From Parker Thompson Racing
THOMPSON RECIPIENT OF FOUR AWARDS AT THE ROAD TO INDY CHAMPIONSHIP CELEBRATION
After a dramatic 2019 Indy Pro 2000 season, Parker Thompson may have missed out on the overall championship title, but his accomplishments on and off the track are receiving strong recognition. On Monday night at the Road to Indy Championship Celebration, the young Canadian was awarded Third Place in the Overall 2019 Indy Pro 2000 presented by Cooper Tires Championship. He also brought home the Hi-Tide Kids On Track Spirit Award, the Tilton Hard Charger Award, and was the winner of the AiM Sports Move of the Year.
Third Place Overall Indy Pro 2000 Championship
After winning the opening two races of 2019, Thompson and rookie team Abel Motorsports were challenged to establish a rhythm in the mid part of the season. Disappointing finishes at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Freedom 90 were a serious blow to Thompson’s championship hopes. As the season progressed, the team re-discovered much of the pace that it had shown on opening weekend. Thompson’s final record for the 2019 Indy Pro 2000 Championship showed two wins and eight podiums. Earning a total of 300 points, he finished third in the overall standings.
Tilton Hard Charger Award
In races throughout 2019 Thompson repeatedly demonstrated an ability to navigate upwards through the field during race action. Most notably, in the final race of the season, he started from the 10th position after a mechanical issue in qualifying. Thompson would move up eight spots during the race to finish 2nd. With a total of 35 passes (seven more than any other competitor), he earned this year’s Tilton Hard Charger Award.
Hi-Tide Kids on Track Spirit Award
Recognizing his involvement both on and off the track, Thompson received the 2019 Hi-Tide Kids on Track Spirit Award as the Indy Pro 2000 driver who most embodied the spirit of hard work and a positive attitude throughout the Road to Indy season.
AiM Sports Move of the Year
AiM Sports nominated the three best overtake maneuvers from the Indy Pro 2000 season for this award, with a fan vote choosing the overall winner. For his exciting pass around the outside of Rasmus Lindh in Turn 4 at the Honda Indy Toronto, Parker Thompson captured the most fan votes and the award trophy.
“When Abel Motorsports and I got together at the beginning of the year, we had our sights set on a Championship win. Anytime that you don’t take home the top prize, there is going to be a hint of disappointment. That said, I’m proud of what we accomplished this year as a new team on the Road to Indy. Here at the Championship Celebration, it is great to see our hard work get the recognition it deserves. Bill Abel, Mark Gibbs, my teammate Jacob Abel, and the whole crew at Abel Motorsports were an absolute pleasure to work with all year. I’ve proven that I have what it takes to continue on the Road to Indy, and I’m excited about what opportunities I will find to move forward.”
Elon Musk’s next drama: a trial over his tweets about Tesla
By Michael Liedtke in San Francisco
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — While still grappling with the fallout from a company he did take private, beleaguered billionaire Elon Musk is now facing a trial over a company he didn’t.
Long before Musk purchased Twitter for $44 billion in October, he had set his sights on Tesla, the electric automaker where he continues to serve as CEO and from which he derives most of his wealth and fame.
But the buyout never materialized and now Musk will have to explain his actions under oath in a federal court in San Francisco. The trial, which begins on Tuesday with jury selection, was triggered by a class-action lawsuit on behalf of investors who owned Tesla stock for a 10-day period in August 2018.
Musk’s tweets back then fueled a rally in Tesla’s stock price that abruptly ended a week later, after it became apparent that he didn’t have the funding for a buyout after all. That resulted in him scrapping his plan to take the automaker private, culminating in a $40 million settlement with U.S. securities regulators that also required him to step down as the company’s chairman.
Musk has since contended he entered that settlement under duress and maintained he believed he had locked up financial backing for a Tesla buyout during meetings with representatives from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
The trial’s outcome may hinge on the jury’s interpretation of Musk’s motive for tweets that U.S. District Judge Edward Chen has already decided were a falsehood.
Chen dealt Musk another setback on Friday, when he rejected Musk’s bid to transfer the trial to a federal court in Texas, where Tesla moves its headquarters in 2021. Musk had argued that negative coverage of his Twitter purchase had poisoned the jury pool in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Musk’s leadership of Twitter — where he has gutted the staff and alienated users and advertisers — has proven unpopular among Tesla’s current stockholders, who are worried he has been devoting less time steering the automaker at a time of intensifying competition. Those concerns contributed to a 65% percent decline in Tesla’s stock last year that wiped out more than $700 billion in shareholder wealth — far more than the $14 billion swing in fortune that occurred between the company’s high and low stock prices during the Aug. 7-17, 2018 period covered in the class-action lawsuit.
The lawsuit is based on the premise that Tesla’s shares wouldn’t have traded at such a wide range if Musk hadn’t dangled the prospect of buying the company for $420 per share. Tesla’s stock has split twice since then, making that $420 price worth $28 on adjusted basis now. The shares closed last week at $122.40, down from its November 2021 split-adjusted peak of $414.50.
After Musk dropped the idea of a Tesla buyout, the company overcame a production problem, resulting in a rapid upturn in car sales that caused its stock to soar and minted Musk as the world’s richest person until he bought Twitter. Musk dropped from the top spot on the wealth list after the stock market’s backlash to his handling of Twitter.
The trial is likely to provide insights into Musk’s management style, given the witness list includes some of Tesla’s current and former top executives and board members, including luminaries such as Larry Ellison, Oracle co-founder, as well as James Murdoch, the son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch. The drama also may shed light on Musk’s relationship with his brother, Kimbal, who is also on the list of potential witnesses who may be called during a trial scheduled to continue through Feb. 1.
Supply chain woes caused US auto sales to fall 8% last year
By Tom Krisher in Detroit
DETROIT (AP) — Shortages of computer chips and other parts continued to hobble the U.S. auto industry last year, contributing to vehicle sales dropping 8% from 2021 to their lowest level in more than a decade.
But there’s good news for consumers in the gloomy numbers: Vehicle supplies on dealer lots are growing, albeit slowly, and automakers expect at least a small easing in prices this year as inventories grow.
Automakers reported Wednesday that they sold 13.9 million cars, trucks, SUVs and vans last year as the parts shortage limited factory output amid high demand for new vehicles. It was the lowest sales number since 2011 when the economy was recovering from the Great Recession.
But sales were up slightly in the fourth quarter and inventories grew as parts supplies improved enough to increase production a little. Analysts are now expecting sales to grow by roughly 1 million to around 14.8 million this year as demand remains strong. But they’ll still be far short of the normal 17 million per year before the pandemic.
With many models still in short supply, though, the average new vehicle price rose 2.5% in December to a record of just over $46,000, according to J.D Power.
There are signs, however, that prices may be starting to ebb a little as inventories expand.
Toyota, for instance, finished the year with just under 24,000 vehicles on Toyota and Lexus brand dealer lots nationwide. That’s up from about 19,000 at the end of 2021, but still far short of the 300,000 during normal years before the pandemic.
The improvement, although small, is allowing consumers to haggle a little on some slower-selling vehicles such as sedans, and even some luxury vehicles. But they’re still getting top dollar for gas-electric hybrids and other more popular vehicles that are sold before they arrive on lots, said David Christ, general manager of the Toyota Division.
For most of last year, people who wanted new vehicles had to pay sticker price or above and take whatever models and colors dealers could get. But dealers have told Christ that changed a bit in the past two or three months for models that aren’t as popular. Plus, he said more people are interested in lower-cost vehicles because inflation and higher interest rates are taking a bite out of their budgets.
“They’re coming in and saying, ‘Hey, can I get a deal here?'” Christ said. “I do think that on some vehicles, not just in our brand, and across the industry, there has become a little more of a buyer’s market where the customer can negotiate.”
Whether that holds up all year remains to be seen. If demand stays strong and people are willing to pay sticker price, then dealers will get that, Christ said. But if demand wanes or supplies increase dramatically, discounts could rise and prices could drop a bit.
Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds.com, said Toyota’s experience is likely to repeat itself through the industry with small price decreases on some models.
“There isn’t as much disposable income to be put into a vehicle,” she said. “We’ve seen prices high before, but we’ve never really seen higher prices with the (higher) interest rates.”
But electric vehicles and other hot sellers will remain expensive because people want to buy them now, she added.
Caldwell doesn’t see vehicle supplies or prices returning to pre-pandemic levels this year, and she’s not sure if we’ll ever get back to 2019 levels.
The computer chip shortage dates to the spring of 2020, when automakers were forced to shut down factories due to rapidly increasing COVID-19 cases. Chip makers shifted production to consumer electronics to feed a computer and gaming sales boom when people were stuck at home. When the auto plants restarted earlier than expected, chip makers weren’t making as many semiconductors for automobiles, which must be made to withstand vibration and huge temperature extremes.
Auto chip production has improved, but still isn’t back to pre-pandemic levels, so auto plants still aren’t back to their full output.
As a result, the 13.9 million vehicles that automakers sold last year was about 1.2 million below 2021 numbers, according to Motorintelligence.com.
General Motors, with full-year sales up 2.5%, retook its traditional spot as the nation’s top selling automaker. Toyota, which won the crown in 2021, saw its sales fall 9.6% last year. Ford reports sales on Thursday.
Sales at Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, dropped 13%, while Honda sales plummeted 32.9%. Hyundai posted just under a 1% increase to outsell Nissan, whose sales tumbled 25.4%. Kia sales fell 1.1% for the year, while Subaru was down 4.7%.
Electric vehicle sales hit more than 807,000 last year, up almost 65% from 2021.
Pickups and SUVs were 77.3% of sales while cars dropped to 22.7%.
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