Ford’s F-150 Tremor, a milder version of the Raptor, goes on sale mid-next year. Here’s what else is happening in the car world:
FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK
Last week in this space I wrote about the FAST Act, or Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, passed way back in 2015. Among a gazillion other provisions, the act said that companies could manufacture small batches of so-called replica cars without having to meet all the same regulations required of big carmakers like GM and Ford. The law also stated that the EPA, California Air Resources Board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had until December 2016 to write specific rules stating exactly how those boutique carmakers would build those cars. CARB and EPA complied, but NHTSA hasn’t done that yet. Attempting to get NHTSA to finally act, last year SEMA sued the organization. We wanted to dig deeper and find out what the holdup has been the last four-plus years, so we reached out to SEMA and NHTSA.
The good news is it looks like we’re finally almost there. Small-volume specialty car manufacturers will probably be able to legally manufacture Cobras, ’32 roadsters and any number of other replica cars when NHTSA finally passes down the specific regulations, supposedly by Jan. 20, 2021. But, man, has it taken a long time.
Stuart Gosswein, with SEMA’s Federal Government Affairs program, told Autoweek it is indeed unusual for a regulation to go this long without being enacted. “NHTSA needed to write some regulations, and it has dawdled. We just had the five-year anniversary of the law being enacted, and NHTSA had a year to write any necessary regulations.”
Gosswein told us that while SEMA offered to help NHTSA, everyone is still waiting. “We call it bureaucratic limbo, purgatory, whatever—it’s very frustrating.”
Gosswein also told us that while normally the process is quicker, there are also examples where NHTSA has actually gone longer. He said that back in 1996 NHTSA addressed low-volume manufacturing by holding a workshop to see how it could be done, but then “they just walked away from it.” He told us that SEMA finally went to Congress and suggested creating the law, and that’s how the legislation got written in the first place.
“We spent four years getting all the lawmakers to understand the need for the legislation, and get them on board. They passed it. And now we’ve gone five years waiting for a regulation. It’s exasperating. Congress told NHTSA how the program should work so it doesn’t seem like there’s much for NHTSA to do in terms of regulation.”
Gosswein said SEMA was also frustrated that it had to file a lawsuit to get NHTSA moving, when one of the association’s missions is to work collaboratively with regulators. He said some language still needs to be worked out.
“Their internal deadline for completing the action was last July,” Gosswein said. “They’ve missed it. And we have enlisted members of Congress who were sponsors of the original bill to go knock on doors and ask what’s happening.”
According to Gosswein, NHTSA has said this is on its priority list for issuance “before Jan. 20. And so we’re cautiously optimistic that the end is in sight.” We asked NHTSA ourselves why it has taken so long but, not surprisingly, the organization hasn’t answered the question.
Once the rule is issued, it will take effect immediately, meaning low-volume automakers can start manufacturing cars now, and they should be able to start selling them to you, the consumer, soon.
Hopefully this will be cleared up in January. Meanwhile, take a look at all 74 pages of the law and good luck getting through it!
CAR NEWS AND NOTES
It didn’t take long for the F-150, a new generation of which debuted earlier this year, to get an off-road version: Ford took the wraps off the F-150 Tremor earlier this week. The Tremor is meant to be a milder, more domesticated version of the mighty Raptor also joining the lineup in due time. The Tremor offers a variety of off-road goodies including all-terrain tires, a lifted suspension and a number of other tweaks while keeping the truck road-friendly for everyday use. Sounds like fun! The truck goes on sale mid-2021,
If you’re feeling a bit of déjà vu seeing yet another new Acura MDX, don’t worry. Acura unveiled the production version of the 2022 MDX that goes on sale early next year. It’s also not a bad look. Acura did a good job with the design language introduced on the 2019 Acura RDX and put it on full display here. We like. Underneath the fresh design is a new structure both unique to Acura and to the MDX, at least for now. Acura claims it is roughly 35% more rigid than the outgoing model’s. In front is a new double-wishbone suspension geometry replacing struts. In back, the multilink setup was updated. There’s much more coverage, and we’re looking forward to driving it.
Mini is launching a new limited-run, special-edition Countryman called the Boardwalk. The company says the name comes from “the promenades of traditional seaside resorts in the British home of the Mini brand,” and the car is available in Cooper and Cooper S versions, starting around $42,000 in the U.K. Mini plans to offer the car here, but an official told Autoweek the automaker is “a bit of a ways” out for the U.S. model so details are scarce. U.S. production is set for a March time frame with first vehicles expected to arrive April/May, the official told us, adding U.S. pricing and product details are still being worked out.
Even in a pandemic the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship delivered for NBC and NBCSN TV this year. NBC released numbers saying IMSA posted a 21% increase in viewership from 2019. The sports car series averaged 242,000 viewers for its 19 races NBC and NBCSN aired, significantly up from the past two years. It’s been a strong two-year run for IMSA on the NBC network, as the sanctioning body averaged 199,000 viewers for its races in 2019.
For the first time in three years Juan Pablo Montoya is returning to The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, driving a third Dallara-Chevrolet for Arrow McLaren SP. Montoya — who won the race in 2015 with Team Penske and 2000 with Chip Ganassi Racing — teams with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist for the historic race’s 105th running. At the moment the race is scheduled for May 30, 2021, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but who knows if that will hold!?!
My old pal Donald Davidson, known by race fans worldwide for nearly 60 years (!) for his encyclopedic knowledge of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500, is retiring Dec. 31 as IMS historian. Davidson, who also contributed to Autoweek, has amazed, entertained and delighted millions since he first crossed the Atlantic to visit the speedway in May 1964, fulfilling a dream and his fascination with The Greatest Spectacle in Racing since his teenage years growing up in Salisbury, England. Since then he became known worldwide preserving and promoting the history of the track and the race and did it with passion and humor. He will not only be missed, it’s going to be impossible to replace him.
MOSTLY ODDS, SOME ENDS
Every Nantucket summer resident or aspiring ruthless despot needs a fleet of rugged and durable mechanized haulers to get arms to the front lines or drinks from the package liquor outlet when things get hairy, and a Land Rover with forward control is perfect for the job. Osprey Custom Cars just happens to have one for sale, and they chose to put in a mighty and reliable GM L99 crate-engine V8. It even has cylinder deactivation!
We flip the script in the latest Quick Spin, with host Wesley Wren tasked with reviewing the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette convertible. Wren guides you through the new Corvette’s features before bringing you along for a live drive review. Wren joins Robin Warner in the studio to elaborate on the recordings and get to the essence of the new ’Vette. Tune in here, on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever podcasts are played.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“The last few years have been difficult in Formula 1. It’s not been super-exciting for me racing at the back. I’m looking forward to what’s going to happen now ... to going back in a car that I know is going to be able to win in a team that I know can give me the chance of fighting for championships. My first race is going to be Daytona (the Rolex 24), which I’m really super-excited about.”
—Kevin Magnussen, who is moving from the Haas F1 Team to Chip Ganassi’s Cadillac DPi IMSA car. Magnussen follows in the footsteps of his father, Jan, who raced for the championship Corvette Racing team in IMSA.
That’s it for this week. As always we’re on the case this weekend, monitoring and reporting on automakers’ and sanctioning bodies’ latest happenings. We’ll continually update the site, of course — you’ll know what’s happening when we do. Check back often!
Thanks for reading Autoweek and please stay safe.