F1 Legend Niki Lauda Dead at 70

“It was the most courageous thing I ever witnessed in sport.”

by on May.21, 2019

Few expected Niki Lauda to survive his crash at the Nurburgring on Aug. 1, 1976.

He was born to be a banker, like the rest of his patrician, Austrian family. So, when Niki Lauda asked his grandfather for the financial help he needed to land a ride on the Formula One circuit, he was cut off. Lauda eventually found a way to raise the money on his own, lining up a loan against his life insurance policy.

It was a risky bet, but Niki Lauda’s life was an ongoing gamble, whether on the track or in business, something that became all too apparent during a crucial race at Germany’s Nurburgring on August 1, 1976. Ironically, he had called for a boycott just a week before because of the lack of safety features on the winding course. But when the green flag dropped, Andreas Nikolaus Lauda was positioned at the front of the pack, despite a blinding downpour, determined to grab the lead against his F1 arch-rival James Hunt.

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On the second lap, Lauda’s Ferrari spun out, hit an embankment and burst into flames. Trapped in the car, his borrowed helmet having slipped off, Lauda suffered massive burns that few thought he’d be able to survive. After slipping into a coma, a priest delivered last rites. Yet, somehow, Lauda pulled through, though the injuries were severe, the fire burning off most of his right ear and hair, as well as his eyelids, while searing his lungs.

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Daimler Prepares Cost-Cutting Plans for New Chief Kallenius

New takes over for Zetsche.

by on May.21, 2019

Daimler AG Chairman Dieter Zetsche is on his way out into retirement. He will be succeeded by Ola Kallenius.

Daimler AG’s new chief executive is preparing a plan that would slash the company’s administrative costs by 20%, according to a report in Germany’s top business newspaper Handelsblatt.

Ola Kallenius, who will take over for Dieter Zetsche this week, has asked for recommendations due to the uncertainty facing car makers, the paper said. Central administration costs are to be cut by about 20%, the paper said, adding billions of euros in efficiency potential would be targeted.

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Daimler declined to comment on the Handelsblatt article, which appeared as Daimler was preparing for its annual shareholders meeting in Berlin. More »

Tesla Stock Getting Hammered as NTSB Investigates, Investors Fret

Musk tells employees that cash burn rate is high.

by on May.20, 2019

Tesla's Elon Musk has ordered employees to rein in spending on virtually everything.

Just a few days after safety regulators revealed that Tesla’s Autopilot system was engaged during a fatal crash of a Model 3, Tesla’s stock has fallen 11% – including nearly 4% today – to the low $200 range.

Adding to the concerns of stock and bond investors in the California-based EV maker, CEO Elon Musk revealed the company’s first-quarter cash burn rate has put it in a precarious position.

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He told employees last Thursday he would increase cost-cutting and that $2.7 billion in capital the company recent raised would give Tesla just 10 months to break even at the rate it burned cash in the first quarter. More »

Mercedes’ Electric, Semi-Autonomous ESF 2019 Concept Debuts Over a Dozen Potential Safety Breakthroughs

Even autonomous vehicles will occasionally crash.

by on May.20, 2019

Mercedes-Benz is rolling out its ESF 2019 to show off the semi-autonomous concept car.

The new Mercedes-Benz ESF 2019 started life out as just another midsize crossover, but the familiar GLE has undergone an array of modifications that could significantly improve the safety of passengers and pedestrians, the German automaker says.

These include changes to airbags, seatbelts and a child safety seat meant to make them more effective in a crash, as well as a steering wheel and pedals that retract when the ESF is operating in autonomous mode, and even an outside communications system meant to signal pedestrians and bicyclists what the vehicle is going to do next. There’s even a built-in robot that pops out of the back of the vehicle to warn oncoming traffic in the event of a crash.

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Some of the more than a dozen different innovations “are very close to series production,” said Ola Kallenius, the Daimler AG Executive Board member overseeing Mercedes-Benz Cars Development, though others “look well into the future.” More »

Ford Cutting 500 Salaried Jobs in US, 7,000 Globally

Reduction in force expected to save $600 million annually.

by on May.20, 2019

Ford CEO Jim Hackett is implementing his plan to improve the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker's profitability.

Ford Motor Co. will today notify 500 white-collar workers in its North American operations that their jobs are being eliminated, the move part of a broader cutback that will see 7,000 salaried positions eliminated worldwide, including 1,500 former employees who voluntarily separated from the company in 2018.

While most of the focus is on Europe and other markets where Ford has been struggling, as many as 800 U.S. workers could lose their jobs before the end of this year. Coming to about 10% of the automaker’s white-collar workforce, the cutbacks are part of a broader, $11.5 billion global “Smart Redesign” that Ford CEO Jim Hackett announced last year.

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“Within that total, and consistent with our goal to reduce bureaucracy, we will have reduced management structure by close to 20%,” CEO Hackett said in a note sent to employees late Monday. “This will result in annual savings of about $600 million.” More »

Another Automaker Abandons the V-8

Genesis will drop Tau V-8 when new G80 debuts this autumn.

by on May.20, 2019

The next version of the Genesis G80 will come to market without its familiar Tau V-8.

Way back in the late 1970s, when twin oil shocks and the then-new Corporate Average Fuel Economy mandate forced automakers to start focusing on energy efficiency, conventional wisdom had it that the V-8 would soon vanish. It didn’t quite work out that way and the engine of choice for many performance and heavy-duty vehicles has remained surprisingly robust.

But as global emissions and mileage regulations continue to tighten, the V-8 appears, once again, to be an endangered species, and the Hyundai Motor Group is the latest getting ready to throw in the towel.

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The Korean carmaker’s luxury brand Genesis plans to abandon its 5.0-liter Tau V-8 when it rolls out new versions of its two biggest sedans, according to the marque’s CEO. That phase-out will begin later this year with the launch of a new version of the G80.

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Japan Says It Won’t Agree to Quotas by the U.S.

Trump administration re-examining trade relationships.

by on May.20, 2019

Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan's top economic negotiator, said the country would not accept quotas on how many vehicles it ships to the United States.

Japan’s top trade negotiator says he does not believe the U.S. will impose any kind of numerical quotas on the exports of Japanese made vehicles to the United States.

There is no need to be worried that the United States will impose a quota on Japanese automobile imports, economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Sunday.

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“There is no worry judging from the U.S. announcement,” Motegi said on a television program in Japan. He noted that such a quota was not specified in the announcement. More »

U.S. Ending Steel, Aluminum Tariffs on Mexico, Canada

Move design to prevent import of Chinese steel into U.S.

by on May.17, 2019

The Trump administration agreed to lift the steel and aluminum tariffs on Mexico and Canada in order to keep out Chinese steel.

Seeking to secure Congressional approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal, or USMCA, U.S. negotiators secured tough new measures against Chinese steel by agreeing to lift tariffs on steel and aluminum from Mexico and China.

The deal avoids quotas on steel from the two countries, which Canada and Mexico had opposed, according to the Washington Post. The tariffs will end in 48 hours.

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“We came to an agreement that benefits both parties: the tariffs are lifted, without quotas on steel and aluminum,” according to a statement from the Mexican president’s office, adding that it reinstated a tariff-free commercial relationship for those products. More »

VW Unleashes Seven Sport Concepts at Southern Worthersee

SOWO show cars highlight options for both performance and off-road fans.

by on May.17, 2019

VW shows off its SOWO "enthusiast fleet."

Volkswagen has long had a history of rolling out some of its most creative niche products and concept cars at the annual Worthersee gathering in Austria. It has expanded that tradition by adding what it calls the SOWO event on Hutchinson Island in Savannah, Georgia.

Short for “Southern Worthersee,” the big gathering aims to entice VW fans this time around with seven concept vehicles featuring what it calls “sport performance add-ons and visual enhancements.”

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Considering the shift in global markets, and especially the U.S., from sedans, coupes and hatchbacks to SUVs, CUVs and other light trucks, it should surprise no one that this year’s crop of concepts includes versions of the latest Tiguan and Atlas crossover-utility vehicles. But Volkswagen traditionalists shouldn’t be disappointed, either, the automaker rolling out customized versions of the Golf, Jetta and new Arteon, as well. More »

GMC Tightens Up Premium Truck Segment with 2020 Sierra 1500

More technology and engine choices highlight new truck.

by on May.17, 2019

For 2020, the GMC Sierra gets a slew of new technology as well as a new engine offering.

The competition to produce the best-equipped pickup truck continued to get tighter today with GMC’s announcement that its “taking premium to the next level” for its 2020 Sierra 1500.

GMC’s full-size light-duty pickup can now get a slew of new options to take it up a notch, including expanded availability for its carbon fiber bed, 3.0-liter Duramax turbo-diesel and 10-speed automatic transmission, additional technology like Adaptive Cruise Control – Camera.

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While options are great, functionality is still king among truck users and GMC is looking to make a statement in that arena too. For 2020, the Sierra 1500 will be available with the upgraded ProGrade Trailering System introduced earlier this year on the 2020 Sierra HD. The updated system offers 15 camera views – the class leader –  an in-vehicle Trailering App which has been enhanced to simplify the trailering process. More »

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