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0:08 London Buses Going Electric
1:02 Legacy Suppliers Sniffing Out Mergers
1:50 Nikola Beats Estimates, But Struggles with Production
3:01 Go Camping with Electric Mercedes
3:48 China-Only Buick Century Is Super-Luxe
4:47 Daylight Savings Prevents Accidents
5:50 Don’t Drive These Dodges & Chryslers
7:11 BMW Edging Towards Direct Sales
7:52 Chevrolet Triax Pioneered Skateboard Chassis
This is Autoline Daily, the show dedicated to enthusiasts of the global automotive industry.
LONDON BUSES GOING ELECTRIC
Three of the most iconic images in London are Big Ben, the London taxi, and those red, double decker buses. Well, now it’s looking for new electric versions of those buses. Transport for London, also called TfL, is the government entity that handles public transportation in London and it’s evaluating several zero-emission buses. One is the New Routemaster bus that’s powered by a diesel-hybrid powertrain, except that a company called Equipmake designed a retrofit kit to make it fully electric. Another is called the iTram and it’s made by a Spanish company called Irizar. It uses a wireless pantograph charging system in the roof that will connect with chargers installed at the end of each route, and reportedly can recharge the batteries in only 5 minutes.
LEGACY SUPPLIERS SNIFFING OUT MERGERS
Well, it’s starting to happen. We’re starting to see legacy automotive suppliers that provide components for ICE drivetrains plan their exit strategy. American Axle is looking for someone to buy it out. Bloomberg reports it’s in talks with the British company Melrose Industries, which owns GKN. American Axle also contacted BorgWarner and Dana. While electric vehicles use prop shafts, they typically don’t need drive shafts or transfer cases. So the market for those components is going to shrink over time. That’s why suppliers like American Axle will probably merge with one of their competitors, so that the surviving company maintains its manufacturing scale.
NIKOLA BEATS ESTIMATES, BUT STRUGGLES WITH PRODUCTION
EV startup Nikola is doing better than expected, but still has a long way to go. Its third quarter earnings beat analyst expectations, but the company is struggling to ramp up production. It posted revenue of $24.3 million last quarter, that’s about $2 million better than analysts expected. It built 75 trucks compared to 50 in the previous quarter and it delivered 63 of them. But it will not meet its target of delivering at least 300 trucks this year and will not not provide any guidance for the fourth quarter or full-year.
GO CAMPING WITH ELECTRIC MERCEDES
During lockdowns at the height of the pandemic people got stir crazy sitting in their homes all day, so they started venturing into the great outdoors. And based on the number of campervans and motorhomes we keep on seeing it looks like a trend that’s here to stay. Mercedes recently showed an easy-to-install camping module, which has a bed and kitchen unit, for the all-new T-Class van. And soon it’s going to reveal a concept camper based on the all-electric version of that van, the EQT. It will also get camping features that it says are easy to remove in a few simple steps, but it’s not providing details about what those features are. A production version of this van is supposed to launch in the second half of next year.
CHINA-ONLY BUICK CENTURY IS SUPER-LUXE
If you ever wanted an example of how Chinese car buyers are different from Americans, look no further than the new Century van that Buick launched in China. It’s an ultra-luxury van that costs between $73,300 and almost $95,500. That’s something American buyers would never go for. Its styling is more along the lines of Buick’s new EV design philosophy, but it’s powered by a 2.0L turbocharged engine paired to a 9-speed automatic and 48-volt mild hybrid technology. But the real story with this van is the interior. It has three rows of captain chairs with the second row featuring heating and massage functions and even a foot rest. And for those that want ultimate privacy, there’s a partition between the first and second rows that comes with a massive, sliding 32-inch display screen.
DAYLIGHT SAVINGS PREVENTS ACCIDENTS
Having to deal with daylight saving time can be a real hassle. Change the clock. Get up early. Why is it dark at 7PM? And according to a new report published by journal Current Biology, having to make that switch is causing a lot of accidents. When we’re operating on standard time, people are more likely to drive when it’s dark during rush hour in the evenings, which results in more accidents. But according to the report, if we switched to year-round daylight saving time it would prevent 33 deaths and 2,000 injuries and save about $1.2 billion in repair costs. Most of that is caused by accidents with deer. The time change causes 37,000 collisions with deer each year. Oh, and just in case you wanted to know, if we switch to full time standard time it would cause 66 more deaths and an additional $2 billion in vehicle damage.
DON’T DRIVE THESE DODGES & CHRYSLERS
Just when you thought that the Takata airbag debacle was over, Stellantis is telling nearly 276,000 owners in the U.S. to immediately stop driving their Dodge Magnums, Challengers and Chargers as well as the Chrysler 300. The stop order applies to model years 2005 through 2010. Three more people in those kinds of vehicles were killed because of Takata airbags. But the stop order only applies to owners who didn’t have their airbag inflators replaced. Replacement parts have been available since 2015 but many owners have ignored the recall. Stellantis says it has enough parts to fix all the vehicles, which is free to do and takes less than an hour.
BMW EDGING TOWARDS DIRECT SALES
Legacy automakers keep pushing the limits of how they want to work with their dealers. Now BMW says it wants to sell vehicles directly to customers, at least in Europe. BMW will let customers skip going to the dealer and buy vehicles directly from the automaker instead. It starts in 2024 with Mini and with BMW models in 2026. BMW’s CFO says they’re in what he calls “constructive talks” with their dealers about the new plan. Europe does not have the restrictive dealer franchise laws that exist in the US, and automakers there have a freer hand to choose how they want to sell cars.
CHEVROLET TRIAX PIONEERED SKATEBOARD CHASSIS
Twenty years ago, General Motors unveiled one of the most advanced concept cars of all time, the Autonomy. What made it so unique is that it pioneered a skateboard chassis that incorporated a fuel cell. The steering and braking controls were by-wire, and it featured 4 hub motors. Ever since then the Autonomy was credited with inventing the skateboard chassis. But yesterday, on Autoline After Hours, former GM executive Bob Purcell said an earlier concept car, the Chevrolet Triax also used a skateboard chassis, and a very innovative powertrain. It could run in EV mode in 2-wheel drive, or could run in hybrid mode in 4-wheel drive, and ICE mode in 4-wheel drive, with the power coming from a .66 liter V-shaped 3-cylinder engine. Bob Purcell led the engineering effort at GM on the EV1 as well as a number of other advanced projects. You can watch that show on our website and YouTube channel or listen to it as a podcast. Purcell has a lot of fascinating things to say about electric vehicles.
But that brings us to the end of today’s show. Thanks for making Autoline a part of your day and I hope you have a great weekend.
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Seamus and Sean McElroy cover the latest news in the automotive industry for Autoline Daily.