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Tesla Takes Another Slap as Consumer Reports Faults Latest Autopilot Update

Latest update called “far less competent than a human driver.”

by on May.22, 2019

Consumer Reports criticized the performance of Tesla's latest version of Autopilot.

It has been a tough few weeks for Tesla, the California electric carmaker watching its stock plummet in the wake of a sales slowdown, mounting losses and a report from the National Transportation Safety Board blaming the company’s Autopilot system for a fatal crash last March. Now, Consumer Reports is adding to Tesla’s grief.

CEO Elon Musk has spotlighted Autopilot as one of Tesla’s crown jewels, boasting about its increasingly hands-free capabilities, the latest being the ability to change lanes automatically. But the non-profit publication isn’t convinced, warning in a news release that “the latest version … is far less competent than a human driver.”

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“The system’s role should be to help the driver, but the way this technology is deployed it’s the other way around,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ senior director of auto testing. “It’s incredibly nearsighted. It doesn’t appear to react to brake lights or turn signals, it can’t anticipate what other drivers will do, and as a result, you constantly have to be one step ahead of it.” (more…)

Daimler AG Ushers in New Era with Massive Reorganization

Zetsche's departure offers perfect time for structure change.

by on May.22, 2019

Daimler Chairman Dieter Zetsche speaks to attendees at his last shareholder meeting as chairman.

With the auto industry facing a turbulent transformation, Daimler AG is putting in place a new corporate structure and a new leadership team, while vowing to remain committed to what its outgoing chief executive described as a sustainable future.

Dieter Zetsche, who has led Daimler AG for the past 13 years and who a German business magazine recently described as the only “world class business leader in the auto industry,” relinquishes his dual role as chief executive officer as a chairman of the board of management and head of Mercedes-Benz cars.

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Ola Kallenius will replace Zetsche and take on the dual role as CEO and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. In addition, Harold Wilhelm will replace Daimler’s long-serving chief financial officer, Bodo Ubber. In addition, Markus Schaefer will take over Kallenius’ previous role as head of research and development and a broader role for Brita Seeger, chief of sales for Mercedes-Benz Cars. (more…)

General Motors’ Maven Car-Sharing Service Exiting 8 of 17 N. American Markets

Automaker planning to focus on “markets in which we have strongest…potential.”

by on May.22, 2019

GM's mobility service, Maven, cut services in eight cities around the country.

General Motors plans to pull its Maven car-sharing service out of eight cities in North America, including Boston and Chicago, while continuing to focus on markets with stronger demand, including Toronto, Los Angeles and GM’s home in Detroit.

The move comes just months after Ford Motor Co., which has tried to reposition itself as a “mobility” company, rather than an automaker, pulled the plug on Chariot, a service struggling to find a niche between ride-sharing and van shuttles.

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GM declined to explain why it decided to trim back Maven but said in a statement that, “We’re shifting Maven’s offerings to concentrate on markets in which we have the strongest current demand and growth potential.” (more…)

Aston Martin Set to Launch Latest James Bond Special Edition

The special version of the Aston Superleggara DBS celebrates the 50th anniversary of one of the stranger of the Bond flicks.

by on May.22, 2019

James Bond fans can get a special edition of the Aston Martin DBS OHMSS Superleggara to satisfy their super spy fancy.

There are legions of 007 fans. But only a select few will be able to afford to share the special bond, James Bond, between the superspy and his ever-changing collection of cars.

Real aficionados know that in the original Ian Fleming novels, 007 drove a 1930 Bentley. But from the beginning, and in all but a handful of the Bond films to date, his car of choice has been an Aston Martin. The British brand is marking the 50th anniversary of one of the oddest films in the series, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” by rolling out a unique version of the new Superleggara DBS.

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If you’re planning to play trivial pursuit, the question might go this way: “Who was the only actor to do a single, and almost universally panned take on 007?” The answer is George Lazenby, who had his brief opportunity to drink a martini stirred, not shaken, in this 1969 adventure. (more…)

Automakers Still Looking for Top Price on Full-Size Pickups

Trucks continue growing bottom line for automakers.

by on May.21, 2019

The Sierra HD 3500 makes an audacious debut pulling 225,000 pounds of yacht and trailer. It also gets an audacious price tag.

Truck sales are booming, which is good news for automakers since they result in big profits. Only adding to their bottom-line delight is that the fastest growing area are the highly profitable “luxury” trucks with price tags zipping past $60,000.

New full-size trucks in 2018 were 16% more expensive than those in 2015, and midsize trucks were 3% more expensive, according to CarGurus.com. In fact, the top end of the market has trucks passed the $80,000 mark, and the good news is that there is probably room for even more expensive pickups, according to one truck executive.

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“I think there’s still an opportunity (in vehicles) for traditional luxury items, like more materials, audio systems, things like that,” said Duncan Aldred, vice president, Global Buick and GMC, recently during a meeting with journalists. (more…)

Could Tesla’s High-Flying Ride on Wall Street be Ready to Come Crashing Down?

Shares head towards $200 for first time since 2016, as key analyst warns $10 is possible.

by on May.21, 2019

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has plenty to worry about as investors turn bearish on its stock.

After sliding to its lowest level since December 2016 on five days of losses, Tesla stock fell to its lowest level in nearly 30 months, at just above $200 — and one key analyst, Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas, warns Tesla could see the stock plunge to just $10 a share.

Not much has gone right for the California automotive upstart in recent months, starting with word that first-quarter sales had fallen well short of expectations. Its unexpectedly deep, $702 million loss for the quarter didn’t help. And the situation only grew worse when CEO Elon Musk last week ordered a “hardcore” belt-tightening covering “literally every payment that leaves our bank account.” Then, the National Transportation Safety Board weighed in, blaming a fatal March 2018 crash on Tesla’s much-ballyhooed Autopilot system.

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Even where the automaker appeared to pull off a coup, topping substantially what it had expected to raise with last month’s combination of stock and debt offerings, Musk told employees in an e-mail, that the $2.7 billion Tesla brought in “actually only gives us about 10 months at the Q1 burn rate to achieve breakeven!”

(more…)

General Motors Debuts New Digital Brain for Future Vehicles

New architecture allows for future connected car tech.

by on May.21, 2019

GM's new digital vehicle platform can process 4.5 terabytes per hour and will debut on the 2020 Cadillac CT5 sedan.

General Motors is pushing to remain a leader in autonomous technology with new vehicles and mobility services; however, it’s latest development may be the most critical to ensure it remains at the front of the pack.

The company unveiled its new all-new digital platform architecture, designed with the needs of future, such as connected cars, autonomous electric vehicles and other technologies, in mind. Until now, GM has been loading up its previous gen architecture with new tech, despite the fact it is more than 20 years old and comes with limitations.

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The new architecture, which will underpin the 2020 Cadillac CT5 sedan and its Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving feature, should be available across nearly all GM product lines by 2023, the company says. (more…)

F1 Legend Niki Lauda Dead at 70

“It was the most courageous thing I ever witnessed in sport.”

by on May.21, 2019

Few expected Niki Lauda to survive his crash at the Nurburgring on Aug. 1, 1976.

He was born to be a banker, like the rest of his patrician, Austrian family. So, when Niki Lauda asked his grandfather for the financial help he needed to land a ride on the Formula One circuit, he was cut off. Lauda eventually found a way to raise the money on his own, lining up a loan against his life insurance policy.

It was a risky bet, but Niki Lauda’s life was an ongoing gamble, whether on the track or in business, something that became all too apparent during a crucial race at Germany’s Nurburgring on August 1, 1976. Ironically, he had called for a boycott just a week before because of the lack of safety features on the winding course. But when the green flag dropped, Andreas Nikolaus Lauda was positioned at the front of the pack, despite a blinding downpour, determined to grab the lead against his F1 arch-rival James Hunt.

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On the second lap, Lauda’s Ferrari spun out, hit an embankment and burst into flames. Trapped in the car, his borrowed helmet having slipped off, Lauda suffered massive burns that few thought he’d be able to survive. After slipping into a coma, a priest delivered last rites. Yet, somehow, Lauda pulled through, though the injuries were severe, the fire burning off most of his right ear and hair, as well as his eyelids, while searing his lungs.

(more…)

Daimler Prepares Cost-Cutting Plans for New Chief Kallenius

New takes over for Zetsche.

by on May.21, 2019

Daimler AG Chairman Dieter Zetsche is on his way out into retirement. He will be succeeded by Ola Kallenius.

Daimler AG’s new chief executive is preparing a plan that would slash the company’s administrative costs by 20%, according to a report in Germany’s top business newspaper Handelsblatt.

Ola Kallenius, who will take over for Dieter Zetsche this week, has asked for recommendations due to the uncertainty facing car makers, the paper said. Central administration costs are to be cut by about 20%, the paper said, adding billions of euros in efficiency potential would be targeted.

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Daimler declined to comment on the Handelsblatt article, which appeared as Daimler was preparing for its annual shareholders meeting in Berlin. (more…)

Tesla Stock Getting Hammered as NTSB Investigates, Investors Fret

Musk tells employees that cash burn rate is high.

by on May.20, 2019

Tesla's Elon Musk has ordered employees to rein in spending on virtually everything.

Just a few days after safety regulators revealed that Tesla’s Autopilot system was engaged during a fatal crash of a Model 3, Tesla’s stock has fallen 11% – including nearly 4% today – to the low $200 range.

Adding to the concerns of stock and bond investors in the California-based EV maker, CEO Elon Musk revealed the company’s first-quarter cash burn rate has put it in a precarious position.

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He told employees last Thursday he would increase cost-cutting and that $2.7 billion in capital the company recent raised would give Tesla just 10 months to break even at the rate it burned cash in the first quarter. (more…)