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Archive for the ‘Editorial’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Japanese Car Makers and Their Love of Robots

When one talks of robotics in the context of automobile production, one invariably thinks of the ungainly metal arms busily swinging from side to side on the assembly line, welding and bolting and putting bits of a car together. But there is an other side to the relationship between car makers and the field of robotics, one that is much more sophisticated and, at least for now, entirely Japanese.

If you have been to one of those big technology shows such as CES in Las Vegas, you have noticed that while some of the big European auto brands turn up with a new infotainment system they are way too proud of, the Japanese manufacturers, namely Honda and Toyota, quietly wow the crowd with their humanoid robots, capable of walking and talking and interacting with people. Now, one might wonder why should a car maker care about humanoid robots, or the this aspect of the robotic sciences, at all. And that is the question here. Why are Honda and Toyota investing so much in these things and keep coming up with ever more sophisticated, ever more human-like, machines? And are other car makers missing out not taking part?

It appears the Japanese are not content with replacing human workers in factories with robots, they want to replace humans everywhere wholesale!

It is kind of natural for the automakers to take the lead in this matter, when you think about it, because they are industry giants with almost limitless resources, worldwide connections, and a team of some of the best minds in the world in their R&D departments. What’s more, they have the facilities for making the motors and actuators and lightweight body components, as well as electrical systems, needed to make these robots. Another important aspect of this is Artificial Intelligence, which is the cornerstone of advanced robotics. You can make your robot as man-like as you want. But as long as its remote-controlled and cannot think for itself it is hardly scarcely more than just a toy.

AI is becoming increasingly important in all walks of life and especially in the auto industry with the whole autonomous revolution. This alone could put car makers with a strong robotics program ahead of others. But even that does not fully explain Honda’s and Toyota’s obsession with humanoid robots. Maybe their car business is just cover for a secret robotics project with the ultimate aim of assembling a robot army to take over the world!

With that disturbing thought let us now check out some of the latest and greatest humanoid robots built by the giant Japanese brands…

Kirobo Mini: This cute little thing is a palm robot measuring only 10cm in height and it’s basically an advanced communication partner. Think of it as a Japanese Siri, only not impersonal. It turns its head toward the person speaking and engages in casual conversation while moving its head and hands. Its compact size means it can be taken just about anywhere. The Kirobo is basically a robot pet that can talk.

Toyota T-HR3: This is more interesting. The T-HR3 is a full humanoid robot in the same vein as Honda ASIMO. Having the same size as a 10 year old, this creature has a full range of motions and is designed to explore and work out the kinks of robot interaction with the real world. It also has a new remote maneuvering system that mirrors user movements to the robot. which makes it pull off some impressive, but at the same time kind of creepy, moves. The video below shows off the capabilities of the T-HR3:

Latest Honda Robotic Concepts: With their humanoid robot game on the lock, Honda is now delving into the field of artificial intelligence, and energy solution. They have come up with a range of new robots, to be shown off at CES 2018, offering a wide range of capabilities:

3E-A18, a companion robotics concept that shows compassion to humans with a variety of facial expressions

3E-B18, a chair-type mobility concept designed for casual use in indoor or outdoor spaces

3E-C18, a small-sized electric mobility concept with multi-functional cargo space

3E-D18, an autonomous off-road vehicle concept with AI designed to support people in a broad range of work activities

The post Japanese Car Makers and Their Love of Robots appeared first on Motorward.

PostHeaderIcon Tyres Needn’t Be a Source of Anxiety

Since you are reading a car blog I think it is safe to assume you are the kind of motorists who worries about every last detail of his or her car. I know I am. Every time my car isn’t sweet as honey and completely healthy I cannot rest until I have addressed the issue. Now, one of the things that has caused me great distress over the years is the state of my tyres. But a recent study shows my concerns may have been misguided. 

I admit, sometimes this obsession with the health of the car becomes compulsive. And yes, before you make your jokes, it does happen more often when I am not dating. But anyway, Under those episodes of automotive hypochondria the mere sight of a dirty tyre is enough to send me straight to mytyres.co.uk in search of a new set, and then begins days of research into the size, compound, and even tread pattern of the tyres, because there is always a new design and it claims to be better and more efficient and etc. It’s a good thing, then, has a wide variety of product as well as handy search tools to find the rubber you are after.

But here’s the thing: the old guideline about when to change your tyres may have been all wrong. A study conducted by a group of German automotive journalists – and those are, as the saying goes, the best kind you can get, revealed that the industry-recommend 3mm, or in some cases 4mm, tread as the standard indication that your tyres need changing is way too pessimistic. After conducting a series of thorough tests that covered a range of criteria across snowy, wet and dry conditions, including braking, handling, skid pan performance, mileage, rolling resistance and aquaplaning, AutoBild said it was “able to rebut the general request to change tyres at half tread depth.”

Mind you, the benchmark of their test was the excellent Michelin’s CrossClimate + tyre. But still, they try to make the argument clear with an analogy. They say “it is inconceivable that people would throw away an apple after only eating half of it, or that football games would finish after 45 minutes.” That puts in perspective the point about the tyres and makes you think about not just all the unnecessary cost the old belief can impose, but also the environmental impact of chucking away tyres that are probably good for another year or so.

There is a proviso here, mind, and that is while most tyres are safe down to the legal minimum tread depth of 1.6mm, it doesn’t apply to all manufacturers. As always, spending more on a better brand now will save you more on the other end.

The post Tyres Needn’t Be a Source of Anxiety appeared first on Motorward.

PostHeaderIcon Autonomous Cars – How Are We Doing Infrastructure-Wise?

Every time some new technology becomes the main trend in the automotive world, manufacturers scramble to get their hands on it and, if possible, position themselves at the forefront of the game. In doing so they often forget to take into account the more important parts of developing a new technology, like is the real world ready for it? It happened with the whole hydrogen fuel cell thing, and now it’s happening again with autonomous cars. 

It was in early 2000s when when fuel cells became all the rage and everybody in the business was convinced they were the saviors of our fragile planet and the answer to all the problems we face with fossil fuel cars. They used hydrogen as fuel and the only emission they made converting that to electricity was water vapor. What was not to love? So most car makers went in pursuit of this technology and came up with a bunch of fairly decent models. Then when they were ready to let fuel cell cars take the world by storm they stopped, looked around, and realized there were no infrastructure to support those grand plans. There were no hydrogen fueling stations, and worse than that, nobody had figured out a workable way of making hydrogen fuel.

So most of the plans were scrapped and they started all over again with electric cars. Even Honda, whose FCEV Clarity was almost a sure thing, shelved the thing and recently launched a plug-in hybrid model. One cannot help but think the same will prove true of the autonomous cars. Anybody and everybody is developing them these days, regardless of who would want to use this technology and would it work in the first place. Of course, the first tests have been promising and all. But these are individual cases. These are like the early fuel cell concepts which seemed all but perfect. To make the new technology relevant we first need to make sure there is a good base, and a good reason, for its existence. And it seems not enough people are researching that.

It is great that a regular sedan can nowadays navigate itself through traffic and avoid hitting stuff. But all the effort that goes into making it capable of doing that seems kind of wasted if the cars behind it can still run into it because they have erratic human drivers. With autonomous cars just a few won’t do us any good. It should be all or nothing. Either make all the cars out there self-driving, or just forget the whole thing.

Thing is though, unlike the whole fuel cell and plug-in EV situation, autonomous driving is not a must for us. It’s a technology we are developing as a sort of luxury. We don’t really need it, but it’s a nice thing to have. So it has business appeal, and as a result there are those who are thinking about it like a start-up technology. Take Renault for example. They weren’t the first to get into the autonomous game, but now that they are in it they are, evidently, more serious about it than most of the pioneers. They are one of the few considering infrastructure-level solutions such as vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) connectivity solutions under real-world driving conditions. With self-driving cars they see the big picture, which is why they are working with French Ministry for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition, regional authorities, infrastructure operators, universities and research centres to make sure everything is in place before they launch a fleet of robot cars on public roads hoping they would work.

If we want autonomous cars to go mainstream, and it seems that we do at least for public transportation to begin with, this is the kind of approach that will guarantee a fruitful outcome. Focusing on individual concepts and testing them in controlled situations is not enough to make self-driving cars road-worthy. Car makers should first perfect the infrastructure technologies and then worry about small details. For instance, with V2V and V2X systems working at optimum level, there would probably no need to spend all that time and money fine-tuning radars and sensors on each model that comes out.

We like the idea of getting to work in the morning relaxing on a massage chair, drinking coffee and reading the news. So we really hope self-driving cars become prevalent in a satisfactory and lasting way. We also hope they find a way to make those fuel cell stuff work, because having to plug in your car at the end of the night like a phone is not natural!

The post Autonomous Cars – How Are We Doing Infrastructure-Wise? appeared first on Motorward.

PostHeaderIcon Car Design – Are We at the End of the Road?

I am not suggesting for a minute that cars aren’t good-looking these days or that we don’t get iconic designs anymore. The issue is, they seem to be a dying breed. Compared to only a few decades ago the number of truly beautiful new cars is at an all-time low, and it keeps dwindling as the focus shifts to safety and efficiency and, these days, electrification. 

The automobile has been around for more than a hundred years now, and in that time designers have tried pretty much everything. It appears they are almost at their wits’ end. There are only so many tricks of creativity one can come up with when one is restricted not just by newfangled regulations, but also the natural order of things. A car has to have four wheels at the four corners and a fairly box-shaped bit in the middle where adults can sit. This is why we don’t have cubist car design which, come to think of it, would have been pretty awesome. So it’s actually kind of amazing car designers have kept us amused with new shapes and details for such a long time given what they have to work with.

The eye of the beholder…

Of course, some of you may not agree with the premise here. You might think cars are more beautiful these days than they have ever been, and you can cite some good examples. It is true that beauty is subjective and what one man finds trouser-troublingly pretty, another may find completely revolting. But if you rewind the tape of time to, say, the Sixties, you will find cars that everybody agreed were a piece of art. Heck, they are universal symbols of beauty even to this day. Take Jaguar E-Type as an obvious example. Unless you have cataracts or glaucoma or something like that, that car is going to melt your heart and warm soul with its perfect proportions and exquisite details that tell the tale of happier times.

If you can’t win’em all…

But we can’t have stuff like that anymore. These days the headlights have to be a certain height and the bonnet a certain angle so as to protect the pedestrian you might run over. And you have to take into account the size of the modern prosperous human beings with their fat bellies. So even when you come up with a new MINI or Fiat 500, the only thing they share with the brilliant original design is the badge. With all of that to be mindful of, and given the above-mentioned fact about us being through a centruy of car design having seen everything, those in charge of penning the new models have the devil’sown job trying to appeal to everybody.

And they often fail. When try to please everybody, you please nobody. Knowing this, designers seem to have adopted a new strategy. They are coming up with increasingly radical looks for their car. They deliberately make their designs polarizing to ensure they at least win the support of half the population. It also gets people talking about their work, which is free publicity.

Good for them, you know, but that means we don’t get universally beautiful cars anymore. They really have run out of ideas how to design those.

The difficult second album…

Designers also use this trick when they have no idea how to follow up a successful first design. By sheer luck, or the immense talent of just one individual, sometimes a car maker puts out a model that is almost flawlessly beautiful and charming and magnificent. It does well in the market for a few years, and then the time comes for it to get a facelift. And more often than not the facelift ends up ruining the whole thing. There are many examples for this, but one of the most glaring is the case of Kia Forte Koup. The first generation of this car came out of the blue with a remarkably handsome design – certainly unexpected for a first-time economy coupe by a Korean brand. The car itself wasn’t anything special, but it looked great and, along with other Kias of that era (we’re talking early 2010s) put the brand on the map.

And then they came up with the second-generation model, and… well, it looked like a bloated frog. It seemed they had no idea how to improve on that marvelous first design, so they decided to beat it to death with a bat, leave its corpse in the sun for a few days, and then present the result as the new model. They could have just kept offering the first one, you know.

Where do go from here…

Well, not up, that’s for sure. At least as long as the current trends reign supreme. And to be honest we are not that hopeful for the so-called electric revolution and the whole autonomy thing which will invariably affect the looks of the car as well as their underpinnings. Electric cars offer a little bit more flexibility as regards space and packaging, meaning designers will have more room to play with and try new ideas in. As for self-driving car, it could potentially turn the entire car design culture on its head if it becomes mainstream by eliminating some of the old restrictions. But it’s a double-edged sword. And anyway, it’s not like beauty is a top priority when it comes to EVs and SDs.

Car design might be at the end of the road. But it could also be switching to an entirely new path.

The post Car Design – Are We at the End of the Road? appeared first on Motorward.

PostHeaderIcon New Tesla Roadster – Is It Game Over for Traditional Sports Cars?

So yesterday Tesla revealed a new version of their Roadster sports car, giving us all a 2020 Volt jolt. It isn’t just how much more advanced the new Roadster is compared to its predecessor, but how much of a game-changer this thing is for performance cars everywhere. Tesla Roadster is so ahead of everything else out there, one has to ask oneself, are traditional sports cars done for?

Even taking into account Elon Musk’s tendency to bolster the facts about the achievement of his companies, the numbers this new Tesla Roadster claims are mind-boggling. It took Volkswagen, a huge conglomerate with almost limitless resources, many decades and endless expensive tests and trials to make the Bugatti Chiron accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in under 3 seconds. And that’s a fully-fledged, multi-million dollar hyper car, mind you. Then along came this Musk fella telling us his tiny little sports car does that in under 2 seconds!

Now granted, the Roadster does not really belong in the sports car category price-wise – it starts at $200K – but still, it just blows everything you can throw at it clean out of the water. They haven’t mentioned any horsepower figure yet, but electric motors in the Roadster generate 10,000 Nm of wheel torque. That, and the fact that all four wheels are driven, makes it possible to hit 60 mph from standing still in 1.9 seconds and run the quarter-mile in 8.8 seconds. Those are dragster numbers, and you can have them in a zero-emission sports car that covers a distance of 650 miles on one charge.

How fast is fast enough?

Now, one could argue that unless you are a professional drag racer a 0-60 time of 1.9 seconds is a meaningless number. What on earth could you be doing that would require you to accelerate at that rate? Can your body take that kind of force without something going wrong with it, anyway? This is just a tool for inexperience drivers to kill themselves, or others, with. Those are fair points all. But if humans were always content with their small achievements, where would they be now? Most likely still in the African Savannah. It’s this ambition, however unreasonable or greedy at first, that drives us forward. Of course, you don’t need to go from 0 to 60 in 1.9 seconds, or 2.5 seconds, or 4 seconds. But the fact that now you can do that is pretty delightful.

And that is why we shouldn’t mourn the demise of the traditional performance cars should this new Tesla bring about their extinction. Cars like this do to our current high performance machines what the original automobile did to the horse and carriage. It renders them pointless. You can go faster, farther and cleaner in the new stuff. It will get to a point where you have to really struggle to find a reason for keeping your fossil fuel-powered car. Before this new generation of electric cars shaving a second off the 0-60 time of a car took innovation, sophisticated engineering, and years of toiling at the drawing board as well as the test track. Now all it takes is higher voltage and a few lines of computer code.

Of course, not everything is speed and acceleration. An electric car doesn’t have the same feel as a nicely sorted V8 or flat-six sports car. Most importantly, it lacks noise, which as we know makes up a huge part of an enjoyable drive. But if you look at the market and try to determine what is the most important factor that drives the sales of a type of vehicle up, that is trend. People lived alright with their sedans and hatchbacks before the SUVs and crossovers emerged. Now everybody wants those because they are cooler. The same will happen with performance cars. Apart from a few car nuts who are more attached to their turbos and boxer engines than their children, most people are going to want the latest and greatest. And that’s stuff like the new Tesla Roadster.

Do not despair, though. You still have plenty of time to enjoy your gas-guzzling sports car before they get consigned to the pages of history books. The Tesla is set to launch in 2020, and even then it’s going to take a while for it to find its place in the market, and for the copycats to come out with their own super-high-performance EV.

So go out this weekend and have a blast. The end is near!

The post New Tesla Roadster – Is It Game Over for Traditional Sports Cars? appeared first on Motorward.

PostHeaderIcon Be Wary of Maintenance Costs!

When buying a car most of us, me included, tend to get so caught up in the looks and performance of the machine, we might overlook some really important factors. Sure, we check the body and suspension, run the engine and make sure the equipment work. But rarely do we take into account the costs of maintaining the car. And often it comes back to haunt us a few months down the line. 

This applies to both new and used cars. In fact, in some cases a new car needs more attention during the first couple of services than an old one. And the more expensive, sporty or luxurious your car is, the more temperamental it is, which means you need to lavish more care on it than your human baby. Service and maintenance, then, is something we all need to pay attention too when we chose our new rides. Yes, a lot of it is about the money. But more important than that is the headache. I love cars to death, but even I cannot be bothered to spend time in the mechanic or tire shop. I’d rather spend my time driving the car and going places in it. I want it to service me, not the other way around.

In light of this realization let us to go through a few of the checks one needs to do in order to enjoy years of trouble-free, low-cost motoring. Of course, consulting with an expert and paying a small fee to have the car you are looking to buy apprised is always recommended. But if you have the wit and knowledge to recognize some of the more glaring red flags, you can save yourself that cost as well. Just to be clear, determining the maintenance cost of a vehicle is apart from gauging its overall health. The maintenance has to so with what keeps the vehicle in good health, but it could prove as costly as a full repair job.

The first and, most obvious, item on your checklist for ensuring you won’t end up with big maintenance bills is oil and fluids. Now, some may say that’s being stingy wanting fresh oil in a second-hand car you want to buy. But that depends on the make and model of the vehicle. Sure, if it’s an average family sedan or hatchback whose entire oil change job can be done with 50 bucks, do not even mention it to the owner. But some of the sportier models or 4x4s require special oils and additives, the cost of which could in some cases get into the thousands. So it helps a great deal if the seller has taken care of it already. Also, automatic transmission fluid is something to be wary of. Auto ‘boxes are very sensitive to the age and quality of their oil, and they often need a bespoke formula for optimum performance. Again, depending on the make and model you can be looking at a $300-$400 bill or more. While you are at it, check the steering hydraulic and brake fluid as well. These are also expensive stuff to replace.

Next you need to get on your knees and thoroughly examine the condition of the brake pads, brake discs, and, above all, the tires. As mentioned earlier, the sportier the car you are buying, the more expensive these parts can be. So ideally you want them in proper health so that you can get some good mileage out of them before having to worry about their maintenance. You want your discs to be have a smooth surface, your pads to have a good deal of meat on them, and your tires to be tread-full and crack-free. The cost of a new set of tires alone could ruin the whole experience of ownership for you. So make sure you turn the steering wheel and check the inside wall as well, as sometime they start to go bad from there, especially if the car has some alignment issues.

One would be smart to also consider the condition of less expensive parts such as the lights and filters and such. Granted, they don’t usually cost much to replace, but you still have to deal with the trouble of popping to the shop or getting the part and spending your precious free time working on the car as opposed to enjoying it. Some may go as far as making sure the AC has enough gas in it and the tires enough air. You don’t want to be like that because it’s discourteous, and it might make the seller so angry he’d rather burn the car than sell it to you!

Still, should you end up with a car with poor maintenance record, it’s not the end of the world. These days, thanks to the hard-working industrialists in China and Vietnam and what have you, you can buy knock-off parts for pretty much any car you can imagine. Of course, it is not at all recommended to replace an original part with a Chinese knock-off. But speaking from experience, and considering the massive cost of original parts for high-end brands, sometimes it is more logical to go for the cheap copy. Even if the part brakes three times over, the cost of having it replaced with another copy three times still won’t come close to the cost of the original part. But yeah, it is more troublesome. So, you know, pick your battles…

The post Be Wary of Maintenance Costs! appeared first on Motorward.

PostHeaderIcon The Art of the (Car) Deal

A few days ago we learned that the first ‘used’ Bugatti Chiron was sold in the UK, bringing its owner a tidy profit of £1.1 million in just four months. A little while before that a dealer in Dubai listed a LaFerrari Aperta for $7.3 million, literally millions above its factory price. Clearly, there is a lot of money to be made dealing cars, but do you have to a gazillionaire to partake of this? Not necessarily.

Of course, it helps a great deal is you have the kind of money that enables you to play in the upper echelons of the market. Interestingly, the higher the price range, the easier time you will have making a sale. Anyone’s whose willing to blow $7 million on a car is not going to sweat a few hundred grands less or more. Big money also enables you to deal in classic cars market, which is a veritable treasure island on its own. And the rule of thumb, always, is buying low and selling high.

Let’s be honest from the get go, shall we? There is always going to be question marks hanging over the heads of people who make a living selling cars. And yes, a lot of them are very liberal with the truth regarding the subject of the sale and/or its financial details. They either lie to you outright, or conceal certain facts that would prevent you from going ahead with the purchase. But these are the tricks of low-level car dealers. These days thanks to Internet classifieds and all the other means of connection between buyers and sellers you can make honest deals that are both satisfactory for the buyer and fruitful for you as the seller. It goes the other way, too. If you have negotiation skills and are able to knock a few thousands off the price when you buy and then charge them back when you sell, by all means go ahead. This is not being disingenuous. This is being market savvy.

But back to the point about how can one make good money buying and selling cars in all classes and price brackets…

As was said, the trick is buying low and selling high. One technique for this is sniping. There are those people who either frequent shops or browse the ads for those rare occasions where someone is in need of cash and wants to sell their car quickly. You show up with a wad of cash, buy the car, then wait for the right customer to come along and give you a tidy profit. Another way of going about this is buying a car with a few problems. That may sound stupid on the surface, but ordinary people – that is, those who are not into cars – often mistake a slight and easily fixable problem for a major health issue and tend to get rid of the vehicle altogether. A witty car guy with some mechanical knowledge can work wonders with such cases. Because of the problems you will be able to practically steal the car, and if you can get it fixed or improved at a reasonable cost, then there will be a healthy profit in that deal for you. The same applies to tuning and improving a healthy car, but speaking from experience, selling modified cars can prove difficult because it’s a very subjective thing and what you find col others may think of abhorrent.

But the best and most fascinating way of dealing cars is what we talked about at the beginning of this story: dealing in special and limited edition cars. Yes, you need big bucks to play in this league, but the rewards are also enormous. It’s also a lot more fun dealing with the kind of cars, and customers, who frequent this market, which, by the way, is largely immune to the economic fluctuations. Take that Bugatti from earlier. The original owner bought that car from company for £2.5 million, drove it around for four month and enjoyed it, and then sold it £3.6 million. Granted, this is an extreme case. But even with less glamorous cars, as long as they are special or rare, you can do the same thing. Just think about it… driving nice cars everyday and making bank on each one… now that’s to me is a dream job!

The post The Art of the (Car) Deal appeared first on Motorward.

PostHeaderIcon On the Future of Electric Cars – Far From a Sure Thing?

The way car makers all over the world are scrambling these days to step up their electric game, you would think gas engines are on their last legs and customers are shunning them like a disease. But people who are actually crunching the numbers and looking at the whole phenomenon in a scientific way beg to differ. They say plug-in electric cars might not be the future of transportation like we are led to believe. 

There are a number of factors affecting the long-term situation with electric cars, and unlike the traditional market elements, the adoption by customers is not the most important one. The biggest hurdle against electric cars going truly mainstream, at the moment at least, is technology. It is not exactly a secret that the current battery technology sucks. The best of them are out of juice after 100 miles or so, and they take long, arduous hours to charge up. So save a groundbreaking technological breakthrough, the outlook is pretty bleak for PEVs in terms of convenience. It kind of goes against the whole promise of a personal car which is freedom of movement.

Another important factor is government policies. This has to do with the incentives governments are willing to give EV customers in order to expand their use. So they offer rebates at the time of purchase, tax exemptions, toll waivers, free parking, and exemptions from ferry fees. Or they allow electric cars to have the advantage of using high-occupancy vehicle or bus lanes. Now these could work, but the problem with policies is that they change with the administrations. In fact, several countries have started to remove or phase out existing policies that encourage the purchase of PEVs, because the slow rate of progress in technology and enormous costs have shaken their faith in them. And as the incentives thin out, down goes the sales of PEVs.

As for the role of customer demand for plug-in electric cars, while ephemeral trends may cause a temporary surge in the sales of EVs, the trajectory at the moment is not an upward one. This has to do with the convenience issues of EVs, purchase prices and operational costs between plug-in and gasoline-fueled vehicles. In essence, when you strip away the surface glitz of running an electric vehicle, you often find you have to pay a lot more so that you can get a lot less. Even the most environmentally conscious person has a limit for how much trouble he or she is willing to go through, how much money they are willing to part with, so that they might reduce their carbon footprint by a tiny bit. Of course, the situation can get better as technology improves and cost come down. But as already said, this train is not moving fast enough.

 To reach price parity with gasoline-fueled vehicles, battery packs for plug-in electric vehicles will likely need to decrease to about $100/kilowatt hour (kWh). However, the cost of the battery pack for most manufactures is still more than $200/kWh. Further reductions in cost will need to be realized to fully achieve vehicle price parity with gasoline vehicles.

The question of infrastructure is one that is often overlooked, but it is one that could render the other issues moot. For the electric car to become a global phenomenon it needs, first and foremost, universal access to electricity. That in itself is a huge problem, seeing as huge chunks of the population in countries like India do not have that. But even in more-developed countries, access to charging stations still places limits on PEV adoption. Now, one would argue that governments should invest in expansion of charging stations and other solutions such as battery-swapping stations where you can drop your empty pack and get a fully charged one. But one also wonders if this money and effort would not be better spent on the development of hydrogen infrastructure for fuel-cell vehicle which, thanks to their already mature technology, have none of the practical issues of the plug-in EVs.

In spite of all that is wrong with the EV phenomenon on the whole, it is not likely that the industry or the administrative bodies would give up on it for the simple reason that there doesn’t seem to a viable alternative. Granted, fuel-cell seems like a good idea. But it will always be a toss-up between the two technologies given the amount of work needed to make them work in the real world.

Charts and figures by Melissa Lynes – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

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PostHeaderIcon On the Future of Electric Cars – Far From a Sure Thing?

The way car makers all over the world are scrambling these days to step up their electric game, you would think gas engines are on their last legs and customers are shunning them like a disease. But people who are actually crunching the numbers and looking at the whole phenomenon in a scientific way beg to differ. They say plug-in electric cars might not be the future of transportation like we are led to believe. 

There are a number of factors affecting the long-term situation with electric cars, and unlike the traditional market elements, the adoption by customers is not the most important one. The biggest hurdle against electric cars going truly mainstream, at the moment at least, is technology. It is not exactly a secret that the current battery technology sucks. The best of them are out of juice after 100 miles or so, and they take long, arduous hours to charge up. So save a groundbreaking technological breakthrough, the outlook is pretty bleak for PEVs in terms of convenience. It kind of goes against the whole promise of a personal car which is freedom of movement.

Another important factor is government policies. This has to do with the incentives governments are willing to give EV customers in order to expand their use. So they offer rebates at the time of purchase, tax exemptions, toll waivers, free parking, and exemptions from ferry fees. Or they allow electric cars to have the advantage of using high-occupancy vehicle or bus lanes. Now these could work, but the problem with policies is that they change with the administrations. In fact, several countries have started to remove or phase out existing policies that encourage the purchase of PEVs, because the slow rate of progress in technology and enormous costs have shaken their faith in them. And as the incentives thin out, down goes the sales of PEVs.

As for the role of customer demand for plug-in electric cars, while ephemeral trends may cause a temporary surge in the sales of EVs, the trajectory at the moment is not an upward one. This has to do with the convenience issues of EVs, purchase prices and operational costs between plug-in and gasoline-fueled vehicles. In essence, when you strip away the surface glitz of running an electric vehicle, you often find you have to pay a lot more so that you can get a lot less. Even the most environmentally conscious person has a limit for how much trouble he or she is willing to go through, how much money they are willing to part with, so that they might reduce their carbon footprint by a tiny bit. Of course, the situation can get better as technology improves and cost come down. But as already said, this train is not moving fast enough.

 To reach price parity with gasoline-fueled vehicles, battery packs for plug-in electric vehicles will likely need to decrease to about $100/kilowatt hour (kWh). However, the cost of the battery pack for most manufactures is still more than $200/kWh. Further reductions in cost will need to be realized to fully achieve vehicle price parity with gasoline vehicles.

The question of infrastructure is one that is often overlooked, but it is one that could render the other issues moot. For the electric car to become a global phenomenon it needs, first and foremost, universal access to electricity. That in itself is a huge problem, seeing as huge chunks of the population in countries like India do not have that. But even in more-developed countries, access to charging stations still places limits on PEV adoption. Now, one would argue that governments should invest in expansion of charging stations and other solutions such as battery-swapping stations where you can drop your empty pack and get a fully charged one. But one also wonders if this money and effort would not be better spent on the development of hydrogen infrastructure for fuel-cell vehicle which, thanks to their already mature technology, have none of the practical issues of the plug-in EVs.

In spite of all that is wrong with the EV phenomenon on the whole, it is not likely that the industry or the administrative bodies would give up on it for the simple reason that there doesn’t seem to a viable alternative. Granted, fuel-cell seems like a good idea. But it will always be a toss-up between the two technologies given the amount of work needed to make them work in the real world.

Charts and figures by Melissa Lynes – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

The post On the Future of Electric Cars – Far From a Sure Thing? appeared first on Motorward.

PostHeaderIcon Should We Start buying Chinese Cars Already?

Like it or not, China is on its way to dominate the world’s car market. Well, they’re on their way to take over the whole world, but that’s a subject for another discussion. Here we are interested in cars, and we are worried that buying Chinese might not be an option in the near future. For a lot of people Chinese cars could be the only choice. That is not necessarily an awful thing for the luxury segment, but it could be a nightmare for the affordable classes. 

There is, of course, two sides to this story. On the one hand, we have the typical Chinese cars we all know and at least dislike, if not outrightly hate. Then we have the European and American brands now being built in China with Chinese money. And it’s more pervasive than you think. Most of the Volvos sold in Europe over the next few years will be built in China. That goes for some Chevrolets as well. Some iconic brands like MG have been China-fied for years now. Now this is the good side of the Chinese take over of the auto world.

The not-so-good part is the cars designed and built in China – the stereotypical Chinese cars. You know the type. They have silly names like Geely, FAW, Great Wall, Dong Feng, etc. Their designs are usually a bad copy of some famous European model. The underpinnings are a mishmash of reject parts from Japanese or Korean manufacturers. And the whole thing is put together with what appears to be saliva. These things have not yet invaded Europe in force, but in emerging markets in Asia and South America they have caused quite a stir. You see, They might be crappy cars, but they come at such low prices, and – thanks to China’s other flourishing industries – are equipped with so much kit, buyers looking for something affordable just cannot resist them.

Of course, a few months down the line, when the electronics start going south and bits of trim start falling off, they will come to regret their decision. But by then the Chinese brand has come up with something new, something with a more glitzy exterior and even more standard equipment. This time they have slapped a long warranty on the car, too. So the unsuspecting customer gets fooled again and buys the new model. Those few who have learned their lesson, or at least read some of the chatter about Chinese cars on internet forums, however, will stay clear off these pieces of crap. They understand that a second-hand European or Japanese car is a far superior choice to these terrible products. They know a cheap Chinese car has only a year or two of fairly trouble-free service in it. And they know that that warranty is a joke.

What is a cause of great anxiety here is that these things might become prevalent. These horrendous products have already colonized some emerging markets and it could be only a matter of time before they become a global epidemic. And the reason is politics.

Imagine an increasingly likely scenario where war suddenly breaks out in the Korean peninsula. It doesn’t even have to nuclear, just any old kind of war would do. That means the supply of Hyundais and Kias and other affordable Korean cars is cut off. Japan may not become directly engaged in the conflict, but given their geopolitical situation, they are going to want to hunker down for a while. That means the market cannot rely on the Japanese brands for their excellent small and mid-size models for some time. And of course, a Korean conflict would inevitably put America on a war footing and that would cause all kinds of complications for their car makers.

What is the average Joe looking to buy an affordable car is left with then? A swarm of Chinese cars in all shapes and forms, from superminis to big SUVs, filling the void all over the world with their cheap prices, increasingly attractive looks, and an unprecedented level of features and equipment. And as we know, once the Chinese find a foothold somewhere, they will not relinquish it easily. The auto industry has never seemed so ripe for a Chinese monopoly as today. Let us hope that they would at least improve their game a little bit, learn from the foreign brands they are buying left and right, and give the poor customers a half-decent product.

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PostHeaderIcon Car Design in the Electric Age

It must be pretty clear now to everybody who, only a few years ago, dismissed the idea of electric cars going mainstream that that’s where we’re headed. This, and the whole autonomous craze which has come with it, is changing our motoring habits. We’re already adapting new measures in this electric age to cope with the advantages and shortcomings of the new technologies. But how will this monumental change affect the looks of our cars?

Your first thought might be that it won’t – that car design has nothing to do with how the machine works. But if you think a little deeper about it and look at the history of automobile, you realize that design is usually the first thing that changes every time a grand new technology shakes things up in the car world. Just as the advancements we made in aerodynamics changed the looks of our cars, so will autonomy and electrification have a huge impact on it. And the interesting thing is, only a small part of this shift has to do with technical reasons. Most of it is character. The new self-driving EVs need their own identity.

Things didn’t start very promising, design-wise, with green cars. Those of you old enough to remember the very first generations of Toyota Prius will concur that we have come a long way since then. Only a few years ago it was as though car makers had a secret pact that their green cars must look absolutely awful. Perhaps their line of thinking was that people who buy green cars do not care about style and all that, so why should they bother making them pretty? Instead they put the money and effort in technological developments.

But those very technological developments brought about the new age of electric cars. Now that EVs are “cool” and desirable and everybody wants one, it is important how they look. Now, the latest battery and fuel cell EVs that have been announced seem to be moving toward a more conventional design. They want to look virtually identical to the regular fossil fuel models the public is used to. But we don’t think that is going to last. All it takes is for a manufacturer to come up with a unique and special design that sets their product aside, and the other will adapt those trends in a second.

Psychology has always played an important part in car design. Each class of cars, depending on its intended role, has to awaken a certain feeling in you.That is why supercars are all mean and aggressive, GT cars all nice and curvy, and family sedans rather bland and box-like. It is not something that you actively notice. The design of a car affects you on a sub-conscious level, sometime making you walk past a perfectly reasonable model in the showroom to buy the less sensible but somehow more enticing alternative. That is why we reckon it is going to be tricky for designers to come up with trends that would satisfy the green car criteria, i.e. a design that is immediately recognizable as “green”, and give you the fizz at the same time.

Of course, segment-specific design solves some of the issues in the sense that it gives some general guidelines to the designers. Just like the old cars, a supercar has different design elements than a SUV. But the problem of adding that green factor, that extra ingredient you need to mark the modern product aside, that could prove hard to find. All of this means that in all likely hood small changes are not going to cut it. Chances are over the next few years we are going to witness a radical change in car design, especially with the emergence of level 5 autonomous vehicle which will rewrite the entire rule book. One cannot help wondering what future restomoding will be like!

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PostHeaderIcon Will Autonomy Kill The Sports Car?

Like it or not, a major change is happening to the automobile. They are fast becoming electrified and capable of driving themselves, and that means a complete overhaul of our relationship with the machine. As a car guy, I welcome the electric revolution with open arms. I love the idea of living in a city where all the cars and trucks and buses are clean and quite and follow the rules unwaveringly. But I am worried about what this will do to the ‘driver’s car’.

The prevailing theory is that the electric revolution will do for the traditional car what the motor car did for the horse. They will become something for recreation, to be enjoyed over the weekend or admired in museums and gatherings and such. And that sounds pleasant enough. You go to work every day of the week in your autonomous EV, and then on the weekend you take the old gas guzzler out for a spin around the country roads. It will cost you a lot, this hobby – sort of like what classic car motoring costs now. And there will probably be extra taxes and fees to worry about. But hey, the joy of hearing that internal combustion noise and the feel of the steering wheel in your hands will be well worth the cost and effort.

That’s all well and good. But what does this change in the way we run and use our cars mean for the sports cars? Is there a place in the future of motoring for the Ferraris and Porsches and Lamborghinis, or even the Miatas and 4Cs, and WRXs?

In other words, will there be a place for a car that’s meant to be driven – even if it is fully electric – on roads littered with self-driving, super intelligent machines? We already know autonomous cars perform better than human drivers in following the rules and regulations. They react better and faster, and we are yet to come across an accident caused by a self-driving car. Well, there was an incident recently involving an autonomous Chevy Bolt. But it wasn’t the machine that was at fault, but the human driver in the other car that hit it. So I’m afraid the answer to the question above might be negative. Rule makers are not going to disregard the order and convenience of a fully automated, electric traffic, just so that a few driving enthusiasts can have their fun.

Now, that sounds rather totalitarian, but that’s often how traffic rules are. The speed limit, for instance, is a despotic regulation needed to lower the risk of incident for everybody, even if it’s not fair to a few good drivers who have good, safe cars.

The point is, you will probably get nowhere making this a freedom of choice issue. But don’t despair. We reckon our current ‘motorsport’ will be the savior of traditional cars and driving habits in the future. We will do away with the championships and stuff like that – since most things of that nature will be transferred to the virtual reality world, anyway – and our race tracks will be turned into clubs for the old-timer motorist to drive to their heart’s content and reminisce about how good they used to have it back in the day…

The electric/autonomous revolution could mean the demise of the sports car. That is a strong possibility. But weirdly, we think it could actually work in favor of supercars. If you think about it, supercars are often terrible to drive and in some case outright dangerous. The fact of the matter is, most supercar owners are interested in one thing above all else: showing off. They want to be seen in these cars, but often hate driving them. The idea of an autonomous supercar is a viable one, seeing as it enables you to sit back, relax, and enjoy feeling superior to all those poor bastards straining their necks to take a look at your car as it pilots itself around the streets of Monaco or wherever is fashionable in the future.

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PostHeaderIcon My Beef with Touchscreen in Cars

These days a great source of anxiety for me, besides the usual culprits such as bills, health, etc., is changing a track on my car’s stereo while I’m driving. We’ve all been there, right? You hear a song you enjoy and you want to rewind it or go back a little, listen to the hook again. This used to be an easy task. You just pressed and held a button. Now though, you have to have the delicate fingers of a violinist and the concentration of a neurosurgeon to accomplish this seemingly trivial job. 

And it all has to do with those damn touchscreens!

Fondling a piece of glass to get the content you want is perfectly fine when the piece in question fits in your palm and you can look at it at a comfortable angle. In fact, it literally was a billion dollar idea that made Apple what it is today and changed the lifestyle of billions of people. The problem arises when, because of some stupid trend, manufacturers put these things everywhere on everything. Hell, even washing machines have a touchscreen control panel now. It’s a wonder they don’t come with a stylus, which they really should, given how difficult it is touching the right button on the damn thing.

That is what causing me headache in the car. We used to get big, chunky dials and knobs and buttons to change tracks and folders and ‘seek’ if we wanted to. But these new cars, they all have ‘infotainment screens‘ which are like clunky, poorly made smartphones that are slow and awkward to use. And we get no alternative. So if you want to change a track you have to slow right down, focus really hard, stop breathing so your hand is steady like a sniper, take your eyes off the road and go for the appropriate touch button, which is of course a different shape in different systems and requires you to do some investigative work before you can even find it.

But don’t think your problems are over now. Oh no. Just as you are about to hit that godforsaken next button you drive over a bump or something, your hand gets jerked, and you touch something else. Now you find yourself in the setup menu or on the navigation screen. And the music is gone. You push some more buttons in the hope that it might magically reappear as abruptly as it vanished, but now you get a message on the screen saying you messed up the firmware or something, and that you need an update. Honest to God, sometimes I just wanna take my hammer and show that stupid piece of glass my way of pushing buttons.

Speed used to be the main cause of death in motor vehicles. But I reckon in a few years accidents as a result of drivers burying their heads in their infotainment systems instead of looking ahead will the number one danger to motorists. Well, either that, or heart attacks brought on by trying to operate those systems. I can rave and rant all I want, but the reality is this trend is not going to go away. If anything, it’s getting even a bigger foothold, with larger and larger screens replacing more and more of the ‘old-fashioned’ buttons and knobs. That Tesla Model 3, have you seen the size of the screen in that thing? That car’s interior is basically a steering wheel, some seats, and a giant screen. That’s it. Even the wipers are now a touch menu for heaven’s sake.

But all is not lost. Car makers are aware of the shortcomings of these touchscreens and the dangers they pose. That is why they are investing so heavily in better voice recognition systems as a mediator. We had in the news a few days ago all 2018 BMWs are going to get Amazon Alexa as standard feature. It’s going to be a whole new battle trying to get that voice thing to work, but at least you won’t have to take your eyes off the road and your hand off the wheel while you do it. You just argue with the voice lady inside your dashboard the way you do with your wife or girlfriend. Only here you may actually win one or two of those arguments.

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PostHeaderIcon The Brand Game in the Automotive World

A keen observer of the shifting trends in the automotive world will not fail to notice the rapid pace with which car makers are changing these days. Auto makers are becoming increasingly more flexible, adopting radical new ways that only a decade ago would have been unthinkable. This is not optional, of course. It’s a matter of survival. Tradition is dead. You can no longer be set in your ways. Dynamism is all the rage, and a lot of the major auto brands are doing a fairly good job keeping up with the changing tide.

In fact, auto makers dominate the Interbrand‘s Best Global Brand’s ranking, boasting the highest number of brands in the top 100, and having two representatives in the top 10.

That brings us to what I like to call the Brand Game. That is what encapsulates all the improvements a car maker – or any other business for that matter – has to make in order to remain competitive in the age of change. It’s about clarity and purpose and distinction. These are what matter to customers these days, perhaps even more than the traditional qualities like value or cost or the nationality of a brand. Even the question of “image” has changed a lot. What is considered “cool” these days is way different from ten or fifteen years ago. Surveys have shown today’s customers, especially the millennials, are willing to pay more for a brand and, stick with it for longer, if they feel connected to image of that brand. That’s why the clarity of purpose is so important.

So BMW makes the ‘i’ brand, Mercedes goes with EQ, Hyundai launches the Genesis and N sub-brands, and Citroen has the DS brand. Distinction is crucial, and so is the design – the corporate look, if you will. As a matter of fact, design is one of the biggest criteria in the best global brands ranking, and one of the main reasons why Technology and Automotive sectors occupy the top two positions in the index with a combined 31 positions in the top 100 ranking, surpassing the old-world top dogs from Financial Services and Consumer Goods. They have only one player in the top 10 this year: Coca Cola.

Top 5 Sectors:

  1. Technology                   USD $675,239m
  2. Automotive              USD $266,827m
  3. Financial Services       USD $121,145m
  4. Beverages                     USD $107,727m
  5. Retail                             USD $ 96,493m

The really interesting part is that the auto sector has done even better than the tech sector which includes such giants as Google, Apple, and Microsoft. These guys are still at the very top of the chart, but given the kind of products offered by Mercedes-Benz and Toyota – the auto sector’s representatives in the top 10 best global brands this year – compared to the tech services, it has not been too shabby a performance.

Top Performing Sectors:

  • Automotive (16 brands)
  • Technology (15 brands)
  • Financial Services (12 brands)
  • Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (9 brands)

A large part of this result is due to the flexibility auto makers have shown in keeping up with the trends, whether in technology or design. This is the reason cars are getting facelifts so often these days. We will get to the point where we’ll have a new-look version of any given car model at the same rate we get new iPhones every year. The social image is another important factor, like how big an effort a car maker is making in cleaning up their carbon baggage, or how well they treat their workforce and all that. But the most important factor of all is user experience. It’s the overall package. It’s about how you feel using a product or service. All the aforementioned considerations lead you to try a particular brand, but how you connect with it is what makes brand loyalty.

So how do car makers ensure their brand game is “on the lock” in the parlance of the today’s youth who make up tomorrow’s customer base? Well, according to the Intrabrand report it’s all about the change: “Grow, Change, Grow.” It is rather astonishing the rapidity with which auto makers have embraced this model, given this industry’s historical resistance to any meaningful change. The story of the automobile is basically a 100 years of doing pretty much the same thing over and over again. Maybe in some twisted way we ought to thank climate change and the fossil fuel crises for forcing the auto industry to reinvent itself with electric powertains, autonomous technologies and who knows what next.

Interview with James Hoostal, Interbrand’s Automotive Practice Lead

-What are the major criteria for an auto brand to make it into the top ten?

The criteria is the same for auto as all other industry brands:

  1. At least 30% of revenue must come from outside of the brand’s home region.
  2. The brand must have a significant presence in Asia, Europe and North America and have a public profile and awareness across the major world economies.
  3. There must be sufficient publicly available data on the brands financial performance and economic profit must be expected to be positive over the long term, delivering a return above the brand’s cost of capital.

-Does a brand’s history and perceived prestige play a role in its ranking? 

Yes, to a degree although the measurement of brand value goes much deeper. 10 factors that comprise Brand Strength – there are 4 internal and 6 external factors that are part of the formula.  Another measurement is Role of Brand which considers the role the that the brand plays in consumer purchase decisions, relative to its competitors.

-What steps can a given brand take to ensure a higher ranking in the next survey? 

Brands must consider a number of factors to improve their ranking, both internal and external factors.  See the website for details on the criteria and methodology.

-How big an impact a brand’s technological stance have on the results?  

It depends on the industry and the competitors that the brand is facing.  Technology does play a significant role for automakers because of their products….cars are technology masterpieces!

-Environmental image of a brand – is that something you take into account? 

Yes, though it is only one factor of many and the brand valuation is based on a more broad analysis of the brand.

-I can see that customer service plays a big rule on any given’s brands ranking. How about their treatment of their own workforce. Is that of any consequence? 

Yes, absolutely.  A brand’s workforce/employees are a part of the internal measures that are considered.  The company’s/brand’s internal culture, how it treats and manages its employees, has an impact on the valuation.

-Design, technology, value – which, in your opinion, is the most important for the future of a brand? 

This depends on the industry and the competitive landscape a brand faces.  For automotive, all three of these factors impact the future value.  Because of the rapid changes facing the auto industry, technology is a major factor and influencer, how well a brand is embracing and investing in new developments, such as autonomous driving, ride sharing and digital tools for the empowered consumer all play a role in the valuation.

Top 10 brands of 2017:

Rank Brand Sector Brand Value USD (BV)
2017 2017 % change
1 Apple Technology 184,154 3%
2 Google Technology 141,703 6%
3 Microsoft Technology 79,999 10%
4 Coca-Cola Beverages 69,733 -5%
5 Amazon Retail 64,796 29%
6 Samsung Technology 56,249 9%
7 Toyota Automotive 50,291 -6%
8 Facebook Technology 48,188 48%
9 Mercedes-Benz Automotive 47,829 10%
10 IBM Business Services 46,829 -11%

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PostHeaderIcon Iran’s Emerging Car Market and the French Domination of it

Joint venture Iran

In the aftermath of the 1979 revolution and the war that followed it, Iran, one of the biggest and most ethnically diverse countries in the Middle East, became largely isolated with limited access to the world’s markets. While this self-inflicted malady certainly helped some industries to become self-sufficient, it wreaked havoc with the Iranian car market and sent it into a coma from which it is only starting to wake up. 

And boy is it coming back with a vengeance! Decades of sanctions and government-imposed ban on imports created a huge appetite for modern cars in Iran’s sizable market and when it was finally allowed to breath a little a few years back it just went bonkers. For the last decade or so the Iranian car market has been on a steady rise. All segments, from cheap economy to high-end luxury, seem to be insatiable with sales increasing year after year even amid political turmoil. In fact, Iran’s car market has far surpassed its real estate segment and has proved more steady as well. The latest estimates project a 2 million vehicle market by 2020, and that is based on the current state of affairs with American brands absent from the equation and only a few European players commuting to a half-hearted presence.

That is where the French come in. Today a Peugeot is as much a “national” car in Iran as it is in France. Pretty much the same goes for Renault. It is amazing to realize that a semi-facelifted version of the ancient Renault 5 used to be produced locally in Iran until only a few years ago. The same is true of the Peugeot 405, only it is still being produced under license to this day in its original form as well as in a number of other guises. This “historic” partnership, unencumbered by any sort of rivalry,  has allowed the French automakers to benefit enormously from that vast market.

In recent years with the easing or partial lifting of global sanctions against Iran the market has to some extent opened up to other brands, especially to those from the Far East. Chinese car makers are enjoying a mushroom-like growth in Iran both in imports and local production. And of course, the Koreans are taking home a significant portion of the pie. But that is of no moment to the French, because you see Peugeot and Renault are the pot in which the pie is baked. Granted, with a number of serious players now present in the field they have been forced to step up their game and introduce newer models and higher standards, but their winning cards is their strategic partnership with the two biggest, government-backed car makers in Iran, IKCO and SAIPA.

Today Renault signed a joint venture agreement with the Industrial Development & Renovation Organization of Iran (IDRO) and PARTO NEGIN NASEH Co, an importer of Renault products in Iran. This will include an engineering and purchasing centre to support the development of local suppliers as well as a plant with an initial production capacity of 150,000 vehicles a year, supplementing Groupe Renault’s existing capacity of 200,000 vehicles a year in the country. In addition to the vehicle plant announced in September 2016, an engine plant is also planned with a capacity of 150,000 units a year. The first products of this plant will be Symbol and new Duster (Renault’s subsidiaries are also having field day), joining Tondar, Tondar pick-up, Sandero and Sandero Stepway. And that is excluding imported Renaults which include pretty much every model they offer in Europe.

So there you have it. In all those years while American car makers couldn’t get near this huge market because of some pointless sanctions, and while German and even Japanese automakers were too cautious to get involved in any meaningful way, the French saw a golden opportunity, swept in and created a base of operations – colonized the market, one could almost say – so that now they are practically running the country’s car industry.

This can prove to be the single most ingenious move in the auto industry when the Iranian car market grows bigger than that of Europe.

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PostHeaderIcon Internal Combustion Is So Yesterday

internal-combustion

If you think about it, it is amazing that we still use fire and metal and gasoline and oil to get about. These days we have cellphones that recognize our faces and finger prints and even measure our heart rate. We have facilities that can smash protons together and then study the debris to reveal the secrets of the universe. We can land a probe on a comet for heaven’s sake. And yet …

In spite of all our advancements in science and technology, the internal combustion engine has stubbornly remained as it was first conceived more than a hundred years ago. Relative to other contemporary inventions, the ICE has remained positively primitive. It is still suck, squeeze, bang and blow which, apart from sounding pornographic, is a lot of faff. You turn a key, or push a button, which engages an electric motor that turns the crank. That action in turn moves the pistons up and down and sets in motion a great numbers of things. The fuel, water and oil pumps get engaged, the valves begin a harmonious dance in which they smash themselves head-first into the cylinder-head multiple times every second, and gears inside the transmission begin clawing at each others’ faces in a bath of oil.

Suffice it to say, it is a wasteful operation.

To be sure, that is not to say that the internal combustion engine was a stupid idea and to shut eyes on all the years of faithful service it has provided us. But there is no getting away from the fact that it does not fit in the equation the way it used to. Having a sleek, modern car that can talk to the satellites and practically drive itself with a gasoline engine is kind of like having an iPhone with a rotary dialer. It all feels very crude for this day and age to make energy by burning stuff and returning its waste back to where we got the stuff in the first place in form of harmful gases.

I should probably point out that this is not some hippy, crazy environmentalist rant about protecting the earth and atmosphere and baby ducks. They have been around long before we came along, and they will continue to be around long after we vanish. It is just telling it like it is. These days we have the technology to come up with simpler, more efficient ways of getting about. What is called for is a strong, unwavering determination to address the issues of those technologies and make them mainstream. A lot of it, of course, falls to the end users to change their habits and embrace the new ways and put up with some initial difficulties in order to reap the enormous benefits of those ways down the line – kind of like the transition they went through switching from flip phones to smartphones.

As for the fate of the internal combustion, it is not likely for it to be consigned to museums and history books just yet. It has a lot of life left in it. Most likely gasoline-powered cars of today will become like horses of yesterday. The rubbish ones will die out; the good ones will be used recreationally. So you will be able to go to work in your electric or hydrogen-powered car (or potato-powered, or air-powered – who knows), and take the old gas guzzler out in the weekends to have fun with. That sounds like a good deal to us.

Photos:Bosch, Wikimedia

The post Internal Combustion Is So Yesterday appeared first on Motorward.

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