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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.