Friday, 27 April 2018

Bosch announces emissions breakthrough that could save diesel

Claims nitrogen oxide drops to one-tenth of Europe's strict limits

Global auto supplier Robert Bosch GmbH says it has developed a new diesel-exhaust management system that can slash emissions of smog-forming gases far below strict new limits set for Europe in 2020, saving automakers from potential urban driving bans - and maybe saving the diesel engine itself.

Bosch says its technology uses a combination of advanced fuel injection, a newly developed airflow management system to recirculate exhaust gases, and intelligent temperature management, and it requires no additional new components. It says the technology drops nitrogen oxide emissions to one-tenth of the amount set under the stricter 2020 limits for Europe, even in real-world driving conditions. Bosch says the results hold consistent regardless of driving conditions, weather or how aggressively the vehicle is driven.

Speaking at the company's annual news conference outside Stuttgart, CEO Volkmar Denner said the solution is available now and can be incorporated into production vehicles without adding significant cost.

"Combustion engines - whether powered by diesel or gasoline - will soon emit so little in the way of particulates and nitrogen oxides that they will have no significant impact on the air," he said, according to a transcript of his prepared remarks. "For anyone with a pragmatic, non-ideological interest in improving the air in our cities, diesel engines and their further technological development will obviously be part of the solution.

"After this ecological rehabilitation, diesel can take off again. It is not combustion engines that are being made obsolete, but rather the debate about their imminent demise."

Bosch is the biggest supplier of diesel engine technology to automakers including Volkswagen,
General Motors and Fiat Chrysler. It has been fighting the negative publicity and falling market share in the wake of VW's 2015 dieselgate emissions-cheating scandal that has cities including Paris and London considering driving bans to improve air quality. The company has also found itself targetedby German authorities investigating whether it aided and abetted the emissions-cheating scheme.

Denner said Bosch fully cooperates with the authorities, and he called for more transparency in emission tests for cars with combustion engines and electric powertrains, including a renewed focus on CO2 emissions. He said Bosch is prohibiting technology that recognizes test cycles and optimizes accordingly, Bloomberg reports.

It's the latest evidence that despite the expanding rush to electrify vehicles, automakers still see a role for ever-more-efficient combustion engines in reducing emissions and meeting tougher fuel-economy and climate-change regulations. Mazda, for example, is developing its Skyactiv-X engine based on compression-ignition technology, while Infiniti has its new variable-compression-ratio, or VC-T, a small turbocharged engine that can vary compression ratios inside the valves to maximize efficiency.


2018 Wards 10 Best Interiors: What a Concept!

1a Chevy Equinox front pass side.JPG

From an array of blazing colors and digital dials that perform multiple functions to an in-floor storage bin that can be used to both measure and preserve caught fish, this year's Wards 10 Best Interiors winners make it clear automakers are treating passenger compartments more like dazzling concepts than mainstream production cars and trucks.
1g Kia Stinger center console-closeup_0887.jpg
This year's competition saw 40 nominated interiors that were all-new or significantly improved from the prior year, and even some of the vehicles that didn't make the list pushed boundaries with regard to style, materials and colors.

1i Lexus LS parchment brown pass Apillar.JPG
Red was extremely popular this year, not only as an accent color but covering complete seats and wide swaths of door panels on five vehicles in the competition - six if the burgundy-red Lincoln Navigator is included.
1k Lincoln Navigator armrests resized.JPG


Thursday, 19 April 2018

When Marketing Luxury Vehicles, ‘Electric’ is No Longer a Bad Word

Many Bentley customers believe they have obtained their wealth because of luck.
So says Bentley Motors' new CEO, Adrian Hallmark, during an interview in Geneva.
"I have recognized that a lot of our customers follow a similar thing: They are super-successful. And a lot of them think it's because they're lucky," he says. "That's really important, because they don't think they're above human weakness and frailty."
Such perceived (and believed) good fortune is spurring the world's millionaires and billionaires to make luxury purchases, based on a system of values such as reduced carbon footprints and sustainability, he adds. According to Hallmark, hybrid and electric cars allow them to express in a novel way, he says.
"There is a new dimension long-term in the purchase decision --the ethical value," Hallmark says, referring to gleanings from a 2008 internal study Bentley did of the world's wealthiest people. "Electrification is part of it, and electrification isn't going away."
In fact, this new addition to the traditional considerations for buying a luxury car --performance, quality materials, and craftsmanship -- is manifesting so strongly among the world's top 1 percent that it is influencing Bentley's product planning for the next two decades.
The company debuted its Bentayga Hybrid, a mid-six-figure SUV that can run 31 miles on purely electric power, last month at the Geneva auto show. (The 5,400-pound SUV isn't exactly an econobox, but the hybrid badge certainly adds a feeling of green-tinged do-goodery -- both for drivers and for onlookers who know what it means.) By 2025, all Bentley cars will offer some version of an electric drivetrain, Hallmark says. That includes its growling 12-cylinder Continental GT line, the latest generation of which is due out before summer.

It may take up to a decade to make an electric version of such car, but the way Hallmark sees it, Bentley has no choice. "We already know that the [next version] will be a battery electric vehicle," he says. "It will have all of those moral and ethical benefits with it. By not going that way, even if we don't have to, we would be massively underperforming in terms of customer potential."
Successful -- and enlightened
Of course, the Crewe, England-based brand isn't the only one to reckon that, in addition to being more efficient, electric power bestows a mark of honor upon its best clients. Top luxury automakers have been producing hybrid and electric vehicles for years, such as BMW's i8, Porsche's 918 Spyder Hybrid, and Mercedes-Benz's sold-out Project 1.
We take it for granted that a fair number of wealthy car buyers admire electric power, thanks to the cool cachet of Tesla Inc. But not long ago, electrics were viewed as anathema by serious car people, who favored traditional air-cooled engines with their guttural roars and grit. Then Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius introduced the modern electric car to a broad audience. That one, with its awkward angles and gutless drive train, made electric cars feel like medicine we took with eyes closed and a quick swallow.
The few electrics that did get car fanatics excited were rather fragile, million-dollar hypercar one-offs that spent more time in the garage than on the road. These days, well-heeled buyers consider a hybrid or plug-in vehicle a crucial part of a well-rounded garage.
"It is definitely high-performance with sustainability that resonates on a values and ethics level … with affluent and wealthy automotive buyers," says Milton Pedraza, founder of the Manhattan-based Luxury Institute, which studies trends of the world's rich.
Witness Porsche's upcoming Mission E, an electric-powered sedan that the automaker has hyped for years and plans to unveil on the eve of its also much-hyped 70th anniversary. It will probably cost more than the $90,000-plus Panamera, and while its driving range and battery power remains obscured, it will undoubtedly be a car to impress with next year. Among Porsche's notoriously rabid fans, it will be the only new model that could divert attention from the usual adulation attending icons such as the brand's GT3, 911R, or 930. More crucial on a broader scale, if Porsche delivers on its promise, it'll be the first sedan to challenge Tesla's Model S in terms of sales volume.
Or take Aston Martin Lagonda, which has announced it's turning an entire heritage brand, Lagonda, into an electric powerhouse. The wedge-shaped Lagonda Vision Concept that debuted in Geneva is an all-electric sedan that marks how Aston expects the long-extinct brand to look when it returns.
Aston Martin hasn't divulged many details about the new car, which, after all, is only a conceptual exercise, but Andy Palmer, CEO of Aston Martin Lagonda, says it will get 400 miles on one charge -- enough to drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco in one sitting, with self-driving capability and zero emissions.
"The Lagonda Vision Concept is our plan for the rebirth of a great brand," he says. "It's a new kind of luxury car."
The new future
Some of the most prestigious brands are holding off on electric for now. McLaren's Global Head of Sales, Jolyon Nash, recently said no way, not ever (probably). Automobili Lamborghini SpA's chief engineer, Maurizio Reggiani, says it would take quite a lot of persuasion -- maybe an act of God -- for the brand to make anything electric in the near future. Bugatti Automobiles SAS's Stephan Winkelmann, who incidentally came from Lamborghini by way of Audi Sport, said "it's too early to talk about" electrification at Bugatti, though he recognizes the potential.
"We are not influencing this discussion, but we take this very seriously," he says. "It's something to look into."
Stephanie Brinley, senior analyst for IHS Markit, takes it all with a grain of salt. Some of the "ethical value" status symbol talk is hopeful thinking and marketing, she says. After all, car companies have invested billions in electrification; they have a lot riding on their ability to sell the story that a massive, expensive hybrid SUV is cool, not just "eco-friendly." (Because, let's be honest, if you wanted to really reduce your carbon footprint, the answer would be to buy a cheap, tiny electric car, or ride a motorcycle -- or a bike.)
Still, the automakers are on to something real, she adds, that's not going away. Young drivers are going to care about sustainable and ethical transportation in the next decade-more than any buying group ever has, especially when it comes to aspirational brands.
"If you look at millennials or the younger generation, there does seem to be more thoughtfulness about what kind of mark you leave on the planet -- more so than a decade ago," Brinley says. "As we move forward in the luxury landscape, for this type of buyer, having one in your garage will be crucial."
For automakers, at least, it'll take more than luck to get them there.


Saturday, 7 April 2018

Lamborghini's new $200,000 SUV is more popular than expected

Image result for 2019 lamborghini urus

Lamborghini's new $200,000 SUV is more popular than expected - with one New York dealer saying he expects to sell out of his orders as soon as they arrive.
Brian Miller, President of Manhattan Motorcars, which sells Lamborghini and other luxury brands, said he already has orders for 60 Urus SUVs even though the vehicle doesn't start arriving until December. He said he plans to get about 100 vehicles in total.
"I'm sure they will all be sold," he said in an interview at the New York Auto Show. "It's very popular."
Miller said his average selling price for the Urus, with options and customizations, is around $225,000.
What's even more surprising than the demand for the world's most expensive SUV, however, is who's buying it. Lamborghini CEO Stefano Domenicali said 70% of Urus buyers have never owned a Lamborghini.
One reason for the first-time-buyer surge is that wealthy car enthusiasts who live in cities or countries with bad roads couldn't drive Lamborghini's low-slung sports cars without ruining them. The higher-sitting Urus has Lambo's signature power, engine sound and bold angles but can easily glide over potholes, dirt and steep bumps.
Miller said the typical Urus buyer is also wealthier client than the traditional Lambo buyer.
"Lamborghini has always been a brand that many people stretch to get into," he said. "We had a lot of younger people and it wasn't the big money people we would have loved to see. I think the Urus is bringing a lot of those people."
The Urus is the most radical change to Lamborghini in decades, eventually doubling the company's annual production. Domenicali said the company will end 2018 with a total production of around 5,000 cars - more than 1,000 of which will be the Urus. By the end of 2019, the SUV will account for more than half of Lambo's anticipated production of 8,000 cars.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Ride-Hailing Firms: Will Automated Vehicles Make Them Profitable, or Will They Create Other Challenges?

There is no denying the ride-hailing business-led by Uber and Lyft-has experienced lightning-fast adoption and a massive effect on traditional modes of transportation. The number of people using ride-hailing services, and the number of ride-hailing trips, continues to grow.
That said, it's equally undeniable that ride-hailing companies have been racking up substantial financial losses. Uber, which has never recorded an annual profit, lost $2.8 billion in 2016, and another $4.5 billion 2017, according to published reports. Lyft, which is estimated to account for about 20-25% of ride-hailing revenues in the United States, reportedly lost $600 million in 2016, and another $600 million in 2017.
While it's not clear exactly where the bulk of Uber and Lyft's losses are incurred-neither is required to publicly publish their financials-industry experts attribute most of the losses to two causes.
First, Uber and Lyft have been busy buying market share, subsidizing the cost of rides to build a stable customer base, and a recurring future revenue stream. Recently, one industry publication estimated Uber customers are paying for only 41% of the overall cost of a ride, while the company (and its investors) are paying the rest.
The second major obstacle to profits is the cost of paying ride-hailing drivers. Again, while firm figures are not publicly available, it is estimated 65-75% of ride-hailing revenues go to the drivers, with the remainder going to the ride-hailing companies. The estimated gross revenue (i.e., total ride-hailing receipts) and net revenue (total revenue received, minus payments to ride-hailing drivers, plus refunds, etc.) recorded by Uber and Lyft bears this out in the chart below. These appear to confirm the bulk of revenues are not going to the ride-hailing companies themselves.
Uber and Lyft, Estimated Gross Booking Revenue/Net Revenues by Year*
*Estimates based on published sources, including Business Insider, Bloomberg, Crunchbase, Future Advisor, and Forbes.
While ride-hailing companies have been tinkering with different solutions to narrow their losses and eventually swing to profitability (e.g., pre-sales, bulk sales, lower pay for drivers), perhaps the most frequently mentioned solution is the elimination of drivers altogether. This would mean a wholesale changeover to automated vehicles. The reasoning is that if the driver cost can be eliminated from the equation, the profitability of ride-hailing companies will skyrocket.
At first blush, automated vehicles sound like an exciting solution to a vexing financial challenge for the industry. But has this scenario been completely thought through?
While drivers are certainly a major cost center, they also deliver critical services besides simply acting as chauffeurs to ride-hailing customers. For example, ride-hailing drivers:
  • Purchase, register and insure their vehicles at their own expense;
  • Refuel, maintain and clean their vehicles (inside and out) at their own expense, on their own time and on a consistent basis;
  • Park and secure their individual vehicles at their own private residences during non-working hours, without a need to pay for extra parking facilities or security for the vehicles.
Transitioning to automated vehicles would eliminate the need to pay drivers, but it could potentially create a slew of other logistical challenges and questions. Would ride-hailing companies, for example, be willing to buy, register and insure their own fleet of vehicles (numbering in perhaps the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of vehicles)? Who would refuel, maintain and make sure the vehicles remain clean, especially if a passenger left trash in the vehicle? Where would these vehicles be kept when not in use-and wouldn't that require storage and security costs?
There is a reason that certain industries prefer to work with independent franchisees to sell and service their products and services. Individuals, especially if they are invested in a company, tend to take better care of their products, customers, and employees than large entities where the individual ultimately responsible the success or failure of the enterprise is far removed from paying customers.
Given this reality, ride-hailing companies that use automated vehicles might eventually opt to franchise their operations, in which franchisees are responsible for the overall administration and operation of their fleets. Or perhaps a three-way ride-hailing service company emerges-one in which an automaker provides the automated vehicles, a ride-hailing company attracts and manages customers, and a service company (like a rental vehicle company) maintains and secures the vehicles when they are not in use.
Whatever outcome emerges, it seems clear that simply eliminating drivers and transitioning to automated vehicles will not suddenly make ride-hailing companies immensely profitable. A lot more thought and planning-about how to manage automated vehicle fleets and how much that will cost-will have to be addressed before driverless ride-hailing companies can become a super-profitable reality.