Behind the Wheel News

News from the Economy, Hyundai, Genesis, Ford, Nissan, and Kia

2023 Genesis GV60
2023 Genesis GV60

Americans Stay Above Water on Vehicle Purchases

Auto affordability is something to watch closely, even though the average U.S. household keeps up with higher monthly payments, significant financial obligations and inflation’s effect on all-around household expenses.

“Consumers, at least in the first quarter of 2022, have the liquidity to make the payments,” says Satyan Merchant, senior vice president and automotive business leader at TransUnion. Using a measure that’s not strictly automotive, Merchant finds it encouraging that consumers continue to pay more than their minimum obligation on their monthly credit statements. But with inflation rising and interest rates set to increase, he adds that the company is keeping an eye on new developments.

Monthly auto loan payments are at historic highs, transaction prices continue to climb and sticker prices are losing their relevance as car shoppers’ wallets are being walloped by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including thin inventories, rising inflation and interest rates. Those conditions are dampening overall auto sales, but especially adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).

It’s not all bad news. Trade-ins are fetching lucrative payouts from dealers desperate for anything to sell, especially in-demand late-model pickup trucks and SUVs.

Hyundai Issues Recall Notice

Hyundai Motor America will recall 239,000 U.S. vehicles over seatbelt pretensioners that can explode and project metal fragments, causing injuries. The recall, which comes after three injury reports, covers some 2019-2022 Accent, 2021-2023 Elantra and 2021-2022 Elantra hybrid vehicles. In the event of a crash, front-driver or passenger-side seatbelt pretensioners could explode upon deployment. Dealers will secure seat belt pretensioners with a cap.

Higher Interest Rates Add to Record Prices for New Vehicles

The average new-vehicle transaction price reached a record of $44,832 for the month of May. That’s a staggering increase of $6,577, or about 16 percent, compared to the estimate for May 2021. What’s driving record-high prices is the ongoing computer chip shortage, which is limiting new-vehicle production. Forecasters for J.D. Power and LMC Automotive expected new-vehicle sales of about 1.2 million cars and trucks in May, down 18 percent vs. May 2021, based on the estimated daily selling rate.

2023 Genesis GV60 Priced Under $60,000

Genesis Motor’s first dedicated EV, the GV60, will start at just under $60,000, including shipping, and provide three years of complimentary charging at stations in the Electrify America network, including one located at the Fred Meyer shopping center in Port Orchard.

The 2023 GV60 compact crossover comes in two all-wheel-drive variants: Advanced and Performance. The Advanced model is priced from $59,985, including $1,095 for shipping. The Performance model is priced at $68,985, including delivery.

Nissan Unveils All-New, All-Electric Minivehicle

Nissan recently unveiled the all-new Sakura electric minivehicle in Japan. Sales of the newest addition to Nissan’s EV lineup are scheduled to start in the market this summer.

Named after the iconic Japanese cherry blossom, the Sakura offers an affordable price that gives consumers more choices in the EV market. Nissan Executive Vice President Asako Hoshino says, “The all-new Sakura follows the LEAF and Ariya as a mass-market EV. We believe it will be a gamechanger for the Japanese market and will make EVs much more accessible to customers in Japan.”

The Sakura EV takes the minivehicle class to the next level. Its nimble handling and 4.8-meter turning radius allow drivers to execute sharp maneuvers with ease. Despite its size, the Sakura has a spacious interior and an ample driving range, making it perfect for daily driving needs such as commuting and shopping. It also features ProPILOT Park, an automated system designed to make parking easier and driving more pleasurable.

There was no word on when it might debut in the U.S.

Hyundai to Build New EV Factory in Georgia

Hyundai Motor Group said it plans to build a $5.5 billion manufacturing complex in Georgia dedicated to making EVs, the latest in a wave of new auto-factory investment flowing to the U.S. South. The new Hyundai plant is expected to break ground early next year and open in the first half of 2025, making battery-powered models that will be revealed at a later date, the company said. When fully ramped up, the factory will be capable of churning out 300,000 vehicles a year, Hyundai said.

Ford Recalls 39,000 SUVs Due to Engine Fire Danger

Ford Motor Co. is recalling 39,000 SUVs after reports of 16 fires and has advised owners to park their vehicles outdoors and away from structures until a fix is completed. The recall, which covers some 2021 model year Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator vehicles, was prompted by the possibility of an engine compartment fire while the car is parked or being driven, even with the ignition off, the No. 2 U.S. automaker said.

Kia Among the Fastest OEMs to Reach 10 Million USA Sales

Continuing its rapid expansion, in May Kia America marked the sale of the 10 millionth Kia vehicle in the USA. Since the start of sales in 1993, Kia’s growth is one of the auto industry’s greatest success stories and the result of delivering world-class quality, design and technology in every rugged and capable SUV, sporty sedan and EV the company offers.

The 10 millionth vehicle — a Runway Red, all-electric EV6 purchased by Monti Charoenphong at Car Pros Kia Moreno Valley in Moreno Valley, California — underlines Kia’s commitment to sustainable mobility leadership going forward.

“Selling 10 million vehicles is a significant achievement and we at Kia are proud not only how far we’ve come, but also what the future has in store as we continue our push for sustainable mobility leadership,” said Sean Yoon, president and CEO, Kia North America and Kia America. “To thank our customers for their support, Kia wants to give back in meaningful ways by helping those in need. We hope the positive impact of these donations will resonate for years to come.”