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: Best November Ever?
All year the story of new car sales has been that of a plateau, either leveling off or starting to fall off of 2015's record sales number. There’s only so much new car demand you can satisfy even when gas is cheap and the economy is good.
But! Thanks (maybe) to an alleviation of “election anxiety” and Black Friday sales deals, plus tons of incentives as dealers try to hit those huge numbers anyway, this November might be the best November for sales ever.
Here’s Automotive News:
Big promotions over the long Thanksgiving weekend and two extra selling days in the month are expected to push sales up 4 percent from November 2015, according to Kelley Blue Book and Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson. LMC Automotive is projecting a 5 percent increase, while Edmunds.com estimates a 2.7 percent gain.
The forecasts call for a seasonally adjusted, annualized selling rate of 17.6 million to 17.9 million, down slightly from 17.98 million in October.
“It’s probably no coincidence that this month’s strong sales performance comes at the same time that the Dow Jones average reached an all-time high,” Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’ executive director of industry analysis, said in a statement.
“Now that the presidential election is over, shoppers have more confidence in the economy than they had just a month ago, and that gives them extra motivation to make big-ticket purchases. If this month’s forecast holds, December’s year-over-year sales only need to be flat to set a new annual record in 2016.”
Glad to know some people are feeling confident! Also, from another analyst:
“There are still a number of challenges to U.S. light vehicle volumes: rising interest rates, weakening residuals, potential tightening in financing availability,” Johnson, the Barclays analyst, wrote in a report today. “However, perhaps these headwinds are offset by a stronger economy — ultimately leading to a continued plateau in the 17 million range, rather than the ‘eroding plateau,’ which we’ve forecast until now.”
The plateau may not erode! What a joyous day.
2nd Gear: Ford, BMW, Daimler, VW Group Team Up For Charging
As more and more automakers take big steps into electrification, who will provide the charging infrastructure to back it up? According to four huge companies, they will. Ford, BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen are teaming up to build a big network in Europe starting next year, Automotive News reports:
The projected ultra-fast high-powered charging network with power levels up to 350 kW will be significantly faster than the most powerful charging system deployed today, the statement said.
The buildup is planned to start in 2017. An initial target of about 400 sites in Europe is planned. By 2020 the customers should have access to thousands of high-powered charging points, the statement said. “The charging experience is expected to evolve to be as convenient as refueling at conventional gas stations,” the automakers said.
“The joint project is another major milestone clearly demonstrating that competitors are combining forces to ramp up e-mobility,” BMW Group CEO Harald Kruger said in the statement.
Let’s hope this idea catches on stateside too.
3rd Gear: Intel Teams Up With Delphi And Mobileye
Supplier Delphi and camera-based vision tech company Mobileye have added a big partner to their autonomous driving partnership: Intel. Here’s what they’re up to, from The Detroit Free Press:
Essentially, the three companies are trying to create a smarter navigating brain, or black box, that will increase a vehicle’s awareness of its surroundings and react more reliably.
“Most automated vehicle systems today are very Lidar intensive. This will increase the capability of radar and allow it to complement all the other vision components,” said Glen DeVos, Delphi vice president of services.
Intel will enhance a software system initially developed by Mobileye, an Israeli-based developer of computer vision systems, mapping and machine learning algorithms.
The end product, which Delphi still says will be in a commercially available vehicle by 2019, is called Centralized Sensing Localization and Planning (CSLP) will ensure the vehicle knows its location within 10 centimeters of accuracy.
The machines will know what’s up!
4th Gear: The New 5 Series Is A Stealth Fighter
Admittedly the all-new BMW 5 Series doesn’t look all that revolutionary, or that different from the car it replaces—a factor I think could hurt its sales. But it’s under the hood where all the magic is, reports Bloomberg.
BMW’s growth next year hinges on the 5-Series, which was officially unveiled in Lisbon this week and generates as much as a fifth of its automotive profit. The Munich-based manufacturer can ill afford anything but a runaway success to hit back at Mercedes-Benz, which this year will grab BMW’s crown as the world’s bestselling luxury brand for the first time in a decade.
[...] In addition to self-driving features on highways, the car can tell other vehicles in the vicinity that it has turned on its fog lights to warn of low visibility. When parking, a camera focuses on nearby objects to help avoid collisions.
The head-up display, which projects speed and navigation directions on the lower part of the windshield, shows three-dimensional images. Climate control and other functions are operated by touch screen rather than knobs and dials, while entertainment and communication features also respond to hand gestures. Pointing a finger at the dashboard screen, for example, picks up a phone call.
A lot of this was on the 7 Series, just now in a slightly smaller and more affordable package. But that car didn’t move the needle much for BMW as buyers go insane for crossovers and SUVs. Can the 5 do it instead?
5th Gear: Nissan To Track Its Cars After They’re Sold
Starting next year in Japan and India, Nissan will start offering the option of “real-time monitoring for new cars,” which is more than a little eerie but is aimed at helping drivers understand when they need to get things fixed—and to help Nissan understand why something didn’t work. Via Bloomberg:
The smart cars will be able to send performance data to Nissan, which can use it to order the right parts and send them to the dealers in advance, while reminding owners to take their vehicles in for inspection, according to Kent O’Hara, head of Nissan’s global aftersales division in Yokohama, Japan.
Nissan is joining global automakers using big data to understand different driving habits and tailor services such as car maintenance and insurance for drivers, as the auto industry embraces the advent of autonomous and connected cars. Carmakers are predicting future growth may rely more on the services they provide, rather than solely on selling cars.
We’re in the Big Data era of cars. If anyone needs me, I’ll be driving my 31-year-old BMW. Thanks.
Reverse: This Fuckin’ Guy
Neutral: The Machines
What about new car features scare you the most? What do you see as the biggest benefits?