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]

Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance most likely world’s largest automaker, Volkswagen to be 2nd

We interrupt our self-imposed Christmas holiday with the news that in all likelihood, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance will end the year as the world’s largest automaker group. Volkswagen Group most likely will come in second. [Continue Reading]

Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi maintains the lead in final stretch of world’s largest automaker race

Come-from-behind Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance continues to amaze. Only a major disaster can keep it from ending the as World’s Largest Automaker. Not even a small disaster in Japan could sufficiently dent the Alliance’s chances. Volkswagen and Toyota will fight neck-and-neck until the last minutes of the year.

[Continue Reading]

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]

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?

[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.

[Continue Reading]

Nissan’s Two-Pronged Attack On Obsolete Diesel

More than 20 years in development, Infiniti’s new four-cylinder turbocharged gasoline VC-T engine represents a major breakthrough in internal-combustion powertrain technology. VC-T technology signifies a new chapter in the story of the internal combustion engine – engines are no longer limited by a fixed compression ratio.  The ingenuity of VC-T engine technology lies in its ability to transform itself and seamlessly raise or lower the height the pistons reach. As a consequence, the displacement of the engine changes and the compression ratio can vary anywhere between 8:1 (for high performance) and 14:1 (for high efficiency). The sophisticated engine control logic automatically applies the optimum ratio, depending on what the driving situation demands.

EU carmakers race to replace discredited diesel engines with something more palatable, and today’s flurry of electric car announcements at the Paris auto show are testament. Japan’s Nissan embarks on a pincer attack against diesel. Nissan leads world markets with its all-electric LEAF. Today however, the company showed something more conventional, and yet revolutionary, that might hasten diesel’s demise: An engine with all the power, but none of the NOx.

More in Forbes