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1st Gear: Toyota And Ford May Team Up To Save Their Dashboards

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are coming. While this may seem like a smart, tech-driven solution to maddening proprietary infotainment systems on cars, not all automakers are happy. Namely Toyota and Ford, the latter of which is making a big push with their new Sync3 system this summer. The two automakers may team up, reports Bloomberg:

Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, will explore working with Ford on integrating smartphone applications into future vehicles, the two companies said in e-mailed statements. Ford says its SmartDeviceLink technology allows companies such as Pandora Inc. to develop apps only once for use in multiple infotainment systems, while also allowing carmakers to control the design of their dashboards.

By exploring a collaboration, Toyota and Ford are showing caution against letting Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto dictate the future of in-car entertainment and navigation systems. Dashboards have become a battleground for carmakers as they seek to attract younger customers who demand connectivity features in their rides.

I can see their side of things; they’ve dumped a lot of time and R&D into these systems and here come Apple and Google thinking they can do it better. On the other hand...

2nd Gear: I For One Welcome Our New CarPlay And Android Auto Overlords

Surprise! Everyone continues to hate their infotainment systems! Via Automotive News:

A recent survey of some 14,000 automobile owners seems to suggest they are. The study, conducted jointly by the polling firm Nielsen and automotive consultants SBD, found in general that manufactures are jamming features into cars that most owners don’t use and often are not even aware of.

“It’s sort of an arms race — who can have the most technology in the vehicle — and consumers are confused,” said Nielsen Vice President Mike Chadsey.

The study, conducted via online questionnaires in April and May, found that 43 percent of participants said automakers are adding too much infotainment technology to new vehicles, and that infotainment features available now typically score low in owner satisfaction.

Automakers, I get that you sunk a lot of money into these systems and you’re mad tech companies can do it better, but they kinda suck. How can you expect people to not use something that appears to be a better alternative?

3rd Gear: GM Slumps In China

General Motors, once the darling of Western auto sales in China thanks to brands like Buick and Chevrolet, posted its second consecutive month of sales declines there despite slashing prices on 40 models across the family. Ouch. Once again from Bloomberg:

Foreign automakers have come under increasing pressure in China as economic growth slows in the world’s largest auto market and local brands gain market share by offering cheaper SUVs. Passenger-vehicle sales rose at the slowest pace in five months in April, with most of the expansion coming from local brands.

“Consumer sentiment has been at a low point, and when 80 percent of your buyers are first-time buyers, it is easy to postpone purchases,” said Janet Lewis, an analyst at Macquarie Group Ltd. in Hong Kong. “GM is not at a particularly good place in its model cycle.”

GM says the slump has been due to the changeovers to new models. At the same time, when you look ay these sales trends in a wider sense, it makes you wonder if that Chinese bubble is going to burst sooner rather than later.

4th Gear: Can We Talk? Congress Wants Our Cars To Talk

Everybody knows vehicle-to-vehicle communications is the next big thing for auto safety, but where’s the legislative support for it? Here’s some now, according to the Detroit News:

U.S. Sens. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, and Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, introduced legislation to promote investments in vehicle-to-infrastructure communication technology that the bill says will “improve vehicle safety, reduce accidents and avoid congestion.” The technology — which involves cars repeatedly sending wireless signals to each other — could help alert cars if an oncoming vehicle is about to disregard a stop sign.

Here’s how the bill works:

The bill would allow states to use existing highway funding to invest in projects such as monitors on bridges that communicate whether the roadway is icy, or sensors that warn of nearby emergency vehicles or work zones.

It’s a start.

5th Gear: No Expanding The Renault Alliance

While Sergio Marchionne seems desperate to merge Fiat Chrysler with another conglomerate to reduce costs across the board, another charismatic executive says his company is cool, thanks. Nissan-Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn said they can expand and cut costs without adding another partner, according to Reuters:

The two saved “much more” than 3 billion euros ($3.31 billion) in 2014 from sharing costs for new vehicles and technology development, compared with 2.8 billion euros in the previous year, he said. The companies are scheduled to release final figures for the synergies, or cost savings, from their joint programs in July.

I wonder if Ghosn brought that up on his own or if he got an email pitch from Sergio too. (I wonder if the email’s subject line was “Hey”. I bet it was.)

Reverse: They Should Have Been Called Quadricycles Instead Of Cars

At approximately 4:00 a.m. on June 4, 1896, in the shed behind his home on Bagley Avenue in Detroit, Henry Ford unveils the “Quadricycle,” the first automobile he ever designed or drove.

Neutral: Yeah Or Nah On Apple And Android In Your Car?

I can’t say I’d miss most of the infotainment systems I test on new cars.


Contact the author at patrick@jalopnik.com.