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0:23 FCA Posts Q3 Profit
0:57 Daimler Posts Impressive Q3 Earnings
1:15 Daimler Boosts Stake in Aston Martin
2:04 Waymo & Daimler Trucks Form Autonomous Partnership
2:32 Hyundai JV To Launch Robotaxi Service in U.S.
3:02 CR Says Autopilot Is Distant Second Behind Super Cruise
4:42 Jaguar Introduces New E-Pace
5:53 Harley Creates New eBike Brand
6:53 Kia Developing Military Vehicles for South Korea
7:32 GM Defense Delivers First ISVs To U.S. Army
7:53 Magna Reveals Digital Rear-View Mirror
8:35 Acura TLX & Lexus IS Battle Heats Up
This is Autoline Daily, the show dedicated to enthusiasts of the global automotive industry.
FCA POSTS Q3 PROFIT
2020 sure is turning out to be one weird year. Take a look at FCA’s third quarter earnings. It sold fewer vehicles and brought in less revenue, but profits skyrocketed to $1.4 billion. In North America, FCA hit a 13.8% EBIT profit margin, which is stunningly good. As we’ve been reporting, with inventory tight in the U.S. market, automakers don’t have to offer any discounts and so they’re getting top dollar for every vehicle they sell.
DAIMLER POSTS IMPRESSIVE Q3 EARNINGS
And it’s the same story at Daimler. It reported lower sales for the third quarter, and lower revenue. But it posted a strong operating profit and net profit. Even more impressive, Daimler’s free cash flow nearly doubled to over 5 billion euros.
DAIMLER BOOSTS STAKE IN ASTON MARTIN
In what we think is a curious move, Daimler also increased its ownership in Aston Martin. Daimler already owns a little over 2% of Aston, but it’s going to boost that to 20%. That will give Aston access to Daimler’s technology, including electric powertrains. Here’s why we think it’s a curious move. Daimler is trying to slash costs. It’s going to get rid of a bunch of models and pour all the savings into EVs. And while it will be nice to have Aston Martin buy Mercedes technology, Aston’s sales volume is so small, about 6,500 cars a year, that it really doesn’t help Mercedes get greater scale. So why are they doing it? We don’t have a good answer. Do you?
WAYMO & DAIMLER TRUCKS FORM AUTONOMOUS PARTNERSHIP
But here’s a move from Daimler that makes all the sense in the world. It’s partnering with Waymo to develop Level 4 autonomy for heavy trucks. They’re going to start with Freightliner’s electric Cascadia truck and move to other brands in the future. Daimler also owns Mercedes-Benz Trucks, Western Star, FUSO in Japan, BharatBenz in India and Thomas Built Buses in the United States.
HYUNDAI JV TO LAUNCH ROBOTAXI SERVICE IN U.S.
And in other autonomous news, Hyundai and Aptiv’s self-driving joint venture Motional, is partnering with public transit technology firm, Via, to launch a robotaxi service in the U.S. in the first half of next year. The companies want to study how driverless vehicles can be integrated into mass transit networks and optimized for pooled rides. The location of the service and its initial market launch will be announced at a later date.
CR SAYS AUTOPILOT IS DISTANT SECOND BEHIND SUPER CRUISE
And now we switch from fully autonomous vehicles to semi-autonomous cars. Consumer Reports has been ranking automaker’s advanced driver assistance systems since 2018. And for the third year in a row, Cadillac’s Super Cruise came out on top. It beat Tesla’s Autopilot, which Consumer Reports says is now a distant second to GM’s system. At the same time, other automakers are closing in on Tesla. Researchers evaluated 17 systems this year and a Cadillac CT6 with Super Cruise earned 69 out of a possible 100 points, while a Model Y with Autopilot received 57 points, just five points ahead of Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 system in the Lincoln Corsair. The main reason Super Cruise is number one is, it does a better job of monitoring the driver. If it detects the driver is not paying attention, it will issue multiple warnings and if the driver still doesn’t respond, the system will slow the car down, eventually bringing it to a stop.
JAGUAR INTRODUCES NEW E-PACE
Jaguar took the wraps off the new E-Pace, which gets refreshed styling both inside and out. It’s built on a new architecture, which improves both comfort and ride and handling. The E-Pace is now available with a plug-in hybrid, which features a 1.5L three-cylinder turbo, an 80-kW electric motor at the rear axle and a 15-kWh lithium-ion battery. The setup provides 34 miles of all-electric range. In addition to the plug-in, the E-Pace offers a wide range of powertrains, including three diesel and five gasoline options and all but one of those is offered with a 48-volt mild-hybrid. Moving to the interior, it comes with a new 11.4-inch curved-glass touchscreen and touchpoints around the instrument cluster are wrapped in soft touch materials. And the E-Pace now has over-the-air software update capability. It’s available to order now in the UK with a starting price of just over 32,500 pounds or a little more than $42,000.
HARLEY CREATES NEW eBIKE BRAND
Harley-Davidson created a new brand that’s only going to make eBicycles. The Serial 1 Cycle Company, which takes its name from Harley’s oldest known motorcycle, will make premium pedal-assisted electric bicycles, the first of which will launch in Spring of 2021. The company emerged from a skunkworks program inside the Product Development Center that was focused on making eBikes worthy of the Harley-Davidson name. As you can see, what they came up with blends classic styling cues with modern touches. White tires, a large saddle-colored seat with exposed springs and wrapped hand grips are what tie it to Harley’s original bikes, while a rubber drive belt, disc brakes and LED lighting bring it into the modern era. Like the LiveWire, we expect Serial 1’s premium eBikes to carry a premium price tag.
KIA DEVELOPING MILITARY VEHICLES FOR SOUTH KOREA
Here’s something a little surprising, Kia is going to start developing vehicles for the South Korean military. Tests start next year and the goal will be to see the vehicles deployed by 2024. It’s working on a modular approach for a number of 2.5- and 5-ton vehicles, one of which looks a heck-of-a-lot like a HUMVEE. Another open-top, all-terrain vehicle will be based on the bare chassis of the Kia Mohave SUV. As we said yesterday, Kia wants to get into PBVs or purpose-built vehicles and it says learnings from these military projects will help it do that.
GM DEFENSE DELIVERS FIRST ISVs TO U.S. ARMY
In other military news, GM Defense delivered its first Infantry Squad Vehicle, which is based on the Chevy Colorado ZR2, to the U.S. Army. The 9-passenger vehicle is part of a $214 million contract awarded to GM Defense that will see it make 649 ISVs over 8 years.
MAGNA REVEALS DIGITAL REAR-VIEW MIRROR
Gentex, the maker of digital rear-view mirrors, is getting some competition. Magna announced its CLEARVIEW technology will hit the market in 2022. CLEARVIEW combines three outside cameras into one display on the rear-view mirror. It can still be used as a traditional mirror or show up to three camera views at the same time.
ACURA TLX & LEXUS IS BATTLE HEATS UP
Lexus and Acura are going head-to-head in the sport sedan segment with the all new IS and TLX, and we just had both of them in the Autoline Garage. Up to now Acura has been winning the war, with the TLX easily outselling the IS. But this story is far from over because the new IS is coming on strong. Wards Intelligence reports that IS sales were up more than 66% last month, and it’s closing the gap fast. So which one is better? That depends on your tastes. Let’s start with the IS. It came out around 20 years ago to add some zip and emotion to the Lexus line which was criticized as being too bland. And while it was a reasonably competent car, it never generated a passionate following of enthusiasts. The latest version is better than ever. It has more power, a substantially upgraded suspension and better brakes. But being a Lexus, it still leans towards quiet and comfort more than raw performance. You can choose to drive in Sport Mode, which livens things up, but this car is never going to scare you.
The Acura TLX isn’t going to scare you either, but it’s a car that feels more alive than the IS. From a seat of the pants perspective it feels somewhat lighter and nimbler, and more connected to the road. But since we did not do any instrumented testing, we can’t back that up with numbers. The best we can offer you is a butt in the seat calibration. Acura definitely improved the TLX over the outgoing model, but from a driving standpoint you really need to take it to a track to appreciate the improvements. If you’d like to learn a lot more about the TLX, take a look at Autoline After Hours episode 528, where Jason Ray and Ken Sheridan took us deep into that program. So here’s our bottom line. If you care more about a comfortable daily driver yet still have some fun on the open road, the Lexus IS gets the nod. If you want a bit more performance and a bit more connection to the road, then go with the TLX. It’s hard to recommend one over the other, so if you’re in the market we say try them both.
Cars sales are coming back fast. Car companies are posting higher profits. So has the market recovered, or are we on the edge of another cliff as we hit a second wave of the pandemic? That’s what we’re going to be talking about tomorrow on Autoline After Hours with Charlie Chesbrough, the chief economist for Cox Automotive. If you want to know what the automotive experts are saying, join John and Gary tomorrow for some of the best insights into what’s going on in the automotive industry.
But that’s it for today’s show. Thanks for watching and we hope to see you again tomorrow.
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John McElroy is an influential thought leader in the automotive industry. He is a journalist, lecturer, commentator and entrepreneur. He created “Autoline Daily,” the first industry webcast of industry news and analysis.