Autonomous Cars Dream or Nightmare?

AutoInformed.com on Auotnomous Vehicles

Autonomous Driving – Space age technologies at space age costs?

Does one ever dream about cars? Maybe after attending an auto show or a Concours if one is a collector? Sure, it happens all the time. Especially when one has been coveting the latest Chevy Corvette ZO6, Mercedes-Benz AMG GTS or maybe an Aston Martin V12 Vantage ES with new seven-speed manual worthy of 007 fame.

But emerging from a dead sleep with visions of what THE future of the driving world will be, for me, was totally unexpected. Yes, I’ve written about self-driving or so-called autonomous cars and their potential perils, and objections to finding oneself unable to tromp the gas pedal or brake or turn a non-existent steering wheel around a hairpin curve. Continue reading

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Slow News Night – 2018 Nissan Midnight Models

AutoInformed.com on Nissan Midnight EditionsFor Nissan in 2018, black is the new black, just like Henry Ford’s Model T with its fast-drying paint that upped production. This time it’s a marketing move to increase revenues. and foremost to shut out a thriving aftermarket in blackout kits.

Nissan says it has sold 50,000 Midnight Edition 2017, including up to 80% of Maxima SR models and typically one-third of other models’ applicable grades. Now Nissan is expanding the lineup to include Frontier, TITAN and TITAN XD models. Continue reading

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Crossover Mania: 3-Row Lexus RX Debuts at Los Angeles

AutoInformed.com on Crossover SUVs - RX350Even one of the leading passenger car makers in the world cannot stop the flood tide (tsunami?)  of increasing demand – globally – for crossover SUVs. The Lexus RX – the original SUV built from a car platform – debuting in the U.S. at the Chicago Auto Show 20 years ago – will get three rows of seats. Its latest world premiere of the upcoming 2018 RX350L model is at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show and industry conferences at the beginning of December. It will have both gasoline and – curiously – diesel engines.

 

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Swissport Ramp Agents Vote to Join Teamsters

Ramp agents working for Swissport voted to become members of Teamsters Local 120. The 114 ramp agents, who are responsible for handling baggage, join Swissport aircraft fuelers that are already represented by the union at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Local 120 represents more than 11,500 members in Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Not surprisingly, wages, health care, turnover and safety were the main issues workers cited as their reasons for joining. Improvement on these issues might be improved by negotiating a collective bargaining agreement. Continue reading

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New Record – Most Balloons Suspended by Static Electricity

AutoInformed.com on Electric VehiclesA Canadian P.R. stunt has the new smart fortwo electric drive posting a Guinness World Records title for the “Most Balloons Suspended by Static Electricity.”  A team of employees from Mercedes-Benz Canada and its advertising and media agencies, BBDO and OMD, set the record by using static electricity to hang 415 balloons from a single wall at a sound stage in Toronto’s west end.

Official requirements had the balloons inflated manually (a handheld pump was permitted, although the agency no doubt had a lot of hot air available) and no participants in the record-setting had product in their hair, as it would have artificially increased the adhesiveness of the balloons. Continue reading

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Hyundai Ups Military Incentives for Veterans Day Weekend

Hyundai Motor America is doubling its military incentive and offering a $1,000 discount on all new 2017 and 2018 model year Hyundai vehicles. This deal will be available to any active, veteran, or retired military personnel from November 10, 2017 through November 17, 2017. Hyundai Motor America also supports for the U.S. Military through a dedicated internal employee resource group called Stars and Stripes. Continue reading

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Ford, Zotye Ink Chinese JV Agreement on Electric Vehicles

AutoInformed.com on Zoyte and FordFord Motor Company and Zotye have signed a “definitive agreement” to establish Zotye Ford Automobile Co., Ltd., a new 50:50 joint venture that will offer a range of all-electric vehicles for consumers in China under a new brand. The communist party approved deal was signed in Beijing by Peter Fleet, Ford group vice president and president, Ford Asia Pacific, and Ying Jianren, chairman of Tech-New Group Ltd. and board director of Zotye Auto. In addition to the new JV, Ford and Zotye will explore offering mobility services to consumers in China as local demand for such continues to grow.

Zotye Auto is a pioneer in the Chinese all-electric vehicle segment. It is the market leader in China’s all-electric small vehicle segment and sold more than 22,500 all-electric vehicles year-to-date through October, representing a growth of over 14 percent year-over-year. The JV will benefit from Zotye’s expertise in designing and commercializing EVs in China, and Ford’s global product development and technology capabilities. Continue reading

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Shanghaied! Porsche Takes Third Straight Endurance Driver’s Title

AutoInformed.com on WEC - Shanghai 2017Two Kiwis and a Kraut have steered Porsche to its third straight FIA World Endurance Championship Drivers Cup at Shanghai yesterday, the penultimate race of the season. The WEC series factory team of Bamber, Bernhard and Hartley are the 2017 long-distance superstars. They really weren’t Shanghaied, of course, who could resist a Porsche factory ride, given its history, given its victories and given – recently – its dominance of endurance racing in the top LMP1 class. Some of this was luck following Audi’s withdrawal because of dieselgate costs (Porsche is also out in 2018 for the same reason), and Toyota’s lack of power, lack of endurance and lack of luck when running between or over the trackside bumpers during a long multi-continental season.

Such was not the case for Toyota Gazoo racing in China though. Toyota dominated the race with Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima in the #8 TS050 Hybrid won by more than a lap over Porsche for Toyota’s third win in Shanghai, setting the fastest lap of the race in the process. It was Toyota’s fourth win of the season. That result means Toyota goes to the final race of 2017, in Bahrain on 18 November, with four wins – the same as Porsche. However, both title battles are over, with Porsche and drivers Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley now World Champions.

Toyota has yet to announce if it will return to LMP1 next year – right now they are the only factory entrant with, oh, potentially $100 million investment needed. However, this is pending the inevitable, given the politics and business of racing, no doubt modification of the rules would allow non-hybrid cars in racing’s most exciting class that runs on racing’s most storied tracks. This prediction of AutoInformed hasn’t passed the require tech inspection yet.  

It’s enormously challenging for three drivers to share a race car at a 6- or 24-hour race says Timo Bernard, the oldest Porsche factory driver. Endurance racing is a team sport.” The head of the Porsche “Team 75 Bernhard” is direct about cooperation among drivers: “An endurance crew must be on the same page on personal and technical level. This is essential, and you have to work at it.”

Consider that each driver brings his own style with him. First, they must adapt this style and then make an honest evaluation when setting up the car. The short practice time must be divided between the three. Even with unchanging weather, not all three face the same track when completing a qualifying simulation on fresh tires. Perhaps most importantly, not all three will get a chance to test a set of tires at the end of its lifespan. When the green flag drops, each must know how the car handles with new, used or worn-out rubber. Feedback about the grip level and turn-in response or warnings for wet spots or inattentive competitors must be reliable, understood by the recipient and implemented.

In short, there is no room for personal preferences in the setup. No one benefits from measures that only one can use. But all pay when one doesn’t cope. When one driver is racing, the other two are looking at the monitors, listening to radio communications and consulting with the engineers.

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Offshore Brand US Auto Sales Rose During a So-So October

AutoInformed.com on US October Vehicle Sales

Click to enlarge.

Even though Trump hasn’t implemented his promised offshore tax on imports or took on China for its currency manipulation and trade practices, international brands once again controlled the U.S.  auto market during September by selling 748,614 vehicles, commanding 55.3% of overall sales. Last month, they sold 848,906 vehicles and occupied 55.7% of the market. During October 2016 offshore brands took 54.5% of the market by selling 747,980 vehicles.

AutoData Corp. says that the seasonally adjusted annual rate (aka SAAR) for October was 18.09 million units versus 17.87 million units a year ago. Total industry unit deliveries, including domestic brands and un-adjusted for business days, decreased -1.3% compared to last October. Offshore brands rose 0.08% as a group. Nonetheless sales for all brands were down 1.7% year to date. Industry-wide, 1,354,875 vehicles were sold in October compared to 1,372,320 units sold during October 2016. Continue reading

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Unions Battle Precarious Work, Global Warming at Shell

AutoInformed.com on Precarious Work Protest Against ShellOil and gas unions representing workers at Shell operations in five continents took a stand against precarious work during, the World Day for Decent Work in an ongoing dispute with the oil giant which is one of the biggest contributors to Global Warming. IndustriALL Global Union affiliates in Ghana, Nigeria, Iraq and Pakistan organized activities and demonstrations against precarious work at Shell, while the United Steelworkers in the USA canvassed local unions to raise awareness of precarious work as a threat at the company. Continue reading

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Q3 – GM Lost $3 Billion Net, Takes $5.4B Charge for Opel Sale

AutoInformed.com on GM Q3 Earnings

Good riddance?

General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) today announced Q3 performance in all operating segments with good results in North America and China, some improvement in South America, continued growth of GM Financial and cost cutting. GM EPS-diluted were $0.08 and EPS (diluted-adjusted) were $1.32, from continuing operations. GM Financial – essentially GMAC re-established post-bankruptcy – set record revenues of $3.2 billion.

GM posted its first profitable quarter in all business segments, including South America, since Q4 2014. However, income from continuing operations was hurt by a $2.3 billion non-cash charge for deferred tax assets that are no longer realizable due to Opel/Vauxhall sale. In total the Opel/Vauxhaul sale cost GM stockholders $5.4 billion. Continue reading

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General Motors Sets Q4 2017 Dividend at 38 Cents

AutoInformed.com on Maven Los Angeles

Maven is propping up a weak GM stock.

General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) today declared a fourth quarter 2017 dividend of 38 cents per outstanding share of common stock ahead of it of Q3 earnings announcement. (Ford Motor reports Thursday morning.)  The dividend is payable Thursday, December 21, 2017 to all common shareholders of record at the close of business on Friday, 8 December 2017 GM stock closed at 45.15-0.46 (-1.01%).

GM shares have moved higher since September – about +29.5% for the year. The company claims it is concentrating on ridesharing – the Lyft semi-acquisition looks brilliant –  electric vehicles and self-driving cars. GM is also adding Maven Gig to more cities. The potentially vehicle absorbing/selling/leasing program is partially aimed at Uber, Lyft and delivery drivers. For a flat fee, drivers can rent cars, including insurance and maintenance, directly from the company. (See AutoInformed.com on: Maven Gig Expands to San Francisco, Maven Debuts “Elevated” Car Sharing in Baltimore, Maven Expands Los Angeles Car Sharing with Chevrolet Bolt, Maven Launches City Car Sharing in Atlanta, Maven Car Sharing Now in Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco) Continue reading

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Mazda CX-5 Crossover Build Starts at Hofu Plant

AutoInformed.com on Mazda struggles and CX-5Mazda Motor Corporation has started production of the new compact CX-5 crossover at its Hofu Plant No. 2 in Yamaguchi Prefecture. It is the latest entree in the crossover parade – one that is bordering on a universal stampede –  to meet growing global demand for crossovers. Until now the CX-5 has been produced at the company’s Hiroshima Plant and at plants in China and Malaysia.

Mazda is financially struggling and wants to meet a global sales volume target of 1.65 million units by the end of its three-year business plan, Structural Reform Stage 2, which was launched  during last Japanese fiscal year.

The reasons for Mazda’s struggles are many in AutoInformed’s view: a bias toward old architectures, single or limited joint ventures, different operating philosophies and systems, no true mergers, lack of trust and inequality in operations. However, the potential savings of large link-ups or mergers are now just too large to ignore, especially for CEOs, but not necessarily for middle managers and workers. (See AutoInformed.com on New Toyota and Mazda Collaboration – Takeover or Merger?) Continue reading

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Consumer Reports: Infotainment, Transmissions Hurt Reliability. Detroit Three Quality Dismal

The latest published Consumer Reports’ Annual Auto Reliability Survey data shows that “growing pains” for new models is common for many manufacturers. The survey of 640,000 vehicles revealed that all-new or updated models are now more likely than older ones to have a “wonky engine, a jerky transmission, or high-tech features that fail outright.”

“These new technologies can add features and improve fuel efficiency, but are more prone to have issues. Often our data suggests it’s prudent for consumers to wait for the technology to mature” said Jake Fisher of CR at the Automotive Press Association in Detroit.

Nothing new here as veterans of the car wars will tell you. For current examples, consider that more eight- and nine-speed and continuously variable transmissions (CVT) are coming to market. Many owners have reported issues with them breaking down or shifting badly. Infotainment systems are another frequently noted trouble spot in new or newly redesigned models. CR’s survey this year showed that owners of first-year models had twice as many complaints about in-car electronics. Continue reading

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IMSA Classic 24 Coming November 8 – 12 at Daytona

AutoInformed.com on IMSA Classic

John Surtees 1967 Lola T70 Mk3B Lightweight Spyder.

The entry list for the third running of the Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR) Classic 24 Hour at Daytona was announced today by HSR officials. The race has nearly race cars and more than 250 drivers from around the world. In total, drivers and teams from 18 different countries, including past and current champion drivers, sports car racing stars are heading to the shamelessly boastfully named “World Center of Racing” next month. (Ever hear of Indy or LeMans?)

The race cars cover a six-decade timespan, back to the iconic prototypes and GT cars of the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s to the more “modern” but not necessarily more exciting machines of this century that have been retired from competition. Continue reading

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