By on March 14, 2016

Google Toyota Prius Autonomous Vehicle

The brain trust of yet another artificial intelligence technology startup has been snapped up as automakers prepare for our terrifying, dystopian future.

That, Sergio Marchionne has a sure-fire recipe, jury selection begins in ignition trial, Tesla doesn’t need no stinkin’ successful low-priced car, and GM goes big on commercial sales … after the break!

Toyota badge

Toyota goes shopping for talent

Toyota isn’t about to let rivals get ahead in the self-driving car game.

Jaybridge Robotics, an AI software firm in Massachusetts, has been singled out by Toyota to help the automaker further develop their autonomous driving technology, Fortune reports:

The carmaker has enlisted Jaybridge’s 16-person team for its Toyota Research Institute, the company’s $1 billion advanced projects lab based in Silicon Valley. The institute is led by Gill Pratt, a former program manager for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and is tasked with developing self-driving cars.

Jaybridge CEO Jeremy Brown said in a statement that his team is looking forward to “going after the big one: helping to reduce the nearly 1.25 million traffic fatalities each year, worldwide.” His firm spun out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology seven years ago, and previously had focused on industrial applications for artificial intelligence software in fields such as agriculture and mining, he said.

Last week, General Motors spent a rumored $1 billion to acquire a San Francisco-based startup to bolster its self-driving vehicle initiative.

Alfa-romeo_Giulia

Someone left the Giulia out in the rain

Potential customers won’t get their hands on an Alfa Romeo Giulia until the end of the year, but that’s the way quality aficionado Sergio Marchionne wants it.

The Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO said the Giulia started out half-baked, and that the delay in getting the much-hyped Italian sedan to U.S. shores has everything to do with matching German rivals, according to Automotive News:

U.S. sales of the Quadrifoglio version will begin in the third quarter, with the 2.0-liter version arriving in U.S. showrooms by year end. The Giulia Quadrifoglio will start at about $70,000 in the U.S., Alfa said.

“The brand has historically failed to meet its technical ambitions. If we get that wrong we might as well go back home,” Marchionne said. “If the Giulia doesn’t give the best possible performance we’ve wasted our time, and a pot of money.”

The Giulia was to be on sale by now, but had to be re-engineered after failing front, side and rear impact crash tests.

Recalled GM ignition switch

GM gets its day in court, and then some

Jury selection is due to begin in a new trial concerning a crash possible related to the General Motors ignition scandal, while a second trial could reverse decisions made in bankruptcy court last year, Reuters reports:

As the first trial never reached a verdict, the one starting on Monday may be the first time a jury weighs in on whether GM is liable for its years-long failure to conduct a recall. A GM spokesman said the company will argue that the crash at issue was not caused by the switch.

At the 2nd Circuit, plaintiffs will argue that GM should face their claims because the company’s deception deprived them of a chance to participate in the bankruptcy proceedings.

To date, GM has paid $2 billion in penalties and settlements related to the ignition issue, though the recuperation being sought in the bankruptcy-related lawsuit is in the area of $10 billion.

esla Showroom In California Circa August 2014

Musk’s battery safety net cushions all

The lower-cost Tesla Model 3 stands to lose money, despite the intentions of company founder Elon Musk, but it won’t come as a death blow to the electric automaker, according to Business Insider:

Tesla is still generating impressive gross profit margins on the cars it currently sells, which are bought mainly by affluent consumers. We’re talking 18% in the most recent quarter.

So with the Model X, the Model S, and a revamped Roadster, which should arrive before 2020, Tesla could continue to dominate the market for luxury electric vehicles, cool it on the change-the-world thing, and simply be an exceptionally profitable niche carmaker.

On top of that, Tesla’s plan to market car-less battery packs as energy storage “Powerwalls” — without the overhead that goes into car production — could see that initiative become a huge money-maker.

GMC Sierra

The General rallies the fleet

After reducing the amount of vehicles it offers to low-revenue rental agencies, General Motors has seen a surge in sales from commercial vehicle operators, Automotive News reports:

Commercial sales to businesses tend to be the most profitable of the three sectors that make up the fleet market, which also includes sales to rental agencies and government buyers. GM executives in recent years have committed to expanding the commercial and government segments while reducing the company’s reliance on rental, which can harm resale values and brand image when done in heavy doses.

GM’s commercial sales last year totaled 213,358 vehicles, up 38 percent from 2013, according to estimates from Automotive Fleet, a trade magazine published by Bobit Business Media. That compares with FCA’s 18 percent gain over that period (to 72,705) and a 3 percent dip for Ford (to 308,916).

Diverse product offerings, plentiful “box-delete” options and internet connectivity are listed as GM’s main selling points, with an imminent feature that allows companies to spy on drivers poised to further the appeal.

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23 Comments on “TTAC News Round-up: Toyota Brings on Brains, Sergio Leaves the Cake in the Oven, and GM Takes the Stand...”


  • avatar

    There’s NO WAY the Model 3 will be had for any less than $50,000

    The demand is going to be RIDICULOUSLY high to the point that there will be overcharges on the Model 3 Just as there is on the Model X. Some people pay $10,000 – $20,000 over sticker.

    You won’t be able to get one – and if you manage to find one, you WILL pay over $35,000 for it.

    My bet is that Navigation, moonroof, supercharger access and autopilot will easily push the price past $50,000.

    I say “supercharger access” because Tesla TEASED US with the 40KWh – the only “affordable” Model S – and then quickly discontinued it after their government loan had been paid back. The 40KWh lacked supercharging abilities.

    Tesla claimed they cancelled it because of “low demand”.

    Back in 2012, TESLA wasn’t even well-known yet.

    Smoke & Mirrors.

    • 0 avatar
      gespo04

      Who is going to drive up the price, The non-existent Tesla dealers? The base price will probably be $29,999.99 and 9/10ths just like the Mercedes-Benz CLA, just so they can say it costs “less than 30k”. It will be quite transparent what Tesla is doing, but it can still be an excellent value.

      • 0 avatar
        derekson

        Tesla will by only selling a “Launch Edition” that will be ~$50k until they stop being able to sell all of the $50k ones they can make and then we’ll see the “35k” model released, just like the Model X launch strategy.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    re: “Giulia (…) had to be re-engineered after failing (…) crash tests”

    Is there a reliable source for this info? I read that they re-engineered the platform so that it could share more parts with the upcoming SUV. That was from a European source, but it was presented as gossip more than fact.

    • 0 avatar
      moff90

      From the linked article : “the car failed to pass internal front, side and rear crash tests, which resulted in extensive re-engineering, supplier sources have told Automotive News Europe”

      So, these supposed anonymous sources (assuming they exist in the first place) don’t even work for FCA. Go figure…

      “Potential U.S. customers won’t get their hands on an Alfa Romeo Giulia until the end of the year…

      cut

      The Giulia was to be on sale by now in the U.S. market…”

      fixed. An Alfa Romeo representative in Geneva said during an interview that the base models will enter regular production in April, with deliveries to EU customers starting in May.

  • avatar
    caltemus

    I’m glad to see Sergio learned from previous early-releases of cars without everything fully worked out. The Dart and Cherokee releases come to mind. He’s correct in saying that Alfa needs to be reliable and at least on par with its competitors if they have any hope of not becoming another also ran in a crowded segment (Fiat).

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      The Giulia looks pretty nice, all shiny and red, and certainly has potential… but it comes across like the love child of one of those Jaguar Mondeo X-types and a Dart. Sergio desperately needs it to be better than those two turned out.

  • avatar
    Coopdeville

    “quality aficionado Sergio Marchionne”

    Credit where it’s due, that was funny. :)

  • avatar
    stuki

    If you want a battery for your EV, you want one with very high energy density, both wrt weight and volume. And you are likely willing to pay for that, as it makes sense in that application. But if you just want a battery in your garage? Why would you want to pay for all manners of car derived density optimizations? Makes about as much sense as building your house out of Americas Cup appropriate composites. Even Larry doesn’t do that.

    In Silicon Valley and other LooneyLands, widespread stupid wealth and the “Apple Effect”, may help sell to those more concerned about buying the hippest than the most sensible (Bloomcells as datacenter power generators…….). And perhaps also in Fossil Fuel Guilt ridden, and also (for now, still) stupid wealthy, Norway. But outside of those bubbles?

    As for Tesla margins; they only exist because the market isn’t worth contesting. There’s virtually no barriers to entry in Electric cars. Just commodity components. The tricky parts to get right in electric cars are the “car” parts. Not the “electric” ones. Attempting to gain some permanent advantage by being the lowest cost provider of car specific battery cells, may provide some respite. But given the rapid improvements in battery technology that will be needed to make BEVs widespread, that’s a big, big if. And as for a Silicon Valley company culture’s compatibility with lowest possible cost manufacturing……

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      “And as for a Silicon Valley company culture’s compatibility with lowest possible cost manufacturing……”

      They already are compatible; most high tech companies simply outsource their manufacturing to companies that fixate on low cost.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Well, Tesla’s only attempt at creating some sort of lasting edge, is to do the exact opposite…. Which is why I’m a bit queasy about the whole project.

        Love that they’re moving to Reno, though. The Valley is an overpriced, over polluted traffic jam that very few really enjoy living in anymore. That one of it’s highest-mindshare companies are moving a potentially critical mass of qualified workers to greener pastures, can only be a good thing.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Lawl. 2.0T + $70,000 + storied Italian reliability = 800,000 sales/year

    Fact.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    The red semi in the photo needs some Chap Stick.

  • avatar
    Serpens

    This article should be edited. The Alfa Romeo rumor was never substantiated and sources that I have close to the matter presented reasons unrelated to the impact tests. There were several non-structural parts changes and work to be done with suppliers related to quality.

  • avatar
    Rday

    I don’t think that any Italian cars have ever met CR’s recommended list. So why spend much time pushing these poorly designed/built products. Their failure to pass the collision tests is just proof of how poorly engineered these cars are.
    As far as GM goes, they built the cars with the problems and should not be protected in bankruptcy from the consequences of their actions. Bad things should happen to BAD CAR COMPANIES.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      “Their failure to pass the collision tests is just proof of how poorly engineered these cars are.”

      That’s exactly the point. Is there any substance/proof to the statement? I’ve read it a couple of times, each time it gets worse (first time it was just offset collisions that caused problems), there’s never any source stated, and the by-lined author consistently inserts FCA jabs in almost every story. In other words, it meets the criteria for internet BS.

      I can make up my own stories, no need to read them here. If there’s substance, that’s great. If not, why repeat schoolyard rumors? Isn’t TTAC supposed to be different from TBSAC?

      Edit: if this thing does turn out to be true, why isn’t it run as a separate story? Seems weird to bury it in a new update.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Targeting commercial fleets makes the most sense. Trucks tend to get run hard and because of that require more maintenance. That hard life also means they are too worn out to compete against other used trucks. That helps residual values across the board.


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