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Cheers and Jeers for 2021


bobo

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It was another unforgettable year that we would like to forget.  It started with an assault on democracy in the nation’s Capitol by deluded and enabled followers of the previous occupant of the White House.  A new President was sworn in with the first female and person of color as Vice President.

In May the U.S. started the quick removal of troops from Afghanistan, which was the longest war in U.S. history, at 20 years.  The immediate takeover of the country by the Taliban showed that the Afghan National Army was incapable and probably would never have been capable to keep the government in power.

In June, 98 lives were lost in the coastal town of Surfside, Florida, when a poorly maintained 12-story condominium building collapsed.

Politics were ugly throughout the year, whether dealing with voting rights, abortion, COVID-19, or infrastructure, and flying the skies proved not to be friendly.  Inflation was a hot topic with rising costs for food, housing, automobiles, gasoline, and just about everything else, though wage gains also helped at the lower end.  Service jobs went unfilled as many people, particularly those at the older range, chose to leave the workforce.

By the end of the year, another 400,000 Americans would lose their lives to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many of those preventable had they not succumbed to disinformation.  The highly contagious Omicron variant spread like wildfire at the end of the year and once again put strain on healthcare professionals.

Prominent passings include Secretaries of State Colin Powell and George Schultz, Senator Bob Dole, publisher Larry Flynt, rapper DMX, and racers Al Unser Sr., Bobby Unser, and Bob Bondurant.  There was also Nobel Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, radio host Rush Limbaugh, baseball great Hank Aaron, TV and radio host Larry King, Dodgers General Manager Tommy Lasorda, and NFL broadcaster John Madden.  Four actors from the classic sitcom Mary Tyler Moore passed away:  Cloris Leachman, Ed Asner, Gavin MacLeod, and Betty White.

In automotive news, the supply chain and chip shortage affected automobile deliveries.  With decreased inventory, dealerships jacked up prices above MSRP and stocked their parking lots with late model used cars.  Numerous automakers announced the phaseout of internal combustion engines in the 2030s, with some already stopping development of the engines.  Rather than cupholders or horsepower, the latest metrics seem to be the total number of diagonal inches of display and number and type of USB ports.  There are many upstarts from both within the U.S. or overseas wanting to take on the legacy automakers with new EV offerings.

GM started the year by unveiling a new logo to signify its transition to electric vehicles.  The logo was designed in-house and was given lukewarm reviews, with the dated gradient in particular receiving criticism.  In general, automakers have been transitioning to flatter, more minimalist logos, with Volvo and Cadillac also unveiling updated logos later in the year.  GM introduced the Chevrolet Bolt EUV to great fanfare in February, with the most significant additions over the slightly smaller regular Bolt EV being an available sunroof and SuperCruise.  However, sales would later be halted as all Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV models ever produced were recalled to replace defective battery modules but got LG to foot the majority of the bill.  Production of the vehicles remain on hold to allocate the battery modules for recalled vehicles.

In March, Volkswagen started deliveries of the electric ID4 with hopes that Dieselgate would forever fade into the past.  Also in March Jeep unveiled the big body-on-frame Wagoneer, with a big price, to take on the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator.

Ford unveiled the F-150 Lightning in May to great acclaim, having long range, normal looks, and a useful frunk. Tesla started deliveries of the 1020-hp Model S Plaid in June.  Nissan unveiled the new retro Z in New York in August to generally rave reviews.  In September, Mercedes introduced the blandly styled EQS, and Rivian started delivering the R1T electric pickup.  Lucid began deliveries of the lidar-equipped Air in October.

By the end of the year, GM delivered the first GMC Hummer EV pickups, a 9,000 pound behemoth.  Over the year, Tesla raised prices of the Model 3 and Y by about $7,000 and $9,000, respectively, likely due a combination of increased demand, higher production costs from the supply chain issues, and anticipation of newly available rebates, yet to occur, from the stalled Build Back Better bill.  Tesla moved their Headquarters from California’s Silicon Valley to Texas next to a new factory that will soon be up and running.  Tesla briefly reached a $1 trillion dollar valuation, making it about 6 times more valuable than GM and 5 times more than Ford.  Elon Musk was named Person of the Year by Time Magazine and is the wealthiest person in the world.  The Tesla Cybertruck was delayed another year.

Canceled vehicles included the Toyota Avalon, BMW i3, Lotus Elise, Toyota Land Cruiser (in the U.S.), Volkswagen Passat, and Mazda 6, which may return.

Without further adieu, here’s the 20th Annual Edition of Cheers and Jeers:

Cheers to Ford for Best New Vehicle with the practical and attainable Ford Maverick.  With a projected 42 mpg EPA City rating for the hybrid powertrain and starting price below $20,000, it’s a brilliant follow-up to last year’s Ford Bronco.  Not everyone needs a $50,000 full-size pickup.

Cheers to Genesis for Best Save for saving the life of Tiger Woods when he seemingly dozed off and crashed a GV80 into a tree in a L.A. suburb in February.  The event brought non-stop cable news coverage and gave visibility to the obscure Genesis brand.  Normally a car crash is a bad look, but lesser vehicles would likely have resulted in much more serious injuries or death, and the IIHS gave the GV80 a Top Safety Pick + rating just weeks after Tiger’s crash.

Jeers to Volkswagen for Worst Marketing Move with their botched April Fool’s joke that the company was going to be renamed “Voltswagen.”  They insisted it was not an April Fool’s joke, and they came across as liars, which hurt their credibility when they are trying to move on from the deceit of Dieselgate.

Cheers to Volkswagen subsidiary Audi for Best Marketing Move by gifting a Q3 to a contestant on “Wheel of Fortune” who failed to win a Q3 due to an obscure and subjective technicality.  It generated goodwill and became a feel-good story during the holiday season, with the bonus of making Pat Sajak look bad.

Cheers to Acura for Best Nameplate Revival with the Integra returning in 2022.  The styling certainly could have been better than the mini-TLX looks up front, mashup of the Toyota Supra and old Genesis Coupe in the rear, and overall Civic profile.  Previous Integras hid the Civic roots better, but at least the Integra appears to be getting good mechanical pieces.

Jeers to Toyota for Worst New Nameplate with bZ4X for the electric crossover.  bZ standards for beyond zero and will be a sub-brand of zero-emission vehicles.  Subaru’s version of the vehicle received a much better name, Solterra.

Jeers to Tesla for Worst New-Car Feature with the yoke-style steering wheel, which provides no advantages to a normal steering wheel other than improved visibility of the instrument panel, and makes driving at low speed more difficult.  Toyota solved that problem on the pending bZ4X by providing electronic steer-by-wire with nonlinear assist.

Jeers to GM for Most Frivolous Lawsuit for suing Ford over use of the name Blue Cruise.  There was a settlement, details unknown other than Ford will continue using the name.

Jeers to Toyota for Worst Grille on the Toyota Tundra.  Ugly grills are normally reserved for Lexus and BMW, but Toyota tried to fit the biggest grille on the Tundra as possible because grille size of course is commensurate with toughness and capability.

Jeers to Mazda for Most Disappointing New EV, the MX-30 with a paltry range of 100 miles.  The range is slightly better than the defunct Honda Clarity Electric, which was introduced for the 2017 model year and had a woeful range of 89 miles .  The MX-30 doesn't get many miles from the 35.5 kW battery, which indicates not having a very efficient powertrain.  The range may have been acceptable 10 years ago, but certainly not now.

Here's hoping for better times, and wishing you all a healthy, safe, prosperous, and Happy New Year!

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Just now, trinacriabob said:

@bobo

Thanks for the great write-up, as usual. Happy New Year!

It's all there and I learned a few things.  I didn't realize that many stars of the MTM show passed away this year.

The attack on the Capitol took place on January 6, which also happens to be the Epiphany.  For me, that made it even worse.

I'll add this last month's notable quote by James Carville, to which I doubled over laughing:  "I have the equivalent of a PhD in White Trash-ology, and Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert could be the subject of a dissertation."  This is not for its reference to politics, but to the colorful over the backyard fence candor of this guy's delivery, as seen on a video of the interview.

What you say about the supply and demand situation at auto dealerships is true and troubling, where run of the mill cars and SUVs are selling for upwards of their MSRP.  And that used cars are fetching a premium, sometimes having held all of their value if only a few years old.

As for the new year, I am only looking forward to smoother sailing, in general.  I'm not holding my breath for anything in the automotive world to impress me.  All the cars I've been considering have been discontinued, or soon will be.

 

Edited by trinacriabob
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