June 14th, 2012 at 11:45am
BMW just announced the price of its futuristic-looking hybrid, the i8, and man, it ain’t cheap! Who says big things don’t come in small packages? Mercedes-Benz and the folks at AMG are hard at work developing the performance version of the company’s new A-Class and it is going to be unimaginably powerful. In its effort to cut traffic deaths in half by 2020, Euro NCAP will add autonomous emergency braking tests to its crash ratings in 2014. All that and more, plus John proposes a brand-new racing series where the only rule is there are no rules.
Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily for June 14. I’m John McElroy and here’s the news.
CLOSIN’ UP SHOP
Looks like the beginning of a move to close some assembly plants in Europe is starting to happen. GM announced it will close the Opel plant in Bochum, Germany, but not until the end of 2016. Analysts estimate that five assembly plants have to close in Europe to eliminate 2 million units of overcapacity. The fact that it takes nearly five years to close a plant doesn’t bode well for European manufacturers. This almost ensures they will lose a lot of money for the next five years, except for the German automakers, which do not have overcapacity problems.
BMW just announced the price of its futuristic looking hybrid, the i8. It will retail for €100,000, or about $125,000. BMW says it will sell the car in Germany through a mobile force of sale people, with no dealerships, and use the internet instead. The i8 will compete against the Fisker Karma which is priced at $103,000.
SWABIAN SCUD MISSILE
Who says big things don’t come in small packages? Mercedes-Benz and the folks at AMG are hard at work developing the performance version of the company’s new A-Class. Internally it’s referred to as the A45, externally it’s targeting competitors like the BMW M1 and upcoming Audi RS3. Under the hood this Swabian SCUD missile will be powered by a 2.0-liter turbo delivering an estimated 370 horsepower! That is an absolutely astonishing figure and it gives this little four-pot a specific output of 185 horsepower per liter! That’s unheard of for a production vehicle. Torque should weigh in at around 300 pound-feet. With this much vigor all-wheel drive had better be part of the equation. Interestingly, like other AMG engines every 2.0-liter turbo will be hand assembled by one person.
A mathematics professor at Drexel University has patented a new type of rear view mirror that was inspired by a disco ball of all things. Traditional mirrors are flat and give a limited field of vision – between 15 and 17 degrees. But this mirror spans a blind-spot killing 45 degrees. This mirror is not simply a curved pane of glass. Instead, its surface is made up of a vast array of tiny wide-angle mirrors. Each individual reflection may be slightly distorted but the overall image remains true. Unfortunately U.S. regulations require new vehicles to have flat mirrors on the driver’s side. It’s another example of unneeded regulation that is stifling innovation.
EURO NCAP PUSHING SAFETY ENVELOPE
In its effort to cut traffic deaths in half by 2020, Euro NCAP will add autonomous emergency braking tests to its crash ratings in 2014. The technology uses Radar, Lidar, and/or video cameras to help drivers avoid crashes by warning them or applying the brakes automatically if the driver doesn’t react. The agency says the system can help reduce accidents by 27 percent. Currently, two-thirds of automakers in Europe don’t offer autonomous emergency braking and only 20 percent of new car models are available with it. But if they can’t get five-star ratings without that technology they will start to offer it.
CAMRY? NO, CAMMATTE
Toyota just unveiled a funky concept at the International Tokyo Toy Show called the Camatte. It seats up to three people and is designed to be a family oriented, customizable vehicle that even children can use. The pedals and seats can be adjusted for a kid while the parent controls steering and braking. The body features removable panels to enable different design and color combinations.
Coming up next, it’s time for a whole new approach to motor racing, what I call Formula None.
Some of my favorite race cars of all time include the amazing Silver Arrows from Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz in the 1930s, the futuristic-looking Chaparral Can-Am cars that tore up the tracks in the 1960s, and the captivating winged Superbirds and Daytonas that swept through the superspeedways in the early 1970s.
From roughly 1900 to 1970 motor racing was as much about developing new automotive technology as it was about being a spectator sport. Important innovations in powertrain technology, metallurgy, aerodynamics, suspension geometry, steering and brakes, were transferred from the race track to the assembly line during those 70 years. Racing improved the breed.
Today, most car companies use motor racing simply as a marketing tool and almost all racing categories have become spec series in which teams are forced to develop very similar if not identical cars. But that doesn’t produce technological breakthroughs.
My idea is to form a racing series called Formula None. There would be no rules. You just “run what you brung.” The size, shape, weight, powertrain and fuel would be determined by each team. The idea would be to turn the engineers loose and see what happens. Actually, there would be some simple rules for a safety cocoon to protect the driver.
Formula None would attract participants and sponsors from outside the automotive industry, especially from the aerospace, defense and electronics industry. It would certainly cross-pollinate different industries with new ideas and designs. Can you imagine the public’s anticipation to see what the teams would show up with every year?
I’m throwing the idea out there in the hopes that someone grabs it and runs with it, even if it just starts out as a once-a-year race, maybe as a support race for one of the bigger events. But over time Formula None could become the biggest and most relevant racing series of them all.
A programming note here, Autoline After Hours will not be running tonight, but will return to its normally scheduled time next Thursday. And that is going to be a very unique show. We’re going to be celebrating the 15th anniversary of Autoline and we’ll have a great cast of guests appearing on the show. It may even be something of a first on the internet. You won’t want to miss it.
But that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching and please join us again tomorrow.