In which we were more than a little surprised to discover that elsewhere in the world, an auto show happened. Check out the 14 most interesting cars and concepts from Beijing, and then check out what else went down this week.
Dollars and Sense
TransUnion’s latest report on the financial industry revealed that the share of car loans that are past due crept up in August to 3.1 percent, while the Board of Governors of the Fed say Americans have a cumulative $1.2 trillion in outstanding car loan debt. As pandemic-related forbearance programs wind down and the economic boost from spring's stimulus package dries up, those numbers could go even higher. Consider this our weekly plea not to buy more car than you can afford, especially if you’re making it work by taking out a seven-year loan. Along with our pleading, consider our monthly round up of the best lease deals.
And a reminder that things are still happening in the rest of the world even though we can’t go there right now: the EU and UK are working to iron out the details of a post-Brexit trade deal, which is almost certain to have a financial and operational impact on European carmakers. How big? BMW’s chief financial officer estimated this week (in what must be acknowledged as a bit of public lobbying) that a Brexit deal that doesn’t include tariff-free trade across the new border would seriously disrupt the just-in-time manufacturing system on the continent and could cost the auto industry about $13 billion. The two sides have set an October 15 deadline to develop an outline for a trade deal.
This Week in the Future (of Cars)
Maybe the pandemic-afflicted auto calendar has shifted the doldrums into the fall. Maybe automakers have decided not to compete with election news now coming in waves. But there was a noticeable dearth of new car reveals this week. But "dearth" only means a scarcity, which is better than nothing at all.
Honda showed us a facelifted Ridgeline, but most of the other product news came in the form of veiled and camo’d peeks at cars we won’t see for real for a while. For example:
Audi gave us a listen to the new noise it has developed for the e-tron GT, which sounds something like a plane taking off (remember planes?).
Acura shared heavily mood-lit photos of the interior of the 2022 MDX, which will feature the brand’s first digital gauge cluster.
McLaren showed us camouflaged pictures of a V-6 hybrid supercar promised in the first half of 2021.
Mercedes confirmed two new members of its planned EV family, SUV versions of the EQE and EQS. Both of those models will launch as sedan variants, modeled after the E- and S-class, respectively.
When the president took his joyride outside Walter Reed last weekend, the twittersphere lit up with comments about his “hermetically sealed” armored SUV and the massive negligence of exposing Secret Service agents to the coronavirus. Now, we’re not saying the president wasn’t being massively negligent. But he probably wasn’t doing it in a hermetically sealed truck. See, unlike the subway-riding scribes at the New York Times, we’ve done our homework on armored vehicles. Turns out air flow is good, even if you’re trying your hardest to keep inside and outside apart. Odds are that the presidential Suburban retains its stock HVAC system or something very much like it.
Our friends at Road & Track sat down with six-time Formula 1 champion star Lewis Hamilton for a long conversation that had very little to do with racing. "There’s been times where I’ve tried to say something, and it backfires," Hamilton says. "Maybe it’s not said the right way, or people aren’t happy that you said something. And I was like, 'That’s not going to happen anymore.' I just can’t do that. And I’m not going to stay quiet."
And finally: Are we done adding gears to transmissions?
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