Nissan to Leverage Technology to Defy Sedan Slump

Next month Nissan will launch the 2019 redesigned Altima and hopes to challenge the industry decline of sedan sales. For a long time, Americans have been abandoning sedans for crossovers, SUVs, and trucks.

Nissan plans to alter the reality of the automobile market and leave consumers reconsidering sedans, particularly the 2019 Altima. Previous models had a lot less tech, now Nissan is employing the most concentrated technology they ever have.
Consumers want tech and are choosing to forgo other preferences, like vehicle style, color, and brand, for a high-tech ride. The new Altima places an emphasis on new technology. Nissan is packing the new Altima with all wheel drive, new variable compression engine and advanced safety technology including their ProPilot Assist and Safety Shield 360 which boasts rear automatic braking.

Altima sales in the U.S are off 16% this year along with the overwhelming decline in demand for sedans over the past six years.

Despite success with crossovers, notably the Rogue, decline in sedan demand has remained an issue for Nissan. Nissan is still seen as a “car brand” and continues to rely on sedan sales.

Chairman, Denis Le Vot, recognizes the massive decline in sedan sales but remains hopeful, predicting they will return. His reasoning is that higher interest rates will push price-sensitive buyers away from pricey SUVs and crossovers, leading them back to sedans. By incorporating awd, consumers who want the safety of an SUV will be reassured by the new Altima.

For Le Vot, this is just the beginning. He hinted that all Nissan sedans will be enhanced in the coming years and follow Altima with redesigns.

Ford Halts Plans to Bring Focus Active Crossover to U.S

The new Ford Focus was introduced last year and it seemed like a promising vehicle to challenge the best cars in the crossover segment. Shortly after, Ford announced that instead of the focus, the US would get the Focus Active. Yet again, plans have changed in response to Trump’s imposed tariffs and resulting higher cost of building small cars in the U.S.

U.S plans for the Focus Active are no longer. The automaker explains profits would not be enough to import the vehicle made in China and blames the Trump administration’s tariffs. In addition, the automaker was expecting to sell a small number of the vehicle each year in the United States has also contributed to the decision.

The president of Ford North America notes in lieu of tariffs, costs would be substantially higher and resources could be better allocated. In a tweet Donald Trump suggested Ford begin building the vehicle in the United States, however, the automaker notes that this is easier said than done.

Based on an expected sales volume of less than 50,000 units each year, it would not be profitable. A Ford spokesperson highlighted Ford’s manufacturing presence in the United States noting 80% of Ford vehicles sold in the U.S are built in the U.S proving that the decision made is based on cost.

The Focus Active is the first vehicle to halt plans in the U.S following the tariffs but unlikely to be the last. There are many complexities to face with tariffs and their effect on global supply chains.

GM Recalls Over 1 Million Trucks and SUV’s

General Motors has issued a recall in the United States for over 1.2 million Chevrolet, GMC, and Cadillac vehicles.

The recall extends to 2015 SUV and pickup truck models including the Escalade, Yukon, Tahoe, Suburban, Silverado, and Sierra. Of those, the Silverado has proven the most affected model with over 450,000 included in the recall.

Thus far, GM is aware of 30 accidents and 2 injuries related to the issue prompting recall. Drivers of the affected vehicles may encounter a temporary loss of power steering. GM states this most likely occurs while taking low-speed turns. The abrupt loss of power steering is extremely dangerous and can reduce driver control of the vehicle and increase the risk of an accident or collision.

GM will contact owners of the affected vehicles and instruct hem to make an appointment with their local dealership. From there, dealers will fix the vehicle at no cost to the owner. To solve the issue, updates will be made to the vehicle software system. A date has not been set for when the recall will begin, however GM has a recall search tool online to check if your vehicle has been affected.

Volkswagen seeks to minimize risk with autonomous vehicle alliance

Volkswagen is in discussion with more than 15 companies to consider partners for an industry wide alliance.

The is looking to build a team with other automakers to develop self-driving technology. VW believes joining forces will help them to create an industry standard for autonomous driving technology and provide further legal protection in the case of accidents involving autonomous cars.

With the alliance, Volkswagen intends to bring products to the market that diminish damage claims. To create an industry standard, automakers would use the same sensor kit and software. The idea revolves around sharing costs, risk, and additional liabilities. If an automakers vehicle is involved in an accident, the company would have a greater chance to prove the vehicle is compliant with technical standards.

Autonomous cars are the future and the race to bring them to market is on. It may be difficult to bring competing engineers to work together on the venture but immense liability and regulatory complications that accompany autonomous intelligence provide good reason.

Concerns regarding damage claims and lawsuits involving autonomous vehicles elevated after an accident involving a self-driving Volvo being tested by Uber struck killed a pedestrian earlier this year. The car failed to recognize the pedestrian and brake.

A VW Group executive notes “I don’t believe we are the only ones asking ourselves if we really want to take on these kinds of risks”.

BMW to Release AI Personal Assistant System in Vehicles

The way people interact while in their vehicles is changing. To keep up, vehicles are incorporating more technology; high definition screens and supercomputers are taking the place of buttons and knobs.

BMW has introduced an AI-powered system called Intelligent Personal Assistant that allows drivers to communicate with their vehicle as they do with their smartphone. The digital assistant can control entertainment systems, navigation, and vehicle settings while drivers can focus on the road. Driving will become more convenient as drivers are able to multitask while remaining safe. The technology is expected to release next year.

BMW isn’t the first to take on the concept, Mercedes is releasing a similar AI system called Mercedes Benz User Experience, or MBUX for short, that will released in this year’s A-Class sedan.

Dieter May, BMW Group’s Senior Vice President of digital products noted that values are shifting in the auto industry, powertrain is taking a back seat to in car digital experience.

May states the technology is not about voice commands, but “building a digital character which you can interact with”. The smart assistant responds to “Hey BMW”, but the name can be changed if the driver prefers. Artificial Intelligence allows the in car assistant to become smarter with each interaction, question, and command. In time, the assistant learns driver setting preferences and is able to make adjustments from non-specific requests. For example, saying “Hey BMW, I’m tired, adjusts lighting, music, and temperature to keep the driver awake and alert.

Further, BMW personal assistant can read e-mails, sync your calendar, choose optimal routes, remind you when service is due, and even schedule the service for you, talk about convenience.

Technology has become a driving force in auto sales, especially among younger generations. Many show willingness to give up their preferred color, brand, or style in pursuit of a vehicle with new innovative technology. The introduction of AI in BMW’s creates a new driver experience with the latest in digital interaction. The intelligent personal assistant will differentiate the BMW brand from competitors, but it’s only a matter of time before other automakers hop on board.