Automotive Weekly: September 9

Electric Cars - A Critique

Automotive Weekly Newsletter

Automotive Weekly: September 9


Mass adoption of electric cars, however, cannot occur unless they can do everything gas-powered vehicles can do — including the ability to go hundreds of miles before refueling, and refueling easily — at a comparable total cost of ownership. Otherwise, electric cars will be a niche product for upper-income folks. And government subsidies for them will be a regressive transfer of social resources in return for little climate benefit, given that the U.S. power grid the cars draw from is 64 percent fueled by coal and gas. Nothing happened in the past decade to undermine this basic critique.

Source: The Washington Post


Changes in the executive structure came with some new rules for the company. Most notably, Nissan Japan told managers at the end of December that they needed to slash nonessential spending and cut back on things like vehicle sales incentives and promotional events. Changes in Japan also affect Nissan North America, which is in a "period of transition," according to Chris Keeffe, Nissan North America's director of corporate communications.

Source: Car and Driver


While there might be some news from automotive suppliers on the latest technologies for future vehicles, don't expect much from the Detroit Three automakers at the CES technology show next week in Las Vegas. Automakers have pulled back from the Consumer Technology Association's annual trade show, just as they have they have come to rely less on traditional auto shows to showcase their latest products and technology. Shows like these cost a lot, and automakers must fight to get their messages heard through the competing din of all the other news that's being released. Instead, automakers are following the lead of Tesla and Apple: showcasing their latest technology at their own private events.

Source: The Detroit News


Collecting, managing, and analyzing data from self-driving, connected and electric vehicles has become key for automakers and developers as they advance vehicle technology. The demand for different metrics on the data from these vehicles has led to a unit of cellphone giant BlackBerry Limited and automotive software company Renovo collaborating on a new platform.

The two companies announced on Friday, ahead of the start of CES, that they are combining BlackBerry's QNX automotive operating system with Renovo's Insight artificial intelligence automotive data platform to create a management system for new vehicle tech.

The platform collects data on vehicle technologies, such as advanced driver-assistance systems, with the goal of helping automakers further develop these features.

"Developing the advanced driver-assistance features for cars turns out to be a very complicated and very iterative type of development," Renovo CEO Chris Heiser told Automotive News, saying ADAS systems and other advanced vehicle technologies require frequent software changes. "The more time you can do that software cycle, the faster you do that software cycle, the better your software." With the BlackBerry QNX and Renovo data platform, for example, automakers looking to develop better ADAS or improve the performance of vehicles in different conditions can gather data and examples of that specific scenario from its production fleet.

Using the indexed and searchable data, developers can then decide to retrain their vehicle's algorithms or adjust other variables.

Aside from ADAS, other vehicle technologies that could benefit from analytics include EV batteries. Some newer companies in the automotive space provide management systems and analytics that evaluate EV battery metrics, down to the performance of individual cells within the battery pack. "Tesla has kind of shown the way to the industry of doing this at scale. Tesla doesn't just develop software rapidly preproduction and postproduction. They're learning from their 600,000 production cars, and this allows them to constantly innovate and develop and modify and update their core product in the field," Heiser said

"The reality is, is that most OEMs don't learn very much from their cars once they ship the car directly, and so we are changing that," Heiser added. "For customers of a selective solution like this, they're going to hit the ground running faster. They're going be able to get to production faster and they're going to get the benefit of having this real-time patch data pipeline running more quickly."

Heiser could not provide details for how many vehicles or which automakers are currently using the autonomous data platform, but he said he expects to "become a major part of the production output" of Renovo customers and ship thousands of cars with the platform within the next one to two years. Currently, 150 million vehicles have embedded existing BlackBerry QNX technology.

The automotive data management platform won a CES 2020 Innovation Award. BlackBerry has been expanding its footprint in automotive, seeking out industry partnerships and transitioning from a traditional cellphone company to a key player in the vehicle technology space.

Source: Automotive News Canada


The number of vehicles in operation in the U.S. jumped 4.1 million this year, offering more service opportunities to car dealers and repair shops, according to a trend report by credit tracker Experian. Nearly 13 million vehicles went out of operation from the third quarter of 2018 to the same period this year. But about 17 million new vehicles were registered, leaving a total of 279.2 million vehicles on the road, says Marty Miller, Experian’s senior automotive industry consultant.

Source: WardsAuto


A full U.S. Senate vote on the rewritten North American trade pact will be put off until next week at the earliest, after the deal was referred to multiple committees for review, according to a U.S. Republican aide. In addition to the Senate Finance Committee, the accord was also referred to six other panels that could take weeks to consider it. The Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Environment and Public Works; Appropriations; Foreign Relations; Commerce, Science, and Transportation; and the Budget committees haven’t announced whether they will take time to examine it.

Canada, meanwhile, has said it won’t ratify the deal until its U.S. counterparts do. Canadian Parliament doesn’t resume until Jan. 27.

The final U.S. vote could be delayed further if the House sends the Senate two articles of impeachment it adopted against U.S. President Donald Trump in December. So far, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has held up the notice, which would require the Senate trial to begin immediately, saying she’s seen no sign that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will conduct a “fair” trial.

Before Pelosi’s delay in transmitting the articles, McConnell had said a Senate vote on the U.S.-Mexico Canada Agreement would have to wait until after the impeachment trial.

The Senate Finance Committee is meeting Tuesday to approve legislation to implement the bill. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, the committee’s chairman, told reporters that he only learned yesterday of the referral to other panels and that he thinks it is “going to be a problem,” even though the committees can’t change the content of the deal. “But the real problem is the extent that we don’t know when we are going to get the articles of impeachment. When those articles enter into the Senate chamber that has priority over everything else,” he said. “If I wanted to speculate, and if they don’t come over for another week or 10 days, we can get this done. If the articles of impeachment come over it could be two, three, four weeks before we can get this done.”

Because of the referrals and related procedures, a Senate vote this week or early next week is not possible, according to a Senate Republican aide, who asked to remain anonymous to discuss internal deliberations. Passage at the end of next week remains possible though, the aide said.

Approving the NAFTA overhaul would give Trump a powerful win heading in an election year and could ease some of uncertainty weighing on the U.S. economy, strengthening Trump’s message of growth and prosperity for his 2020 campaign. It also allows Democrats from narrowly divided or Republican-leaning districts to show voters they’re working on issues other than impeachment.

The USMCA is projected to have a small effect on the overall U.S. economy, adding just 0.35 per cent to GDP after six years according to an official U.S. estimate.

Source: Reuters


Elon Musk showed off his dance moves at the launch of Tesla's Model Y crossover project at its new Shanghai factory on Tuesday, where the company delivered its first cars built outside the United States to the public. The $2 billion Tesla Inc. factory started delivering cars in just 357 days, a record for global automakers in China. The first 10 customers from the public received their China-made Model 3 sedans on Tuesday.

Billionaire CEO Musk danced enthusiastically on stage at the event, then stripped off his jacket and flung it aside to reveal a T-shirt with a cartoon of the factory. In a tweet, he labeled the video "NSFW" - not safe for work. He predicted that "ultimately Tesla Model Y will have more demand than probably all the other cars of Tesla combined", with his voice cracking with emotion at times while talking about the progress of the Shanghai factory. The ceremony was attended by Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong and other senior government officials. Tesla executives, however, did not provide further details on the progress of the China-made Model Y project. A Tesla representative declined to comment further.

Tesla's shares are trading close to their record high after it beat Wall Street estimates for vehicle deliveries in its fourth quarter. News of production ramp-up in its China factory and upbeat early deposits for its recently launched pickup truck have also supported its share price.

Construction of Tesla's first plant outside the United States began in January and production started in October. The factory started with a production capacity of 150,000 Model 3 sedans and Tesla aims to push that to 250,000 vehicles a year, including Model Y, in the plant's first phase.

Tesla unveiled its Model Y in March 2019 and said in October that production of the electric compact crossover at its Fremont, Calif., factory was running ahead of schedule, adding at the time that it expects to launch the model by summer 2020. It has said that margin expectations are higher for Model Y than Model 3, while production costs are roughly the same.

Tesla's China website estimates the starting price for Model Y vehicles at 444,000 yuan ($63,911). It will announce the retail price later, the website says. The China-made Model 3 sedans are priced at 355,800 yuan ($51,040) before subsidies.

Shanghai Vice Mayor Wu Qing said he hoped to see Tesla extend its cooperation with the city and for the car maker to manufacture more models at its Chinese plant.

Source: Reuters


This year will mark “the beginning of a slight decline in total” used-vehicle sales, says Cox Automotive chief economist Jonathan Smoke. But keep this in mind: used-vehicle sales by dealerships should keep on climbing. “We believe the retail market will continue to grow as the supply shifts to higher-quality, younger and more expensive used vehicles,” Smoke said during Wednesday’s Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index Quarterly Call.

Source: Auto Remarketing 

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