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

Hiroshi Kayukawa, chief engineer of Toyota’s next generation 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]

Nissan’s Leaf Is Not Going After Tesla; It Wants All Compact Car Buyers

(c) Bertel Schmitt

Nissan’s second-generation Leaf, launched yesterday with aplomb, appears to be quite well received. There was apprehension among Nissan’s PR cadre that the company would get a public drubbing for equipping the car with a battery only good for 150 miles. But the media definitely got the message that the new Leaf is so equipped to hit a price point. Motortrend even came up with new math: “Why 29,950 is more important to some than 150.” As in dollars, and miles.

Nissan could have easily equipped the new Leaf with a 60-kWh battery that would better Tesla’s Model3, and match the battery of Chevrolet’s Bolt. That it wasn’t done is a triumph of sound business over bragging rights. Nissan wants to “democratize” EVs, as Nissan’s chief marketing officer, Daniele Schillaci, likes to put it. Schillaci wants to sell the Leaf to all people who are in the market for a C-segment sedan, not just to EV converts. As a mass-market maker, Nissan knows the power of price points, and of value for money.

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Dieselgate: 13 VW Managers Indicted Around The World, Big Guys Unbothered

Volkswagen managers are living dangerously, as 13 of their own have been indicted by governments around the world. In the U.S., six current and former Volkswagen managers have been charged, outgoing Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said yesterday in a press conference in Washington D.C. On the same day, South Korea enlarged a list of Volkswagen managers charged with criminal wrongdoings to seven, per reports of South Korea’s Yonhap wire.

In a DOJ press conference that had its thunder stolen by President-elect Trump’s NYC presser with more salacious appeal, AG Lynch announced the by then well known $4.3 bln deal with Volkswagen, an indulgence trade that bought Volkswagen’s way out of criminal persecution by the U.S. government. The trouble for Volkswagen’s people however has just begun.

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