Archives for the Category: Automotive Industry

Is The Start- Stop Technology Better for Us As It Is The Economy

With the concern of global warming looming over us everyday, car companies are pulling together ideas to help, but are they better?

Dr. Keith Tao, a radiologist in Danville, Calif., owns three late-model Mercedes’s, each equipped with a fuel-saving technology called start-stop.

The system saves fuel and reduces emissions by cutting the engine when the car comes to a full stop and restarting when the foot is taken off the brake.

One of the first things Dr. Tao does after starting the engine: He turns off the feature.

The problem, Dr. Tao says, is that the stopping and restarting is rather intrusive. “You actually feel it restarting,” he said. “In terrible stop-and-go traffic this thing comes on and off constantly. In 20 minutes you can have 50 stop-and-start cycles. It can drive you totally insane.”

Mercedes defends its technology, known as ECO Start/Stop, calling it “one of the most seamless systems,” according to Christian Bokich, a company spokesman. “Customers with any concerns always have the option of defeating the system each time they enter and start the vehicle.”

While start-stop technology may make some people crazy, the technology is here to stay.

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Studies Say Pedestrians Are Now At More Of A Risk

Just because you are walking to your destination does not mean you can be less aware of danger. The death toll of pedestrians killed in traffic crashes is projected to spike about 10% in 2015 compared with 2014. If the estimate proves to be accurate, it will be the largest annual increase ever.

That is the main finding of a new report released today by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), a nonprofit organization representing state highway safety offices.

“We are projecting the largest year-to-year increase in pedestrian fatalities since national records have been kept, and therefore we are quite alarmed,” Richard Retting, co-author of the report, said in a statement, referring to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System established in 1975.

Retting wrote the report with Dr. Heather Rothenberg, both of Sam Schwartz Consulting.

The association called the annual Spotlight on Highway Safety Report the first nationwide looks at 2015 pedestrian fatality trends, which is based on preliminary data supplied by the states and the District of Columbia for the first six months of the year.

“Pedestrian safety is clearly a growing problem across the country,” Retting added, stressing the importance of understanding the crash data so states and local governments “can apply the right mix of engineering, education and enforcement to counteract this troubling trend.”

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Car Companies Take One More Step Forward On The Road Electric Vehicles

LAS VEGAS— With the decline in the availability of oil, electric and hybrid cars will become more important. Although sales of electric and hybrid vehicles have struggled, automakers are charging ahead to bring new battery-powered vehicles to market.

Several car companies have focused on electric vehicles at the International CES consumer trade show here, including General Motors, which on Wednesday introduced the production version of its Chevrolet Bolt.

G.M.’s chief executive, Mary T. Barra, said the Bolt was a big step forward in the electrification of vehicles because of its price and ability to travel 200 miles on a fully charged battery.

“This is truly the first EV that cracks the code because of long range at an affordable price,” Ms. Barra said in a keynote speech at the show.

The Bolt, which will go on sale this year, will carry a sticker price of $30,000, including government incentives that total about $7,500.

But even with its extended range and mass-market price, the Bolt may still face a difficult battle to lure consumers who are taking advantage of $2-a-gallon gasoline to buy larger vehicles.

While sales of pickups and sport utility vehicles soared in 2015, all-electric models and gas-electric hybrids languished in showrooms.

For example, sales in the United States of the all-electric Nissan Leaf fell 43 percent in 2015 compared with 2014, and the leading hybrid model, the Toyota Prius, dropped about 11 percent.

Over all, electric and hybrid vehicles accounted for about 2 percent of the American market. Still, luxury automakers like BMW introduced a new electric car last year, and Tesla is expanding its lineup to include an all-electric S.U.V., the Model X.

G.M. has had mixed success with its Volt plug-in hybrid, which marries battery power with a small gasoline engine that significantly extends its driving range.

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  What You Need To Know To Leave The Action With A Car At the End Of The Day

When you need to buy a car do you search online through search engines, visit car companies or talk to friends? Another possible way for you to purchase a car is through an auction.

You wouldn’t know it from the road, but there are typically around 4000 vehicles tucked away awaiting sale at the Copart auction facility in Newburgh, New York. And arriving on a Thursday morning for the regular weekly auction, you really wouldn’t guess that about 1000 of those vehicles would be on their way to new homes by day’s end—whether that means the driveway of a proud new owner, on a dealer’s lot, in a body shop for pre-resale repairs, or off to the crusher. On the Thursday of our visit, the parking lot is empty, save for one agitated tow-truck driver talking on a cell phone and whose half of the conversation consists almost entirely of expletives.

Inside, however, is a different story. A busy staff of about a dozen headset-wearing workers is fielding nonstop calls from dealers, and handling title issues, deliveries, and other questions. The auction is in full swing, but there’s no fast-talking auctioneer, slamming of gavels, shouting of bids, or cars crossing the block. As with many car auctions these days, all the bidding happens online. And fast.

Used-car auctions are big business, and companies like Copart, Adesa, and Manheim are the giants of the industry, with daily auctions nationwide. Copart puts 75,000 cars up for sale every day, but Manheim is the biggest, handling some 7 million vehicles in 11 countries annually. It’s a complicated business, with cars moving locally and across the country to maximize profits based on supply and demand, regional needs, and even the price of scrap metal. The vehicles come from a variety of sources, including fleets, rental companies, carmakers, financial institutions, insurance companies, and other wholesalers.

The bad news for bargain hunters is that the bulk of these auctions are for dealers only. But paddle-wielding wannabes have plenty of other options, from municipal and federal government auctions, to commercial auctions catering to the public, and auction sites like the ubiquitous eBay.

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Tesla Creates Their Own Seating For Vehicles Within Their Own Company

Companies that used to focus on technology and electronics such as Tesla have expanded recently into the automotive industry to a point that it begins to make more sense to create certain pieces of the car in-house. The latest: the Model X’s second-row seats.

In August, Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk told investors it was difficult to make the seats, which he described as a “sculptural work of art, but a very tricky thing to get right.” They were so challenging that they led him to reduce the electric-car maker’s delivery forecast that month to as few as 50,000 from 55,000, which set off a wave of skepticism over his ambitious plans.

“We have substantially in-sourced the seats at this point,” Musk said Tuesday during the third-quarter earnings call with analysts. “Tesla is producing its own seats.”

Musk has long been a fan of doing things on his own as much as possible, such as building the world’s largest battery factory outside of Reno, Nevada, to streamline production and reduce costs to bring a more-affordable car — the Model 3 — to market. When an analyst asked Musk about the enormous costs of the automotive industry, Musk said that Tesla is becoming more capital-efficient.

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Volkswagen Moving Past The Diesel Emissions Scandal

Volkswagen is reeling from the eye opening scandal of the truth about the emissions tests and their “green cars” coming to light.

As Volkswagen AG strategizes to keep its business afloat and put its current crisis – the rigging of its “clean” diesel cars to cheat on U.S. emissions tests and misleading customers about its TDI vehicles’ green credentials — behind it, it must face the fact that the debacle will likely dog its reputation for years.

Not only will the actual fixes to diesel cars take two years or more to sort out, but New York Times reporter Jack Ewing has struck a six-figure book deal to write the yarn of what happened. Megastar Leonardo DiCaprio has already signed on to be a co-producer of the film version and might even star in the story. With the book taking a year or so to produce, and the movie presumably taking another year after that to make, VW can count on an epic rehash of the debacle after two years of damage control.

Conversations with several current and former Volkswagen executives over the past week since VW of America CEO Michael Horn testified before Congress portray a company that is vast and layered with bureaucracy, on top of a culture of fear and engineering arrogance.

One longtime executive said, “I can totally see how this could happen and very top managers not know. … I’m not saying that they didn’t know, but it is possible.”

How could that be? “You have no idea how much stuff lands on the desk of these senior guys to approve and sign, and they rely on their underlings to organize it,” said another former executive who now works for a different car company. Said another: “It’s possible, too, that the engineers couched the software addition in language that very senior people who signed off were meant to not see what it really was.”

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Which Car Is Popular In Your State?

What car do you see the most driving to work each morning? Is it the state’s most popular car or not?

If you were to take a list of the most popular cars in each state in the U.S., it’d be a pretty monotonous list. A bunch of Ford F-150s, some Chevy Silverado and Ram pickups, the odd Honda Accord or Toyota Camry here or there.

But we were curious: What car was the most distinctive in each state? What model of car did, say, California buy far more often than any other state in the Union? We turned to auto analyst Tom Libby of IHS Automotive to help us crunch the numbers. First, Libby pulled data about the make and model of every car sold in the U.S., and calculated the popularity of each by percentage using registration data. Then, he did the same at the state level, and compared each state to the national average.

“I compared the share for each model in, for instance, Alabama with the share of the same of model in the United States and came up with a ratio,” says Libby. “Then I basically ranked those ratios within each state. It’s an interesting methodology—you’re basically able to compare the individual demand of a model in a state with the individual demand at the national level, and see what ways is each state unique from the nation.”

Some states seem to conform to stereotypes—Texas loves the hulking Cadillac Escalade EXT, NPR-loving New England enjoys their Volvos, and in the rough country of North Dakota they love the GMC Yukon Denali XL. But there are surprises: Georgia, for instance, seems to have a thing for Nissan Leaf. “Georgia had very, very strong incentives to buy electric vehicles,” says Libby, referencing the fact that until very recently, the Peach State offered $5,000 in state tax credits (in addition to $7,500 in federal tax credits) to anyone who bought an electric vehicle. In other words, everyone who bought a Nissan Leaf in Georgia saved themselves a cool $12,500.

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6 Issues With Autonomous Driving

With a car driving for you will it be safer than driving for yourself? Or are you opening yourself to different, dangerous possibilities.

As more than 800 engineers, software developers, transportation experts and other technical folks met last week in this Detroit suburb to discuss the risks and benefits of autonomous and connected vehicles, they were raising more questions than finding answers.

Here are six unsolved challenges that stand between the technologies’ potential and reality:

  1. Cybersecurity and privacy protection. Maybe this can’t be solved until there are thousands of pilot vehicles on our roads, but last week Wired magazine writer Andy Greenberg wrote about two cybersecurity experts who accessed a newer Jeep Cherokee’s computer brain through its Uconnect infotainment system and rewrote the firmware to plant their malicious code. The result: hip-hop began blasting through the stereo system, the AC turned to maximum force. Then the hacker’s code killed the transmission and brakes. We know autonomous cars will have even more software coding. One major attack and consumer confidence in the technology could be severely damaged.
  1. How much will these vehicles cost? Established automakers are introducing progressively more advanced autonomous features in their most expensive models. Ride-hailing or other fleet-based services such as Uber or Lyft will try to deliver their service at a lower price than competing options.

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Create a Model of Your Dream Truck With Ford’s New 3D Printer

Car enthusiasts now have a chance to have their very own model car created by Ford amongst their collection. Tweak and change features through various designs and years from Ford until they are finished. 3D digital printing shops by Ford have begun to open, changing the car model industry.

Ford announced that it is the first automaker to open a one-stop 3D digital shop – the Ford 3D Store. With the help of Turbosquid, Ford fans can use 3D printing technology to make their own models of Ford vehicles or opt to purchase a 3D digital file from a growing library of more than 1,000 Ford vehicle images.

Available 3D-printed Ford models are 1/32nd (one thirty second) scale in plastic and models included in the launch: the new Ford GT, F-150 Raptor, Shelby GT350R, Focus ST and Fiesta ST. Printed models and digital files for additional Ford vehicles will be available at a later date. The Ford 3D Store is powered by TurboSquid.com, which provides automotive digital imaging and 3D-printable files. I have to say that the F-150 Raptor pickup truck looks pretty tough as a plastic model. When you click on the model within the Ford site, you are immediately taken to the Turbosquid site which offers more views of the model and pricing. The F-150 Raptor 2017 model starts at $149.

According to a news release the company sent me: “3D printing at home is a growing trend, and it makes sense for us to offer our customers a chance to make their own 3D Ford models,” said Mark Bentley, licensing manager, Ford Global Brand Licensing. “At Ford, we’re using 3D printing every day to rapidly prototype parts, and now we want to share that fun with our fans.” Since I visited the Ford 3D printing lab, in person, last year while on the 3DRV roadtrip, I can attest to the many ways that the company is using 3D printing and 3D materials science to advance car making. I wrote about their unique metal bending machine and some of their virtual reality work to help engineers move rapidly through product changes. You can read those posts here and here.

According to Juniper research, sales of desktop 3D printers will exceed 1 million units by 2018, from an estimated 44,000 sold annually in 2014. That’s a pretty big increase in new 3D printers soon to be on consumer desks, but one that pales in comparison to the number of people who might try out 3D printing via a service bureau, particularly if you make it easy to customize and click-to-print a model.

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Least reliable small crossovers

We all expect our vehicles to be reliable, but some manufacturers always seem to do a better job when it comes to making vehicles that last. In the small crossovers category, Jeep models are the least reliable.

For 2014, Consumer Reports polled its readers to find out which small crossovers and SUVs proved the most reliable, and Autoblog compiled the top three and bottom three performers.

Here are the top 3 least reliable small crossover SUVs:

  • Jeep Patriot
  • Jeep Cherokee
  • Ford Escape

Read more here.

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