Posts By: Matt Posky

By on November 15, 2019

autonomous hardware

The terminology surrounding self-driving technologies and advanced driving aids has started to earn quite a bit of criticism in the wake of publicized crashes and growing outcry from consumer advocacy groups. For years, the industry has treated all assistance technologies as equal — placing everything on a sliding scale developed by SAE International.

It’s actually a good metric if you’re familiar with SAE’s autonomous ranking system. But to a layperson the differences between SAE Level 2 and 5 don’t mean a whole lot, despite offering completely different experiences. Automakers also have terms of their own, some of which could easily lead customers to believe their products are far more capable than reality allows.

Automotive News recently published an op-ed calling for clarity, and it was so good, we felt inclined to share.  (Read More…)

By on November 15, 2019

Volkswagen Group has decided to increase spending on the development of electric and digital technologies over the next five years to 60 billion euros ($66 billion USD). The automaker estimated the revised strategy amounts to slightly more than 40 percent of its investments in property, plant and equipment, and all research and development costs during the planning period.

Of that sum, 33 billion euros are expected to go directly toward the development of new electric vehicles. The increase allocates roughly €12 billion annually for hybridization, electric mobility and digitalization. The old plan set aside 8.8 billion euros per year. (Read More…)

By on November 15, 2019

At a private event in Rome this week, Ferrari introduced its newest model — the Roma. Described by Ferrari Commercial Director Enrico Galliera as an automobile for “people who would like to drive a sports car, or a Ferrari, but are a little bit afraid of Ferrari and sportscars,” it boasts one of the worst marketing taglines imaginable.

It also has a key fob that’s embarrassing to carry around — assuming shame is an emotion still within your repertoire.

While high-performance exotics aren’t widely known for being tasteful, Ferrari has always had a thin veneer of respectability brands like Lamborghini lacked. Owning one gave off the impression that you might have a mild appreciation for brand heritage or some interest in motorsport. At the very least, the prevailing prejudices would presume you were a probably a car snob with strong opinions and nuanced tastes.

Unfortunately, the Roma (Rome) and its gaudy key are helping to dissipate that formerly effective illusion.  (Read More…)

By on November 14, 2019

Image: GM

A new report from Edmunds tries to make a case against Ford and General Motors placing their small- and medium-sized cars on an iceberg and setting it adrift. We don’t even need to see the metrics to agree. Ditching cars for higher-margin crossovers and SUVs always seemed a little short-sighted. Without entry-level models, you’re likely to get fewer entry-level (i.e. new) customers, and several of the models axed from North American lineups happened to be the most enjoyable to drive.

Selfishly, we like to see plenty of variety among mainstream brands.

Edmunds’ concern isn’t so much about Ford and GM losing money; rather, it’s more about the automakers setting themselves up for failure further down the line. The analysis revealed that 42 percent of Cruze and Focus owners are choosing to stay in the passenger car segment, rather than spending a little (or lot) more to purchase crossovers and SUVs. Meanwhile, 23 percent of Cruze owners and 31 percent of Focus owners who traded in their car in 2019 ended up buying something similar from a competing automaker(Read More…)

By on November 14, 2019

On Thursday, Daimler made an announcement confirming earlier reports that it plans to cut roughly ten percent of its management staff as part of a broader restructuring plan. Financial hardship has become a sign of the times for the auto industry. Most sizable manufacturers are coming off an investment spree aimed at developing new-energy vehicles, autonomous driving systems, and connected services. Unfortunately, those commitments came at roughly the same time the world’s largest auto markets started to collectively plateau.

A broad approach no longer seems feasible for all but the absolute largest automakers on the planet. We’ve seen many attempt to downsize through restructuring or by entering inte partnerships with other firms to share costs — sometimes both. Knowing this as well as anyone, Daimler issued two profit warnings this year as Mercedes-Benz was fined $960 million in an emissions-cheating settlement while hemorrhaging cash through EV investments.  (Read More…)

By on November 13, 2019

It’s no secret that Ford routinely cleans up in the muscle- and pickup-related segments, often to the chagrin of General Motors. The Blue Oval routinely outsells GM in both fields. Eager to change a few minds, Chevrolet began offering a $2,500 discount to Mustang owners (or lessees) interested in purchasing a Camaro. That rebate rose to $3,000 last month.

This month, the General is making another offer. As part of its Black Friday Sales Event, Chevy is willing to part with the Camaro at a 12-percent discount below MSRP. The only restraint is that it has to be a V8-powered SS model, making this catch feel like more of a perk — as we wouldn’t mind seeing more of them on the road.  (Read More…)

By on November 13, 2019

You’re likely familiar with the concept of “ICEing,” even if the term itself leaves you scratching that little dry spot on the top of your head. It’s when a vehicle with an internal combustion engine (ICE) is intentionally parked at an EV charging space it cannot use in order to make a statement.

Presumably, that statement is little more than “I don’t like electric cars,” though there may be a more complicated dogma afoot — perhaps involving the role EVs play within society and the issue of the environment. We don’t really know, since there’s not a designated ICEing spokesperson to ask.

However, there’s no real need of an official mouthpiece to tell us that the movement has maintained its momentum. (Read More…)

By on November 13, 2019

The lithium industry — essential for the production of battery electric vehicles — has run into a problem. It’s currently amassing more of the metal than it needs. Despite automakers like Tesla suggesting there will be upcoming global shortages of metals like copper, nickel, and lithium, the only element that battery suppliers appear to be truly desperate for is cobalt, which is largely the fault of where and how it’s mined (the Congo, often by children).

Demand for the brittle, bluish metal skyrocketed this year, but not lithium. The latter metal’s global supply currently exceeds demand by about 5 percent, according to data from Canaccord Genuity.  (Read More…)

By on November 12, 2019

Noise-canceling technologies have become a handy little tool wedged inside the belt of many automakers. Aimed at reducing unpleasant road noise, most systems invert incoming sound waves to produce an exact negative of the ambient sound you don’t want to hear. They work best when you don’t notice them, which is pretty much always, but Hyundai Group claims there’s more work to be done before the tech is perfect.

As a result, the Korean manufacturer has developed an upgraded version of its current active noise control setup (ANC), one it calls “the world’s first Road Noise Active Noise Control.” Rather than simply piping in sounds designed to offset road noise, the new system (referred to as “RANC” by the automaker) also analyses in-cabin sound to make adjustments to help nullify unpalatable engine and road drone.  (Read More…)

By on November 12, 2019

Fulfilling earlier promises that the company had hit a wall and might require several years to recover, Nissan reported a 70-percent decline in quarterly operating profit on Tuesday. It also pulled back its full-year operating profit forecast by 35 percent to 150 billion yen, representing the automaker’s worst annual performance in 11 years. The business now expects to see global retail volume somewhere around 5.2 million vehicles (down from estimates 5.5 million).

“We are revisiting all our assumptions, and as you can see that is why we revised down our forecast for sales volume for the full year,” incoming CFO Stephen Ma explained to Reuters after releasing its first-half results for 2019 (ending September 30th). That was swiftly followed by the announcement of an extraordinary shareholders meeting to decide on proposals for current directors leaving their positions (Hiroto Saikawa, Yasuhiro Yamauchi, Thierry Bolloré) and the new director nominees.  (Read More…)

By on November 12, 2019

Toyota and Japanese weather information provider Weathernews Inc. have been running tests aimed at improving the accuracy of rain forecasts by using driving data from connected cars — or, more specifically, their windshield wipers. Based on the assumption that wiper operations correspond with the presence of precipitation, matching the severity to speed settings, the pair feel they can leverage customer information to close info gaps created by low-altitude rain clouds that are difficult to track.

With an official announcement issued earlier this month, both companies are framing this as an effective way to bolster roadway safety and offer new services to its customers. But it also raises the usual round of privacy concerns re: connected vehicles, while potentially offering some interesting and useful features — like localized flood warnings and other traffic advisories.  (Read More…)

By on November 11, 2019

The tide of praise and promise that swept in at the impetus of the 21st century to support electric vehicles is receding. The same goes for the entire concept of autonomy — though this has been pulling back faster than Nicholas Cage’s hairline, and with only a fraction of its grace. Over the last few years, the number of voices shrugging off advanced technologies has increased, creating a rift between cynics and believers.

While largely disinterested in the ramifications of the technology, automakers have also tamped down their previously bloated expectations. Those pushing alternative powertrains and vehicular autonomy are becoming more based, but so too are the companies that never bothered chasing them quite so zealously in the first place.

Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo says his company still has serious doubts as to just how lucrative electrification and mobility projects will actually be, suggesting the costs and complications of such technologies probably aren’t worth pursuing as a primary objective.  (Read More…)

By on November 11, 2019

Reports have come in from Germany that Mercedes-Benz has decided to reduce its management staff by around 10 percent globally. On Friday, German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung wrote that Daimler CEO Ola Källenius wishes to delete around 1,100 management posts while freezing wages for all 300,000 German employees — citing internal documents from the automaker’s works council.

Handelsblatt also said it intercepted a copy of the letter, with both outlets claiming Daimler would elaborate further on the plan this Thursday. While Mercedes said it couldn’t comment on the matter, its restructuring push was no secret, even before Källenius took over as chairman in May.  (Read More…)

By on November 8, 2019

Sascha Pallenberg, Daimler’s Head of “Digital Transformation,” shared a quote from CEO Ola Källenius issued at this year’s Automobilwoche Kongress, saying Mercedes-Benz is planning to manufacture an electric G-Class.

“There will be a zero-emission EV version of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class. In the past there were discussions whether we should eliminate the model, the way I see things now I’d say the last Mercedes to be built will be a G-Class,” Källenius said.

Using current battery technologies, this seems idiotic. The G-Class already outweighs pretty much every EV on the market this author can think of and it’s only going to get heavier once it’s lugging around a gigantic battery pack. The lightest G-Wagon tips the scales at 5,550 pounds. Another thousand wouldn’t be out of the question if Daimler expects it to have a truly competitive range. The model is just too heavy and has the aerodynamics of an open parachute.  (Read More…)

By on November 8, 2019

The Justice Department has issued civil subpoenas to the four major automakers’ that voluntary agreed to adopt a Californian compromise on vehicle emission requirements. The antitrust investigation seeks to determine whether or not BMW, Ford, Honda, and Volkswagen were in violation of federal competition laws by agreeing with each other to adhere to stricter emissions standards penned by California.

With the Trump administration working for years to roll back emissions standards, California has been doing everything in its power to maintain its ability to self-regulate and gain support for higher emission standards. Under the agreement with the Golden State, the companies promised to meet annual emission improvement targets of 3.7 percent and defer to the state’s authority to set its own emissions standards. (Read More…)

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