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Slideshow: Can Edison2 Convince Detroit to 'Lighten Up'?
9/20/2013

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Edison2 has completed a electric version of Very Light Car (eVLC).
Edison2 has completed a electric version of Very Light Car (eVLC).

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junko.yoshida
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Riding on Very Light Car
junko.yoshida   9/20/2013 8:34:43 PM
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Meeting with Edison2's CEO Oliver Kuttner was great. His blunt assessment of what the automotive industry is up against today was genuinely interesting.

But riding on the electric Very Light Car was even more fun. The ride was surprisingly less bumpy than I had expected; and It generated an exhilaratingly "light" feel!

 

DrQuine
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Re: Riding on Very Light Car
DrQuine   9/20/2013 8:56:12 PM
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It looks like great fun to ride in and the widely spaced wheels make for a stable vehicle. My only question relates to crash safety when the adjacent vehicles on the higway are gas guzzling SUVs. How lightweight can a vehicle be that still protects the occupants?

junko.yoshida
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Re: Riding on Very Light Car
junko.yoshida   9/20/2013 9:08:05 PM
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@DrQuine, you raise a good question.

Edison2 is responding to that commonly asked question by quoting a 2004 New Yorker article Malcolm Gladwell wrote as follows:

In Big and Bad: How the SUV ran over automobile safety, Gladwell shows that while an SUV may be safer if you run head-on into something ("passive safety"), the problem is the trouble a heavy vehicle has in accident avoidance ("active safety"), ie, swerving and stopping. As he says, "The benefits of being nimble – of being in an automobile that's capable of staying out of trouble ­– are in many cases greater than the benefits of being big."

DrQuine
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Re: Riding on Very Light Car
DrQuine   9/20/2013 9:43:40 PM
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As a driver of a small Honda Civic Hybrid, my primary concern about SUV's is the risk that their unwieldy mass will crush the vehicle that I'm driving - hence my question about the new lightweight vehicles. Can the Edison2 lightweight vehicle offer the occupant protection required of other vehicles?

I certainly agree that the SUVs are at greater risk of causing accidents. I also continue to be baffled that SUVs not required to align their bumpers with all the other vehicles on the road. As it is, they often seem to hit high on the front hood and miss the impact absorbing safety systems on most cars.  Regardless of whether they're "classed" as trucks or cars, they share the road with us and ought to be compatible.

junko.yoshida
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Safety on Very Light Car
junko.yoshida   9/21/2013 5:32:22 AM
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@DrQuine, in fact, Kutnner did talk about safety -- in terms of protecting drivers -- a lot. Edison2 claims to incorporate many innovations from racing into the Very Light Car. The company says that a strong steel cage encompasses the passenger compartment. Unlike the rectangular shape of contemporary cars, the diamond shape of the VLC deflects forces on impact, instead of engaging the most common collisions become indirect. Also, additional collapsible space for impact absorption is designed into the Very Light Car, by having the wheels outside of the frame, for example.

Robotics Developer
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Re: Safety on Very Light Car
Robotics Developer   9/21/2013 5:37:29 PM
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Having driven both very large (12 pass Vans) and very small (Honda Civic 1300) I can say I always "felt safer" in the larger car.  The Honda was tolaled in a 15MPH crash with a parked car (black ice - don't ask). It made me rethink my car choice given my normal highway speeds during communtes!  I think that an ultra-light car could be both light and safe if designed properly, the proof is in the pudding (as they say) and I would want to see safety crash test results before I would consider buying one.   Also, consider the "safety" of motorcycles verses a fully enclosed compartment, it has got to be safer by a wide margin.  If the car has great mileage and handles well it will have a real market potential if it is low cost to boot.  I would like to have seen cost and milage numbers for either the electric or gas powered version of this concept car.

bodyshop911.com
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Re: Safety on Very Light Car
bodyshop911.com   9/22/2013 11:27:22 AM
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Safety really isn't the big issue here.

The tech is readily available to create vehicles that do not collide with one another. There is no real need for using mass as protection any longer.

The issue here is how we view personal transportation. We live in a society that simply accepts that being killed or injured in a car crash is a fact of life. Sure, we change our rules and add more and more safely equipment, but we never look at the root of the problem. The root of the problem being our tolerance for "accidents" and the lack of driver accountability. 

I've long harped that we need rules similar to those used in general aviation. Drivers need to be "qualified" on the vehicle type that they are driving and the intended usage. Any "accident" needs to be investigated, aviation style, and the offending driver corrected. There should be no such thing as a "fender bender". Any collision or near collision should be considered serious!

Higher standards for vehicle operators are not a bad thing...unless you are an automaker, or like me, in the collision repair business.

Just imagine how much less we could be spending on health care if we didn't have to treat and rehab all of those crash victims!! How much less we would have to pay for car insurance!! How many more people would be with us as productive members of our communities??

...'course nobody would have any money...

DMcCunney
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Re: Safety on Very Light Car
DMcCunney   9/22/2013 5:26:01 PM
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The tech is readily available to create vehicles that do not collide with one another. There is no real need for using mass as protection any longer.

As long as you have a human driver at the wheel, I don't think any tech could prevent crashes.

If you want to prevent crashes, you use the sort of technology in Google's self-driving cars, and you combine that with a smart highway grid.  You get in the car, you tell it where you want to go, the car communicates with the grid to get an optimum route, and off you go.  Sit back and enjoy the ride.  You're just a passenger.  Something else is doing the driving.

While it's likely theoretically possible now, I don't expect to see it any time soon.  Too many people will not willingly relinquish control of their vehicle, and will insist on the ability (and their competance) to drive it themselves.

David Ashton
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Re: Safety on Very Light Car
David Ashton   9/22/2013 7:24:27 PM
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@bodyshop911....I'd partly disagree there, safety HAS to be A big issue if not THE big issue.   Something will always go wrong, especially with something so complex as a self-driving car.   If that happens, protection for the passengers should be a huge consideration - crumple zones, air bags,  etc.

I'd agree about the need to use aviation-like standards, but then look at air and train travel.   All inherently very safe, yet accidents do happen, and not always caused by human error.  Watch "Air Crash Investigations".....

I would agree with you that we are far too complacent about vehicle safety, but I think we're a long way from the point where I would trust myself to a computer to get me from A to B.  And that's not arrogance...., I'm not always happy with my own ability to do that, either...there's been times when I would love to have someone else drive for me, fortunately few and usually involving extra coffee to keep the sensors funtioning....

Interesting times ahead in this area (as the old chinese curse goes :-)

Etmax
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Re: Safety on Very Light Car
Etmax   9/29/2013 12:38:10 PM
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You are so right, I reckon 90% of drivers just shouldn't be on the road. They can't contend with the simplest of rules. The problem is that everyone thinks they have some GOD given right to be on the road, when in fact only those that are alert and able to follow the rules should be.

boblespam
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Re: Safety on Very Light Car
boblespam   9/30/2013 9:01:35 AM
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The VLC is comming a bit late for the European market. The Renault Twizy (very similar eCar) is already selling at a pace of around 40 per month in France, 100 per month in Germany since beginning of 2013.

It's not yet mass production but it's encouraging when you know the totally stupid marketing Renault has developped for it: you have to rent the battery at a price defined by Renault so that the cost per Km is the same (or slightly more) as a gas vehicle !

By the way, in the Twizy you sit slighly higher, it's not a aerodynamic as the VLC but you "feel" safer. It's not yet authorized on high speed higways but should be in the coming month.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Safety on Very Light Car
junko.yoshida   10/4/2013 3:57:48 PM
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I have heard about twizy, was looking forward to spotting one while in Paris this week...but never had the luck. I didn't know about your having to rent a battery at a price Renault defined. What was that about?

goafrit
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Re: Safety on Very Light Car
goafrit   10/9/2013 10:35:18 PM
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>>  The problem is that everyone thinks they have some GOD given right to be on the road, when in fact only those that are alert and able to follow the rules should be.

The problem is this - we call it cars, and not MACHINES. If driving has been a trade where people are employed to operate that MACHINE, you will notice that most will not be qualified to operate that vehicle, yes drive. But it is a car and not a machine and that is why you have so many people causing problems on the road.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Safety on Very Light Car
junko.yoshida   10/12/2013 6:35:39 AM
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That's so well put, goafrit. We don't call it a MACHINE. We still treat a car as though it's a HORSE in a way. 

junko.yoshida
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Re: Safety on Very Light Car
junko.yoshida   9/23/2013 5:19:48 PM
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@Robotic Developer. Good points about "cost" and "milage numbers" about VLC.

Here's what Edison2 claims:

• An internal combustion engine powered VLC in X Prize on-track testing achieved 110 MPGe (EPA combined)

• An electric VLC recorded 245 MPGe in the EPA 5-cycle test (combined) and 350 MPGe using X Prize metrics (Roush Laboratories)

• A VLC prototype with a Smart Car driveline achieved 89 MPG (highway), compared to 41 MPG for the Smart

A bigger question, in my mind, is the cost. Unless large automotive OEMs and parts suppliers get on the bandwagon, I can only imagin that building bringing down the cost for the LVC would be an uphill battle -- to say the least.

 

Robotics Developer
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Re: Safety on Very Light Car
Robotics Developer   9/23/2013 5:30:33 PM
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Junko, very nice numbers indeed!  Even if the cost is comparable to what is out there now the economy alone should drive (pun intended) the market place and provide good market share.  I wonder if it is a Not Invented Here (NIH) problem with existing car manufacturers?  Even if the numbers realized for mileage/range were 80% of those it would be a major step forward.  I wonder what it would take for this concept to gain traction?

junko.yoshida
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Re: Safety on Very Light Car
junko.yoshida   9/23/2013 5:46:04 PM
@Robotics Developer, thanks. There is definitely an elment of NIH here.

Everyone in Detroit is hesitating to make the first step -- of doing what they've never done before. 

 

Edison2's Kuttner was saying, while I was riding in the car, that the first automotive OEM to sign up as a VLC partner will get a big discount. That sounded a bit desparate, but I think it would be difficult to commercialize VLCs without OEMs' involvement.

When he was asked if he has any plans to make VLCs on his own, Kuttner made it clear, "No, we want to get the 'professional' help."

junko.yoshida
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Re: Safety on Very Light Car
junko.yoshida   9/23/2013 5:57:21 PM
@Robotics Developer, as to your last question about "what it would take for this concept to gain traction," assuming that this is a car based on the solid technology (well, as far as we know, it is at least good enough to have won the X-prize):

1. Involvement of automotive OEMs/parts suppliers as a partner or a licensee (Reasonable licensing fees, and the flexible partnership arrangements with Edison2)

2. VLC still needs to help most consumers overcome their "size (weight) matters" obsession 

3. Cost (this can be addressed by signing up partners/licensees)

Robotics Developer
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Re: Safety on Very Light Car
Robotics Developer   9/23/2013 6:21:15 PM
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Junko, great replies!  Thanks, I had heard about the big automakers stifling competition but this is a chance to be "in on it".  I wonder if it will take just one to test the waters before the others will rush to get in before being shut out.  Is there anybody from the automakers listening??

Bert22306
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Re: Safety on Very Light Car
Bert22306   9/23/2013 7:00:49 PM
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I don't buy this line of reasoning, actually. First of all, the Detroit 3 are hardly the only automakers in the world. And secondly, it's simply not true that they aren't experimenting with and using all manner of techniques to improve fuel economy and reduce weight. The difference is, the automakers have to do so in cars that people actually want to buy, can afford, and that will meet the NHTSA and EPA mandates. Same as all the other automakers.

Conspiracy theories are always advanced when some supposedly revolutionary new idea makes the news. Check out, for example, the Iris engine. Same claims that the oil industry, and automakers in cahoots, are keeping humongous improvements in fuel economy away from the market. But it's simply false.

elctrnx_lyf
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Re: Safety on Very Light Car
elctrnx_lyf   9/24/2013 10:25:02 AM
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The idea of looking at each and every component and changing a bit of every component would definitely produce the results in the long term.

p_g
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Re: Riding on Very Light Car
p_g   9/21/2013 6:50:17 AM
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@DeQuine Toyota Prius is also much light weight compared to other cars, but I doint see any safety concern or exceptional accidental injuries count. Yeah I would say there is stability concerns since car is light weight and can loose cntroll at high speed easier than other cars. Also if its high windy zone/snowy/slippery/wet road, weight of car do help in maintaining stability.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Riding on Very Light Car
junko.yoshida   9/21/2013 7:43:47 AM
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@p_g, I see the weight anxiety is not something easy to overcome. Edison2, meanwhile, is trying to minimize the concern by noting that "In auto racing it is commonplace for accidents to occur at very high speeds with the driver walking away." The company is trying to take the cue from that racing experience... Hmmm. Would that make you feel safer? I don't know.

goafrit
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Re: Riding on Very Light Car
goafrit   10/9/2013 10:30:37 PM
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>> As a driver of a small Honda Civic Hybrid, my primary concern about SUV's is the risk that their unwieldy mass will crush the vehicle that I'm driving -

That is a very valid point and the main reason why regulators are also looking at not just how far the SUV can protect its occupants but how less a havoc it could do to the other car in case of any accident.

DrQuine
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Re: Riding on Very Light Car
DrQuine   10/9/2013 10:56:02 PM
What I don't comprehend is that importing a foreign automobile that isn't converted to comply with all the obscure rules regarding headlight height, and so forth is forbidden but millions of SUVs drive around that are completely incompatible with cars in an accident. How can the SUVs exist that don't comply with motor vehicle regulations? I'm told that they are "trucks". I don't care what they are called, they hit cars and should be designed accordingly. (I worry less about their mass and more about the fact that their bumpers seem to hit our windshields which bypasses the crush zones and vehicle protection systems.)

goafrit
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Re: Riding on Very Light Car
goafrit   9/20/2013 9:26:21 PM
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>> . How lightweight can a vehicle be that still protects the occupants?

That is why regulation should not be one-sided. You need to rate a car on its capability to punish another car. So, that pushes the burden on designers to think about the neighbor.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Riding on Very Light Car
junko.yoshida   9/21/2013 5:35:51 AM
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@goafrit, in regards to SUV, I couldn't agree with you more.

prabhakar_deosthali
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prabhakar_deosthali   9/21/2013 9:36:01 AM
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This vehicle may not be highway-worthy in terms of the safety against the heavy SUVs crashing into it, but for the city traffic this may be an ideal fuel saver. 

If this vehicle is allowed to use the car pool lanes, then this could be the most efficient way to commute to office .

Also I remember to have read somewhere somebody is also developing a flying car. This lightweight vehicle will help boost that concept also . In case a flying car is successful then the fear of crashing onto by some heavy SUVs can be just eliminated in my opinion

Bert22306
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Light weight costs money
Bert22306   9/21/2013 6:28:58 PM
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I would be very surprised if car companies hadn't already considered all of these weight/power/cost/interior space tradeoffs. It's all tradeoffs.

The Corvette is a world class performance car, owing apologies to no other. And yet, at its current power output in the 600 HP neighborhood, it weighs the same, or actually a little less, than it weighed in 1973 when it generated less than 200 HP. (Although the new Corvette costs a whole lot more than the 1973!!) So clearly, the automakers aren't oblivious to new materials and modern chassis designs for structural integrity. To increase power and performance by that much, while keeping weight in check, is no small accomplishment.

My bet is that this VLC will strike a lot of car customers as not having enough room. Never mind just the obesity crisis, just ask car customers. If they can't haul the entire school soccer team, or lumber from Home Depot, they aren't happy. So there's your design spiral. You need room, you need to constrain costs, and at least in the US, you also have to deal with the "common wisdom" that behemoth cars are "safer."

Aeroengineer
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Re: Light weight costs money
Aeroengineer   9/21/2013 11:44:49 PM
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It is interesting how many people are placing blame on the auto companies.  While they may have some say in the direction that the features evolve in a car, the biggest driver of what gets produced is based upon demand.  The second biggest driver in this area is regulation.  In reality the only reason that the average fuel efficiency of vehicles sold has gone up is because the CAFE standard was raised.  Peoples habits have not changed.  People demand that a car have more room, have more horse power, bigger stereos, bigger etc.  They also care more about styling and paint than aerodynamics. 

 

Unfortunately with everything getting bigger, you are not reducing fuel consumption.  At the same time safety regulations are increasing (adding weight).  As things get bigger and heavier they will consume more fuel.  If you were to look at a this years Honda Civic and then compare it to an accord from the mid 90's, you would find that the Civic is as big as the Accord was.  Its fuel efficiency has also remained flat since the late 90's.

 

In the Edison2 there is nothing truly revolutionary in it.  This is not to say that it is not a fantastic piece of engineering work.  There is a lot of nice structural sheet metal similar to aerospace methods.  They also have a nice compact suspension system.  The engine is a small motorcycle engine.  They have added a turbo.  These types of modifications have been done for Formula SAE for years.  The biggest question is that does it have enough acceleration to be able to get a driver out of trouble in the case of trying to avoid an accident with larger vehicles?

 

Some other things that they would need to look at are issues that they would need to work out with the fabrication methods.  Aerospace sheetmetal work is very strong, but it is not as friendly to high volume low cost production methods.  If they were to use hydroforming, they could then begin to move towards automotive production techniques.  The may also have to look at how they join pieces.  Right now, it looks like they are using bolted and riveted connections.  This once again would not be friendly to mass production.  Welding, and to a certain extent, bonding are much more friendly to mass production.  Though with this, you have to choose aluminums that are not as strong as they do not tolerate welding.  Welding also reduces the fatigue and static strength of the joint.  All these things would need to be overcome even if you were looking to produce half a million cars per year. They would also need to look at using a 600cc engine.  There are quite a few that are out there, but this would be something of a safety issue.  There will always be large vehicles on the road.  You will always need pickup trucks, vans, as well as tractor trailers.  You may be able to get away with smaller numbers than are currently on the road, but they will always be there.  The larger engine, while added weight (probably another 50-150lbs once all the systems were considered) would be necessary for production.  These critiques are not to poke holes in their effort, but there is a difference between a concept car and a production ready car.

 

In the end, you will need to convince the consumer that they do not need as much as they have.  The issue is not that the technology does not exist, just that the consumer wants to have their cake and eat it too.  The consumer would like to have a full sized car that weight the same as a compact, with more than 300hp, all while getting 50mpg.  This is not a practical expectation.  Oh and on a side note, there have been cars from the early to mid 90's that could get 50+mpg and were using gasoline engines over diesels.  They were not even hybrids.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Light weight costs money
junko.yoshida   9/22/2013 11:30:34 AM
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@Aeroengineer, thank you for your thorough analysis on the VLC. You shed light on a lot of issues that still need to be sorted out. Very informative.

That said, I would like to respectfully disagree with you, as to the consumer demand.

On one hand, there are soccer Moms' crowd who wants a bigger (and seemingly safer) SUV which can haul a lot of kids in one car.

On the other, there is a growing number of younger consumers, whose priority is no longer in "owning a car."

Until Apple developed iPads, not so many people realized that they wanted a mobile device like that, which is neither a phone nor a PC.

The same thing applies here. Consumers won't tell you what they want, until they see a new alternative.  Some car company needs to stick its neck out and shows the new vision -- as to what people can do with something like a VLC.

Certainly, I am not saying that VLC is for everyone. But I bet there are more consumers out there -- than you think --  who want a small, very lightweight car like Edison2's VLC.

 

 

Aeroengineer
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Re: Light weight costs money
Aeroengineer   9/22/2013 5:15:56 PM
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It is always fair to disagree, though I would point to the fact that the auto makers have been making cars that offer cheaper cost of operation, and yet those cars are having a hard time selling in volume.  Also you mention that there is a new opinion in the consumer market, or hence there is a small change in the market.  So the first is that you state that the auto manufacturers are not offering cars that are light and get good millage.  The Honda Civic hatchbacks, which get in the high 40's mpg are probably the most popular small car that gets good gas mileage.  This car has failed to spark a large interest.  There are a handful of other smaller cars from Fiat and and Chevy.  I am sure Ford has one as well, but it does not come to mind.  These cars offer low cost of acquisition and gas millage as good as most hybrids, though once again (as I understand it) trucks are still outselling this market segment.

 

To make a jump to the efficiency that the Edison2 offers, you are looking at a completely different market segment.  A car of this nature would end up costing in the $40,000-$100,000 range.  This type of consumer is not looking for the above type of car.  This consumer can afford almost any vehicle.  To have them purchase something that is less powerful, with less amenities compared to what they are used to will take some convincing.  They are going to make this purchase to make a statement.  The Aptera (which was in the $30k range) was not able to get a foothold in the market despite having great press coverage.  That company has gone bankrupt.  Most likely because they were too close to the margin for their price.

 

If you look at the current crop of hybrids/electric car, they have a fatal flaw in that their batteries will start to loose a significant portion of their ability to maintain a charge after about 10 years.  So now you have a used car that will be needing a $5-10K battery.  At that point in time the car will have no value.  No one saves that much money to replace such a thing.  An engine change in a small car can be done for less than that price, and yet when a car has a blown engine, it is usually left for scrap, though, some will refurbish those car.

 

I for one would love to see a $10k-15 60mpg gasoline car. 

junko.yoshida
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Re: Light weight costs money
junko.yoshida   9/22/2013 7:58:42 PM
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@Aeroengineer, you wrote:

 This type of consumer is not looking for the above type of car.  This consumer can afford almost any vehicle.  To have them purchase something that is less powerful, with less amenities compared to what they are used to will take some convincing.  They are going to make this purchase to make a statement. 


You are absolutely right about that. Edison2's CEO Kuttner himself acknowledged it. When he was asked about the "mass appeal" of VLC and what sort of market research he needs to do in order to attract the mass consumers, he said: "No, I don't need to do any market research. If I drive this car in San Francisco, my phone would keep ringing. Just like those who buy Prius want to make a statement, people will buy VLC in order to make a statement."

Whether you view that as his arrogance or his lack of understanding the mass market is up to you.

 

Traces
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WRT Consumer Demand: Bull.
Traces   9/22/2013 5:57:19 AM
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W/R/T your comment on consumer demand favoring bigger, more powerful cars: wrong.

Detroit historically found it easy to add horsepower but difficult to compete in the small car space (Gremlin, anyone?). And while Detroit couldn't compete against small cars in the late 70's, the world has decisively titled even further in their favor. You do realize that GenY car ownership is dropping like a rock -- why? Look at the car offerings from US manufacturers (more horsepower, etc.)! When 85% of the population lives in urban areas, and the percentages are higher still for 20-something GenY's with jobs (i.e., the people who could actually buy one of these IF it made sense for them), don't you realize that these people don't really have need of a pickup truck or minivan?

Bert22306
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Re: WRT Consumer Demand: Bull.
Bert22306   9/22/2013 6:55:14 PM
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"W/R/T your comment on consumer demand favoring bigger, more powerful cars: wrong."

You might want to check this:

http://wap.wsj.com/mdc/public/page/2_3022-autosales.html

There are slightly fewer actual cars sold, overall, than SUVs, pickup trucks, so-called cross-over vehicles, and minivans, between August 2012 and August 2013. That should be an astounding statistic.

And not just the numbers. Look at the deltas from 2012. For the category "cars," i.e. real cars and not what people refere to as cars these days, demand increased by 6.9 percent this past year. Compare this with demand for behemoths. That increased by 12.7 percent. What does that tell us about consumer demand?

And this trend has been steady for quite a few years now. Behemoths rule. If politicians would place the same 40+ fleetwide average mpg requirements on all makes of privately-owned vehicle, then just maybe what people seem to think buyers want would become reality.

Bert22306
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Reminds me of the Messerschmitt KR175 or KR200
Bert22306   9/22/2013 7:19:11 PM
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Check this out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messerschmitt_KR175

Although the wheels were not as far from the tiny canopy, there's a definite resemblance there, I think.

Of course, the main goal here is not the vehicle per se, but the materials and structural integrity. But still, as a vehicle category, this type of tiny car has never had a lick of success in the "more is more" US market. Fiat 500 and Smart cars should be evidence enough.

betajet
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Re: Reminds me of the Messerschmitt KR175 or KR200
betajet   9/22/2013 8:37:12 PM
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Those are awesome cars.  I've seen them in person a couple of times.

rick merritt
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Look and feel
rick merritt   9/22/2013 7:22:51 PM
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Very cool look from the outside. Looks cramped inside. How did it feel to ride in it?

junko.yoshida
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Re: Look and feel
junko.yoshida   9/22/2013 8:10:06 PM
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For someone like myself (I am only 5'2"), the VLC felt snug, quite comfortable and nimble, and the ride was less bumpier than I had expected. 

But for others, yes, I bet it would feel "cramped" for sure.

chanj0
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chanj0   9/23/2013 12:22:09 PM
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One of the primary goal of electric car is being green. Make no mistake, to consume less gas or to be able to run a electric car for a longer distance, lighter weight materials have to be used. A recent IEEE article raises a concern over the electric vehicle, primarily because of the material of which they are made. To harvest some of those materials can be polluting the environment more. To carbon toll to create some of those material, e.g. carbon fiber and aluminium, could be higher. I didn't dig deeper to verify his argument. However, I am sure there are reasons that these materials haven't been a popular choice to most automakers. I certainly want to hear more from people coming from the industry.

With the knowledge from the IEEE article and all other concerns raised previous, is it really a good direction to push a ligher weight? I am sure technology will advance to a point that we can have the best of all world - rigid, light weight and environment friendly. Until that day, consumer may still prefer a more rigid car with relatively good environmental friendliness.

CommonSense1
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Same target market, one more time
CommonSense1   9/23/2013 2:06:59 PM
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Much as I would consider something like this for a commute car, it resembles my previous obsession: the Aptera, a 3 wheeled approach with lots of promise and not enough financing. The Aptera design appears to be resurrected though: http://www.gizmag.com/aptera-independent-production-us/27868/ suggests that there is some possible future for this design.

BMW's i3 is a smallish electric in-town runabout, and BMW offers purchasers some alternatives for those other vehicle needs: you can trade your car at the dealership for a traditional gas-powered car for up to 12 days/year so you can take a driving vacation. Other EV mfgr's could make a similar offer, perhaps partner with a car rental agency or zipcar, etc. to have a flexible option for those who are concerned about a longer drive.

As to size & weight: race cars (NASCAR excepted) are generally pretty light and designed to survive high speed incidents. The Aptera designers said the met Federal crash standards for cars, so that should be less of an issue with good design up front.

elizabethsimon
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Re: Same target market, one more time
elizabethsimon   9/23/2013 2:52:10 PM
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Another one where it remains to be seen if they can get it to market at the target price is Elio

http://www.eliomotors.com/

It looks like a nice concept for a commuter car and if they can build it to sell for their target price I might consider getting one as a motorcycle replacement...

 

junko.yoshida
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Re: Same target market, one more time
junko.yoshida   9/23/2013 5:25:25 PM
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@elizabethsimon, thanks for posting the link to Elio. Definitely, it looks like a good commuter car. 

I think the question we all need to ask is whether the consumer demand for cars -- globally speaking -- is diversifying enough to allow those new types of vehicles that may not be coming from the Big Three in Detroit. 

junko.yoshida
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Re: Same target market, one more time
junko.yoshida   9/23/2013 5:14:33 PM
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@CommonSense1, thanks for posting the link to the Aptera article. 

Yes, this is a very interesting space to watch. While I understand some people's concern about the safety and the mass appeal for such light-weight vehicles, I applaud companies like Aptera and Edison2 flipping the conventional wisdom and trying something new. 

DMcCunney
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Survivability in the Very Light Car
DMcCunney   9/24/2013 12:12:59 PM
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Two personal anecdotes:

An old friend in rural PA drives "boats".  He favors Detriot "big iron", used to drive a Lincoln, and currently drives a restored classic TBird.  He was talking at one point about getting a Humvee.  I said "Don't ask about gas milage..."

He is adamant that he is still alive because of his preference - he was in an accident or two where only the size, weight, and solidity of his car prevented injury to him.

On a similar line, another old friend was recently in an accident.  A car stopped abruptly ahead of her.  The car behind it slammed into the stopped car, and she slammed into the car behind it.  The other cars - large American vehicles - got off with scratches.  Her car - a mid-90s Nissan Ultima - was totaled,  She was shaken but unhurt, but the Nissan's front end simply crumpled under the impact, and it would cost more to repair than the car was worth,  She's currently renting when she needs a car, and the next car will be American made.

So the survivability of the passengers is all very well, but what about the survivability of the car?

I see definite problems selling a vehicle where a "fender bender" might mean your car is totalled, and I don't want to think about what auto insurers would charge to insure a vehicle under those circumstances, assuming they would insure you.

 

DMcCunney
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Economies of scale
DMcCunney   9/24/2013 12:31:30 PM
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Apropos the issue of costs, we get into economies of scale.

Part of the problem the Detroit "Big Three" face is that they are big.

A couple of years back, I was in an online discussion about taxis.  A decade or so ago, the Museum of Modern Art in NYC held a competition to design a purpose built taxi. and published the results as a book, and there was discussion about the practicality of making such a vehicle.

A participant in the discussion was an automotive engineer working for GM at the time.  He asked about the size of the narket.  In NYC, operating a "yellow cab" requires a medallion from the city Taxi and Limousine Commission.  Those are in limited supply, and there are about 12,000 medallion cabs on the streets in NYC.

My GM contact said "Make me laugh."  GM needed to see a minimum market of 350,000 units a year to make building a model worth while.  There were simply too big, with too much overhead, to address small niche markets.  They had to build and sell a lot or none at all.

The only way such a vehicle might be practical for GM to make was if every large city mandated something like it as what taxi owners had to buy and run.

The Edison2 faces those challenges.  It's definitely a niche market car, and none of the big boys will touch it, because they will not be able to make and sell it profitably.  There simply won't be enough volume.

The Edison2 folks might be able to successfully build and sell the Edison2 and make money, but it would be a high-priced niche market item, and the technology would be far less of a factor in the purchase decision than the value as a status marker tp the buyer.

 

junko.yoshida
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Re: Economies of scale
junko.yoshida   9/24/2013 1:19:47 PM
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@DMcCunney, your NYC taxi story is a good anecdote.

In essence, unless there is a sizeable market guaranteed, why would big 3 be interested in going after a niche market? There are no reasons for those guys to lift a finger on anything new.

But in any innovations -- which don't happen often, I understand, things start from a concept that may have no gurantees of success but offers promises of changing the game.

In this instance, VLC represents an indea of moving away from the very concept that the bigger and the heavier the car is, it's better. If that concept -- as you explained in your previous comment, based on anecdotes from your friends -- can't be changed in the U.S., you are right. VLC won't have a chance to win.

But VLC could still get a chance outside the U. S. market. 

 

 

DMcCunney
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Re: Economies of scale
DMcCunney   9/24/2013 1:59:14 PM
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@Junko: There are no reasons for those guys to lift a finger on anything new.

There's the best reason in the world if they think they can sell enough of the new thing to make it worth doing.


As I said, there must be a large potential market to address.


But VLC could still get a chance outside the U. S. market.

It has a chance in the US market, as a high-priced niche market item.


But where outside the US do you think the problems I mentioned in my anecdotes about friend's experiences wouldn't apply?


junko.yoshida
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Re: Economies of scale
junko.yoshida   9/24/2013 5:35:28 PM
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Thanks, DMcCunney. I do understand your points.

But what about so called "low mass, high efficeny designs" that seem to be coming out of different carmakers in the world?

Renault's Twizy, VW Xl-!, Opel's RAK-e, and Toyota-s FT-Bh?

I was going to explore pros and cons of these cars for analysis later...but they are here now and they might represent a new trend on the market, even if they may not be rewarded with an instant volume market.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Economies of scale
junko.yoshida   9/24/2013 5:37:20 PM
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In other words, if I may add, in my opinion, it is too premature to write off a potential demand for light-weight (no mass), high-efficiency cars.

DMcCunney
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Re: Economies of scale
DMcCunney   9/24/2013 5:50:13 PM
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@Juynko: In other words, if I may add, in my opinion, it is too premature to write off a potential demand for light-weight (no mass), high-efficiency cars.

I'm certainly not writing off the potential demand for such a thing.

I am questioning how large that demand might be, and who might find it profitable to address that market.

It won't be Detroit's Big Three.  I simply don't see the market being large enough for them to profitably address.

DMcCunney
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Re: Economies of scale
DMcCunney   9/24/2013 6:02:08 PM
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@Junko: But what about so called "low mass, high efficeny designs" that seem to be coming out of different carmakers in the world?

Renault's Twizy, VW Xl-!, Opel's RAK-e, and Toyota-s FT-Bh?


What about them?  I'll be fascinated to see your analysis when you do the write up.

But I go back to economies of scale.  The bigger you are in any industry, the larger the market has to be for something to make it worth your while to make it.  If you can't do it profitably, you don't do it at all, and as you get larger, the size of the market you need increases.

The questions for all of those designs will be "How big is the potential market? How many could we sell if we made it? What would we have to charge to make money at that volume of production? Could we get that price?"

Different automakers will have different answers to those questions based on their cost structure and the demands of their local market, but you can assume they'll all ask those questions.

They will all invest in producing prototypes to gauge interest and develop technology that may get used elsewhere - "concept cars" are long standing traditions in the industry.  Whether it goes from concept to production is another matter.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Economies of scale
junko.yoshida   9/25/2013 8:20:29 AM
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@DMcCunney, you wrote:

They will all invest in producing prototypes to gauge interest and develop technology that may get used elsewhere - "concept cars" are long standing traditions in the industry.  Whether it goes from concept to production is another matter.


Very true. I do understand the big difference between concept and production. I guess what I was (am still) curious about is whether sometihng like VLC is DOA for US carmakers, or it might get to that "concept" stage... I know, call me an eternal optimist or romantic. I want little guys to win once in a while!

DMcCunney
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Re: Economies of scale
DMcCunney   9/25/2013 11:26:07 AM
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@Junko: . I guess what I was (am still) curious about is whether sometihng like VLC is DOA for US carmakers, or it might get to that "concept" stage...

It might, for the "developing technology that might get used elsewhere" reason I mentioned.  I don't expect a US auto maker (or a large one elsewhere, for that matter) to actually put something like this in production.  There simply won't be a big enough market to do it profitably.

Niche-market manufacturers are common enough.  Consider Lamborgini, makers of high-end sports cars.  They are pretty much hand assembled, the sales of any model is measured in thousands, not hundreds of thousands, and they cost a mint.  They have to.

Again, size matters.  If you are a big company, you need a big market to address and the ability to sell high volumes of whatever it is to do so profitably and survive.

Edison2 might be able to exist as a niche-market maker, but as mentioned elsewhere, the reasons a buyer might choose one of those vehicles will have more to do with status markers than anything else.

 

junko.yoshida
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Re: Economies of scale
junko.yoshida   9/25/2013 1:00:41 PM
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Thanks, DMcCunney. Always good to have a guy who can do a "reality check" for us! Much appreciate it.

DMcCunney
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Re: Economies of scale
DMcCunney   9/25/2013 2:15:20 PM
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@Junko: You're quite welcome

You seem to be on the automotive beat these days.  When you are covering any industry, you really need to have an understanding of the industry, and the forces that drive and shape it.

Industries aren't identical.  There have been any number of classic B school study cases where managers from one industry entered another and thought that what they knew was transferrable, that the new company could be run the way they ran the old one, and found out the hard way they were wrong.  (As an example, look up Bill Agee and Morrison-Knudsen, which Agee almost ran into the ground before M-K's board fired him. Agee was a financial guy who didn't understand the industry M-K was in and thought knowledge of finance was all he needed. He was wrong, and almost killed M-K demonstrating it.)

My interest in this sort of thing can be described as "follow the money".  What is the industry?  What are the markets the industry serves?  What are the business cycles in that industry?  How does a business in that industry make money?

The answers will be rather different for an automaker than for a semi-conductor manufacturer, and understanding the differences is critical in properly covering the industry.

While EETimes covers tech, the tech is not an end in itself - it is a means to an end, and will be applied if it is a means to a particular end the company is trying to achieve.

To the extent I can provide background about an industry like automobiles to make things comprehensible, I'm happy to do so.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Economies of scale
junko.yoshida   9/26/2013 11:33:15 AM
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@DMcCunney, I truly appreciate your honest, straightforward comments here. Yes, I inherited the automotive beat only three months ago. I am still climbing a steep learning curve. So, any help I could get to educate me would be greatly appreciated.

That said, I would also like to think that seeing the automotive industry through a fresh pair of eyes isn't all that bad either.

I may be off base a lot of times, but I also firmly believe that any industry could profit from learning business practices and models they have never subscribed to before. Well, I hate the word, but when so-called "sea changes" hits any good old industry, it's time to change. (or at least trying something new)

But more on it later...I would love to debate on that with you.

 

Bert22306
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Re: Economies of scale
Bert22306   9/24/2013 4:22:32 PM
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"In essence, unless there is a sizeable market guaranteed, why would big 3 be interested in going after a niche market?"

I think DMcCunney is right on target, Junko. This same scenario has been repeated countless times. The answer is always the same. In order to make a low-demand product survive, it has to have a strong niche following, AND it will cost a lot of money. The reason the Detroit automakers aren't interested is only that they are interested in surviving, in the marketplace.

And yet, GM does build the Corvette, right? So it's not like they "don't get it." They understand niche as well as the next guy. But the tiny-car niche in the US is simply very tiny. They come and they go, I mean figuratively and not literally, for that reason.

Or said another way, the "blame" for this goes where blame usually belongs. Not with the automakers, but with the buying public.

betajet
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Re: Economies of scale
betajet   9/24/2013 5:52:05 PM
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The "buying public" can only buy what's actually for sale.  There were about 10 years around the turn of the Century when you couldn't get a small, economical hatchback.  The car companies then would rather sell you an SUV and pocket the profits.  These days I would love to be able to get a nice electric for tooling around town -- it would be the perfect vehicle for a lot of elderly who don't drive enough to keep an ICE happy.  But the available NEVs have awful styling and freeway-capable electrics are expensive overkill.

My mother remembers when she was a little girl in Berkeley CA in the 1930s.  There was an elegant old lady who tooled around down in her electric car -- basically a motorized carriage steered with a tiller.  Perfect vehicle for her needs.

Bert22306
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Re: Economies of scale
Bert22306   9/24/2013 6:15:01 PM
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I hear you, Betajet, but I also posted that very recent Wall Street Journal article about buying trends. Niche markets will exist, but the niche product may or may not surive, and it will cost a lot no matter what.

The other point is, the major automakers do introduce lighter weight materials and improved engines and drivetrains. It's not like they don't care. They HAVE to care, in large part because their fuel economy mandates are going up and up in the next few years. So they have to meet these requirements while still selling cars to people who prefer behemoths.

And the buying public DOES prefer behemoths, here (and elsewhere too, if they could afford to run them). Perhaps if we taxed the living bejeesus out of gasoline, as Europeans do, the buying puclic could be coerced into buying mnore responsibly. The excuse you read over and over again is "safety." In my view, it's more caused by the obesity crisis, and the shift in perceptions that creates. (You know, like anorexic people always see themselves as too heavy, only the other way around.)

paul020
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We need incentives for light cars.
paul020   9/24/2013 1:46:12 PM
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I got to Europe, where gas is $12 a gallon, and everyone drives a small car. In Denmark, the taxes on a new car start at 200% and go up for luxury cars. All cars turn the engine off when stopped in traffic, and restart when you step on the gas.

 

There are traffic jams during rush hour in every major US city. Let's get smaller cars, and make the lanes on the roads narrower, so we have more lanes. Leave 1 lane for SUVs, Trucks, Buses, etc., and do not allow them in the lanes with the light weight cars. The accident problem is that everyone who gets hit by a 10 ton tank wants to be in a 10 ton tank to not get their vehicle damaged. Let's make is costly to drive these gas guzzling killers.

 

Why can't I buy a new car for $5k or $10k in the USA?  Why should I have to spend the $20k, $50k, or $90k that new cars now cost?

DMcCunney
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Re: We need incentives for light cars.
DMcCunney   9/24/2013 1:56:50 PM
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@Paul020: Why can't I buy a new car for $5k or $10k in the USA?  Why should I have to spend the $20k, $50k, or $90k that new cars now cost?

Dead easy: it's not possible to make and sell a car profitably at that price.

Show me a place where you can buy a new car for $5K or $10K, and if you can, tell me if you would want to own and drive it.

And note that gas prices in Europe are at least partly a result of government regulation.  A good bit of the price is taxes specifically intended to increase the price and reduce consumption, because they don't for the most part have domestic petroleum sources and don't wish to be dependent on imported supplies.

jmoore852
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Battery capacity is a joke
jmoore852   9/24/2013 2:29:10 PM
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One aspect that has gone unchallenged is the 10kWh battery for electric.


That may be fine for propulsion, but how about heating and cooling? Nobody here in Phoenix is going to buy a car where the battery can only power two hours or so of A/C (5kW load).

I doubt if folks in much of the rest of the country will be excited when turning on the heater has the same effect.

Frank Eory
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Re: Battery capacity is a joke
Frank Eory   9/24/2013 3:56:05 PM
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Excellent point. The A/C issue has been one of my concerns about owning an EV -- any EV -- in our hot climate. Even for short commutes, A/C is mandatory for 8 months out of the year, and at least somewhat desirable during the other 4 months!

krisi
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Google?
krisi   9/24/2013 5:26:25 PM
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the article mentions Google selling autonomously driven cars...I don't think Google sells those...they might be able to receive a sliver of revenues in teh future (if and when these happen) but they clearly have no capability to build and sell cars!

junko.yoshida
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Re: Google?
junko.yoshida   9/24/2013 5:41:00 PM
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No, Krisi, I never said that Google is selling autonomous cars. I should know better. I wrote:

Google is selling the promise of self-driving cars

goafrit
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Re: Google?
goafrit   10/9/2013 10:33:15 PM
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That is true - Google cannot make cars and no one should attribute that to them. What I see in the future is Google having partnership with car companies to modify some of their vehicles to be Google-ready and that means connect the tools you can have a self-driving car. The Bosch, TRW etc  of this world have a new sector and anyone that wins the Google contract will have a great few decades.

krisi
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promise
krisi   9/24/2013 5:56:22 PM
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You did Yunko, I just didn't read it carefully...selling the promise sounds exactly as it should: this just a promise

junko.yoshida
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Re: promise
junko.yoshida   9/25/2013 8:35:36 AM
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I think what is missed in our conversation so far on this VLC topic is the following.

As the auto industry continues to remain as the low margin business, traditional carmakers aren't getting much traction or investment from the investment community.

In contrast, those who stand outside the automotive industry (read: Tesla, Google) are getting money from investors "on the promise" of delivering something (read: margin) that Big 3 can't offer. 

I think that's the point made by Kuttner in his speech, and it's worth giving some thoughts to -- if the auto industry needs to move forward.

krisi
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Re: promise
krisi   9/25/2013 10:06:37 AM
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Point well taken Junko...it is understable that VC community is trying to place some bets that have a *chance* of paying off...Tesla/Google makes much more sense than Ford in this case...Kris

DMcCunney
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Re: promise
DMcCunney   9/25/2013 12:02:50 PM
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@Junko: As the auto industry continues to remain as the low margin business, traditional carmakers aren't getting much traction or investment from the investment community.


This is an over-simplified viewpoint.  There's a difference between the need to have a large market to do something in the first place, and the margins you can make if you do.

Automakers have been battered by increasing globalization.  The days are long gone when GM was concerned with keeping its US market share below 35% to avoid anti-trust actions, and "foreign cars" were a niche market in the US and competition was between the Big Three.

As the global economy increasingly flattened, the Big Three weren't competing with each other in the US market - they were competing with the likes of Toyota and Nissan in the world market. The GM that emerged from bankruptcy as a going concern did so in part by shrinking: the Oldmobile and Pontiac brands no longer exist.  GM was in some respects competing with itself in its lineup.  Customers who bought a Pontiac weren't buying a Chevrolet.

The old GM had a carefully thought out marketing segmentation strategy from Chevrolet low-end to Cadillac high-end, but that segmentation became increasingly counter-productive in a global market.  (Incidentally, I highly recommend the late Alfred P. Sloan's "My Years With General Motors" as background reading.  Sloan was CEO of GM during the formative years, and was largely responsible for the powerhouse GM became.)

The US automakers aren't the only ones facing the issues.  Foreign makers have merged to get economies of scale or ceased to exist, because they couldn't drive costs low enough or sales high enough to remain going concerns.

They are simply recapitulating what happens in any industry.  As competition occurs, some players win and get bigger, some lose and get acquired or cease to exist, and you are left with a few big players and an assortment of niche market vendors addressing areas the big guys can't do profitably.

In contrast, those who stand outside the automotive industry (read: Tesla, Google) are getting money from investors "on the promise" of delivering something (read: margin) that Big 3 can't offer.

A friend recently bought a Tesle, and is over the moon about it.  He bought the model one step above the base model, and paid $80K.  He said "You put down a $5K deposit, and you get to take a test drive.  If you don't like it, they'll return your deposit, but you won't ask for the deposit back because the car is awesome and you will like it..."

His model gets about 200miles on a charge.  It's splendid for the local driving he does.  If he planned to travel any greater distance it would take planning, and he might find it better to just rent a standard car.  Even if there are charging stations en route, you can't recharge an electric car as fast as you refill a gas tank.  Even the "fast" high-voltage charging option is relative: insread of leaving the car plugged in over night, you leave it plugged in for an hour or so, and plan on having a leisurely dinner or something while you wait.

Bert22306
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Re: promise
Bert22306   9/25/2013 4:52:08 PM
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I'm not at all certain that eliminating Olds, Pontiac, and Saturn was necessary for GM's survival, actually. I think it was done more to appease the government officials who were bailing them out, than anything that made economic good sense. It was window dressing.

The various divisions were ALREADY sharing parts and production facilities. The branding was not typically a complete duplication of effort by any means. Remember a few decades back when clueless consumers were "surprised" and "outraged" that Oldsmobiles were being sold "with Chevy engines"? Which parenthetically, if they knew about engines, should have made them elated rather than outraged? That's the norm, not the exception.

Cars like the Pontiac G6, the Saturn Aura, the Chevy Malibu (first version), Chevy Impala (new model), the Buick LaCrosse, the Opel Vectra, and the Vauxall, are the same platform. All worked out, with just a different mix of options, perhas different suspension tuning, and slightly different sheetmetal. Same goes for the new Chevy Malibu, Buick Regal, and Opel Insignia. The design is there, it's not like every division is creating something brand new. If the public perceive it to be that way, that's actually great for GM. But we shouldn't be misled into thinking this was a huge waste of money, because it wasn't.

It's not at all clear to me that attracting a wider audience, by offering different looks or different option packages, is a bad thing, in truth.

DMcCunney
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Re: promise
DMcCunney   9/26/2013 6:40:52 PM
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I'm not at all certain that eliminating Olds, Pontiac, and Saturn was necessary for GM's survival, actually. I think it was done more to appease the government officials who were bailing them out, than anything that made economic good sense. It was window dressing.

I don't know.  The problem the Big Three faced was globalization.  GM's competition wasn't just Ford and Chrysler.  It was Toyota, Nissan, and Honda, Mercedes, BMW, and Volkswagen, Renault and Peugot, Volvo, Audi... 

At some point, too many makes and models becomes counter-productive, because you can't sell enough of many of them to make it worth doing.

It's possibe GM could have survived with Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Saturn still in the fold, but I'd be reluctant to place a bet on it.  (Though Penske Automotive did try to acquire the Saturn operation, and thought they could make a go of it.)

The various divisions were ALREADY sharing parts and production facilities. The branding was not typically a complete duplication of effort by any means. Remember a few decades back when clueless consumers were "surprised" and "outraged" that Oldsmobiles were being sold "with Chevy engines"? Which parenthetically, if they knew about engines, should have made them elated rather than outraged? That's the norm, not the exception.

I was watching GM's consolidation and rationalization for decades, so I mostly agree.  I recall the tempest in a teapot about Olds using Chevy mills, but didn't see the problem.  If Chevrolet had an engine model suitable for use in an Olds, it made mode sense to increase the output of the Chevy engine plant than to have a seperate one making them for Oldsmobiles.


But even with that consolidation, seperate brands have seperate overhead.  They have thier own management, design and engineering staffs, marketing operations, and assembly lines where completed cars are built.  And they'll have seperate P&Ls where their portion of shared costs will be allocated along with costs that are unique to them and not shared, and revenues from sales of their models.

Top management at a place like GM are fundamentally custodians of Other People's Money, responsible for investing corporate funds where they will get the highest return.  Sometimes, the best decision is to simply fold an underperforming division, because it doesn't look like it can be fixed and the resources it consumes are better allocated elsewhere.

It's not at all clear to me that attracting a wider audience, by offering different looks or different option packages, is a bad thing, in truth.


It isn't, if you can sell enough of a particular model.  The risk you run is competing with yourself rather than your competitors.  Like I said earlier, buyers who bought a Pontiac weren't buying a Chevy.

 

As an aside, one of the books in my collection is Otto Freidrich's "Decline and Fall", about the old Curtis Publishing Publishing company, which published the Saturday Evening Post.  (Freidrich was Foreign Editor at the Post.)  Curtis was structured so that each magazine was a division, as was the plant that printed the Curtis titles, and the Curtis Circulation arm that distributed them.

Curtis was in trouble.  Like any other magazine publisher, the revenues from newsstand sales and subscriptions didn't even cover the direct costs of production.  The difference, and any profit, came from advertsing revenue, and ads in general interest magazines like the Post were declining as advertisers shifted funds to more specialized publications focused on the sort of goods they sold.

At one board meeting, the head of the printing plant said that his division ought to get special treatment because it was the only part of Curtis that was profitable.  His business all came from the various Curtis magazines that he charged back internally for printing them, and the fact that if they went belly up, so did he, never seemed to have occurred to him.  And it was only the fact that they were Curtis magazines, required to use his plant, that made them customers.  Curtis had not invested in the plant, his shop was far behind the curve, and if he had to compete for outside business he woudn't be able to.

You can find similar stories in automaking and semi-conductor electronics...



Bert22306
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Re: promise
Bert22306   9/26/2013 7:17:05 PM
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"At one board meeting, the head of the printing plant said that his division ought to get special treatment because it was the only part of Curtis that was profitable.  His business all came from the various Curtis magazines that he charged back internally for printing them, and the fact that if they went belly up, so did he, never seemed to have occurred to him."

That's too hysterically funny! Unbelievable that this came as a surprise. I have noticed this attitude in large corporations, though. The divisions that don't seem to "get" when their function is purely incestuous, as opposed to the divisions that actually bring in the bacon.

As to "buyers who bought a Pontiac weren't buying a Chevy," that's not always the case. If the buying public thought so, great for GM. Example: Camaro vs Firebird, towards the end of production of the previous version. They were, in fact, all produced at the same plant, as well as consisting of the same bits. Ford played these same games at different times, with some of their Mercury vs Ford models. So the waste and duplication were not what the average joe was led to believe.

On Chevy V-8s in Oldmsobiles, I guess my main point there was that the Chevy engine was a better deal. There was a mix of Olds or Chevy 350 cid engines sold in these cars. Aside from the fact that a Martian coming to earth probably couldn't tell them apart, the Chevy engine had oodles more aftermarket tuning options than the Olds. Those small block Chevy V-8s were excellent engines in every respect (for their day). So who in his right mind would object? On what basis?

Oh, and I should have added Alfa Romeo 159 and Saab 9-5, to the list of cars that were built on the Epsilon platform (Pontiac G6, Saturn Aura, Chevy Malibu (old) and Impala (new), Buick LaCrosse, Opel Vectra).

Bert22306
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Who gets VC funds?
Bert22306   9/25/2013 4:35:33 PM
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I'm not clear on whether who gets VC funds is a good indicator of anything but size? Would a big company like GM even seek VC funds? I didn't think so, but I don't know for sure. My impression is that it's only startups with some (hopefully) cool new concept that search for such funding.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Who gets VC funds?
junko.yoshida   9/26/2013 11:15:45 AM
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@Bert, true. When it comes to VC funds, yes, it's the start-up who needs it. But that said, if a big old company wants to do something entirely different and innovative, which could possibly move its business forward, wouldn't they seek for external investment?

Bert22306
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Re: Who gets VC funds?
Bert22306   9/26/2013 4:53:50 PM
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Yeah, that's what I don't know, Junko. I've never seen that happening (big company seeking VC funds), and I work for a large company.

VC funding or not, I would be mighty surprised if the large autmakers aren't experimenting with a whole host of new things, especially because they now have the increasing fuel economy mandates looming over their heads, not to mention a lot more COMPETENT global competition than they had a few decades ago.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Who gets VC funds?
junko.yoshida   9/26/2013 5:34:44 PM
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@Bert, I agree, absolutely. I look forward to the day when I can write about large automakers experimenting a whole host of new things...and I am not being cynical here. I mean it. 

junko.yoshida
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Light cars at ITS World Congress
junko.yoshida   10/17/2013 7:25:26 PM
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Not exactly Edison2's VLC, but variations of Light Cars were visible at ITS World Congress in Japan this week.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Light cars at ITS World Congress
junko.yoshida   10/17/2013 7:26:38 PM
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See some of the examples of Light Cars shown at ITS World Congress in the slideshow below:

http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1319820&

junko.yoshida
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Re: Light cars at ITS World Congress
junko.yoshida   10/21/2013 11:32:39 PM
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It was obvious to me that how to handle "personal" mobility issues in cities is on the mind of lot of Japanese carmakers.

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