Mercedes brings back the V8 across its model range, Tesla gets sued over alleged phantom braking incidents, Honda and LG plan to build a new $4.4 billion EV battery plant in America. 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.
Mercedes-Benz Brings Back The V8 For 2023
When it was announced that Mercedes was largely discontinuing its four-liter biturbo V8 for 2022 models due to claimed supply chain issues, I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad. Sure, it’s not an attainable engine for most people, but it’s one amazingly potent powerplant that makes a wonderful baritone growl in AMG applications.
Fortunately, things seem to have turned around at Mercedes-Benz. I’m pleased to report that four-liter V8 availability is back in full swing for 2023. According to a Mercedes-Benz media release, almost every temporarily discontinued 2021 V8 model is back, save for the C63 AMG sedan (the C-Class sedan is now in a new generation), and the AMG GT sports car.
Considering Mercedes-Benz’s big electric push, it may seem a bit strange to celebrate the return of a V8 dinosaur. What can I say, a good engine is a good engine and the days of soulful V8s really are numbered. While the engine’s return is good news for Mercedes seeing as high-margin models are heading back to dealerships, it also means that some of our favorite dream machines are back on the menu. I mean come on, who hasn’t fancied an AMG E63 wagon at some point?
Tesla Sued Over Alleged Phantom Braking Problems
Ever since Tesla switched to vision-based advanced driver assistance systems, owners have been reporting incidents of sudden, unintended braking. After an astonishing number of complaints from owners, Reuters reports that one Tesla owner has filed suit against the company over phantom braking, with the possibility of going full class action.
Tesla has rushed its autonomous driving cars to market with unsafe technology, including its driver assistant system which the company calls Autopilot or Full Self-Driving, and its emergency braking system, according to the lawsuit by Jose Alvarez Toledo of San Francisco.
“When the sudden unintended braking defect occurs, they turn what is supposed to be a safety feature into a frightening and dangerous nightmare,” said Toledo’s lawsuit, which was filed on Friday in federal court in the northern district of California.
The lawsuit seeks class action status for all U.S. owners or leasors of a Tesla that suffers from the sudden unintended braking defect.
Needless to say, phantom braking is a pretty significant safety hazard, essentially automatically brake-checking trailing drivers. It’ll be interesting to watch this suit develop and see if it gets granted class action status. While automatic emergency braking can be worthwhile if it works properly, malfunctioning automatic emergency braking sounds rather terrifying. It’s worth noting that Tesla isn’t the only manufacturer to receive complaints of phantom braking, but it’s certainly the most prolific offender in recent history, judging by hundreds of complaints owners have made to NHTSA. It’s likely wishful thinking, but I hope something happens that causes Tesla to take its advanced driver assistance systems seriously. This suit likely won’t be the catalyst for that, but stranger things have happened.
Automatic Emergency Braking Systems Struggle With Nighttime Pedestrian Avoidance
Speaking of automatic emergency braking, new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety night testing reveals that advanced driver assistance systems aren’t great at avoiding pedestrians at night. In a recent test of 23 vehicles, only four scored top marks, while four failed to avoid collisions with dummies in every test procedure. What’s more, it turns out that even the better automatic emergency braking systems couldn’t avoid a pedestrian along the roadside if the vehicle was traveling 37 mph. Here’s what the IIHS has to say.
None of the advanced-rated vehicles were able to avoid impacts in the 37 mph parallel scenario. With their high beams, most avoided hitting the pedestrian in the 12 mph and 25 mph crossing scenario and in the 25 mph parallel test. However, most struggled in those scenarios when using their low beams.
“Eight of the 12 vehicles that earn a basic rating or no credit in the nighttime test got superior or advanced ratings in the daylight evaluation,” says David Aylor, vice president of active safety at IIHS, who designed the new program.
What’s more, nighttime performance doesn’t even appear to be consistent by manufacturer. The Honda Accord scored a mid-grade rating of Advanced, while the Honda Pilot failed the tests altogether. A more dramatic split can be seen between the top Superior rating of the Nissan Pathfinder and the failure of the Nissan Altima. Considering these results, it’s genuinely disconcerting how automakers have heavily marketed automatic emergency braking as a safety net. As with all active safety systems, automatic emergency braking is very much fallible and needs to be treated as if it can’t replace safe driving.
Honda And LG To Build American Battery Plant
Before every manufacturer can gear up to crank out a ton of EVs, manufacturers will first need to source a ton of batteries. In unsurprising but still pleasant news, Automotive News reports that Honda and LG will spend $4.4 billion on a new American EV battery plant.
The move, announced on Monday in a statement, will establish a joint venture battery plant with annual capacity for about 40 gigawatt hours of pouch-type lithium ion batteries.
The power packs will be supplied exclusively to Honda in North America, though LG Energy Solution and Honda said the location of the plant has not yet been finalized.
Construction is slated to start in early 2023 with mass production beginning by the end of 2025.
An American battery facility for Honda products makes a lot of sense considering the extent of Honda’s American assembly operations and the industry-wide trend of adhering to manufacturing stipulations in the Inflation Reduction Act. Moving battery pack production closer to assembly plants could reduce shipping costs and ensure that Honda gets the full $7,500 EV credit depending on where materials are sourced from. Honda expects to have its new electric architecture ready for 2026, so having an American battery plant online by the end of 2025 sounds about right.
I’m interested to know where Honda and LG eventually choose to build their battery plant. The automaker will likely want easy shipping to its Alabama, Ohio, and Ontario, Canada plants, so somewhere in the rust belt feels like a logical choice.
Whelp, time to drop the lid on today’s edition of The Morning Dump. It’s a rainy Tuesday here in Toronto, so let’s do some daydreaming. Let’s say you’re given $5,000 to spend on your car. How would you spend it? Would you splurge on a full suspension refresh, have some cosmetic work done, or splash out on something else?
Lead photo credit: Mercedes-Benz