Ram’s 1.4M truck recall, Rivian presses pause with Mercedes, Mazda’s first plug-in hybrid


Ram recalls 1.4 million pickups for faulty tailgate latches

Intake: Bad latches have the Ram brand taking a closer look at the tailgates on 1.4 million light-duty and heavy-duty trucks from the 2019–22 model years. The issue reportedly can cause tailgates to open while driving. This recall sprang up from over 800 warranty claims filed—a trend Stellantis has been monitoring since July 2021. According to Automotive News, Ram dealers are planning to investigate the tailgate striker bolts and box latches and remedy their alignment if necessary. Owners impacted will get a letter in late January 2023. This marks the second time of late that Ram has entered the news for a recall. Its 2500 and 3500 HD trucks outfitted with the 6.7 liter Cummins turbodiesel and the 68RFE automatic transmission are also undergoing a recall for transmission fluid leaks that may cause fires. Those notification letters will hit mailboxes in late December 2022.

Exhaust: While it may seem like Ram is seriously snakebit with the recall bug, the numbers are nothing out of the ordinary per industry norms. Ford is the leader in the recall clubhouse in 2022 with 65 cases, creeping toward double the count under the Chrysler tent. Recalls happen. What matters most is how well a customer is taken care of. In the grand scheme of things, tailgate issues are small potatoes so long as no one gets hurt, and thankfully, no one on record has. — Bryan Gerould

Average price of new car reaches $48,861, setting a new record

BMW X7 2022 front

Intake: According to Kelley Blue Book, the average new car sold in November for $48,681, a record high by $422 from October, and a whopping $2,259 from one year ago. “According to Kelley Blue Book calculations, the average buyer has paid more than the manufacturer’s suggested retail price every month since July 2021.” Prices are ”showing no signs of coming down as we head into the holiday season,” said Rebecca Rydzewski, research manager of economic and industry insights for Cox Automotive. Luxury cars made up 18.2 percent of total sales in November—a near record. In November 2022, the average luxury buyer paid $67,050 for a new vehicle, another record high. The prices on non-luxury cars also rose, with buyers paying an average of $410 over sticker price. The average non-luxury car sold for $44,584.

ExhaustResearcher Rydzewski said one of the largest contributing factors is still the microchip issue resulting in a shortage of non-luxury models, as manufacturers use the chips they have on higher-profit luxury vehicles. Once the chip shortage is resolved, you have to wonder: Will prices go down, or remain artificially high? — Steven Cole Smith

Rivian pauses partnership with Mercedes-Benz

Intake: Just three months after announcing a partnership with Mercedes-Benz to produce electric vans in Europe, California-based EV maker Rivian has put a pause on the memorandum of understanding signed between the two companies, according to the Associated Press. The agreement called for a joint-venture European factory that would produce vans for both companies—one based on the VAN.EA (MB Vans Electric Architecture) platform and another based on Rivian’s RLV platform. But now it looks like Rivian wants to focus instead on its existing commercial and consumer business. “We share the same goal as Mercedes-Benz vans, to help the world transition to electric vehicles, and we look forward to exploring opportunities with them at a more appropriate time for Rivian,” said CEO RJ Scaringe.

Exhaust: Rivian is hard at work fulfilling a 100,000-unit order from Amazon for an electric delivery vehicle; a handful of the vans are already in service, and thousands more are expected to arrive before the end of the year to help with the holiday rush. When you’re a young automaker, saying yes to everything that comes your way feels like the only way to keep the momentum going. Now, Rivian is reaching a point where it may have bit off more than it can chew. — Nathan Petroelje

Plug-in hybrid powertrain confirmed for 2024 Mazda CX-90

Man plugging in car
Mazda North America

Intake: We won’t see the whole thing until its January reveal, but we now know that Mazda’s first-ever CX-90 will be offered with a new e-Skyactive plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) powertrain nationwide. Mazda claims that the powertrain, the first PHEV the company has ever offered in the U.S. is, “tuned specifically for the North American market,” and, “will provide customers with the best of both worlds in terms of performance and efficiency.”

Exhaust: We’ve been rather impressed with Mazda crossovers and their blend of driving dynamics and practicality. The CX-90 could be quite a compelling family hauler if Mazda can manage to bring the same qualities we’ve come to expect from them to an even larger vehicle while improving on efficiency. — Brandan Gillogly

Top Gear‘s Flintoff in test track crash

Freddie Flintoff Top Gear
Lee Brimble / BBC Studios

Intake: Top Gear host Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff has been hospitalized after an accident at the TV show’s Dunsfold Park Aerodrome circuit in Surrey, U.K. The former England cricketer’s injuries are, thankfully, not believed to be life-threatening, and the BBC said further details would follow “in due course.” Unlike a previous incident in 2019 when Flintoff had a major off in a dragster on Elvington Airfield in Yorkshire, this latest crash is believed to have happened at low speed. “Freddie was injured in an accident at the Top Gear test track this morning—with crew medics attending the scene immediately,” said a spokesperson from the BBC. “He has been taken to hospital for further treatment and we will confirm more details in due course.”

Exhaust: Once again we’re seeing that driving exotic cars for the world’s most popular car show is not without risk. In 2006, Richard Hammond crashed a Vampire jet-powered dragster which left him in a coma. The bad luck followed Hammond to The Grand Tour where, on a Swiss hillclimb, he destroyed a Rimac Concept One, and was lucky to escape with relatively minor injuries. On-screen partner James May suffered a head trauma when filming Top Gear in Syria in 2010, and crashed a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo in a tunnel in the latest episode of The Grand Tour as well. The daredevil antics of our favorite car show hosts make great TV, but it’s easy to forget there are real dangers involved. We wish Freddie a speedy recovery. — Nik Berg

Former Rolls-Royce engineer takes the helm at Jaguar

Philip Koehn
Philip Koehn/LinkedIn

Intake: Dr. Philip Koehn, who led the development of Rolls-Royce’s Architecture of Luxury platform which underpins the Mk8 Phantom and electric Spectre, has been appointed Managing Director of Jaguar. The German engineer also spent time at the reborn but recently-shuttered Borgward company, before joining Jaguar as Director of Products and Programs in 2019. Koehn’s first job after taking over the reins from Thierry Bolloré was to reveal updates for the 2023 F-Pace SUV, saying that the brand will be “curating our existing products by offering richer and more desirable specifications” until it replaces the entire range in two years’ time.

Exhaust: Jaguar’s ambition is to increase profitability rather than chase increased sales, which means elevating the brand to Rolls-Royce and Bentley levels of quality and desirability. Given Koehn’s background, it looks like they might have just the man for the job. — NB

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    Dr. Koehn’s foremost challenge will be reversing a culture in which Jaguars are basically disposable vehicles with a five year life, based on the expiration of their warranty. Jaguar has cheapened their cars and simply allocates more money for repairs during warranty. Once a Jaguar is out of warranty, parts quickly become unavailable, coupled with poor designs that exacerbate how much labor is required for a repair. Ironically, it is easier to find parts for a 60 year old E-type than a 10 year old XKR.

    Who uses a two piece plastic return line that splits at the seam,routed underneath the supercharger to the radiator? Jaguar/ Land Rover does, and this is only one of many examples of illogic. This is why the residual values of Jaguar are virtually at the bottom of the luxury vehicle segment. The task of changing this type of logic is daunting, and I wouldn’t put the odds for Koehn very high. Jaguar lost me and so many others as a buyer.

    Freddy seems to be Top Gear’s designated crash dummy as he’s run out of skill in several other cars as well. Wish him a speedy recovery as the new lineup with he, Paddy, and Chris is quite entertaining. Having fun without being cruelly sarcastic.

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