Nearly everyone wants to put the year 2020 in their rearview mirror. But before we say goodbye to the worst twelve months in modern history, it’s worth taking a look at the top automotive stories that took place—and may have been missed between Zoom calls and attempts at making Dalgona coffee.
The Biggest Automotive News of 2020
Without a doubt, there were some big industry developments in 2020. Unfortunately, much of it got lost in a sea of coronavirus headlines. That’s why we’re going to recap the top stories right now, to send 2020 off in style.
The Jeep Wagoneer Returns After More Than 20 Years
Anyone who’s old enough to recall MTV playing music videos will also remember the Jeep Wagoneer. Although the Wagoneer can trace its roots way back to 1963, the luxury SUV is best-known for the wood-clad Grand model, produced from 1984-1991.
Now, more than 20 years later, Jeep has revealed an all-new version of the Wagoneer. A Grand Wagoneer will also be available. Even though both SUVs are still in the concept car phase, Jeep says production models will be available in 2022.
Busted Stock Car Bumper Earns Over $40,000 Through Collaborative Charity Efforts
It’s not uncommon in NASCAR for arguments to break out over what happened on the track. Back in July, a collision between Michael McDowell and Bubba Wallace sparked such a dispute during the All-Star Open at Bristol Motor Speedway.
But Wallace didn’t throw any punches. Instead, to show his disapproval, he marched over and dropped the bumper from his wrecked car in front of McDowell’s hauler.
The story took a positive turn when McDowell and Front Row Motorsports decided to auction the bumper off for Motor Racing Outreach. CarParts.com placed the winning bid of $20,034 in honor of McDowell (driver of the No. 34 Ford Mustang), and went on to donate an additional $20,043 to Victory Junction in honor of Wallace (driver of the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro).
To bring things full circle, it was only fitting for us to have McDowell and Wallace sign the bumper—bringing them together for one more combined act of goodwill at Daytona in August—and to give it away so the bumper could finally find its home with a loyal NASCAR fan
Collector Showcases a Hot Wheels Toy Car Worth $150,000
For $150,000, you could buy a Porsche Carrera 4S, a Mercedes-AMG GT—or a 1:64th scale Hot Wheels Pink Beach Bomb Volkswagen bus.
Collector Bruce Pascal recently showcased his Pink, Rear-Loading Beach Bomb, which is believed to be one of only two in existence. Supposedly, the toy car is worth more than $150,000 in today’s market.
General Motors Dumps Nikola All-Electric Pickup Truck
There was a lot of excitement regarding the possibility of an all-electric pickup from the Nikola Motor Company. The truck, called the Badger, was supposed to be a joint collaboration between the Arizona-based startup and General Motors.
But alas, the Badger was not to be. On November 30, GM decided to withdraw its equity stake in Nikola, amidst allegations of fraud from a short-seller. GM will now only supply fuel cells to Nikola, and the Badger pickup is on hold until further notice.
The Redesigned F-150 Debuts Breakthrough Features
America’s best-selling pickup, the F-150, is all-new for 2021—and it’s boasting a long list of breakthrough features. To start, the completely redesigned truck, which Ford announced earlier this year, now offers an available hybrid powertrain.
But that’s not all. Additional highlights include an optional interior Work Surface that includes a stowable gear selector. The setup makes it easier to work (or eat a meal) in your truck. High-end trim levels also come with Max Recline Seats that fold flat to nearly 180 degrees, allowing you to take a nap when you’re on a road trip.
Land Rover Sues Volkswagen Over “Off-Road” Mode
All too often, Volkswagen seems to be the subject of legal scrutiny. As if the German automaker hadn’t endured enough turmoil with its diesel scandal, now it’s being sued by Jaguar Land Rover.
According to JLR, Volkswagen’s “Off-Road” mode—available on high-end VW, Audi, Lamborghini, and Porsche models—is too similar to the Terrain Response system that debuted on the 2005 LR3.
JLR is demanding that VW stop selling vehicles equipped with the mode in the United States. The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) has opened an investigation to look into the issue.
Ford Launches Bronco and Bronco Sport
Unless you’ve been completely off the grid, you’ve probably heard about the all-new Ford Bronco, which was unveiled in July and slated for release in 2021. The reborn icon features retro styling, the option of either a two-door or four-door body style, and a removable top. Buyers get the choice of two turbocharged engine options under the hood as well.
The Bronco also has a stablemate: the all-new Bronco Sport compact SUV. Although not as rugged as the full-size Bronco, the Sport has more off-road prowess than many other offerings in its class.
Jeep Debuts Both V8 and Plug-In Hybrid Powertrain Options in the 2021 Wrangler
Regardless of whether you’re a fan of powerful V8 engines or hyper milling, the 2021 Jeep Wrangler has something for you. Earlier this year, Jeep announced two new versions of the ever-popular Wrangler—a V8-powered model, called the Rubicon 392, and a plug-in hybrid that wears the nameplate 4xe.
The Rubicon 392 packs a stout 6.4L V8 engine between its frame rails. Jeep claims the model will produce a healthy 470 horsepower and 470 lb.-ft. of torque.
As for the hybrid 4xe, it comes with a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine and two electric motors. That advanced powertrain is expected to put out 375 horsepower and 470 lb.-ft. of torque.
Carlos Ghosn, former head of Nissan, Flees Japan to Become an International Fugitive
At the end of 2019, right before New Year’s, Carlos Ghosn, the Former Head of Nissan and Renault, escaped from Japan where he was being held on financial misconduct charges. The details of how Ghosn managed to flee from Japan are unclear, but he was eventually able to make it to Lebanon, where he resides to this day.
Ghosn is currently facing not only criminal charges in Japan but also several legal challenges in France. According to Fox News, French investigators will soon be questioning Ghosn in Lebanon.
Volkswagen Reveals Electric SUV with an Estimated Range of 250 Miles
Volkswagen has been promising a full lineup of electric vehicles (EVs) for some time now. Finally, the automaker is making good on its word by introducing the all-electric ID.4 SUV.
The ID.4 will be VW’s first EV—and will also be the vehicle that kicks off the company’s all-electric ID sub-brand.
According to Volkswagen, rear-wheel drive ID.4 models have an EPA-estimated range of 250 miles on a single charge. An 82-kWh battery and a rear-mounted AC permanent-magnet synchronous motor make that impressive range possible.
Stinky Hyundai Palisade SUVs Make Headlines
It’s disappointing when you purchase a brand-new vehicle and it stinks—literally. Such was the experience many owners of Calligraphy and Limited trim Hyundai Palisade SUVs had earlier this year. According to Car and Driver Magazine, some owners of the vehicles complained of a “hot garbage” smell wafting through their interior. Yuck.
Fortunately, Hyundai has zeroed in on the problem and found a solution. The automaker says the unpleasant odors stem from the SUV’s Nappa leather headrests. Dealers can now deodorize the seats to eliminate the smell and make the cabin liveable again.
Capsized Car-Carrying Cargo Ship Gets Resurrected From the Sea
In September of 2019, the 656-foot-long Golden Ray cargo ship made headlines when it capsized off of the coast of Georgia. The vessel (and the 4,200 new vehicles on board) remained on the ocean floor until December of 2020, when crews finally began the resurrection process.
To retrieve the ship, salvage workers cut it into eight smaller pieces, then used a giant Versabar VB 10,000 crane to lift the wreckage from the ocean.
New BMW 4 Series Flaunts Polarizing Front Grille
The new BMW 4 Series: You either love it or hate it. Although the revised model has many upgrades, including more powerful engine options and enhanced technology, it also has an abnormally large kidney-shaped grille that is controversial, to say the least.
In fact, the grille is so polarizing that aftermarket companies are already offering more aesthetically pleasing replacement front fascias.
Dodge Debuts 710-Horsepower Durango SRT Hellcat SUV
No one needs a 700-horsepower SUV. But then again, Dodge isn’t trying to appeal to your rational side with the Durango SRT Hellcat.
The obscenely powerful Durango makes 710 horsepower and 645 lb.-ft. of torque from a 6.2L HEMI V8 engine. According to Dodge, that makes the nearly 6,000 lb. SUV good for a 3.5-second sprint from 0-60 mph. The 1/4-mile time is rumored to be just 11.5 seconds.
General Motors Introduces Redesigned Full-Size SUVs
The Chevy Suburban, Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade all share the same basic platform—and all of the SUVs have been redesigned for the 2021 model year.
Each member of the quartet has been overhauled inside and out, with enhanced technology and upgraded features. But the biggest news is that all of the SUVs now offer the option of an all-new Duramax Turbo Diesel 3.0L inline six-cylinder engine under the hood.
The Mazda3 Gets a New Turbocharged Engine Option
With so many vehicles sporting forced induction nowadays, the Mazda3’s naturally-aspirated engine has been a bit of an anomaly. Mazda has finally decided to address the issue by offering an all-new Mazda3 2.5L Turbo model.
The new sedan features an engine capable of producing 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque on premium fuel (227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque on regular fuel). Mazda’s i-Activ all-wheel drive system also comes standard.
Ram Debuts 702-Horsepower 1500 TRX Pickup Truck
The Ram 1500 TRX (often referred to as the “T-Rex”) is a direct rival for the popular Ford F-150 Raptor. Ram outfitted the TRX with a 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V-8 engine (702 horsepower and 650 lb.-ft. of torque) to give the Raptor a run for its money.
According to Ram, the 6,350 lb.TRX is good for a 4.5 second 0-60 mph sprint and a 12.9-second quarter-mile time. The TRX also features a long list of off-road goodies, such as a suspension system with active damping, 35-inch tires, and a locking rear differential.
BMW Offends An Entire Demographic With “OK, Boomer” Tweet
You have to wonder what BMW’s social media team was thinking when they tweeted: “Okay, boomer. And what’s your reason not to change?”
The offensive line was meant as a response to the overwhelming criticism surrounding the massive grille on the new iX. Naturally, the tweet got quite a bit of negative feedback from not just boomers but members of all generations. BMW was quick to apologize in a follow-up tweet.
Hyundai Introduces Potent Elantra N Sedan
The Hyundai Elantra was never known for being a performance car—until now. Hyundai recently introduced an all-new sporty Elantra N model, complete with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 276 horsepower and 289 lb-ft of torque.
Buyers can choose to pair the new turbocharged engine with either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. Prototype photos indicate that the Elantra N will look just as sporty as it feels, with sleek body lines and a prominent rear spoiler.
Completely Revised 2022 Subaru BRZ Hits the Market
Since its introduction, the BRZ has been different from any other Subaru. The low, swoopy coupe has a unique rear-wheel drive platform (that was once shared with the Toyota 86) and a lightweight body. That combination has made the BRZ popular since its initial release in 2012.
Now, Subaru has introduced an all-new version of the BRZ, complete with a redesigned exterior, updated interior, and a fresh 2.4L horizontally opposed engine (rated at 228 horsepower).
Shelby Supercars Tuatara Hits a Blistering 331 MPH
If you thought the Bugatti Veyron was fast, you’ll want to check out the Shelby Supercars Tuatara. The Tuatara features a Nelson Racing 5.9-liter V8 engine making 1,750 horsepower on E85 fuel (1,350 hp on premium). That’s 250 more ponies than the 1500-horsepower Veyron.
That powerful Nelson Racing engine, combined with an ultralight body and advanced aerodynamics, recently helped the Tuatara earn the title of the world’s fastest production car. Earlier this year, cameras caught the land-rocket clocking a blistering 331 mph.
Driverless Robo-Taxis Hit Public Roads in China
Although autonomous cars have been a hot topic for a while now, they have yet to become mainstream. But AutoX (an Alibaba (BABA)-backed startup) is getting society one step closer to a driverless future with its robo-taxis.
Earlier this year, AutoX put driverless taxis on the streets of Shenzhen, China. What makes the effort unique is that, unlike many similar endeavors, the company’s fleet of 25 cars does not have a backup driver or any remote operators. The vehicles navigate the streets completely on their own.
Aptera Promises an Electric Vehicle That Doesn’t Need Charging
The two biggest problems with today’s electric vehicles are a lack of infrastructure and limited driving range. Startup company Aptera promises to address both issues with its forthcoming three-wheeled EV.
Aptera claims its new car can drive 40 miles without ever plugging into a charging port, thanks to its roof full of solar panels. What’s more, the futuristic machine is supposed to have a 1,000-mile driving range.
We’ll see if Aptera makes good on these claims when (and if) the car actually makes it into production. Buyers started putting deposits down for the EV in early December.
Georgia Reveals the First Solar Roadway in the United States
Technology Parkway, which is located in Peachtree Corners, Georgia, now features a strip of solar roadway. The installation is the first of its kind to be used within a United States city.
According to an article from Green Car Reports, the street will produce more than 1,300 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. That energy will power an EV charging station that drivers can use for free.
Thief Steals and Crashes DJ Marshmello’s 6×6 Ford F-150
Marshmello—the DJ who wears a marshmallow mascot head and has a string of hits under his belt—is well-known to fans of electronic dance music (EDM). What some may have missed is that the artist’s custom Ford F-150 6×6 (valued at over $350,000) was stolen from a Southern California dealership’s service center earlier this year.
After a lengthy police chase, the car thief crashed the truck into a light pole and surrendered. Then the joy ride was over and, presumably, Marshmello got his truck back with a few new scrapes and dents.
Did we miss any other big automotive stories from 2020? Share in the comments below or with @CarPartscom on social media!