Waymo Retires Iconic “Firefly” Vehicles

Google’s self-driving car company Waymo is retiring its iconic “Firefly” self-driving vehicles from testing fleets after three years in service. The Firefly, which were widely known as “the koala cars,” are being replaced by Waymo’s expanding fleet of Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid autonomous minivans. This transition comes as Waymo moves toward commercial availability, including an “early rider program” in Phoenix, Arizona.

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Tesla Model 3 Development Work Constrained By Tax Relief Program

model3giftdk

Sketchy…

Documents filed by Tesla with the California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority and obtained exclusively by Daily Kanban have provided unique perspective on the electric automaker’s ramp-up to production of the Model 3. But there’s more to the story than the production side: Tesla’s equipment purchases are split between production equipment and tooling for the development and prototyping of Model 3, new versions of the Gen 2 vehicles and possibly even other vehicles hinted at in Tesla’s Master Plan Part Deux. This helps explain why the production volume increase from Tesla’s $1.2b investment in Model 3 is so modest, but what does it say about the state of the Model 3’s development?

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“Car Guys Versus Bean Counters” Is A Crock Of Shit

Th neverending story... (the cover of GM's 2006 annual report)

Th never-ending story… (the cover of GM’s 2006 annual report)

When Bob Lutz’s book “Car Guys vs Bean Counters: The Battle For The Soul Of American Business” first came out, my review was somewhat distracted by the fact that Maximum Bob had name-checked me in it (or misrepresented a NY Times Op-Ed of mine, depending on how you look at it). Still, the book’s basic problem was all-too familiar in the world of auto executive coverage: the benefits of insider insight were strongly counterbalanced by objectivity problems. I noted

 …though the title sets up an internal conflict within GM, Lutz spends so much space blaming outsiders for GM’s woes that, by a third of the way through, it begins to feel more like apologia than clear-eyed soul-searching… 

…In what is likely part insightful truth and part gentlemanly whitewash, Lutz frames his battle as being not with any one “bean counter” but a faceless (and therefore, blameless) culture in which management-by-the-numbers outweighed personal accountability. Lutz identifies individual “true believers” who he recruited in his design and product-led transformation of The General, but essentially absolves the thousands of others, including then-CEO Rick Wagoner, of any responsibility for GM’s continued decline and eventual collapse.

Lutz’s narrative of post-2001 GM history, in which he led a comeback of “car guy” talent against the decades-long rule of the “Bean Counters”, has been on my mind quite a bit in recent weeks, as GM’s decade-old dirty laundry has been piled into the public’s lap. Already, Congress’s investigation has made it clear that GM rejected fixes to now-recalled ignitions for “business case” considerations, making the ignition scandal a fatal case of “bean counting” that occurred on Lutz’s watch. In light of recent revelations, Lutz’s claim to have been GM’s champion of product quality in a “Battle For The Soul of American Business” deserves another skeptical look.

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Ten Burning Questions For The Detroit Auto Show

No Daily Kanban staff were required to set foot in Detroit's Cobo Center during the making of this report.

No Daily Kanban staff were required to set foot in Detroit’s Cobo Center during the making of this report.

10: Has it become any better to cover? Are the WiFi hotspots still overloaded? Does your phone still switch to an international roaming plan if you stand in the wrong corner of Cobo? Has the free everything been great? Is the weather halfway decent? Just kidding, everyone knows the answer to those questions. And since each of these ten “questions” is really more of a series of questions, let’s just get on with it, shall we?

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Mazda’s Secret Weapon: The CNC Motor Factory

Everybody route now!

Everybody route now!

 

Of all global automakers, Mazda may be in the toughest position. As if it weren’t hard enough to be one of the smallest independent mainstream automakers left, it faces the thankless task of marketing an enthusiast-oriented brand as well. And without the support of a major partner now that Ford has departed its alliance with the Hiroshima-based automaker, Mazda is hustling to stay in the game. But the hottest fires produce the hardest metals, to borrow a phrase used more by marketing types than engineers, and Mazda’s fight for existence is producing some interesting innovations. As Dave Coleman, vehicle development engineer at Mazda’s North American Operations tells Wards Auto:

“We needed to approach that fundamental truth (of economies of scale) and find out if it’s still fundamentally true, or is there a way to engineer our way around it. And it turns out there is a way to engineer around it.”

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