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]

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.

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Monster gallery: The ladies of the Tokyo Auto Salon 2018

Of course it’s the cars that attract throngs of people to the Tokyo Auto Salon. (c) Bertel Schmitt

Each year in January, the world’s craziest car show takes place in Tokyo. The Tokyo Auto Salon is probably the last car show on earth that shows more girls than cars.  In America and Europe, ladies in pantsuits have long taken the place of booth babes. In China, where undress ruled until 2012, all car shows are buttoned-up.

The Tokyo Auto Salon appears to be the last hold-out against the Victorian age that seems to have car shows around the world in its iron grip. Click “Continue reading” for our huge gallery.

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