Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized news 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.
Honda’s CPO program Throws It Back
Certified Pre-Owned programs sound pretty appealing to car shoppers who don’t want to wait months for an order or get hammered by dealer markups. A nice used vehicle with extended OEM warranty coverage seems like a great idea, but most CPO programs currently have a problem – they only cover fairly recent vehicles. Due to short supply, trying to get your hands on a five-year-old Honda right now is trickier than trying to move a California King into a basement apartment. Sensing a need to expand and make even more money, Honda has announced a new tier of its CPO program called HondaTrue Used for vehicles up to ten years old with no mileage limit.
To satiate buyers, Honda’s throwing in a 100 day, 5,000 mile warranty that starts on the date of purchase. Not phenomenal but definitely not terrible, especially on a ten-year-old car. Honda’s also throwing in the usual one-year perks of roadside assistance and trip interruption reimbursement along with a three-day/300 mile exchange program, one free oil change within the first year or 12,000 miles, 90 days of satellite radio (does anyone still use that?), and a year of concierge services.
While slapping a CPO seal of approval on ten-year-old cars reeks of desperation harder than Axe Chocolate body spray, there is a bright side for cautious enthusiasts. The ninth-gen Civic Si was the last one with an enjoyable engine and is getting on seven years old at the newest, so a bit of extra protection sounds like nice insurance. While there’s no guarantee that an Si will be covered under warranty if the synchros turn out crunchier than a fresh bag of Tostitos, the possibility is somewhat reassuring. As always, it’s worth weighing the cost of a CPO car against a standard used car with a reputable extended warranty.
CAFE Ratchets Things Up To 49 MPG
With pain at the pumps continuing to plague motorists, the US Federal Government has announced a plan to increase corporate average fuel economy standards to roughly 49 miles per gallon by 2026. While the NHTSA estimates that these new CAFE standards will add an average of $1,087 to sticker prices, new vehicle owners are expected to save about $1,387 on gas over the lifetime of a 2029 model year vehicle. Not great news when the average new car transaction stands at over $43,000, but not the end of the world either. The rollout strategy for these new CAFE standards is to increase the current mandate by eight percent in 2024, another eight percent in 2025 and a further ten percent in 2026. While these seem like aggressive targets, the arcane machinations of bureaucracy are hard at work to reduce actual impact of this big headline.
Here’s the gist of things. Firstly, CAFE MPG still uses two-cycle city and highway testing established in the 1970s which clocks in at around 10 to 20 per cent higher than the five-cycle testing-derived MPG seen on window stickers. Secondly, each size class of vehicle has to meet different CAFE MPG requirements, so companies with a heavy large vehicle mix will need to meet a lower figure than companies with a heavy small vehicle mix. Regulations for light trucks such as pickup trucks and SUVs are also less stringent than regulations for cars, so manufacturers with a heavy SUV mix also see benefit. Thirdly, fuel economy improvements aren’t the only way to meet CAFE regulation. EVs are heavily incentivized by use of MPGe, or miles per 33.7 kWh (the amount of energy in a gallon of gasoline), while low-impact A/C refrigerants like R-1234yf are eligible for fuel consumption improvement value credits retroactive to 2017. Neither of these technologies will actually increase the EPA combined fuel economy on gasoline-powered cars. The bottom line? The average gasoline-powered car won’t average 49 MPG combined any time soon.
Faraday Future’s in Hot Water Again
Making cars is hard, and Faraday Future seems to be learning the hard way. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has been on a bit of an EV investigation tear lately, focusing on EV startups that have gone public by merging with special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs). Lucid Group, Lordstown Motors, Canoo and others have already been probed, but the SEC’s latest focus is on Faraday Future. It’s alleged in an internal investigation that Faraday Future made some seriously inaccurate statements to investors, including statements declaring 14,000 unpaid indications of interest as reservations for their FF 91 crossover. As a result, several members of Faraday Future’s management have been subpoenaed by the SEC. This SEC investigation adds pressure to an ongoing internal investigation that Faraday Future says will likely cause the company to miss its extended deadline for fiscal year 2021 annual reporting.
None of this is good news for Faraday Future, but good news for future SPAC investors may be on the horizon. On Wednesday, the SEC voted to propose new rules that would protect investors by placing liability for misleading claims on companies going public via SPAC, potentially closing a loophole that made raising capital via SPAC advantageous. Here’s to hoping that the wild west days of EV startups are over soon.
Cue the Volkswagen Electrical Fault Jokes
Thom Yorke once sang, “In a fast German car, I’m amazed that I survived. An airbag saved my life.” While nobody would accuse the Volkswagen Atlas of being fast, its array of airbags should help in a crash, right? Well, some of them might not. Volkswagen has issued a recall for 222,892 Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport midsize crossover SUVs built for model years 2019 through 2023 due to a faulty connection in the wiring harness that runs from the A-pillar to the door. A lack of anti-vibration measures in a connector from one supplier could promote contact corrosion and spawn all sorts of gremlins, from power windows with a mind of their own to delayed airbag deployment. I know exactly what you’re thinking, they’re making 2023 Atlases already? Apparently so. Other symptoms may include door sensor warnings and inadvertent parking brake engagement at speeds below 1.8 mph (3 km/h). As multiple suppliers build these harnesses, not all Atlases are affected. Owners should receive recall notifications in early-to-mid May. Until then, don’t die I guess.
If you think Americans have it bad with the Atlas recall, you should hear what’s going on in the rest of the world. More than 100,000 Volkswagen, Audi, Seat and Skoda plug-in hybrids have been recalled for risk of fiery death. The cause? Insufficient battery pack insulation. It turns out that slightly loose engine covers can ignite from battery pack heat, creating such consequences as toasty Tiguans and charred Arteons. This insulation issue has already been linked to 16 fires, although no American models are affected. There’s currently no clear timeline on when affected owners will be notified, nor a defined fix for this self-immolation issue. In the meantime, maybe check your engine cover if you own an affected PHEV model.
Not content to let Volkswagen issue the largest recall this week, Ford’s trotting out two different recalls, each audaciously huge in scope. For the smaller recall, 345,451 2020-2022 Escapes and 2021-2022 Bronco Sports with the 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine may experience cracking of the air oil separator. What’s an air oil separator? It’s part of the PCV system designed to draw oil droplets out of the pressurized air in the crankcase and return the collected fluid to the lubrication system. It’s a pretty smart piece that prevents excessive carbon deposits from forming on the intake valves in direct-injection engines. The air oil separator on the current Ford 1.5T is made of plastic and if it were to crack, separated oil would get all over hot engine components. Fiery death? Potentially! Six fires have been identified as possibly having stemmed from air oil separator cracks. The good news is that the expected failure rate is in the one per cent range; Ford will send out owner notifications on April 18, and all cracked air oil separators will be replaced.
There are more FoMoCo recalls to discuss. Braking performance is pretty critical, particularly when towing big stuff. Unfortunately, Ford has recalled 391,836 trucks and SUVs for a fault in their trailer brake controller software. There’s a chance that the trailer brake controller might fail to actuate electric or electric-over-hydraulic trailer brakes, drastically increasing stopping distances. Nobody likes a code brown, so Ford’s planning a software update to fix this. What models are affected? Brace yourself, it’s a pretty big group. Listed on the recall notice are certain 2021-2022 F-150s, 2022 Mavericks, 2022 Expeditions, 2022 F-250s, 2022 F-350s, 2022 F-450s, 2022 F-550s and 2022 Lincoln Navigators. Like with the 1.5T air oil separator recall, Ford is mailing out owner notification letters on April 18. While it’s perfectly fine to tow surge brake-equipped trailers with any of the affected vehicles, it’s best to hold off on towing with electronically-controlled trailer brakes until the software update is complete.
That concludes today’s issue of The Morning Dump. Hopefully your dinner has worked its way out of your system by now. If not, you may want to see a doctor. While Monday may be often considered the worst day of the week, it’s also the day to share what wrenching adventures you got up to on the weekend. Whether routine spring maintenance on your daily driver or serious fabrication work on a project, we’d love to hear how you got greasy. I helped a good friend with some springtime maintenance on his Celica Supra, just a nice simple tire rotation and oil change.
Lead photo credit: Honda