End of the car age: how cities are outgrowing the automobile

Stephen Moss:

Gilles Vesco calls it the “new mobility”. It’s a vision of cities in which residents no longer rely on their cars but on public transport, shared cars and bikes and, above all, on real-time data on their smartphones. He anticipates a revolution which will transform not just transport but the cities themselves. “The goal is to rebalance the public space and create a city for people,” he says. “There will be less pollution, less noise, less stress; it will be a more walkable city.”
 Vesco, the politician responsible for sustainable transport in Lyon, played a leading role in introducing the city’s Vélo’v bike-sharing scheme a decade ago. It has since been replicated in cities all over the world. Now, though, he is convinced that digital technology has changed the rules of the game, and will make possible the move away from cars that was unimaginable when Vélo’v launched in May 2005. “Digital information is the fuel of mobility,” he says. “Some transport sociologists say that information about mobility is 50% of mobility. The car will become an accessory to the smartphone.”
 Vesco is nothing if not an evangelist. “Sharing is the new paradigm of urban mobility. Tomorrow, you will judge a city according to what it is adding to sharing. The more that we have people sharing transportation modes, public space, information and new services, the more attractive the city will be.”
 The Vélo’v scheme is being extended, car clubs that use electric vehicles are being encouraged, and what Vesco calls a “collaborative platform” has been built to encourage ride-sharing by matching drivers with people seeking lifts. There is, he says, no longer any need for residents of Lyon to own a car. And he practises what he preaches – he doesn’t own one himself.

Toyota’s killer firmware: Bad design and its consequences

Michael Dunn:

On Thursday October 24, 2013, an Oklahoma court ruled against Toyota in a case of unintended acceleration that lead to the death of one the occupants. Central to the trial was the Engine Control Module’s (ECM) firmware.

Embedded software used to be low-level code we’d bang together using C or assembler. These days, even a relatively straightforward, albeit critical, task like throttle control is likely to use a sophisticated RTOS and tens of thousands of lines of code. 

With all this sophistication, standards and practices for design, coding, and testing become paramount – especially when the function involved is safety-critical. Failure is not an option. It is something to be contained and benign.
So what happens when an automaker decides to wing it and play by their own rules? To disregard the rigorous standards, best practices, and checks and balances required of such software (and hardware) design? People are killed, reputations ruined, and billions of dollars are paid out. That’s what happens. Here’s the story of some software that arguably never should have been.

Crazy-Efficient Rotary Engine Lands Million-Dollar DARPA Contract

Joe Bargmann:

We love when a tiny company does big things.
 LiquidPiston, Inc., of Bloomfield, CT, recently signed an agreement with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA, to use the hyper-efficient rotary engine technology for military purposes. The advanced combustion tech could be used in weaponized UAVs, robotic soldiers, and generators that produce 3kW of electric power—but fit in a backpack.

The Tesla Of Scooters Is Driving Asia’s Two Wheel Revolution

Aaron Tilley:

Horace Luke wanted to be the first person in Taiwan with a Tesla Model S when the gorgeous electric sedan debuted in 2012. Luke, the former chief innovation officer at smartphone maker HTC, is obsessed with beauty and function in all things. But his beloved Teslas were not sold in Taiwan (and still aren’t). He thought about importing one, but his girlfriend finally talked him out of it. With no home garage to charge it in, he’d have to juice it at the office and thus wouldn’t have use of it on the weekends.
 Teslas and other electric sedans may be gaining ground in the U.S., where roomy garages are the norm, but Asia’s booming urban centers present a hostile environment for the clean car revolution. The cost of a Tesla is way out of the reach of the masses, and for the rising middle class in cramped apartment towers there are few good places to charge the cars, let alone park them.

Detroit’s Big Three fear Asian trade pact

David Shepardson:

The pact eventually would end America’s 25 percent tariffs on imported light trucks and 2.5 percent tariffs on cars and auto parts. The tariff has been in place for more than 50 years. Those tariffs, especially the truck tax, have forced foreign automakers to build truck and SUV plants in the United States and helped keep some would-be competitors out of the truck market that is dominated by Detroit’s Big Three.

@cctvnews: China fines Mercedes-Benz RMB350 million ($56 million) for rigging prices with dealers.


Buyers want tech in cars, Gen Y will pay more for it

Melissa Burden:

The 2015 U.S. Tech Choice Study looked at 59 advanced vehicle features across six categories including entertainment and connectivity; comfort and convenience; collision protection; driving assistance; navigation; and energy efficiency. The study found the five most preferred technologies were blind-spot detection and prevention, night vision, enhanced collision mitigation system, camera rearview mirror, which allows drivers to switch between a mirror and camera image, and self-healing paint that has fewer scratches than conventional paint. The least-preferred technologies included a health and wellness system, hand gesture controlled cockpit, hand gesture controlled seat, biometric driver sensors and touch screens.

Cars as “PO Boxes”: Amazon to deliver parcels to Audi boots in Germany

Chris Bryant:

When ordering, Amazon customers will indicate the rough location of the vehicle and desired delivery time. A DHL delivery agent will later be notified of the exact location via a smartphone app.
 The agent is granted one-time keyless access to the boot of the vehicle and when the boot is shut again, it locks automatically. The customer must agree for their vehicles to be tracked for a specific timeframe and is notified via email upon successful delivery.
 “The security of the car and of customer data has top priority for Audi,” said Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi board member for technical development.
 Those involved in the trial would need a specially adapted vehicle to enable third-party access to the boot of their car, Audi said. The carmaker declined to say how many customers would participate in the pilot.
 Before the service could be adopted more widely, this keyless trunk access would need to be retrofitted or ordered as an option when purchasing a new car. The participants in the pilot scheme have already been selected; it is not possible to “volunteer”.

An Online Tune-Up for the Used-Car Marketplace

Farhad Manjoo:

Ms. Lo, 24, is a manager at an online freelance placement company and has been in the market for a used car for more than a year. She tried Craigslist, but found it difficult to trust strangers on the site. Car dealerships were worse. The sales employees were either inattentive or cloying, the finances opaque, and the whole process was time-consuming and inconvenient. At one dealership recently, a salesman asked Ms. Lo, “Are you here with your parents?”
 So a few weeks ago, Ms. Lo did what anyone her age does when confronted with a hurdle in the real world: She escaped it virtually. Ms. Lo found a novel online dealership, Beepi, which acts as a broker between sellers and buyers of used automobiles and which holds the potential to alter the image of the perilous used-car market.

In the future, the car business is going to look very different

John Mcduling:

Jonas has previously predicted, among other things, that a self-driving utopia will be upon us in barely a decade’s time. He has gushed about the potential of Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors to revolutionize the auto industry and bemoaned the incredible wastefulness of owning a car, which typically sits dormant in a garage all day.
 The chart above is an attempt to distill these themes into a single image.
 Basically, he look ahead to the day when today’s ownership-dominated model is surpassed first by ride sharing/hailing services, and then by such services operating autonomously. Time will tell if he is right.
 The auto industry, which Jonas describes as “the most disruptable business on earth” is indisputably huge: global car sales alone are worth an estimated $2 trillion a year. That explains why everyone from Uber, to Tesla and Apple is circling it.

AutoNation’s Michael Jackson Steps on the Gas

Dyan Machan:

POSITIVE TRENDS IN THE automotive industry lately have been working in AutoNation’s favor. The average car on the road is a record 11.4 years old. Replacement demand and affordable credit drove U.S. car and light-truck sales to 16.5 million last year, a 14% increase from 2012, according to Manheim, a vehicle auctioneer. Jackson expects U.S. sales to top 17 million this year.
 It’s an especially good time to be the biggest kid on the block. The number of independent new-car dealers has fallen 30% since 1987. New-car sales at the largest 125 dealer groups were up 13% in 2014, roughly double the gain of the overall industry, according to Automotive News and WardsAuto. Large dealerships accounted for 8% of the market a decade ago, but today claim 20%. AutoNation has a 3.5% share of the new-vehicle market.
 The technological complexity of today’s cars also gives the big chains an edge over smaller repair shops that can’t afford equipment and training. Moreover, most auto makers want repairs under warranty done at the dealerships. The business is highly profitable; new-car sales contribute 57% of AutoNation’s annual revenue, but only 22% of gross profit. Parts, servicing, and financing, on the other hand, account for 19% of sales but 65% of gross profit.
 Size also confers an advantage in allowing AutoNation to shift labor and cars from store to store, depending on demand. Small dealerships would be hard-pressed to match the company’s inventory and flexibility.

Toyota’s emerging market secret: Elbow grease

Bertel Schmitt:

The relative lack of robots is the most striking item for someone who learned the trade back in the 80s around Volkswagen’s dimly lit and fully automated Halle 54: Sure, there is a gang of stout welding robots that weld heavy pieces together.
 Otherwise: Less automation than in some Chinese factories. Since the turn of the millennium, Toyota has been slowly backing away from heavy automation. The labor saved by robots was wasted by fixing and most of all by reprogramming robots. Ohira is the current culmination of this trend.
 For the first time in 30 years, I see people welding by hand. Someone is even putting a rotary sander to a primed body before it enters the paint station. If Ferdi Piech would see that in Wolfsburg, he would stop the line and fire the factory manager. Why less automation? More flexibility, lower investments. The cars no longer dangle from the ceiling while parts are attached from below. They roll on a simple raised platform. This reduces the ceiling height of the factory. Advantage: 50 percent of the investment saved, says Toyota. A side effect of the non-dangling is that people can work on a stationary object, instead on one that dangles.

GT vs Shooting Brake: road clear for an increasingly diverse model line-up

CAR magazine:

Although the two arch rivals firmly believe in distinctly different lighting technologies – BMW favours laser tech, Mercedes a comprehensive LED evolution – they plan to introduce almost simultaneously a broad selection of virtually identical driver assistance systems. Among them are about half a dozen partly or fully automatic parking aids including remote-control manoeuvring in confined spaces, predicative driving governed by sat-nav information and car-to-car communication, a scalable choice of touchscreen interaction and gesture control, the collection of real-time infrastructure information with the help of specialist partners, improved voice control, traffic light recognition, lane changing and overtaking assist, crossroads monitoring with steering and brake intervention, a so-called autobahn assistant which can be left alone at speeds of up to 80mph and the integration of augmented reality features in the extended head-up display. Pause for breath…

Meet the lawyer taking on Uber and the rest of the on-demand economy

Kashmir Hill:

In recent months, Liss-Riordan has filed lawsuits against Uber, Lyft, Homejoy, Postmates, and Try Caviar—five of the largest on-demand start-ups in the world. These suits all boil down to a rather simple allegation: these companies pay the people who supply the equipment and manpower that power their businesses like independent contractors, while burdening them with the work expectations of employees. Representatives of Uber, Lyft, Homejoy and Caviar declined to comment on pending litigation, and Postmates did not respond to request for comment.
 Harold Lichten, Liss-Riordan’s law firm partner, describes her as “a pit bull with a chihuahua in her mouth” when it comes to suing on-demand start-ups. “She will make life as difficult as possible for these companies,” he said. “Here’s Uber — this business model with $40 billion behind it, that is seen as the future — but if she’s correct about their needing to classify all of these drivers as employees, it destroys that model. And it means all these venture capital investors who have poured millions of dollars into the company have bought a pig in a poke.”

The steady rise of bike ridership in New York

Sarah Goodyear:

That news won’t likely come as a surprise to many New Yorkers, who now routinely see bikes outnumbering cars on some streets during rush hour. A generation ago, a person on a bike was almost by definition an outlier who defied the norm (and maybe common sense, given the city’s chaotic traffic culture). Today, it’s not unusual to see parents calmly riding their kids to school before they head off to work themselves on two wheels.
 But while the colorful chart released by the DOT shows ridership is still going up, reaffirming New York’s place as one of the nation’s top cities for people who ride bikes, advocates note that progress has actually slowed over the last few years. They point to a need for expanded high-quality bike infrastructure if the city has any chance of meeting Mayor Bill de Blasio’s stated goal of increasing bike trips to 6 percent of total trips in the city by 2020.
 “It’s not as hot as it could be if the city were building out the bike network with high-quality bike lanes,” says Paul Steely White, executive director of the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives. “This year, the city built five miles of protected lanes—that’s on par with Minneapolis. There need to be 30 to 40 miles per year.”

For Next Generation Cars, Experience Overtakes Driving

Ideo Stories:

For 100-plus years, car ownership has been largely about demonstrating mastery over machines. But the machines are about to flip that relationship on its head. We still talk about driving a car. But judging from the floor of the Geneva Motor Show, the role of the human in the car is increasingly about the in-car experience and less about conquering the machine.
 IDEO’s Transportation and Mobility group went to Geneva to gain insights and inspiration about the state of an industry on the cusp of significant change. Reflecting on our time there, a few things stood out as major shifts in the industry and real opportunities for how design can have positive impact in a rapidly changing landscape.

Women in automotive seek more peers

Jim Henry:

“How many women turn up their noses at automotive because they see it as a man’s business? There are some ladies out there who feel that way,” said Isabelle Helms, vice president of research and market intelligence at Cox Automotive, of Atlanta. “I think having more women at dealerships can only be a good thing for car shoppers.”
 Women are particularly good at putting customers at ease in the F&I department, said Linda Barnette, the founder of Fifth Gear Sales in Palm Beach, Fla., a firm that trains and consults with vendors that pitch goods and services to dealerships.

Car, bike or motorcycle? Depends on where you live

Jacob Poushter:

Last year, we asked people in 44 countries whether they owned certain household items such as microwaves, televisions or radios. We did this in part to explore whether owning more household goods has an effect on life satisfaction – and, indeed, owning more key items increases happiness by a substantial amount.
 We also asked whether people have a car, bicycle or motorcycle in their home, and we found major variations of ownership by region around the world. One caveat: We didn’t ask about whether people used these items, just whether they had one in working order. People might primarily use other forms of transportation, such as public transit or walking, in their daily lives. Nevertheless, we found notable differences between economically advanced nations, emerging markets and developing countries:

Saudi Arabia’s Plan to Extend the Age of Oil

Peter Waldman:

Last fall, as oil prices crashed, Ali al-Naimi, Saudi Arabia’s petroleum minister and the world’s de facto energy czar, went mum. He still popped up, as is his habit, at industry conferences on three continents. Yet from mid-September to the middle of November, while benchmark crude prices plunged 21 percent to a four-year low, Naimi didn’t utter a word in public.
 For 20 years, Bloomberg Markets reports in its May 2015 issue, the world’s $2 trillion oil market has parsed Naimi’s every syllable for signs of where supply and prices are heading. Twice during previous routs—amid the Asian financial crisis in 1998 and again when the global economy melted down 10 years later—Naimi reversed oil’s free fall by orchestrating production cutbacks among members of OPEC. This time, he went to ground.

Why Energy Storage is About to Get Big – and Cheap

Ramaaz Naam:

I’ve been writing about exponential decline in the price of energy storage since I was researching The Infinite Resource. Recently, though, I delivered a talk to the executives of a large energy company, the preparation of which forced me to crystallize my thinking on recent developments in the energy storage market.
 Energy storage is hitting an inflection point sooner than I expected, going from being a novelty, to being suddenly economically extremely sensible. That, in turn, is kicking off a virtuous cycle of new markets opening, new scale, further declining costs, and additional markets opening.

For Some Teenagers, 16 Candles Mean It’s Time to Join Uber

Nick Bilton:

For generations of American teenagers, obtaining a driver’s license was a rite of passage. But when Jonathan Golden, a scruffy-haired high schooler who lives in Santa Monica, Calif., turned 16 in November, he couldn’t be bothered with the bureaucracy of the Department of Motor Vehicles.
 Instead, he wanted his own Uber account.
 That way, he could do normal teenage things like meeting friends at the mall, going to the movies or coming home from school without having to call his parents. He was also open to the idea of picking up a date in an Uber, though he says he doesn’t have a girlfriend at the moment.
 “It’s like you’re being driven around by your parents, but you don’t have to hold a conversation with them,” he said.
 While Jonathan may be an early adopter, he said that most of his friends don’t have a license or car, either. Often they share Uber rides, using the app’s built-in fare-splitting feature, for after-school outings and weekend hangouts.

The $5 Billion Race to Build a Better Battery

Christopher Martin:

Professor Donald Sadoway remembers chuckling at an e-mail in August 2009 from a woman claiming to represent Bill Gates. The world’s richest man had taken Sadoway’s Introduction to Solid State Chemistry online, the message explained. Gates wondered if he could meet the guy teaching the popular MIT course the next time the billionaire was in the Boston area, Bloomberg Markets magazine will report in its May issue. “I thought it was a student prank,” says Sadoway, who’s spent more than a decade melting metals in search of a cheap, long-life battery that might wean the world off dirty energy. He’d almost forgotten the note when Gates’s assistant wrote again to plead for a response.
 A month later, Gates and Sadoway were swapping ideas on curbing climate change in the chemist’s second-story office on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus. They discussed progress on batteries to help solar and wind compete with fossil fuels. Gates said to call when Sadoway was ready to start a company. “He agreed to be an angel investor,” Sadoway says. “It would have been tough without that support.”

Japan set to miss hydrogen stations target for fuel-cell cars this year

Maki Shiraki:

Japan looks set to miss its ambitious target of having around 100 hydrogen fuelling stations for fuel-cell cars in operation by March 2016, with just 76 approved after the deadline to apply for subsidies passed last month.
 The government had earmarked 21.38 billion yen ($178.37 million) over the past three years to subsidise the construction and operation of fuelling stations by March 2016 as it aims to lead the world in setting up a hydrogen-based society featuring fuel-cell cars such as Toyota Motor Corp’s Mirai.
 But applications for the final portion – a supplementary budget of 9.59 billion yen for fiscal 2015 – resulted in just 32 stations getting the nod, government data showed this week, highlighting the difficulty of encouraging energy companies to bet on the still-unproven business.

Haig: I’ve ‘never seen prices this high for dealerships’

Jami LaReau

In the busiest dealership buy-sell market in decades, luxury brands are red hot. The result: stratospheric prices for Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Porsche dealerships.
 Typical blue-sky multiples for those three brands range from 7 to as much as 10 times adjusted pretax profit, according to the “2014 Year End Haig Report” released this week. After the third quarter of 2014, the report put the top end of those brands’ blue-sky range at 7 or 7.5 times earnings.
 “I have never seen prices this high for dealerships before, and there’s a particular spike on the German luxury” brands, said Alan Haig, president of Haig Partners, a dealership buy-sell advisory firm in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which puts out the report. “There’s a big bet now that the luxury market is going to grow faster than the overall market.”
 Blue sky is the intangible value of a dealership, expressed as a multiple of adjusted pretax profit. Multiples — which can vary enormously based on a dealership’s location and other factors — are based on actual adjusted earnings by normally performing stores.

“We really want to make the car your wallet”

Sarah Mishkin:

“One car executive called me and said, ‘We really want to make the car your wallet’,” says Doug Brown, head of mobile for FIS, a maker of banking and payments software.

Thanks in part to the launch of Apple’s mobile payment app Apple Pay, retailers and shoppers are increasingly using mobile payments, industry members say. That is leading to greater interest from merchants and tech companies in developing new ways to buy goods, including car dashboard apps.

The revolution in mobile payments happens to coincide with a race by car and tech giants to make cars smarter. Consumers increasingly want their cars to have the same sophisticated technology, such as maps and music apps, as their smartphones.

Most new cars have minicomputers embedded in dashboards that can run apps or link up with smartphones to let drivers control their phones through the car’s touchscreen. Apple and Google have both released software for cars in the past two years, while manufacturers from Detroit to Tokyo are developing in-house connected car systems.

“This is where you start to get the pieces coming together,” says Ramón Martín, Visa’s global head of merchant solutions. “New commerce opportunities exist.”

The End of Asymmetric Information

By Alex Tabarrok and Tyler Cowen:

Might the age of asymmetric information – for better or worse – be over? Market institutions are rapidly evolving to a situation where very often the buyer and the seller have roughly equal knowledge. Technological developments are giving everyone who wants it access to the very best information when it comes to product quality, worker performance, matches to friends and partners, and the nature of financial transactions, among many other areas.
 These developments will have implications for how markets work, how much consumers benefit, and also economic policy and the law. As we will see, there may be some problematic sides to these new arrangements, specifically when it comes to privacy. Still, a large amount of economic regulation seems directed at a set of problems which, in large part, no longer exist.

With CMA, Volvo plans to develop cars faster

Diane Kuryiko:

Volvo will slash product development time to 20 months when it adds a second new vehicle architecture, r&d chief Peter Mertens said.
 The replacement for the V40 and other compact cars will use Volvo’s new compact modular architecture, or CMA, “and from then on,” all cars will take 20 months to develop, he said.
 Toyota and Mazda take about 26 months to develop vehicles, Mertens said.
 Volvo’s compact V40 five-door hatchback unveiled in 2012 took 42 months to develop, he said.

Via Roman Mališka.

“[Tesla] is endemic of how startups think,”

Johana Bhuiyan:

In the race to define the “future of transportation,” legacy car manufacturers are increasingly facing off against new rivals birthed not by the automotive industry, but by the technology industry. The disruption brought by fresh-faced players like Tesla, Google, Uber, and Lyft is forcing them to think like startups and embrace new ideas like autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing. Among the old-school car companies grappling with that shift is Ford, which is looking to develop innovative and advanced vehicles that can be available to everyone.
 “[Tesla] is endemic of how startups think,” Ford CEO Mark Fields said Tuesday, ahead of the New York International Auto Show. “We’re really encouraging everyone in our company to think like a startup. We want people to challenge custom and question tradition, we want them to not take anything for granted. We want them to ride the technology curb where it makes sense, we want them to think from a customer experience standpoint, we want them to move fast and test, and we want them to take appropriate risks.”

Automaker say you don’t really own your car


EFF is fighting for vehicle owners’ rights to inspect the code that runs their vehicles and to repair and modify their vehicles, or have a mechanic of their choice do the work. At the moment, the anti-circumvention prohibition in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act arguably restricts vehicle inspection, repair, and modification. If EFF is successful then vehicle owners will be free to inspect and tinker, as long as they don’t run afoul of other regulations, such as those governing vehicle emissions, safety, or copyright law.
 You can support EFF’s exemption requests by adding your name to the petition we’ll submit in the rulemaking.
 Most of the automakers operating in the US filed opposition comments through trade associations, along with a couple of other vehicle manufacturers. They warn that owners with the freedom to inspect and modify code will be capable of violating a wide range of laws and harming themselves and others. They say you shouldn’t be allowed to repair your own car because you might not do it right. They say you shouldn’t be allowed to modify the code in your car because you might defraud a used car purchaser by changing the mileage. They say no one should be allowed to even look at the code without the manufacturer’s permission because letting the public learn how cars work could help malicious hackers, “third-party software developers” (the horror!), and competitors.

Connected cars: Tyred and wired

Andy Sharman:

he answer lay in a small black box located beneath the dashboard. This Sim card-enabled device instantly sent Ms Chandler’s location and the force of impact to her insurance company, which then phoned for an ambulance.
 The connected car is already saving lives. Now big business is wondering what else it can do. Insurers, telecommunications companies and advertisers are all racing to tap the commercial potential presented by vehicles that can reveal their location, speed and more.
 Some possibilities are fun: a music streaming service could suggest tracks based on the picturesque stretch of country lane the car is navigating. Advertisers, for years confined to radio jingles and roadside billboards when marketing to motorists, are salivating at the prospect of beaming tailor-made adverts to the car’s captive audience.

The Economist Provides False Comfort to Established Carmakers on Driverless Cars

Chunka Mui:

1. Electric Vehicles (EVs) are irrelevant to fully autonomous (driverless) vehicles. It is true that, as The Economist argues, “autonomous vehicles could just as well be powered by petrol as batteries.” This fails to recognize, however, that there is a virtuous cycle between driverless cars and EVs. Fully autonomous vehicles allow for car-sharing business models that would stimulate demand for small electric vehicles. Such vehicles would, in turn, drive down the per-mile-cost of transportation, further heightening demand for driverless cars. At scale, EVs are also cheaper and easier to build and service—thereby lowering the barriers to entry for new entrants.
 2. V2V and V2I communications are essential to driverless cars. The Economist repeats the assumption that vehicle-and-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications capabilities are necessary for driverless cars to operate. While both sets of technology would be valuable to have, any system that depends on them would have to wait decades for full adoption and require massive upfront investments. If v2v and v2i communications are essential then carmakers will outlast other potential entrants. Google, however, is betting that they are not—and making good progress without them.

US Prosecutors Ease Crackdown on Buyers of China Bound Luxury Cars

Matthew Goldstein:

But the Justice Department recently advised its prosecutors to be more judicious in pursuing civil forfeiture actions — and even criminal cases — against car export companies and their owners.
 “Over the past year, we have been engaged in a comprehensive review of the asset forfeiture program, including straw-buyer luxury export cases and other aspects of the program,” said Peter Carr, a Justice Department spokesman, in an emailed statement. “As a result of this ongoing review, the department is encouraging prosecutors to pursue civil and criminal sanctions for straw-buyer fraud cases that lead to other criminal violations, such as tax fraud, identify theft fraud and the submission of false export documents.”
 In practice, that means using a straw buyer alone to buy a car may not be enough evidence for government agents to seize a vehicle from an export company, said people briefed on the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Bright Lights, Big City

Edward Niedermeyer:

The first step is admitting that the benefits of owning a car in places like New York are typically outweighed by the downsides of parking and traffic. Any premium brand that wants to succeed in an urban environment has to recognize that offering access to mobility without the struggles of car ownership is the way forward. Imagine if, rather than buying a new CT6 or Continental, New Yorkers could be offered a subscription service to the brand they most favor, which would allow them to drive any vehicle made by that brand. Want a sedan to transport business clients on a weekday? Order it on an app. Want a sports convertible to take up the coast with a special someone on the weekend? A touch of the smartphone should be all it takes.
 Not only would this approach woo increasingly well-off but car-averse city dwellers, but it would also show that these brands can truly remake themselves for a new era. More important, it would prepare these brands for the ultimate revolution in the automotive experience: autonomous drive technology. If Lincoln and Cadillac can get out in front of the radical democratization of chauffeurs, they will have successfully exploited the last remaining opportunity to set their brands apart.