BMW to launch pay-as-you-go car club in London

Andy Sharman:

Still, analysts expect rapid growth in car sharing, particularly one-way schemes. The Frost & Sullivan consultancy has said there could be 800,000 car club members by the end of the decade in London compared with about 170,000 members today. The one-way model is expected to account for almost half of car-sharing trips in London by 2020, from about 15 per cent today. Zipcar is testing the one-way model in Boston and French tycoon Vincent Bolloré plans to launch the Autolib’ electric car rental network in London next year.
 DriveNow customers pay a registration fee and can then drive models such as the Mini and the electric i3 on a pay-per-minute basis. Access to the vehicles is via a smartphone app or bank card. Insurance, car tax, car parking tickets are all included.
 The growth in car sharing presents a big threat to established carmakers – which is why manufacturers including Volkswagen and Peugeot-Citroën are pushing into the sector.
 AlixPartners, the consultancy, has estimated that just one car sharing vehicle takes out 32 personal purchases. Brokerage Aviate Global has estimated that just 5 per cent growth in car sharing by the end of the decade could halve US auto sales.
 “Household vehicles are beginning to feel like stranded assets: high in cost, but utilised only 4 per cent of the time on average in a 24-hour day,” said Gary Paulin, partner at Aviate Global.


The unstoppable march to self-driving cars is already underway

John McDuling:

The prospect of cars that drive themselves taking over our streets tends to make people nervous. But the road to fully-autonomous cars is paved with semi-autonomous safety features. And who could be against technology that makes vehicles on the roads safer?
 This chart from RBC Capital Markets shows the adoption of various driving safety features in the US:

Via Paul Brody.

“the first luxury brand that just happens to make cars”

Krishnan M. Anantharaman:

The results of that drive will show up in April, said the 45-year-old marketing chief, when Cadillac unveils its range-topping CT6 sedan, the first car to carry its new vehicle-naming system, at the New York auto show, along with a revamped strategy that will seek to position Cadillac not just as a car brand, but as a pure luxury brand.
 “Johan de Nysschen, my boss, and I always say we want to build the first luxury brand that just happens to make cars,” Ellinghaus said in an interview at the Los Angeles Auto Show. “That sounds like a joke, but we’re serious about it.”
 The new image will come from a General Motors division that is in transition under de Nysschen’s leadership, preparing to distance itself from the GM mother ship in Detroit and set up as a new business unit with its own headquarters in New York. After a hot 2013, Cadillac sales have slid this year as higher sticker prices repelled customers, leading to gluts of CTS and ATS sedans on dealer lots.

The “fundamental rule” of traffic: building new roads just makes people drive more

Joseph Stromberg:

For people who are constantly stuck in traffic jams, it seems like there should be an obvious solution — just widen the roads.
 This makes intuitive sense. Building new lanes (or new highways entirely) adds capacity to road systems. And traffic, at its root, is a volume problem — there are too many cars trying to use not enough road.
 But there’s a fundamental problem with this idea. Decades of traffic data across the United States shows that adding new road capacity doesn’t actually improve congestion. The latest example of this is the widening of Los Angeles’ I-405 freeway, which was completed in May after five years of construction and a cost of over $1 billion. “The data shows that traffic is moving slightly slower now on 405 than before the widening,” says Matthew Turner, a Brown University economist.
 The main reason, Turner has found, is simple — adding road capacity spurs people to drive more miles, either by taking more trips by car or taking longer trips than they otherwise would have. He and University of Pennsylvania economist Gilles Duranton call this the “fundamental rule” of road congestion: adding road capacity just increases the total number of miles traveled by all vehicles.

The Circle of (Management) Life

Ed Wallace:

How quickly we forget our recent business history. Only five to six years ago, the business media reported that the only way Detroit could save itself was to dump insiders who had risen through the ranks of the auto industry, because their corporate mindset was part of the cancer destroying the Big Three from within. Bob Nardelli of Cerberus, a man who knew nothing about automobiles or large-scale consumer manufacturing, pundits declared to be the smartest move to save Chrysler. Similarly, they thought Ed Whitacre of AT&T could resurrect what had once been the great General Motors.
 It felt like déjà vu: 15 years before that, everyone had hailed GM’s hiring of an outside brand manager to make things right for the corporation. That person would be Ron Zarella, from Bausch and Lomb. Zarella would quickly be promoted to GM’s president of North America for his insightful brilliance — which amounted to maintaining that you sell the public on an automotive brand the same way you convince them that Samsonite is the only luggage anyone ever needs to buy.

BMW, Audi lead shift from mass-market to luxury car output in Mexico


Mexico’s relationship with German car production began nearly 50 years ago with output of Volkswagen’s mass-market Beetle. Now it’s becoming a place where high-end BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz cars roll out of billion-dollar factories.
 By decade’s end, Mexico will claim fourth place worldwide for German luxury output after the carmakers’ home country, China and the U.S., according to estimates compiled for Bloomberg by IHS Automotive consultant Guido Vildozo, surpassing Belgium, Spain and Brazil.
 In choosing Mexico for a plant site this year, BMW Group validated the nation’s emergence as an auto-assembly powerhouse from its roots making the iconic Beetle. BMW, Audi and Mercedes have all decided since 2012 to build cars in the country.
 “Mexico has become the crossroads of automotive trade for the western hemisphere,” IHS Automotive Managing Director Michael Robinet said. “Mexico has proved it can build a vehicle of any stripe.”

Driving in Dehli; God Save Our Souls

Aparna Mudi:

Without condoning their stupidity, I still do understand why they do it. It is after all young blood – adrenaline rushes through their veins. Most of them are inspired by numerous advertisements of the latest super-powered bikes by manufacturers.
 But what percentage of these 18 to 22 year olds is actually driving daily on the roads?
 The famed British automobile show, ‘Top Gear’ had come to India for one of its specials and even their hosts, who have driven on the most dangerous roads of the world, were flabbergasted with the nonchalant way people were driving in India.

Making cars safer: have the driver do less

Jeremy Wagstaff:

As millions of cars are under recall for potentially lethal air bags, designers are trying to reduce the need for the device – using sensors, radar, cameras and lasers to prevent collisions in the first place.
 With driver error blamed for over 90 percent of road accidents, the thinking is it would be better to have them do less of the driving. The U.S.-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that forward-collision warning systems cut vehicle-to-vehicle crashes by 7 percent – not a quantum leap, but a potential life saver. Nearly 31,000 people died in car accidents in 2012 in the United States alone.
 “Passive safety features will stay important, and we need them. The next level is now visible. Autonomous driving for us is clearly a strategy to realise our vision for accident-free driving,” said Thomas Weber, global R&D head at Mercedes-Benz .
 While giving a computer full control of a car is some way off, there’s a lot it can do in the meantime.

BOB LUTZ: Wall Street Analysts Don’t Understand The Car Business

Matthew DeBord:

“Analysts are highly numerous, young, and they performed beautifully [in college],” he said. “They can look at sea of numbers, but they don’t really understand the business.”
 Is he right?
 Quite possibly.
 Wall Street likes volatility, and GM isn’t a company that’s designed to deliver it, either in the markets or the marketplace. The company controls about 20% of the U. market for cars and trucks, pretty much divides the highly profitable full-size pickup truck segment with Ford, and continues to have a very broad portfolio of vehicles — something for just about everybody.

US Vehicle Miles Traveled

St Louis Fed.

China a potential goldmine for US luxury carmakers

Agence France Press:

China is the new El Dorado for US automakers looking to develop sales of their luxury brands, which globally are lagging behind German and Japanese competitors.
 General Motors, the largest US automaker, already sells more cars in China each month than it does in its home market and expects that to continue.
 “Our joint ventures in China are working to boost production capacity by 30 per cent to more than five million units annually by 2015,” GM executive Mary Barra told the firm’s annual shareholders meeting. GM launched a Chinese-produced luxury sedan, the XTS, last year and is steadily adding more vehicles to its Cadillac range.
 “Cadillac is already a very profitable business for us today and GM expects to see substantial growth for its luxury brand over the next few years, particularly in China where young consumers are open to new brands,” said Dan Ammann, GM president.

Alex Earle, Car Designer Who Has Built an Homage to the “Monster”

France’s Anderton:

Alex Earle is a car designer currently working at Volkswagen/Audi’s design studio in Santa Monica. A native of Salt Lake City, he moved to California to study car design at Art Center, and stayed. While working his day job, he decided he needed a manageable design project: building his own motorbike! He’d fallen in love with Monster, the bestselling Ducati motorbike designed by Miguel Angel Galluzzi that launched the trend for “naked bikes.” Earle set about adapting the Monster and has gone on to design and make five by hand. “What better way to support environmental sustainabilty than to give a design icon a second life?,” he says. Along the way, he’s learned about what’s involved in crafting a bike, in LA, from scratch.
 DnA talked to him about the design process as well as what this week’s LA Auto Show means to him and other car designers. He explains how digitization has changed the way cars and bikes are made, and marketed.
 DnA: What are you working on at Audi?
 Alex Earle: We do occasional “blue sky” projects and the LA design competition that they host at the auto show, but generally we are working on next generation, production cars.

Americans Borrowing More Briskly for Cars, Homes Delinquencies Fall Broadly, Except in Student Lending

Neil Shah:

Americans increased their borrowing this summer, taking out more new mortgages for the first time in over a year while adding to their car, credit-card and education loans.
 For the most part, consumers are taking on new loans carefully, yet late payments on one fast-growing category of debt—student loans—are worsening, new figures from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York show.

“those who market them think the quality of transportation isn’t relevant to its sales potential”

Paul Cassell:

There is an apparent dichotomy at Cadillac and perhaps throughout GM. The engineers and True Believers are trying to build the best cars in the world but those who market them think the quality of transportation isn’t relevant to its sales potential.
 The only way to bridge this gap is to have a strong CEO decide what GM is trying to produce, automotive excellence or gaseous imagery, and then make sure the team is all on one side – whichever it may be.
 The ship of GM needs a rudder and it better get one fast. I can’t see Barra in that role.

Auto-Worker Mom at $295 a Month Keeps Mexican Growth Low

Brendan Case and Nacha Cattan:

The 37-year-old machine operator at an auto suspension plant earns $295 per month — not enough to afford a telephone service or separate beds for her two daughters, let alone a computer or car. Pay raises have barely kept pace with inflation since she began working in the industry 15 years ago, she said.
 “When I see a nice car pass by I think, ’I made that suspension but I’ll never be able to own one,’” Velazquez said from her rented cinder block home in the city of Queretaro, about 130 miles northwest of Mexico City.
 Productivity has risen twice as fast as wages since 2005 in Mexico, Bank of America Corp. calculates, helping the country attract investment and become the second-largest auto supplier to the U.S. and the world’s biggest flat-screen TV exporter. The flip side is there’s not much left over for workers, capping retail sales and keeping economic growth in the past 10 years at less than half the pace of regional peers such as Chile, Peru and Argentina.

Audi tests car sharing for the wealthy

Ryan Beene:

The Stockholm program, Audi Unite, works something like an automotive time share. Three or four people essentially share a specially designed vehicle lease. Group members use a smartphone app to schedule who gets the vehicle when, and each person’s monthly payment is adjusted based on how much he or she uses the vehicle.
 The Berlin program is called Audi Select. Instead of several customers sharing one vehicle, one customer has access to several Audis and rotates among them over 12 months.
 Audi isn’t the first luxury carmaker to experiment with car-sharing business models, as automakers increasingly see their role as providing mobility rather than merely selling vehicles. But whereas Daimler’s Car2Go one-way rental service and BMW’s DriveNow electric-vehicle sharing venture cater to city dwellers for whom owning a vehicle is either too expensive or impractical, Audi’s two programs point to another potential market for car-sharing services: luxury car customers who demand versatility in their vehicle options – and can afford to pay for it.

Should You Buy an Electric Car?

Joseph White:

Electric cars have been the future of transportation for nearly a century, and despite a flock of new entries, the battery-powered segment of the auto market remains a narrow niche.

Few transportation technologies provoke as much debate as electric vehicles. Fans love them for performance—a well-designed electric car can accelerate faster from a stop than many a muscle car—as much as for cleanliness. Skeptics ask why they should pay a premium or subsidize tax breaks for cars with limited range and utility.

In the discussion that follows, Andrew Tomko, Alex Venz and Margaret Burgoon make the case for EVs. Mr. Tomko, 52, an English professor at Bergen Community College in Paramus, N.J., owns an electric Fit subcompact from Honda Motor Co. Mr. Venz, 29, and Ms. Burgoon, 28, who are married, bought a Nissan Motor Co. Leaf two years ago. She’s an electrical engineer, he’s a technology consultant and photographer. They live in Lancaster, Calif.

Exclusive Bus Lanes

Eric Jaffe:

Silicon Valley (of all places) may offer a sparkling example of how buses can compete with cars in the not-too-distant future. The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority has released a draft environmental review for a 17.6-mile bus-rapid transit line on El Camino Real connecting San Jose with Palo Alto (home of Stanford) via Mountain View (home of Google). In the plan’s best-case scenario, the El Camino BRT would travel the corridor almost as quickly as cars by 2018, when the line hopes to open, and occasionally beat them by 2040.

In a self-driving future, we may not even want to own cars

Jerry Hirsch:

Personal transportation is on the cusp of its greatest transformation since the advent of the internal combustion engine.
 With the rise of self-driving vehicles, ride-sharing, traffic congestion and environmental regulation, we may not even own cars in the future, much less drive them.
 A glimpse of the coming revolution can be seen in the models debuting this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Hidden under their hoods and dashboards are sensors that take the first steps toward autonomous driving. Already, cars can park themselves, slam on the brakes to avoid crashes and adjust steering to stay centered in a lane.
 But the disruption will go well beyond who is — or isn’t — at the controls. For a century, cars have been symbols of freedom and status. Passengers of the future may well view vehicles as just another form of public transportation, to be purchased by the trip or in a subscription.

Understanding Renewable Energy Cost Parity

Joshua Ryor and Letha Tawney:

This factsheet is a simple, go-to resource outlining how electricity supply options (renewable vs. traditional) can be appropriately compared.
 This publication is the first in a series of three tools to help breakdown these analyses for greater clarity and precision in weighing the cost effectiveness of renewable energy options.

Our Energy Future

Ed Wallace

The first day of September was one strange morning in the oil and gasoline futures market. Prices of both commodities fell dramatically, and gasoline prices were in collapse from the previous day’s prices; when you post pricing every day, you really notice it when prices move big. But something really odd happened that morning: I posted the prices around 5:30 a.m., and 30 minutes later half the previous day’s price declines were nearly wiped out.
 In that short period the market was rapidly recovering — only to fall back during the course of that day. But prices don’t do that in the middle of the night based on real-world supply and demand equations. So, on the news that afternoon on KLIF AM, I said that the price fall, reversal and fall again was the result of speculators trying to cover their “shorts” in the market. Bloomberg came to the same conclusion three days later.


Why didn’t we think of that? Electricity stored as a temperature difference

Andrew Merecicky:

The recent droughts across the U.S., specifically in California, have stressed the importance of power generation and storage strategies that use as little fresh water as possible. Energy production by fossil fuels and nuclear use water as a key part of power generation.
 Today approximately 99% of grid-scale energy storage relies on pumped hydropower. Beyond the huge amounts of water required by this process, pumped hydropower is limited geographically to where there is a mountain and a water source.
 But according to Jonathan Howes, a British aeronautical engineer, there soon may be a viable alternative. Howes, with partners James Macnaghten and Mark Wagner, co-founded Isentropic, Ltd., a company that is currently developing a new storage technology called pumped-heat electricity storage (PHES), which stores electricity as heat and cold. PHES, Isentropic claims, is cheaper than pumped hydro, is deployable anywhere in the world, and is comparable—and in some cases superior—to pumped hydro with a round-trip storage efficiency of 72 to 80%.

The Unknown Start-up That Built Google’s First Self-Driving Car

Mark Harris:

One of technology’s time-honored traditions is getting intellectual property by buying companies rich in ideas but poor in cash or connections. Burroughs Corp., for example, got the Nixie tube in 1955 by buying Haydu Brothers Laboratories. And Apple famously acquired a smart new operating system (and “reacquired” Steve Jobs) in 1996, when it bought NeXT Computer. Twitter got a search engine when it bought Summize in 2008.
 Google has embraced this trend with a vengeance, buying more than 170 companies over the past 13 years. Voice over Internet Protocol, video hosting, Web analytics, mobile devices, GPS navigation, and visual search are just a few of the examples of technologies that were absorbed into the Google empire. Most of these purchases were trumpeted with press conferences, press releases, and ample news coverage.
 And yet, one of Google’s most strategic acquisitions has mysteriously been actively blocked from public view. An investigation by IEEE Spectrum has uncovered the surprising fact that Google’s innovative self-driving car and the revolutionary Street View camera technology that preceded it were largely built by 510 Systems, a tiny start-up in Berkeley, Calif.

Thoughts on app ased car services

Doc Searls

Rather than being a new way to “share rides,” ABCS is a great hack on dispatch — a function of taxis and car services that has long been stuck in the walkie-talkie age.
 But it also hacks much the whole car category as well. Why spend $300/month on a lease, or $30k for a car, plus the cost of gas, tolls, insurance and upkeep, when you’ll spend far less just calling up rides? And every ride is friction-free and fully accountable? (Even to the extent that every charge is easy to post in an expense account.) Cars are already becoming generic. And already we have a generation coming up that gives a much smaller damn about driving than did previous ones — at least in the U.S. All that aspirational stuff about independence and style doesn’t matter as much as it used to. How long before GM, Ford and Toyota start making special models just for Uber and Lyft drivers? (In a way Ford did that for years with Lincoln Town Cars. Not coincidentally, several of my Uber drivers in New York and New Jersey have been in black Town Cars. Another fave: Toyota Avalons.
 Anyway, I think we are amidst omany disruptions that caused by app-based ways to shrink the distance between supply and demand. Changes within ABCS are happening rapidly and in real time. Example: SheRides. Here’s one story about it.


Picking your car’s computerized brain

Molly Wood:

EVEN with their high-tech gadgets and computerized machinery, most cars still do a pretty poor job of providing helpful information about things like mechanical problems and fuel use — and of connecting to the devices we use the most, our phones.
 Improvements are on the horizon. Wireless connections are available in some new models, which could lead to more helpful tools. But even for many older models, there is an easy way to get better information about your car, including fuel usage, diagnostics and data about your driving habits.

The things I learned while not test driving the hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai

Bertel Schmitt:

How much cheaper? Toyota aims to bring its in-house cost of the fuel cell powertrain down to “one third of the current level within 5 to 6 years,” chimes in Yashuhiro Nonobe, the General Manager of the Fuel Cell System Design Dept. at Toyota. He also tells me that the water that comes out of the Mirai is fit to drink “if you run it through a filter. After all, this is how the Apollo astronauts got their water.” I get another hotto kohee.
 Tanaka sits next to me, and I show him the alleged investment advice of The Motley Fool, where its senior auto specialist John Rosevear writes that “Toyota’s hydrogen car is a giant bluff,” and a stopgap measure to bide time, that Toyota is counting on Tesla “to help it out with electric-car development,’ and that both of them will crank out BEVs by the bazillions together, eventually, call your broker, buy TSLA.

AT&T And LG Announce Collaboration On The Future Of Connected Car

Market Watch:

Located in Atlanta, the more than 5,000-square foot AT&T Drive Studio features working garage bays, a speech lab, a full showroom to exhibit the latest innovations, conference facilities, and much more. Drive Studio integrates AT&T solutions across multiple companies and serves as a hub where AT&T can respond to needs of automotive manufacturers and the auto ecosystem at large.
 “At the Drive Studio we work with automakers to make the in-car experience better and safer for the driver and passengers,” said Chris Penrose, senior vice president, Internet of Things Solutions, AT&T. “The spirit of the AT&T Drive Studio is to bring together players in the auto industry ecosystem, like LG, to design the road ahead.”

Bill Ford, KPMG see radical change in future transport

Greg Gardner:

First, the KPMG consulting firm released a report forecasting that ride-sharing, car-sharing and mobility-on-demand services will drive down the number of cars owned by the average U.S. household.
 Then, Bill Ford, whose entire life has been shaped by the growth of personal access to the automobile, spoke in Dubai about alternatives to a future of gridlock that consumes valuable time and energy.

Honda’s fuel cell vehicle plans

Driving to the Future:

Honda has been leasing hydrogen-driven fuel cell cars since 2002 to selected customers, and has finally confirmed a date for formal launch and production of its FCV: March 2016 in Japan, with sales in the US and Europe to follow. Name to be announced nearer to the time. Latest version was unveiled in Tokyo this week – timed to coincide with Toyota’s launch of the Mirai – and Honda’s claiming a first in its powertrain layout: the entire drivetrain, including the fuel cell stack, is packaged under the bonnet, thus enabling a five-seat cabin (the Mirai’s only a four-seater). This also allows for the easier development of other bodystyles on the same platform at a later date. Developments from the earlier FCX Clarity prototypes include a downsizing of the fuel cell stack, 33% smaller but showing a performance improvement of around 60%, achieving a power output of over 100kW and power density of up to 3.1kW/L. The FCV has a single high-pressure tank for hydrogen storage, and Honda promises a cruising range of over 700km (434 miles), again outdoing the 300-mile Toyota; refuelling takes around three minutes.

A System That Any Automaker Can Use to Build Self-Driving Cars

Alex Davies:

Google gets most of the attention when it comes to self-driving cars. And when it isn’t getting all the love, people focus on the efforts of premier automakers like Audi and Tesla. But the autonomous vehicle that makes human driving a quaint pastime may well come from an auto industry stalwart many people have never heard of: Delphi.

Delphi is one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers and has been working with automakers almost as long as there have been automakers. And it’s got a solid history of innovation. Among other things, it built the first electric starter in 1911, the first in-dash car radio in 1936, and the first integrated radio-navi system in 1994. Now it’s built a self-driving car, but it won’t be sold to the public. This robo-car, based on an Audi, is a shopping catalog for automakers. The car is contains every element needed to build a truly autonomous system, elements Delphi will happily sell.

Via Oliver Bruce.

Toyota unleashes fuel cell vehicle named “Mirai”

Bertell Schmitt:

Toyota says that fuel cell vehicles, not battery-powered EVs, are the wave of the future, because Toyota’s system provides “a cruising range of 650 km” (according to Japan’s generous JC08 test cycle) “and a hydrogen refueling time of about three minutes,” easily beating the range-constrained EVs that can take hours to recharge. The Mirai turns ambient air and on-board hydrogen into electrical power, producing no tailpipe gases. The only emissions are harmless water, and even the water can be kept in an on-board reservoir for a while, for instance if the driver does not want to leave wet spots in a garage.

The Internet of Anything: The Little Box That Hooks Your Old Car Up to the Internet

Klint Finley:

It took him six years, but Siegel, an engineering student at MIT, now has a solution. It’s called Carduino, and it’s the first product from Siegel’s new company CarKnow.
 This tiny device plugs into an automobile diagnostics port, letting you equip your car with all sorts of tools you otherwise couldn’t. You can set your windows to automatically roll up when the weather changes, tie your doors to a smartphone app that lets you lock your car from across the internet, or, well, dream up something no one else has ever thought of. The idea is that anyone can use the Carduino to build any app they like.

A Road Test of Alternative Fuel Visions

Kenneth Chang:

A decade ago, President George W. Bush espoused the environmental promise of cars running on hydrogen, the universe’s most abundant element. “The first car driven by a child born today,” he said in his 2003 State of the Union speech, “could be powered by hydrogen, and pollution-free.”
 That changed under Steven Chu, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who was President Obama’s first Secretary of Energy. “We asked ourselves, ‘Is it likely in the next 10 or 15, 20 years that we will convert to a hydrogen-car economy?’” Dr. Chu said then. “The answer, we felt, was ‘no.’ ” The administration slashed funding for hydrogen fuel cell research.

Via David Levinson.

Boost by Mercedes-Benz


What is Boost?
 Boost℠ is a new youth transportation service in Palo Alto, CA designed to transport children between the many activities that fill their day. Backed by the best of Mercedes-Benz, certified drivers and trained concierges provide white-glove service aboard eco-friendly Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans, giving youngsters a safe and friendly ride.
 How does it work? and our mobile iPhone application will be your gateway for scheduling rides, tracking trips and getting updates — blending the ease of technology with the best in transportation. Simply set up your account and schedule a ride online, get confirmation and ride. Grab our free iPhone app from the iTunes store to keep an eye on your child every step of the way.


“unless you make 100 of something, you don’t see it.”

Bertell Schmitt:

If you thought there was an earthquake where you live, don’t worry: These were the groans the quote caused at car manufacturers around the world.
 The humor remained an inside the industry joke. Analysts and the general public did not seem to get the comical qualities. When commenters of countless blog posts attempted to explain the supposedly unsold cars, the generally accepted excuse was that the cars are “somewhere on a boat” while Tesla is “filling up the pipeline to Europe and China.”
 The commenters forget that in the Tesla process, there shouldn’t be any inventory at all. A customer pays, and makes a deposit. Cars are made to order. Anything on a truck or a boat is supposed to be sold already. Musk confirmed that in the conference call:

BMW plans new hydrogen-fuelled i5, Powered by A Toyota License

Greg Kable:

BMW is set to employ a revised version of the hydrogen-electric fuel cell system used in the Toyota FCV in a future i-brand model, possibly to be badged i5.
 Company sources say the race is on between the German car makers to get a hydrogen fuel cell car on the market, now that Japanese companies Honda and Toyota have taken the initiative.
 The powertrain sharing is the first stage of a BMW-Toyota joint venture aimed at lowering development costs and providing improved economies of scale on advanced alternative drive systems shared between the two manufacturers. A second project, to build a rear-drive sports car platform, is also said to be well under way.
 Having launched the i brand with a pure electric vehicle in the form of the i3 hatchback and quickly expanding it with the petrol-electric hybrid i8 sports car, the introduction of a hydrogen-electric fuel cell-powered i5 would provide BMW’s youngest brand with a trio of alternative-energy vehicles, each offering a different form of propulsion.

Toyota in Partnership for Northeast Hydrogen Stations, Names FCV Mirai

Charles Schweinsberg:

The Japanese automaker is partnering with Air Liquide of France for 12 hydrogen stations spread across Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island.
 With the launch of its first production fuel-cell vehicle slated for the U.S. next year, Toyota says it is partnering with an industrial fuel supplier to establish refueling stations in five U.S. states.
 “Toyota’s vision of a hydrogen society is not just about building a great car, but ensuring accessible, reliable and convenient refueling for our customers,” Toyota North America CEO Jim Lentz tells media here tonight at an event for its upcoming FCV, which will be known as the Mirai.

Honda shows new fuel cell concept, delays launch

Hans Greimel:

But Honda says its offering will be the world’s first fuel cell sedan to fit the entire powertrain under the hood, freeing space for five seats. Toyota’s car, the Mirai, seats only four.
 “The downsizing of the powertrain greatly contributed to the achievement of this,” Chief Engineer Kiyoshi Shimizu said.

The Rise and Fall of John DeLorean

Suzanne Snider:

By 1999 John DeLorean was bankrupt and swimming in $85 million debt, but he still hoped that his namesake De Lorean car would eventually come back into style. The thought wasn’t entirely absurd – Volkswagen was enjoying phenomenal success with its ‘new’ Beetle and the retro-styled PT Cruiser was a hit for Chrysler. Then again the De Lorean Motor Company’s signature car, the DMC-12, only had a ten to 11-month run of less than 9,000 cars. In other words, the 1982 De Lorean car was retro by 1983. By 1985 the De Lorean was a joke in Back to the Future, so dated it made for a perfect time machine.
 The timeline of DeLorean’s personal history is so tied to the history of automobiles that, even after his death in 2005 (at age 80, after suffering complications from a stroke), his various supporters and detractors are still debating his accomplishments and foibles. Both lists are long. Some argue for the flashy and obvious, such as the DMC-12’s gull-wing doors and rust proof stainless steel body. Others point to a design accomplishment that is far more ubiquitous but rarely attributed to DeLorean: the lane-change turn signal.

On Supply Chains: The Crisis, Part II

Ed Wallace

Knudsen had stepped off the SS Norge in early 1900 with only $30 in this pocket. At his first job, in the Brooklyn shipyards, he earned 17 cents a day, but a year later he was repairing locomotives for the Erie Railroad; and a year after that he was working for Keim Mills building bicycles. It was Knudsen who convinced Henry Ford to allow his employer to build the steel axle housings for Ford’s vehicles; and just a few years later, in 1911, Ford bought Keim Mills outright.
 It turned out that Knudsen was a genius at organizing production. In fact, it was mostly Knudsen who drove Ford’s moving assembly line up to its maximum efficiency. Then it was Knudsen who was tasked with building Ford’s factories across America and then in Europe. But he quit that $50,000-a-year job with 1921, because Ford constantly overrode his decisions with the workforce.
 Alfred Sloan at GM realized that Knudsen was his best shot for bringing GM into modern production manufacturing and profitability. Fifteen years later, when Sloan became GM’s chairman, Big Bill Knudsen became its president. The Danish immigrant, who had spoken little English when he arrived on our shores 37 years earlier, now ran the world’s largest corporation.
 Until the day that FDR called. Knudsen met with the president two days later and agreed to take on the challenge of preparing American industry for war, and he did so for zero pay. This wasn’t unusual, however, in the past; people became rich in corporations, then did government service out of a sense of duty.
 Under today’s rules you work for government, then use the connections you made there in private enterprise to get rich.
 Read more here:

Inside Elon Musk’s $1.4B Factory Subsidy Score

Peter Elkind:

The crazy, real-life story of how the CEO of electric-car maker Tesla dazzled, seduced, squeezed, bluffed, manipulated, and prodded his way to epic state incentives to build a massive battery plant in the Nevada desert.
 It’s hard to overstate the mystique surrounding Elon Musk these days. He has been compared to Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison. At 43, he’s the CEO of Tesla Motors, an electric-car company so white-hot that it speaks of someday vanquishing the internal combustion engine. He’s chairman of SolarCity, whose panels hold the promise of helping save the world from global warming and fossil fuels. His rocket company, SpaceX, wants to travel to Mars. Never mind that such audacious goals won’t be realized for decades, if ever. Musk’s brilliance, his vision, and the breadth of his ambition make him the one-man embodiment of the future.
 The frenzy that attends his stature was visible on Oct. 9, when Musk unveiled two enhancements to Tesla’s Model S before 4,000 people at an airport in Hawthorne, Calif. Musk took the spotlit outdoor stage at 9 p.m.—an hour late, like a rock star—wearing a black velvet blazer. Smartphones flashed; bloggers live-streamed his jokes. Standing in front of his image on a giant videoscreen, Musk showed off the model’s four-wheel drive and autopilot features.
 Musk wowed the crowd with the $120,000 sedan, which goes 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds. “It’s like taking off from a carrier deck,” he said. Musk took reporters for a ride, leaving them slack-jawed at the S’s acceleration and technology. No matter that, as others pointed out, competitors already have some auto-drive capabilities. As Charlie Rose put it on CBS This Morning, “Elon Musk is the kind of guy you want to invest in.”

Korean Competition Shows Weather Still a Challenge for Autonomous Cars

Evan Ackerman:

Last month, Hyundai quietly held its 2014 Future Automobile Technology Competition in South Korea. Out of 12 participating teams, four made it to the final round, which required the cars to navigate a test circuit. The autonomous cars were required to avoid obstacles, stop for pedestrians, obey traffic laws, and do all of the stuff that self-driving cars will have to be able to do if we’re ever going to be able to hop in, plug in a destination, and turn our attention elsewhere. The competition wasn’t anything that we haven’t seen before—except that during the second day of the competition, it rained.
 It looks like the team from KAIST’s Unmanned Systems Research Group wasn’t required to let its car traverse the course while it was actively raining, but it started out immediately after a heavy shower, on a wet road. The surface was slippery, certainly, but the real problem is that depending on the angle between the car, wet surfaces, and the sun, the car’s cameras can have a difficult time recognizing all kinds of things, including lane markings and street signs.

Autonomous vehicle roadmap: 2015-2030

Dr. Alexander Hars, via Oliver Bruce:

Two and a half years ago I wrote a note on the various views about the paths for adopting self-driving vehicles. Since then, more and more signs point towards my ‘avalanche’ model, where the adoption of self-driving cars becomes a self-sustaining, accelerating process fueled by expectations of a fundamental transformation of the auto industry and major opportunities for profit.

As a thought exercise, I have sketched a hypothetical timeline which shows how this self-accelerating global innovation process could unfold. The purpose of the timeline is to show how autonomous vehicles could come into widespread use rather quickly and what kind of market and political forces could be involved. This is an extreme of many possible futures for self-driving cars:

2015 Google launches first short-range fully autonomous vehicle service in California at NASA Ames (not on public roads) and possibly in Mountain View (small scale pilot, limited to Google employees).

Automakers adopt protocols to handle, protect consumer data in connected car era

Ryan Beene:

The world’s automakers have a message for customers: where you drive and how you drive is your business, not ours.
 Cars are rapidly transforming into smartphones on wheels, sending enormous amounts of data to manufacturers over connected-car services such as General Motors’ OnStar or through built-in 4G data connections.
 Hoping to harness this data to offer more services without eliciting an outcry over the misuse of personal information, BMW, Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai-Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen, Volvo, Mitsubishi and Mazda today agreed to industry-wide principles to handle consumer data and safeguard customer privacy.
 The principles, crafted by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers, two Washington, D.C., trade groups, will require the companies to receive permission for certain uses of data by model year 2017 at the latest, with a one-year extension available if engineering changes are required.
 “Modern cars not only share the road but will in the not-too-distant future communicate with one another,” John Bozzella, president of the Association of Global Automakers, said in a statement. “Vigilance over the privacy of our customers and the security of vehicle systems is an imperative.”

China’s carmakers stuck in reverse, despite upgrades

Tom Mitchell:

Chinese carmakers have narrowed the quality gap with their foreign rivals in the world’s largest auto market to the smallest in seven years, according to new research from a leading industry consultancy.

But the improvements have not been enough to arrest a dramatic drop in market share for local car companies this year, raising questions about their ability to emerge as global competitors.

The annual quality survey of China’s car market by J.D. Power, the California market research company, tracks the number of mechanical and design problems reported per 100 vehicles by more than 21,000 Chinese drivers.

The survey documented 131 problems per 100 domestic vehicles, compared with 95 per foreign vehicle. The 36-point gap was the narrowest in the study’s seven-year history. When China overtook the US as the world’s largest car market in 2008, the gap between domestic and foreign cars was 145 points.

“It’s a testament to the improvements that domestic brands have been making over recent years,” said Geoff Broderick, head of J.D. Power’s Asia-Pacific operations. “By 2018 the domestic and global brands will be on parity in terms of quality.”

Despite the steady improvement in the quality of Chinese car brands tracked by J.D. Power since 2008, local vehicle makers have been performing poorly this year.

Tyre technology: 6 ways the future’s rubber will be better

Ruan Bubear:

Your car’s tyres have an awfully important job to do. Yes, these ring-shaped pieces of rubber do more than simply deliver the requisite traction to keep your vehicle facing the right way on the tarmac.
 They also protect your shiny new alloy wheels and, far more importantly, support the substantial weight of the entire car and its contents. Without air-filled tyres, effective basic driving actions such as accelerating, braking and steering would be pretty much impossible.

9 Things Drivers Need to Stop Saying in the Bikes vs. Cars Debate

Adam Mann:

There are certain things guaranteed to set off an internet firestorm. Talk about climate change, mention Monsanto, or bring up the treatment of women in video games. And you can, especially in recent years, piss off a whole bunch of people simply by writing about bikes and cars. Nothing seems to bring out the angry caps lock and personal attacks faster than transportation issues.
 A recent report showing more cyclists are dying on US streets prompted a remarkable number of stories about cyclist safety. And in the comments section of each, people rehashed the same tired arguments over and over.

Brokerage: Tesla could be sitting on 3,000 unsold cars

Bertell Schmitt:

In the case of the Model X, Lovallo did not have to dig deep. The way it looks, there won’t be a Model X in 2015. As far as the Model S is concerned, Lovallo was told by Tesla that “essentially, in the third quarter, we sold every car that was. Including cars in, like, showrooms, and everything we basically had.” But then, Lovallo started going through the books, and he found that “Tesla’s finished goods inventory at the end of 3Q appears to tell a different story.”
 According to Merrill’s estimates, Tesla could have “approximately 3K vehicles stocked in inventory or in transit,” the brokerage house writes in a research note distributed to clients. Merrill maintains an “underperform on Tesla.” In the euphemistic world of research notes, this translates to “sell as long as there still are greater fools around.”

“the car’s role as a status symbol has diminished”


“The sports car market is roughly half of what it used to be,” Ian Robertson, BMW’s head of sales, said in an interview at the manufacturer’s headquarters in Munich. “Post-2008, it just collapsed. I’m not so sure it’ll ever fully recover.”
 In Europe and North America, the car’s role as a status symbol has diminished, with SUVs and crossovers becoming ever more popular.
 In China and emerging markets, Robertson said hot weather, pollution and a penchant for chauffeur-driven limousines have made sports cars less popular among richer clients.
 Despite the downturn, selling a car built for speed and performance — priced at a relatively high margin — is an important part of building a brand’s allure. That’s why BMW, known for turning out sporty luxury vehicles, is teaming up with Toyota Motor Corp. to share development costs on a new midsize sports car, Robertson said. The duo said last week their project has moved to the concept stage after completing a feasibility study. They declined to provide details.

More front drivers on the way….

Tuner guru sees hope for really young buyers

Lindsay Chappell:

RJ de Vera’s auto industry resume is as free-form and hard to read as a graffiti wall in urban L.A.
 His job title — “leader of the customer engagement group” at the car-care brand Meguiar’s Inc. — doesn’t come close to explaining the man, who helped bring Southern California’s Japanese import tuner craze into auto industry business plans in the 2000s.
 De Vera, 37, has been a trend predictor and under-the-radar consultant since his 20s, editing street-racing magazines, forming car clubs and creating special-edition one-off vehicles that have unofficially influenced automakers on matters as small as accessories and edgy paint color options.
 He began buying and selling trending car parts as a kid, working part time and blowing his entire paycheck to fill his baffled mother’s condo with high-end wheels and sets of racing tires before he had a car to put them on — or a driver’s license.

Truecar vs car dealers: What Happens When a Disruptor Gets Disrupted

Paul Keegan:

A few years ago, Scott Painter had it made. He was wealthy, handsome, and smart, a TED and Davos guy who hung out with Elon Musk and Richard Branson. “Everything in my life had gone unbelievably well,” he says. “Just off-the-chart success.” Over two decades, he had started dozens of companies and raised more than $1 billion in venture funding before finally hitting upon his Really Big Idea in 2005: A company eventually called TrueCar would bring price transparency to the sneaky world of auto salesmanship and give consumers leverage by telling them exactly how much other people were paying for cars.
 For car shoppers, it was nirvana: no more haggling, no more waiting for that gold-chained salesman to talk to his manager to “see what I kin do.” Instead, you just went to, typed in your ZIP code and the make, model, and extras you wanted (don’t forget the fuzzy dice!), and printed out a voucher, redeemable at your local TrueCar dealer, with a guaranteed low price. It was free and easy. And dealers paid TrueCar only if the lead turned into a sale—$299 for new cars, $399 for used.

Death of a Car Salesman

Guy Boulton:

Ernie von Schledorn was driving home with a granddaughter two years ago at lunchtime when they came upon a minor traffic accident. Von Schledorn slowly pulled his Cadillac up to a police officer at the scene and with a smile said, “Who do you know wants to buy a car?”

That question was the tagline for a famed advertising campaign that became part of Milwaukee’s culture.

Ernest “Ernie” von Schledorn, a legendary car dealer and German immigrant who arrived in Milwaukee with $14 in his pocket, died Friday. He was 88.

He hitchhiked to Milwaukee in 1952, and five years later sold more Buicks than any salesman in the country.

“Ernie probably was the hardest working, most focused guy you will ever meet,” said Morry Silverman, group general manager of the von Schledorn dealerships in Menomonee Falls and Lomira.

His passion was selling cars.

“And did it better than anybody I know, and I’ve been around a pretty long time myself,” said Silverman, who came to work for von Schledorn in 1985.

In 1959, two years after being the country’s top Buick salesman, von Schledorn struck out on his own, opening a used-car business at 400 E. Capitol Drive. The business was successful enough that in 1966 he could buy a Pontiac-Buick dealership in Menomonee Falls.

Other dealerships would follow.

Tesla Accounting: Profits & Losses, GAAP & Non-GAAP

Michael Strong:

It’s easy to get caught up in the wave of euphoria that is Tesla Motors, especially when they’re bucking the odds by producing viable, stylish and high quality electric vehicles and making money while doing it. One can forget, ahem…to look a little closer at what’s being reported.
 The Palo Alto, California-based EV maker with the perpetually higher-than-expected stock price reported that its earnings for the third quarter were up two cents a share. That’s great news considering the company wasn’t expected to make any money.
 However, some – mostly us – overlooked the quirk that is Tesla and its reporting practices. Tesla stubbornly clings to reporting non-GAAP numbers whereas the rest of the world uses GAAP results.
 When you look at the GAAP, short for Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, figures, which Tesla did provide further down in the letter to its shareholders the numbers don’t look so rosy.
 “(Tesla’s) Q3 non-GAAP net income was $3 million, or $0.02 per share based on 142.7 million diluted shares, while Q3 GAAP net loss was $75 million or $(0.60) per share, consistent with our guidance even with the additional one-time items.”
 Non-GAAP revenue was $932 million for the quarter, up 55% from a year ago, while GAAP revenue was $852 million.

OPEC: “Pure plug-in electric cares are unlikely to gain a significant market share in the foreseeable future”

Tomas Hirst:

Pure plug-in electric cares are unlikely to gain a significant market share in the foreseeable future. Apart from a high purchase price there are issues of convenience, such as range limitations and battery performance during hot and cold weather conditions (when higher output would be needed for cooling or heating the car). Vehicle electrification will likely be mostly confined to various degrees of hybridisation, including plug-ins.

OPEC world oil outlook.

BMW develops streetlights with electric charging sockets


BMW has developed street lights equipped with sockets to charge electric cars, it said on Friday, and will run a pilot project in Munich next year that uses existing local authority lighting networks.
 BMW said it has made two prototype “Light and Charge” street lights which combine efficient Light Emitting Diodes (LED) with the company’s ChargeNow recharging stations for electric cars.
 “Seamless charging infrastructure is essential if we want to see more electric vehicles on the road in our cities in the future,” Peter Schwarzenbauer, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, said.

Is your connected car spying on you?

Matthew Wall:

But are they also becoming spies in our drives?
 As they record almost every aspect of our journeys and driving behaviour, interacting with our smartphone apps and sat-nav systems, who will own all the data they generate, how will it be used, and will our privacy inevitably be compromised?
 Telematics “black boxes” from insurance companies and related smartphone apps can already measure how aggressively we accelerate and the G-forces we generate hurtling too fast round corners.
 This monitoring technology is even becoming sophisticated enough to recognise different drivers based on their signature driving styles.
 According to the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (Biba), about 300,000 cars are fitted with these dashboard nannies. While that number may seem tiny compared to the 23 million cars on UK roads, there are many in the industry who think such technology will become standard in the next five to 10 years.

Dude, Where’s My Car?

Nick Nam:

This article is the first in a series of three about vulnerabilities and attack vectors on automotive platforms and is a collaboration between work done in a team consisting of Coalfire employees Bryan Alexander, Gerardo Iglesias, and myself.
 Hands-free calling via Bluetooth was first introduced to vehicles in 2004, and the USB port was introduced in 2006. Web technologies, wireless connectivity, app stores, and smart phone integration has seen explosive rises in popularity over the last few years. As the capabilities of consumer electronics and software continues to grow, so too does our demand for its availability. Fridges can tweet, sprinkler systems can tune themselves to weather forecasts, and vehicles can stream HD videos over wireless connections. This availability of utility coupled to the physical world introduces entirely new vectors of not only use, but also of abuse. In order for these physical things to provide utility, they need to be increasingly more powerful, modular, capable; the ability to process unknown, potentially malicious data and input is of grave concern and yet absolutely essential to consumer usability.
 At Coalfire Labs, we’ve spent the last couple of years working with various car manufacturers to evaluate and attempt to compromise implementations of in-vehicle infotainment systems (PDF). These systems are the consumer-facing interfaces to the vehicle’s internal subsystems; all user and device input is funneled and filtered through this and forked out to other subsystems, including the power steering, brakes, and air bag control. These infotainment systems expose GPS, navigation, media playback, phone and MP3 player interfaces among others. If any of these interfaces consumes data in an insecure way, the consequences could be catastrophic. This post will attempt to describe a few of these vectors and their implications, as seen in the wild. Vendor names and identifying information have been removed to protect NDA’s, but the technical details are otherwise unaltered.

Why reports of the death of the salesman are greatly exaggerated

Frank Cespedes:

Perhaps it’s time for a re-think of “Death of a Salesman.” After two decades of talk about the “new economy” and the “disruption” of certain professions by the Internet, you might think that sales as we know it is as stale and outdated as Willy Loman — a function that has been “disintermediated” by the digital revolution.
 In fact, reports of the death of sales are not just exaggerated; they are wrong. To paraphrase a line from Arthur Miller’s play, “Attention must still be paid.” The sales force remains a force. True, the digital impact on business has been significant and, in some industries, revolutionary. But companies that view sales as just part of the plumbing do so at their peril. Consider:
 Annual spending by U.S. companies on their field sales efforts is three times the amount spent on all consumer advertising, more than 20 times what they spend on all online media, and more than one hundred times what they currently spend on social media.

UK: Society still “at dawn” with technology: Google Automotive head

Simon Warburton:

Google’s head of automotive says society is still at “dawn” in terms of the pace of technological change.
 The company with global reach is building 100 self-driving cars that could eventually have no steering wheel or accelerator and brake pedal, noting it would work with “partners” to bring the technology to market.
 Addressing hundreds of suppliers and OEMs at this week’s Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) Open Forum in the UK, Google Automotive chief, Hugh Dickerson, broadened the autonomous driving debate to include the pace at which technology was evolving.

More Expensive Cars Are Leading to Longer-Term Loans

Ann Carrns:

It used to be that a car loan lasted three or four years. After 36 or 48 months of payments, you could drive debt-free for a few more years, before deciding if you wanted to get a new vehicle.
 But times have changed in the automobile buying world.
 Six-year loans are now typical, and terms stretching as long as 96 months — eight years — are available at some lenders.
 Experian Automotive, which tracks consumer buying data, says the average length of a new-car loan was a record 66 months, or five and a half years, in the second quarter, the most recent period for which data is available. About 41 percent of loans were for five to six years and about a quarter were for six to seven years. Less than 1 percent of loans were for longer than 84 months, said Melinda Zabritski, senior director of automotive finance for Experian.

How ‘Car Talk’ Brought Us Closer to Our Cars

Edward Niedermayer:

Much has changed since 1977, when the first episode of “Car Talk” aired on Boston’s WBUR, but the automobile’s central role in American life is not one of them. For all the auto industry’s fears of fading relevance with young people, cars remain one of the most important aspects of our material culture. And yet, with the exception of “Car Talk” itself, there have been few popular forums for the discussion of cars. With yesterday’s passing of Tom Magliozzi, half of the radio show’s beloved Click and Clack, the Tappet brothers, that absence is even more keenly felt.
 The genius of “Car Talk,” which became one of National Public Radio’s most popular shows, was its recognition of the ubiquity of the car in American life. While the traditional auto media divided itself into either enthusiast-oriented “buff books,” heavy on horsepower figures and glossy pictures of performance cars, or more business- and industry-focused coverage of automakers, “Car Talk” recognized that the audience most in need of information about cars was precisely the audience that understands cars the least.

New battery aims to transform electric cars

Pilata Clark:

new battery that promises to solve two of the biggest grumbles about electric cars – high prices and low driving ranges – is headed for shop floors in just over a year.
 The lithium battery, which experts say could be a game-changing “killer app” for the global car market, can triple the driving range of an electric vehicle and significantly lower its costs, say the US scientists who developed it.
 It can also double the running life of a smartphone or a laptop, said Dr Qichao Hu, who developed the device with his former professor, Donald Sadoway, a prominent battery expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
 But its impact on the cost and performance of an electric car could prove transformational, said Prof Sadoway, whose work on other batteries has been backed by Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates.
 “We’ve got to get a car on the showroom floor for $30,000, not $130,000 and the big piece is the battery: it’s too expensive and it runs down too fast,” said Prof Sadoway.

Bill Ford charts a course for the future


William Clay Ford Jr. is known for taking the long view. The great-grandson of Henry Ford and the executive chairman of Ford Motor Company, Bill Ford was an early advocate for sustainability at the company, which earned the number-one spot on Interbrand’s list of Best Global Green Brands in 2014 and also has been improving its competitive position. But to navigate through the coming years, Ford must travel in uncharted territory. Today’s automakers confront developments that will affect the industry for decades: swelling megacities, self-driving vehicles, new technology challengers, and digitally connected cars—among others.
 In September 2014, Ford sat down with Hans-Werner Kaas, a director in McKinsey’s Detroit office and a leader of the firm’s Automotive & Assembly Practice, and shared his views on disruptive trends throughout the automotive industry, his perspectives on leadership, and the opportunities he sees for the city of Detroit. The interview took place in Ford’s office at the company’s headquarters, in Dearborn, Michigan.
 The Quarterly: There are a lot of forces converging in the auto industry right now, including urbanization in emerging markets, powertrain electrification, emissions concerns, and trends toward active safety systems, semiautonomous driving, and vehicle connectivity. Is it an understatement to call this an interesting time?

US Households Without a car


The following is a list of United States cities of 100,000+ inhabitants with the 50 highest percentages of households without automobiles, according to data from the 2000 Census. The Census measured the percentage of households that did not own or otherwise have access to an automobile, as opposed to households that had one or more automobiles.

Via Steve Crandall.

Mercedes, VW to Thwart Google’s Car Inroads in Car Data

Elisabeth Behrmann:

Volkswagen AG (VOW) and Mercedes-Benz called on fellow automakers to establish separate platforms for data on vehicle use to avoid handing over sensitive customer information to Google Inc. (GOOGL)
 “We seek connection to Google’s data systems but we still want to be the masters of our own cars,” Volkswagen Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn, said today at an industry conference in Munich. “Potential conflict arises around making data available.”
 With consumers increasingly expecting seamless connectivity, automakers are making more Internet services available in their vehicles as well as outfitting cars with systems that allow them to communicate with one another. Google as well as Apple Inc. (AAPL) see in-car systems as an opportunity to expand, offering systems such as Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto to connect with people while they’re driving.
 “It’s very good” that automakers are discussing their own systems for processing and storing car data to avoid becoming dependent on “third parties,” Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler AG (DAI), said, speaking alongside Winterkorn in a discussion at the event. “That’ll boost our position when working with Google.”

Ground-effect vehicles are a clever idea whose time has never come—so far

The Economist:

SOME technologies look wonderful on paper but don’t quite make it in the big, bad world. Airships. Autogyros. Hovercraft. They all work. They even have niche applications. But they have never lived up to their promise and been widely adopted.
 So it is with ground-effect vehicles—aircraft-like machines which skim a few metres above the sea by acquiring part of their lift from aerodynamic interaction with the surface beneath. This means they use less fuel than a true aircraft while travelling faster than a ship.

The Crisis

Ed Wallace:

“By 1937 the Sloan Knudsen formula had saved GM. In three years it would have to save the world.” — Arthur Herman, Freedom’s Forge
 Somehow I’m having a hard time getting properly panicked about all the world’s crises today. I know, Ebola is deadly, but it’s just another overblown invisible threat to our well-being. Consider: The CDC’s own website shows that in 2011, 53,826 Americans died from the flu and pneumonia, but three years ago no such panic used up so much of our daily news broadcasts. TV anchors said get flu shot and ended it at that.
 Yes, ISIS is going crazy across parts of Syria and Iraq. But few understand that the Wahhabis, who consolidated the entire Saudi peninsula, were the spiritual ancestors of this strict Islamic sect — and today much of the world buys oil from them. In any case, in the period of 1900 through 1932, when the Wahhabis overrode that region of the world, few even knew it was taking place, much less forming a potential future threat to anyone outside that small section of Middle Eastern desert.
 Come to think of it, Charles Crane, of bathroom and kitchen fixture fame, went into that region in 1930 and on February 25, 1931, became the first American ever to meet King Abdul Aziz. Crane ended up donating the money for a geological survey of Saudi Arabia, which is how they discovered oil and gladly embraced the wealth it would bring them.
 No, in terms of real threats to the world, the ones that can truly alter history, nothing today can compare to what transpired during the last half of the Great Depression with the rise of the National Socialist Party in Germany and that of a belligerent Japan in the Pacific. These were not groups of young, angry jihadists racing around the desert in their used Toyota compact pickup trucks; they were large, well-financed, armed and organized military forces. Their primary goal was to attack and conquer those regions supplying the world’s industrialized nations with their critical raw materials — or to take over those industrialized nations.