractors as a kid.
The scale model is a great idea. Every car should have that!
Diesel aroma = death
Yes, they all need regular and unannounced testing. There is an industry dedicated to bypassing and defeating emissions equipment due to high repair costs and frequent breakdowns of early emissions systems.
I like this idea. I think including a scale model in the exact spec of car should be mandatory for any enthusiast-oriented vehicle.
Re: the Switch – it’s no Warner Bros. Edition, but it’ll do.
Actually just thought of Acura giving the first 500 Integra buyers an NFT of the car last year. Wonder if that actually had any pull and if those buyers still have them…
Wait, Volvo’s CEO is some guy named Jim? Not, like, Thor Hammersmetallsburg? Consider me offended. /s
On the other hand, he’s Scottish, so at least he’s not crap.
Fun thought about the Switch: it’s probably a lower cost than the mile of extra wiring Ford put in the Mach E. Even if they pay full retail for each Switch, it’s about the same.
I might be tempted to buy a car that came with an e-bike, assuming I was interested in the car itself.
I’d also be tempted to buy a special edition of a vehicle I wanted if it came in a color I wanted. But don’t tell manufacturers. They already tie too many things like that to trim levels and such. They don’t need more ideas.
Like an updated version of the Honda Motocompo! Have it fold down into a compartment somewhere, nice!
And I am now getting e-bike ads here. That’s on me. I know better than to mention anything that makes me look like a consumer on the internet.
I’m mentioning sex workers because I want to see how far we can push the algorithm.
Are those sex workers furries? Because let’s get the weirdest ads we can.
Well shoot, want me to wax poetic about Rocky Mountain oysters? Calf fries? Bull balls? Bovine testicles? The kind that are deep fried and delicious with a little hot sauce?
I think the true agenda behind the more strict emissions is to push the trucking industry to hydrogen and battery powered vehicles. Otherwise, they will keep rolling with diesel.
The emission standards that started in 2010 were very strict compared to the previous standards. The company I worked for at the time needed to redo all their emission testing equipment because the exhaust needed to be cleaner than the air in some major US cities. Their sensors couldn’t detect pollution at the levels that were required. I wonder what the 2027 engines and aftertreatments will look like.
Side note, 2010 emissions were a warranty and reliability disaster for many engine manufacturers. Cat stopped making on the road engines, Detroit Diesel disappeared for a while as a new engine manufacturer, Navistar almost went bankrupt. Those that survived dealt with emissions cheating lawsuits (VW, Cummins, FCA, etc).
Bit awkward considering the Mercedes karts in Mario Kart…
What’s the goofiest thing that would get you to buy a car?
A 3 seat interior (including the driver’s seat). 2 seats is not enough, and 4+ seats is too many. For me 3 seats is the perfect amount of seats and design wise it allows for vehicles with much shorter OAL than 4+ seat vehicles without being any wider.
I’ve been looking at Jeep Wrangler 2 doors and if I got one I’d probably pull the front passenger seat out. That way I save weight, people have an easier time getting in the back seat, and I got a place for my doggos to sit on their doggo bed in the car and still be able to stick their heads out the window.
More often than not I’m driving by myself, and when I’m not driving by myself most of the time my dogs are the only ones in the car, very occasionally I have a couple friends in my car at most and it’s only for an hour or less at a time, I don’t need ultra luxury passenger seats, I need jump seats.
I am enjoying the mental image of Mr. LM002 and his very good doggos riding around in a Wrangler with one front seat and a dog bed in the “shotgun” position.
The comfort of doggos is to be put above all else, the bipeds can sit in the jump seats.
My Puffalump needs a nice place to sit for track days. Usually it’s the center of the back seat, but if not, there needs to be a good, secure place for ‘lump.
A Toyota/Nintendo collab should be awesome.
This is whack.
For that money the pumpkin oat milk latte and “My child is an honor student” bumper sticker should be standard as well.
What happened to the Toyota that taught us small, efficient cars are better than boaty gas-guzzlers?
I’d buy a car if the instrument cluster featured a slide show and pop-up ads.
I’d buy a car if it came with a giant bow on top
Not a car, but I saw a sign in a corner lot recently that said, “Buy a House, Get a Free Pizza!”.
The house in question was in a state of disrepair distressingly close to hovel-level, but…free pizza you say?
Heh, this Houston sign was making the rounds recently: https://i.imgur.com/bCgY5Yx.jpeg
$250 in free tacos? I have so many questions:
a) from where?
b) …is this one of those houses that was built in a flood reservoir?
c) no, really, how many feet has this house been underwater?
d) back to the important question, though: where are the tacos from?
As a Switch owner, I’m looking forward to the “Breath of the Wild” sequel “Tears of the Kingdom”.
IT HAS A CAR!
BOTW had a motorcycle made of rocks that runs on apples, steaks, and the remains of dead enemies that you’ve slain. Very eco!
An accessory that may sell me a car: A usable external OEM V2L adapter. Not everyone wants bees or skeeters or wildlife (including the human kind) able to get inside while powering whatever it is.
If there were an Autopian Edition of something similar to the Eddie Bower Explorer or Nautica Villager I would be very tempted.
I’m trying to imagine an Autopian edition of a car.
I imagine it would come pre-rusted in critical areas of the bodywork and structure, featuring random oil stains in the carpet and only half the gauges working at any time. Not always the same gauges every time, though.
“I don’t get it Dad, I donated my money to charity instead of buying a Switch. Why didn’t you as well?”
I mean, I doubt it will happen, but I didn’t think I’d ever hear about a kid donating to charity either.
She’s got a big heart! She also asked for donations to the World Wildlife Fund in lieu of gifts for her birthday (from friends, she definitely has a long list of demands for her parents).
My dad bought a new Xterra around 2000. It came with about 20 cases of 24 coke/sprite/etc. My kid brain felt like we had won the lottery. Took about a year to finish it all.
Slush mats. I live in Pittsburgh. Slush mats force me to make bad auto buying decisions on a regular basis.
They keep putting those blue cards with that red and yellow logo on it, and it gets me EVERY. TIME. I’ve bought so many cars this way. Thankfully they’re only $1ea, but still!
Lucky you. For some insane reason, they jumped from 89 cents to $1.18 here a few years ago, and I’m still not over it.
Balloons tied to car antennas get me every time! Darn it!
VW offering a guitar with new cars in the 2000s was cool as hell, as were the ads with John Mayer and the dude from Spinal Tap shredding on it in front of the cars. I’m a guitarist and I’d imagine the car enthusiast/guitarist overlap is significant. It was a good idea then and it’s still a good idea now.
I was all set to buy my first ever new car, just because it came with a slightly bigger engine.
But then the UK allocation of GR86s sold out before Toyota even contacted customers who registered an interest.
I think I’d need a freebie I couldn’t buy, otherwise what’s the point?
I’d buy a car for an edit button and comment reply notifications.
COTM, if not COTY. Shut it down, folks.
Ahhhh crap. That’s gonna be COTD isn’t it. You win.
In addition to the edit button, being able to insert a picture would be neat.
Joke’s on you, you’re buying one of David’s near-impossible projects to get that.
As long as it’s the Oldsmobile.
thisssss… I am always looking for my username to see if someone replied lol