1st Gear: We Made Clean Cars, You Make Clean Energy
Electric cars are nice and good because they have zero emissions, but a lot of buyers don’t realize that’s only one part of the equation. The electricity has to come from somewhere, and it’s often less-then-clean sources, like coal or nuclear.
This is the point Nissan-Renault boss raised Thursday at an energy conference in Paris. Basically, he says the car industry is making tremendous strides in zero-emission cars, but he needs the energy industry to back up what they’re doing as well. Via Bloomberg:
Charging is just one side of the equation. The International Energy Agency estimated in June that countries worldwide will have to invest trillions of dollars in cleaner energy and emissions controls to stem growth in air pollution. French Environment Minister Segolene Royal said at the conference that the country will seek to phase out coal-fired power plants by 2023. In contrast, China, while leadingglobal installations in wind and solar farms in recent years, remains dependent on coal and is looking at electricity exports due to a capacity glut.
The switch to less polluting transport is a strain. Generating cleaner energy profitably is also a challenge, Royal Dutch Shell Plc CEO Ben van Beurden said at the Paris conference.
“Growth of renewables has been remarkable, but capacity of industry to make money in that segment has been remarkably absent,” Van Beurden said.
2nd Gear: Takata May File For Bankruptcy In America
No, that hasn’t happened yet. But it looks like it might, finally. Via the USA Today:
Japanese auto supplier Takata is reportedly readying a potential bankruptcy filing after a crushing scandal that sapped its finances, triggered the largest automotive recall in U.S. history and spawned fines and investigations.
Takata’s exploding air bag scandal has cast a cloud of uncertainty over the company, whose Michigan-based subsidiary TK Holdings is said to be weighing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, according to Japanese newspaper Nikkei.
The company is still pursuing an “out-of-court reorganization” to “ensure its parts-supplying operations remain ongoing,” Nikkei reported Thursday.
But the outlet reported that Takata’s biggest customer, Honda, as well as Japanese automaker Toyota and other customers are “believed to be leaning in favor” of bankruptcy.
That’s just in the U.S. Globally, Takata wants to avoid the bankruptcy option.
Nearly all automakers have been affected globally by Takata’s exploding airbag crisis, one that has cost the company $200 million in civil fines in the U.S. alone and put its future in doubt. But Takata’s parts are so ubiquitous its client automakers may end up having to step in and bail it out.
3rd Gear: Stop-Start Is The Next Big Thing
If you have a new-ish car, there’s a good chance it shuts down at stoplights to save gas and cut emissions. Stop-start systems have been around in Europe since the 1990s, but in recent years they’ve become increasingly common on U.S. market cars. Expect that trend to continue, The Detroit News reports:
The technology is designed to keep your lights, air conditioning, heater and radio running while the engine is cut during a stop. The engine stays on if you turn the steering wheel, if you’re stopped on a steep hill, the engine is still warming up, or the heater or air conditioner are working hard to maintain a desired temperature.
Stop-start technology is relatively inexpensive for automakers to install — costing an estimated $300 — and provides a decent fuel economy benefit, typically ranging up to 4 percent or 5 percent. Automakers say the benefit can be higher if a driver does a lot of city driving. And automakers benefit, too, as they can receive credits toward meeting federal fuel economy regulations if they put start-stop systems on their vehicles.
By the end of the year, IHS Markit forecasts that slightly more than 15 percent of new vehicles sold in the U.S. will be equipped with stop-start, up from 5.7 percent in 2013 and 7.5 percent in 2014.
4th Gear: More Fixes For VW Diesels In Europe
But still no fix announced in this country. Via Reuters:
Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) has received regulatory approval for technical fixes on more cars in Europe affected by its diesel emissions scandal, it said on Friday, meaning it can now recall another 2.6 million vehicles.
Volkswagen (VW) admitted last year it had installed software that deactivated pollution controls on more than 11 million diesel vehicles sold worldwide.
In Europe, home to around 8.5 million of the affected vehicles, it has agreed to recalls to implement technical fixes.
German motor authority KBA had already approved fixes for around 5.6 million VW group models with 1.2-litre and 2.0-litre engines, which required only a software update on pollution control systems.
When, oh when, will we find out how the American diesels will be fixed?
5th Gear: Why BMW Is Struggling In America
No, enthusiasts, it’s not because there aren’t enough manual gearboxes or that nothing’s as cool as the E30 M3 was. It’s because unlike Mercedes-Benz, BMW is struggling to crank out SUVs fast enough to meet America’s insatiable demand for them. Via Bloomberg:
Third-quarter profit at BMW’s automotive unit fell 3.9 percent to 1.8 billion euros ($2 billion) as the company spends more on developing electric cars and self-driving technologies and struggles to sell luxury sedans in the U.S. where buyers prefer SUVs. The drop highlights the spending pressure BMW faces as it develops new luxury vehicles that can better rival Mercedes-Benz’s updated lineup, especially in the U.S.
BMW repeated its forecast that sales and pretax profit at its automotive unit will post “slight increases” in 2016.
BMW, which is set to lose its crown as the world’s best-selling luxury car brand this year, is trying to boost profitability by pushing its more expensive products. That strategy is paying off in Europe and China, where sales increases in the third quarter offset a slump in the U.S., where the company is struggling to produce enough SUVs at its factory in Spartanburg, S.C.
Gotta make those SUVs!
Reverse: Hostage Crisis
Neutral: At What Point Will EVs Be Truly ‘Clean’?
Can that happen?