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: Make It Easy
It used to be that if you bought a high-end luxury car, you could guarantee that its on-board tech would far outstrip something from a cheaper segment. That gap is closing, as even affordable cars are coming with a variety of options. And while the luxury cars still offer premium features, if they’re too complicated or inconvenient to use, most people just won’t use them.
Overall, luxury and non-luxury buyers are equally satisfied with the technology and its ease of use in their new cars, according to a study conducted by J.D. Power.
It did find a degree of “lost value,” however; that is, value of certain tech lost on owners because they simply don’t know how to or won’t utilize it fully.
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From the study:
Satisfaction is very low among owners who tried a feature but no longer use it. These owners represent a captive audience who have paid for the feature but, through a poor experience, have decided not to continue using it. The most prominent reason given by owners for not using features is because they do not need them.
The highest rate of occurrence among owners who tried, but no longer use a feature is in-vehicle mobile router (10%). When these owners—along with those who have never used the feature—were asked why, 43% say they “did not need” the feature and 24% say they “did not want to incur further costs to use the technology.” Both reasons equate to a lack of value for the feature as perceived by owners.
The study found that owners were most satisfied with safety tech (blind-spot detection, back-up cameras) and basic features (HVAC, seats, phone) and were happiest when dealers helped them understand everything the car could do.
And you know what? All of these things are pretty standard across all automotive price segments. So maybe next time you start thinking about a car that comes with all kinds of fancy onboard tech, also ask yourself how often you’re actually going to use it. How often are you really going to use those massaging seats or that ridiculous semi-autonomous cruise control?
No sense in paying for something you won’t use.
2nd Gear: The ‘Sporty’ Toyota Hybrids Are Coming
Not that long ago, if you drove a Toyota Prius, everyone assumed that you were a hippie. You didn’t care about going fast, you just cared about the planet. Laaaaame.
Not anymore! The Frankfurt Auto Show is in full swing and Toyota just announced that it will add a line of sporty hybrids. Buyers can choose between those or the traditional, fuel-saving hybrid cars, according to Automotive News Europe. From the story:
“One will provide the traditional benefits of efficiency and fuel economy, like in the current offer. The second will build on this, adding more power and a more dynamic driving character,” Toyota Europe boss Johan van Zyl said at the auto show here.
Toyota will reveal more details about its high-performance hybrids “early next year,” van Zyl said. The decision to add the sportier variants was triggered by customer feedback, he said.
Did you hear that? This was because of us! Us nerds who saw the benefit of a hybrid system but wanted something fun. We did it!
Our first look at what Toyota means by a sporty hybrid is the C-HR Hy-Power design study that was unveiled at the show.
Will the sport hybrid actually be a decent performer? Will it be priced competitively with its regular sports car competitors? What will Toyota do to address the weight issue? All of these are questions we hope Toyota will answer when it reveals more details about the new line “early next year.”
Now we wait.
3rd Gear: Love Thy Neighbor
You could call the relations between North Korea and its neighboring countries tense. Recently, South Korea deployed the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system in order to keep an eye on and potentially protect itself against its unpredictable northern neighbor.
The move really ruffled China’s feathers, which is concerned that the radar aspect of the system could provide surveillance capabilities against it.
Anyway, China’s response to the political tension has been to largely cut ties with Korean businesses. Tour groups no longer visit South Korea. And on the home front, people are boycotting Korea stores and brands. Including Hyundai.
Hyundai’s sales are plummeting despite China’s overall increase in vehicle sales last month, and dealerships are suffering, according to Bloomberg.
Dealers in China say they’re losing thousands of yuan on every Hyundai sale because of steep discounts, and some may drop the brand.
Beijing Hyundai, the joint venture with Beijing-based BAIC, lost 210 billion won ($186 million) in the first six months of 2017, according to regulatory filings. In the same period a year earlier, the joint venture earned 700 billion won.
Beijing Hyundai sold only 361,000 cars in the first half of this year, a 29 percent decline from a year earlier — before the Thaad missile system was installed in South Korea. Revenue fell 52 percent to 4.57 trillion won.
Falling sales aren’t limited to China either. Hyundai sales also fell 25 percent from last year this past August.
But the U.S. isn’t the biggest car market anymore. China is. And when China stops buying your cars, you have a problem.
4th Gear: Samsung’s Got A Shiny New Battery
One of the biggest problems plaguing electric cars is range anxiety. Whether or not it’s completely placebo, some people see an electric car with a slightly lower range that they’re comfortable with and that’s the deal-breaker for them. Samsung might have a solution for this.
At the Frankfurt Auto Show, the Korean tech company’s battery arm, Samsung SDI, unveiled various battery products, including a system with a claimed longer range. From the release:
“Multifunctional battery pack” of Samsung SDI attracted the most attention. Its users can change the number of modules as they want as if they place books on a shelf. For example, if 20 modules are installed in a premium car, it can go 600 to 700 kilometers [373 to 435 miles]. If 10 to 12 modules are mounted on a regular sedan, it can run up to 300 kilometers [186 miles]. This pack is expected to catch the eyes of automakers, because they can design a car whose mileage may vary depending on how many modules of a single pack are installed.
Whether or not these batteries will get picked up by a major automaker remains to be seen.
5th Gear: Nobody’s Buying Cars In Florida, Yet
As people are start to recover in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, one thing’s become clear: nobody is buying cars right now.
Car dealerships in Florida managed to largely avoid destructive damage and are reopening for business, reports Automotive News. But buying a car seems to be the last thing on anyone’s mind at the moment.
From the story:
“There’s no business right now,” said Bernie Moreno, who owns the Infiniti of Coral Gables store, about five miles south of Miami. “There’s zero.”
That’s partly because some six million people evacuated the area, he said. He also noted, “You just went through a hurricane and you’re getting your house in order. You’re not thinking, ‘Let’s go get my oil changed or buy a new car.’ It’s going to be at least until next week until we see that happen.”
Other dealerships reported that they didn’t lose any cars and that the supply will be crucial in replacing destroyed cars in Houston because of Harvey. This is hopeful news, as it means that once people get back into cars, they can also start heading towards normalcy.
Reverse: You Get A Car! And You Get A Car! (With A Catch)
Neutral: Would You Buy A Sporty Hybrid?
Alright, let’s pretend that a hybrid sports car weighs the same as a regular car (somehow) and costs roughly the same. Would you consider it then?