1st Gear: SE-Meh
We could go on and on about the diminished importance of auto shows as they relate to news and new product debuts, but the one that’s really hard to care about is going on right now: the Specialty Equipment Market Association show, or SEMA. Every year we get a litany of mildly interesting concepts from the OEMs to put on the website and then forget about in a couple days, but at the end of the day SEMA is a trade show for parts companies; it’s not even open to the public. The automakers are there to make the parts suppliers happy, and the junket lords are there for a free meal, or several.
Why should anyone care? My inbox is flooded with requests from thirsty PR people begging to know if we’re doing SEMA this year. The answer is generally not, given that there aren’t really any meaningful stories to be found there outside of purely parts industry-related stuff—and that’s awfully hard to communicate to a wider audience. But here’s one reason the show kind of sort of maybe still matters using Chevy as an example, from The Detroit News:
Chevrolet uses feedback from SEMA and other events to help the carmaker decide which parts, accessories and concept vehicles might be introduced to customers, said Jim Campbell, U.S. vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports. Several past SEMA concepts have been offered to customers.
That’s nice. But it’s still hard to care about most of the stuff that happens there.
2nd Gear: No Ford Sales Numbers Because Fire
We won’t yet know how many cars and trucks Ford unloaded in October (how is it November already? Good lord) thanks to an unfortunate fire at the home office. Via Automotive News:
The fire at an electrical substation interrupted power at the Dearborn, Mich., headquarters and nearby Ford Credit office buildings, as well as to one of Ford’s main data centers that the company and dealers use to report and track U.S. deliveries, Ford said late Monday.
“While battery backups worked as intended to protect data saved in the system, the lack of full power resulted in the data center being shut down for most of Monday’s business day, and dealers were unable to report final-day sales,” Ford said in a statement.
Automakers are scheduled to release U.S. sales results for October on Tuesday.
Analysts polled by Bloomberg expect Ford’s U.S. sales to decline 11 percent in October amid an overall decline in industry volume. The company said its monthly U.S. sales conference call for media and analysts will resume with November’s sales report on Dec. 1.
3rd Gear: Ford And Unifor Strike A Deal
Canada’s auto workers union Unifor has been in contract negotiations with the automakers and Ford is the latest to strike a tentative deal, one that’s scant on details for now but also seems to put a little more future into that country’s manufacturing business. Via Automotive News:
The deal, patterned off new contracts with General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, includes the introduction of a “major engine program” at the Essex engine plant in Windsor, Ontario, Unifor President Jerry Dias said. The engines will be featured on some of Ford’s top-selling vehicles, Dias said, though he declined to discuss specifics.
Dias said the program will put Ford’s “Windsor facilities at the top of food chain for powertrain operations.”
The deal also secures Ford’s Oakville, Ontario, assembly plant’s international export footprint. The plant, which builds the Ford Edge, Ford Flex, Lincoln MKX and Lincoln MKT crossovers, exports its vehicles to about 190 countries, the union said.
It does, however, reportedly come at the expense of the Ford Flex, which is a weird big wagon thing we generally like.
4th Gear: Mining Companies Are Thrilled About Electric Cars
As we attempt to wean ourselves off fossil fuels in our automobiles, let us remember the energy and environmental costs of making EVs work as well. From Bloomberg:
Demand for metals in lightweight transportation and new energy vehicles is part of a “new normal” for metals as the economy slows, the ministry said. The country became the world’s biggest copper consumer amid a construction boom and build-up of the electricity grid.
BHP Billiton has invested several hundreds of millions of dollars since 2007 in the research and development of technologies to reduce greenhouse gases, including carbon capture, it said in a report last year. The technology that would catch gases from fossil-fuel plants and could become commercially viable in the next 15 to 25 years depending on government policies, it said at the time.
The Paris climate accord negotiated last year, which seeks to limit temperature increases from pre-industrial levels to well below 2 degrees Celsius, is “more substantial and ambitious,” than expected, BHP said in a statement earlier this month.
“People often think of energy challenges in terms of coal and oil and gas,” BHP’s Wild said. “But it’s much broader than that.”
5th Gear: Unlock Your Toyota With Your Smartphone
First keys, now keyfobs. Here’s what Toyota is doing next year, from the Detroit Free Press:
The Smart Key Box system eliminates the need for a physical key. Toyota will test the system in San Francisco with the Getaround car-sharing service starting in January. Toyota is investing about $10 million in Getaround through a fund it created with a group of venture capital firms and the Japanese asset management firm Sparx Group.
Getaround differs from fleet-owned car-sharing companies such as Zipcar and General Motors’ Maven. It is a peer-to-peer car-sharing service that lets renters use other people’s cars for as low as $5 an hour. In exchange, owners receive a portion of that fee. Getaround’s service has attracted more than 300,000 users around the U.S.
Toyota says a user’s phone will get codes to access the smart key box inside car-sharing vehicles. When the phone gets close to the vehicle, the codes are verified through the Bluetooth system.
Neutral: Does SEMA Matter If You’re Not In The Industry?
I say no, but I welcome your thoughts on the matter.