By on March 3, 2016

2016 Volkswagen Passat (9 of 14)

An American man will soon enjoy the task of making people love his controversial company again.

That, Goodyear’s been watching I, Robot, Toyota shatters its corporate structure, sentiment grows for better braking, and the feds say the airbag recall has gone far enough … after the break!

Volkswagen Wolfsburg

Volkswagen hires (they hope) Mr. Fix-It

It’s a promotion, but the job description is a tall order.

Volkswagen of America has selected a new U.S. sales chief, Automotive News reports, and his task will be to reverse both a sales decline and negotiate the company’s ongoing diesel emissions scandal.

Ronald Stach was plucked from Volkswagen’s South Central Region, where he served as director, and has been with the company for a decade.

It’s safe to say Stach will be attending some very long strategy meetings in the near future. Volkswagen sales in the U.S. fell a further 13 percent in February.

Goodyear gazes into the future

Your future car tire might be a round ball that isn’t attached to your car, Goodyear envisions.

The tire maker unveiled its spherical Eagle-360 concept tire this week, designed to cushion future autonomous vehicles while suspending the body of the car via magnetic levitation technology.

Each tire would propel itself via an electric motor, while the 3D printed rubber would contain all the needed tread variations to get your future ride through snow, rain, or apocalyptic battle between man and machines. Sensors would analyze the road surface ahead of the vehicle and pivot the wheel until the right tread design meets the road.

Judging by the attached video, parking might become so blissfully easy that we’ll all forget there still aren’t flying cars.

2014 Toyota Corolla

Toyota plays musical chairs 

Toyota is busting up its corporate structure in a bid to stay on top, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Starting this April, the global sales leader will reorganize around different product classes to ensure an efficient, speedy development process.

Toyota sales have topped 10 million for the past two years. Given the size of its operation, a change was needed to keep things humming along.

The move comes just three years after Toyota’s last big shakeup, when it adopted a regional-based structure in 2013.


Putting the brakes on

Automakers are being cagey with promises to install automatic braking systems in their new vehicles, Newsday opines, and it might mean the time has come for the feds to intervene.

The call for government intervention comes after an Associated Press story detailed the many concessions being sought by automakers in talks with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The concessions include exempting five percent of the vehicle fleet from having to install the technology, and allowing the technology to reduce the vehicle’s forward speed by just five miles per hour in the event of an incident that triggers it.

Most automakers already have the technology, and studies show that it works well in reducing injuries and deaths. Should automatic braking become the new seat belts?

Takata Agua Prieta Mexico Facility

Bigger airbag recall won’t help

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is pouring cold water on a U.S. senator’s call for a wider Takata airbag recall, says Automotive News.

Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida wants every suspect airbag recalled, even if they haven’t yet been deemed unsafe. The NHTSA said that doing so would only complicate the recall of airbags already known to be unsafe, and wouldn’t help public safety.

A total of 29 million Takata airbags have already been recalled due to the risk of explosion, with a further 70 to 90 million units suspected of being unsafe.

[Image: 2016 Volkswagen Passat, © 2015 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars]

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27 Comments on “TTAC News Round-up: Volkswagen Sees a Savior, Goodyear Dreams of Spheres, and Toyota Shakes It Up...”

  • avatar

    “designed to cushion future autonomous vehicles while suspending the body of the car via magnetic levitation technology.”

    And yet Goodyear can not make NASCAR rain tires that are suitable for oval tracks.

  • avatar

    “The tire maker unveiled its spherical Eagle-360 concept tire this week, designed to cushion future autonomous vehicles while suspending the body of the car via magnetic levitation technology.”

    I see that as taking up a lot of electrical power which would be of better use moving the car.

    • 0 avatar

      But you also get rid of a lot of mechanical friction.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m going to guess that the electricity needed to keep the car suspended over the wheels would be greater than the reduction in friction. There’s also the question of weight of these things compared to regular wheels and tires, which may or may not be advantageous.

        Now, presumably, goodyear engineers would have done the math to show that the benefits outweigh the costs. But I’m guessing showing off a cool concept like this might just be a marketing ploy.

      • 0 avatar

        In a world where grill shutters are standard equipment on some cars for the sake of efficiency, I am skeptical that any automaker would choose to use a suspension that consumes the copious amounts of power it would undoubtedly take to levitate a car and control body motions. Bose had no takers for it’s magic carpet suspension, and that design is relatively conventional.

    • 0 avatar

      The challenge would be directional control of the mag-lev function. In a spherical tire the magnetic system not only provides lift but provides directional control and is the propulsion system. Another issue is the fact that there is no mechanical connection between tire and vehicle. What happens if you lose power? Another issue is build up of snow, slush, dirt and debris. Goodyear says the tire will compensate for road conditions but how will the mag-lev system?
      In the case of a monorail it is easy as the magnetism just provides lift. The system is dependent upon a “rail” for stability and direction.

  • avatar

    Rubber spheres? How about no. Don’t spheres pack with a density of like 50%? So tire storage and transport becomes an issue. Another matter is that the body of the vehicle will need to be wider which might negate any benefits of parking more easily bumper to bumper when the vehicle’s overall width must be wider in particular the width of the vehicle beyond the outside edge of the tire’s contact patch which is where the vehicle will grow considerably. Parking door to door will suck if you add a foot to the width of every car… unless you have doors that open vertically.

    Great marketing wank Gooberyear, but no chance of production.

  • avatar

    Toyota needs to repackage their vehicles. Reliability isn’t going to sell a vehicle much longer. Customers want options Toyota isn’t willing to give them without adding a bunch of stuff consumers don’t want.

    • 0 avatar

      I bought a near base 4Runner and it comes with basically every option I could imagine someone ever needing. Hell it has heated cloth seats.

      • 0 avatar

        I also have a base 4Runner. It doesn’t have heated seats. It doesn’t have heated mirrors. An auto-dimming mirror wasn’t an option. Had I purchased a Trailblazer or a JGC, I could have those on the base model. What I do have that you don’t, is a center locking differential for fulltime AWD. Toyota took that away on the 5th gen except for the 4×4 Limited’s. The V8 is gone too.

        Toyota is too slow these days catching up. Buyers want conveniences and Toyota won’t offer what they want without a gigantic increase to the price tag. I recently purchased a 2016 Fusion over a Camry for the above reasons.

        • 0 avatar

          The best example of Toyota ignoring industry trends for features is that they are the only automaker not supporting either Apple CarPlay or Google Android Auto (and most manufacturers support BOTH). They claim to be trying to target younger buyers and skimp on one of the features that Millenials are most going to prioritize when car shopping.

      • 0 avatar

        Heated cloth? That’s neat. I was under the impression that you couldn’t put a heating element in a cloth seat, so either that’s changed or it was never true to begin with.

      • 0 avatar


        Hyundai also offers a lot of features for the money, as does their sister brand. Its a hallmark of theirs since they had to use it to cover up major quality issues. Doesnt make them the best or the dominat force in the market.

        Toyota has coasted too long on reputation, why do you think theyre “shaking things up” so often? Theyre nervous. They think its marketing that will save them, or “Bold” styling deaigned to (try to) stand out in an increasingly compeditive market, but what’s under the surface is buiness as usual. Lazy, phone it in work.

        Their Geo, I mean Saturn, damn! IM SORRY Scion brand, an attempt to capture the youth market, was plauged and done-in by the same issues Toyota brand was having, showing they dont know how to fix the problem. The market saw behind the curtain and the cars sold (slowly) to a much older demographic than they were targeting. Again, trying to fix internal issues with marketing, and it doesnt work.

        Ask GM.

    • 0 avatar

      Personally, I don’t think they need repackaging, but compared to the competition, a lot of their models (I’m looking at you, Corolla and Camry) look and feel cheap.

  • avatar

    Got a note from Subie – – my LGT may have defective front passenger airbags, the inflator of which “…could rupture with metal fragments striking vehicle occupants and potentially causing serious injury or death.”

    “We are currently experiencing a parts shortage…Until this repair is performed, do not allow passengers to ride in the front passenger seat.”

    What, unless M-I-L’s are onboard??

  • avatar

    I’m one of those more than a little concerned about the implications of automatic braking.
    1) How reliable is it? In a couple of reviews I’ve read (on other sites) one journalist was cruising in Montana at 80mph when the car slammed to a full stop. In another, the writer was tooling along at 45 or 50 in slowing freeway traffic and got full lockup. (He joked about a bug on the sensor lens.) Keep in mind that these were manufacturer-provided cars, so you’d perhaps assume they’d been checked out. (Maybe.) Has this happened to any of the Best & Brightest?
    2) What happens, legally, when the car decides to apply the brakes and causes an accident? As the driver, do you have to provide your “black box” contents to prove you didn’t do it? What liability does the driver have? If you’re speeding as per the black box when the brakes slam down, are you going to be guilty of “contributory negligence” based on your car’s black box testimony?
    Certain better minds than mine have worked it out, but I’ve seen no facts on either of these items. Set me straight, please.

    • 0 avatar

      Here are my opinion based answers to your questions…

      1) They reliability will be based on the electronic components which is likely only going to last about 3-5 years before the bugs and gremlins take over.

      2) The manufacturer will do everything they can to point the finger back at you to avoid any liability. If you didn’t get the car serviced at the dealership, clean the sensor lenses frequently enough, or were going 2.1 mph over the posted speed limit you will likely be completely at fault and they won’t pay.

      I will avoid any car with automated safety systems when I make my next round of purchases for these reasons and many others. I also fear the fact that the sensors could bring me to a complete stop while driving down the freeway for no reason whatsoever and the idiot behind me who does not know how to maintain a proper following distance will slam into me. What if their car has automatic braking?… I’d argue that in all likelihood the driver is still an idiot and does not have properly maintained tires and getting hit is still just as probable.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the answer is: The accidents just aren’t happening.

      MANY cars now have this tech. My car (Mazda 6 GT) has TWO DIFFERENT versions of this tech – a LIDAR based tech for low-speed and a radar based one for high speed.

      There’s enough of these out there now that we’d hear of issues if they were causing accidents. They aren’t.

      Meanwhile, they DO prevent accidents. [1]. The only accident I’ve ever had was someone rolling into me while waiting in traffic, and the system would have specifically avoided that sort of accident, but it can also avoid high-speed incidents as well, and have.


  • avatar

    “Goodyear Dreams of Spheres”

    Darn! I thought this was going to be an article about Citroens.

  • avatar

    Requiring automatic braking systems on new cars makes me nervous. My 2013 Accord has the warning that buzzes if the car thinks you are about to hit something. Many false positives, especially when you are going into a shaded valley, which it interprets as another vehicle.

    My concern is that if the car braked based on this data, I would get rear-ended by the car behind me, driven by someone who would be wondering why I braked for no reason.

    • 0 avatar

      Again, there’s a difference in level of technology here.

      For true auto-braking systems, accidents *are* being prevented, and massive class-action lawsuits about unintended braking causing accidents just don’t exist.

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      Your 2013 Accord has a traction control system in which the car’s computer can electronically control your brakes.

      Your collision-detection system could have been built to also electronically control your brakes, since your brakes are already capable of being electronically controlled. But that didn’t happen, because Honda knew that your system was not mature enough to give it control of your brakes. The 2016 Accord can be optioned with a system that has full-control of the brakes, so Honda must have continued development.

      • 0 avatar

        Very likely correct.

        Curmudgeons on this like like to point out how risk-adverse car manufacturers are. The fact that they are now offering these technologies across a wide array of brands suggests it has now reached an acceptable level of maturity for them.

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