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.

Autonomous Technology Could Put a Stop to Colored Cars

Cars come in a variety of colors from bright reds, to mild blues, to simple black and white.  It has been reported that many autonomous vehicles experience trouble picking up certain colored cars.  The best color choice is white.  The challenge comes from the lidar systems, which see highly-reflective colors like white better than other colors.  How many users would forgo a bright colored car if it meant a safer driving option on the road?

According to the Detroit Free Press, the lidar system has a hard time seeing dark colors and paints that are less reflective.  The issue isn’t as large as it seems, as we still have human drivers behind the wheel. However, as the technology progresses, it could pose an issue.

It has been reported that even road signs can be of trouble to autonomous vehicles because they are meant for the human eye. While human eyes adjust, the lidar system has a tough time seeing dark colors that absorb light.  As autonomous technology replaces humans, colors for vehicles will need to be bright enough for sensors to see, but not too dark where sensors will not see anything at all. Several studies are underway to solve the issue, but they require resting various paints and conditions in which we drive our cars.

The industry is specifically working to correct any issues related to autonomous cars.

Nissan Begins Production on new Leaf-based Electric Car in China

China has enforced a zero-emission vehicle mandate, bringing the country to the forefront of the electric vehicle race.  Nissan has begun production of a new leaf-based electric car in China, that will be priced at just $24,000 USD.  The company announced a deal through it’s joint-venture to mass produce zero emission vehicles in China earlier this year.  The vehicle is built on a leaf platform uses electric to further power it.

The range will be approximately 338 kilometers once completed.  The “Sylphy” has been around as a gasoline-powered car for some time.  The electric version is similar to the Leaf in many ways, but also seems to be more aesthetically pleasing for consumers.

The company states that they expect the car to become a “main player” in the EV market. Hiroto Saikawa, Nissan Motor president and CEO states that ““Growth in the Chinese market is a critical part of Nissan’s midterm plan, Nissan M.O.V.E. to 2022. China is already the world’s largest automotive market. But China isn’t just a leader in terms of market size: It stands at the forefront of the development of the industry itself. The market is now evolving extremely quickly, especially in the areas of electrification and connectivity. In fact, China is expected to lead the world in the adoption and spread of EVs in the coming years. We’re confident that the Sylphy Zero Emission rolling off the production line today will become a main player in the EV market here. It’s going to pave the way for our Nissan Intelligent Mobility strategy in the Chinese market.”

With proven technology as a part of the Leaf, the starting price is reasonable for such a vehicle.  Nissan has not confirmed any specific volume in production, but has discussed mass-producing the new electric car. Some conclude that the vehicle is further proof that China’s electric vehicle policies are working very well.

2 Honda Vehicles Rated “Superior” in Safety Tests

The 2019 Honda Pilot has now joined the 2019 Honda Insight hybrid. Both vehicles have earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick+ rating.

Earning the prestigious rating is no easy task, vehicles must have advanced front crash prevention that earns an “advanced” or “superior” rating and earn the highest rating of “good” in numerous categories including small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. Both Honda vehicles passed the toughest task of all- earning the highest rating for the headlight category.

The latest crossover now has a standard crash-prevention system, which was rated “superior” for avoiding collision in the 12-mph test and reduced impact in the 25-mph test.  The headlights are available in LED, and come with high-beam assist.

One individual stated “Honda is becoming the standard for safety in the industry.  Especially when they aren’t a high-cost luxury brand vehicle.”

 

Swap a lease: BMW increases spending, Q2 profits fall 6%

BMW reported a 6.3% dip in second quarter profits at a quarterly conference in Munich.

Earnings after taxes came out to $2.43 billion down from $2.58 in the previous year. The loss is result of the emerging trade war between the U.S and China along with increased spending develop electric and autonomous vehicles.

While it’s too early to know the impact, China retaliated to tariffs imposed with a 40% tax on US car imports forcing BMW to raise prices 4-7% on X-5 and X-6 models made in South Carolina. The impact on sales is expected to be minimal and BMW has no plans to reduce or relocate production in the United States or because of tariffs.

Despite decreased profits, BMW has seen an increase in vehicle sales, up 4,000 in the second quarter. The German Automaker prides themselves on their flexibility, claiming their long-term strategy has helped protect them from tariffs. Amid trade disputes, Harald Kruger says the company endures through the build up of local production. Vehicles are produced where BMW sells them: Asia, Europe, and The Americas.

Attributing to lower profits, BMW has been stepping up their investments. The automaker spent $50 million towards an expansion project and 2.61 billion euros on research and development focused on new technology. A key area of the spending has been on electric cars for which BMW has seen a 42% increase in sales.

Recently, the US and Europe made a trade agreement to hold off on tariffs until further talks. Kruger views this as a good step and is hopeful that trade talks “can be carried out in a constructive dialogue.”

While the Q2 decrease in profits may indicate otherwise, BMW remains the largest U.S exporter and they maintain their $600 million dollar plans to expand the Spartanburg plant, ramping up X production 450,000 cars a year.

Volkswagen may have to recall 124,000 cars for presence of poisonous cadmium

Germany’s auto industry has had a great year with a bright future ahead, but not every automaker is experiencing success. Following a massive emissions scandal, German automaker Volkswagen attempts to rebuild trust in the brand but is faced with a new crisis.

Reportedly, the presence of Cadmium, a poisonous heavy metal, was cited in the charger component of electric and hybrid cars. According to German magazine Wirtschaftswoche, Volkswagen may have to recall up to 124,000 vehicles of this kind. Audi and Porsche vehicles, the luxury brands of Volkswagen group, are included in the range of cars in question.

Cadmium is carcinogenic and therefore banned in most auto industries. With 0.0008 grams of the toxic metal each in charging device in question, Volkswagen indicates users would be protected from exposure during the vehicle’s life due to strong insulation. Allegedly, VW’s supplier never mentioned cadmium content and Volkswagen was unaware of it’s presence in the chargers.

Volkswagen is complying with the German Federal Motor Transport Authority and stated that if necessary, they will recall the vehicles. If Volkswagen recalls the vehicles, they will be faced with the major concern of safely disposing of cadmium waste.

In the meantime, series production and delivery of said vehicles was halted immediately. A new supplier replaced the charging component and production has since proceeded, cadmium free.

Volkswagen seems to have hit a rough patch and the presence of cadmium is the latest to join the long list of problems threatening profits. Now is a seemingly fit time for the VW Group to reconsider plans moving forward.