The Friday Five:The Audi E-tron S Gets Three Motors, Global Microchip Shortage Creates More Shutdowns, and Average New-Car Prices Exceed $41,000 Edition

Beverly Braga | Aug 20, 2021

This week, the federal government announced its investigation into Tesla Autopilot. Recent incidents involving the technology prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to assess Tesla’s advanced driving assistance system (ADAS) after several vehicles utilizing Autopilot were involved in crashes with stationary emergency vehicles.

Low-key by comparison, other automaker news included Ford showing off its Bronco Riptide beach-cruiser conceptKia announcing a plug-in-hybrid model for the new Sorento, and Genesis confirming that its GV60 electric SUV will arrive next year.

We also previewed a few highly-anticipated new cars, particularly the surprise announcement of the Acura Integra’s return. The 2023 Nissan Z and 2022 Lincoln Navigator also made headlines.

Regarding models already on sale, we reviewed the all-new 2022 Jeep Wagoneer and the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban and offered an SUV comparison between the 2022 BMW X3 and 2022 Mercedes-Benz GLC. And our latest technology overviews explain what a series hybrid is and how torque steer works.

But that’s not everything that was happening in the automotive space.

Audi Adds Performance-Minded E-tron S Models to Lineup - Find the best Audi deals!

2022 Audi E-tron S and E-tron S Sportback

Coming this fall are the 2022 Audi E-tron S and E-tron S Sportback—and these new electric vehicles (EV) make dual-motor EV powertrains a thing of the past. The S variants feature two electric motors on the rear axle and one on the front, which combine for 496 horsepower and 718 pound-feet of instant torque. Yowza.

However, during normal operation, the powertrain operates mainly as a 2-motor setup since the front motor remains off until needed. On the other hand, the rear motors are independent of one another, which allows for more precise cornering thanks to torque vectoring.

The E-tron S models aren’t just different in power, though. They are a couple of inches wider and feature more aggressive styling. Also, with the standard wheel and tire set, the E-tron S offers just 208 miles of range while the E-tron S Sportback provides 212. The standard E-tron offers a range of 222 miles.

Exclusive of taxes and fees, and before any federal tax credits are applied, pricing starts at $84,800 for the E-tron S and $87,400 for the E-tron S Sportback.

Mercedes-Benz Cancels V8 Engine Production - Find the best Mercedes-Benz deals!

As Audi adds an electric motor to its arsenal, Mercedes-Benz is subtracting an entire engine as the global microchip shortage continues to hamper automotive production. For Mercedes-Benz, this means cutting production of its V8 engines for its 2022 lineup.

As many as 17 models are affected as the automaker prioritizes global production amidst the supply chain uncertainty. Not even those under the high-performance AMG sub-brand are spared. Only two S-Class models will be available with V8 engines. For the rest of its lineup, at least for the 2022 model year, consumers will have to opt for either a turbocharged 4- or 6-cylinder engine.

Automakers Announce Production Stoppages Due to Global Chip Shortage

At least with Mercedes-Benz, the stoppage is currently limited to an engine spec. For the larger, mass-market automakers, entire manufacturing plants are being shut, and overall production is being scaled back by overwhelming numbers.

Toyota initially avoided production cuts due to its stockpiling of semiconductor chips—a policy born from unforeseen disasters like the 2011 earthquake and ensuing Fukushima, Japan, nuclear failure. But the stockpile is running low, and the world’s largest automaker has announced that global production will be reduced by 40 percent. The production cuts will affect its 14 plants, including many North America-based facilities.

Volkswagen is right behind Toyota in global sales and in cutting back production. The German conglomerate, which includes brands VWAudiBentleyLamborghini, and Porsche, confirmed that third-quarter supply is tight and that further production cuts were possible.

On a smaller scale but no less insignificant, Stellantis has adjusted production schedules at two plants in France. Ford will temporarily shut down its Kansas City plant where the F-150 is assembled, and GM is monitoring its facilities, noting the “situation does remain fluid.”

Hyundai Builds Its 5-Millionth Vehicle in Alabama - Find the best Hyundai deals!

Hyundai’s Alabama plant achieved a manufacturing milestone by recently building its 5-millionth vehicle, offering a production spark of hope. And it took less than 17 years to achieve.

Online since May 2005, the Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) plant is a $1.8-billion investment that employs more than 3,000 people. The Alabama facility is the birthplace of the ElantraSonataSanta FeTucson, and now the all-new Santa Cruz. In fact, Hyundai’s newest family member received the distinction when a Santa Cruz rolled off the line this summer.

Average New-Car Transaction Price Now Exceeds $41,000

If everything is feeling more expensive, that’s because everything is. New cars, in particular, are pricier than ever.

According to J.D. Power’s most recent sales forecast, the average retail transaction price is expected to reach $41,044 for July—a record. The previous high was set in, well, the prior month. In June 2021, sales prices were an average of $39,942.

July prices were already trending 17-percent higher than the previous year, partly due to fewer automaker incentives as well as pandemic-related inventory shortages. How much of a shortage? Dealerships currently have 932,000 vehicles available for sale compared to 3.1 million units in 2019—additionally, vehicles sold within an average of 31 days versus 75 days last year.

As automakers prioritize (and pause) global production to accommodate the continuing chip shortage, retail prices for new and used cars will remain high if consumer demand is there.

The automakers are the sources of information for this article. It was accurate on August 20, 2021, but it may have changed since that date.

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