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]

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]

Trump’s present to Toyota: A yuge net profit

Kobayashi (c) explains it to the reporters. (c) Bertel Schmitt

I think it’s better we keep this a secret, and don’t let President Trump hear that he made a big present to an unlikely recipient: Toyota, a company that used to receive a lot of hate from The Donald. [Continue Reading]