An Electric Car Designed Especially for People in Wheelchairs

Jenny Xie:

The Kenguru measures 7 feet long and 5 feet high, making it smaller than a Smart Car. It has no seats — drivers simply roll a wheelchair in from a pop-up back door. Designed for use on local roads, the vehicle goes up to 25 miles per hour, with an estimated range of 60 miles. The Kenguru will cost about $25,000, but green energy and mobility tax incentives can bring that price down for qualified buyers.
 Kenguru has a long, courageous back story. The original concept, developed by Istvan Kissaroslaki from Hungary many years ago, hadn’t been able to go to market without substantial financial backing. But in 2010, Stacy Zoern, an American lawyer disabled from a muscle disease, came across the Kenguru online and thought it was just what she needed. Zoern eventually convinced Kissaroslaki to move the company to Austin, Texas. The pair has been aggressively pursuing investors ever since.
 Last month, the company announced Kenguru is finally going into production in the U.S. Interested buyers can reserve one online, and the first cars are expected to be ready in 12 to 18 months.

Global vehicle sales will likely peak in next decade

Jeff Green & Keith Naughton:

The world that Henry Ford put on wheels is poised for a stall.

In the globe’s growing megacities, pollution and gridlock are putting a damper on driving. In India, some commuters are leaving their cars at home to avoid traffic snarls and long prowls for parking.

More young Americans are forgoing the dream of auto ownership for public transport, bikes and vehicle-sharing. Cars on the road are lasting longer than ever.

All of that may herald a new era for an auto industry weaned on a century of global growth. The world will reach “peak car” — a point at which annual global sales growth will top out — in the next decade, several auto-industry analysts predict. Researcher IHS Automotive, for one, sees annual sales cresting at 100 million within that time.

Peak car is at odds with the ambitious expansion plans of global automakers, which IHS says are gearing up to produce more than 120 million vehicles by 2016 — almost 50 percent more than last year’s worldwide sales mark of 82 million. The dynamic also threatens the business plans of parts producers, suppliers of raw material and oil companies.

Driving this upheaval is a rapidly emerging reality: The vehicle that ushered in an unparalleled era of personal mobility in the last century is, in many cases, no longer the most convenient conveyance, particularly as more of the world’s population migrates to big cities.

No one is predicting that car sales will suddenly fall off or that today’s car companies are now dinosaurs. What the experts do see is a reckoning for car companies, which may have to adapt to a world with less car-buying and more car-sharing, more cars that drive themselves and fewer hot rodders on the highway.

“The key question is: Do you sell cars or do you sell mobility?” said Tim Ryan, vice chairman of markets and strategy for consultant PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. “If you ignore these megatrends, you run the risk of becoming irrelevant.”

View the IHS Automotive Study here.

Tesla’s Latest Financial Filing: The Good, The Bad And The EPS

Graeme Krindler:

Tesla’s shares roared to over $250 on Tuesday February 5th, amid release of financial results. Tesla’s 8-K regulatory filing highlights a record 6,892 Model S’s sold, non-GAAP earnings of $46M ($0.33 on a per share basis), and projected vehicle delivery growth of 55% among others. The shares are currently trading just above the $260 during after-hours trading.
 Here we find ourselves at yet another quarterly earnings report, and yet again when looking at the GAAP figures, Tesla posts a net loss of about $74 million, and an EPS of -$0.62. Yet another year of losses for Tesla, but the punch line for accounting stiffs like myself seems to be “who cares!”
 From this time last year Tesla’s share price has grown over 600% (this time last year, it was trading at $34.38 versus $248 today).[1] For those of you who have consulted my past work for free investment advice in the past, I apologize, but I am quickly learning that a business degree doesn’t turn you into Jordan Belfort overnight. To capture the highlights of Tesla’s recent results I present you with the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Woes of Megacity Driving Signal Dawn of ‘Peak Car’ Era

Jeff Green and Keith Naughton :

The world that Henry Ford put on wheels is poised for a stall.
 In the globe’s growing megacities, pollution and gridlock are putting a damper on driving. In India, some commuters are leaving their cars at home to avoid traffic snarls and long prowls for parking. More young Americans are forgoing the dream of auto ownership for public transport, bikes and vehicle-sharing. Cars on the road are lasting longer than ever.
 All of that may herald a new era for an auto industry weaned on a century of global growth. The world will reach “Peak Car” — a point at which annual global sales growth will top out — in the next decade, several auto-industry analysts predict. Researcher IHS Automotive, for one, sees annual sales cresting at 100 million within that time.
 Peak Car is at odds with the ambitious expansion plans of global automakers, which IHS says are gearing up to produce more than 120 million vehicles by 2016 — almost 50 percent more than last year’s worldwide sales mark of 82 million. The dynamic also threatens the business plans of parts producers, suppliers of raw material and oil companies.
 Driving this upheaval is a rapidly emerging reality: The vehicle that ushered in an unparalleled era of personal mobility in the last century is, in many cases, no longer the most convenient conveyance, particularly as more of the world’s population migrates to big cities.

Related: Asymcar 7: The Transportationist

Tesla’s most disruptive product may not be its cars

John McDuling:

“We believe the days when Tesla was known as purely an auto company are numbered,” declared Morgan Stanley analysts in a note this week, after the electric car maker reported another set of stellar results.
 Endless column inches have chronicled how Elon Musk’s electric car company is disrupting the auto industry and making inroads into the luxury car market (especially on America’s West Coast). But the true impact of its technology may reach far beyond America’s roads. The way forward, Tesla is betting, is in producing its own batteries.
 Next week the company will detail plans for its “giga-factory,” where it will produce the lithium-ion batteries needed for its next line of cars. This won’t be just any factory. It could be the biggest battery-making facility in the world. It will be “heavily powered” by renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar, Musk said on Tesla’s earnings call, and will have the capability to recycle old battery packs.

Ford Said to Drop Microsoft for BlackBerry’s QNX in Sync System

By Craig Trudell and Jeff Green:

Ford Motor Co. (F), struggling with in-car technology glitches, will base the next-generation Sync system on BlackBerry Ltd. (BBRY)’s QNX and no longer use Microsoft (MSFT) Corp.’s Windows, according to people briefed on the matter.

Using QNX will be less expensive than licensing Microsoft technology and will improve the flexibility and speed of the next Sync system, said the people, who declined to be identified because the decision hasn’t been made public. Ford has more than 7 million vehicles on the road with Sync using Microsoft voice-activated software to make mobile phone calls and play music.

Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally, who was said to be a candidate to become Microsoft’s CEO until early this year, has seen Ford slump in surveys by J.D. Power & Associates and Consumer Reports, with customers citing malfunctioning tech systems and touch screens. The second-largest U.S. automaker has said the quality of its vehicles have been “mixed” each of the past three years and fell short of its plan to improve those results in 2013.

Improving Sync is crucial for Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford to draw car shoppers who are increasingly looking to be connected at all times. In-vehicle technology is the top selling point for 39 percent of auto buyers, more than twice the 14 percent who say their first consideration is traditional performance measures such as power and speed, according to a study by the consulting firm Accenture released in December.

via Steven Sinofsky.

The Truth About Cars comments.

“A car with a stick is practically immune to theft”

Dan Neil:

I suppose at this point, I must observe that the sun is setting on manual transmissions. As it should. In an era of quick-twitch mechatronics—of continuously variable transmissions, 8-speed dual-clutch transaxles, 9-speed automatics with torque converters—using a series of steel linkages to engage and disengage gears while levering the clutch in and out of the way with your foot? It is barbaric.
 Sentimentalists argue that semiautomatic and automatic systems are uninvolving to drive. You want involving? We should go back to wooden wheels and cable brakes.
 Look, I only read the writing on the wall. I didn’t write it. Manual transmissions are, for example, slower than modern automatic and dual-clutch transmissions. Around a road course, a PDK-equipped, paddle-shifted Porsche 911 will steadily walk away from the exact same car with some stick-shifting yokel in the driver’s seat. As hybrid and electric parts take up a greater percentage of powertrain duties, gearboxes themselves will become obsolete.
 Manual trannies are also less fuel-efficient than other cog-swappers, and rising fuel economy standards will only marginalize manual transmissions further. The percentage of new light vehicles sold in the U.S. with manual transmissions is in the single digits. Meanwhile, only a small and aging segment of the driving population even knows how to drive a manual transmission. Go ahead, leave the keys in it: A car with a stick shift is practically immune to theft.

Why Your Car Won’t Get Remote Software Updates Anytime Soon

Kevin Bullis:

When Toyota recalled over two million cars last week because of flaws with antilock braking systems and other problems, the fix was simple—a few software updates.

The implementation of that fix is far from simple. Every one of those cars has to be taken into a dealership to have the new software installed, an expensive process that can take months. Cars that haven’t been fixed could, in some cases, suddenly stall and crash.

There is an alternative—the same sort of remote software updates used for PCs and smart phones. Indeed, one automaker, Tesla Motors, already provides what it calls “over-the-air updates,” which allowed it to execute a recent software fix without requiring anybody to bring in their cars (see “Tesla Motors’ Over-the-Air Repairs Are the Way Forward”).

Increasingly, many cars have wireless connections, for infotainment and communications; and some automakers already use wireless connections to add software to their cars at the factory. Even so, it will take some time for major automakers to implement over-the-air updates, both because they’re worried about security and because they might face resistance from dealers.

The Coming Problem With Electric Cars—How to Charge Them All

Technology Review:

Back in 2011, President Obama set the ambitious goal of having 1 million electric vehicles on US roads by 2015. Whether automakers will hit this target is the subject of much debate. But the possibility of the widespread adoption of electric vehicles raises an interesting problem.
 It’s easy to imagine the number of electric cars increasing but it’s much harder to see the electricity generating capacity increasing the same rate at the same time. Generating capacity will eventually catch up with this extra demand. But in the meantime, how can all these cars be charged?
 Today, Yingjie Zhou at Sichuan University in China and a few pals show that it is possible to solve this problem using the same kind of algorithms that control resources in communications networks. But they also say there is a trade off–car owners will have to provide accurate information about their driving habits. Is that too much to ask?

Hybrid Battery Reconditioning

Thomas Content:

An Oconomowoc car repair shop is broadening its repair service to include reconditioning of batteries in hybrid electric vehicles.

Silver Lake Auto Center is the first in the Midwest to perform a new service to help boost fuel economy for hybrid cars with aging batteries.

The repair shop technicians will work to recondition HEV batteries in a service that until now has been only available on the East and West coasts, as well as Texas.

Owners of older hybrid vehicles may experience problems with the battery or a decrease in their miles per charge.

In December, Dan Garlock, Silver Lake’s general manager, and three of his technicians went through intensive training. The dealership also invested in battery discharging, diagnostic and re-charging equipment.

Garlock expanded into hybrid repair in part because of a love of technology and also because of the growing number of people in Waukesha County who are buying the high-mileage vehicles. He found there are 11,000 hybrids registered within a 25-mile radius of his shop.

“Waukesha County is really strong with the hybrids,” he said. “There are a lot of commuters traveling in between Madison and Milwaukee and we’re kind of in the middle here. So it made sense to jump into it.”

BMW Tosses Salesmen for ‘Geniuses’: “Impatient with 20th Century Dealerships”, “physical environment is not capable of handling the product portfolio”

Christina Rogers & Joseph White:

Luxury car maker BMW AG wants to bring its dealerships into the digital age, recommending they rip out showroom cubicles, install flat screen displays and hire “product geniuses” to explain the complex technology in its cars without the pressure to close a sale.

BMW’s new program could mean, among other things, fewer sales people and fewer cars on showroom floors, and more information delivered through video displays and by employees who are “definitely, definitely not salesmen,” said sales and marketing chief Ian Robertson.

BMW’s plan reflects a broader anxiety among auto company executives and independent dealers that consumers accustomed to online shopping and the ultraclean look of Apple Inc. ‘s stores are increasingly impatient with the 20th Century ambience of most auto dealerships.

“When people go on the Web, they can watch videos and read reviews,” said Karl Schmidt, chief executive of Morrie’s Automotive Group in Minnetonka, Minn. “The showroom will reflect that a lot more. There will be fewer balloons, fewer banners and more digital, more hands-on.” Mr. Schmidt is part of an industry group studying how future dealerships might look and operate.

Related: Asymcar 4: Death of a Salesman.

As German car sales drop, industry bets on sharing

Frank Jordans:

Germans, once a nation of ardent automobile enthusiasts, are not buying cars as much as they used to. Instead, they’re sharing them.
 The country has become the world’s biggest user of one-way car sharing plans, where people can find a vehicle using their smartphone, drive it across town and leave it there without having to return it to a central base.
 The trend has been boosted by Germany’s powerful auto industry, which first ignored the car sharing phenomenon, but is now jumping on board. Some companies are betting big on the idea, not just for short trips within cities, but also for longer ones between them.

via Steve Crandall.

GM Plans 2018 Aluminum Pickup Truck in Response to Ford’s 2015 Model

Jeff Bennett, Mike Ramsey & John Miller:

General Motors Co. GM +1.00% is accelerating efforts to field a largely aluminum-bodied pickup truck by late 2018, under pressure from federal fuel efficiency standards and archrival Ford Motor Co. F +0.98% , according to people familiar with the matter.

The No. 1 U.S. auto maker recently locked-in supply contracts with Alcoa Inc. AA +0.26% and Novelis Inc., which are now working to increase their aluminum sheet production to supply the next-generation GM pickup, the people said. Aluminum sheet for automotive bodies is in such high demand that companies need to order it years in advance.

The push to develop what the industry calls an “aluminum intensive” large pickup marks an apparent change of direction for GM, which has pursued smaller and lighter weight steel-bodied trucks.

Before Ford’s debut last month of its 2015 F-150, with a body made almost entirely of aluminum, GM executives questioned whether such a vehicle could be cost competitive or appealing to U.S. customers.

Tire Tracker

Ben Chartoff, Harlo Holmes, Brian Jacobs, Aurelia Moser, Gabriela Rodriguez and Marcos Vanetta, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews; Al Shaw and Mike Tigas, ProPublica:

Use this database to look up how your tires are rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Ratings include temperature, traction and treadware.

This project was built during a two-day hackathon by the 2014 Knight-Mozilla OpenNews fellowship class and news application developers from ProPublica.

A New Car UI

Matthaeus Krenn:

Several automotive companies have begun replacing traditional controls in their cars with touch screens. Unfortunately, their eagerness to set new trends in hardware, is not matched by their ambition to create innovative software experiences for these new input mechanisms. Instead of embracing new constraints and opportunities, they merely replicate old button layouts and shapes on these new, flat, glowing surfaces.
 So even controls for air condition and infotainment – which are commonly used while driving – now lack any tactile feedback and require the driver’s dexterity and attention when operated. Considering that distracted driving is the number one cause for car accidents, this is not a step in the right direction.

Via Marc Edwards.

Ford’s new F-150 triggers run on aluminum

Bryce Hoffmam:

That is because there is no simpler way to boost fuel economy than by reducing vehicle weight, and boosting mileage is something all automakers need to do.

“There’s a very simple reason for it: CAFE,” said General Motors Co. spokesman Klaus-Peter Martin, referring to the U.S. government’s tough new fuel economy standards. “Every gram you can take out of the vehicle, it helps with fuel efficiency.”

The question now is this: Is there enough aluminum to go around?

In the near term, the answer is no.

Ford has locked up much of the supply of automotive-grade aluminum sheet for its new version of the F-150, slated to go on sale late this year. The F-150 has been the bestselling vehicle in America.

Via Steve Crandall.

Ford flexing supply chain muscle. Shades of Apple’s tactics.

A World Without Car Crashes

David Zax:

“This curve here, you wouldn’t think much of it,” Debra Bezzina is saying, “but somebody was killed here two years ago, and they didn’t even find him right away.” Our van, driven by Bezzina’s University of Michigan colleague Rick Byrd, is coming up on a curve that indeed looks relatively benign, even in this icy January weather. But Bezzina shares the story of the man who took the curve too quickly and skidded off the road. He wasn’t the first to do so.

I brace myself as we approach, and something unusual happens: an alarm sounds from the dashboard, and an alert flashes in a corner of the rearview mirror. I realize the mirror doubles as a heads-up display — it shows a right-turn arrow against a blue background that suddenly turns red to warn of danger. Byrd, at the wheel, slows down.

What had just happened was both simple and profound, and people like Bezzina and Byrd, employees of the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI or “um-tree” for short), say it could transform the way American drivers experience their commutes. The van in which we’re driving — an UMTRI van with a splashy yellow decal that reads “Connecting the Future” — has been equipped with technology to alert its driver in a range of situations. In this case, a piece of roadside equipment nearby was broadcasting to vehicles like ours the speed at which to safely take the coming turn. A router-like device in the van caught the signal, noted that the van was at risk, and issued the alert we just heard.

Could Daimler make premium car sharing a nationwide reality?

Juan Barnett:

BMW has announced and Audi hinted at (via trademark filings) brand-owned car sharing services. But if luxury automakers get serious about the game of car sharing Daimler is poised to win and here’s how.

In the U.S. Car2Go has worked very hard to not only be in urban areas across the U.S., but to also develop parking agreements to allow users of their service the freedom to park anywhere, for free. This helped give Car2Go an advantage over its competitors which typically require loaner vehicles be returned to a designated parking spot.

A recent survey conducted by Alix Partners found, among other things, ease of ease of access and convenience ranked at the top of the list for why people participate in a car sharing services.

Car2Go, the fleet of park-anywhere blue-and-white Smart Fortwos, is a global brand owned by Daimler, parent company to Mercedes Benz. While the fleet of Smart ForTwos will work for most people and I’m sure Daimler was happy to report the small cars as ‘sold’, what if Daimler decided, or the market decided for Daimler, that it was time to add a little luxury and practicality to the fleet of small utilitarian cars.

What Noise Does the Electric Car Make?

Don Norman:

It was a pleasant June day in Munich, Germany. I was picked up at my hotel and driven to the country, farmland on either side of the narrow, two-lane road. Occasional walkers strode by, and every so often a bicyclist passed. We parked the car on the shoulder and joined a group of people looking up and down the road. “Okay, get ready,” I was told. “Close your eyes and listen.” I did so and about a minute later I heard a high-pitched whine, accompanied by a low humming sound: an automobile was approaching. As it came closer, I could hear tire noise. After the car had passed, I was asked my judgment of the sound. We repeated the exercise numerous times, and each time the sound was different. What was going on? We were evaluating sound designs for BMW’s new electric vehicles.

Electric cars are extremely quiet. The only sounds they make come from the tires, the air, and occasionally from the high-pitched whine of the electronics. Car lovers really like the silence. Pedestrians have mixed feelings, but blind people are greatly concerned. After all, they cross streets in traffic by relying upon the sounds of vehicles. That’s how they know when it is safe to cross. And what is true for the blind might also be true for anyone stepping onto the street while distracted. If the vehicles don’t make any sounds, they can kill. The United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined that pedestrians are considerably more likely to be hit by hybrid or electric vehicles than by those with an internal-combustion engine. The greatest danger is when the hybrid or electric vehicles are moving slowly: they are almost completely silent.

U.S. Targets Buyers of China-Bound Luxury Cars

Matthew Goldstein:

Michael A. Downs, a businessman in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., says he is simply looking to profit from the growing demand in China for cars from the likes of Mercedes, BMW and Range Rover.
 His three-year-old business recruits people in a dozen or so states to buy new cars from dealerships in the United States. He then sells those vehicles to other companies, which ship them to China. Once in China, the cars, which typically retail for $55,000 to $75,000 in the United States, can be resold for as much as three times those prices. “We’re taking advantage of a legitimate arbitrage situation,” he said.
 But to the federal government, businesses like Mr. Downs’s are potentially violating customs laws and deceiving auto manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz and BMW, which try to keep tight control over sales to domestic dealers and to foreign countries.
 Last year, federal prosecutors and agents with the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security began a broad crackdown on this “gray market” export business, which is estimated by some to be responsible for sending as many as 35,000 new luxury cars a year to China from the United States.

Ford’s Vehicle Data Sharing Practices (24/7, Inrix, MyAssist & Acquity Group)

The Ford Motor Company recently wrote a letter on vehicle data sharing practices to Senator Al Franken [65K PDF]:

Additionally, the GAO report stated no company allows customers to delete their location data. At Ford, that is not true. If customers contact our Relationship Center and request deletion of the location data they provide through one of our opt-in connected services, we will delete it.


Ford offers an embedded navigation system on all 2013 and 2014 model year vehicles in the United States. The navigation system stores latitude, longitude, and a timestamp, on board the vehicle in a temporary buffer. The data is stored for approximately 2-3 weeks based on miles driven. Location data is never transmitted off board the vehicle by the navigation system to Ford or anyone else.

Ford also offers several connected services to customers. SYNC is a voice-activated system that controls music, navigation, climate, and other functions. While these functions require no connectivity, the customer can also pair SYNC with his or her mobile device through Bluetooth wireless connectivity to enable several connected services to enhance the customer’s experience, which are SYNC Services, SYNC Applink, SYNC Vehicle Health Reports, and SYNC 911 Assist. Ford also offers two limited-volume connected services, MyFord Mobile (and MyLincoln Mobile) and Crew Chief. Each of these connected services requires customer consent before wirelessly transmitting any location data.


(4) What kind of location data does Ford share, and with whom does Ford share it?

24/7, Inrix, and MyAssist, are the third party service providers Ford currently uses to provide SYNC Services, and which receive location data to fulfill customer requests. Acquity Group (Accenture) is the service provider that receives MyFord Mobile location data. Location data includes latitude and longitude, and may contain a timestamp from the vehicle. While not involving third-party companies, SYNC 911 Assist can provide location data to local 911 services to facilitate emergency assistance.


What Google’s Foray Into Cars Means for the Automotive Industry.

Government wants you to broadcast your driving data—eventually.

Your Driving Data Can Reveal Your Routes.

US GAO Report on In-Car Location-Based services: Companies Are Taking Steps to Protect Privacy, but Some Risks May Not Be Clear to Consumers

What Google’s Foray Into Cars Means for the Automotive Industry

Michael O’Shea:

The first is the possibility of Android phones connecting with vehicle head units. However, it is unclear whether these head units will be limited to Android units, which seems unlikely. The second scenario is Android running directly on the head unit itself.
 Breaking down scenario No. 1
 In the first scenario, it seems the OAA will address approaches to connecting phones with cars for “brought-in” style solutions, similar to what the Connected Car Consortium was doing with MirrorLink, a solution for connecting smartphones and a vehicle’s infotainment system. If this is the case, the CCC may be facing some repercussions. MirrorLink was not supported by Apple, and has also had limited support by the Android phone manufacturers. As such, it seems unlikely that the handset manufacturers would support MirrorLink alongside a Google-endorsed OAA solution. So, unless the CCC’s work is incorporated into the OAA, MirrorLink is at risk.
 Additionally, it is unlikely that the OAA’s approach will be endorsed by Apple, which will remain focused on its own iOS in the Car initiative. This means that car manufacturers will likely have to work with two independent approaches if they wish to align with both Google and Apple. Not to mention working with other auto manufacturers, like Ford and GM, which are implementing their own smartphone connectivity solutions.

A Screaming Comes Across the Sky: Google vs. the Counterforce

David Streitfeld:

Nor was there even a nod that the Street View mapping project — the crucial precursor to the self-driving car effort — employed a rogue engineer who casually downloaded data from people’s computers as the Google cars drove past. His actions set off worldwide outrage, but Google went from denying it had done anything, to minimizing it, to calling it ancient history without ever quite coming clean.
 Mr. Levandowski was in the news more recently when a group of protesters showed up one morning in front of his East Bay house, which he had shown off in the article. The protesters called themselves the Counterforce, after the last section of Thomas Pynchon’s epic “Gravity’s Rainbow.” The name was perfectly chosen: The Counterforce is an alliance of misfits against the depredations of technology.
 Siva Vaidhyanathan’s 2011 book “The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry)” was a prescient look at issues of control and agenda-setting in the tech industry that are now coming to the fore. The Counterforce demonstration, and the protests against the shuttles used by Google and other tech companies to ferry their employees from San Francisco to their Silicon Valley campuses, are, he says, warnings for Google:

72 – to 84 – month (Car Loan) category was the fastest growing term….

Jim Henry:

Everyone agrees that superlong loan terms are bad for the industry, but it seems no one wants to give them up first.

Long loans — between, say, 72 and 84 months or even longer — likely will leave customers upside down at trade-in time, owing more on their car than it’s worth. Brand loyalty and dealership loyalty fall off at the end of an extremely long loan term, experts say.

“Long-term financing is not good for the industry; we all know that,” David Williams, president of Anchor Buick-GMC of Elkton, Md., said at the American Financial Services Association’s Vehicle Finance Conference in New Orleans. “But we do it for a reason.”

According to Experian Automotive, longer terms and low interest rates have kept the average monthly payment nearly flat despite bigger and bigger loan amounts. In the third quarter of 2013, the average new-car loan term was 65 months, up one month from a year ago; the average used-car loan term was 61 months, also up one month. New or used, the 72- to 84-month category was the fastest growing term.

via The Truth About Cars.

Government wants you to broadcast your driving data—eventually

Sean Gallagher:

The US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced that it’s finally ready to consider regulations that might require “light vehicles” to communicate with each other about their speed, direction of travel, and location in order to prevent collisions. The technology, called vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) could by some government estimates reduce traffic fatalities by as much as 80 percent if it’s ever fully rolled out.

The emerging V2V standard, which Ars recently looked at in depth, is based on a broadcast networking protocol similar to those used by Wi-Fi networks, GPS geolocation technology, and in-car sensors that detect rate of turn, braking, and other movement data. V2V-equipped cars continuously broadcast information in what’s sort of a digital version of the swimming pool game Marco Polo, warning drivers if another vehicle’s broadcasts show a risk of a collision.

V2V technology comes with a number of technical and policy challenges that could blunt any major push to mandate it too quickly or broadly. Privacy, squabbles over radio spectrum, and the cost of the vast scale of the infrastructure (ensuring the security of the system and integrating it with highway infrastructure) are among the major pain points that need to be addressed, or at least considered, before a regulation can be put into effect.

Your Driving Data Can Reveal Your Routes

Larry Greenemeier:

Insurance companies have for years offered a compelling tradeoff to their customers: they track your driving habits, you save up to 30 percent off your bill for driving safely. But researchers now say that consumers may be giving up too much privacy in the deal.

If you install the tracking device in your car, insurers like Allstate and Progressive can gather information about when you drive, your starts and stops and your speed.

To avoid spooking customer fears about Big Brother, most of these devices do not include GPS. But computer scientists say they don’t need GPS to get a pretty good idea of where you’ve been.

In separate experiments, researchers at the University of Denver and Rutgers University wrote algorithms that use a driver’s starting point along with the tracking data to estimate where that driver traveled. [Rinku Dewri et al., Inferring Trip Destinations From Driving Habits Data and Bernhard Firner et al., Elastic Pathing: Your Speed is Enough to Track You]

Mileage Tax Pushed by Shuster to Pay for US Highway Bill

Laura Litvan:

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster said he favors user fees including a vehicle miles tax to pay for a long-term U.S. highway bill that would extend for at least five years.
 Shuster rejected the idea of raising the nation’s 18.4 cents-per-gallon gasoline tax, now the primary method of paying for road, bridge and mass transit projects. Besides a mileage tax, he said other funding methods include higher taxes on energy exploration and bringing back corporate profits earned overseas.
 “We don’t want a two-year bill, we want a five- or six-year bill,” Shuster said at a Bloomberg Government infrastructure event in Washington.

Tesla expands Supercharger Network in Europe


This week, Tesla officially opens new Supercharger locations connecting the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. These newly-energized routes will enable Model S customers to enjoy free, convenient, 100 percent electric trips on the German Autobahn and to destinations in the Alps and elsewhere.
 Tesla’s first six Superchargers were energized in California in September 2012, with the first network of European Supercharger stations opening in Norway less than a year later. As of today, 81 Supercharger locations are energized worldwide, with 14 locations in Europe. More than 11 million kilometers have been charged by Tesla Superchargers and nearly 1.13 million liters of gas have been offset.

You Can Build This Open Source Car in an Hour

Damon Lavrinc:

It takes about an hour to make Nigella Lawson’s lamb shank stew. In that same amount of time, you can put together the world’s first open source, build-your-own car. And if you’re the engineers that helped develop it, you cut that time to 41 minutes flat.
 Now calling the OSVehicle Tabby a “car” might be a bit of a stretch, and that hour-long build time doesn’t include installing superfluous things like doors and body panels and a windshield. But you can drive it, although its roadworthiness might be called into question by the fuzz or the local DMV.
 However, if you go with the upgraded Urban Tabby, you get just enough bodywork to make it street legal — at least in the U.K.
 OSV is taking pre-orders for the Tabby starter kit, with both the two-seater or four-seater configurations going for €500. Add “optionals” like a battery pack (€698), electric powertrain (€1,520), and seats (€80), and you have an electric runabout that can top out around 50 mph for just under $4,000.

via Michael Held.

The Race of the Centuries: 2013 Tesla Model S vs. 1915 Ford Model T

Car & Driver:

A century from now, let no man or robot or digital personal companion embedded in the cerebellum at birth say that Car and Driver didn’t look at this thing from every possible angle.
 Thus, we proceed with yet another trial of the Model S. This time we compare the electric car to its direct predecessor, the hydrocarbon-burning automobile, much as our forebears must have compared the first motorcar to the trusty nag, which was soon to be advertised with hefty cash rebates and complimentary oat bags.
 So as not to be seen as blithely unappreciative of a new technology’s inevitable teething issues, namely the Tesla’s limited driving range and the nation’s inadequate charging infrastructure, we developed a kind of handicap for the Model S. The Tesla would not go up against a new car, which would enjoy a de facto head start thanks to more than a century of development. Instead, it would compete against a car more in line with an electric vehicle’s limitations. Hence, we looked back over automotive history for a suitable candidate. Way back, in fact. Actually, a bit further, and further still, and keep it going, just a ­little ways more . . . until we pretty much bumped into the horse again.

Via Steve Crandall