Toyota: News of the death of the ICE have been greatly exaggerated

It’s not Elvis. It’s a new ICE engine by Toyota. There will be more. (c) Bertel Schmitt

I came home tonight, and Frau Schmitto-san, ever the caring wife, asked: “How was your day?”
“I was at Toyota, they launched a completely new line of gasoline engines, transmissions, drivelines.”

Frau Schmitto-san was perplexed: „They still make those?”

This about sums up the level of EV hype, and its utter disconnection from the truth. The short trip to Toyota was a journey back to reality. [Continue Reading]

Take that, Uber: Nissan starts live tests of its autonomous taxi

Not quite driverless – yet (c) Bertel Schmitt

When Uber came along, the attendant Silicon Valley bombast was that Transport As A Service will leave the auto industry in ruins. It overlooked the minor detail that someone must make the cars that supposedly would be shared. Silicon Valley also did not anticipate what came next: In a first wave, car companies, always in search of new ways to sell cars, bought into the alleged disruptors. GM invested in Lyft, Toyota in Uber. The money was welcome. So were the sold, and leased out cars.

Today, we saw the first ripples of the second wave. Automakers are beginning to compete head-on with the erstwhile disruptors. Today in Yokohama, Nissan started a pilot with self-driving Leaf cars used as autonomous taxis. Partnering with e-commerce company DeNA, Nissan will start its “Easy Ride” service in Yokohama on March 5th, which puts it, according to Reuters, “among the first major automakers anywhere to test ride-hailing software developed in-house, using its own fleet of self-driving electric cars.”   [Continue Reading]

Will China hold our electric future at ransom? Not if Toyota can help it

Toyota’s Akira Kato demonstrates lean neodymium. (c) Bertel Schmitt

If the supply of electric vehicles is to grow as predicted, the demand for strategic materials will increase along with it. The various oil crises of the past, and the wars that came with it, illustrate where such a dependency can lead. As far as electric vehicles are concerned, two choke points have been identified: The supply of cobalt needed to make batteries, and the supply of rare earth minerals needed to make the magnets in electric motors.

There are two ways to address the problem. We can hope it will take care of itself. Or we can do something about it. Toyota is in the second camp, and it aims to reduce the dangerous dependency on neodymium. Expensive neodymium already is the main cost driver in the production of magnets, we heard today at a meeting at Toyota’s Tokyo HQ. If electric vehicles will gain popularity as expected, shortages of neodymium could occur as early as 2025, Akira Kato, general project manager at Toyota’s R&D company, told us today. [Continue Reading]

Who’s hogging the news?

Source: Dailykanban proprietary

Alex Roi once said (Google was no help, can’t find the link) that is feels like Tesla hogs half of the headlines. As it turns out, it is not quite as much, but close. In the news, one of the world’s smallest automakers definitely dwarfs the big ones in headline power.

In an attempt to get a numerical handle on the matter, I queried the Dailykanban Newsbot database. Our proprietary Newsbot searches the web for stories related to the auto industry, and it does it 24/7. It does not search chatrooms, Twitter et al. It counts only what Google deems as news. One unique URL counts as one mention. The Newsbot still is a bit young and clumsy, it does not factor the reach of a story. For this exercise, a link in Reuters counts as much as a link in the Owyhee Avalanche  (none so far).

As far as car groups are concerned, a headline for Fiat or Dodge increases the FCA count. Nissan, Renault, Mitsubishi all add to the Alliance, and so forth. Musk, SpaceX etc. go into the Tesla column.

I ran the totals of the past 7 days, since January 25. English language only. [Continue Reading]

Hard NOx, where Alex Gibney takes you to my living room

A few months ago, a (very polite) film crew invaded our Tokyo home to take a few shots for Alex Gibney’s “Dirty Money” series. Its first episode, titled “Hard NOx,” is now up on Netflix. [Continue Reading]

‘Disruption of the auto industry’ is utterly fake news

Source: University of Michigan

For years, we were told that cars are on their way out. First, it was that young people lost their lust for the automobile. Then, it was that self-driving pods and Uber will disrupt the legacy auto industry, and that it will be left in ruins. It simply isn’t true.

Numbers of worldwide auto production are not out yet for 2017, but it looks like yet another record year of slightly less than 100 million units. Even if you look at it through Silicon Valley’s somewhat myopic eyes, and judge the world by the U.S. market, you will see that America’s love for the automobile is anything but falling apart.

[Continue Reading]

Mitsubishi Electric’s AI camera promises price/performance breakthrough for autonomous cars

Hidetoshi Mishima (left) and his engineers (c) Bertel Schmitt

Today in Tokyo, Mitsubishi Electric announced a possible breakthrough on the rocky road to autonomous driving: An AI-powered camera that more than triples the detection range from 30 meters to more than 100.

Using Mitsubishi’s “Maisart” AI technology (it stands for “Mitsubishi Electric’s AI creates the State-of-the-ART in technology,” we were told with a straight face) the system could solve a conundrum that continues to plague the autonomous drive business: [Continue Reading]

BMW broke yet another sales record in a market that we are told is closed

BMW’s Kronschnabl presents yet another record year (c) Bertel Schmitt

Recently, Detroit’s previously strident rhetoric about the allegedly “closed market” Japan quieted down a bit. This after a series of articles with car importer after car importer showing that the “closed market” story is a blatant lie. Japan in fact has one of the world’s most open car markets, mostly due to American pressure. Zero percent tariff. 5,000 cars per year and model can be brought in with next to no paperwork. Try that in the U.S.A., where Detroit’s cash cow, the light utility vehicle, is protected by a 25 percent tariff, and a huge wall of other trade barriers.

Today, I could revisit the story, when Peter Kronschnabl, CEO of BMW Group Japan, presented his 2017 results, and yet another sales record.

[Continue Reading]