GM and LG Energy Solution will build their second battery plant in Tennessee

DETROIT — General Motors and South Korean joint-venture partner LG Energy Solution on Friday said they will build a second U.S. battery cell manufacturing plant, revealing plans for a $2.3 billion factory in Spring Hill, Tennessee.

The planned 2.8 million-square-foot plant, scheduled to open in late 2023, will employ 1,300 people and will have production capacity of about 35 gigawatt-hours, similar to the companies’ Ultium Cells joint-venture plant in Lordstown, Ohio, as they move to respond to the growing demand in the electric vehicle market. The plant’s capacity would enable it to supply battery packs for more than 500,000 electric vehicles a year.

“The addition of our second all-new Ultium battery cell plant in the U.S. with our joint venture partner LG Energy Solution is another major step in our transition to an all-electric future,” GM Chief Executive Mary Barra said.

The United Auto Workers on Friday called on GM to ensure the new plant is staffed with union-represented workers, which GM officials have said would be determined by the employees.

LG Chem said in a regulatory filing that its LG Energy Solution unit will invest $933.5 million in the plant between this year and 2023.

GM and LG Energy Solution will use a different, less-expensive battery chemistry in Tennessee than the one to be used in the Lordstown plant that opens next year, sources previously told Reuters.

Sources have said the No. 1 U.S. automaker will need more battery plants beyond Tennessee to meet aggressive EV targets, including projected sales of more than 1 million EVs globally in 2025. GM’s longer-range target includes halting sales of light-duty gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles by 2035.

Most battery manufacturing is currently concentrated in China and Korea, while Tesla and Japanese partner Panasonic largely control most U.S. battery production.

When it opens, the new GM-LG battery plant will supply batteries for the Cadillac Lyriq crossover EV that GM is slated to start building at its nearby Spring Hill assembly plant next year. LG is expected to supply the batteries from Korea until then.

Supplier sources said a second Cadillac electric crossover, called Symboliq, is expected to join the Lyriq in production at Spring Hill in 2024, along with two new electric crossovers for Honda and its premium Acura brand.

GM said in October it would invest $2 billion in Spring Hill to build EVs. The Detroit automaker said last year it was investing $27 billion in electric and autonomous vehicles over the next five years.

GM is expected to build EVs in five North American plants by 2025 — two in Michigan, and one each in Tennessee, Ontario, Canada, and Mexico, according to research firm AutoForecast Solutions.

LG Energy Solution said last month it planned to invest more than $4.5 billion in U.S. battery production over the next four years, including plans to build at least two new plants.

The expansion of electric vehicles with GM was expected to contribute to the “success of the U.S. Green New Deal policy,” LG Energy Solution CEO Kim Jong-hyun said in a statement, adding LG will “focus more on establishing a stable supply chain system that is differentiated and stable within the U.S., from R&D to production of batteries to raw materials.”

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Even Matchbox is going fully green by 2030

Automakers, cities and governments are all moving toward a future that reduces carbon emissions. For many, 2030 seems to be the magic number, the year when brand lineups will be electrified and the sales ban of internal combustion engines will go into effect. Now we can add toymaker Matchbox to the list.

While Matchbox’s cars are already powered by emissions-free energy, the brand announced this week that it plans to make all cars, playsets and packaging with 100% recycled, recyclable or bio-based plastic by 2030. And while Matchbox is the first to announce their sustainability goals, the same goes for all brands under parent company Mattel. That means Hot Wheels, Barbie and Polly Pocket will all follow suit.

Matchbox unveiled its new zero-plastic packaging as part of the announcement. Gone is the traditional plastic blister glued to a piece of cardboard, a format that’s been in use for decades. Instead, the car will reside in a small cardboard box, returning to the formula that the brand started with 68 years ago (and where the name Matchbox originated from). The paper and wood fiber materials the make up the packaging will be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

The cars themselves will be made from recycled plastic and zinc as well. The only non-recycled material will be the stainless steel axles that comprise about 1% of the toy’s materials. Matchbox is encouraging recycling of its toys when they’ve reached the end of their play life as well. For example, playsets will be designed so that the electronics are contained in a single, easily removable module to facilitate e-waste recycling.

It’s not just the toys’ construction that’ll be green. Even the subject matter will be updated to reflect the way the auto industry is going. The first toy car to be designed under the sustainability mandate is a Tesla Roadster. Other green machines in the lineup include the Nissan Leaf, BMW i3 and i8, Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, and Tesla Model S and Semi. Meanwhile, playsets will include features like charging stations.

“Since the inception of the modern-day die-cast car nearly 70 years ago, Matchbox has been using design and innovation to connect kids with the real world around them through play,” said Roberto Stanichi, Global Head of Vehicles at Mattel. “Matchbox is [committed to doing] our part in addressing the environmental issues we face today, and empower the next generation of Matchbox fans to help steer us towards a sustainable future.”

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Junkyard Gem: 2002 Pontiac Aztek

The General’s Pontiac Division sold the Aztek for the 2001 through 2005 model years, and — despite enjoying something of a cultural rebirth in recent years — it is generally considered to be one of the worst cars of all time. The idea of using a minivan platform as the basis for a rough-and-tough-looking crossover with plenty of outdoor-lifestyle amenities wasn’t the problem, since many vehicle manufacturers have printed bales of money using that formula. What doomed the Aztek was its hideous appearance and sticker price too lofty for its underemployed-at-the-time Generation X target demographic. Still, the Aztek proved to be perfectly suited for the outdoor activities that Coloradans love: hiking, camping, fishing, skiing, hauling mud-caked golden retrievers around, etc., and so you’ll still find lots of Azteks on the roads of the Centennial State. Here’s an Aztek Yellow Aztek (yes, that’s really the paint color’s official title) residing just a few rows from a ’76 Checker Taxicab in a Denver self-service yard.

Sure, it does look like a vehicle built to the specifications of a six-year-old who decreed a mashup between a Datsun F-10 and a Fisher-Price Little People Travel Together Airplane, but so what? There’s a built-in air compressor to blow up your inflatable rafts and volleyballs, a tent attachment that turns the rear of the van into a camper, 12-volt power plugs all over the vehicle (years before this became commonplace on ordinary minivans and SUVs), and running-gear commonality with a jillion Ventures, Silhouettes, Montanas and Trans Sports.

Buick managed to de-uglify the Aztek (somewhat) and sold it as the Rendezvous through 2007, but the Aztek never could win over many people with this face.

I see plenty of Azteks and Rendezvouses in Denver-area wrecking yards, and I’ve documented a handful over the years.

This one came fully loaded from the factory, with the Corvette-style heads-up display in full effect.

The center console was a removable cooler, which was a great idea … except for the fact that this cooler holds five standard 12-ounce cans. Michigan residents tell me that this must have been intentional on the part of the Detroit-based Aztek designers, because Michiganders are expected to chug one beer out of a sixer as they walk from the liquor store to the car in the parking lot … which makes me extra cautious whenever I’m driving in the Wolverine State. It’s not easy to find these coolers in the junkyard (presumably because Aztek owners keep them even after ditching their Azteks), but I managed to score one and I often combine it with my Honda CR-V spare-tire cover/picnic table when having outdoor parties.

An Aztek with more than 250,000 miles on its odometer competed with great success in the 24 Hours of Lemons race series, proving during the process that the pop-up tent will stay attached at high speed on the Sears Point (aka Sonoma Raceway) course.

True, an all-wheel-drive minivan would be more useful for camping, what with its more spacious interior and sliding doors, but I expect to keep seeing Azteks on the streets and in the junkyards of Colorado for years to come.

Pontiac had such high hopes for the Aztek, but the brand died with the end of the decade.

Standing out and playing large! As a Generation X member, I can’t say that these ads spoke directly to my innermost desires. Then again, I was driving an ’85 CRX and an ’86 Civic hatch at the time of the Aztek’s launch.


‘F1 2021’ gets a release date for this summer | Gaming roundup

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This week in racing game news:

“F1 2021” is coming this summer

This week we got word that the latest installment in the F1 video game series, “F1 2021,” will be coming to Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Playstation 4, Playstation 5 and PC on July 16, 2021. If you’ve ever played an F1 game before, you probably have some idea of what you’re in for with the 2021 installment. The game is updated with all the latest teams, drivers and circuits for the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship season. This latest iteration comes with some pleasant surprises as well, including a brand new story mode called “Braking Point” and an expanded career mode with the option for co-op play. The new story mode lets players start as a scrappy Formula 2 racer working their way up to F1 stardom. The career mode, on the other hand, has a new feature called “Real-Season Start,” which lets players start their journey at any point during the season and includes real-time driver standings. If you’d like to read our thoughts on the most recent installment of the F1 games you can do that right here, but summed up, we had fun with it and found it to be an improvement over the 2019 game. Here’s hoping this new installment continues the trend in that direction. Want to learn more and pre-order? You can do that right here.

“WRC 10” is coming this September
Speaking of racing game series that release annually and are due for a new installment, it’s been announced that “WRC 10” is coming to Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Playstation 4, Playstation 5, PC, and even Nintendo Switch on September 2, 2021. Much like the F1 series above, if you’ve ever played a WRC game before, expect mostly more of the same, although this installment provides some fun historic rallies and vehicles to celebrate 50 years of the sport. The new game will feature new environments and new historical cars in addition to all the cars and rallies of the 2021 WRC season. In addition, the team has been hard at work improving the overall physics of the game and adding things like a livery editor and team creator. 
We’ve been big fans of the WRC series here at
Autoblog and can’t wait to give this new edition a try. Based on the gameplay trailer, which you can watch below, it looks like it’s shaping up to be an absolutely beautiful game.


First chips, and now automakers face a new shortage: rubber

Automakers struggling with pandemic-induced plant shutdowns and a global chip shortage are now confronting another supply chain headache: dwindling rubber supplies.

Snarled shipping lines are disrupting the movement of natural rubber, a key material used in tires as well as components under the hood. With the global supply already running short following stockpiling by China and a devastating leaf disease, rubber prices are on the rise and some U.S. auto suppliers are rushing to secure shipments before the market gets squeezed further.

As companies in virtually every market grapple with shortages, perhaps no industry is being hit harder than autos. Multiple plants have been idled by a semiconductor crisis that’s costing tens of billions of dollars in lost revenue, while materials from seating foam to metal to plastic resin are also becoming harder to find. The industry, which has long relied on just-in-time manufacturing to reduce costs, is finding it has limited flexibility to deal with supply chain disturbances wrought by the pandemic.

The rubber shortage threatens to further disrupt vehicle production just as demand rebounds and the Biden administration douses the U.S. economy with $1.9 trillion in stimulus spending. And rubber problems could prove particularly thorny because the trees need seven years to mature, making it unlikely the supply will quickly bounce back.

“It’s like paper towels early on during the Covid crisis,” said Steve Wybo, who heads the auto practice group at consulting firm Conway MacKenzie outside Detroit. “If you can get your hands on some plastic, or some rubber, you’re going to order more than you need because you don’t know when you’re going to be able to get it next.”

Carmakers including Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis NV, formerly known as Fiat Chrysler, say they’re monitoring the rubber situation but have yet to feel an impact. General Motors Co., similarly, says it isn’t worried about its rubber supply. France’s Michelin, one of the world’s largest tire makers, is skirting port congestion by using air freight shipments direct from Asia.

But for suppliers reliant on U.S. distribution, rubber is already a concern.

“I’ve got everybody alerted that I’ll take materials as fast as they can get it to me,” said Gary Busch, director of global procurement at Carlstar Group, which makes tires for off-road and agriculture vehicles.

Natural rubber is produced from the white sap of trees found in the warm, humid climates of countries such as Thailand and Vietnam. While petroleum-derived synthetic rubber is preferred for some applications, the natural version has properties that are critical for products such as gloves and packaging tapes — both of which have seen demand rise during the pandemic. And as the critical component in tires and anti-vibration parts under the hood, it’s more closely associated with the auto industry than any other.

The rubber industry is dominated by smallholders, making it difficult for producers to adjust quickly as demand changes, prices fluctuate or supply chain problems emerge. It’s not the only commodity market finding there’s no easy fix: There could be a copper shortfall of 10 million tons by 2030 if no new mines get built, according to commodities trader Trafigura Group.

Thailand, the world’s biggest rubber producer and exporter, had struggled with persistently low prices for several years prior to the pandemic, leading farmers to tap more trees to compensate for lower income — and giving them little incentive to plant more. Supply has tightened on demand for rubber gloves during the pandemic, and it has also been depleted by natural elements, including drought, floods and a leaf disease in the world’s top-producing countries.

“It’s definitely tightening up,” said Ann Marie Uetz, a Detroit-based partner at law firm Foley and Lardner LLP, which represents auto parts manufacturers. “It’s nowhere near the level of the chip shortage from our perspective so far, but it’s definitely brewing.”

Supply issues didn’t start to hit the U.S. until the second half of last year, when China, the world’s biggest auto market and top consumer of natural rubber, took advantage of low prices and a recovery in its economy to make substantial purchases, said Whitney Luckett, owner of Simko North America, a Colorado Springs, Colorado-based distributor of natural rubber — one of just three in the U.S. She noticed China was stockpiling rubber for its national reserves in part through purchases from Vietnam, which makes a unique rubber grade used in tape, bandages and the sidewalls of vehicle tires.

The buying binge kept China’s 2020 purchases of natural rubber nearly even with the prior year, even as pandemic-related disruptions sent U.S. imports plunging 16%, according to a January report from the Kuala Lumpur-based Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries.

The U.S. rubber supply became so tight late last year that some distributors ran out of buffer stock, said Mike Jones, director of global sourcing at Intertape Polymer Group, which makes tape for e-commerce companies.

“Once the buying started, it didn’t just stop with China, a lot of the tire companies were also coming back and buying rubber,” Jones said. “The supply of rubber in the U.S. became very tight.”

That’s showing up in the price of rubber futures. Natural rubber climbed to about $2 a kilogram in late February, a four-year high, before a recent dip, Bloomberg data show. Robert Meyer, the former chief executive officer of rubber giant Halcyon Agri Corp. Ltd., sees prices soaring as high as $5 in the next five years.

“The supply issues that we’re seeing now, they are structural,” said Meyer, now a managing director with venture firm Angsana Investments Private Ltd. in Singapore. “They will not change very soon.”

The situation is exposing the perils of just-in-time manufacturing practices that have been auto industry gospel for decades, according to Tor Hough, founder of supply chain research firm Elm Analytics. By keeping inventory lean to control costs, companies are vulnerable during periods of heightened supply chain volatility. The semiconductor shortage — exacerbated by automakers slashing orders during Covid-19 shutdowns — could cost $61 billion in lost revenue this year, according to advisory firm AlixPartners.

China’s recent rubber purchases highlighted an additional vulnerability for the U.S., which has no national stockpile to serve as a safety net for domestic companies, noted Dan Finkenstadt, professor at the Naval Graduate School of Defense Management in Monterey, California. The U.S. government could create its own stockpile, or provide loan guarantees to companies to finance their own extra supply, he said.

“People have believed for the longest time that market demand and capitalism would always be there,” he said. “That’s not what happens in a natural emergency where everybody’s pulling at the same time.”

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Aston Martin pushing FIA to consider tweaking F1 aero rules

The Silverstone-based team thinks that the changes made to the regulations for this season to cut downforce have unfairly penalised teams that run low rake cars. It, along with Mercedes, believes that the cuts to the floor, diffuser and brake ducts have cost the low rake teams one second per lap of performance compared to high rake rivals. The outfits are unable to change rake concept to recover their losses because of strict homologation rules that limit upgrades to major car parts this year. Aston Martin team principal Otmar Szafnauer has expressed some unease about the way in which the new rules were brought in by the FIA, with two key issues understood to be at stake here. The first is whether or not it was right for the FIA to push the floor changes through on safety grounds, with F1 tyre supplier Pirelli making more robust rubber for this season that will have better coped with higher downforce levels anyway. Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal and CEO, Aston Martin F1 Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images Furthermore, there are questions about whether it was right that the F1 organisation, as the commercial rights holder, should have been involved in the process of changing rules for safety. Szafnauer is clear that, on what was a safety matter, the entire process should have been decided solely by the FIA and not be influenced by outside parties. “The regulation change that was made for safety reasons, that kind of governance rests solely with the FIA,” he said. Pushed on the influence that F1 officials had in proposing the eventual changes, Szafnauer said: “Like I said, I think that type of regulation change rests solely with the FIA. They’re the experts.” Szafnauer said he planned talks with the FIA and hoped the governing body would be able to respond in a way that helped make things fairer for the low rake teams. “I think the right thing to do is to have the discussions with the FIA, and find out exactly what happened and why. Then we can see if there is something that can be done to make it more equitable. “I think that’s the right thing to do. We as a team have to work hard to try and claw back everything we can. But at the same time, we should be having the discussions with the FIA to make it a bit more equitable.” Read Also: Szafnauer did not rule out taking legal action in the future if a compromise solution was not found. “I think we get to that point after the discussions,” he said. “It’s hard to predict. I think the right thing to do is to see what can be done.” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, whose team has also been impacted by the changes, did not wish to get drawn into the debate right now. “I think this is a tricky subject, because you need to have the full picture before making any comment,” he added to Sky. “At that stage, I don’t think it would be right to point the finger at someone or somebody. So I’d rather not talk about it for the time being.” Responding to Szafnauer’s comments, Red Bull boss Christian Horner said that Aston would be “a little naive” to expect tweaks to the rules to even out the impact on varying car concepts. shares comments Related video [embedded content]

Mercedes F1 fastest in practice while Red Bull struggles at Imola

The Red Bulls hit trouble in practice for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola on Friday, while Valtteri Bottas led Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton one-two in both sessions.

Sergio Perez collided with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon in the morning, bringing out red flags, and the Mexican’s teammate Max Verstappen stopped his Red Bull in the afternoon with a driveshaft problem.

Bottas, who was on pole at the Italian circuit last year, clocked a best lap of 1 minute 16.564 seconds in the first session and 1:15.551 in the second.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton, last year’s race winner when Imola returned to the calendar in November, was 0.041 slower in the morning and a mere 0.010 off after lunch.

“If I compare it to Bahrain, how the car‘s feeling, it’s definitely feeling better so that’s nice, but it’s a different track and different type of circuit and surface and grip level,” said Bottas. “At least the weekend started in a positive way … I’m a lot happier with the car now than three weeks ago.

“We definitely didn’t see the best out of Red Bull yet today,” added the Finn. “No doubt they are going to be fast, and we still don’t think we have the fastest car. We really need to prove that on Saturday.”

Championship leader Hamilton said he had no major issues and the tires were working well.

“So far a good day for us,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve seen the best from the Red Bulls yet, it looked like they had quite a messy session.”

Verstappen, Hamilton’s closest rival in the Bahrain season-opener when he started on pole and finished second, was third in the first session but managed only five laps in the afternoon before stopping.

“I think you know what you have to do anyway, so it should be alright,” he said of the setback. “We just have to focus on ourselves to do a better job.”

The first session ended with Russian rookie Nikita Mazepin spinning his Haas at the final corner for the second time in the space of an hour, and the second was red flagged when Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crashed into the tire barriers.

“Sorry guys. I was pushing … quite a bit,” said Leclerc from the cockpit.

Leclerc had been fourth fastest in the morning and ahead of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, who ended the day third fastest.

Technical problems that affected radio communications and data contributed to the turn five collision between Frenchman Ocon and Perez.

The details of the coming together were not immediately clear, with cameras not capturing images, but stewards decided to take no further action.

“Ocon slowed before turn five in order to let Perez by, as well as moving entirely to the inside of the turn,” they said in a statement. “Perez was on a fast lap. The two cars reached the apex at the same time, and just barely touched wheels.

“Both drivers agreed in the hearing that it was an unfortunate miscommunication of timing between them, not helped by the fact that both drivers had limited or no communications with their teams at the time.”

Perez’s car came to halt with the left rear tire in shreds, while Ocon parked up further down the track.


SpaceX wins $2.9 billion NASA contract for moon lander, with 2024 goal

SpaceX’s lunar lander design, left, alongside those of Dynetics and Blue Origin. 

WASHINGTON — NASA awarded billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s space company SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to build a spacecraft to bring astronauts to the moon as early as 2024, the agency said on Friday, picking it over Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and defense contractor Dynetics Inc.

Bezos and Musk – the world’s first and third richest people respectively, according to Forbes – were competing to lead humankind’s return to the moon for the first time sine 1972.

Musk’s SpaceX bid alone while founder Bezos’s Blue Origin partnered with Lockheed Martin Corp, Northrop Grumman Corp and Draper. Dynetics is a unit of Leidos Holdings Inc.

“NASA Rules!!” Musk wrote on Twitter after the announcement.

The U.S. space agency awarded the contract for the first commercial human lander, part of its Artemis program. NASA said the lander will carry two American astronauts to the lunar surface.

“We should accomplish the next landing as soon as possible,” Steve Jurczyk, NASA’s acting administrator, said during the video conference announcement.

“If they hit their milestones we have a shot at 2024,” Jurczyk added.

NASA said SpaceX’s Starship includes a spacious cabin and two airlocks for astronaut moon walks and that its architecture is intended to evolve to a fully reusable launch and landing system designed for travel to the Moon, Mars and other destinations in space.

Unlike the Apollo landings from 1969 to 1972 — the only human visits to the moon’s surface — NASA is gearing up for a longer-term lunar presence that it envisions as a steppingstone to an even more ambitious plan to send astronauts to Mars. NASA is leaning heavily on private companies built around shared visions for space exploration.

SpaceX will be required to make a test flight of the lander to the moon before humans make the journey, NASA official Lisa Watson-Morgan told reporters.

The agency aims to create regular service to the moon and said it will have a separate competition for that contract.

“We have to be able to provide for recurring lunar services,” said Mark Kirasich, deputy associate administrator for NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems division.

The announcement added to an extraordinary run for Musk, who has turned electric car maker Tesla into the world’s most-valuable automaker, with a market capitalization of $702 billion.

SpaceX also responded on Twitter, writing, “NASA has selected Starship to land the first astronauts on the lunar surface since the Apollo program! We are humbled to help @NASAArtemis usher in a new era of human space exploration.”

Musk has become a one-person technology conglomerate, launching or controlling companies pursuing space flight, electric cars, neural implants and subterranean tunnel boring.

A factor in the choice of SpaceX was “what’s the best value to the government,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

NASA said in a news release that SpaceX’s HLS Starship, designed to land on the moon, “leans on the company’s tested Raptor engines and flight heritage of the Falcon and Dragon vehicles.”

NASA’s decision was a setback for Bezos, a lifelong space enthusiast who is now more focused on his space venture after having announced in February he would step down as Amazon CEO.

The contract was seen by Bezos and other executives as vital to Blue Origin establishing itself as a desired partner for NASA, and also putting the venture on the road to turning a profit.

Musk has outlined an ambitious agenda for SpaceX and its reusable rockets, including landing humans on Mars. But in the near term, SpaceX’s main business has been launching satellites for Musk’s Starlink internet venture, and other satellites and space cargo. SpaceX announced on Wednesday it had raised about $1.16 billion in equity financing.

An uncrewed SpaceX Starship prototype rocket failed to land safely on March 30 after a test launch from Boca Chica, Texas. The Starship was one in a series of prototypes for the heavy-lift rocket being developed by SpaceX to carry humans and 100 tons of cargo on future missions to the moon and Mars. A first orbital Starship flight is planned for year’s end.


Hyundai Santa Cruz: how the design evolved from concept to production

When the Hyundai HCD-15 Santa Cruz concept debuted at the 2015 Detroit auto show, it was eagerly received. Autoblog described it as “the compact pickup we’ve been waiting for.” As it turned out, we waited quite a while for it, but now that the production version is here as the 2022 Santa Cruz pickup, we thought it would be interesting to take a look back to see how it differs from the concept.

The HCD-15 (on the right) had somewhat generic front-end styling that was not lifted from any existing Hyundai production model. At the time of the concept’s debut, project lead John Krsteski, Manager at Hyundai Design America, said that a production version “could be based on something like a Tucson.” And that’s exactly what happened. Thus, the 2022 Santa Cruz borrows the front clip from the new Tucson, complete with its neat merging of LED lighting elements and grille design. From this view, we can also see an evolution in the vehicle’s proportions, with the squat roofline and wider appearance giving way to the production model’s taller greenhouse, with a windshield that again appears shared with the Tucson.

The biggest evolution in the Santa Cruz concept can be seen in the profile view. The HCD-15 (right) hewed to the extended-cab pickup norm with its door configuration of long front doors paired with half-sized, rear-hinged rear doors. But as that configuration has fallen in popularity in favor of genuine four-door crew-cab pickups, Hyundai wisely switched the Santa Cruz to four regular doors. The switch makes for a less-sporty appearance, perhaps, but far more practicality and, likely, better market acceptance. 

The production Santa Cruz also adopts the new Tucson’s front-fender treatment, again part of the attempt to keep costs in line by using shared components. But it also retains much from the concept: the C-pillar treatment, the kick-up at the rear of the window line, the lower body styling, the location of the axles within the body and the plain round wheel arches.

At the rear, the styling of the production Santa Cruz (left) has taken a turn toward conventional truck aesthetics with its less-rounded lower tailgate and squared-off, separate bumper. In place of the integrated exhaust outlets of the concept, we have chunky steps built into the ends of the bumper. The central Hyundai logo is gone, although the brand name is stamped into the tailgate handle. The tailgate’s surface treatment is similar, however, as is the taillight design.

Hyundai didn’t provide dimensions for the concept’s cargo bed, but it appears to be no bigger than that of the production truck, which is just over 4 feet long. For an added dose of utility, the concept floated the idea of a drawer-like bed extension. That would have been neat, but the production Santa Cruz settles for a conventional drop-down tailgate, albeit one that also can be opened partway to be at the same height as the wheel housings inside the bed.

The tailgate of the 2022 Santa Cruz also follows pickup convention with its stamped nameplate: SANTA CRUZ. The lettering is a beefy design that looks appropriate, but we’re partial to the more unusual lettering that was used in the concept, embossed into the front spoiler. Was it deemed too funky for production?

Overall, though the Santa Cruz concept of six years ago has been altered significantly in its journey from show car to showroom, the changes that have been made did not fundamentally alter the look and feel of the vehicle. Hyundai’s designers should be commended for maintaining the spirit of the captivating concept as they brought this product to an equally captivating reality.


Rivian hops into the insurance game to cover its upcoming R1T and R1S

As the Rivian R1T and R1S near their official production launch dates, Rivian is hopping into the insurance industry. Simply called “Rivian Insurance,” Rivian wants to be an attractive alternative to the longtime Goliaths of the car insurance industry. The service will initially launch in 40 states, making it far more accessible than Tesla’s car insurance program that is only available to California residents.

There will be perks with the Rivian insurance that could potentially make it more attractive than traditional car insurance. For one, the Rivian insurance team will comprehensively understand the vehicle. Rivian claims this allows them to diagnose and find solutions to problems faster. They’ll be working directly with Rivian Collision and Rivian Service Centers to get this done, efficiencies it says will allow them to offer lower premiums than others.

To a certain degree, your driving habits will also affect how much you pay. Rivian is offering a program that will slash your rates based on how often you use its Driver+ Active Driving Assistance feature on the highway. This system allows for true hands-free operation of the vehicle when on the highway, automatically steering and adjusting your speed to keep pace with traffic and the lanes. Rivian says that the more time you spend with this system active, the lower your insurance rates will be. No hard numbers were provided at this time, but Rivian said those will be available later when folks actually get the chance to shop for Rivian insurance.

If you want to cover your Rivian via this insurance, you’ll be able to tack it on in the ordering process and get a quote that way. Rivian also points out that they’ll cover far more than your truck or SUV. There will apparently be policies available for your other vehicles, home, boat, camper and dirt bikes. It’s unclear how those policies might function, but they’ll be available to you. And in case you were thinking about decking your Rivian out with the company’s line of accessories like the Camp Kitchen or Rooftop Tent, Rivian says its vehicle coverage will also include those products.

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