Used car wholesale values fell again, Mercedes and Rivian team up to make vans, Ford gives BlueCruise an update. All this and more in 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.
Used Car Wholesale Values Dropped Four Percent Last Month
It’s fairly early on in a new month, which means it’s time once again to check in on the Manheim Index and see how used car wholesale values are doing. While wholesale values aren’t always indicative of retail prices, Manheim auctions move such immense volumes of used vehicles that the index is a fairly good indicator of market direction. This month, good news: Used car wholesale values are down four percent month-over-month, falling to their lowest levels since October of 2021.
In August, Manheim Market Report (MMR) values saw larger-than-normal declines that were consistent over the month. Over the last four weeks, the Three-Year-Old Index decreased a net 2.5%. Over the month of August, daily MMR Retention, which is the average difference in price relative to current MMR, averaged 98.3%, meaning market prices were below MMR values.
Hey, that’s pretty good. It’s not all roses, though. Used car wholesale prices are still up 8.4 percent year-over-year. What’s more, nobody really knows where the bottom is on this one. Automotive News reports that according to Black Book, it could still be years before used car prices return to normal.
Though wholesale prices are expected to further decline in the next one to two years, they will likely still be 30 to 40 percent above pre-COVID levels, according to an estimate from Alex Yurchenko, Black Book’s chief data science officer.
“We are in this elevated price environment for the foreseeable future,” Yurchenko said Wednesday. “The main reason is inventory. We’re not going to have the same level of used inventory coming back to the market in the next several years.”
In any case, even though market conditions are improving, buying a popular used car won’t be cheap for quite a while. However, if you’re like us and are interested in buying an unpopular used car with the resale value of a Jesus-shaped chicken nugget, Mark’s got you covered every weekday morning with Shitbox Showdown.
Mercedes And Rivian Team Up For Vans
As the era of compact commercial vans for America comes to a close, the electric commercial van era is only just beginning. Reuters reports that Mercedes-Benz and Rivian are teaming up to make electric commercial vans. From the sound of it, Mercedes-Benz seems pretty stoked on this new joint venture.
Mercedes-Benz Vans chief Mathias Geisen told reporters this would be a 50-50 joint venture and said talks should be concluded “very soon.”
“We have a lot of expertise when it comes to industrializing (vans)… but on the other hand Rivian brings in a lot of new technology expertise when it comes to electric mobility,” he said. “That’s the right match to find a win-win situation here.”
Melding Rivian’s EV tech with Mercedes’ manufacturing capacity sounds like it could produce very good vans. In fact, vans on both Rivian’s Light Van platform and Mercedes-Benz’s new VAN.EA platform are expected to roll out of a factory in Poland, Romania, or Hungary in a few years’ time. It’s no secret that Rivian has experienced issues delivering vehicles, or that Mercedes-Benz hasn’t yet built an electric van on a bespoke platform, so it’s possible that this partnership could give both companies a lift.
Germany’s Investigating Issues With Tesla Autopilot
According to Reuters, German business magazine WirtschaftsWoche reports that German transport authority KBA is reportedly investigating “abnormalities” in Tesla’s Autopilot Level 2 advanced driver assistance system.
While some of the problems found during the investigation, which has been running since the start of the year, have meanwhile been remedied, there are some outstanding ones where “further remedial measures are still being tested and secured,” said the spokesperson, according to WirtschaftsWoche.
This reported German investigation comes as NHTSA is actively investigating issues with Tesla’s Level 2 advanced driver assistance systems following several high-profile fatal collisions. While the reported patching out of some problems is good, it sounds like there’s still a lot of work to be done in getting Autopilot up to KBA’s standards.
Ford Gives BlueCruise A Big Update
Ford has announced some big updates to its BlueCruise hands-free Level 2 advanced driver assistance system in what the automaker’s calling version 1.2. While mapped hands-free driving very much has its limitations, Ford’s Doug Field outlined some benefits of the updates in a media release.
“We are investing in our ADAS team to constantly improve BlueCruise and ActiveGlide for our customers,” said Doug Field, Chief EV & Digital Systems Officer, Ford Model e. “The latest improvements allow customers to command lane changes using just a turn signal, and make hands-free driving feel more human-like by smoothly slowing down for turns, and giving more room to large vehicles in neighboring lanes. These improvements are just the beginning of a constant journey toward improving safety and, in the future, giving customers valuable time back.”
Hands-free lane changes do sound nice, while lane-positioning should give a little more time to react should a nearby semi truck wander out of its lane. However, I’m not so sure about this slowing down for turns thing. While there’s a chance it could work well, BlueCruise can only be activated on mapped highways and it would be rather annoying if a Ford driver using BlueCruise ends up disrupting the flow of traffic. Also, there’s a perverse joy in letting driver assistance systems lean on the tires a little bit harder. In any case, the update should soon come pre-installed on vehicles, starting with the Mustang Mach-E this autumn.
Whelp, time to drop the lid on today’s edition of The Morning Dump. It’s Friday, which means that weekend wrenching is almost here. I just received some new fog lights for the 325i, so I’m hoping to throw those in soon. Whether you’re bolting on new parts, performing routine maintenance, or doing a touch of bodywork, I’d love to hear what you have planned for the weekend.
Lead photo credit: Nissan
This weekend I dropped the transmission in the Miata, which is something I’ve never done before. It’s been having problems with its pilot and throwout bearings, which will be getting replaced. While I’m in there, I’m also replacing the clutch, rear main seal, and tailshaft seal.
It wasn’t as hard a job as I’d worried it might be. (Thanks, YouTube!) I didn’t have any major problems with the fasteners, which is always a concern when working underneath a New England car. Several bolts were rather difficult to get at, but in the end a combination of extensions and U-joints got them all out. A couple of bolts rounded off, but miraculously they were the few ones that had nuts on the other side rather than going into threaded holes, and not only was I able to reach those nuts, but also they came off without just spinning the bolts. Those’ll get replaced going back in, and everything will get a dose of anti-seize.
The most fun part, if you want to call it that, was actually dropping the trans. The recommended procedure for this was to get it so that it’s supported by one loose bolt at the bell housing, and then by the Power Plant Frame (a structural member that roughly parallels the transmission) at the other, which itself is held on by just a single loose bolt such that it can swing out of the way. Then you lie on your back under the transmission (with a knee up at the driveshaft end to keep it from from dropping onto your ‘nads), undo the last bolt, kick the PPF out of the way, and just drop the whole thing onto your torso. At this point you shimmy/squirm out of there and drag your greasy prize out from under the car.
The clutch had some life left on it as it turned out (a fresh one will go in anyway, of course) but the throwout bearing had worn grooves in the tips of the pressure plate’s fingers. The flywheel could be resurfaced, but honestly it’s cheaper and easier to just get a new one. Both of the aforementioned seals were definitely leaking, and both bearings—the reason I was in there to begin with—were completely shot. I’m excited to put it all back together again, and have that part of the car sorted out for the future.
Oh yeah, I also changed the oil on my partner’s Prius and then crawled around under there to figure out what was causing that rattle she’d reported. Turns out that yet again the exhaust heat shields were coming loose—who would have thought that using bolts to secure what is essentially thick tinfoil in a high-vibration environment would be a problem? *Sigh* A few more stainless steel zipties later, everything was tight again.