Good morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the important stories you need to know.
1st Gear: What’s In A Name
We’ve heard of Chinese automaker GAC Motor before. This is the same company that rolled up to the Detroit Auto Show in 2013 with its flagship brand Trumpchi that included features like “Tweeter” and “Sackbut” in its cars. We haven’t forgotten.
Fast-forward to 2017 and the company is now rethinking the name for its brand given the, uh, currently divided political climate of the United States. Executives at GAC now say they might change the name, reports Reuters. Originally, “Trumpchi” was supposed to sound like the brand’s Chinese name, “Chuanqi,” which means “legendary.”
The company said that when it was naming the brand, it wanted something that sounded similar to the existing Chinese name and then “came up with “trump” for being the best and “chi” for China.”
The ensuing reaction from the Americans was less than ideal:
“We saw people were laughing at this and took pictures looking only at this detail, and also put on Facebook or other websites,” GAC Motor Design Director Zhang Fan told Reuters. “When we read all that feedback, we realized it might not be very positive promotion for the brand.”
“This is a complete coincidence, we didn’t even have the slightest idea he would be president,” Feng Xingya, GAC Group President, said at the Shanghai auto show.
“At first I’d never thought of it, why change the name? It’s the president Americans selected, it’s similar to the president’s name, this has to be good right?” he added. “But in the United States the level of opposition (to Trump) is high.”
I feel bad for these guys. They were just trying to choose a powerful and auspicious name. But language is a tricky thing and sometimes things get lost in translation.
2nd Gear: ‘Consensual Telepathy’
Remember how we all joked that Elon Musk is the real life Tony Stark? Well... don’t laugh, but his newest company Neuralink Corp is working on hooking human brains up to computers. Specifically, people with brain injuries “due to stroke, cancer lesion, etc.” And soon. Like, four years soon, reports Reuters.
Here, I’m just going to lift large portions of the story for you because it’s so... I don’t even know:
“If I were to communicate a concept to you, you would essentially engage in consensual telepathy,” Musk said in the interview published on Thursday. bit.ly/2oWJcMw
Artificial intelligence and machine learning will create computers so sophisticated and godlike that humans will need to implant “neural laces” in their brains to keep up, Musk said in a tech conference last year.
“There are a bunch of concepts in your head that then your brain has to try to compress into this incredibly low data rate called speech or typing,” Musk said in the latest interview.
“If you have two brain interfaces, you could actually do an uncompressed direct conceptual communication with another person.”
The technology could take about eight to 10 years to become usable by people with no disability, which would depend heavily on regulatory approval timing and how well the devices work on people with disabilities, Musk was quoted as saying.
In March, the Wall Street Journal reported that Musk had launched a company through which computers could merge with human brains. Neuralink was registered in California as a “medical research” company last July, and he plans on funding the company mostly by himself.
Space Daddy Starboy Elon is coming for our brains, kids.
3rd Gear: We Didn’t Ask For This
FCA dealers in Italy are upset. The company invoiced them for about 6,000 new cars that they didn’t order. And they weren’t the sexy, best-sellers, either, reports Automotive News:
Dealerships discovered the vehicles in their dealer management system at the end of February. The vehicles were mainly slow-selling Tipo compact cars and some Ducato large vans.
“We were invoiced for a considerable number of Tipos that we did not order. They also had the wrong specifications, making them harder to sell,” one dealer said. “We already had a surplus of Tipos.”
Another dealer said: “Fiat overnight invoiced us for more than 5,000 units of a model that so far this year had sold just about 4,000 units a month.”
The story also notes that the dealers wished to remain anonymous because they feared FCA’s wrath. In other news, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has said earlier this month that the first quarter has been “difficult” for the company.
I’m not insinuating anything. These are just the facts.
4th Gear: The National Parks Are Doing This Really Cool Thing
If there was one thing our National Parks were missing, it was EV charging stations. That could be changing, and fast!
Wards Auto reports that the first of up to 100 EV charging stations in national parks and the communities surrounding them were switched on this week. Fittingly, it was at Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange, New Jersey.
From the story:
The stations are the result of efforts by the National Park Foundation, National Park Service Department of Energy and BMW of North America to make EVs a practical option for travel to national parks. The stations also will help reduce air pollution in the parks and gateway communities near park entrances.
Members of the public-private partnership are identifying park locations for additional charging stations. They will consider factors such as proximity and strength of EV markets, distance from nearby charging locations, and natural and cultural landscape features. Dozens of the country’s 417 national parks already have expressed interest and are studying site options.
The Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Program will work with the national parks and BMW to provide technical assistance to the project.
I think this is just a lovely idea.
5th Gear: Another Subscription Service
There are a few subscription car services you can choose from (although in pretty limited locations at the moment.) One of them is through Cadillac. Another is through Hyundai and the 2017 Ioniq Electric. The word “unlimited” was used liberally in the press release.
Basically, customers can choose one fixed monthly payment for a 36-month term from between $275 to $365. The monthly payment includes unlimited mileage, electric charging reimbursement, scheduled maintenance and vehicle wear items.
Electrek, however, seems to think that though this sounds great, it’s also happening because “Hyundai is shaping up the Ioniq Electric to be a compliance car in the process.”
From their story:
While the Hyundai Ioniq was first supposed to be nationally available, it was reduced to ZEV states. After deliveries were pushed, it now seems that availability has been reduced to California – at least for now.
It might be too soon to call, but the vehicle is shaping up to be a compliance car. Maybe a good one, but a compliance car nonetheless.
Reverse: That’s A Lotta Cars
Neutral: If you could name a car brand, what would you name it?