Sonata gets makeover, Jaguar may cut U.S. dealers, new UAW president a hard-liner


Hyundai’s Sonata dons bold new sheetmetal

Intake: Hyundai has unveiled a dramatic look for the eighth generation (2019–present)of its midsize sedan, the Sonata. The new look includes horizontal elements front and rear that accentuate the wide proportions of the car and a bold new grille and air intake design that’s vaguely reminiscent of the Audi A5. The rear-end tweaks evoke an even more sportback-esque look. The N Line (Hyundai-speak for “mildly sporty,” in contrast to full-bore performance models, badged N) Sonata gets an aggressive rear spoiler and slick-looking 19-inch wheels. Inside, a new dash design incorporates two 12.3-inch screens, one for the instrument cluster and one for the central infotainment system. A new column-mounted shifter frees up additional space in the center console area. The new Sonata will be unveiled in the flesh at the Seoul Mobility Show which takes place March 30–April 9.

Exhaust: The Sonata was already arguably the best-looking ride in the dwindling midsize-sedan segment, but Hyundai isn’t resting on its laurels. As impressive as the reimagined exterior is, the most appreciable update is on the inside. — Nathan Petroelje

Jaguar set to slash number of U.S. dealers

2022 Jaguar F-Type R Convertible high angle driving action
Matt Tierney

Intake: Jaguar’s transition into a more up-scale, EV-only rival to Bentley and Aston Martin will come at the cost of the number of its retailers, according to a report by Automotive News. The publication posits that from 2025 Jaguar will offer a model range of just three electric vehicles, each priced significantly higher than the Jags of today. To build a new image of exclusivity, the number of dealerships selling Jaguar cars will be cut dramatically and more sales will take place online. There are currently 395 joint Jaguar Land Rover stores in the U.S. but that figure could be cut to double digits. As an incentive to give up their Jaguar franchises, dealers would be offered extra allocations of hot-selling Land Rovers and Range Rovers instead. “We plan to transform the way our customers in the U.S. purchase vehicles, by elevating the customer experience to be consistent, transparent and omni-channel, offering a seamless modern luxury purchase experience built on the latest digital infrastructure to serve them wherever and however they choose. We are progressing with our U.S. retailer network to put our customers at the center of everything we do and build a sustainable future for JLR and our retailers,” Jaguar told Automotive News.

Exhaust: Jaguar might come first in the JLR name, but it has been languishing behind Land Rover in sales and profits for some time. Chasing BMW-like volumes with smaller cars like the XE hasn’t worked, so everything is riding on Jaguar’s upmarket moves. — Nik Berg

Upstart defeats incumbent for UAW labor union presidency

Closing Of An Auto Plant Belvidere Illinois art mural
A mural is displayed outside of the UAW union hall in Belvidere, Illinois near Stellantis’ Belvidere Assembly Plant, which most recently produced the Cherokee before closing. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Intake: Shawn Fain, a United Auto Workers officer for more than 20 years representing workers at a Stellantis casting plant in Indiana, defeated incumbent Ray Curry as the president of the Detroit-based labor union. Fain was sworn in Sunday, a day ahead of the start of the union’s bargaining convention. “Fain’s election comes at a critical time for the union,” said Reuters. “Labor contracts with Detroit’s Big Three automakers expire in September and Fain has vowed to take a tough line with them.” As Fain said in a statement Saturday: “For too long, the UAW has been controlled by leadership with a top-down, company union philosophy who has been unwilling to confront management, and as a result we’ve seen nothing but concessions, corruption, and plant closures.”

Exhaust: Fain says he plans to take a firmer line in negotiating with automakers than his predecessor did. “It is clear that our membership has long wanted to see a more aggressive approach with our employers.” The UAW has about 375,000 U.S. members, down from 1.5 million in 1979. — Steven Cole Smith

Vietnam’s VinFast to send U.S. more electric SUVs

Vinfast VF8

Intake: VinFast, the Vietnamese car builder backed by the richest man in the country, Phạm Nhật Vượng, is sending a second batch of SUVs to the U.S. on April 4, says Bloomberg. The company will send 900 VF 8 vehicles to California and 900 to Canada, as the company slowly builds a North American market that it says will eventually expand to the West and South. VinFast sent 999 examples of the VF 8 City Edition, which has a shorter range than the soon-to-arrive SUVs, to California late last year. VinFast is expected to begin construction on a plant in North Carolina soon.

Exhaust: So far, 45 City Edition electric cars, whose EPA-rated driving range is as much as 207 miles, were delivered to U.S. customers at the beginning of March, according to Bloomberg. The models are being offered to California residents at a lease price starting at $399 per month for 24 months. — SCS

F1 champs fail to score in NASCAR event

NASCAR Cup Series EchoPark Kimi Raikkonen onx
Kimi Raikkonen racing the #91 Onx Homes/iLOQ Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Cup Series EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. Logan Riely/Getty Images

Intake: The four acclaimed road-course ringers, racing in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Echo Park Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, failed to make much of a mark when faced with the NASCAR regulars. Former Formula 1 champs Kimi Räikkönen and Jenson Button were joined by IndyCar driver Conor Daly and four-time IMSA champion Jordan Taylor. After Taylor’s fourth-place qualification run, the quartet faded into the background during the very physical race, with Button finishing 18th, Taylor 24th, filling in for an injured Chase Elliott; Räikkönen was 29th, and Daly had transmission trouble and finished 36th in a 39-car field.

Exhaust: Back when NASCAR had only two road-course races on the schedule, roa- course experts from other series could make a mark, because NASCAR teams didn’t pay much attention to anything but ovals. But now, with six road course races on the schedule, NASCAR regulars have upped their game, including race winner Tyler Reddick. Because only 39 cars showed up for the usual field of 40, none of the newcomers had to out-qualify anyone for a place on the grid. At least they can say they beat seven-time NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson, who finished 38th after an early incident. — SCS

U.S. mandates in-vehicle DUI detection … before tech is ready

2020 Ford Police Interceptor Utility Hybrid

Intake: According to Automotive News, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act from late 2021 was known largely for funding a wave of electric-vehicle charging services. “But buried deeper inside was also a mandate for a new technology that has nothing to do with EVs,” the story said. “The law calls for a final rule to be issued next year requiring all vehicles sold in the U.S. to have the ability to passively detect when drivers are under the influence of alcohol and prevent them from driving. That’s a piece of technology that does not exist yet—at least, not as a commercialized market-friendly original-equipment vehicle component. So the auto industry is scurrying to come up with the technology.”

Exhaust: It appears, the story said, that Asahi Kasei, a Japanese company, may have a head start. It has had a Swedish subsidiary working on alcohol and gas detection sensors for other applications for 25 years. It is now working with a “consortium of interested parties, including automakers, Tier 1 suppliers and government agencies,” to move the technology into commercial feasibility—and to do so in a hurry, said Mike Franchy, director of North American mobility for the company. The law could ask to see the technology on the road as early as 2026. — SCS


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    Hyundai’s Sonata was never the best looking in it’s segment with the current generation car. It has a sad catfish look on it’s face. This is better, but it’s still not the best looking.

    Jaguar is dead man walking it seems.

    Anything is an improvement to the sad catfish Sonata. It appears Wisconsin won’t be buying many new cars in a few years. It’s 5 o’clock happy hour there–all day!

    Sonata was indeed already one of the best-looking of the mid-sizers (I have never seen the “catfish” look that some see), and the new one may be better. Too bad we cannot see anything other than the one frontal quarter view.

    In re: the UAW: just what this world needs, more “hard-liners”. Strong negotiating is one thing, but obstinance is quite another.

    It’s funny how “not having the company pay your mortgage” is labled as hard-liner… For that type of corruption (for which past UAW Presidents are serving jail time) is exactly what Ray Curry represented.

    Assuming that the ability to passively detect drivers under the influence of alcohol was available now, this add-on legislation has two things that stick in my craw. One, rolling unrelated legislation into other bills to sneakily get things past and two, imposing a cost on the law abiding to catch the few offenders.

    But, while our intreped legislators are at it, why not add another provision to passively detect cell phone use by the driver and slow the car as quicky and safely as possible and turn on the flashers and horn? And maybe send an emergency text to the police so the offender can be caught? After all, we keep hearing that cell phone use while driving is as dangerous as DWI, right?

    I leave it as a exercise to the reader to decide whether I am being serious or not.

    I’d 100% support such tech to deter cellphone use. With as many cameras and interior-facing sensors as cars come with these days, it wouldn’t be hard to do. And it’d give the rest of us non-phone users a clear idea of who to avoid.

    More expensive Jaguar EVs sold through a network of less than 100 dealers. Yeah. That sounds like a recipe for success.

    Successful car companies do not utter meaningless bulltish statements like “elevating the customer experience to be consistent, transparent and omni-channel, offering a seamless modern luxury purchase experience built on the latest digital infrastructure”… they just sell desirable cars for boatloads of $$$. Does Porsche have to vomit word salads like this?

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