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1st Gear: Welcome To The Age Of The ‘Tesla Fighter’

Say what you want about Tesla but it’s amazing how a relatively tiny startup car company, one that will only deliver 60,000 cars or so this year if it’s lucky and has yet to turn a profit, has turned the established auto industry on its head. They’re forcing everyone else to catch up when it comes to electrification, especially in luxury segments. General Motors is doing a “Tesla fighter”, and so is Porsche, and so are many others.

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A lot of this is lazy branding by the media since I doubt few of these companies will openly call their products “Tesla fighters.” Regardless, the next one is aimed at the Model X and it comes from Audi. You’ll see their electric SUV concept at Frankfurt next month. From Automotive News:

Audi today issued a teaser picture and some details of an all-electric SUV that it will launch to rival the upcoming Tesla Model X.

The SUV will have a range of more than 310 miles and will go into production in 2018 as the brand’s first volume electric car, Audi said in a statement.

Audi will preview the SUV, likely to be called the Q6, with the e-tron quattro concept that will debut at next month’s Frankfurt auto show.

How many more “Tesla fighters” are on the way?

2nd Gear: Vegas Is All Glitz And Glam, Just Like The Prius?

The Toyota Prius, which also has a slew of “fighters” from other makes, is due for its first big redesign since 2009. We’ll see it next month at a special unveiling in Las Vegas. Definitely an odd choice, but whatever. From Bloomberg:

The 2016 Prius will be shown to media on Sept. 8, spokesman Ryo Sakai said by phone. He declined to comment on when the company will start production or sales of the updated model.

Toyota’s last revamp in 2009 made Prius the first hybrid to have mainstream success. Annual sales doubled within in its first full year on the market, peaking at 509,399 deliveries in 2010.

The current climate will be the toughest one the Prius has faced yet, or at least since it came out in the late 1990s. With gas so cheap consumers are losing interest fast in hybrids. I don’t doubt the new Prius will be a big seller among its hardcore Prius-faithful, but will that be enough?

3rd Gear: Volvo’s Doing Quite Well Thanks

Despite a slowdown in China (which is happening to pretty much everyone) and North America (thanks to a lack of new products, something they’re working to fix) Volvo just posted a 71 percent increase in operating profit for the first half of 2015. One more from Automotive News:

First-half operating earnings rose to 1.66 billion Swedish crowns ($194.66 million) from 968 million a year earlier, Volvo said in a statement today. Revenue rose a 12 percent to 75.2 billion crowns ($8.8 billion), helped by a 1.4 percent gain in deliveries.

CEO Hakan Samuelsson said Volvo expects a “substantial” increase in profits for the full year as the robust European market outweighs a slowdown in China. The automaker had previously forecast a “clear” improvement in sales and profitability.

It’s going to be very interesting to see how the new XC90 does in the U.S. I’ve heard nothing but positive things, but it’s in a tough, crowded segment.

4th Gear: The Silicon Valley-ification Of Detroit

As new cars get more and more high tech, there’s much more cross-pollination between Silicon Valley and the centers of the auto industry than before. That trend is the subject of an interesting AP report:

The convergence of cars and computers is blurring the traditional geographical boundaries of both industries. Silicon Valley is dotted with research labs opened by automakers and suppliers, who are racing to develop high-tech infotainment systems and autonomous cars. Tech companies — looking to grow and sensing an industry that’s ripe for disruption — are heading to Detroit to better understand the auto industry and get their software embedded into cars.

The result is both heated competition and unprecedented cooperation between two industries that rarely spoke to each other five years ago.

Also:

There’s also plenty of employee poaching. Apple recently hired Fiat Chrysler’s former quality chief. Ride-sharing service Uber snagged 40 researchers and scientists from Carnegie Mellon’s Pittsburgh robotics lab. Tesla’s head of vehicle development used to work at Apple.

5th Gear: UAW Pushes Against Chinese-Imported Buicks

Remember the chatter about a possible Chinese-made Buick Envision crossover making its way to the U.S.? Not surprisingly, the United Auto Workers union isn’t fans of the idea. From The Detroit Free Press:

“After the sacrifices made by U.S. taxpayers and the U.S. workforce to make General Motors the profitable quality company it is today, UAW members are disappointed with the tone-deaf speculation that the Envision would be imported from China,” said Cindy Estrada, vice president of the UAW General Motors department. “GM should stand by its declaration that it will build where it sells.”

You know it’s what automakers want eventually since the cars will be so cheap to produce. We’ll see what unions, and more importantly buyers, say about it.

Click here to view this kinja-labs.com embed.

Reverse: That Would Have Been Amazing To See

On this day in 1909, the first race is held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, now the home of the world’s most famous motor racing competition, the Indianapolis 500.

Neutral: Is ‘Cross-Pollination’ Between The Tech And Car Industries A Good Thing?

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I can see both sides of the argument, but I get nervous when I start to feel like the endgame everyone sees is autonomous, Chinese-made pod cars for Uber. Are they working toward the same end?


Contact the author at patrick@jalopnik.com.