Toyota: Commercial Vehicles Come First for Autonomous Features

The perpetually cautious Toyota has decided to adhere to industry norms by promising to launch its latest advanced driving technologies on commercial vehicles first. This announcement works in tandem with the Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development’s (TRI-AD), which has a fancy new headquarters focused on delivering “safe mobility by bridging Silicon Valley’s innovation with Japanese craftsmanship.”

The decision to prioritize commercial vehicles is relatively common. Most companies developing self-driving tech believe there are loads of cash to be found in autonomous taxi services and automated fleets. Large firms operating an entire fleet of AVs will also be better equipped to purchase and service them. Heavily dependent upon camera equipment and sensors, self-driving vehicles will need to be constantly maintained to ensure they are clean and functional. Toyota also sees possibilities in mobile shops and ambulatory hospitals, according to Reuters, which would require similarly high levels of attention.

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Renault Reportedly Interested in FCA; Nissan Merger Still in the Works

Renault reportedly wants to restart merger talks with Nissan next year and is even considering a follow-up marriage with another automaker — possibly Fiat Chrysler.

While the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s official goals for 2019 are difficult to pin down, a memorandum of understanding was recently established to improve corporate synergy and reassure the public that members can play nice after the drama-filled arrest of Carlos Ghosn. However, it would seem that the long game still includes mergers.

Earlier this month, top executives from Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi appeared together to prove to the world that the alliance is not in jeopardy. It was known that Ghosn had been advocating for a merger against Nissan’s wishes for years, and many, including the defamed former alliance boss, have speculated that the associated pressures aided in the company acting against him in order to see him brought up on charges.

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Ford Threatens to Pull Out of the United Kingdom

Ford Motor Company has reportedly informed British Prime Minister Theresa May of its tentative plan to move out of the United Kingdom. The automaker explained the situation to May during a private call with business leaders tasked with assessing how Brexit might impact the economy. Ford said it was already preparing to move its facilities — which include two engine plants, a transmission factory, and an R&D center — abroad.

With the European Union and British government still unable to establish trade terms, automakers are having a panic attack. Ford later told Reuters that a no-deal Brexit would be catastrophic for its European-based businesses, citing earlier claims that it would cost the manufacturer up to $1 billion.

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Here's Ford's Plan to Replace All the Cars It's Killing Off in North America

Earlier this year Ford announced the impending removal of all passenger cars from its lineup, save the Mustang and — if we’re creative about what qualifies as a car — the lifted Focus Active. However, the automaker says it intends to fill the void over the next five years.

Speaking at a press event leading up to the Woodward Dream Cruise, an annual Detroit event celebrating classic automobiles, Ford product chief Hau Thai Tang said the brand plans to add nine nameplates by 2023 — effectively replacing the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, Taurus, C-Max, and Flex, while adding in three additional models.

Before you start getting over-excited about the potential return of the Ford Fairlane or Torino, seven of these vehicles fall into the pickup or utility segment. That leaves two open spaces for prospective sedans or, more likely, quirky electrics.

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Daimler's Breaking Up the Band: German Giant Plans Massive Corporate Overhaul

Daimler AG unveiled a new corporate structure on Thursday that splits its core businesses into a three legally independent entities, with one of the arms focusing entirely on mobility and financial services.

It’s a sign of the times as automakers press ever deeper into an uncertain tomorrow, all thanks to mobility and data services. “The new structure positions Daimler to tackle the rapid pace of change in the mobility sector and the corresponding strategic challenges,” explained Supervisory Board chairman Manfred Bischoff. “Legally independent divisions will sharpen our focus on the future success of the business.”

This is no small feat, as altering the structure involves reassigning more than 700 Daimler subsidiaries in over 60 countries. After which, Mercedes-Benz AG, Daimler Truck AG and Daimler Mobility AG will operate as one under the Daimler AG umbrella.

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Lexus Reevaluating the Existence of the GS and IS

While Lexus hasn’t confirmed anything, there’s growing speculation that the brand’s ES sedan will ultimately replace the GS. The model’s sales have trended downward since 2015, going from 23,117 U.S. deliveries that year to just 7,773 in 2017.

Ouch.

The brand hasn’t announced any plans to update it. Considering the fourth generation has been around since 2011, you’d think Lexus would have said something by now. But the company — like most luxury manufacturers — is preoccupied with moving utility vehicles. There’s now a three-row RX, and the smaller UX should help attract the younger demographic while allowing Lexus to dabble in a subscription-based sales model.

If it succeeds, the IS could be the next vehicle in the brand’s lineup to be tied to a tree and shot.

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Nissan Turning Down the Flow From North American Assembly Plants

A larger-than-average new vehicle inventory, compounded by a change in strategy and dismal April sales figures, means fewer vehicles leaving Nissan assembly plants in the United States and Mexico in the foreseeable future.

The automaker plans to cut production by as much as 20 percent in the hopes of firming up its bottom line.

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Tesla Shareholders Confirm Musk's Money

Tesla investors approved an incentive package on Wednesday that could ultimately net CEO Elon Musk around $56 billion. There is a catch, however. He has to elevate the company’s share price to almost comically high levels. Having already covered the deal, we noted some opposition from analysts, but not shareholders — all of whom seem overwhelmingly happy to oblige Musk if he improves their wealth, as well.

Investment advisor Glass Lewis & Co. said offering the CEO an additional 12 percent in stock options (currently valued at around $2.6 billion) was unnecessary since he is already a major shareholder and the move could dilute value for other investors. But most agreed Musk was too important to risk losing and agreed to the package to keep him in charge of the company, despite Musk stating this was his intent all along.

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Tesla's New Strategy of 'Not Paying' Elon Musk Costs $2.6 Billion

Tesla Motors previously announced that its CEO, Elon Musk, wouldn’t be paid unless its already high stock valuation continued to climb. His compensation package — valued at roughly $2.6 billion — is tied to a dozen operational milestones, all of them primarily linked to the company’s share price. However, the board has left the strategy’s fate in the hands of its shareholders, who will vote on the motion come March 21st.

In addition to Musk’s existing stock options, that bonus could result in a total payday of more than $55.8 billion over the next decade. That’s too much, according to proxy advisor Glass Lewis & Co. With the CEO already so finically invested in the company, Glass Lewis doesn’t believe any fee would have a meaningful impact on Musks’ involvement. He already owns at least 20 percent of Tesla’s stock, so any improvement in its valuation would already benefit him immensely.

“Any relative comparison of the grant’s size would be akin to stacking nickels against dollars,” Glass Lewis & Co. said in a report from February.

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Enter Ford X: Automaker Buying Two More Mobility Companies

Not to be outdone by General Motors’ excursion into autonomy, Ford Motor Company has announced it will purchase two mobility startups: Autonomic, which makes self-driving software; and TransLoc, which makes transit apps.

While Ford says it made a significant investment into the California-based Autonomic last year, it’s now rolling the company into a new team for developing mobility business models called “Ford X.”

This is familiar territory, as the Blue Oval also promised to put around $1 billion into Argo AI last year. The artificial intelligence startup is supposed to help Detroit automaker develop a “virtual driver system” for future autonomous fleets. But will the company’s strategy of acquiring businesses work as it hopes to reshape itself into a different kind of carmaker? Ford thinks so.

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Visteon CEO Bets Company's Future on Autonomous Vehicles

After spinning off from Ford in 2000, Visteon has set a corporate goal of expanding its supplier business to other companies. However, it hasn’t been smooth sailing. Granted Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009, Visteon emerged intact from its reorganization the following year. By 2013, the automotive supplier announced it would pare down its operations to focus primarily on vehicle electronics and HVAC systems.

Now, CEO Sachin Lawande says the company’s future hinges on autonomous vehicles. At this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Visteon will unveil its new DriveCore platform, a central control unit for electronics and software in autonomous cars known as a “domain controller.”

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The Difference Between Ford and General Motors' Longterm Strategies

While General Motors has become progressively more brazen in outlining its plans for the future, Ford has kept its cards a bit closer to the chest. We do know both companies have similar long-term goals, but Ford has been (rather wisely) preoccupied, adjusting its fleet to meet global demand and ensuring production flexibilities that should prevent it from being caught off guard by an industry turnaround.

It’s interesting because, a little over a year ago, former Ford CEO Mark Fields was promising a complete evolution of the automaker into something called “a mobility company.” However, it now looks as if GM is the firm making a beeline toward alternative revenue streams and a new business model, while Ford takes a more measured approach.

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  • FreedMike I don’t know if I buy into the “they’re coming for our cars” stuff - they’ve been saying that for a long time now - but I wouldn’t argue with one word of this review otherwise.
  • Oberkanone It's not a Jimny! Would be nice if we still had a selection of Suzuki auto in the US. Sidekick was simple and affordable.
  • Dave M. I will say this generation styling has grown on me; previously I thought the Fiat version was far better looking. Miatas have always been pure joy to drive.
  • Kendahl A Tesla feature has been free, periodic, over-the-air, software updates that add new features or improve existing ones. Owners brag that their x-year-old car is better today, because of the updates, than it was brand new. Will Tesla start charging for these updates after a few years? Teslas hold their value very well. I suspect losing free updates will do serious damage to that.
  • BklynPete When I was a kid, the joke about Nissan choosing the name Datsun goes like this:Nissan execs were uncomfortable with the World War 2 connotations of their name in the North American market. Seeing how successful VW was over here, they went to VW's most-recent German ad agency. The Japanese told the Germans they needed a new name. The Germans agreed. They asked the Nissan execs when they wanted a review of potential names. The execs said two weeks. The German ad people said, "dat soon?"I will be crucified.