Airlines meet with Biden officials to push for green-fuel breaks

Chief executives of the nation’s largest passenger and cargo airlines met with key Biden administration officials Friday to talk about reducing emissions from airplanes and push incentives for lower-carbon aviation fuels.

The White House said the meeting with climate adviser Gina McCarthy and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also touched on economic policy and curbing the spread of COVID-19 — travel has been a vector for the virus. But industry officials said emissions dominated the discussion.

United Airlines said CEO Scott Kirby asked administration officials to support incentives for sustainable aviation fuel and technology to remove carbon from the atmosphere. In December, United said it invested an undisclosed amount in a carbon-capture company partly owned by Occidental Petroleum.

A United Nations aviation group has concluded that biofuels will remain a tiny source of aviation fuel for several years. Some environmentalists would prefer the Biden administration to impose tougher emissions standards on aircraft rather than create breaks for biofuels.

“Biofuels are false solutions that don’t decarbonize air travel,” said Clare Lakewood, a climate-law official with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Real action on aircraft emissions requires phasing out dirty, aging aircraft, maximizing operational efficiencies and funding the rapid development of electrification.”

Airplanes account for a small portion of emissions that cause climate change — about 2% to 3% — but their share has been growing rapidly and is expected to roughly triple by mid-century with the global growth in travel.

The airline trade group says U.S. carriers have more than doubled the fuel efficiency of their fleets since 1978 and plan further reductions in carbon emissions. But the independent International Council on Clean Transportation says passenger traffic is growing nearly four times faster than fuel efficiency, leading to a 33% increase in emissions between 2013 and 2019.

The U.S. accounts for about 23% of aircraft carbon-dioxide emissions, followed by Europe at 19% and China at 13%, the transportation group’s researchers estimated.

The White House said McCarthy, Buttigieg and economic adviser Brian Deese were “grateful and optimistic” to hear the airline CEOs talk about current and future efforts to combat climate change.

Nicholas Calio, president of the trade group Airlines for America, said the exchange was positive.

“Airlines are ready, willing and able partners, and we want to be part of the solution” to climate change, Calio said in a statement. “We stand ready to work in partnership with the Biden administration.”


Cooper recalls 430K truck and SUV tires due to sidewall bulges

DETROIT  — Cooper Tire is recalling more than 430,000 truck and SUV tires in the U.S. because they can develop sidewall bulges that could lead to tire failure.

The recall covers certain Discoverer, Evolution, Courser, Deegan, Adventurer, Hercules, Back Country, Multi-Mile, Wild Country and Big O tires in several sizes.

The company says in documents posted Friday by U.S. safety regulators that the bulges can cause a sidewall separation. That can make the tires lose air rapidly, increasing the risk of a crash.

Cooper, based in Findlay, Ohio, said there have been no deaths or injury claims, or property damage, due to the problem.

Owners will be notified and dealers will replace the tires. The recall is expected to start March 25.

The tires were made between Feb. 1, 2018 and Dec. 1, 2019. Owners can contact the company at (800) 854-6288.


How idled car factories supercharged a push for U.S. chip subsidies

When President Joe Biden on Wednesday stood at a lectern holding a microchip and pledged to support $37 billion in federal subsidies for American semiconductor manufacturing, it marked a political breakthrough that happened much more quickly than industry insiders had expected.

For years, chip industry executives and U.S. government officials have been concerned about the slow drift of costly chip factories to Taiwan and Korea. While major American companies such as Qualcomm and Nvidia dominate their fields, they depend on factories abroad to build the chips they design.

As tensions with China heated up last year, U.S. lawmakers authorized manufacturing subsidies as part of an annual military spending bill due to concerns that depending on foreign factories for advanced chips posed national security risks. Yet funding for the subsidies was not guaranteed.

Then came the auto-chip crunch. Ford said a lack of chips could slash a fifth of its first-quarter production and General Motors cut output across North America.

“It brings home very clearly the message that the semiconductor is really a critical component in a lot of the end products we take for granted,” said Mike Rosa, head of strategic and technical marketing for a group within semiconductor manufacturing toolmaker Applied Materials Inc that sells tools to automotive chip factories.

Within weeks, automakers joined chip companies calling for chip factory subsidies, and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and President Biden both pledged to fight for funding.

Industry backers now aim to be part of a package of legislation to counter China that Schumer hopes to bring to the Senate floor this spring. Still, all agree it will do little to solve the immediate auto-chip problem.

Headlines about idled car plants resonated with the public that had shrugged off abstract warnings in the past, said Jim Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Lawmakers, already worried that a promised infrastructure bill will not materialize this year, decided to push for quick solution.

“Nobody wants to be seen as soft on China. No one wants to tell the Ford workers in their district, ‘Sorry, can’t help,'” Lewis said. “It was one of those moments where everything aligned.”

The package includes matching funds for state and local chip-plant subsidies, a provision likely to heat up competition among states including Texas and Arizona to host big new chip plants that can cost as much as $20 billion.

The subsidies could benefit a factory in Arizona proposed by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co and one in Texas eyed by Samsung Electronics, even though those factories would be geared toward high-end chips for smartphones and laptops, rather than simpler auto chips. And those factories would not come on line until 2023 or 2024, according to plans disclosed by the companies, the world’s two largest chip manufacturers.

In the longer term, a raft of U.S. companies are also poised to benefit. Any chipmakers that build factories will source many tools from American companies such as Applied, Lam Research and KLA Corp.

Intel, Micron Technology Inc and GlobalFoundries — which already have U.S. factory networks — will also likely benefit.

Smaller, specialty chip factories also could benefit.

“The recent chip shortage in the automotive industry has highlighted the need to strengthen the microelectronics supply chain in the U.S.,” said Thomas Sonderman, chief executive of SkyWater Technology, a Minnesota-based chipmaker that makes automotive and defense chips. “We believe that SkyWater is uniquely positioned due to our differentiated business model and status as a U.S.-owned and U.S.-operated pure play semiconductor contract manufacturer.”

Even with subsidies, the U.S. companies still must compete with low-cost Asian vendors over the long run, and the immediate auto chip troubles will probably persist.

Surya Iyer, a vice president at Minnesota-based Polar Semiconductor, which makes chips for automakers, said his factory is booked beyond capacity and has started to speed some orders up while slowing others down, to meet automakers’ needs as best it can.

“We are expecting this level of demand to continue at least for the next 12 months, maybe even longer,” he said.


This is why Acura hasn’t yet announced its EV strategy

Despite parent company Honda’s green and friendly brand image, luxury marque Acura hasn’t made a grand statement about electrifying their lineup. Even as brands like Jaguar, Land Rover, Bentley, and Infiniti pledge to entirely electrify their lineups in the coming decade, Acura has held back. The reason, according to Acura head honcho Jon Ikeda, is that it’s focusing on reestablishing itself as a performance brand.

In a wide-ranging interview with Automotive News, Ikeda says Acura came out of the gate strong in 1986 and did well for the first 20 years, but when the bottom fell out of the market in 2008 the brand experienced “growing pains.” That spawned a period of self-reflection and, as Ikeda puts it, “What are we about?” The decision was made to go back to Acura’s roots as the performance division of Honda. “That’s what Acura is. That’s what I fell in love with,” Ikeda says.

Ikeda joined Honda in 1989, but his promotion to Acura boss in 2015 was a surprise to many, including himself. That’s because Honda had a tradition of putting engineers at the helm, and Ikeda was a designer, responsible for the looks of such cars as the FSX concept, 2001 Civic Coupe, and beloved 2004 Acura TL.

When asked by AN whether Acura is worried that luxury competitors are putting stakes in the ground to claim EV brand identities, Ikeda says no. “For us as a brand, we needed to kind of refocus and reestablish ourselves as a performance brand… We want everybody to understand where we are, what we’re about first. Even if we go electric we will continue to be a performance division of Honda and performance will be our focus.”

To earn its performance street cred, Acura poured resources into the second-gen NSX hybrid supercar, which served as testbed for how electricity can work harmoniously with performance. They will continue to campaign IMSA race cars to earn trophies as proof, and Ikeda also wants to bring more Type S models to the lineup.

Ikeda says Acura is still in the process of rebuilding its foundation, but when he’s done he expects people to associate Acura with performance. That sure seems ambitious to us, but products like the new TLX are a helpful stepping stone. It also explains why Acura is investing in different platforms to differentiate itself from Honda.

To be clear, Ikeda isn’t ruling out electrification. However, as he reiterates many times, vehicle dynamics and performance will come first, and that’s what he wants Acura to be known for first and foremost.

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2022 Infiniti QX60’s new transmission helps improve towing capacity

Though it hasn’t been fully revealed yet, we have reason to believe the 2022 Infiniti QX60 will be a big improvement over the outgoing model. The concept has more confident and elegant styling, and the company has announced that the unloved CVT will go away in favor of a more conventional nine-speed automatic. We’re expecting that transmission to be more pleasant in daily driving, but it also has had the bonus of letting Infiniti get more towing capacity out of the crossover.

The new maximum trailer weight for the QX60 is 6,000 pounds, an improvement of 1,000 pounds over the old model. That makes the QX60 one of the best options for the trailer set in its class, outperforming the Acura MDX, Buick Enclave, Cadillac XT6, Lexus RX and Volvo XC90. The only three-row luxury crossover in the price and performance segment to beat it is the Lincoln Aviator, which offers 6,700 pounds.

The QX60 will be fully revealed later this year. The company has also announced that it picks up a bit of horsepower over the previous model. Pricing will probably be similar to the current model which starts around $45,000.

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VW ID. Buzz getting an autonomous version, reveal timing confirmed

The Volkswagen ID. Buzz is going to be a significant model just because it’ll be the first time VW has actually brought a retro Microbus to production, and an electric one to boot. But that significance goes further, as the company announced it will be the basis for its first road-ready autonomous vehicles. Prototype testing begins this year, and the plan is to have autonomous models out in 2025 and to be used in a ride-sharing program like VW’s MOIA program it operates in Hamburg and Hanover in Germany.

The announcement also comes with a rendering of the planned autonomous ID. Buzz. It looks extremely close to the concept cars, both passenger and commercial versions. The shape and window openings are all nearly the same. Of course, being an autonomous vehicle, it has various radar or LIDAR sensors tacked to the corners, including a prominent one on a roof bulge. It gives it the look of the bridge on the Enterprise. Another interesting change is the lack of two-tone paint or a trim line that dips down the nose to emulate classic VW vans. While it’s still obviously retro, we’re hoping that VW will still offer a two-tone color scheme. Finally, the lower grille looks simplified and more like that of the ID.4 and ID.3, rather than the myriad of little holes like the concepts.

We’re also getting closer to finally seeing the production ID. Buzz. VW mentioned that the van will be revealed next year. The company had said this a few years ago, but we’re glad to know that the pandemic hasn’t derailed and delayed production plans.

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It’s a V8 party! Lexus IS 500, Cadillac Escalade and more | Autoblog Podcast #667

In this week’s Autoblog Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore is joined by Road Test Editor Zac Palmer. It’s all V8s all the time this week, starting with the Land Rover Defender V8 unveiling, Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance debut and pricing announcement on the Jeep Wrangler 392. Next, they move on to what they’ve been driving. Spoiler alert: That means more V8 talk. Zac has been driving the Cadillac Escalade with the 6.2-liter V8 and BMW M550i with its 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8. Greg and Zac take a pause from the V8 theme by discussing their shared time in our long-term Acura TLX. From this, they segue into a “Spend My Money” feature about garage lifts to finish the show.

Autoblog Podcast #667

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  • News
    • 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 priced at nearly $75,000
    • 2022 Land Rover Defender bulks up with a 518-hp V8
    • 2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance brings back the V8
  • What we’re driving
    • BMW M550i
    • Cadillac Escalade
    • Acura TLX
  • Spend my money


Autoblog is now live on your smart speakers and voice assistants with the audio Autoblog Daily Digest. Say “Hey Google, play the news from Autoblog” or “Alexa, open Autoblog” to get your favorite car website in audio form every day. A narrator will take you through the biggest stories or break down one of our comprehensive test drives.

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Win this 2021 Cadillac Escalade and you’ll have a home theater in your driveway

Autoblog may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Pricing and availability are subject to change. No donation or payment necessary to enter or win this sweepstakes. See official rules on Omaze.

Touchscreens in cars are getting bigger and bigger, and the Cadillac Escalade is the prime example. With a 38-inch display up front and a 36-speaker surround sound system, all this Cadillac is missing is a place to keep your snacks. Oh wait, they thought of that too with a fridge up front. All of this is great, but the best thing about the Cadillac Escalade is that Omaze is giving it away.

Win a 2021 Cadillac Escalade and $20,000 – Enter at Omaze

But the fun doesn’t end in the front seat. In the second row there are large screens as well, so you can binge watch your favorite TV show on your next road trip, assuming you’re not driving. To top it off, if you’re stuck way in the back, there’s Conversation Enhancement, so you won’t have to yell in order for the driver to hear what you’re saying. 

With all of this technology, it’s easy to forget the original purpose of the Escalade, to get you from one place to another, in style, which it does incredibly well thanks to a 420 horsepower, 6.2L V8. Plus, this Escalade comes with something the others don’t, $20,000 in cash.

You’re probably asking yourself, what does it take to win? Well, first of all there is no donation or purchase necessary to enter, though your odds dramatically increase if you do: $10 will get you 100 entries in this raffle, while $50 will get you 1,000 entries and $100 will get you 2,000 entries.

The donations themselves benefit Tie The Knot, which, according to Omaze, “works to raise awareness and advocate on behalf of LGBTQ equality throughout the world. Tie The Knot releases limited edition collections of neckwear and other fashionable products to benefit organizations that are in the trenches fighting for LGBTQ civil rights every single day and to fund their international public education campaign. Your donation can help Tie The Knot continue to move the dial in support of LGBTQ equality.

If you want this opportunity to own this tech-filled luxury SUV, enter here. The deadline to enter is May 26, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. Pacific.


2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L priced, will top out at $66,985

The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L will start hit dealers later this year, and Jeep just announced pricing in preparation for the SUV’s arrival. Three rows of Grand Cherokee L will start at $38,690, including the $1,695 destination charge. For some perspective, the base two-row 2021 Grand Cherokee (non-L) from the previous generation begins at $33,865.

Adding a third row and more size looks pricey on the surface, but we suspect the next-gen two-row Grand Cherokee will go up in price, too. After all, Jeep is packing a whole lot more into the next-gen models than it was in the outgoing one.

The base trim is the Laredo, and it includes a host of niceties for the base model. You got full exterior LED lighting, a leather steering wheel, digital instrument cluster, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and more. This version comes standard with the 3.6-liter V6 that makes 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. If you want four-wheel drive, as we suspect many Jeep buyers will, it’ll be an extra $2,000. 

There are five additional trims beyond the Laredo. We’ve listed them and their base prices below. All are listed in V6 rear-drive form (except the 4×4-only Summit Reserve), so add $2,000 to each for their four-wheel-drive prices.

  • Altitude: $41,890
  • Limited: $45,690
  • Overland: $54,690
  • Summit: $58,690
  • Summit Reserve (4×4 standard): $63,690

If you want the available 5.7-liter V8, you’ll need to select the Overland, Summit or Summit Reserve. The V8 is exclusively tied to four-wheel drive. Selecting the bigger engine raises the price from the standard four-wheel-drive models by $3,295 in all trims. We’ve listed V8 prices below.

  • Overland: $59,985
  • Summit: $63,985
  • Summit Reserve: $66,985

In case you were curious, that $66,985 price for the Summit Reserve is as high as it goes for the Grand Cherokee L for now. It’s just a few thousand dollars away from the standard Grand Cherokee’s SRT trim that starts at $70,660. You get more luxury than Jeep offers in any other vehicle with the Reserve. Notable equipment includes 21-inch wheels, hand-wrapped quilted Palermo leather, ventilated (and heated) first and second row seats, massaging front row, open-pore waxed walnut wood trim, suede headliner/pillars and the 19-speaker McIntosh audio system.

Jeep says the Grand Cherokee L will make its arrival to dealerships across the country in the second quarter of 2021.

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2022 Land Rover Defender V8 to start at $98,550

Land Rover has announced U.S. pricing for its 2022 Defender lineup, including the brand-new V8 model. The short-wheelbase Defender 90 V8 will start at $98,550 (including $1,350 for destination); the long-wheelbase 110 V8 will start at $101,750. 

The rest of the lineup sees some pricing adjustments as well. The base Defender 90 climbs $1,600 to $49,050 (the 110’s base price of $51,850 remains the same) and some other tweaks were made across the lineup. There are also new models available besides the V8 for 2022. The Defender 90 range expands from just four models to eight, with the “First Edition” being scrapped and new X-Dynamic S, SE and HSE models (all powered by the 395-horsepower inline-six) being added. 

The 110 lineup was similarly expanded, going from just three variants to nine. It also picks up X-Dynamic and SE and HSE models, along with a unique XS Edition (also based on the inline-six) that includes some dress-up elements. Land Rover clarified that this model is exclusive to the 110; earlier reports suggested that it was also available on the Defender 90. 

We didn’t expect to see these numbers so soon. As we hinted at when the V8 was introduced on Wednesday, Land Rover has had a heck of a time getting the Defender into U.S. inventories thanks to the uncertainties and disruptions of both the COVID pandemic and UK’s Brexit struggles. 

The Defender V8 will have some competition on the domestic front straight away thanks to Jeep, which announced Wednesday (no coincidence, we’re certain) that its 2021 Wrangler Rubicon 392 Launch Edition will start at $74,995 (incl. $1,495 for destination). That price delta might be a tough pill to swallow for buyers who simply want a V8 in their off-road SUV, especially when you consider that the Jeep is expected to have a performance edge over its distant British cousin-several-times-removed, but we suspect that the faithful won’t be swayed either way.

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8

2022 Land Rover Defender 110 V8