Neat solution

Neat solution

You don't have far to look to see some fabulous innovation in the automotive industry. For example, BMW's wireless charging pad is coming soon and it may well be attractive to those who like a neatly packaged solution - and it is certainly that. 'Tidy garages are us', it will say on the packaging.

Still on electrification, my attention was also grabbed by the efforts of Audi to make its e-tron SUV as aerodynamic as possible.

In fact, one way or another, it's hard to escape from EVs and the change that is coming.

VW Group plans three new China factories

It's easy, though, to get a little carried away by megatrends and all the talk of revolutionary rather than evolutionary change. I'd just caution that the global automotive industry is well positioned to meet market needs that will not change massively overnight. I know that statement will be seen by some as having a whiff of complacency about it, but the ICE keeps on adapting and there are some powerful vested interests that don't want them gone anytime soon. Tesla is not having a walk in the park as it attempts to hike production volume. Long-established car companies know a thing or two about process engineering and about manufacturing economics.  

In many markets around the world, price is key - especially in emerging (or more accurately, developing) markets. Electrified automotive technology does not come cheap. It will be interesting to see how things pan out in China and whether China is a big enough market (with major state control to direct the economy) to bend the unit cost curve drastically.

Similarly, we're not all about to throw away the car keys and be seamlessly transported door-to-door in a Level 5 pod that we dialled up on our cell phone. In fact, there are going to be issues of transition ahead. If automated vehicles don't ever crash, surely you can start to take out the added weight of safety systems, dump the airbags, design the car for zero crashes, lighter vehicles better for CO2? Nice thoughts perhaps, but they apply to the end-game with 100% Level 5s in the car parc. Cars with fallible humans in them will be driving around for a while yet and they can crash into your pod. You have to allow for them in the design and safety. Some interesting views on this subject are available in this interview with ZF.

Ever thought about the engines in the Jaguar F-Type and the seemingly relentless march to more four-cylinder offerings? Some interesting observations here from our new product specialist. We also have a comprehensive round-up of new product strategy at Nissan, at Infiniti and take a look at Mitsubishi.                 

I guess I can't let the week pass without referring to the T-word (tariffs or Trump, either applies - or trade). I just hope a full-blown trade war - that would be in no-one's interest - can be averted (I think it can).

Latest tariffs developments

Keep an eye out for FCA news. Marchionne put on a necktie for the big presentation, apparently (surely akin to ravens deserting the Tower of London).

Finally, it's a small thing but I found myself applauding Volvo Cars again this week. Captivated by the clever design of the XC40? A bit, but no, that's not it. Plastics is it. Anything we can do to reduce their use or be smarter about recycling, I'm all for. And sometimes, it really is the little things that we need to think about - or the things we can control, anyway. I know there is a bigger picture and Benjamin Franklin coined a phrase that I am very fond of - 'penny wise, pound foolish' - but we can all, as individuals or groups, do our bit for a greater good. The little steps eventually add up.

So, no straw for me, thanks!  

Have a nice weekend.

Dave Leggett


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