New car factories and factory expansion

Warning! We’re going to utter the name Trump. We’re not pandering to trending topics or being political—it happens to be a part of the story.

Depending on who you talk to, domestic manufacturing is the backbone of your economy. In a country as large as the US a lot of the country isn’t going to make it on tourism dollars. Trump has made it a pillar of his campaign platform claiming that his opponents garner a lot of union votes while allowing their jobs to go overseas. What the truth is, can be debated without end.

Trump said in 2019 that new car factories hadn’t been built in ages. Politifact, an internet fact checker saw this as “fake news.” This is the typical back and forth of politics. If Trump said he was old, fact checkers would compare him to a tree or a mountain, and say he was lying about his age.

So is Trump lying about car factories being built under his potential next term in office? We can tell you what new factories are planned, or being expanded, domestically. So, we’ll stick to that.

Kandi:

Kandi is looking for an electric car factory after having success in China, they have plans to create off-road vehicles too, such as a new K27 and K23. Availability will not start until the fourth quarter. It is not clear whether it will be the US or Mexico.

Tesla:

Tesla has reported that they want to build a plant in Texas, which is a message to California about Taxes and Covid Shutdowns. Texas is throwing in a lot of tax breaks, which helps. Tesla is looking around Travis country, with such vehicles as the Model Y, Roadster and the Cybertruck. They’re not ruling out Oklahoma for a plant in the future.

Tesla wants to build gigafactories, which doesn’t seem to have a specific size, but suggests a building larger than a megafactory. It might also refer to the number of processes completed at that factory. Some “factories” are final assembly only, with parts sourced around the world. Perhaps a gigafactory builds or assembles some components onsite before sending them to final assembly.

Ford:

Ford is investing 1.5 billion in two Michigan assembly plants near Wayne and is planning to add 2,700 to create Bronco sports utility vehicles. This has been in the planning stage for some time, it appears. In 2019 Joe Hinrich of global ops was quoted by CNBC that the “production center will be used to upgrade the interiors.” They have been planning a factory in Flat Rock for the 2023 model.

Meanwhile the car factory at Dearborn, which manufactures pickup trucks, will alter F-150 trucks to an electric version and is looking to add 300 jobs.

Mazda and Toyota!?!

Mazda and Toyota got together to build a factory in Alabama, making the Toyota Corolla and as yet unnamed Mazda model. Previously the only Corollas were built in Mississippi. Again, they are looking at electric vehicle technology.

It is a difficult time, but it does seem that some factories are making effort to recruit in order to create new models, and a crazy new trend is different brands working together.

Update: New microfactory announced for South Carolina…

Ford SUVs

Ecosport

A mixture of SUV and a Smart car is one of the ways to think about the Ford Ecosport. There’s a certain capable, go anywhere attitude about it.

Bronco:

New models include the 2021 Bronco and the 2021 Bronco Sport, as well as the Mach-E. It might worry some people that the pictures tend to be computer generated images, rather than actual photographs.

Cars can be photographed before they go into pre-production, though it is a more expensive way of doing things. You can produce a car before they go on sale to the general public, but for some reason they don’t. It’s something we’ve had to get used to.

According to the Ford website, the Sport is more designed to be “adventure-ready.” Both have an EcoBoost engine, which means it is turbocharged, but also that it’s a gas engine, rather than electric. There are Hybrid Ecoboosts available, but Bronco Sport isn’t one of them.

The original Bronco was much more box-like than the 2021 model, though it does keep the grille and some of the flat body sides. Though more compact, it was still considered a SUV, bearing some similarities to CJ-5 Jeep and Dodge Ram Charger. Even today the Bronco keeps to its Goes Over Any Terrain original slogan.

Mach-E:

We referred to the Mach-E above, a big selling point of which is the All-Wheel drive and its ability to accelerate with some style. If you prefer you can also use the front axles, or alternately the back axles. It’s big selling point is the Mustang power. Like the Bronco, it is using an animal analogy here.

Kuga

For those who want a plug-in hybrid, you might consider the Kuga, the full hybrid will be available in the last quarter of 2020. “Full Hybrid” may seem a contradictory term, they do hold some electric charge but can rely on the usual combustion engine too. Given its the usual version, why did Ford start with the Plug-In?

There is also colors like a Chrome Blue (a metallic version of that specific tone) and three choices of silver-Moondust Silver, Diffused Silver and Solar Silver-moondust being the lightest shade. There is an opportunity to build your own Kuga online and observe how it looks on the road.

Though there is more choice with the Kugu than the Bronco and the Bronco Sport, the Broncos do appear to have more character and may be better designed for those with families. Apart from having clean fuel, it’s hard to grasp the personality of the Kugu. Shouldn’t clean cars also have a personality? Or do too many characteristics confuse the buyer. Still Broncos have the edge.

Given that Bronco delivers both sports AND utility they could be impossible to beat in this class, though the Mach-E gives them a run for their money. Only time will tell if the new Bronco garners the kind of cult following the earlier models enjoyed. Many people prefer a specific generation of Bronco so these new models will have to earn their spot like all SUVs.

Strange Loads

Exactly what goes on behind the scenes when someone wants to transport a strange load from points A to B? First, a definition of terms.

An oversized load exceeds the legal load on that specific portion of land. If you exceed the load per axle this is also considered overweight.

An abnormal load has additional problems in that not only does it make the truck too heavy, but it has awkward dimensions. Items such as construction equipment, pre-fabricated homes, bridges, large machines, steel beams, or a huge bundle of lumber qualify as abnormal loads. So, we’re talking about a wide range of items, all traveling in different directions.

Break bulk is anything that must be carried by road or rail as it is too large for ocean liner or air.

Different countries as well as different states of the USA have their own rules. Generally, in the US you will have to apply for a permit to transport the load which probably specifies a date and time. In the US an abnormal load measures more than 2.59m, though different states very with the rules on the height or weight. You will need a permit for each state.

If the permit doesn’t say a date or time, the default is that it’s only valid during daytime hours. Driving these loads during the night is too dangerous, despite perhaps being less disruptive to traffic. It’s important to note that these loads cannot be transported on an American holiday, which may be linked to needing a huge number of personnel.

In addition to the permit you will need a pilot car to escort the truck. The pilot car is easy to spot as it has a sign saying “Oversized Load” in capitals on the roof in addition to amber lights which can be seen 30 meters away. In some state, in some cases, there also needs to be a police escort.

As far as getting the material on and off you may need something like a crane. Even if you don’t, you will almost definitely need the help of dedicated shipping agents and the local authorities need to be informed. It is best to get a number of quotes from competing companies for this service.

The truck should travel in the left lane only, except when turning or overtaking. A specific item that needs to be worked out is the clearance needed for going under a bridge, and, depending on its size, turning left or right.

You can find a freight cost calculator online; due to the danger involved transporting oversized load does get prohibitively expensive.

7% of trucking accidents are due to unsecured loads. It’s vital that the load is impossible to shift. All the people who transport it, including the shipper, driver and the receiver must be sure that it’s completely secure. And as mentioned above safety comes down to money and not cutting corners.

It sometimes seems like excessive caution, but it is vital for other road users that all the laws and regulations are followed. They are just so many things that could go wrong otherwise.

Trying a Test Drive

There’s a number of things you can’t determine from a test drive, such as safety features and reliability. Many people feel guilty about taking a car on an overnight test drive, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

If you require a test drive, it may be tougher to do a private sale–dealerships are set up for a test drive. Ironically, if you want the car inspected, you may have more luck getting a private seller to let your mechanic or pre-purchase inspector look at the vehicle. We recommend prepurchase inspection and not just because one of our sponsors (tirekickers.biz) is a leading provider of car inspections. One of the largest used car dealers in the US absolutely forbids you from getting a prepurchase inspection…makes you wonder why, doesn’t it?

The challenging thing about test driving a car is trying to evaluate the value and safety of the car while also determining if it’s a good car for you. Pulling double duty here is the primary reason you should get a prepurchase inspection so you don’t have to think about anything except if the car is a good fit for you.

Before you drive the car:

Before you go on test drive you might like to check around the car for dents, rust and cracks. Check the windshield for little nicks. Kick the tires—take a close look at them. Take a flashlight with you and shine it on the brake pads. It’s your  responsibility to verify working brakes before you drive a vehicle.

After walking around the car, look under the hood. Check for obvious problems and check too, that the engine is cold. Sometimes when a seller knows the car has trouble starting cold, they’ll make sure to run the engine a bit before your scheduled to drive the car.

The engine should be quiet when it runs. Leave the hood up, start the car and get back out to close the hood. Listen for clicks and knocks that you can’t hear inside the cabin.

How easy do you find getting in and out? It’s these little things that determine a sale.

Are the instruments clear to you? Can you reach the controls? How easy is it to reverse? Look at the handling-can you drive it without the need of adjustment?

It helps to find out how your children find it, if they require child seats do they fit as well as the previous one? Is there enough space for their feet? And so forth.

During the Drive:

Changing gears shouldn’t be clunky and cause a crunching sound, doing so may be sign of wear.

While driving slowly down a neighborhood road let the steering wheel go and see if the car is pulling in one direction or the other. A little probably okay since most roads aren’t level, but a lot could mean you need an alignment. Slow to 10 miles an hour and jam on the brakes. The steering should be responsive, and the brakes should only stop in a straight line.

The test drive looks at the drivability or roadworthiness of the vehicle. How simple is it to operate? How are the signals and the brakes?

Car sellers seem to get nervous when you take the car down a hill, but it’s one of those things new drivers have to check. How does the car steer while feathering the brakes.

You do need to look at how the car handles in a town road, country road and on highways, just so that aren’t any surprises. Ideally, you could see how the car handles different weather conditions, but since you only have a weekend to test drive this would be asking too much.

You should also look at low speed maneuverability and parking as this can be a problem with new cars. Does it work as well as other cars you have driven?

There is technology to help you park these days, but some cars are harder to park than others. Definitely try to park the vehicle to see how hard it is. If you know you struggle with things like parallel parking, consider eliminating cars from your list that don’t have that tech, before you ask for a test drive.

An electric car especially needs to be taken for a test drive, you may not be familiarwith how to charge it for instance. You either need to be able to drive to work on a single charge or find somewhere to charge it when you’re at work. Some employers have become used to supplying a charge station at their place of work, it depends on the demand.

In the end, the question is–does the car feel right?

What Bad Steering May Mean

If your car pulls to one side that means that the alignment of the wheels is off-you should get your wheels aligned as soon as you get new tires. This is known as a torque steer. It is rather dangerous so it is important to fix.

A “memory steer” is when the car seems to continue in the same direction when you release the wheel instead of coming back to true. You might be a lack of air in the tires or worn out parts like suspension or steer.

Should the car move forward in reverse on a hill, this is a sign that gravity is more powerful than your car’s idle. The idle is set according to the vehicle’s specs, but as the car ages it can lose power. Having the idle set too high burns extra gas at stop lights so just make sure your mechanic is setting it to factory specs and hold the brake and apply some gas when on a hill. Don’t shift to reverse and then let the car be pulled forward because you might damage the engine.

Side Note: It may seem ridiculous but it’s worth mentioning–You can still drive with the handbrake pulled if you have enough throttle. DON’T! Driving with the brakes on damages your brakes as well as your transmission so it is not recommended.

Steering Rack Issues

A steering rack is another name for the rack and pinion steering system and consists of universal joints, main and intermediate shafts; the central unit is the part that receives information. The steering rack when it wears out can cause a considerable hazard. If you have an older car that seems to always have an alignment issue, have your mechanic check the steering rack.

When the tilt function of the wheel doesn’t work the wheel cannot be positioned correctly. Again, it is because of the steering rack.

Does the wheel seem to wobble to and fro of its own volition? If so, it is impossible to drive as well as highly dangerous—call your mechanic immediately. It takes a few days to replace a steering rack.

When it’s not the Steering Rack:

Another condition to watch out for is needing to make a large turn in order to make the car move forward, it is not safe at all. The power steering or an associated mechanism could be breaking down.

If the steering wheel feels quite tight and is harder to turn than usual it could just be that it needs more power steering fluid. (These are cars without electrical power steering). Other signs to watch out for are groaning sounds, especially while turning and a smell of burning oil, or maybe a squeaking sound. If the fluid is changed constantly this will prevent the problem somewhat.

A clunking or grinding noise may indicate that the steering rack is constantly rubbing against metal. It’s due to the steering rack wearing out, where seeing a mechanic comes in.

It could however be due to “struts” which are connected to the steering rods. Because replacing the steering rack is so expensive it is vital to get it right.

When Steering Problems Occur

After discovering a problem, you should attempt to get off the road as quickly as possible but make sure also it is safe to do so.

Another symptom to keep an eye out for is that the steering wheel feels lose and doesn’t seem to return to the center. The vehicle might seem unstable and you may not be able to keep it in the right lane. With a bad steering system every obstacle such as a pothole becomes twice as hard to negotiate. So take any sound or maneuverability issue as serious and get it to a mechanic ASAP.

Texan Car Factories

There is a long history of car manufacture in Texas, as early as 1917 a plant in Fort Worth. As many companies manufacture in a number of states it’s hard to find an individual characteristic that explains why a particular car is made a particular place. For instance, we may associate Cadillacs with Texas, but they were originally from Michigan. Still, if car makers prefer to locate factories there, either the State government is friendly to them (tax wise) or Texans as enterprising individuals.

The reason why cars were first made in Texas was to do with promising tax breaks. The first factory created Chevrolet’s. It didn’t look that much like a factory; the windows were too big. It would be satisfying to say the first car was a success, but it was given to a local reporter who promptly crashed it – so much for promotions.

The tax breaks for Chevrolets unfortunately didn’t last beyond 1922 and the factory had to close. Fortunately, a similar one opened in downtown Fort Worth.

“Texans” by Plymouth/ Dodge were also made in Fort Worth in 1922, almost forgotten about now. Their slogan was “first in endurance, durability and speed.” They might have had too much of the last feature with a massive 35 hp, more than they cope with. In their glory days they produced 20 cars a day, but it seems they did not live up to demand.

One factory that is still running is at Arlington – Arlington Assembly. The factory has operated more than 60 years creating large SUVs and Chevrolet and Cadillac, although when it started in 1954 it also made aircraft. During the 1990’s they also made roadsters such as the Buick Roadmaster. The names were reminiscent of long past – The Chevrolet Monte Carlo, the Oldsmobile Cutlass, the Pontiac Chieftain, despite this only being the 1990’s.

As with other factories they have recently moved into battery powered cars, with many developing cell technologies. The Chevrolet Volt was the first mass market plug-in hybrid. The Tahoe, described as a “full-sized SUV” with several versatile features, is also produced here. There are plans for a new underbody for both the Tahoe and Suburban – other improvements are more cargo space and electro-hydraulic brakes for both vehicles.

At this factory plans were announced in December 2019 for an expansion costing 1.6 million. In addition to this, there will be a $1.4 billion spent on an improved body and paint shops. So, it doesn’t appear this factory is going anywhere soon.

Tesla chose Austin to build a plant for the Cybertruck and the site also produces the Model Y, a small SUV. Reports say that they are concentrating on the East Coast, not the whole US, planning to invest $1 billion. Since they are planning to have a Cybertruck out there in 2021 they may need to get a move on.

Another car maker in Texas which don’t immediately trip off the tongue is Union Tank Car Company. Their focus is railway engines and carriages, but they also manufacture cars. And as with many automakers they manufacture in other states as well.

The Pain of Tolls

The payments involved in a running a car seems never-ending, maintenance, insurance, tax. But most annoying of these is probably tolls. It is always important to know how to pay a toll before you travel on a specific road: the onus is on you, should you wish to travel from one state or another or through a number of states.

The term toll road is mainly west coast terminology. In the east tolls exist but they’re called turnpikes.

Shunpiking – is the term for cheating tolls by running tollbooths or concealing tags (RFID). It has unfortunately increased, especially in areas where the toll is thought to be too high or when the road isn’t managed properly. Shunpiking – from shun meaning to avoid and turnpike which is the old name for a toll road. Of course, people have been trying to evade tolls as long as they’re have been tolls to avoid.

History of Tolls:

In Nevada, 100 toll roads were laid between 1850-1880. This was to finance stagecoach companies and mining countries, though it is now run by individual organizations such as Transportation Corridor Agencies in Florida 

In the east, the highways were nearly all toll-roads by 1950s, only 10% of road funding came from taxes. So, it’s a long-held tradition.

Legal Ways to Skip Tolls:

A boycott occurred at the James River Bridge in Eastern Virginia, starting from 1955. Trucks of the Smithfield Packing Company who always used the bridge before, were told by their employer to take a different route. This continued for twenty years until finally the toll was dropped.

Legal ways of skipping the toll exist. With a little bit of research, you can route around them. Take the Delaware Turnpike and similar ones in Pennsylvania and Oklahoma. In fact, some toll roads exist merely as a shortcut to bypass a congested artery.

Sometimes a private landowner fights government attempts to acquire their land for a road but succumbs to an opportunity to make far more money by leasing the land to a developer who builds a toll road across it. Want to get there for free? A way exists. Want to get there fast, pay a little and you can.

Paying Tolls:

When it comes to paying the tolls there are easy way to do it, such as the E-Z Pass on the north- eastern roads. In some cases, the license plates are registered, in other cases, drivers pay after they used the road. Some sites such as a FasTrack account (which works in California, including San Francisco’s Golden Gare Bridge) allow for the addition of a temporary number plate, e.g. from a rented car.

Transponders are a common way to pay tolls; they record your badge to charge your tolls, either by check or by debit cards. Sometimes by prepay and other times after each use. These are a good way of saving you money if you regularly pay tolls. Look at the math and see what the best option is. (Why this method of payment is called a “transponder” is a bit of a mystery., it’s some kind of wireless device, nothing to do with transport or the internet as such).

When using a manned toll booth take some time to count your cash. An unmanned toll booth tends to use a basket, it’s important to have the correct change.

As well as toll roads you need to pay extra money to use High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes or express lanes. Much like the private toll roads mentioned earlier, these lanes exist to allow you to skip the congestion for a small fee. It’s probably worth it if you are trying keep to a deadline.

What’s news: Amazon new EV delivery van

“Amazon unveiled its first all-electric delivery van on Thursday. The vehicle, built by EV startup Rivian, will come with state-of-the-art technology, like sensing equipment and an advanced driver-assist system. The e-commerce giant says it expects to have 10,000 vans on the road making deliveries “as early as 2022,” with a total fleet of 100,000 vehicles expected by 2030.”

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