Simanaitis Says

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AUTO NEWS—THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE DOPEY

FOR AWHILE THERE, the world’s pandemic put something of a hold on automotive news. Now that we’re reopening and, not surprisingly, occasionally reclosing, there seems to be a lot of news from the world of automobiles. Here’s a selection from SAE International, Automotive News, June 26 and July 6, 2020, and my usual Internet sleuthing.

Electric Car Update. As part of its Tech Briefs, SAE International offered its members a Special Report: Vehicle Electrification July 2020. This 31-page report has articles on methodologies of testing battery materials, electric motor design enhanced by 3D printing, motor modeling, battery-electric and fuel-cell-electric Class 8 trucks, and GM’s transition from hybrid to BEV (battery electric vehicle) focus.

As one example, a CAST (Common Architecture and Shared Technologies) strategy has enhanced Volvo Group’s plans for bringing a variety of BEV trucks available for commercial use by the end of 2020. Included are single-unit trucks as well as tractors in three axle configurations: 4×2, 6×2 liftable, and 6×4.

Volvo engineers converted North American-spec tractors from diesel to battery power using powertrain elements from electric trucks already running in Europe. This and the following image from Vehicle Electrification July 2020.

Its VNR (Volvo North American Regional) Electric trucks can be configured to use either four or six 66-kWh battery packs. Range depends on many factors; Volvo has cited the trucks “will be used on routes that are between 75 and 175 miles.”

With this in mind, the Port of Long Beach “will add a public heavy-duty 150-kW DC fast charging for drayage truck operations.” Also part of the project is overnight replenishment at base, done with sequential recharging of a truck fleet.

Vehicle Subscriptions? For years, automakers have mulled over an innovative pattern of car use: subscription to the marque, rather than purchase or lease of a specific vehicle. The idea is tantalizing: Drive an efficient commuter during the week, swap for something family practical or personally exotic, depending upon weekend or vacation plans.

In Automotive News, June 29, 2020, Urvaksh Karkaria reports, “Mercedes’ Conclusion About Its Subscription Trial? In a Word: Meh.” The Mercedes-Benz Collection offered four membership tiers with some 30 model variants for a monthly fee ranging from $1095 to $3595. This included insurance, 24/7 roadside assistance, and vehicle maintenance.

Initially offered in Nashville and Philadelphia, it expanded last summer to Atlanta, home to Mercedes’ U.S. headquarters. “The service drew a few hundred customers,” Karkaria writes. But Mercedes chose to halt the project this summer.

Mercedes U.S. sales chief said, “If demand would have been unbelievable, then it could have gone further.”

One shortcoming was subscribers soon being happy to settle into one vehicle. The business model requires sufficient swapping: “Without vehicle churn,” Karkaria notes, “the automaker would have to stock large volumes of each model variant, making the program too expensive.”

Karkaria cites other subscription attempts: Book by Cadillac “was put on hiatus in 2018 after few customers bit at the service’s $1800-per-month price.” GM is testing a rebooted program in a dealer pilot.

Ford gave up its program last fall. By contrast, Karkaria notes, “Porsche is seeing enough demand to justify expansion of the program to additional U.S. cities this year, a spokesman said.”

That’s Why They Call It Dope. Automotive News, July 6, 2020, describes two guys who give crime a bad name. In one, “A Lincoln dealership in Beaver Dam, Wis., says a customer took a used MKC on a five-day, 3000-mile test drive that ended when the police arrested him.”

The guy had allegedly taken the gold 2017 MKC home overnight to show the wife. However, his address on the paperwork was phony; he was on probation for felony theft and burglary; and police caught up to him two days—and more than 3000 miles—after the car was reported stolen.

The same Automotive News describes “Would-be Car Thief Should Have Checked Waze.” When no one was looking, the guy drove a 2019 $120,000 Quattroporte sedan off Maserati of Manhattan’s showroom floor.

When one of the dealership’s people spotted it on the street nearby, the guy sped away. But he got only about 500 ft. before getting stuck in traffic at a red light.

“At that point,” Automotive News reports, “he jumped out, handed over the keys, and ran off. But other dealership employees chased down the man and held him until police arrived.”

“There are eight million stories in the Naked City.” Some of them are really dopey. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020

3 comments on “AUTO NEWS—THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE DOPEY

  1. Bill U
    July 17, 2020

    Dennis, as you went into some detail about 4X2, 6X2, and 6X4 Volvo tractors I’d like to pass on a related curiosity . . . While ~95% of the N, American fleet uses the 6X4 configuration (two drive axles) for up to the 80,000 lb. max. combination weight, 90%+ of the EU tractor fleet has historically used one drive axle for up to 88,000 lbs., and in the UK, for up to 96,000 lbs. Using one drive axle saves perhaps 3% on fuel from reduced friction, and also saves weight, reduces complexity, and when mass produced saves manufacturing cost.
    Our less expensive fuel hardly explains giving up the productivity but up until very recently, that’s the way we’ve always done it.

    • simanaitissays
      July 17, 2020

      Thanks for this, Bill. (And for other readers, Bill is an authority on such matters.)

      • Bill
        July 17, 2020

        Just a retired truck salesman that hasn’t forgotten much . . . yet.

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