Owners say Tesla is holding them to unintentional (and non-refundable) in-app purchases

Some Tesla owners are claiming that they’re being charged for in-app purchases they never intentionally made, sticking them with thousands of dollars in non-refundable upgrade fees. 

In at least one instance, InsideEVs reported, the owner claims the purchase was made while his phone was in his pocket, meaning that what effectively amounts to a butt-dial ended up costing him more than $4,000. 

That owner, author Nassim Taleb, took to Twitter to vent his frustration with Tesla’s customer service, whose representatives initially stuck to the company’s policy that all vehicle upgrade purchases are final and thus non-refundable.

Eventually, Tesla CEO Elon Musk intervened, saying he would make sure Taleb’s issue was resolved, and commenting that refunds in general should be easier to obtain. Taleb, who has a large Twitter following, pushed back against the response, saying he doesn’t want special treatment; he wants all customers to receive the same benefit of the doubt that he was shown. 

Another owner reported a similar occurrence to Electrek, claiming that both the full self-driving and acceleration boost upgrades were purchased without his (or his wife’s) knowledge, and they only realized the mistake when some features appeared to be activated unexpectedly. 

Autoblog spoke to a Tesla Model 3 owner, who asked to remain anonymous. He walked us through the in-app purchase process, which requires both that individual upgrades be selected, a payment method chosen, and then the purchase be confirmed on a separate screen. He said that, in his case at least, the radio button for the acceleration upgrade was selected by default, which could potentially shortcut the process if a user wasn’t paying close attention. 

“Could it be more idiot proof?” he said. “Perhaps. Is a butt dial purchase likely? Doubt it.”

Based on Musk’s tweet, it seems likely that Tesla will revisit its refund policies, but in the meantime, owners should take caution when navigating the app. Until Tesla adds a “try before you buy” option for either its acceleration boost or full self-driving updates, it might be wise to steer clear of that menu altogether — and not profiling your payment options for quicker checkouts might be advisable. 

Source: AutoBlog.com

A Ferris Bueller replica Ferrari is headed to auction this week

Would you like to own a Ferrari, or a piece of movie history? How about a little of the latter that is pretending to be the former?

In any other year, even noteworthy auction listings popping up this week probably would have drowned in the rising tide of auto show news, but with the Detroit auto show punted to June this year, we’ve been inundated with some fantastic auction finds, including this Hollywood icon that was built for one of John Hughes’ greatest films. 

This 1963* Modena Spyder California is maybe one of the best-known Ferrari replicas in the world, and it’s slated to cross the block at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale this weekend.

It takes an eagle-eyed auto enthusiast to recognized the Bueller fakes for what they are, but the fact that they’re replicas of the Ferrari 250 GT California doesn’t really hurt their value. In fact, it makes it even easier to verify their provenance. Granted, real-deal 250 GTs are going for stupid money, but we find it hard to believe that a little Matthew Broderick stardust would really make much difference when examples are being auctioned off for more than $17 million

As Road & Track points out, the other running movie replica sold for more than $400,000. Fortunately, there were three of these replica models built for the film, so the buying public is getting yet another crack at one.

Two of the replicas were runners, and the third was effectively an unladen stunt double used for the infamous scene where Alan Ruck’s Cameron Frye works out his daddy issues by sending pop’s precious collector’s item straight through the side of their Highland Park Frank Lloyd Wright. 

You know, the sort of thing your average angsty American teenager did before Twitter was invented. 

The replica is not just a looker; it’s a driver. It sports a 427 cubic-inch V8 rocking a four-barrel carb mated to a five-speed manual transmission and sends power to the rear wheels through a limited-slip differential. 

Per the listing, this replica underwent a thorough restoration and even boasts a few upgrades over “stock.” It’s sitting on custom QA1 adjustable 16-position aluminum coil-over shocks mated to a four-wheel independent suspension and a set of upgraded Wilwood brakes (6-pot front; 4-pot rear) with 12-inch vented, slotted and cross-drilled rotors.

Even the body parts got some attention. The inner tubs were replaced with carbon fiber bits and custom 16-inch chrome wire wheels were added. If the carbon fiber parts alone weren’t enough to qualify this replica for resto-mod status, consider that it also has a GPS-fed speedometer and a Retrosound radio with Bluetooth, two Blaupunkt amps and 14 speakers. Look closely and you may still not spot them. 

The car also got the usual interior and exterior attention, and the top boot and seats were completely recovered with high-quality tan hides. 

There’s not much time left before this choice automobile crosses the block. Look for it at B-J Scottsdale on Saturday; it’s lot number 1378.

Source: AutoBlog.com

Bronco, Yukon, Hummer and a CES recap | Autoblog Podcast #610

In this week’s Autoblog Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore is joined by Consumer Editor Jeremy Korzeniewski and Assistant Editor Zac Palmer. They kick things off by talking about recent news, including the revival of the Hummer name as an electric pickup, revealing Ford Bronco spy shots and the unveiling of the 2021 GMC Yukon. Then Zac tells about his time in Las Vegas attending CES 2020. They talk about the cars they’ve been driving: a JCW-tuned Mini Clubman, the long-term Subaru Forester with its new gold wheels, a Volvo S60 PHEV that’s been added to the long-term fleet, and a Camry Hybrid. Last, but not least, they help a listener decide how to spend his money on a sports car.

Autoblog Podcast #610

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Rundown

  • Hummer returning as an electric GMC pickup
  • The latest on the Ford Bronco
  • 2021 GMC Yukon
  • CES 2020 recap
  • Cars we’re driving:
    • 2020 John Cooper Works Mini Clubman
    • 2020 Subaru Forester long-termer (now with gold wheels!)
    • 2020 Volvo S60 T8 Inscription
    • 2019 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
  • Spend My Money

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Source: AutoBlog.com

Critical catalytic converter metal shortages send prices soaring

A long-term supply deficit has led prices of the metal, used mainly in catalytic converters to curb harmful emissions, to double over the last year. In the futures market, prices indicate buyers fear a lack of ready supply. Before this rally began, palladium prices had never exceeded $1,100. Already record-high prices have been driven up by 25% in just two weeks, accelerating a four-year rally and stoking expectations for further gains, analysts said.

Consumers’ immediate needs are often met in the lending market, in which holders of metal put their stocks to work for a profit. However, rates charged to lease palladium have spiked in recent weeks, suggesting availability is tight.

Spot palladium broke above $2,500 an ounce on Friday – its highest ever – from less than $500 in January 2016. Before this rally began, palladium prices had never exceeded $1,100.

“There’s no metal,” said a trader in London. “Consumers are stockpiling. It’s all been shipped to China.”

The roughly 10-million-ounce a year market has been in deficit for most of the last decade. Standard Chartered analyst Suki Cooper said she expects 700,000 ounce shortfalls this year and in 2021, and for prices to rise.

South Africa, which produces two-fifths of the world’s mined palladium, released data on Thursday showing its output of platinum group metals including palladium fell 13.5% in November compared to the same month in 2018.

On the demand side, emissions standards coming into force in number one car market China require 30% more palladium per vehicle, more than offsetting recent falls in numbers of vehicles sold, said Standard Chartered’s Cooper.

Also helping boost prices, China and the United States signed a trade deal on Wednesday that could spur economic growth, and a Chinese auto industry group said vehicle sales would slow their decline.

Years of deficits have pushed down visible palladium stockpiles, with holdings in exchange traded funds (ETFs) at just over 600,000 ounces, down from 2.5 million ounces in mid-2015, removing a potential supply source.

Potential threats to high prices are if carmakers begin to replace palladium with platinum, which at around $1,000 an ounce now looks cheap, or miners bring forward new production.

“To me it looks like a bubble,” said Fritsch, predicting prices would return to around $1,500 by the end of the year.

However, plenty are still betting on further gains, at least in the next year or two.

“Palladium is just going to go up and up and up,” said Frederic Panizzutti at Swiss dealers MKS.

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Source: AutoBlog.com

2021 GMC Yukon will pull a 180 thanks to a Hurricane Turn feature

GMC isn’t a hip, young startup, but its engineers are out to prove it’s possible to teach an old dog new tricks. The next-generation Yukon will offer adventurers seeking a quick turn-around a “Hurricane Turn” feature that functions a lot like Rivian’s Tank Turn technology. The two systems use different hardware to perform a similar action.

We didn’t hear anything about the Hurricane Turn feature during the Yukon’s unveiling because GMC planned to keep it under wraps until later, but an eagle-eyed report at Motor Trend uncovered it and quizzed the firm. It’s real, and it’s engaged when the driver switches the stability control system off, energetically turns the steering wheel in either direction, and mashes the accelerator pedal to the floor. The Yukon needs to be on a loose surface, too.

If you’re turning right, the on-board computer applies braking power to the passenger-side wheels to prevent them from spinning, while the engine continues to turn the driver-side wheels to rotate the Yukon on its own axis. The exact opposite happens if you’re turning left. It’s clever and relatively simple; there’s no extra hardware required to enable the feature, though it shows the next Yukon is far more advanced than its predecessor.

It goes without saying that only four-wheel drive models will receive the Hurricane Turn feature. There’s no word yet on whether it will be compatible with all three engine options, or if it will be limited to a certain trim level. GMC will publish additional details about the system, and hopefully a video of it in action, in the coming months.

Rivian, on the other hand, leveraged its four-motor electric powertrain to teach the R1T (and presumably the R1S) how to pull a 180. The right wheels turn in the opposite directions as the left wheels – hence the name Tank Turn – to spin the truck around like a CD in a Walkman. Its system doesn’t use the brakes.

The 2021 Yukon is due in showrooms in the summer of 2020, and Amazon-funded Rivian won’t start making the R1S until the end of 2020 at the earliest, so GMC will beat its younger rival to the punch. What remains to be seen is how often motorists use either function. We’re betting not very once the initial novelty wears off.

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Source: AutoBlog.com

Canadian billionaire becomes front-runner for Aston Martin stake, report says

Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll is emerging as the front-runner to buy a stake in luxury carmaker Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings as interest from a rival Chinese investor wanes, people with knowledge of the matter said.
Chinese tycoon Li Shufu’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group is cooling on the idea of a deal with Aston Martin, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. Aston Martin could decide on its plan of action as early as this month, according to the people.
Stroll has been discussing a potential investment of about 200 million pounds ($261 million) in the British automobile manufacturer, Bloomberg News reported earlier. Aston Martin spoke to several investors about a potential capital increase as it makes a final effort to bring in fresh funding, people with knowledge of the matter said at the time.
No final agreements have been reached, and the carmaker could fail to reach an agreement or decide against bringing in new investors, the people said. Representatives for Aston Martin and Geely declined to comment, while a representative for Stroll couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Source: autonewscom

U.S. Senate passes North America trade deal

WASHINGTON —The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved a revamp of the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement that includes tougher rules on labor and automotive content but leaves $1.2 trillion in annual U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade flows largely unchanged.

The legislation to implement the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement passed on an 89-10 bipartisan vote, sending the measure to President Donald Trump for him to sign into law.

The Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation on Dec. 19 after hammering out changes to ensure better enforcement of labor rights and tighter environmental rules during months of often contentious negotiations with the Trump administration.

The Senate vote came a day after Trump signed a long-awaited Phase 1 trade deal with China, and shortly before the Senate formally began the impeachment trial of Trump on charges that he abused his power.

The U.S. S&P 500 stock index hit the 3,300 mark on Thursday for the first time, buoyed by the two trade deals, solid retail sales and upbeat Morgan Stanley earnings.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Trump’s efforts to rebalance U.S. ties with its major trading partners were bearing fruit, and boosting U.S. economic growth.

“This historic agreement not only modernizes and rebalances our trade relationship with Canada and Mexico, but it promotes economic growth, creates jobs, and provides crucial certainty for farmers, workers and manufacturers,” he said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Mnuchin told Fox News that interim trade deal with China and passage of USMCA would boost growth of the U.S. gross domestic product by 50 to 75 basis points.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Thursday called the deal’s approval good news for the Mexican economy, and predicted it would jump start new investments.

Canada still needs to approve the deal before it can take effect and replace NAFTA. It was signed by the leaders of the United States, Mexico and Canada in September 2018.

Trump made renegotiating NAFTA a centrepiece of his 2016 election campaign, calling it “the worst trade deal ever made” and blaming it for the loss of thousands of American factory jobs to low-wage Mexico.

He had threatened to cancel NAFTA outright unless Congress acted to approve the replacement deal, sparking uncertainty among business owners and putting a damper on new investment.

The AFL-CIO union federation, which represents some 12.5 million workers across the United States, estimates that some 851,700 U.S. jobs were lost to Mexico because of NAFTA.

The U.S. goods trade deficit with Mexico was $80.7 billion in 2018, compared with a $1.7 billion surplus in 1993, thanks in part to U.S. companies moving manufacturing operations south of the border.

But NAFTA also quadrupled trade among the United States, Canada and Mexico, sending it to $1.2 trillion a year by 2017, and knitting together supply chains across the continent.

Industry groups hailed the trade agreement and said it would provide sorely needed certainty to revive investment flows.

“This trade agreement will serve as a model for future trade agreements, and help grow the U.S. economy as a whole, especially the auto sector and its manufacturing supply chain,” said Matt Blunt, president of the American Automotive Policy Council.

Canada’s parliament does not return to session until Jan. 27, so the scheduling of a vote there remains unclear. But USMCA is expected to see little resistance in Canada, as Conservatives have said they would back the deal negotiated earlier by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal-dominated government.

“Today the Senate will send this landmark agreement to the president’s desk. A big bipartisan win,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor.

Republican Senator Joni Ernst told Fox Business Network that she expected Trump to hold a signing ceremony next week.

The bill was opposed by eight Democrats — including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer — Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent. Senator Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, did not vote.

Source: AutoBlog.com

Historic Little Red and Green Hornet Mustangs are together for the first time

The 2020 Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction in Scottsdale has some absolute whales of vehicles going up for sale, but two unlisted cars might have stolen the show. This morning, January 16, Chairman and CEO Craig Jackson unveiled Little Red, a completely restored prototype 1967 Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 EXP that was previously thought to be lost forever. It debuted next to the restored 1968 Ford Shelby Mustang Prototype nicknamed the Green Hornet. It marked the first time the two have been on display together.

Little Red, which Barrett-Jackson calls one of the “most sought-after and elusive vehicles in postwar history,” has been under the knife since it was discovered on March 3, 2018, in rural North Texas. It took a search super team of Jackson, restoration specialist Jason Billups, and several other experts to find the mythical vehicle. The crew used the original Ford VIN, not the Shelby serial number, to locate the original registration and, eventually, the eventual owner. And because it was 2018, the owner was contacted through social media.

The big-block notchback is so special because it is one of only two experimental vehicles (the other being the Hornet) built by Ford Motor Company and Shelby American. Little Red is the second GT500 to be serialized, the only GT500 hardtop coupe built by Shelby American, and the only GT coupe that was originally ordered with dual-quad carburetors from the factory. The developmental vehicle explored many never-tried-before features such as a new bodystyle and adding a Paxton supercharger. Ultimately, it served as the archetype for the Mustang California Special, which was created under the supervision of Lee Iacocca. 

Today, Jackson owns both Mustangs, as well as No. 001 2020 Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 in Candy Apple Green and another 2020 Ford Shelby Mustang Shelby GT500 in Rapid Red. Both new GT500s were also on display with the old models in a grandparent-grandson-type display.

Source: AutoBlog.com

This looks like the refreshed 2021 Chevy Equinox

Chevrolet’s updates to the 2021 Equinox appear to have leaked on Twitter Tuesday thanks to an outlet in China, giving us our first real look at what, until now, we’ve only seen on heavily camouflaged test vehicles. 

The superficial changes to the Equinox are fairly minor. The grille surround is cut somewhat differently, making it appear to integrate seamlessly with the Equinox’s headlights. The lights themselves also received revisions, and we expect the U.S. market Equinox will get new lighting hardware and calibration to better tackle the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s tests, which will prove a higher barrier to entry for new models sold in 2020 and beyond. 

Spy shots of the updated Equinox led us to believe that the design updates were inspired by the Blazer. We suppose an argument can be made that they were, but we’re not convinced that it’s for the better. That grille and headlight treatment simply don’t work on the smaller Equinox. 

The rest of the tweet is a bit of a head-scratcher, we’ll admit, as Chevrolet already bundles the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with the nine-speed automatic here in the States, so this could mean nothing for the U.S. market. Alternatively, it could mean that the entry-level, 1.5-liter turbo will lose its aging six-speed auto in favor of GM’s newer unit. 

Beyond that, we have little reason to expect any significant hardware changes for the new Equinox. The diesel engine, which was a late-availability option after the new model’s debut in 2018, has already been unceremoniously discontinued for 2020.

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Source: AutoBlog.com

Hyundai and Kia invest $110 million in UK electric van startup Arrival

Korea’s Hyundai Group is backing a UK electric vehicle startup that plans to begin selling battery-powered delivery vans in 2021, the companies said on Thursday. Hyundai and sister firm Kia are making the investment of $110 million (100 million euros or 84.34 million pounds) in Arrival.

Founded in 2015 and based in London, Arrival has developed a boxy, futuristic-looking shuttle bus aimed at the commercial delivery market. The company said its van will have a range between charges of 300 miles.

In a statement, Arrival said it will work with Hyundai and Kia to develop a variety of electric vehicles, initially for the commercial market. Those vehicles will be built on Arrival’s modular vehicle platform or “skateboard” that bundles motor, batteries and chassis components, similar to the skateboard developed by U.S. startup Rivian.

Rivian is backed by Ford and Amazon, and has a contract to build 100,000 electric delivery vans for the e-commerce giant, starting in 2021.

Hyundai and Kia last year invested $89 million in Rimac Automobili, a nine-year-old Croatian company aspiring to build electric supercars that is also backed by Porsche.

Arrival said its vehicles will be equipped with advanced driver assist features and can be upgraded with self-driving systems.

The vehicles are designed to sell for the same price as similar models powered by internal combustion engines and to be built in small “microfactories.” That strategy is the opposite of U.S. electric vehicle rival Tesla which uses massive “gigafactories.”

Last fall, Arrival, which until now has operated largely in stealth mode, hired General Motors veteran Michael Ableson to head its new North American operations.

With a small factory in Banbury, England, Arrival said it now has 800 employees in five countries, including Germany, Russia and Israel.

Arrival previously said it would use BlackBerry’s QNX operating system to connect safety features in its electric vehicles.

Arrival said its prototype delivery vans are being tested by the Royal Mail, DHL and UPS.

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Source: AutoBlog.com