Inspection scandal crimps chances for top spot

Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa and CCO Yasuhiro Yamauchi in Yokohama (c) Bertel Schmitt

A quality inspection scandal that taxes the comprehension of anyone outside of Japan throws a monkey wrench into Carlos Ghosn’s aspirations to make the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance the world’s largest automaker. [Continue Reading]

At the Tokyo Motor Show, disciples of the Church of Musk would deviate from the true faith

IMx launch.(c) Bertel Schmitt

It’s a popular trope preached by the Church of Musk: Legacy automakers are too stupid and too slow to compete with his holiness. Visit the Tokyo Motor Show, and you are liable to deviate from the true faith. There is nary a large OEM that doesn’t show at least one electrified, self-driving, and connected vehicle.

EV-pioneer Nissan already launched its 2nd generation Leaf last month. At the show, Nissan presents its IMx, an all-electric crossover concept vehicle offering fully autonomous operation and a driving range of more than 600 kilometers. This car is “not a dream,” told me its designer Taisuke Nakamura, “this is something that can be realized in the near future,” meaning in the 2020-2022 time-frame.

The “this is real part was repeated a few times today, and people in the know recommended to expect an IMx-inspired production car “within one car generation,” or 4 to 45 years. [Continue Reading]

I have seen the taxi of the future, and it is indigo blue

Ribbon-cutting ceremony for the JPN Taxi (c) Bertel Schmitt

Yesterday, I was given an early glimpse of the taxi of the future. It looks a little bit like the offspring of a mésalliance between a London taxi and an Escalade. It will be piloted by a legacy human driver, it won’t have Wifi, it will be powered by propane gas, and its color will be deep blue, if Toyota gets its wish.

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Volkswagen boss rips Elon Musk as destroyer of jobs and money

Matthias Müller (Picture: Volkswagen)

Car companies used to refrain from commenting on the competition, but the veil of propriety seems to develop more rips than the jeans of a grunge rocker. Last night, Volkswagen’s CEO Matthias Müller tore Elon Musk a big one, blasting the head of Californian carmaker Tesla as deficient of both social responsibility, and profits.

At an evening talk show in Passau, Germany, the moderator mentioned that Tesla “fascinates customers with its electric cars.” This triggered Müller to deliver a forceful statement he audibly had wanted to make for quite some time. Here is the video, along with a translation from Müller’s heavily Bavarian-tinged German:

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The Nissan brouhaha: Premature inspectors cause shutdown

Saikawa, today in Yokohama (c) Bertel Schmitt

What the 2011 tsunami couldn’t accomplish, bureaucrats did: Nissan’s Japanese production will be closed until further notice. 

At a hastily thrown-together press conference, called at an unusual time (the sun had long slipped behind Mt. Fuji) Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa announced that Nissan’s six factories all over Japan would stop making and shipping cars for the Japanese market, pending the resolution of an inspection scandal that taxes the comprehension of anyone outside of Japan. A customary deep bow of shame accompanied the statement.

But why?

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Toyota to launch cars that read your mind

Mind reading in action, subject dozed off (c) Bertel Schmitt

Elsewhere in the world, AI stands for artificial intelligence, and Elon Musk said that it will trigger World War III. In Japan, “Ai” stands for “love.” It was the first Japanese word I learned two hours after my arrival in Tokyo 12 years ago, and I promptly married the teacher. Taking a bow to the double meaning, Toyota today showed double-AI cars to a small group of reporters assembled at the company’s Tokyo HQ. We received a preview of mind-reading cars, driven by a lot of artificial intelligence, and a whole lotta love.

At the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show, Toyota will show concepts of two cars, and a three-wheeled mobility device. Unlike other cars that run on hydrocarbons or electricity, Toyota’s concepts are driven by the power of love. Dubbed “TOYOTA Concept-i series,” the vehicles are “based on the idea that cars are among the manufactured goods that are preceded by the word ‘beloved’,” we heard today. “The TOYOTA Concept-i series aims to become a ‘beloved car’ of a new era guided by the concept of ‘more than a machine, a partner’.” So far for the press release (full version here.) Now comes the eerie part: [Continue Reading]

Tesla about to lose a big chunk of one of its most important markets, Norway

Ice age ahead: Model S in Norway (Picture: Youtube)

For electric carmaker Tesla, Norway is a paradise. Lavish tax breaks for electric cars, combined with expropriative taxes on gas cars (such as “total taxes for a Chevrolet Camarao V6? 125,000 dollars” as a Redditor writes) are the reason why nearly one in every ten Tesla cars go to the rugged and cold 5 million people country in Scandinavia. In yet another blow in a rough week, Tesla is about to lose its Nordic paradise.

“Norway plans to trim lavish tax breaks for Tesla and other electric cars that have given it the world’s highest rate of battery-vehicle ownership,” Reuters wrote today after reading a proposal by Norway’s right-wing government. At closer reading, one sees that the main target is Tesla. [Continue Reading]

Toyota Gets Its Performance Brand

(c) Bertel Schmitt

Rumors that Toyota would turn its Gazoo Racing Team into a performance sub-brand had been floating around Tokyo for more than a year. Today, it became official.

“The decision was made to launch a new sports brand, the GR brand,” Shigeki Tomoyama, CEO of GR, said at an event at Toyota’s Megaweb in Tokyo.

As expected, GR becomes Toyota’s performance sub-brand, something like BMW’s M, Mercedes’s AMG, Volkswagen’s R or Lexus’s F. The GR brand is being launched with nine models, ranging from a souped-up GR 86, on the basis of Toyota’s 86 sports car, all the way to a hot-rod GR Sport Voxy minivan. [Continue Reading]