US government lost $9.26B on auto rescue

David Shephardson:

The U.S. government lost $9.26 billion on the auto industry rescue, according to the final accounting released late Monday.
 In its report, the U.S. Treasury Department said it recovered $70.43 billion of the $79.69 billion it gave to General Motors Corp., Chrysler LLC and auto lending arms Ally Financial Inc. and Chrysler Financial. The government was repaid through a combination of stock sales, partial loan repayments, dividends and interest payments.
 The books are closed on the program because the Treasury, on Dec. 19, sold its final 11.4 percent stake in Ally, the Detroit-based auto lender and bank-holding company formerly known as GMAC. The bailouts began in December 2008 under President George W. Bush with $25 billion in aid to GM, Chrysler and their lending arms. President Barack Obama added about $55 billion to the total.


GM’s 20% Cashback Program

GM Insider News:

Note: There are approximately 18,600 “20%” vehicles available nation-wide, thus quantities are your local dealer will be tight – no more than 15% of available selections.

Viia Edward Niedermeyer.

Stallman on Uber

Richard Stallman:

Uber requires you to identify yourself, both to order a cab and to pay.
 Uber also records where you get the cab and where you go with it.
 The US government can get those records, and any lawsuit (such as a divorce lawsuit) can subpoena them.
 Uber’s clever policy of not being directly responsible for anything that goes wrong extends to harassment by drivers, and its practice of identifying passengers enables drivers to find out who the passenger is. This makes some women scared to use Uber.
 This problem comes directly out of the practices listed above that mistreat all users of Uber.

Via David Levinson.

Vehicle Ownership Analysis Based on GDP per Capita in China: 1963–2050

Tian Wu, Hongmei Zhao and Xunmin Ou:

This paper presents the Gompertz function of per capita GDP and vehicle stock to forecast the vehicle ownership of China through to 2050 against a background of increasing energy use and CO2 emissions associated with the potential demands of on-road vehicles. We forecast the level of vehicle stock in China based on the extant patterns of vehicle development in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, Europe, the United States and Japan. The results show that the OECD pattern and European pattern are more suitable for describing China’s vehicle stock growth when compared with Japanese and U.S. patterns. The study finds that China’s vehicle stock has developed as an S-shaped curve. During the forecast period, the inflection point of the increasing curve appears around the year 2030, with the annual growth of vehicle ownership increasing from 6.13% to 9.50% in the prior period prior and subsequently dropping to 0.45% in 2050. Based on the sensitivity analysis and robustness check, the impact of different Gompertz curve parameters and GDP growth rates on vehicle stock projection are analyzed.

Via Bertel Schmitt.

“Look at the grill on a Tesla; is that for a radiator?”

BMW blog:

On the other hand, a car that drives by itself can be radically different than a car that you have to drive. You don’t even need a windshield or headlights. If you’re asking yourselves “how likely is that in 25 years?” I would risk right now to say, “it’s a lot more likely you can buy a car that can drive by itself than electric cars will be the majority of those on the road in 25 years.”

On the other hand, a car that drives by itself can be radically different than a car that you have to drive.

Driving by yourself is a very mundane application of people precious time––applied across million of hours. To be quite honest —and not to belittle the superhuman efforts that have made it a reality– you could convert any vehicle to self driving as long as you can apply devices that take over the steering wheel and the powertrain. There are already lots of sensors on board and room for more.

It used to be thought of as impossible. Google is now out there proving the world wrong, that what couldn’t be done they’re actually doing . . . and with such apparent ease everybody else say’s “I kinda wish we would have done that”. This demonstrates commitment, and they’re obviously going to make self-driving cars a reality. I’m quite certain 25 years is an upper limit for this.


CB: It’s not for nothing that BMW switched their campaign from ‘Freude am Fahren’…to ‘Freude.’

Related: Asymcar 20, Iconic Design.

France’s BlaBlaCar Gains Traction Carpooling Service Attracts Riders Across Europe as Alternative to Mass Transit

Noeme Bisserbe & Inti Landauro:

Diana Gomiz recently opted for a new way to reach the French capital from Lille, her hometown 130 miles away: She skipped France’s signature bullet train and hopped in a car pool she had booked on her mobile phone.
 “It may take an hour longer, but it costs half the price,” said Ms. Gomiz. “It doesn’t take long to figure out the math.”
 The 28-year-old student is one of a growing number of people across France relying on ride-sharing to travel long distances. Driving the change is a homegrown startup called BlaBlaCar that is challenging state-run railway monopoly SNCF by creating an alternative transport network out of empty car seats.
 BlaBlaCar has begun to pick up speed, tapping into growing interest among consumers and investors in what Silicon Valley calls the “sharing economy.” The company has expanded beyond France’s borders, recruiting 10 million members in 13 countries who have access to a fleet of more than one million cars to travel across Europe. This summer, it raised $100 million from European and U.S. venture-capital firms including Index Ventures and Accel Partners—one of the largest venture investments in a French startup.


Will Ferrari Keep Its Scarcity Premium? Sports-Car Maker Considers Cranking Up Output Even as Wait Times Fall

Eric Sylvers:

Those days may be winding down. Ferrari Chairman Sergio Marchionne wants to expand production, arguing a surge in emerging-market wealth justifies higher output. Mr. Marchionne has hinted that yearly production could go to 10,000 vehicles without denting Ferrari’s scarcity value, its cars’ $250,000 average sale price or the company’s bottom line. Ferrari last year sold 6,922 cars, which helped generate €2.3 billion ($2.80 billion) in revenue and €364 million in operating profit.

The risk is higher production collides with a sales slowdown. In China, for instance, a decade of explosive growth in luxury goods has petered out. The waiting time for a new Ferrari there has remained about a year, according to local dealers, despite a sharp rise in the number of millionaires. In the U.S., some dealers say they can sell a new Ferrari off the showroom floor.

Maintaining a scarcity premium is critical to Ferrari’s 90% owner Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, which is preparing an initial public offering of its iconic unit. The business has been valued by analysts at between €4 billion to €8 billion, a wide range that reflects a debate over whether it should be considered a luxury-goods company, as Mr. Marchionne believes, or a high-end car brand like Porsche, as most analysts say.

“If exclusivity becomes unreachable, it is no longer exclusivity,” said Mr. Marchionne, who is also chief executive of Fiat Chrysler. The auto maker is in the early days of a five-year product overhaul that is expected to cost $60 billion. “Let’s not fool ourselves here. We are in business to supply cars to people,” he said.

Ferrari has declined to comment on how many more cars it might produce.

The caps on production, which dates back decades, helps stoke sales of Ferrari-branded jackets, shirts and posters and tickets to the Ferrari World theme park in Abu Dhabi. It also plays an important role in keeping prices of used Ferraris high, a major selling point. Nine of the top 10 most expensive cars sold at auction in the past year were Ferraris, including a 1962 250 GTO that in August went for a record $38 million.

“Ferrari is the absolute blue chip in collectible cars,” said Adolfo Orsi Jr. , a historian of Italian motor sport who co-authors the Classic Car Auction Yearbook. “The brand and the exclusivity it comes with won’t come under threat if production is raised to 10,000 cars a year. But the key is not to overdo it.

Related: about that Ferrari SUV.

Uber slapped with suit by 45 Phila. taxi companies

Erin Arvedlund:

A group of 45 Philadelphia taxi companies filed suit in federal court Tuesday alleging that Uber, the app-based taxi enterprise, is waging unfair competition against medallion owners who must operate under state laws and regulations.
 Lead litigant Checker Cab Philadelphia and the other cab operators accused Uber of racketeering.
 “Not since the days of bootlegging has there been a criminal enterprise so brazen and open as to attract hundreds of millions of dollars in investment from investment bankers and to operate in blatant violation of federal and state law as Uber,” reads the complaint. The case was filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
 Checker Cab Philadelphia and the plaintiffs group sued Uber; its chief executive officer, Travis Kalanick; Delaware-registered entities tied to Uber; and Google Ventures, which has invested $258 million in Uber.


Noticeably missing from his array of transportation options: a car

Janet Moore:

Consider Jake Gau a multimodal millennial.
 On chillier mornings, the 25-year-old rehabilitation aide hops on the No. 30 bus in northeast Minneapolis bound for his job at the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Golden Valley. On warmer days, he pedals his mountain bike westward to work.
 Noticeably missing from his array of transportation options: a car. And that’s just fine with him.
 Much of the millennial generation — roughly 77 million Americans born between 1983 and 2000 — is decidedly lukewarm when it comes to Americans’ century-long love affair with the automobile. They appear to prefer biking, walking, taking mass transit and sharing cars, exhibiting behavior that could have a profound effect on transportation and land-use policies for years to come.

Thoughts on CarPlay


Ok, so I have been using carplay daily since the software update first came out for my Pioneer headunit at the beginning of October. I have played with every type of aftermarket Carplay headunit on the market, and have used my own headunit (the 4000-NEX) in my convertible Miata since the start. Here are my thoughts on Carplay as a solution to car infotainment, the performance of the various types of head units, my gripes, what Apple got right, and my hopes for future improvement.

The Conventional Wisdom On Oil Is Always Wrong

Ben Casselman:

In 2008, I moved to Dallas to cover the oil industry for The Wall Street Journal. Like any reporter on a new beat, I spent months talking to as many experts as I could. They didn’t agree on much. Would oil prices — then over $100 a barrel for the first time — keep rising? Would post-Saddam Iraq ever return to the ranks of the world’s great oil producers? Would China overtake the U.S. as the world’s top consumer? A dozen experts gave me a dozen different answers.
 But there was one thing pretty much everyone agreed on: U.S. oil production was in permanent, terminal decline. U.S. oil fields pumped 5 million barrels of crude a day in 2008, half as much as in 1970 and the lowest rate since the 1940s. Experts disagreed about how far and how fast production would decline, but pretty much no mainstream forecaster expected a change in direction.

Top truckmakers operated cartel for 14 years, says EU

Andy Sharman:

Europe’s biggest truckmakers operated a cartel over 14 years going back to 1997 that held up the progress of emissions-reducing technology, according to leaked documents seen by the Financial Times.

EU officials carried out raids on several truckmakers in 2011, kicking off an antitrust investigation that led to a charge sheet being sent last month to the main manufacturers.

A statement of objections document states the scale and longevity of collusion alleged to have taken place between January 1997 and January 2011. It involved DAF, Daimler, Iveco, Scania, Volvo, which also owns Renault trucks, and MAN, the whistleblower in the case.

“All competitors participated directly and throughout the full duration in all the constituent elements of the cartel,” the document said.

Officials had previously indicated only that the alleged cartel was “very old”, involved a “large number” of companies and peaked about a decade ago.

The document also states the truckmakers “agreed the timing and price increase levels for the introduction of new emission technologies” to comply with tougher Euro 3 rules on nitrogen oxide and other emissions in 2000.

How Ford plans to sell cars when nobody wants to own one

Rick Newman:

Ford (F), like other automakers, worries about the sharing economy and the reluctance of younger consumers to commit to big purchases like a car. “They’re becoming increasingly commitment-averse,” Sheryl Connelly, Ford’s futurist, tells me in the video above. “The future of the automobile will be tied to new models of ownership.”
 That augurs an intensifying battle to get consumers’ attention and find new ways to profit from them without a direct sale. Ford has started by partnering with Zipcar, which promotes the affordability of renting cars only when you need them, compared with the cost of outright ownership. And Zipcar offers trendy models from the likes of Audi, BMW, Mazda and Volkswagen rather than the duds found in most rental fleets. Zipcar’s offerings include the Ford Focus and Escape SUV, giving Ford exposure among trendsetting urbanites who favor an occasional ride over owning.
 But Ford must also find new ways to interest urbanites in car ownership, especially now that city living is popular again and many burgs are rapidly gaining population. Might it subsidize parking to alleviate a big part of the monthly cost of owning a car? Could Ford run its own vehicle-sharing fleets in big cities? Could automakers offer a form of time-sharing, with several people each owning a portion of a car?

The Charge of the Battery Brigade

Autoline (video):

As the auto industry continues to explore new and different ways to power cars and trucks, engineers keep coming back to the good old battery. With the days of GM’s EV1 seeming like ancient history even though it’s only about 20 years old or so, today’s batteries are light years better. And on today’s panel John McElroy is joined by three experts: Ann Marie Sastry from Sakti3, LG’s Prabhakar Patil and Brett Smith from the Center for Automotive Research.

Via Steve Crandall.

The Future of Cars Looks Very Different: Forget Power and Symbolism, Auto Are Becoming Communication and Utility Tools

Joseph White:

“I’ve never seen anything like this car,” said Mr. Munro, who has been analyzing auto designs and costs at his Michigan company Munro & Associates Inc. for 26 years.

The i3 has a long way to before it achieves the market success of BMW’s 3-series, which is expected to top 500,000 sales world-wide this year, and sales success is still what matters most in the car business.

But the era ahead will be defined by more than growth. This is where the BMW i3 comes in. The vehicle isn’t just the carbon fiber, clamshelll doors or two-tone color schemes that make this car unique. The i3 points to a very different way of balancing the risks of innovation.

The i3 shuns the industry’s piece-cost approach, taking instead a life-of-the-car-and-beyond view. The car’s batteries are designed with simple plugs that should allow them to be easily reusable for such things as storing energy generated by solar panels once their life powering the car is done.

“This car makes money,” Mr. Munro says, something he doesn’t say about other electric or plug-in vehicles.

The i3’s advanced electronics points to another important trend. The i3 is a car for a digitally connected, urban environment in which cars will be expected to think and act for themselves.

Cars are transforming into digital devices. The latest infotainment systems use high-powered chips adapted from the gaming industry to deliver bright, dynamic displays that could help drivers anticipate and avoid accidents.

BMW i3 Teardown & Benchmark Study.

The i3 Long Bet.

The repo man now hunts on social media

Arlena Sawyers:

“Finding people in today’s market is really not that tough,” Sookazian said on the sidelines of a panel discussion at Auto Remarketing magazine’s Used Car Week event here last month. The discussion was about the state of the auto finance industry.
 “People post where the wedding is, where the reception is, and how we took a trip. You’ll see a lot of interesting information on these public websites,” he said.
 But even if social sleuthing is legal, some common social media practices, such as “friending” someone on Facebook to find a person’s whereabouts, could be perceived as deceptive and violate the Federal Trade Commission Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, he cautioned.

 – Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

“will be paid solely by a percentage of revocation reinstatement fees collected pursuant to this program”

Providence Journal:

Motor Vehicle Solutions (MVS), of South Carolina, was selected as the vendor for this program after an extensive procurement process and will be paid solely by a percentage of revocation reinstatement fees collected pursuant to this program. This is a completely self-funded program with no additional cost to taxpayers. Therefore, fees will not be impacted.
 All insurance companies authorized to write automobile liability policies in Rhode Island have been registered with the MVS database and are required to report accurate information on insured policyholders monthly. The DMV will also report information on all actively registered vehicles to the same database.
 If an actively registered vehicle does not have an associated insurance policy, that vehicle will be flagged and a notice will be mailed to the owner to indicate that he or she is required to obtain insurance. If, after 30 days, the owner has not obtained insurance, a second notice will be sent. If the customer continues to not comply with the law, the DMV will revoke the registration of the vehicle and block the customer’s ability to obtain or renew a license or registration in Rhode Island.

Herb Chambers, Auto Dealer Extraordinaire, Will Never Retire

Bill Griffith:

He remembers the “All Sales Final” notes taped to the cash register. “That was to prevent folks from buying something like a screwdriver for a minor repair, then returning it,” says Chambers. “That’s how poor folks were. We grew up watching every penny.”
 It’s a lesson about people and retailing that he’s been able to use in reverse in his 54 (and counting) dealerships.
 “One thing I don’t like about the automobile business is that the people who can afford to pay the most often pay the least,” he says. “A professional litigator, for example, is going to drive out with a better deal than the average person, who might not be as articulate. I don’t know how to fix that in the new-car business, but I’ve figured out how to do it with used cars.”
 His solution: A fixed price on used cars combined with a liberal return policy—one used not long ago by the late Thomas Menino, former mayor of Boston.
 “The price is fixed, and if you’re not happy with your purchase for any reason, you can return it within five days for a full refund,” he says.
 Further, for an additional 25 days, the buyer can return the vehicle for an equal credit toward another vehicle as long as it hasn’t been driven more than 1,500 miles and is still in the same shape as when it was bought. (Note: there are some exclusions on high-end and performance vehicles).

Apps & Car Buyers

Macro Insider:

Cathie Wood, chief executive of ARK Investment Management, is amongst the developing band of investment pros expecting a important behavioural shift among the vehicle-buying public. “Thanks to web-enabled solutions such as Zipcar, Uber and Lyft, household autos are beginning to really feel like the stranded assets they are: high in expense but employed on typical only four per cent of the time in a 24-hour day,” she mentioned.The realisation of such by buyers could at some point prove costly for carmakers.
 Specialist automotive consulting property AlixPartners says that every car in a auto-sharing network represents about 32 scrapped decisions to get.ARK Investment Management, meanwhile, says that a rise in automobile-sharing to five per cent of all journeys could just about halve US auto sales. At this early stage, the projections stay a little nebulous and like-for-like comparisons amongst auto sales and vehicle-share figures are particularly complicated. But it is clear a trend is gathering momentum and there seems to be no shortage of backers keen to tap the austerity zeitgeist.

Mining Silicon Valley for must-have car tech

Shiraz Ahmed:

The hackathon is hosted by the Autotech Council, a group formed in 2012 to bring automakers and suppliers together and connect them to startups from around the Bay Area. One of the most recent members is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which in early 2014 appointed an emissary to Silicon Valley.
 With FCA’s arrival, every major automaker is now invested to some degree in the global epicenter of digital technology.
 Most European car companies arrived in the first boom of the 1990s; Asian automakers followed at the turn of the century; and U.S. automakers, within the past several years, have established presences.

The 100-Year-Old Electric Car

Jay Leno:

All the current interest in hybrids and other vehicles with some sort of alternative powertrain is kind of amusing to me. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for pursuing other ways to power cars. (Click here to visit Jay’s Green Garage!) But I smile because I’ve owned three alternative energy cars for years. The newest was built in 1925; the oldest, 1909. Each one is a rolling manifestation of a brilliant idea. Sadly, they were all way ahead of their time and all three makes failed.
 My Baker Electric dates back nearly 100 years — and it’s a late model. By then, the company had been selling electrics for more than a decade. Unlike other early cars, the Baker Electric needed no cranking, had no gasoline smell and was essentially maintenance-free. Not surprisingly, it was marketed to women. The interior of my Baker is rather froufrou, complete with a little makeup kit. Even though it’s almost a century old, the car drives totally silently — like any modern electric vehicle. In fact, when I take it up into the hills, I have to be extra careful of deer. They usually just stand there and look in the windows, which makes the Baker my wife Mavis’s favorite car.
 I also own what can be con­sidered an ancestor of today’s hybrids, an Owen Magnetic. First seen at the auto show in New York City in 1915 — just about the time that Baker Electric gave it up — the Owen Magnetic has a gas engine and an electric generator.
 This drivetrain was the brainchild of George Westinghouse. The engine powers the generator, which creates a large magnetic force field be-tween the engine and drivewheels. There’s no mechanical transmission. The driver moves a rheostat through four quadrants — a lot easier than shifting, and grinding, the straight-cut gears of the day — and the car moves ahead progressively, giving occupants that odd feeling you get when you try to push similar-pole magnets against each other. Both Enrico Caruso and John McCormack drove Owen Magnetics.
 Owens were expensive and really sophisticated. They had an advanced, 24-volt electrical system when most cars had only 6 volts. And Owen Magnetics had a black box called “the brain.” There’s a big warning label right on it that reads, “Do not attempt to fix this or alter it. Only the factory can do this.” Of course, the factories were located in Cleveland and Wilkes-Barre, Pa. That was a big help. And so the Owen Magnetic failed in 1921.
 My newest alternative fuel car is a 1925 Doble steamer. When it was built, it seemed that Abner Doble had solved all the problems that plagued steam cars of the day. Before the Doble, you had to be part engineer, part plumber to drive a steamer. First, the boiler had to be lit off with a blowtorch; then it took time — and more time — for the steam to build up enough pressure to do anything.
 When he was only 19, Doble surprised the Stanley brothers, of Stanley Steamer fame, by inventing a modern condenser for his first steam car. The car uses 525 ft. of steel coil (the height of a 50-story office building) and one spark plug. Turn the key and an electric motor forces air up through a venturi, then through a carburetor, which throws gasoline in the middle of the huge coil, and the spark ignites it. The real genius is that in the bottom of the boiler there’s a metal tray with a row of quartz rods. As heat increases, the tray expands, pushing the rods forward and shutting off the burner. As everything cools, the quartz rods contract and the burner cycles on again. It’s dead reliable. Thanks to the Doble’s astronomical torque, something like 1000 lb.-ft., there’s no need for a clutch or transmission, and the car can go nearly 100 mph. And — get this — my Doble even meets today’s emissions standards. Because it’s a closed system, with 2 million BTU, combustion is complete: It burns everything.

Google Seeks Partners for Self-Driving Car

Joseph White & Rolfe Winkler:

Google Inc. is looking for auto industry partners to bring its vision of a self-driving car to market within the next five years, the head of the software giant’s autonomous-vehicle project said Friday.
 “We don’t particularly want to become a car maker,” Chris Urmson, the project’s director, said in an interview. “We are talking [with] and looking for partners.”
 Mr. Urmson said his team, in the meantime, is working with automotive suppliers to build a fleet of more-advanced, “beta one” prototype Google cars, moving three generations beyond the stripped-down models shown last spring. Google plans to start on-road testing of these cars early in 2015.

Via Oliver Bruce.

“practically van dim sum”

Dan Neil:

SEXY FARRIER. In this dream I wear a leather apron and no pants. I drive around in my Ford Transit full-size cargo van that has been converted into a mobile smithing shop, with one of those propane-powered miniforges in the back. Thanks to the best-in-class cargo height of the High Roof model (81.4 inches) I can stand to my full, strapping height, forearms glistening. I travel the countryside, shoeing horses and attending to the equestrian needs of the lady of the house. Neigh.
 Between the Ford Transit and the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, there’s a lot to love about vans. WSJ’s Dan Neil discusses on Lunch Break with Tanya Rivero. Photo: Ford
 Surf chaser. We are in Costa Rica. Naturally, I will have converted my Mercedes-Benz Sprinter diesel into a botanical greenhouse/pirate radio station. Me and my old lady Fern go where the waves go, eating mangoes grown in the cup holders, and we are followed everywhere by our trained dolphin. Let’s call him Antiocles.

Porsche 718 ‘baby Boxster’ project cancelled

Jim Holder:

Müller told German newspaper Handelsblatt: “I can imagine that such a modern version of the famous ‘James Dean’ Porsche would be well received by our customers.” He also said that the new model would not be retro-styled.
 The Porsche was at that time expected to be based on a new mid-engined aluminium and steel platform being developed by Audi which was also set to be used for the proposed Audi R4 roadster. However, that project was also cancelled, leaving the baby Porsche’s chances of making production very slim.
 The engine range would have been drawn from the new flat-four engines Porsche has in production. These will be rolled out on the facelifted Boxster and Cayman ranges in 2015. The engine is understood to produce around 400bhp in turbocharged form.

The World’s Biggest Car Company Wants to Get Rid of Gasoline

Brian Bremner, Craig Trudell, and Yuki Hagiwara:

The first thing you notice about the Mirai, Toyota’s new $62,000, four-door family sedan, is that it’s no Camry, an international symbol of bland conformity. First there are the in-your-face, angular grilles on the car’s front end. These deliver air to (and cool) a polymer fuel-cell stack under the hood. Then there’s the wavy, layered sides, meant to evoke a droplet of water. It looks like it was driven off the set of the Blade Runner sequel.
 Just as the Prius has established itself as the first true mass-market hybrid, Toyota hopes the Mirai will one day become the first mass-market hydrogen car. On sale in Japan on Dec. 15, it will be available in the U.S. and Europe in late 2015 and has a driving range of 300 miles, much farther than most plug-in electrics can go. It also runs on the most abundant element in the universe and emits only heat and water—and none of the gases that lead to smog or contribute to global warming. “This is not an alternative to a gasoline vehicle,” says Scott Samuelsen, an engineer and director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California at Irvine. “This is a quantum step up.”
 The Mirai is hardly a speedster, though it’s quicker than a Prius. It can reach 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour in 9.6 seconds. When you punch it, the car feels like an electric—there’s none of the vibration of a combustion engine. Driving the Mirai around a large, man-made island in Tokyo Bay called Odaiba is a little surreal. The interior is a Zen sanctuary of silence, save for the rush of wind passing around the vehicle and the occasional muffled sound of the suspension doing its work. The car can double as a mobile power station: A socket in the trunk can electrify the typical Japanese home for about a week in the event of an earthquake or other emergency.

Apple Global SIM Could Drive Connected Cars

Dan Jones:

With the furor this year about the consumer benefits of the Apple global SIM card arriving in the iPad, the implications for future connected car and Internet of Things (IoT) applications with the card haven’t been so highlighted.
 A Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) is a smartcard used to store a subscriber’s number and plan details and identify the carrier associated with the card via the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) details. They’re typically locked to a particular carrier.
 The Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) Global SIM in the iPad 2 and iPad Mini 3 is supposed to let users switch between different carriers in the US and the UK through software on the card. In the US, however, that whole process got a bit borked: Verizon Wireless isn’t participating, and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) locks the card to its network when the service is activated. (See iPad Air 2 Lets Users Switch Carriers Any Time.)

Defense Bill Also Incentivizes Fracked Gas Vehicles

Steve Horn:

DeSmogBlog recently revealed how Big Oil’s lobbyists snuck expedited permitting for hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) on public lands into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2015, which passed in the U.S. House and Senate and now awaits President Barack Obama’s signature.
 A follow-up probe reveals that the public lands giveaway was not the only sweetheart deal the industry got out of the pork barrel bill. The NDAA also included a provision that opened the floodgates for natural gas vehicles (NGVs) in the U.S. — cars that would largely be fueled by gas obtained via fracking.

Google aiming to go straight into car with next Android


The move is a major step up from Google’s current Android Auto software, which comes with the latest version of its smartphone operating system and requires a phone to be plugged into a compatible car with a built-in screen to access streaming music, maps and other apps. The first such vehicles will debut in 2015.
 Google, however, has never provided details or a timeframe for its long-term plan to put Android Auto directly into cars. The company now plans to do so when it rolls out the next version of its operating system, dubbed Android M, expected in a year or so, two people with knowledge of the matter said.
 The sources declined to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the plans publicly.
 “It provides a much stronger foothold for Google to really be part of the vehicle rather than being an add-on,” said Thilo Koslowski, vice president and Automotive Practice Leader of industry research firm Gartner, who noted that he was unaware of Google’s latest plans in this area.

China Auto Dealers Group Pushes to End Unilateral Targets


China’s auto dealers are proposing that the government prohibit automakers from dictating the number of cars they sell and extend the duration of distribution contracts to stem losses in the industry.
 The recommendations were made by the China Auto Dealers Chamber of Commerce in response to a request for feedback from the Commerce Ministry, which is reviewing industry rules that were first implemented in 2005. Two calls to the ministry’s press office weren’t answered, while the dealer group didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
 “The existing rules are no longer suitable for today’s conditions, given the shift from a market where demand outstripped supply to one where there’s insufficient demand and an excess of capacity,” the group said in its submission to the ministry, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News. “Weakening the manufacturers’ absolute hold over dealerships will restore balance and promote the healthy development of the industry.”


“who oversees strategy affecting more than 100 models across the multi-brand group”


Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn has heralded “painful” cutbacks including steps to cease making non-profitable models and trim R&D costs at the VW brand where car sales in November suffered their biggest monthly drop this year.
 VW will replace its head of product management, Klaus-Gerhard Wolpert, who oversees strategy affecting more than 100 models across the multi-brand group, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday on condition they not be identified because the matter is confidential.
 Germany’s Manager Magazin reported Wolpert’s pending dismissal on Wednesday, citing unidentified members of top management. VW declined to comment.
 A former top-level manager at Porsche, Wolpert has been at the helm of product management at the VW group since October 2010. He replaced Matthias Mueller who quit Wolfsburg-based VW to become CEO of Stuttgart-based Porsche.

Here’s how electric cars could be cheaper than gas guzzlers within a decade

Steven LeVine:

One thing confounding the much-delayed electric car revolution is that its antagonist—the gasoline engine—is a moving target. Under dogged pressure from electric competitors and government emissions standards, the combustion engine keeps becoming more efficient, making it harder for electrics to compete on price. In its 2040 outlook last week, ExxonMobil—admittedly not a company that is predisposed to be bullish on electric vehicles—cast doubt on whether electrics will make much headway for the next quarter century.
 But there is a counter-argument: The internal combustion engine’s dominance is actually almost over. Over the next decade, the cost of electric and combustion vehicles will more or less equal out, Deutsche Bank analyst Rod Lache writes in a new note to clients. Electrics could even be cheaper than combustion vehicles, Lache writes, which could “serve as a catalyst for significant expansion” of electric car sales.

Urban Miners Drill Under London to Keep Your Tesla Going

Rachel Morison & Isis Almeids:

Demand for power in the British capital will climb more than 5 percent by the end of this decade, versus 2 percent in Paris and a drop of 1 percent in New York. National Grid Plc, the power-network operator, is spending almost 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion) on the project; the expanded use of electric heating and transportation and the proliferation of skyscrapers mean consumption may rise as much as 60 percent by mid-century.
 London’s households use less than half the electricity of those in the U.S., according to Enerdata Information Services, a Grenoble, France-based research company. The gap will narrow because of the increased demand and expansion of low-carbon power generation.
 “We really are in the center of the U.K.’s economic recovery,” Matthew Pencharz, energy adviser to mayor Boris Johnson, said in an interview at City Hall. “Concurrent with that is a huge increase for power, particularly as we seek to electrify our transport and as more of our heating is done by power.”

Possible changes in Europe’s diesel landscape

Jim Holder:

Speaking in the wake of major cities, including London and Paris, indicating they could ban diesel cars from built-up areas, Robertson cautioned that the 2020 target of 95g/km of CO2 for all car makers, plus the introduction of Euro 6 legislation, had already placed a major burden on car makers.
 “We need to make sure there is careful consideration in any legislation,” said Robertson. “The temptation for legislators is to set an ambitious target, but there has to be a clear path to how we reach those targets, otherwise everyone suffers.
 “To reach the 95g/km target we need pure electric vehicles, but to sell pure electric vehicles we need governments to provide the infrastructure and to incentivise the technology. All that takes time, not two or three years.”

Ghost Car Navigation


Jaguar Land Rover reveals its ‘360 Virtual Urban Windscreen’ research, which uses transparent roof pillars to give the driver a 360o view outside the car
 To aid navigation on busy urban roads, a ghost car could be projected in front of the car for the driver to follow.
 The concept uses future Heads-Up Display technology to provide information to keep the driver’s eyes on the road and reduce distraction

Iowa to launch smartphone driver’s license

William Petroski:

Iowans will soon be able to use a mobile app on their smartphones as their official driver’s license issued by the Iowa Department of Transportation.
 The app, which will be provided to drivers at no additional cost, will be available sometime in 2015, DOT Director Paul Trombino told Gov. Terry Branstad during a state agency budget hearing Monday.
 “We are really moving forward on this,” Trombino said. “The way things are going, we may be the first in the nation.”
 People will still be able to stick a traditional plastic driver’s license in their wallet or purse if they choose, Trombino said. But the new digital license, which he described as “an identity vault app,” will be accepted by Iowa law enforcement officers during traffic stops and by security officers screening travelers at Iowa’s airports, he said.

Uber Sued by Portland, Oregon, in Bid to Block Operations

Karen Gullo:

The city of Portland, Oregon, sued to stop Uber Technologies Ltd. from operating three days after it started there, joining other cities including Rio de Janeiro and New Delhi where officials have moved this month to block the mobile car-booking company.
 Uber violates city laws because it and its drivers don’t have permits to operate, according to a complaint filed by Portland today in state court in Multnomah County. The complaint, a copy of which was provided by the city, couldn’t immediately be verified in court records.
 The service has grown rapidly since starting in San Francisco in 2010. It’s now available in more than 250 cities around the world and last week raised $1.2 billion in funding, increasing the company’s $17 billion valuation in June to $40 billion.

Easy credit dries up buy-here, pay-here business, dealer says

Arlena Sawyer:

Dealers and lenders insist that there is no subprime bubble in automotive financing. And the numbers back them up.
 On the other hand, the anecdotal evidence indicates that consumers with subprime credit who are looking for a car or truck have more options than they did a few years ago.
 Just ask Ingram Walters.
 In a world of cheap and easily available credit, many of Walters’ buy-here, pay-here customers have disappeared.
 Walters thinks they are alive, well and buying vehicles with traditional financing at new- and used-car dealerships that specialize in used vehicles younger than the 6- to 7-year-old vehicles he typically sells at his icars used-car lot in Monroe, N.C.

Lender group says CFPB rule would burden smaller players

Jim Henry:

In seeking to extend its jurisdiction over “nonbank” auto lenders — including captive finance companies and independent finance companies — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is reaching for lenders that are too small, the American Financial Services Association said Monday.
 “The threshold the CFPB proposes for larger participants in the automobile finance market is too low,” AFSA, a lenders trade group in Washington that includes many auto lenders, said in a statement sent directly to the CFPB during a public-comment period on the proposed change in the bureau’s rules.
 For smaller players, greater regulation by the CFPB would drive up the cost of compliance disproportionately, and that could drive some smaller lenders out of auto finance, the association said. In addition, more regulation would likely raise the retail cost of credit and restrict consumer access to credit, the group said.

China Internet Company Seeks License to Make Electric Car


A Chinese video website operator is applying for a license to produce electric vehicles in the world’s largest auto market, as the government prepares a policy to open auto manufacturing to non-carmakers.
 Leshi Internet Information & Technology (Beijing) Co. (300104), which streams dramas including NBC’s “The Blacklist” on its website, has spent the past year developing an EV with the ambition of helping China upend traditional auto industry leaders like the U.S., Europe, Japan and South Korea while cutting pollution, according to the Beijing-based company.
 “This is our dream and passion,” Chairman and President Jia Yueting, 41, said in an interview by e-mail, without elaborating on when the car will be available for sale. “Look at China’s skies, all responsible corporate citizens want to do something about it. This is the truth.”

Report: Renault/Nissan develops < EUR 3.500 car

Maxine Amiot:

Le constructeur étudie le lancement d’une gamme de quatre petits modèles à très bas coûts dont le premier sera lancé cet été en Inde aux alentours de 3.500 euros. Une décision doit être prise début 2015 pour un lancement en Europe avec une production à Tanger, au Maroc.
 C’est la seconde étape du pari de Renault dans le low cost. Dix ans après avoir lancé la Logan, le constructeur étudie la commercialisation de non pas une, mais quatre voitures « ultra-low cost », à des prix démarrant autour de 3.500 euros dans certains pays émergents. Une offensive basée sur une nouvelle plate-forme, commune avec Nissan, baptisée CMFA, qui servira de base à l’ensemble des véhicules de moins de quatre mètres des deux constructeurs.

Related: Logan.
 Via Bertel Schmitt.

It Turns Out That Millennials Do Drive

Eric Jaffe:

It’s become an uncontested truth that young Americans dislike driving, and indeed, Millennials do seem more fond of public transportation than their elders are. But a new Census tool comparing 18-to-34 year olds now and in the past raises questions about just how much things have changed. In many major U.S. metro areas, young people today drive to work as often as they did in 1980, if not more.
 Late last week, the Census released “Young Adults: Then and Now,” an interactive map outlining social trends among 18-to-34 year olds at four different moments: 1980, 1990, 2000, and today (more precisely, the 2009-2013 American Community Survey). One of those trends highlights the share of this population that gets to work by car. Using the raw data, we took the 25 most-populated metros today and compared commuting figures of Millennials to those of young people circa 1980.
 First, a quick frame of reference for the country as a whole. In 1980, 83.8 percent of young Americans got to work in a car or a carpool. Today, 84.5 percent of Millennials say the same. That’s a very modest rise in the share of young adults driving to work—and it’s a drop from figures in 1990 (85.6 percent) and 2000 (86.7 percent)—but it’s an increase nonetheless.

Tracking miles as gas tax alternative raises fairness, privacy concerns

Dan Weikel:

Standing at a Chevron station in Long Beach, Teresa Gutierrez wished she was pumping fuel into a gas-sipping hybrid instead of her hulking GMC Yukon.
 She was nevertheless cool to the idea that the state might start raising money for highway repairs by replacing the traditional gasoline tax with a fee based on how far people drive. Penalizing owners of hybrids and electric cars doesn’t feel right, Gutierrez said. “It defeats their green purpose.”
 Jesus Velez also objected as he filled the 28-gallon tank of his Lincoln Navigator. Then he realized that owners of higher-mileage cars buy far less fuel, and therefore pay far less in gas taxes. A per-mile fee “would make it fairer for everyone,” he concluded.

Ford announces lifetime capped-price servicing

Malcolm Flynn:

Ford Australia is aiming to boost the satisfaction of its customers with a significantly revised approach to new car sales and servicing.
 Having benchmarked innovative – but non-automotive – brands like Starbucks and Apple, the Blue Oval brand intends to make its ownership experience easier and more fun, and challenge the likes of Toyota for ownership benefits.
 From February, Ford’s existing seven-year capped-price servicing plan will expand to cover the lifetime of all Ford models built since 2007 – removing much of the guesswork from the cost of car ownership.
 The move follows Ford’s recent introduction of capped price brake pad replacement, which has also reduced the average cost brake pad replacement by 25 per cent.

VW aims to leapfrog Tesla, Nissan with new battery technology

Geoffrey Smith:

Volkswagen AG VLKPY 1.52% has opened a new front in its campaign to close the gap on rivals Tesla Motors Inc. TSLA -2.00% and Nissan Motor Co. NSANY 1.02% in the field of electric vehicles, buying a stake in battery developer QuantumScape Corp., according to Bloomberg News.
 The news agency said VW, the world’s largest automaker, had bought a 5% stake in the company through its VW, with options to raise its stake, citing people familiar with the matter. Neither company confirmed the news to Bloomberg, and neither replied immediately to requests for comment by Fortune.
 QuantumScape, based in San Jose and privately-owned, is aiming to develop a different kind of battery technology that Bloomberg said could triple the range of VW’s existing Electric Vehicles and offer better safety performance.
 There are few publicly-available details about the company, whose website appears to consist of little more than a homepage. On LinkedIn, the company says it “seeks to change the paradigm in energy storage by developing a completely new class of electrical energy device.”


Carmakers hit the gas as China slows

Hans Greimel:

“There is a potential for capacity issues as we go forward,” GM China President Matt Tsien conceded on the sidelines of October’s Global Automotive Forum in this central China manufacturing hub.
 But like many execs, Tsien predicted it would be rival companies feeling the squeeze, not his own.
 “Our investment, in view of the potential and the growth of this market, we believe is well-placed,” he maintained.
 China’s once blistering sales pace is cooling rapidly.
 For the first 10 months, total vehicle sales rose 7 percent to 18.99 million units, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said. That compares with a 14 percent gain for all of 2013.
 Sales rose just 3 percent in September — their smallest gain in 19 months — and 3 percent again in October.

“equipped with a system that warns the driver of red light or radar-controlled cameras”

Ed Wallace:

One thing that continues to go backwards in 2014 is the extreme complexity of onboard infotainment and navigation systems in automobiles. Manufacturers continue to cram more apps and features into these systems, but so far most haven’t come up with a safe, simple way to operate them while driving.
 The industry claims that it’s going to deliver self-driving cars within the decade that will work flawlessly, but this inability to deliver driver-safety-friendly current technology doesn’t bode well for such long-term plans. As written before, some of these systems require going to two, three or more screens on the center panel before clicking on two or more sub-chapters and then actually making the adjustments one desires. The foolishness of this is that in the past, the car could do the exact same thing if the driver pushed only one button and then turned that knob.

Tesla’s electric man JB Straubel is charged with more than electrifying the Californian carmaker. He wants to take batteries to a new dimension

The Economist:

PUT your foot down in a Tesla Model S and the experience is rather different to other cars. The usual exhaust roar is replaced by a hushed whooshing sound as the car accelerates rapidly—and relentlessly—thanks to the high torque of an electric motor making gear changes unnecessary because there is no gearbox. And inside, instead of multiple dials and switches, a large touchscreen dominates the centre console. Established carmakers have tended to make modest electric vehicles, usually small ones to eke out the range available from their pricey batteries. But it was Tesla, a Silicon Valley startup, which realised that many early adopters of new technologies are likely to be well heeled and would prefer a large high-performance saloon that is both luxurious and extremely high-tech.
 Why did Tesla act differently? For a start, it does not think of itself as a carmaker. “I see us more as an energy-innovation company,” says Jeffrey “JB” Straubel, the firm’s chief technology officer, and one of the co-founders of Tesla, along with Elon Musk, the chief executive. “If we can reduce energy-storage prices, it’s the most important thing we can do to make electric vehicles more prevalent,” says Mr Straubel. “Add in renewable power and I have a direct line of sight towards an entire economy that doesn’t need fossil fuels and doesn’t need to pay more to do it.”

Why Elon Musk’s Batteries Scare the Hell Out of the Electric Company

Mark Chediak:

In California, where 40 percent of the nation’s plug-in cars have been sold, about half of electric vehicle owners have solar or want to install it, according to a February survey by the Center for Sustainable Energy, a green-energy advocate. More than 100,000 plug-ins have been sold in California, according to data from and Baum & Associates, though EVs make up less than 1 percent of all U.S. car sales.
 Few homes and businesses use solar and back-up-battery storage, proof for some utilities that the systems remain a hard sell outside of states like California or markets like Hawaii where high power costs make solar competitive.
 Still, the Edison Electric Institute, a trade group representing America’s investor-owned utilities, recently announced that its members will help to encourage electric vehicle use by spending $50 million annually to buy plug-in service trucks and invest in car-charging technology.
 “Advancing plug-in electric vehicles and technologies is an industry priority,” said EEI President Thomas Kuhn.

More Borrowers Fall Behind on Car Payments, Report Shows


In a presentation on Wednesday, Experian said the balance of loans that were 60 days delinquent increased 27 percent, to roughly $4 billion, in the third quarter from the same period a year ago.
 Signs of trouble in the market come after a significant increase in lending to people with damaged credit and limited financial means.
 Analysts have warned that a loosening of underwriting standards for subprime auto loans could cause widespread losses in the financial system because much of the debt has been securitized and bought by investors around the globe.
 Some of the highest delinquency rates in the quarter are concentrated across the South in Mississippi, South Carolina and Alabama. North Dakota had the lowest delinquency rate.
 Finance companies, which tend to focus more on subprime customers than traditional banks, had the largest increases in delinquencies in the third quarter

The End of America’s Love Affair With Route 66

Laura Bliss:

Today, Route 66 is yet another decommissioned U.S. highway, mostly crumbling, partly inaccessible. Yet the 2,400 miles winding from Chicago to Los Angeles once connected hundreds of the West’s small towns, opening them to travelers like never before. What brought the decline of “America’s Main Street”?
 On view through January 4 at L.A.’s Autry Museum, the exhibit Route 66: the Road and the Romance reveals a complicated story with extraordinary objects, from Kerouac’s original On The Road scroll to a jukebox filled with 120 renditions of “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66.”
 Born in 1926 out of the Good Roads Movement (a push for improved national highways championed by bicyclists and city boosters), Route 66 was among the original highways of the U.S. system. “Highways in the early 20th century were designed to connect urban and rural communities, and break the monopoly of the railroads,” says Jeffrey Richardson, Gamble Curator of Western History, Popular Culture, and Firearms at the Autry. “With its strange, sickle-cut path, Route 66 did just that.”


Dealers offer better hours, but still see high sales turnover, NADA study finds

Jamie LaReau:

U.S. car dealerships are making progress in offering employees a better work-life balance, but continue to face challenges in retaining sales staff and recruiting women.
 Those were some key findings in the National Automobile Dealers Association’s third annual Dealership Workforce Study released today. Its findings are based on data collected from more than 240,000 payroll records last year.
 “The report shows a growth industry with strong earning opportunity in a challenging work environment,” said Ted Kraybill, president of ESI Trends, the Largo, Fla., firm that compiled the study for the NADA.
 The median weekly earnings at dealerships outpaced those of the overall U.S. private sector workforce, and while the industry is “often characterized as a ‘high-turnover’ work environment, actual turnover at new-car dealerships is significantly less than the private-sector average,” Kraybill said.
 Total dealership employee turnover increased from to 36 percent from 35 percent, compared with 42 percent nationally for private sector employees, said the report.


Global 2014 EV Sales

Bertell Schmitt:

Globally, JATO counted a little over 200,000 plug-ins as registered through September 2014. Insideevs figures some 256,000 through November, which is in the ballpark, if a little optimistic.
 At the top of the model list, there is a familiar picture. The Nissan LEAF leads worldwide by a wide margin with nearly 45,000 put on the world’s streets through September 2014. In number 2, a surprise: AWOL stateside, the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid SUV has been a hot seller in markets like Japan, the Netherlands, and the UK. Most of the following top ranks are familiar to the U.S. viewer, except for the Renault Zoe. The Leaf’s French cousin is not available in the U.S., but it is already on place 9 in the global ranking.


Jaguar Mistakes Nostalgia for Emotion

Edward Niedermayer:

This “heritage as a service” concept opens exciting new possibilities to premium car brands seeking greater leverage through their glorious histories, but it also reinforces how dangerously stuck in the past they have become. The risk is that automakers are so focused on baby-boomer-derived profits that they ignore the profound shift in automotive values that will take place when those boomers stop buying cars. This risk is perhaps best exemplified by Bernie Ecclestone, the power behind Formula One racing, who recently argued that the racing series has no reason to attract young fans as they don’t have the money to spend on the products being advertised by the racing series’ luxury-brand sponsors. He’s right: Fifteen-year-olds don’t buy Rolex watches any more than they buy BMWs. But 15-year-olds eventually grow up.
 If cars, whether for racing or the road, are to remain relevant and aspirational, automakers will have to look past short-term profits (see the public’s runaway enthusiasm for Tesla, a clear product of that firm’s prioritization of long-term vision over profitability). The established players have a decade or two to rake in the last of the baby boomers’ cash, but the end of that gold rush is already in sight. Younger generations, brought up in a world transformed by the information revolution, want a similar revolution in mobility. The right exploitation of emotion-conferring heritage might help steal baby boomers from one premium brand to another, but it hardly prepares premium automakers for attracting younger generations in search of a new automotive paradigm.

Battery-breakthrough: Nissan poised to take range off the table

Bertell Schmitt:

According to its CEO Carlos Ghosn, Nissan is putting the final touches on batteries that will double the range of its Leaf EV. A release of the technology, which would be a long sought breakthrough, is said to be only a few years away.
 In a late night interview at Tokyo’s Business News channel, a relentless host pressed Carlos Ghosn for answers about the future of Nissan’s electric vehicle program. Is Nissan working on new batteries? Ghosn: “Yes.” Can you tell us more? Ghosn: “No.” Will the range double? Ghosn: “Yes.” That means more than 400 km? Ghosn: “Yes.”