A New Decade of Cars

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Jag XJ

It’s difficult at the start of a new decade to see what exactly the selling patterns and trends might be going forward. The apparent answer from marketers can be seen in cars like the Mustang Mach-E and the BMW i4. Although manufacturers obviously research into what makes a car popular, they will ultimately only know how the public feels when they walk into a show room (or tiptoe through a website.

But what do the next batch of cars say about what automakers guess will be the trends?

Apparently in developing a 2021 Mach-E, Ford sees their future as trying to get the best of both their sports car past and their SUV present. Reinforcing this is Ford’s all-electric Mustang, no doubt designed for people nostalgic about the original vehicles. As they say in the video below, if you want to drag race after you drop the kids at soccer, this is the car for you.

Jaguar is planning a XJ for 2021 which will be a type of sedan. As something of a departure they are marketing it as all-electric and the ability to charge itself as a fast rate.

The plans for Mercedes Benz seem a bit more, shall we say pedestrian? Well, how else could you describe an entry level Merc? Despite this they seem to be in favor of keeping the same amount of luxury in the C-class if reducing the price. They also have additional touchscreens in the vehicle.

For 2022 BMW is looking into creating an electric car in the style of sedan with similarities to the Tesla. It shouldn’t be regarded as that suspicious that the BMW 3 series will be outflanked by the M3 and M4 which have an inline-six engine (this is an engine with all its cylinders along a common crankshaft in a straight line).

Another make which seems to be going the way of an SUV is the Chevrolet. The Tahoe will see a change in the styling in the front and the back suspension will make it drive more like a car than a pickup.

One name you might not associate with SUVs is Ferrari, but this may change in 2022 which currently has the working name of “Purosangue”. though it’s difficult to tell you much more than that.

What you might not have heard of yet is an e-tron. An e-tron is a range of sports vehicles made by Audi in the style of an SUV and those in the know reckon they will be big in 2021. The big selling point will be “self-determined mobility” (i.e. using the technology to make the driving experience easier.)

The Kicker has been showing you Rivian for quite a while, BUT if you have been hiding under a rock, but it turns out this is the type of brand both Amazon and Ford are banking on. The idea is to start with a basic shape and adapt it to different electric vehicles. There are plans for a pickup to be on sale for late 2020, as an alternative to the Cybertruck by Tesla.

Due to their recent emission scandal many experts assumed that VW would move to selling electric vehicles but that hasn’t happened, though there are plans for something called an ID Crozz in 2020. This is also believed to be a competitor to the Tesla.

At the moment it’s hard to see definite trends, but the smart money would bet on Electric and SUV.

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What’s News: Sony E-car?

Will we get the chance to drive the EV in Gran Turismo Sport?

We usually associate the Sony brand with the Walkman music player, the Vaio laptops, Bravia TVs or the PlayStation gaming console. While the tech giant does have a bunch of new products to show at CES this year from its typical area of expertise, the Tokyo-based company is also displaying something only very few expected – a car. It’s called the Vision-S and takes the shape of a sleek EV with a highly advanced autonomous driving system and a design that might make you think of a mashup between a Porsche Taycan and a Lucid Air.

Created primarily to showcase what Sony can bring to the table in terms of automotive technologies, the showcar has been developed in collaboration with big names such as Nvidia, Continental, Bosch, ZF, and Qualcomm. The zero-emissions sedan is equipped with no fewer than 33 sensors to detect people and objects not just outside of the car, but also inside that modern four-seat cabin with individual rear seats and giant glass roof.

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The 2019 Car Awards

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It’s been a strange year for cars. They might even need image boost. The car industry might do well to hire an image consultant. These awards could focus on greener vehicles and ditch the gas guzzlers, but the truth is the gas guzzlers will remain popular for some years to come. So The Kicker will focus our awards on a wider spectrum of vehicles (small cars, electric and hybrids, and more.)  It’s award opening time once more.

The best-selling car of 2019 was again the Ford F series pickup but what is new is the runner up—Dodge Ram Pickup. 3.7% of all car sales in the US were this specific car. The Dodge massively overhauled its Ram pickup look, which they describe as “rugged” and “premium.” Perhaps they’ve overhauled their sales and marketing efforts as well, because they have closed the gap with Ford. But it seems like the Ford F series pickup will be the winner next year as well, it’s almost a done deal.

The best-selling small car of 2019 is the Volkswagen GTI, according to Usnews.com. It is described as having playful handling and sufficiently spacious for a number of family members and their cargo. It has a user-friendly infotainment system. It might be described as a combination between the VW and GTi worlds?

The most surprising car of 2018 is the BMW X7. BMW are best known for small cars of an athletic type whereas this car is more of an SUV. It’s a huge monster of a car but is easy to handle thanks to responsive steering.

The most powerful Sedan of 2019 is the Dodge Charger, as with last year we rely on the Kelley Blue Book for our information. There is a wide range of models, colors and engines so you can take your pick on what is right for you. But the distinct trim is noticeable and thematically consistent.

The best-selling electric car of 2019 is another BMW model, the BMW5. It seems to be getting technology and prestige into a compact space. Added to this are driver aids and the Apple CarPlay smartphone. Wifi is included in the premium package. (This is also according to the Kelley Blue Book.)

For the best-selling hybrid, the winner this year is the Honda Insight. The style of the new Insight has gone from a hatchback to a more sedan look. The greatest selling point is its fuel economy, whether you are using electric or gas power. This car performed excellently on a special test track as well as on back roads, according Edmonds website. Sounds like interesting work to us, where do you sign up?

The special prize goes to Tax Rebates on Electric Vehicles, though it’s a bit of a wooden spoon. When in effect in the US it successfully pushed people into taking the leap to all electric. At the moment Tesla is the biggest winner of tax rebates, especially in India, where Tesla looks to be the number one supplier to one of the biggest markets and the country plans to be all-electric by 2030. China plans to have 9% of its cars electric thanks to fuel subsidies. A Cleaner Vehicle Grant began in the UK in April.

Once again, thanks for attending the awards.

Can the Solar Car Take Off?

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Credit Lightyear

Op-Ed by P. Wimsett

In a recent Wired article, the point was made that solar powered cars are a bit of a romantic fantasy. You can’t be rid of trips to the charger (or petrol pumps). There is just a limit to amount of energy you can get from the Sun.

The use of solar power roofs (such as those introduced by Hyandai, for instance) seem like an obvious idea, but for now it’s just this season’s fad? They can help the battery, but you don’t as yet get enough juice from the sun to power an electric car for as much use as an average driver needs.

Toyota is claiming 1.15 horsepower from their car-mounted panels, which is all very well and good, but when the amount needed is 122 horsepower…1.15 (less than 1%) feels like a drop in the ocean. The only alternative is to park your car in the son for a week or two between uses.

Sex Appeal

Another problem is that you need to streamline the car to put solar panels on it. There is how a car should look, and there is what the car buyer expects an electric vehicle to look like—and then there’s having to radically modify the design to accommodate solar panels. Some of these designs achieve an eccentric look and despite a certain novelty the design doesn’t improve the car in any other way, like safety, comfort, durability and so on.

Looking at the sales copy for the solar car, “Lightyear One,” what comes through is their mission to create clean mobility. The allude to the idea that they believe a solar car really work as efficiently as a normal car, while also reducing emissions, but it’s not long on any other the other benefits a normal car add includes.

According to the same add copy it doesn’t follow convention, but “only the Laws of Physics.” Except:

  1. The law of physics aren’t a convention or cultural construct
  2. A car that succeeds at physics but fails at transportation isn’t a car.

The brochure sounds good but just won’t sell. Thus, solar cars are marketed to the militant environmentalist and virtually no one else.

We can give them the benefit of the doubt and choose to believe the advertisement is meant to indicate that they started from scratch?

The heart of the Lightyear “solution” can be summed up in two words–bigger battery packs. Unfortunately, it’s still hard to get a good result. Lightyear One boasts a range between 500 and 800 kilometres, which isn’t that far at all. Consumers are right to be skeptical.Lightyear_One-01@2x

As well as solar power the Lightyear One has been designed to operate aerodynamically, which makes it use less energy. Perhaps that helps to compensate for all the weight of those extra batteries.

There must be a great deal of common sense applied when you create a new car and the designers should remember this. To be successful the car must be eco-friendly AND user friendly.

The argument is this, consumer tastes must change (read lower your expectations). At least for the short run, consumers want green products, but we don’t want them changed in any major way.

You can applause-worthy their ideals Lightyear has fallen a bit short of the dream product—an “off-grid” vehicle—and for the time being consumer sentiment is clear; novelty is great but takes a back seat to utility. When a solar generator makes a more sizable contribution to how the car runs it will be an adequate selling point.

What’s News: Lego takes on Tesla cybertruck?

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Lego seems to have been inspired by recent events to bring its own vision fo the truck of the future to the world – behold this bold design statement in all its glory. Clearly, Lego is having a go at Elon Musk and the Tesla Cybertruck that he unveiled last week – which was… divisive in its reception, to say the least.

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What’s News: Tesla truck prototype pushed out to Nov.

  • Tesla‘s pickup truck will likely be unveiled in November, CEO Elon Musk said Monday.
  • That’s later than previously expected arrival times for the truck, which Musk has talked about for years.
  • Musk previously said a prototype “might” be here by 2019, but that full production would follow the Model Y, which has yet to be built

Original story

The Car Collapse

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Op-Ed by Paul Wimsett

For this blog we are going back in time ten years. So picture it in your mind — Lost and ER are on the on TV. Barack Obama had just become president and Sarah Palin began her comeback. The Internet of Things, Alexa and Siri’s parents was born. And on your car radio Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis or I Gotta Feeling by The Black Eyed Peas are playing. And the car business took a strange turn that no-one could have predicted.

The economic events of the period between 2008 and 2010 are best known for the mortgages and stock market crashes but they were also detrimental to a number of car businesses.

In a bad economy people look to save dollars and while it was harder than ever to get a loan if you did need to buy a new car, you were looking for a deal. America made large, expensive, vehicles with bad fuel economy. A crash then combined with an energy crisis to drive sales of vehicles like as SUVs and pick-up trucks to rock bottom. It got so bad in the United States that Chrysler and General Motors needed to be rescued by the government.

For the US government to step in and help a business goes against the grain of what America stands for in the eyes of many of her citizens. Survival of the fittest is the core of any free market and it guarantees the best price for goods. However, the thinking at the time is that if a giant part of the economy, such as the automotive industry, failed too many jobs lost would send the economy into a death spiral. There was no other way to keep the economy stable and allow people to keep buying.

Pre-crash, in 2005, GM’s factories were performing at 85% of capacity. This may not seem much but it was a pattern to be found in other businesses too. So the term too big to fail started getting tossed around. Of course what “too big to fail” means is “too big to let fail.” The idea goes all the way back to 1984 and Stewart McKinney, though its true source probably predates that. Even in 1984 the term was controversial.

A CNN/Opinion Research poll said only 36% of the public supported the bailout. What people may not realise is that there was in fact two bailouts to the car industry, the second mainly going to General Motors and Chrysler. Part of GM’s bail out included an odd sort of bankruptcy that allowed them to default on certain loans. They were allowed to zero out stock that didn’t belong to the government or union members. It was not a good deal for most Americans.

automotive-74070_1920The lasting memory in the minds of “Big Auto” was how only really excelling at selling gas guzzlers had left them vulnerable. After all, this was the second time that a large scale economic crash had knocked out the auto industry. The first time was in the 1980s. When the economy got going again this time it found the American automaker throwing everything it had behind convincing its fans to buy hybrids and electric cars.

While the move to EVs and hybrids made fuel economic cars, suddenly needing to retool factories and develop new designs raised the price of all American vehicles. Then there’s the uncertainty of whether electric and hybrid cars will even stay popular.

Given that the economy is not stable long term we’ll most likely see another test of the American auto industries ability to remain viable. Given that they haven’t made cars more affordable they’ve only dealt with half the challenge of selling cars during a down turn. In fact, it’s not an original solution its just copying Asian car makers into an obvious decision.

So has the American auto industry learned anything from needing a bail-out? You decide.

 

Best of the Web: Tesla semi performance surprise.

A Tesla Semi electric truck prototype was spotted doing some range tests with an almost full load of 75,000 lbs, and the test driver said that it was meeting or even “exceeding” range expectations.
When launching Tesla Semi in 2017, the automaker said that the production versions of Tesla Semi, which is a class 8 truck with a 80,000-lb capacity, will have 300-mile and 500-mile range options for $150,000 and $180,000 respectively.
However, CEO Elon Musk said that they found opportunities to extend that range during testing.

Last year, Musk said that the Tesla Semi production version will have closer to 600 miles of range.

Now a Tesla Semi prototype was spotted at a California Highway Patrol Inspection Center during range testing, and the test driver reportedly said that the electric truck prototype was “meeting or exceeding the range estimates.”

Origin Story

The Word about Electric Cars

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It seems that many manufacturers are looking at electric cars to save the car industry, but what do the people who drive vehicles say about it? Does it look like a viable option?

Here are the pluses and minuses according to Debate.org.

PLUSES

It seems to be relatively cheaper to charge a car than to fill up a tank of gas. An average tank of gas costs $45 but an electric car takes $10 to charge.

Operating an EV puts out no toxic engine toxins emissions which improves are quality—an environmental plus.

Apparently electric cars look better than gas powered cars. This must be taken with a grain of salt based upon the particular audience polled for this debate It’s surely possible to make gas powered cars look as good as the electric version, but one can certainly observe that the intent of manufacturers to create a certain aesthetic.

Because there isn’t engine noise, EVs don’t create noise pollution.

Some believe that environmental practices need to change across the board and starting anywhere is a first step to a better world. That putting the cart before the horse for a time is okay because the horse will catch up eventually.

MINUSES

It is probably unlikely that electric vehicles will stop pollution as the electricity needs to come from somewhere. Many people acknowledge that you are just changing what you’re contaminating the environment with.

They also have a greater risk of breaking down in the middle of the street. This means the national transportation grid is weaker by the amount of EVs on the road. What is the cost financially and environmentally for having to roll more tow trucks out each day? No one knows because it’s not PC to ask.

Another uncomfortable truth is that it takes from thirty minutes to eight hours to charge the car up. This is all right if you want to use the car just to head out to the work; it’s not quite so good if you want to use the car throughout the day.

On the topic of refuelling–there currently isn’t an extensive infrastructure to support refuelling. In order to overcome the time factor, many grocery stores are creating charging stations so you can refuel while the car would be sitting idle anyway. This begs the question, how are state and local governments going to recoup the road tax on these vehicles?

EVs have a limited range. So do ICE cars. But with the time to refuel it’s more of an issue to run out. Also you can’t walk to the closest station and bring some electricity back with you. You essentially turn every out of gas experience into a costly tow.

Many people feel that “green washing” draws money and focus away from really dealing with transportation issues on a larger scale.

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The result of the Debate.org’s poll was 65% of people were pro electric cars, while 35% of people were against them. As Jack Gillis of the Washington Post experimented with owning and operating an EV and concluded that, though there was a significant tax advantage to buying an EV they weren’t more intrinsically cost effective. Once Congress discontinues the tax incentives the market could vanish. The real answer is to create a sustainable market for EVs but it’s difficult to manufacture consumer demand. It’s also likely that oil companies will mettle with any attempt get this industry to function on its own.

But whether you back the gas side or the electric side things do seem to be up in the air at the moment. So what about the best of both worlds, the hybrid?

The hybrid’s ability to generate it’s own electricity unchains it from the long charge time and short range. It takes the need for a tow back to normal levels. It does away with the short mileage issues and you won’t need to create an entire special infrastructure to accommodate its need to charge. Then again if you don’t force people to use electric will they build the infrastructure and are you really saving the environment? Well it’s a step in the right direction, a baby step, but perhaps a sustainable baby step.

It may be that, or back to the drawing board.