As he delivered his first detailed vision for the company on Monday, Mark Fields, Ford’s new chief executive, stood between two of the company’s big gambles. To his right at the company’s Investor Day was a new, radically different version of the F150 pick-up truck, part of the F-Series pick-up range that some analysts calculate accounts for 90 per cent of the company’s net income. To his left was a Lincoln MKC, the latest model from the struggling luxury brand on which Mr Fields nevertheless promised to spend $2.5bn by the end of this decade.
If the various gambles inherent in the vehicles around Mr Fields pay off, Ford should be able to grow faster than the wider auto industry over the rest of this decade. It will significantly reduce its dependence on the core North American market and the Ford Credit financing arm. Those two together in recent years have produced more net income than the company as a whole – dragged down by some unprofitable segments – produced.
If the plans go wrong, however, Mr Fields faces more uncomfortable announcements like those that Ford was forced to make alongside its strategic announcements on Monday. The company said pre-tax profits for this year would be around $1.5bn less than previously projected – around $6bn, instead of the previously forecast $7bn to $8bn. The announcement sent the company’s shares tumbling nearly 8 per cent.
Fresh from his $1.3 billion subsidy score in Nevada, billionaire Elon Musk hit it big again last week. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced free public housing and $750 million in government assistance for Mr. Musk’s unprofitable SolarCity.
New York will spend $750 million over two years to build a new plant and buy manufacturing equipment for SolarCity, which already benefits from a federal investment tax credit and state solar-panel rebates. SolarCity leases and installs rooftop solar panels and this summer it bought Bay Area startup Silevo which manufactures high-efficiency solar panels on a small scale. Last year Mr. Cuomo pledged $225 million to refurbish a former steel plant in South Buffalo for Silevo and now he’s sweetened the bargain.
SolarCity will lease the state-owned plant and equipment for $1 per month for 10 years. This will let the company avoid property taxes, which are among the nation’s highest. SolarCity won’t have to pay sales tax on the equipment, and the Governor’s tax reforms this year zeroed out the corporate tax for manufacturers. So SolarCity will effectively operate in New York tax free.
In return SolarCity has agreed to employ 1,460 jobs at the facility for five years, which breaks down to a subsidy of $103,000 a year per head. That’s more than three times Buffalo’s median household income. SolarCity has also promised to spend $5 billion in “combined capital, operational expenses and other costs in the State of New York” over 10 years, if its operation last that long.
Starting at $70,000, the Tesla Model S costs more than twice what Americans spend on the average new car, meaning most people that plain old can’t afford it. This has led some people to take desperate measures, such as repairing a salvage titled Model S, though a San Diego man is learning the hard way that it isn’t quite that easy.
San Diego 6 News reported the plight of Peter Rutman, who spent $50,000 on a damaged Tesla Model S, and then invested another $8,000 into repair it. But when Rutman contacted Tesla about reactivating the car’s complicated software, he says the company wanted him to sign liability waiver that allows the automaker to ultimately determine the car’s roadworthiness. Rutman says the document didn’t say anything about fixing or repairing the car to accept a charge, and that it would allow Tesla to confiscate the vehicle if they felt it wasn’t safe. Rutman refused to sign, and as such says he’s been blacklisted by Tesla stores nationwide, meaning he can’t get parts of technical assistance.
Via Steve Crandall.
If solar power is to become a primary source of electricity around the world, we’ll need cheap ways to store energy from the sun when it isn’t shining. A paper published in the journal Science this week reports a major step toward such a system. Researchers have developed a device that cheaply and efficiently converts the energy in sunlight into hydrogen, which can be used as a fuel and is easily stored.
Michael Graetzel, who directs the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces at the Ecole Polytechnique in Lausanne, Switzerland, along with colleagues in Korea and Singapore, built a device that uses electricity and catalyst materials to make hydrogen and oxygen from water. This new “water splitter,” as such devices are known, is highly efficient, uses cheap and abundant materials, and is easy to make.
Researchers have been pursuing solar-powered water splitting for decades, and while they’ve shown great performance in one or two parts of such a device, no one has built a complete system that’s practical.
GroupThink at Work
Not many readers will remember that, after Ralph Nader exposed legitimate automobile safety concerns back in the mid-60s, General Motors hired private investigators to dig up some dirt it could use to silence him.
GroupThink at Work
Not many readers will remember that, after Ralph Nader exposed legitimate automobile safety concerns back in the mid-60s, General Motors hired private investigators to dig up some dirt it could use to silence him.
Despite Certificate of Entitlement (COE) premiums softening, the profile of cars here has aged dramatically over the first nine months of the year, as the total car population shrank marginally.
Based on latest figures from the Land Transport Authority (LTA), as at Aug 31, there are a total of 619,139 cars on the road. Of these, 165,527 cars are between eight and 10 years old — making up 26.7 per cent of the total car population.
In contrast, cars in this age range made up just 18.7 per cent of the total car population of 621,480 as at Jan 31.
The car population here has been getting older over the past decade or so. For example, in 2007, four in five cars on the road were less than four years old. Currently, the proportion has fallen to less than one in five.
The sign’s message was clear enough: Please Do Not Touch. For some visitors, however, the temptation was too great.
Here at the recent Maker Faire, a traveling festival for technology enthusiasts, people ran their fingers over the car’s ribbed exterior. The bolder ones took a more brazen approach, knocking their fists against the surfaces to see how the material would respond.
One eager young boy, all of about three feet tall, went further, licking a front fender to learn how it tasted. A mortified parent quickly admonished him.
Forget electric cars. The world’s first fully 3D-printed car, Local Motors’ Strati, could spark a revolution
It is like watching the Phoenix — in a modern “real-time” rebirth — rise from its mythical ashes. Or like watching David — if time-lapse photography had existed back when Michelangelo worked his magic — emerge from a mere block of stone. In one contiguous, if only slightly monotonous, 44-hour melding of computer, plastic and laser beams, a company called Local Motors “3D-printed” a car.
Local Pricing & Incentives
Yes, an entire automobile. And not just a cute little plastic model of a car or an artist’s rendering of what a future car might look like, but a complete, full-sized, operational automobile. Having captivated onlookers by printing the basic carcass at the 2014 International Manufacturing Technology Show, Local Motors then added tires, headlights and the powertrain of a Renault Twizy electric car and drove its creation, the Strati, off the floor of Chicago’s McCormick Place convention centre.
Iowa joined a growing list of states tussling with Tesla Motors’ business model when it told the company to cut short three days of test drives earlier this month in West Des Moines.
The Iowa Department of Transportation said the test drives were illegal for two reasons: Tesla isn’t licensed as an auto dealer in Iowa and state law prohibits carmakers from selling directly to the public.
Founded by billionaire inventor Elon Musk, Tesla Motors produces what is widely considered the premier electric car because of its battery life and horsepower.
But Tesla doesn’t sell through traditional franchise dealerships. Customers can buy the Model S online or at one of a handful of Tesla stores around the country.
The German government passed a new law on electromobility, including perks for electric car drivers, such as parking privileges, permission to use bus lanes and special transit access. However, environmentalists are unhappy. EurActiv Germany reports.
A new law on electromobility was approved by the German federal cabinet on Wednesday (24 September).
The new measure is expected to come into effect in early 2015 and is set to expire on 30 June 2030.
Its scope covers battery powered vehicles, as well as especially environmentally friendly, externally chargeable hybrid cars, and fuel cell vehicles.
For plug-in hybrids, carbon dioxide emissions are capped at 50g per kilometre or a minimum 30km range on purely electric power (40km starting in 2018).
Bob Lukefahr & Balu Balagopal:
At Mike Scully’s Apple Towing in Houston, just one of their big Ford F650 tow trucks saves more gasoline each year than 20 Nissan Leaf electric cars. When it comes to reducing carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and other pollutants, Mike’s F650s are equally impressive, and his fuel cost per mile is about the same as that of a four-seat Jeep Wrangler. What is Apple Towing’s secret? The F650 tow trucks run on natural gas, which they refuel for less than $1.70 per gasoline-gallon equivalent, or gge.
PIRA Energy Group estimates that natural gas in transportation will approach 800 million gges this year. Do some simple math and it quickly becomes apparent that natural-gas vehicles (NGVs) will displace 10-12 times more gasoline and diesel than the 250,000 electric cars currently on the road. When complete, Apple Towing’s small fleet of 24 natural-gas tow trucks will displace more gasoline than around 700 Chevy Volts. And here is a nice side benefit: Those Volts would cost federal taxpayers a whopping $5.3 million in subsidies while Mr. Scully’s F650 Fords cost them nothing.
For more than a decade, policy makers and the automotive press have been enamored of electric vehicles, lavishing them with attention and incentives. All this even though when it comes to reducing oil dependence, pollution and fuel cost, the transition of America’s truck fleet to natural gas is the hands-down winner.
In 2011, award-winning ‘art documentary’ photographer Anthony Kurtz was volunteering in Senegal when he saw a clip about a female-owned shop in Dakar on a French television station. “When was the last time I saw a female auto mechanic?… Even in the US!” he wondered.
Thus was born the idea for No Man’s Job, a documentary portrait series that would shed light on women doing the “dirty or tough jobs” performed primarily by men.
The first incarnation of this ongoing series, naturally, turned out to be a feature on the female auto mechanics of Senegal. A friend who works for a women’s organization in Paris introduced him to a Senegalese friend and, before he knew it, he was meeting the women who owned and operated the shops Fatou and Fatou Mercedes, Femmes Auto, and Chicory Mechanique.
Toyota’s on the verge of finally bringing a hydrogen-powered car to market. The problem is that it promises a boring, if innovative, driving experience, for the price middle-aged men pay to have their toupees blown off.
Next year, Toyota will start selling the unimaginatively named FCV (to be fair, Honda had dibs on FCEV). The car will be able to drive 300 miles on nothing but hydrogen, with only water vapor as a byproduct.
In many ways, this is a fantastic time to sell luxury cars. With a bull market boosting household wealth and easy auto credit enabling buyers to upgrade to more expensive vehicles, it’s never been easier for automakers to expand profit margins on the back of brand status. But this also raises fundamental challenge: how to stand out in an increasingly crowded field.
On the one hand, strong demand for premium and luxury cars has lured automakers into flooding a market that is, of course, intrinsically limited. Every brand, from Ferrari on down, now plans on expanding its offerings — trading the segment’s key differentiator, exclusivity, for short- or medium-term profits. Whether it is well-established brands such as Mercedes or Porsche offering more attainable products (the CLA sedan and Macan crossover, respectively) or less-elite brands such as Jaguar, Infiniti, Volvo and Cadillac attempting to boost their status with major investments in new premium products, every automaker has high hopes for volume and profit growth. There are simply too many new products to allow everyone’s growth plans to succeed. Something has to give.
On the other hand, automotive technology is so universally excellent today that it’s increasingly difficult for brands to “move the needle” with consumers. The traditional unique selling points of premium cars — high performance, dashboard gizmos, awesome sound systems and seats — are increasingly available in mass-market models. From Nissan’s GTR supercar to Hyundai’s Equus sedans, full-line carmakers can sell you an experience that was once considered “luxury.”
Anyone who has ever traded in a car to an automobile dealer wonders: Could I have made more money, if I‘d sold it myself?
Dealers know that new-car buyers usually lack the time to market their used cars, or dread the chore of showing them to potential buyers — and make their trade-in offers accordingly. A variety of start-ups are emerging, however, aiming to make it easier and more lucrative for car owners to sell their vehicles privately.
“Consumers are fed up and they’re looking for different models,” said Tracey Trachta, chief marketing officer of Houston-based Carphoria, which solicits bids for used cars from multiple dealers in different markets, and takes a fee of $149 when they sell. Another, CarLotz, with locations in Virginia, and soon in North Carolina and Georgia, uses a consignment model; owners can drop the car off at the lot, and pay a fee (about $900) for the company to market and sell it. Now another start-up, Carlypso, is trying an approach that seeks to use technology to take the hassle out of marketing the car and scheduling test drives.
Michael Corkery and Jessica Silver-Greenberg:
The thermometer showed a 103.5-degree fever, and her 10-year-old’s asthma was flaring up. Mary Bolender, who lives in Las Vegas, needed to get her daughter to an emergency room, but her 2005 Chrysler van would not start.
The cause was not a mechanical problem — it was her lender.
Ms. Bolender was three days behind on her monthly car payment. Her lender, C.A.G.
Acceptance of Mesa, Ariz., remotely activated a device in her car’s dashboard that prevented her car from starting. Before she could get back on the road, she had to pay more than $389, money she did not have that morning in March.
Stella, the first ever family sized road vehicle that runs on the sun has made its U.S. debut. The car took first place in the World Solar Challenge and won the Michelin Cruiser Class for completing a 3,000 kilometer journey from Darwin to Adelaide in Australia last fall.
While other solar-powered vehicles have been made for racing, the solar-powered Stella is the first vehicle made for road travel. A large solar panel sits atop the roof to power the car up to 500 miles on a single charge. Compare that to a Tesla Roadster, which can run on an electric charge for 245-300 miles.
The Netherlands team that designed the vehicle took Stella for a U.S. tour to help kick off National Drive Electric Week. They recently traveled up Highway 1 from L.A. to San Francisco, and I met up with them in SF to check out Stella.
Michael Corkery & Jessica Silver-Greenburg:
The thermometer showed a 103.5-degree fever, and her 10-year-old’s asthma was flaring up. Mary Bolender, who lives in Las Vegas, needed to get her daughter to an emergency room, but her 2005 Chrysler van would not start.
The cause was not a mechanical problem — it was her lender.
Ms. Bolender was three days behind on her monthly car payment. Her lender, C.A.G. Acceptance of Mesa, Ariz., remotely activated a device in her car’s dashboard that prevented her car from starting. Before she could get back on the road, she had to pay more than $389, money she did not have that morning in March.
A new electricity distribution system being described as the “‘Hoover Dam’ of the 21st century” will bring wind energy from Wyoming to customers in California—and it will get there by way of a $1.5 billion artificial cave built specifically for storing air inside a salt dome in Utah.
The particular geologic site chosen for this underground storage facility is “a five-mile long, two-mile deep salt deposit,” the Casper Star Tribune reports. “Electricity there would be used to compress air into four underground caverns hallowed [sic] out of the salt deposit. During times of high-demand, air would be released, turning a turbine to create electricity.”
It’s a kind of clockwork weather system buried inside the earth, like something out of the Aeneid.
Dresser Rand, the firm behind the new storage facility, describes a related complex they worked on in Alabama. In a PDF available on their website, they write that their technology allows them to “store air in a salt dome at pressures up to 1100 psig.” To create that facility, the Alabama plant manager explains, “we solution mined it for 629 days. That created 19 million cubic feet of cavern storage.” That’s roughly half an Empire State Building of empty space.
When it comes to hiring hot young car designers, Detroit’s automakers face tough competition from an unlikely but glamorous source: Hollywood.
Ralph Gilles, head of design for Chrysler Group, told an audience in Detroit this morning that both moviemakers and carmakers use the same powerful software to digitally design their products.
“Digital surfacers” — designers who use computers to create and virtually test new vehicles and components before they exist in the physical world — are the fastest growing segment of automaker design teams, Gilles said.
“Those are the virtual builders,” Gilles told several hundred people at the Detroit Regional Chamber 2014 MICHAuto Summit this morning.
“There is a whole pool of people that does nothing but digital surfacing,” Gilles said. “That job did not exist six or seven years ago.”
Gilles said digital surfacers are used extensively by filmmakers to digitally create sequences that would otherwise be impossible to film, such as those in big-budget science fiction film series such as Transformers and Star Wars.
“It’s exciting. It’s glamorous. I don’t know what the career path is in those companies long term, but initially, as a young designer, they get tempted away by that,” Gilles explained.
A Turkish-made electric car has traveled across 2,500 kilometers to six cities for just 37.5 Turkish Liras ($17), in a journey that began on Sept. 15.
The car named “T-1” has been developed by academics and students from Istanbul University and is capable of travelling 500 kilometers on only four hours’ charge.
After traveling through the Turkish provinces of Ankara, Samsun, Trabzon, Erzurum, Diyarbakır and Gaziantep, the car was driven through the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri’s main thoroughfare in front of curious onlookers to go on display as part of a nationwide tour on Sept. 22.
Via Leigh Turner.
Now that cars have black boxes, do car companies know where we go? Am I being followed?
A black box, formally known as an event data recorder (EDR), and informally known as a narc-in-the-box, logs a variety of data regarding the operation of the vehicle in which it’s installed. The good news is that EDRs do not (yet) track your location, nor do they beam real-time information to feds, cops, carmakers, or mothers-in-law. That’s what your smartphone is for.
EDRs, standard these days in 96 percent of new cars, do, however, take note of how fast you’re going and whether you’re wearing your seat belt, along with details like the status of your car’s throttle and brakes at any given moment. This is the sort of data most likely to have legal implications, particularly in the event of an accident. Police and lawyers can indeed subpoena the data from your car’s EDR and use it against you. The info can also make its way into the hands of your insurance company, which might join authorities in taking a dim view of the fact that you thought to apply the brakes only after you’d sailed off the end of the pier toward that passing barge hauling kittens and dynamite.
Day four of the 3D-printed car build from IMTS 2014 included some major milestones. The Local Motors team installed the brakes, rear fenders, tail and head lights, and the roll bar. All the hard work paid off when we started the car for the first time, and everything worked!
Here are my favorite moments of today’s 3D-printed car build:
Via Bruce McLaughlin.
Nissan extends trial of ultra-compact EV sharing service in Yokohama for one year; publishes top-level
Green Car Congress via Steve Crandall:
Nissan Motor Co., Ltd and the City of Yokohama will extend the one-year trial run of the first large-scale One-way Car Sharing Service in Japan, called “Choimobi Yokohama,” for another year. (Earlier post.)
The service, which kicked off on 11 October 2013, features Nissan’s ultra-compact New Mobility Concept electric vehicles. The program’s main objectives are to encourage low-carbon emission transport options, improve the quality of transportation in the city, and promote tourism. Nissan provided some top-level user data from the first year to illustrate the effectiveness of the service.
Don’t shoot the messenger. But I honestly believe he’s going to bust some of the dealer franchise laws in all 50 states. He ultimately will be responsible for manufacturer-direct sales in competition with franchised dealers.
Oh, we’ll be kicking screaming, gouging and biting right up until the end. But it’s coming, and after the dust settles, the industry will emerge better for it.
Who is this guy Musk anyway? He’s a South-African transplant who made his money as co-founder of PayPal in 2000. Revolutionary at the time, PayPal allowed people to pay online without using credit cards.
He has a contract with NASA to produce a commercial spacecraft to replace the Space Shuttle. This guy is the real deal, and his ultimate vision is space exploration with reusable spacecraft using something other than rocket propulsion.
Musk also is the chairman and driving force behind “Solar City,” the first viable production of cheap solar electricity for residential and commercial use.
And then there’s his Tesla Motors, the electric car company that is challenging the traditional dealership system in favor of factory stores.
Besides scaring the Bejesus out of the car dealers, he’s also got the electric companies nationwide on the edge of their seats. His achievements and out-of-the-box thinking are awesome.
Beware!, if any vehicle dealer approaches you demanding ‘incidental charges’ for the delivery of a vehicle that you purchased. For, it is a cognisable offense.
Giving a huge relief to consumers, the Ernakulam Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum has pronounced a path-breaking verdict against the practice of collecting ‘incidental charges’ for transporting vehicles from the manufacturer’s yard to the showroom.
This judgment is the first of its kind, not only in the State but in the country. The Forum observed that collecting ‘incidental charges’ does not have any statutory backing, and hence not legally valid. Customers can always approach consumer forums when they are asked to pay such charges.
A new report offers a detailed look at Tesla’s battery technology and how it fits into the overall EV industry. Titled simply The Tesla Battery Report, the slide-show-style presentation examines the following topics:
Tesla’s success and the direction of the EV market
EV battery technology: Tesla vs. conventional
Tesla battery intellectual property
EV battery cost
The Gigafactory: cost, challenges, benefits
Tesla battery annual production cost estimate
Tesla’s impact on the battery industry
EV market forecast to 2020
EV battery market forecast to 2020
Space-functional concept. That was the working title of the five-seat BMW 2-series Active Tourer and next year’s seven-seat Grand Tourer. What’s in a name? More than you think. Especially when the initial connotation is MPV or – dare we say it – minivan. On paper, creating a new MPV is a recipe for disaster; vans of all sizes account for the fastest-shrinking market segment, and they are typically not BMW-like in posture and performance. But the man from BMW won’t have it.
‘The 2-series Active Tourer will be a runaway success,’ states senior product manager Frank Niederländer, keeping a straight face. ‘It’s a proper BMW: good-looking, a joy to drive, clever in concept and execution, truly upmarket in terms of content and quality…’
Although the design incorporates most must-have cues, the high-roof five-seater is not an instant crowd-puller; at a glance, it appears more 3-series GT pragmatic than 4-series Gran Coupe pretty. Inside, one may initially frown at the massive dashboard which curves into the cabin like a symmetrical wave crested with wood, leather and brightwork.
TRW’s public policy expert says rapid advances in vehicle safety allied with Silicon Valley technology are a bit of the “Wild West” as perceptions of transportation alter at startling pace.
A plethora of safety improvements such as lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control systems among many others, is increasingly being married with a suite of lifestyle technologies often embracing non-automotive spheres.
“There is now Silicon Valley, IT and the telecom industries coming into safety, it is changing the safety industry,” Potomac Alliance managing director, Kevin McMahon, who acts for TRW in Washington, told just-auto, on a conference call in the supplier’s global headquarters near Detroit.
“It is a little bit of the Wild West right now. What the vehicle manufacturers choose to promote and put on their vehicles, what the government chooses to regulate on vehicles, remains to be seen, but more change and more rapid change is coming to this industry than ever before.”
It’s as big as a Ford Focus, lighter than a Mazda Miata, and can cut through the air nearly as efficiently as a jet. But what’s likely to stand out most about the new Citroen C4 Cactus Airflow concept is its fuel economy, an estimated 141 miles per gallon.
While that’s not quite up there with the 261 mpg Volkswagen XL1, or even the new 235 mpg Renault Eolab prototype, the new Citroen appears to be perhaps the most practical of the three models – though it remains to be seen if the French maker can actually bring the Cactus Airflow to production.
Set to debut at the upcoming Paris Motor Show, the full name of the new concept vehicle is the Citroen C4 Cactus Airflow 2L – the little fillip at the end is arguably the most significant detail, as it positions the latest Cactus concept as a so-called two-liter car. In other words, it burns that much fuel to go 100 kilometers. For metrically challenged Americans, think of going more than 70 miles on barely a half gallon of gas.
To get there isn’t easy, of course – at least not for Citroen designers and engineers.
Roughly 16.4 million new cars and light trucks will be sold this year, virtually all through America’s franchised new-car dealerships.
Local independent dealers provide the most competitive, efficient and consumer-friendly model for the buying, selling and servicing of cars — and policymakers should work to strengthen the franchise model.
New-car dealers compete fiercely for their customers’ business — and that competition in sales and financing drives prices down. In many major metro areas, multiple stores across and within brands compete for the business of every customer, and that competition provides the incentive for the lowest-cost distribution model for virtually any consumer good anywhere.
So-called middleman costs are a myth in the car business. Margins in auto retailing are 1 percent to 2 percent, compared with more typical retail margins of 12 percent to 15 percent.
Fierce retail competition between auto dealers drives down costs and profits. If factories owned all their own stores, competition would be eliminated. Not only would all of the retail costs still exist — the land, buildings, workers and advertising — but the incentive to limit those costs would no longer exist. Meanwhile, consumers would have far less bargaining power because different stores would not be competing for their business.
Toyota Motor Corp. is set to become the next global automaker to begin making the expensive shift from steel to aluminum for a high-volume vehicle.
The U.S.-built Camry, the country’s best-selling car, is slated to get an aluminum hood in 2018, according to a source familiar with the plans.
Toyota’s first foray into aluminum closures in North America will come next year when the 2016 Lexus RX 350 crossover, which is made in Cambridge, Ontario, gets an aluminum hood and liftgate, the source said.
The aluminum sheet for the Camry hood likely will come from a joint venture between Toyota Tsusho Corp., a trading company affiliated with Toyota Motor Corp., and Kobe Steel to produce more aluminum sheet metal in the U.S. Toyota will be among the venture’s first customers, several sources confirmed. Production is expected to begin in 2017 and ramp up to full output at the beginning of 2018.
Negotiations on site selection and some details for the joint venture are expected to conclude this month. The operation, which will produce 100,000 tons of aluminum sheet capacity annually, will be built in the Southeast, possibly near Wise Alloys, a Muscle Shoals, Ala., aluminum producer for the food and beverage industries, which will source the master coils to make the aluminum sheet, according to a source involved with negotiations.
One automaker’s vision of the transportation future sat parked under a broiling sun not far from AT&T Park baseball stadium Tuesday. But the blackout tint on the sedan’s windows wasn’t to keep the interior cool, but hidden.
Toyota quietly rolled into town with the newest addition to its eco-conscious fleet, the 2015 FCV. That stands for Fuel Cell Vehicle and translates to hydrogen power. The car hits dealers in the middle of next year, but the company remains mum on pricing and what surrounds the passengers.
“We aren’t quite ready to show off the interior yet, but it’s safe to say that it’ll be very spacious with ample trunk room,” says Jana Hartline, the company’s environmental communications manager. “The (electricity-generating) hydrogen fuel cell sits under the front seats, and the hydrogen gas tanks are under the back wheel well. It’s been optimized for comfort.”
The quick science low-down here: take hydrogen gas and mix it with oxygen in a fuel cell stack and you get electric current, heat and water.
Via Steve Schiets
Under the headline “Motor City West Revs Up Demand for Space,” the Wall Street Journal ran an article over the summer that should scare the bejesus out of Detroit and Michigan.
“The future of the car is in Silicon Valley,” a vice president of the San Francisco-based Bay Area Council Economic Institute boldly predicted in the story, adding, “We’re getting this entirely new ecosystem around automotive parts.”
First it was southern U.S. states luring auto assembly plants in the 1980s; then maquiladora auto plants exploding along the Mexico border in the 1990s; then a mad scramble to match the so-called “China price” when America’s automakers were desperately trying to buy cheaper components in order to offset their unsustainable legacy costs.
Now we have Silicon Valley challenging Detroit’s leadership in the auto industry’s most promising growth areas — autonomous cars, connected vehicles, eco-friendly powertrains.
Nissan’s upmarket brand has recently opened a London design studio in Paddington, next door to its parent company’s European design headquarters. It will also be followed by similar establishments in Beijing and San Diego, all reporting in to the Japanese HQ.
It’s all in the name of bolstering Infiniti’s design credentials as it aims to take a much bigger chunk out of sales currently enjoyed by the European premium brands.
According to Infiniti’s London design boss, Brit designer Simon Cox, the studio’s geography is important because the inner city environment is inspirational for its energy and multi-culturalism. Also because of the cars. “You go out there and see a Rolls, parked next to a Porsche and an Aston over the road. It’s amazing,” he said.
On Tuesday, Audi became the first car manufacturer to receive a California autonomous car driving permit (as of this writing, Mercedes-Benz and Google have also filed for and received permits). The permit was presented to Audi by Sen. Alex Padilla, who signed the state’s new autonomous vehicle laws that went into effect Tuesday; the law will allow for the legal testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads.
According to Brad Stertz, Audi’s corporate communications manager, Audi has two cars registered on the permit, both capable of Level 3 autonomous driving, the official classification for a car that can handle many of the driving responsibilities but isn’t fully autonomous (Level 4.)
“Mr. Montezemolo has loudly and repeatedly refused to consider a Ferrari sport-ute/crossover vehicle.”
The irony is that purists once accused Mr. Montezemolo himself of selling out the brand. Take the California T, for example. When the first California made its debut six years ago, the notion of adding a front-engine, V8-powered convertible to Ferrari’s lineup—not an extreme sports coupe but a powerful, balanced grand touring car—struck many as a misstep, déclassé, an Italian Corvette.
But Mr. Montezemolo’s Midas touch didn’t abandon him. The California is now Ferrari’s volume product, with more than 10,000 sold from 2008 to 2014. A staggering 70% of California owners are new customers, and one in three is American.
The California needed more power and better efficiency, which obliged Ferrari to use a forced-induction engine in a road car for the first time since the F40 in 1987.
And thanks to Mr. Montezemolo, it sounds like a Ferrari. The key piece of hardware in this tale is the engine’s wildly complicated, cast-and-welded equal-length exhaust runners, metallic knots of alloy tubes around each turbocharger. When I visited the factory in June, I asked the head of powertrain development, Vittorio Dini, about the unusual-looking headers.
“Oh, you ask my boss [Mr. Montezemolo],” he said with a laugh. “That is a crazy way to do it. I mean, technically, yes, but in business?” Mr. Dini went on to explain how the only way for his team to meet its aural targets—to give the turbocharged car a Ferrari’s characteristic brassy resonance, its heavenly shout—was to use this aerospace-complex and expensive part.
But the Big Guy said go for it, and so another Ferrari was born.
Who’s going to go for it now?
Automotive jobs to be done was most recently discussed on Asymcar 18.
Is the automobile the “the most underutilized machine in the world”?
Morgan Stanley thinks it might be. The chart below comes from research published by the investment bank this week. The note is nominally about the global automotive/car rental/fleet management industries, but it really comes across as an ode to the app-enabled car service, Uber Technologies.
It is meant to be hip and convenient, but is the new Apple Watch also a threat to safety?
You may keep it on your wrist, but safety experts are questioning whether the new wearable device will be just as much of a driver distraction as handheld cellphones and tablet computers. And British authorities have indicated that someone using an Apple Watch when involved in a fatal crash could be subject to up to two years in prison.
The UK’s Institute for Advanced Motorists is leading the charge, declaring that the Watch “could significantly impair driving performance – being a major cause for distraction and road accidents.”
The organization cited a four-year simulator study on smartphone use indicating mobile phones had contribute to nearly 2,000 accidents in Britain including 110 fatalities. Distracted driving, in general, was blamed by British authorities for causing 54,000 crashes between 2010 and 2012. In the U.S., the problem has also been cited as a major cause of highway collisions, injuries and fatalities.
After years of negative customer reviews of its in-car voice-recognition technology, Ford Motor Co. may solve some of its lingering issues by partnering with Automatic Labs.
Soon, drivers will be able to ask Apple’s Siri system about the weather and turn on their home thermostat from the wheel of their Ford or Lincoln, the automaker said Tuesday.
Automatic Labs, which created a plug-in car knowledge gadget, and Ford said they paired up to make the driving experience smarter and safer for Ford and Lincoln owners. Automatic Labs’ small device plugs into a port below the steering wheel and connects drivers’ iPhones with their vehicles’ onboard computer.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Wednesday proposed bringing the financing units of the big automakers under federal supervision for the first time, a move that would ultimately let the agency examine the lending arms of Toyota, Ford and Honda.
The proposed rule would extend the bureau’s current oversight of bank auto lenders to cover 38 auto finance companies that make, acquire or refinance 10,000 or more loans or leases a year. These firms provided financing to about 6.8 million consumers last year, according to the CFPB.
Natural gas is the neglected stepchild of the alternative fuel vehicles industry.
Used in some commercial truck fleets, municipal bus services and the occasional taxicab, the plentiful low-emissions fuel has never caught on in passenger cars — even though it sells for about half the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline in California.
Two automakers are making another run at selling compressed natural gas, or CNG, cars in the U.S., eyeing a market in commuters and efficiency-minded drivers.
Looking at a chart that tracks January through August registrations since 2003 (the first year after the EU’s enlargement) we see that times are much worse than the dark days of carmageddon. Sales started to fall in 2008, and never really stopped declining until the small pop this year. Sadly, sales are likely to go down further. Declining EU populations, especially in the main new car buying age between 40 and 60, will cause increasing pain. Manufacturers have to fight for volume not by unsustainable discounting, but by developing offers that are attractive and affordable for a younger and cash-poor clientele that has long traded Gucci for H&M, and that is now trading Dacia for Daimler.
Two weeks ago, Mark Hogan, formerly at GM, and now freshly minted board member at Toyota, told Reuters that Toyota absolutely need more and bigger plants in Mexico. Days later, Bloomberg saw Toyota execs “scouting the country for possible factory sites.” A minor media frenzy ensued, touting the low labor costs and favorable trade accords south of the border. Yesterday, the story was shot down.
A new Reuters story says that the expansion south of the border was put on ice. Whoever cooked it up should have asked Toyota’s boss first.
Quarter after quarter, Toyota told media and analysts to forget any new factories before 2016. When reporters asked about Mexico at the last quarterlies on August 6, they were told there are no plans. When reporters probed, saying that executives in the U.S. said otherwise, the answer was that those executives better check with the home office first.
For nearly a year, Toyota has been pushing a basically zero growth strategy. While it sometimes feels as if Volkswagen and GM launch more plants than cars, Toyota steadfastly maintains its “no new plants before 2016” mantra, and they do it with a knowing smile. When talking to his execs, Akio Toyoda talks about stairs one must climb up to get higher, but a stair has the occasional landing where one can catch a breath. This where Toyota is now.
Computer-driven cars have been testing their skills on California roads for more than four years — but until now, the Department of Motor Vehicles wasn’t sure just how many were rolling around.
That changed Tuesday, when the agency issued testing permits that allowed three companies to dispatch 29 vehicles onto freeways and into neighborhoods — with a human behind the wheel in case the onboard computers make a bad decision.
These may be the cars of the future, but for now they represent a tiny fraction of California’s approximately 32 million registered vehicles.
“What we are seeing right now is a redefinition of the automobile,” Thilo Koslowski, lead automotive analyst with technology consultants Gartner, told the Detroit News.
Cars are becoming ever closer to computers as automakers roll out new connected technology such as navigation systems, touch screens and increasingly autonomous features. Google has also branched out from its famous search engine to develop a self-driving car that could eventually threaten established automakers.
Koslowski offered a positive take, saying that a newly connected standard will revamp the auto industry rather than destroy it.
The high-end electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors prevailed in a lawsuit filed by Massachusetts auto dealers in an attempt to stop the company from selling directly off the assembly line to customer.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court threw out a lawsuit from the Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association that argued that the California-based Tesla was skirting a state law that is intended to protect car dealerships from direct sales by manufacturers. The ruling on Monday stated that the original law and an amended version were designed to protect dealerships from manipulation by their brand manufacturers, rather than to prevent direct sales by non-affiliated companies.
State Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, filed a bill in January 2013 to defend auto dealerships from the threat posed by the business model used by Tesla, with language that would clarify the current state law, emphasizing a “blanket prohibition” on manufacturer ownership of dealerships. Tesla has an installation at the Natick Mall promoting their cars, with a separate town-licensed location where they can test-drive the cars and buy them. But without a third-party dealership, the auto dealers association considers it against the spirit of the state law, which was last amended in 2002.
– See more at: http://m.tauntongazette.com/article/20140915/NEWS/140917503#sthash.6IYI2LJT.dpuf
Charles Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, the other day described Silicon Valley billionaire Elon Musk as a “genius.” Maybe he was alluding to the Tesla CEO’s cunning ploy to mine subsidies from Nevada taxpayers.
Last week the Silver State’s legislature unanimously approved $1.3 billion in tax breaks for Tesla to build a $5 billion lithium battery factory in Reno that will supply its electric-car plant in Fremont, California. “We have changed the trajectory of this state, perhaps forever,” declared Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who wagers that the “Gigafactory” will grow the state’s economy by $100 billion, or about 80%, over 20 years. Will he take that bet to Vegas?
Politicians bribing businesses to locate in their state is an old if unfortunate story. Tennessee this year offered Volkswagen $274 million to expand its Chattanooga plant. Last year Washington awarded long-time employer Boeing $8.7 billion over 16 years to build its new 777X jetliner in Puget Sound.
But the Tesla giveaway is in a category of its own, coming in an unproven market for a company that has never recorded an annual profit (based on generally accepted accounting principles), notwithstanding various subsidies. Nevada’s gift is 15 times larger than any incentive package the state has awarded and among the richest nationwide.
Available in many major cities, Zipcar is this wonderful service that allows you to rent a car by the hour with your smartphone. In my neighborhood, there are half-a-dozen Zipcars parked, just waiting to be scooped up for a quick Ikea run or jaunt to the grocery store. It makes owning a car largely superfluous, at least if you live in a city with good public transportation.
But even though I live in an area with a lot of Zipcars, it’s still hard to find one that is unused on a busy Saturday or Sunday afternoon. But now Verizon has a plan on how to compete with Zipcar, and it’s a doozy: they’re going to allow anyone turn their own car into a Zipcar, rentable by iPhone or other smartphones.
A few months ago, in a clanging, hissing plant on the outskirts of Newark, a tanker truck backed up to a deep reservoir and delivered thousands of dollars’ worth of raw material—what people in the rendering industry sometimes refer to as “liquid gold.” The plant’s owner is a company called Dar Pro, and the C.E.O., Randall Stuewe, looked on while a hose from the truck gushed a brown fluid, filled with fine sediment and the occasional mysterious solid. Slowly, the pit became a pool, whose surface frothed and eddied and gave off a potent odor of old French fries, onion rings, and batter-fried shrimp. “Used cooking oil,” Stuewe told me. “We process two billion pounds a year.”
A watchdog group today criticized Nevada’s tax deal with Tesla Motors as one-sided in the car maker’s favor and called one provision “a scheme we have never seen before.”
Greg LeRoy has tracked corporate subsidies for years as the executive director of Good Jobs First and the author of the book “The Great American Jobs Scam.”
LeRoy pegged the total value of Tesla’s tax incentives at $1.287 billion, by far the largest in Nevada history and the 12th largest in U.S. history.
The Nevada Legislature approved the deal in four bills and Gov. Brian Sandoval signed them into law late last night.
In a statement today, LeRoy detailed three reasons why he thinks the tax deal is bad for Nevada. His statement is below with references to Senate Bill 1, the key bill that governs the deal. His statement has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Tesla’s planned 5-million-square-foot ‘gigafactory’ wouldn’t just be the biggest battery factory in the world. It would be one of the biggest factories in the world, period. But hours before CEO Elon Musk took the podium last week to tout the $5 billion facility came August sales numbers for electric vehicles and a spate of news stories about how U.S. interest for electric cars has stalled.
So what gives? Why would Tesla build capacity for half a million car batteries a year if no one is buying? Four charts below tell the story.
How Google’s Autonomous Car Passed the First U.S. State Self-Driving Test The Nevada driving test documents show that Google had some control over the test conditions
Regulations governing Google’s experimental self-driving cars will come into effect on California’s roads starting 16 September. They have driven more than 1 million kilometers since the company started secretly developing them in 2009, but they have been tested only once by a government body on open roads—by Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) officials in May 2012.
IEEE Spectrum has now obtained the driving log of this test, and e-mails referring to it, under Freedom of Information legislation. Some of this information is not new. For example, Nevada officials shared that the Google’s autonomous Toyota Prius passed the test almost immediately. What has not been revealed until now, however, is that Google chose the test route and set limits on the road and weather conditions that the vehicle could encounter, and that its engineers had to take control of the car twice during the drive.
If lawmakers and insurance companies are smart, self-driving cars should hit the road soon because they are actually be safer than those vehicles driven by humans, Bob Lutz, former General Motors vice chairman, told CNBC Monday.
“The autonomous car doesn’t drink, doesn’t do drugs, doesn’t text while driving, doesn’t get road rage,” Lutz said in an interview with “Street Signs.”
The Denza EV is manufactured in Shenzhen by BYD-Daimler, a joint venture between BYD Automobile and Daimler-Benz. The joint venture aims at making affordable electric cars for the Chinese auto market. The full name of the venture is ‘Shenzhen BYD Daimler New Technology’ (BDNT), it was established in March 2012.
The first Denza concept debuted on the 2012 Beijing Auto Show and the production version debuted on the 2014 Beijing Auto Show. BYD and Daimler are said to be happy with the final result and are studying on the possibility of adding a second car to the Denza range. There are currently no plans for export to other countries.
Telecommunications giant Verizon today announced plans to introduce a new smartphone app that would allow rental car customers to unlock a vehicle.
The app also can offer motorists promotional offers such as in-car Wi-Fi and fuel-purchase options.
The app also will include Delphi’s in-vehicle telematics device.
Verizon Enterprise Solutions says it will launch its new service — dubbed Verizon Auto Share — late this year.
Government subsidies of as much as 3 million yen ($28,500) a vehicle offered in Japan will probably be too high for other countries to match, Volkswagen Group Japan President Shigeru Shoji said in an interview last week. Even in Toyota’s home country, refueling will be impractical because handling hydrogen is challenging and building out infrastructure will be costly, he said.
“It may fly within Japan, but not globally,” said Shoji, 51. Fuel cells could become another example of the “Galapagos syndrome” that plagues Japanese companies for making products that are only popular at home, he said.
The 2017 Cadillac model will feature “Super Cruise” technology that takes control of steering, acceleration and braking at highway speeds of 70 miles per hour or in stop-and-go congested traffic, Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra said yesterday in a speech at the Intelligent Transport System World Congress in Detroit. GM declined to release the name of the model that will carry the feature.
Here’s why consumers say they don’t like the fancy tech systems in their cars: They don’t work very well.
Auto manufacturers face deepening challenges with technology as customer frustration with their multimedia systems builds, according to a study from market research firm J.D. Power and Associates.
Technology issues are now the most prevalent type of problem with new vehicles, according to the J.D. Power report on consumer reaction to the features on their newly purchased cars.
The biggest complaint? Built-in voice recognition systems.
Tesla Motors, which this summer announced a partnership with Panasonic to build a battery “Gigafactory,” may be overreaching. A new industry analyst’s report questions whether the demand for the company’s electric cars will be big enough within the next five to eight years to warrant the factory’s projected $5 billion investment.
According to the new report, by 2020 Tesla could be facing substantial overcapacity, with too many batteries and not enough EV cars — and other applications like renewable grid energy storage — to put them in.
The fuel economy of light vehicles purchased in the U.S. during August hit an all-time high, a University of Michigan report said Thursday.
The average window-sticker rating of cars, SUVs, vans and pickups purchased last month was 25.8 mpg, up from 25.6 in July and up even more significantly from 24.9 a year ago, according to the monthly report.
Average stated fuel economy has increased 5.7 mpg since the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute’s first full month of monitoring in October 2007, the report said.
Another study by the institute tracked June’s average greenhouse gas emissions of each new-vehicle driver in the country. The Eco-Driving Index dropped to 0.78, tying the record low, from 0.79 in May, the report said. June, the most recent month for which data is available, was the fifth time greenhouse gas emissions had reached the record low in the last year.
Car firms have been exploiting customers for years by pressurising them to buy spare parts from original manufacturers, namely themselves, and charging exorbitant prices, from double to 5,000 times their costs, the Competition Commission of India concluded last week.
Many of these companies include clauses in warranties, typically covering four years, requiring customers to buy spare parts from the manufacturers whenever there is a need to repair a vehicle. Moreover, after the warranty period expires, the car makers supply spare parts and other diagnostic tools only to authorised dealers and not to independent repairers, thereby limiting consumer choice, the commission noted.
A subsidiary of German car giant Daimler has acquired two startupss — RideScout and myTaxi — that make mobile apps focused on transportation choices in cities. The move is part of Daimler’s continued push beyond car manufacturing and into developing technology for urban mobility, as a next generation of city-dwellers is increasingly giving up on car ownership and opting for transportation alternatives from on-demand car services like Uber to car-sharing services like Zipcar.
Daimler owns a mobility-focused subsidiary called moovel (formerly named Daimler Mobility Services), and under the moovel brand has operated a car-sharing network called car2go for a couple years now. Car2go has amassed 850,000 registered members across 26 cities, and the network enables its users to rent Smart Fortwo cars (made by Daimler) by the minute and hour.
Auto industry executives buckling down as summer fades will be under pressure to make hay while the sun shines because there’s no telling how much longer the recovery from the industry’s 2009 collapse has to run.
The climate now is as favorable for auto makers as it has been in years. Interest rates remain unusually low, oil prices are remarkably stable and consumers in the world’s two largest car markets—the U.S. and China—are snapping up sport-utility vehicles, luxury cars and, in the U.S., big pickup trucks, the most profitable vehicles most car makers sell.
Toyota has been given the go-ahead to self-inspect the high pressure hydrogen tanks it makes for its fuel cell vehicles.
Under Japanese legislation, all containers and accessories for storing gases at pressures of 1MPa (10 bar) and above must be type certified, and are subjected to witnessed inspections by the High Pressure Gas Safety Institute of Japan during the manufacturing process.
Drivers who like to check their email or do their make-up at traffic lights, beware.
General Motors, the largest US auto manufacturer by sales, is preparing to launch the world’s first mass-produced cars with eye- and head-tracking technology that can tell whether drivers are distracted, according to people with knowledge of the plans.
Seeing Machines, an Australian group listed in London, has signed an agreement with safety-goods maker Takata to supply GM with tracking devices for up to 500,000 vehicles over the next three to five years.
The gadgets will start by measuring the rotation of the head so they can alert drivers if they are not spending enough time looking in certain areas such as the road ahead or the rear-view mirror.
“Safety doesn’t sell cars – sexy sells cars,” said Ken Kroeger, Seeing Machines’ chief executive. “But once cameras are there, they can be expanded for other features and purposes.”