Manual Jeeps recalled, you still can’t get an F-150 Lightning, fear of self-driving cars rises
Your six-speed Jeep may have a bad pressure plate
Intake: Jeep is recalling over 69,000 Wranglers (2018–23) and Gladiator pickups (2020–23) with manual transmissions because a problem with the clutch pressure-plate could cause a fire, says Consumer Reports. If the pressure plate for the clutch overheats, it could break, and hot debris could be expelled from the transmission case. This debris could cause a road hazard for other drivers, and could also cause a fire in the vehicle or the surrounding area if it comes into contact with an ignition source.
Exhaust: Before the clutch pressure-plate fails, drivers may notice a burning smell, clutch slippage, and/or a warning light on the instrument cluster. There is currently no repair available for the problem, but Jeep tells the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that one is under development. If the clutch in your Jeep doesn’t feel right, stop driving the vehicle. —Steven Cole Smith
The electric Telluride cometh
Intake: OK, maybe Kia’s not calling this battery-powered SUV an electric Telluride, but the EV9 will be roughly the same size as that three-row best-seller. You’re looking at your first official teaser images of it here. No word yet on when you can buy an EV9, but at least we know that Kia wants to build it. The automaker will give us a timeline for availability and hopefully range/power details in late March. (We’ll know what it looks like, inside and out, in a few weeks.) Kia first hinted it would build this boxy electric SUV in November of 2021, with the Concept EV9 shown off in L.A. (Locale says a lot, huh?) As a one-off, the concept’s specs are hardly guaranteed to match those of the real-world version, but they at least signal intent: 300 miles of range, and a 350-kW charging system that can zap the battery from 10 to 80 percent in 20 to 30 minutes. Good luck finding a compatible charger that powerful …
Exhaust: You can learn a lot about an automaker’s culture by watching its concepts: Which ones make production, in what timeframe, and with what changes. Nobody was expecting the Concept EV9’s swiveling seats or B-pillar-less cabin to become reality—one’s expensive, the other defies crash standards—but, based on these black-and-white images, the profile, headlights, and taillights are almost copy-paste from the 2021 concept. Two years between concept and announcement of the real thing? Kia’s serious. —Grace Houghton
Production to resume on Ford Lightning
Intake: Ford said Thursday it will restart production of its F-150 Lightning on March 13 after it halted output of the electric truck after a battery fire in early February, says Automotive News. Ford has not set a date for resuming deliveries. Ford said as it “ramps up production, [it] will continue holding already produced vehicles while [it works] through engineering and parts updates.” Ford said a vehicle caught fire February 4 during a pre-delivery quality inspection in a company holding lot in Dearborn, Michigan, and the flames spread to two other trucks. The automaker halted production the next day.
Exhaust: Ford apparently traced the problem to the South Korean battery supplier, SK On. Ford previously said it was targeting annual production of 150,000 Lightnings by the fall of 2023, and it’s unknown if it will be able to reach that figure. —SCS
For sale: 1902 car that thinks it’s a train
Intake: The early 1900s were an interesting time for the automobile. It was caught between a rich person’s novelty toy and a practical machine to be used by the masses. Leaning hard to the former is this Sterand Loco listed on carandclassic.com. A car playing dress-up as a locomotive is always fun, and this one includes features that all steam enthusiasts love, like the air whistle, bell, single headlight, and connecting rods that make the rear wheels appear to be turned by steam power—though they are actually driven by a Rutenber gasoline engine.
Exhaust: While at first glance this Sterand is a mix of a misunderstanding and a Wish.com version of a Bentley Blue Train, it’s growing on us. Weird, but interesting … and unlike anything else you might see on the road. The selling dealer claims the loco-car has driven 12,000 miles so maybe there is some practicality, too. —Kyle Smith
Consumer confidence dropping in autonomous vehicles
Intake: Concerns about self-driving cars are significantly higher than they were last year, according to an annual automated vehicle survey just released by AAA. The survey reveals 68 percent of drivers are afraid of riding in a self-driving vehicle. That’s up from 55 percent in 2022, and the largest annual increase since 2020. “We did not expect such a dramatic shift in consumer concerns from previous years,” said Mark Jenkins, public relations manager for AAA, The Auto Club Group. “Though it isn’t entirely surprising, given the number of high-profile crashes that have recently occurred from over-reliance on current vehicle technologies.” AAA’s survey found that nearly one in 10 drivers believe they can buy a vehicle that drives itself while they sleep. AAA found that 22 percent of Americans expect a driver-support system—with names like Autopilot (Tesla), ProPilot (Nissan/Infiniti), or Pilot Assist (Volvo)—to drive the car by itself without any supervision.
Exhaust: The survey results highlight what a lousy job the manufacturers have done to educate consumers about autonomous driving. “Most new vehicles are equipped with some level of advanced driver-assistance technology, which can enhance the safety of motorists if used properly,” Jenkins said. “However, it’s important to clarify that there are currently no vehicles available for purchase that allow someone to fully disengage from the task of driving.” —SCS
Pair of “new” Honda motorcycles for 2023
Intake: U.S. riders will have two more options for mix-use fun with Honda’s announcement of the XR150L and CRF300LS. The first is a simple and durable 150cc single-cylinder model that is only new to the U.S. market. This XR150L has been for sale in the Asia, Australia, and New Zealand markets for some time and Honda hasn’t changed marketing strategy for the states. Its designed as an “affordable additional motorcycle for veteran riders, campground passage for outdoor-enthusiast families, or around-town transportation for those still relatively new to the world of powersports.” The CRF300LS is similar, but uses the established CRF300L and lowers the seat height to make it more welcoming to shorter or newer riders.
Exhaust: The exact seat height of the CRF300LS is yet to be released, but this is following a trend set by Kawasaki, which started offering lower seat-height versions of its KLX230 and KLR650. The stock height of a CRF300L is nearly 35 inches, so even riders with inseam to spare might find the “S” model a little more comfortable in off-road situations. The XR150L is a great value play for a person hunting for a basic motorcycle to have simple fun with both on- and off-road; MSRP is just $2971 and deliveries are expected to begin in April. —Kyle Smith