Auto prices will fall; Subaru Ascent misses the mark

The tsunami of supply chain disruption that has emptied dealer lots and raised car prices enough to raise the Consumer Price Index may subside around Christmas.

Key executives from Ford, General Motors and Honda said this week that semiconductor supply disruptions, which have stalled production and forced automakers to build and park tens of thousands of vehicles lacking key components , are improving.

“As we look into the fourth quarter, a constant flow of vehicles held in factories will continue to flow to dealerships,” said Steve Carlisle, GM executive vice president and GM president for North America . “We are restarting production at the major crossover and car factories, and look forward to a more stable operating environment until the fall,” Carlisle told the Detroit Free Press.

Ford CEO Jim Farley made similar comments during a press call announcing a $ 13.4 billion investment in electrification, including $ 90 million in Texas to train technicians for the portfolio. growing of the company’s electric vehicles.

Vehicles today are made up of hundreds of gadgets, from ignition systems to brake components, which are built and assembled overseas. A single control module can contain parts from three suppliers, all located in countries ravaged by COVID and where few vaccines are still available.

It’s all screwed, clipped and glued together and put on a container ship, put on a truck and shipped to American assembly plants. Shortages of dockworkers and truck drivers have created massive backlogs of everything in container ships and truckers’ trucks. This is one of the reasons why the price of everything is going up.

In August, the consumer price index rose 5.3%, according to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bulk of this was energy prices, closely followed by used car prices, which soared 31%, and new car prices, which rose 7.8%, the most strong 12-month increase since June 1981, the same month Nolan Ryan eclipsed Early Wynn. as the all-time leader in baseball. The two have won over 300 games, so there is a lesson to be learned in overcoming adversity.

This is exactly what the automakers and dealers have done. Although global production is on track to be 30% lower than the 98 million cars, SUVs and light trucks built on the planet in 2019 BC (pre-Covid), companies report strong profits in expected quarterly reports last week.

In June, according to, the average new car deal price was $ 41,000, almost identical to the median sticker price of $ 41,500. Incentives? Forget it unless it’s for a model so junk that even car rental companies don’t want it.

A few automakers offer “private”, ie unannounced, incentives to induce buyers who have placed orders to accept whatever is in the field. Ford will give you $ 2,000 to accept a vehicle specified by the General Manager instead of the vehicle of your dreams.

What should a buyer do? Kelly Blue Book surveyed her readers and found that half had decided to wait for things to get back to normal.

This is good advice.

As a corollary, you could consider the plan concocted by Beautiful Blonde. We have at least one more car than we need. The best of the trailer is its 2010 Toyota Camry low mileage, single owner, parked and immaculately maintained. We’re going to sell it, put the money on a CD, and wait.

In the aisle this week:

Ascent best SUV you should never buy

Color me puzzled at the Subaru Ascent; a perfectly charming three-seater SUV that was swallowed up by most of Subaru’s gremlins.

When I first got my hands on one for a brief test drive two springs ago, I was impressed with the Ascent’s comfortable and quiet ride, smooth handling, well-appointed interior, its smooth and powerful transmission and its high level of standard safety equipment.

So when we finally landed in my driveway, I had high expectations. They have not been met.

Upon closer inspection, we found that the rear storage space was cramped, capable of carrying less cargo than top competitors, such as the Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, Toyota Highlander, Mazda CX-9. , the Kia Sorento, the Honda Pilot and the Chevy Traverse.

Priced between $ 32,295 and $ 45,445, the Ascent is tied with the class leader, the Telluride. With a combined fuel economy of 22 mpg, it’s a bit more efficient than the competition. This is where the differences end.

The interior of Telluride is much more creative and evocative. Controls are more user-friendly, thoughtful features abound, cargo space is enormous, and the software is light years ahead.

Both vehicles, for example, are equipped with lane keeping assist. The Ascent bounces from one lane mark to another like a toddler learning to walk, and it beeps whenever it approaches a side marker. The Telluride balances well in the middle of the lane and doesn’t bother with irritating alerts as it doesn’t need them.

Another huge difference is that the Ascent gets its power from a 260 horsepower turbocharged 2.4L flat-four. Power is sent to all four wheels via a continuously variable transmission. Telluride keeps the road going with a naturally aspirated, 291-horsepower 3.8L V6 mated to an eight-speed transmission.

It is a huge difference. I am wary of small turbocharged engines because they have to work a lot harder. Internal compression is much more important. Once the oil starts to slide through the valves and oxygen sensors, all kinds of bad things start to happen.

There is a lot that automotive writers don’t know, including reliability. We can tell you what a vehicle looks, feels, smells and rides like when it leaves the factory, but we don’t know if it will hold up. I’m not directly aware that there is anything faulty in Subaru’s 2.4 turbos, but I can tell you that several manufacturers have settled class actions involving turbocharged engines, including Subaru.

Interesting note from the research: GM successfully defended itself in one case, claiming its warranty only covered defects in assembly, not design. Read the fine print.

With engines, it’s not just wear. Size matters. A smart way to prevent transmission wear is to use the engine brake. As someone who has used this technique at ridiculous speeds on winding roads, I can tell you that small displacement engines don’t do as well. They whine, but they don’t slow down.

Consumer Reports and JD Power both give the Ascent low marks for reliability, mainly because the first-year models had a litany of bugaboos, of a battery that drains quickly when the tailgate is left open to a guard. – breeze that cracks easily (figure $ 650 for the glass that houses the electronics and an additional $ 165 to recalibrate them.) Electronic problems also plague Ascent owners.

Although the Ascent can tow up to 5,000 lbs, Car and Driver found that the small engine and CVT only returned to around 9 mpg under load.

Finally, it should be noted that the Ascent comes with basic 3 year / 36.00 mile and 5 year / 60,000 mile powertrain warranties, Kia warrants the Telluride with a base of 5 years, 60,000 miles and a 10-Year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty. (Read the fine print. If you sell the Telluride, the powertrain warranty turns into 5 years / 60,000 miles. Kia exits this warranty with the second owner).

Me? I’d rather buy a Toyota or a Honda and not have to worry about powertrain warranties. There was a time when I would have said that about Subaru.

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