The Last Redoubt

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History repeats.

Back in the ’90s, a way was found around the gas mileage mandatory minimums (CAFE, or Corporate Average Fuel Economy regs) imposed by the federal government on new cars – which had the effect of making cars smaller and smaller-engined, a kind of shrinflation of transportation – by building SUVs instead.

These were a new category of vehicle not encompassed by the federal gas mileage mandatotry minimums, which were only applicable (at the time) to passenger cars. Light trucks – models like the Ford F-series and GM’s Silverado, etc – were not required to “comply” with these MPG minimums because (at the time) a degree of reason still held sway and it was understood that while cars were fundamentally about A to B transportation, trucks were fundamentally about work that needed to get done – and it is hard to do much work with a downsized, front-wheel-drive (and four cylinder-powered) “truck.”

They were allowed to remain proper-sized, rear-drive/4WD and could still be equipped with the V8 engines that had been largely disappeared (along with rear-drive and body-on-frame construction) from the passenger car market, courtesy of the MPG minimums.

An “SUV” was a truck with an enclosed and carpeted bed turned into additional passenger-carrying space. People bought these “SUVs” in droves – because they were fundamentally the same things as the passenger cars they were no longer able to buy – courtesy of the regulatory de facto ban on full-sized, rear-drive, V8-powered cars.

Naturally, the government saw – and closed – the “loophole” and that is why SUVs are now being downsized, too.

Under their hoods, first.

You may have noticed the recent and otherwise inexplicable winnowing of V8s in models that used to come standard with them, such as Ford’s Exedition and, most recently, the Toyota Sequoia – an SUV that is based on the Toyota Tundra pick-up, which also used to come standard with a V8 and no longer does.

And so, neither does the new Sequoia.

Soon, none will as it will soon be effectively imposssible to “comply” with the federal regulations without getting rid of engines altogether – in favor of EeeeeeeeVeeeeeees. This is why Ford is peddling an electric version of its F-150 truck and others like it are also emerging.

But something else is also emerging that gives the lie to the EeeeeeeVeeeee PR. Something that reflects reality, as in demand vs. supply – the former normally preceding the latter.

With EeeeeeeeeeVeeeeeees, this natural dynamic is unnaturally reversed.

That something is driving through a three-quarter-ton “loophole” fundamentally the same as the one that made it feasible to build the full-sized, full-framed, rear-drive and V8-powered vehicles people still wanted – by using half-ton light trucks as the foundation and christening the result an “SUV.”

This time, the way around the engine-downsizing – and the EeeeeeeeVeeeee’ing – is by focusing on heavy-duty trucks, as these remain exempt (for now) from the de facto regulatory bans that have effectively banned mass-market, full-sized passenger cars with V8 engines and are chewing away at light-duty trucks and the SUVs they are based upon.

Ford just announced it is adding two new engine options to the roster of availables for the F-250 and up. The new standard engine is a bigger 6.8 liter V8 that replaces the smaller 6.2 liter V8 that was previously standard. A 7.3 liter V8 remains optional, along with a higher-output version of the 6.7 liter PowerStroke diesel V8.

A complete reversal of the trend toward smaller – and less.

Contrast the Super Duty’s new engines with the engine – singular – that is the only engine you can get in the F-150 based Expedition. That engine being a 3.5 liter V6. (The same-sized engine that is now the only engine available in the Toyota Tundra and Sequoia.)

An Automotve News article about the announcement by Ford noted that the automaker’s Super Duty lineup of heavy trucks “generates more revenue” all by itself than Soutwest Airlines, the clothing retailer Nordstrom and the hotel chain, Marriot International.

As juxtaposed with the “investment” in EeeeeeeeVeeeees that generates no revenue at all, since all EeeeeeeVeeeees are sold at a loss. Since they cannot be sold in sufficient numbers at cost – plus profit – to make it worth making them. Tesla has been the loss leader in this respect. Its “earnings” are based on extortion – the selling of “carbon credits” – and upon stock valuation based on regulations that are designed to “corner the market” for EeeeeeeeeVeeeees via de facto (and outright bans) on alternatives to them.

But – for now – the “loophole” for “heavy trucks” (and, presumably, SUVs based on them) exists. It is the last redoubt of the market for new vehicles – as opposed to the mandates for them.

As history repeats, we are apt to see an infusion of heavy duty pick-ups and maybe (hopefully) SUVs based upon them – just as last time, the market made an end-run around the regulations via “light trucks” and the SUVs that were based upon them. There is irony in this, as the whole putative point of the fed’s mandatory mileage minimums was to “nudge” people into smaller (and smaller-engined) vehicles. Instead, it “nudged” them into bigger, heavier and bigger-engined vehicles.

And it’s doing the same, again.

At least, for awhile.

. . .

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28 COMMENTS

  1. Can auto makers just extend the time they make last year’s models?

    Better yet, I want a brand new 1969 Dodge Dart, stick shift.

    • Hi Esther,

      Dodge has been doing that with the Charger and Challenger for going on 13 years! But they can’t do it any longer because of the regulatory regime of the administrative state, which has posited impossible-to-comply-with “standards” pertaining to gas mileage and “emissions” of the dread gas, CO2 – and this is forcing the “transition” to EeeeeeeeeeVeeeeeees.

  2. To summarize: When the average Amerikan would like to have their choice of “volkswagen”, they are forced, instead, to purchase Panthers, Tigers and King Tigers to circumvent these onerous decrees by the Reich.

    Gasoline, here in Phoenix, increased by $0.80/gallon in a week. Outside the city, you can still find gas for $3.79. Interesting how that works. We are told it is because of Kalifornia shutting down their refineries for “maintenance”. Also that no refineries could be build in Az because of “NIMBY”. There’s so much state land here, the only thing missing is the will. Hell, there is so much biomass just lying around, we could be making “carbon neutral” gasoline and diesel, and loads of it. Just from resources here in this state.

    These excuses are poppycock.

    I say once again: Vehicular Sanctuary States!

  3. Tom Woods put out an excellent newsletter about “democracy”

    https://us5.campaign-archive.com/?u=77713d21ff56f1c126607d2c5&id=06e90948f7

    “But as I mentioned last week, the Progressive Era in the United States was not so much about “democracy” as it was transitioning toward so-called expert direction of society, albeit with a veneer of democracy. What mattered to the Progressives was that they themselves were ultimately in charge.”

    This is why governments love big business. Corporations don’t get to vote. But they are subject to all the laws governement can create. So the bureaucracy doesn’t make 8 cyl engines illegal, it just makes it difficult to build a vehicle that meets CAFE standards with a V8. Do truck buyers want a turbo 4? No, most do not. But you’ll buy one because that’s all that is available. This is called progress.

  4. Just came across this little nugget regarding the 2023 Ford super duty trucks:

    But the most important changes for Ford can’t be seen by the naked eye, including new electrical architectures, or brains, of the vehicles. The updates will give Ford the ability to introduce new software, data telematics and fleet management tools, Cannis said.

    The software tools will help businesses track maintenance needs, vehicle locations, driver behaviors, wasted idle time and other metrics. Fleet operators also can set operation times that would prevent the vehicles from starting outside of approved times.

    The connected features are powered by embedded 5G connectivity – a first for pickups in the U.S — utilizing AT&T service and a Qualcomm modem.

    https://www.cnbc.com/2022/09/27/ford-unveils-new-f-series-super-duty-trucks.html?recirc=taboolainternal

    Hmmmmm…

  5. I watched the whole video, which is amazing for me, not much of a video person and this one is 50 minutes long. He was so funny, but very informative. I had always wondered about Teslas, never having seen the inside of one or any of it explained like he did. Like he said, you would think for the price of one, you would get a much more luxurious interior. Just cheap plastic like every other car. I would never buy one anyway, but just to get it going did seem like a pain–well of course like he said, would probably be easier with the phone app. Nothing on the dashboard—a large screen to the right—weird/strange/odd.
    Like you have been saying all along Eric, it’s just an appliance on wheels. It just makes no sense at all. I could just attach my laptop to a skateboard, and it would be the same thing.

    • they’re soulless, no spark or pizazz, just a killer toaster on wheels.

      Can’t even get AM Radio due to the radiation it emits, so ya know the people are frying up whether it’s by that or when it spontaneously combusts like the Rolling Crematorium it is

      • H Zane,

        I agree with you – in re EeeeeeeVeeees being soul-less appliances. Some, like the Teslas – are very quick. But the experience is detached and anodyne. The best parallel example I can summon is the experience of riding the high-speed elevators at the ex-WTC towers in NYC, which I did a number of times. At first – if you’ve never been in one before – wow! They jump 10 floors almost as fast I typed this sentence. But the next day, when you do it again? The initial excitement is less. And by the end of the week it’s just nothing special anymore. It’s just an elevator. Push the button, there you are. Forgotten as soon as the doors close behind you.

        Now, my Trans-Am is nowhere near as quick as a Tesla Plaid. But every time I fire up the 455, the whole car shakes, the scoop does its nervous dance and you can see the air door on the scoop edging open under the strain of the vacuum pull. When you floor it and the secondaries flop open, it sounds like Hell developed a sinkhole and it’s going to suck down the entire atmosphere. JUst trundling along, there is a comforting bass rumble you feel in your bones. No EeeeeeeeeeeVeeeeeeee is capable of producing these feelings. It is why I have feelings for EeeeeeeeeeVeeeees and cannot understand why anyone would.

        • I got a list of mods as long as my arm on my previous vehicles, most performance (https://www.mfcomics.net/post/where-have-i-been-1, also get to see my previous cars) and as you said, the speed gets old after awhile, and for my truck, the exhaust and others kept it soulful after the thrills of new mods wore off and I can’t even tiptronic/paddle it

          I just installed a short shifter on my Bronco tuesday, already ready for the next mods, although the experience is engaging and I can go places a Douchelle could never go. It might be a 2.3t, but with my mods, I can hear the turbo and taking turns just right, I can leave skids and get the tire screeching, something my rental 4runner couldn’t hope to emulate stock (or possible tuned)

          She won’t be your Trans-Am, but she’s leaps and bounds better than most cars, especially EV’s and Douche Buggies (Hybrids). I especially love that I gotta soft top, makes those dying summer days and that one January day perfect

  6. This EV trend is the Tulip Mania of the 17th Century, the Beanie Babies of the 90s and whatever fad there is

    One day, we’ll hopefully get the right leaders in, they’ll reverse course, enough people will wake up to the realities of EV’s and like all those fads, will be a long forgotten memory

    Until then, always could use a Diesel Powered Truck in the future for real towing

  7. There has been another surge in used truck prices lately on the private market. Stuff that would have been $5k max a year ago is now in the $10-15k range, over $20k for diesels. I’ve been offered as high as $15k for my C1500 (Which I acquired for $3500 at an estate sale).

    Surprisingly around here, Tahoes/Expeditions/Suburbans are commanding only a fraction of what their pickup analogues do on the used market, so for anyone with money to invest, it may be a worthwhile endeavor to peruse the Phoenix metro classifieds.

  8. I have noticed that pickups that are used for actual work are now the 2500’s and up. Most 1500’s are now personal vehicles. RAM for example no longer even offers the 1500 with a single cab and 8 foot bed, so you have to go 2500 for those.

    Surprised that it’s now FORD that is the V8 holdout. I figured they were looking to phase out V8’s (even faster than GM is) and would be the first of the big 3 to stop offering them. The incoming real Mustang is still offered with the V8 and now these new truck offerings.

    I figured it would be Chrysler as the V8 holdout, since Hemi is their bread and butter engine. I think they made a huge mistake.

    • For many moons, I’ve said when I bought another truck it’d be a 3/4 ton. Primarily for towing an 18′ / 10400 lb trailer once in a while, but not a daily mover. The prices are way, way too high to consider it now.

    • yep, just sold the 3/4 ton diesel.

      purchased for ~$25k, sold for ~$30k.

      might pick up a used Chevy EV in a few years…not a Tesla.

  9. Good info Eric, thanks.
    The larger 3/4 truck engines is in response to what I have seen over the past 5-10 years with contractors with fleets of trucks that DO NOT like the new Tier4 diesel engines reliability, cost of ownership (no one does).
    It’s a simple financial statement “I used to get 300K miles from my diesel trucks, throw them away and get news ones. Now they only go 100K miles before a $10-20K repair job and the truck is worthless to us. We are buying gas now and throw it away at 100K”

    My family is/was exactly as you described Eric. In the early 90’s when large cars went away we went to suburbans and they weren’t very nice back then. We owned about 6-7 of them over the years. Me too, from Caprices, Park Ave’s, Crown Vic, etc… to pickups and I didn’t like them back then (I really do now). Remember the first 3rd door? Game changer. I always thought I’d be driving a semi-truck by now. Glad that hasn’t happened. But I may be moving to 250’s/2500’s? We’ll see.

    • I remember as a kid my grandfather pretty much gave up on traditional sedans and went to K5 Blazers as the family vehicle of choice….nothing like cruising around the entire Gadsden Purchase sitting on one of those short legged lawn chairs that they sold at Skaggs drugstore in the far back of a Blazer while the adults had the actual seats….kids today don’t know what they’re missing!

  10. Guess this means the return of the Excursion. Used ones in decent condition are going for a mint on Craigslist and other places. It’s always a game of whack-a-mole with regulators and corporations, it seems. Guess they’ll have to make the eeeeveeeeeees to satisfy the regulators and the giant SUVs to satisfy customers. Unless the sick bastards in charge decide to jack up the price of gasoline to exorbitant levels.

    • “Unless the sick bastards in charge decide to jack up the price of gasoline to exorbitant levels.”

      Well… Dr. Toboggan, we’re there now. It’ll probably get worse, yes, but those sick bastards are working tirelessly to make fuel Mad Max levels of scarce.

  11. Sow the wind, reap a whirlwind.

    Crude oil prices in US states with oil development.

    Lots of crude oil, don’t fret, if you need some gas, it’s there at the gas station.

    There is supply because there is demand.

    If it goes away, civilization collapses.

    Did see probably 15, maybe 20, out of service BNSF engines on a siding near the railway yard.

    If you go to the BNSF website, it will have the weekly carload reports, it is a pdf. There are drops in carloads 24 percent and 30 percent. Metallic ores are down 46 percent.

    Evidence of an economic slowdown.

  12. Maybe the next step will be people driving the tractor of a tractor-trailer rig. I think Aahnold had one of those when he was governator of California.

    • Mike,
      When I was a kid, it was a somewhat common practice among DUI license revocations, for drunks to drive tractors. As in small farm tractors. Since then, unlike now, there were zero restrictions on who drove one. A twelve year old could.

      • Lawn mowers, in my area.

        So, TPTB expanded the drunk driving statutes, to include lawn mowers, bicycles, and pretty much anything/everything else.

  13. While in no way a great lover of the military, Patton did generate at least on rational statement. “Never tell them how to do it. Just tell them what you want done. You will be amazed by their ingenuity.”
    Hopefully, once the Psychopaths In Charge manage to inflict their delusions on heavier trucks, the industry will amaze us once again with their ingenuity. Not holding my breath.
    It’s obvious from several different points of view, that the goal is NOT to get us all driving EVs, but to get all of us (well, most of us anyway) not driving at all.

  14. ‘With EeeeeeeeeeVeeeeeees, this natural dynamic is unnaturally reversed.’ — EeeVee

    Central banksters call their equivalent reversal ‘pushing on a string.’

    When the economy is booming, demand for credit is so vigorous that it actually has to be restricted. But after boom turns to bust (as it’s doing right now), even slashing interest rates to zero attracts few takers. There’s little demand for credit when escalating risk snuffs fantasies of easy profits.

    Likewise, a minority of buyers who use vehicles primarily for daily commuting, enjoy a six-figure household income, and have a garage with a 240-volt charger may find an EeeVee slightly more convenient and slightly cheaper (for now) to run.

    But the majority of drivers don’t fit this profile. Once the posh coterie of ‘natural’ EeeVee owners is satisfied, sales will hit a brick wall of buyer resistance. Overlay an emerging quasi-depression, as both interest rates and defaults soar on auto loans, and you get a devastating one-two punch that will smack the EeeVee bubble like Hurricane Ian pounding Florida.

    Well, I thought I’d been loved but I never had
    Till I was wrapped in the arms of a Mississippi man
    When he holds me close it feels almost
    Like another hurricane just ripped the coast

    Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty, Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man

    • Jim,
      Even among “the posh coterie of ‘natural’ EeeVee owners” many will dispose of them as soon as they can after discovering their many short falls, and will NOT buy another one. There is much buyer’s remorse among them.

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