Here comes VinFast’s electric SUVs, tale of two Batmobiles, no VW pickup, big Ford and Tesla recalls
VinFast going hard after electric SUV market
Intake: VinFast, the young (2017) Vietnamese auto builder, made a full-court assault on the Los Angeles Auto Show, displaying four electric SUVs. From the smallest to the largest, they were the VF6, VF7, VF8, and VF9, and the company offered ride-alongs in the five-passenger VF8 outside the convention center to prove it was real. The 6 and 7 should be available in 2023, but the 8 and 9 are pretty much ready—in fact, VinFast just delivered the first VF8s to customers in Vietnam, with the next batch of 5000 headed out globally, including to California, a state in which the company has six stores. The VinFast VF8 has two versions, Eco and Plus. The VF 8 Eco version is equipped with a 260-kW electric motor with maximum torque of 369 lb-ft. The SUV’s maximum range is 260 miles. The VF8 Plus is equipped with a 300-kW motor with 457 lb-ft of torque and can run up to 248 miles.
Exhaust: VinFast is a very aggressive company with lots of money backing it. It also has a lot of fresh ideas, such as a 10-year, 125,000-mile warranty and a battery subscription option that basically keeps you in batteries for the life of the car. It is a company to watch as it spread east of California. –Steven Cole Smith
Abarth unveils factory restomod 500
Intake: Abarth has built a special one-off to pay tribute to the 100th anniversary of the speedy Autodromo di Monza. Based on a 1970 Fiat 500, the car has a name longer than its wheelbase: Abarth Classiche 500 Record Monza ’58, which also commemorates a unique week in February 1958 when Abarth broke six-speed and endurance records at the famous Italian circuit.
The car is painted in the same green as the ’58 record-setter, while the interior fabrics and trim have reverted to that of the very first 1957 Fiat 500. There’s a single racing seat inside, a wonderful wooden steering wheel, and Jaeger dashboard that features a unique clock. The floor is bare and the fabric roof is replaced with sheet metal to aid aerodynamics, while a pair of extra spotlamps add illumination. The tiny, twin-cylinder motor was used to develop an updated Abarth Classiche 595 tuning kit, increasing capacity to 595 cc. It’s based on the original version from 1963. Included are new pistons and cylinder liners, valve springs, camshaft, a Weber carburetor, new sump, and exhaust, all delivered in a wooden box for €1952 ($2001). The car is the latest creation from Stellantis Heritage as part of its Reloaded by Creators project.
Exhaust: Fair play to Stellantis, née FCA, for embracing its heritage and supporting fans of its classics great and small. The conglomerate offers not only a crate Hellephant engine for Mopar lovers but this tuning kit for the tiny 500–and if you don’t want to get your hands dirty you can even get Officine Classiche technicians to fit it for you. —Nik Berg
Hans-Joachim Stuck’s Batmobile could be yours
Intake: German racer Hans-Joachim Stuck was BMW’s original Batman, piloting the 3.0 CSL to victory in the 1973 Nürburgring 6 Hours, before going on to Formula 1 and World Sports Car duties. This second-generation CSL in Chamonix White was the 31st of 57 examples built, and it was delivered to BMW’s M division for test purposes and then provided on a long-term loan basis to Stuck, who told Auto Motor und Sport magazine that it “felt as if it were a piece of myself.” In 1974 BMW sold the car to Stuck’s friend, World Cup Alpine Ski racer Christian Neureuther, who kept it for three years. It has since had a number of enthusiastic owners, been exhibited at the prestigious Villa d’Este concours, and had much money spent on it. Classic car specialist Kidston has it listed with price on application.
Exhaust: As a race car the 3.0 CSL was unbeatable, thanks in no small part to the wings that earned it the Batmobile moniker. “Our Capris then had no chance. I watched the BMWs disappear into the distance,” said works Ford driver John Fitzpatrick. To own a road car that was driven by a BMW works driver is a rare opportunity indeed and will, no doubt, be reflected in the asking price.—NB
And now for a real fake Batmobile …
Intake: This isn’t a real Batmobile, and we know because it’s right-hand-drive. Otherwise, this is a 2001 Toyota Avalon that someone went to a lot of work and expense to create something that is, we’ll admit, different. It’s up for auction in England on December 7. “Here is something you don’t see everyday,” understates the listing. “Fitted with fabricated rear wings and painted in black with red decals, side exhaust pipes, custom interior and a flashing flame thrower light and siren. This “Batmobile” was driven some 182 miles to the sale room; it is reported that, as expected, the car turned heads everywhere it went. The 3.0-liter V-6 provides plenty of power and provides a fabulous noise through the exhaust pipes, paired with famous Japanese reliability.”
Exhaust: Luckily, it’s a no reserve auction! —SCS
Volkswagen pickup a no-go
Intake: VW dealers have been waiting (im)patiently for a pickup truck of any sort to sell, and they thought was they might get one based on the upcoming Scout platform. Ain’t happening, says Automotive News, after a roundtable with VW executives at the L.A. Auto Show. “Thomas Schäfer, newly installed global head of the Volkswagen brand, says the platform being developed for the nascent Scout brand is not in VW’s future, at least not in this decade.
“‘At the moment, our focus on the lineup doesn’t include it,’ said Schäfer, who started his new job three months ago. ‘Then again, in the American market, if you don’t play in certain segments, then you have to stay in a certain market-share area. But the question of [using the Scout platform] is not our priority at the moment.'”
Exhaust: Too bad. After seeing what VW did with its new minivan, we’d love to see its take on a small pickup. —SCS
Ford recalls 453K F-150s, Tesla recalls 321K Model 3s and Model Ys
Intake: Ford is issuing a recall for nearly 454,000 F-150 pickups from the 2021 and 2022 model years due to a potentially faulty windshield wiper motor that could burn out and stop working. This is the second recall issued around the wiper motor faults—Ford also issued a recall back in March for 157K F-150s for the same problem, but it appears that the first one did not cast a wide-enough net. Ford told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that it would begin sending letters to owners of potentially affected trucks beginning early next year. The company said that it is not aware of any injuries or crashes related to the issue, and it believes only about one percent of the total vehicle count could contain the faulty component.
Meanwhile, Tesla is issuing a recall for nearly 322,000 Model 3 and Model Y electric vehicles. This recall is due to tail lamps that could fail to light up under normal operating conditions. According to the NHTSA recall document, the issue stems from a “firmware anomaly that may cause false fault detections during the vehicle wakeup process” which could cause the tail lamps to intermittently illuminate. The recall notes that brake lamps, turn signal lamps, and backup lamps are not affected by this issue. The issue was first reported in foreign markets in late October, and following an internal investigation, Tesla issued the voluntary recall earlier this month. Tesla will deploy an over-the-air (OTA) update to correct the firmware anomaly that caused this failure.
Exhaust: Both these recalls have safety implications, so it’s good to see the automakers wasting little time to get them remedied. Ford’s recall still requires a dealership visit, but that Tesla fix is rather impressive; an automaker able to rectify a firmware issue with a few lines of code blasted out over the interwebs? Welcome to the future, baby. —Nathan Petroelje