Ancient mystery, finally solved: Who invented the minivan? No, it wasn’t Chrysler

Nakayama in front of the world’s first minivan. Picture (c) Bertel Schmitt

Chrysler is widely believed of having invented the minivan, the vehicle universally despised by car bloggers, and much adored by their soccer-moms. Revisionist history, says Ryuji Nakayama, curator of Nissan’s Heritage Collection. Standing in front of a first-generation Nissan Prairie, and sporting his trademark grey mop-top, Nakayama pronounced the Prairie “probably the world’s very first minivan.”

The Nissan Prairie was launched in 1981, three years before Chrysler’s quintessential Dodge Caravan. The Prairie had everything that characterizes this new segment: Three rows of seats, no center, or “B” pillar, “and for the first time, we had a sliding door that opened on one side only,” Nakayama explained today to a group of reporters that found its way to Nissan’s Zama facility, despite a massive typhoon barreling down on Japan’s metropolis. [Continue Reading]

World’s Largest Automakers May 2018: VW extending its lead – slightly

The battle for World’s Largest Automaker 2018 turns more and more into a bitter fight between Volkswagen Group and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. Five months into the year, VW managed to extend its lead ever so slightly, with only 45,000 units separating the Germans from the French-Japanese nipping at their heels.

Former ichi ban Toyota apparently has decided to sit back and relax. Toyota Group’s worldwide production basically is the same it was January to May 2017. [Continue Reading]

Automotive Grade Linux is hitting the road

Ken-ichi Murata of Toyota, and Daimler’s Thomas Wurdig at the AGL Summit in Tokyo (c)Bertel Schmitt

More than 1,000 nerds, geeks, and hackers are convening in Tokyo this week to decide on the future of the automobile. Word got around that the car’s future is digital, and the conventioneers, meeting at the Tokyo Conference Center Ariake, are involved in writing your car’s operating system, called Automotive Grade Linux, or AGL.

Linux is what powers the website you are reading, Linux makes your phone work if you are using an Android device. A remote cousin of Linux drives your iPhone. If it is up to the conventioneers, Linux will be the standard operating system of future cars. [Continue Reading]

Nissan says no to Trump’s indecent fuel efficiency proposal

Kawaguchi and McLain

“We are not going to relax,” said Nissan’s Chief Sustainability Officer Hitoshi Kawaguchi, when Wall Street Journal’s Tokyo reporter Sean McLain asked him today in Yokohama whether Trump’s fuel efficiency rollback would impact Nissan’s plans to reduce consumption and hence emissions of its cars by 40% until 2022. [Continue Reading]

Mitsubishi Electric leaves us in the dark on its super-secret headlight-sensor

Operating in the dark – (c) Bertel Schmitt

Today at Mitsubishi Electric’s Tokyo HQ, we were given a preview of what the company will show at the upcoming Asia CES in Shanghai. We’ve seen an LED headlight that adapts to what is in front of us. While this may not sound revolutionary, hidden in the gadget that might escape Mitsubishi’s labs in a few years is something that might help autonomous drive solve a big conundrum.   [Continue Reading]

Toyota prepares for the worst

Akio Toyoda, and some samurai – (c) Bertel Schmitt

If you read the press reports of Toyota’s annual results conference today, you will think all is peachy. After all, “Toyota Motor Corp. reported Wednesday that its quarterly profit rose 21 percent,” wrote the Detroit News. On top of that, Toyota submitted an “upbeat profit forecast,” said Bloomberg. The Toyota share was up strong at the news. I, however, walked out of the Tokyo meeting room given the impression that Toyota fears the sky might fall.

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In a search for untapped car markets, Nissan is back in Pakistan.

1976 Datsun 120y, for sale near Islamabad, $1,500 ask

Nissan is entering Pakistan’s car market – again.  The company assembled cars in the country until the middle of the past decade. Nissan withdrew when carmageddon sent Pakistan’s auto business into a tailspin. Now, Nissan is back.

Nissan reactivated its old Pakistan partner Ghandhara Nissan Ltd, and it will start assembling Datsun-branded cars within the 2019 fiscal, Nissan said today. [Continue Reading]

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]