The New Toyota Trike…?

A Toyota i-ROAD during a demonstration drive in Toyota

If you need a good laugh, let me help you out a little bit. Just google the ‘Toyota Three-Wheeler’ and let the internet do the rest for you. Try to contain yourself because Toyota is very, very serious about this beaut, they mean it when they talk about the i-Road ultra-compact EV concept. About 100 people participated in the test driving of the new vehicle, each driving it for a month at a time. Some of these people are considered to be “trendsetters” and Toyota has stated that the project will last for a year.

“Toyota says that it is going to launch the project in Tokyo in July. It appears to be aimed at trying to try to drum up more support for the idea of tiny one-person minicar that can be parked virtually anywhere in one of the world’s most congested cities. The electric three-wheeler is distinguished by the way it leans into turns,” according  to Woodyard. The Open Road Project’s goal is to encourage individuals to use the i-Road, which prior to this new vehicle has only ever gained recognition as a design exercise, not as an innovative technology.

It’s still a work in progress, but I think we are ready to see where the i-Road can take us.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2015/05/12/toyota-i-road-three-wheeler/27161559/

Hydrogen Fuel Cells: The Love-Hate Relationship

After Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors took the not ye on the market Toyota Mirai for a test drive, he mentioned in a press conference at the Automotive News World Congress that the futuristic vehicle was “extremely silly,” and the proceeded to rant about them and refer to them as “fool cells.”

And while we must admit that yes, there are still problems and flaws with these hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, it would be taking a huge step backwards to simply write them off and claim that such a technology could never actually work. Near the end of the 2015 year, Toyota plans to release its “first ever hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicle.” To give some sales history on the two companies, Tesla sold 31,600 vehicles compared to the 9 million that Toyota sold in the year 2014. Tesla’s annual income is a few billion dollars as compared to Toyota’s $250 billion annual income. Tesla had only three versions of one car on display at the 2015 Detroit auto show where Toyota had more than 70 distinct models to showcase.

“Toyota’s Mirai is the world’s first real attempt at a consumer hydrogen car. It costs $57,500, puts out 153 horsepower and has a zero to sixty of 9 seconds. With only four seats and a teardrop shape, the Mirai looks like a cross between a Toyota Prius and a Chevy Volt. It’s not a beaut. Indeed, unless you are an engineer, technophile, or middle- to later-aged computer scientist you are not likely to be impressed,” states Tillemann.

See more here: https://fortune.com/2015/05/13/an-energy-experts-love-hate-affair-with-toyotas-hydrogen-fuel-cell-mirai/

Celebrities in Auto Ads

Many car companies these days use celebrities to endorse their car. In the last year I’ve seen Mathew McConaughey in a Lincoln ad, Eminem bumping in a Chrysler, Jennifer Lopez in a Fiat 500, Madonna in a BMW in some strange music video featuring Clive Owen, and Brad Pitt’s interesting Cadillac endorsement that majorly featured in China. Ads today are vastly different to ads printed in the early auto years due to the change in focus of the ad over time. I compared McConaughey’s Lincoln commercial to the 1960 Pontiac print ad.

The 1960 Pontiac print ad features the car parked at some sort of golf club. Note the golfers in the back and nicely dressed ladies and gentleman along side the car.

Pontiac1960

“Fresh, crisp beauty for 1960”. Not often do you hear of a new style of car being described as “fresh” or “crisp”. They bring in the feelings that one would feel when being on a freshly cut golf course and present it to you with the car so you associate those feelings with the Pontiac. In many marketing schemes, green is associated with wealth and is often used to relax customers in stores. Red creates urgency and gives you, the customer, a sense of urgency that could make you feel as if you need it sooner. Blue is often used to create a sense of security and safety. Banks often use this color to make their customers feel those feelings and associate them along with their bank. This ad of the Pontiac instills safety and security, urgency, and a sense of wealth.

Lincoln used none of these tactics to reel in customers. Instead they used the familiar face of a celebrity; Mathew McConaughey. They used his face to bring forth feelings of familliarity. Just as politicians endorse other politicians, often called bandwagoning, car companies use celebrities to endorse their cars for support. The juvenile and simple thought is, “If they like the celebrity, and see them driving the car; the customer will like the car and want to drive it themselves!’.

matthew-mcconaughey-1-1024

Is using the familiarity of celebrities may seem to be a successful tactic however classic ads such as the 1960 Pontiac uses much more than familiarity. Classic ads use colors and senses to gain the trust of the customer. I see no celebrities in the Pontiac ad, and I see no colors in the Lincoln ad. No where in the Lincoln ad does it talk about the features or the price or the engine, the ad simply shows McConaughey along side it. Personally I would rather see the brand personality on an ad similar to the Pontiac, but I don’t see car companies using print ads such as this one anytime soon.

http://www.helpscout.net/blog/psychology-of-color/ – Marketing strategies in ads

http://www.autotrader.ca/newsfeatures/20141111/slideshow-top-ten-celebrity-car-commercials/#9HBv6DYrLFBrzAyS.97 – Celeb Ads in the auto industry

http://www.academia.edu/4591701/Celebrities_in_Advertising – Celebs in Advertising

James Bond is a Roll Tide fan

Supercars are (almost) everyone’s dream to own and drive. The power. The speed. A good excuse to disregard fuel economy. There is also the appeal that comes with driving the same car as James Bond or the like. Aston Martin has noticed that American sales have up ticked, and are now considering a plant in the supercar capital of America…Alabama?…
Aston Martin

Wait. Alabama is known more for lifted trucks and yelling at people on Sundays for not being in church, than for $100,000+ luxury vehicles. Why would they choose Alabama as their first plant? It could be that the executives in London are Roll Tide fans down deep, but I think it may be slightly more strategic.
In 1997 Mercedes-Benz opened a plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and most recently have produced the Mercedes C-Class at that plant. Fast forward to 2014, the parent company of the German luxury auto maker purchased a 5% stake Aston Martin. As a part of the deal Mercedes would also provide engines and electrical components to Aston Martin. So the addition of a plant in Alabama by the Bond brand would make a decent bit of sense as the two makers could exchange parts easily.

What is more striking about the placement of the plant; Alabama does not require the use of Union only workers. The Mercedes plant in Tuscaloosa is not unionized and in fact Mercedes recently got in trouble for antiunion practices. The United Autoworkers union has tried for some time to unionize the Tuscaloosa plant with little success. I would fully expect the UAW to try the same with the new workers of Aston Martin.
The decision by Aston Martin to go to Alabama instead of Michigan is just another blow to the deteriorating Rust Belt and more specifically Detroit. The UAW is in dire need of an increase of membership as they are down to a mere 319,000 because jobs have moved out of the union requiring states and even the country. It seems that the automakers no longer want anything to do with the Unions if it is possible to avoid them.

Jalopnik AutoCar Mercedes

Distraction

3-mercedes-lounge-seating

When taking a ride in my dad’s new car, he began to show me the newest installations of technology in the newest model of the same model he has had for years. He could open the windows by tapping his key, access the internet from the visual display screen, and utilize the control button as a track pad amongst many other new additions. I felt as if I was in the Apple store looking at the newest iPhone update. Are these high tech modifications necessary to improve our ability to drive safer on the road, or are they unnecessary additives that make cars more expensive and distracting?

Bankrate reports on Mercedes-Benz’s plans to feature a variable seating system.

It features four rotating lounge chairs that allow you to sit face to face. The car is hypothetically designed to drive itself. “The mobile lounge”, the project however, is officially named F015 “Lounge in motion”. The doors open differently than a conventional car, similar to double doors in a conference room. They signify power and entrance. The f015 continues to resemble a car with similar features in the cars we see today such as headlights, air-tires, windows, sky roof. But lacks in practical “universal” features such as a trunk, carpetry and interior, cup holders, rear-view mirrors, etc.

The F015 makes a large leap into the future and appears to be a business meeting vehicle. The people in the photo are analyzing charts and numbers dressed in business attire clothing. There are no children in this car, which leads me to believe that this car isn’t meant for a family at all. Mercedes-Benz has a great idea going for them, however highly impractical and will most likely be very expensive. If you’re going to face eachother in the car, and drive on auto, why don’t you meet in a conference room where you can put numbers on a screen? The auto has become a solice of luxury and less of a means of transportation and Mercedes-Benz proves that with the F015.

http://www.bankrate.com/finance/auto/high-tech-car-innovations-3.aspx

http://www.cnet.com/pictures/mercedes-benz-luxury-in-motion-concept-the-mobile-lounge-pictures/15/

https://www.mercedes-benz.com/en/mercedes-benz/innovation/research-vehicle-f-015-luxury-in-motion/

Can you give me a Lyft?

“Real people driving real people.” The motto of a recently new business in the ride-sharing industry. Similar to Uber, lyft is a taxi-alternative, privately owned company, based out of major US cities. There is one big difference between Lyft and Uber: Lyft’s drivers are regular community members driving their own cars. Lyft is no different from calling a friend and asking for a ride, except the person giving you a ride is a stranger who you are paying. The company is app-based with a simple three-step process. 1) Request a ride, 2) Get picked up, 3) Get there fast. There is another interesting factor to Lyft, and that is the additional option of riding with another passenger going the same way for a reduced price. Much like sharing a taxi with a stranger, Lyft brings ride sharing to a new level.

Concerns have been raised, and of course with those concerns come problems and lawsuits. Many people find grey area’s in Lyft’s regulation, “Although ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft don’t see much need for regulation, and some regulators say the services are violating current law, the disputes indicate that a powerful market is emerging where no one is quite sure what the rules are. Court cases like the one the district attorneys filed in LA could help define them, and legislators probably will face increasing pressure to provide clarification of their own”.

Lyft, Uber, and SideCar share commonalities between companies. All private, all apps, all new innovative ways of public transportation. Personally, I find Lyft a little too personal. It leaves drivers and the company very liable and susceptible to problems. I don’t like seeing the drivers personal items all over the car, if I wanted to get a ride from a friend I would ask one. Uber provides a comfortable experience with the added promise of reliability and just the right amount of professionalism that Lyft lacks.

http://www.quora.com/Ride-Sharing-Company-Comparisons/Which-is-better-and-why-Lyft-Uber-or-SideCar

http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-uber-lyft-20141209-story.html

Real Life Video Game? (Drive-by-wire)

Imagine getting in a car and driving it like you would fly an airplane in a video game arcade (or real life if you are a fighter pilot).  This is a very possible scenario in the near future for vehicles, as airplanes have used this technology since the 1990’s, and “the first test of a Digital Fly-By-Wire (DFBW) system was in 1972 on a modified F-8 Crusader” (NASA).  The technology being tested for cars is called drive-by-wire or by-wire.  By-wire relies on electronics to control multiple vehicular operations like accelerating, braking, and turning.

362852main_ECN-3276_3x4_226-170F-8 Crusader using DFBW

Cars of today are mechanically driven.  Vehicles use hydraulically driven technology, and mechanical drive shafts to perform basic driving operations.  These systems work, but they are very complex.  These systems also have multiple moving parts which causes wear and tear over time, even if proper maintenance is kept.  Even though cars drove mechanically without much electronic technology a hundred years ago, engineers have continuously worked to incorporate computers and multiple electronic items into the cars of today and continue to do so.

By-wire technology would make cars more comfortable, safe, and better functioning once drivers become accustomed to the new way of driving.  By-wire driving relies on computers and sensors to relay information and instruct the vehicle on what to do.  This technology also has environmental positives as well.  By-wire technology could improve fuel economy and reduce engine emissions, since it would not use as much power to perform the same tasks as traditional mechanical driving needs.

By-wire technology does not need as much energy because it would reduce the weight of vehicles significantly, because it reduces the number of bulky moving parts needed to hydraulically drive the vehicle.  It also increases the accuracy of operations performed by the car itself, and reduces the amount of routine maintenance needed for mechanical purposes.

One argument against by-wire is that any system has the ability to fail regardless of testing.  The worst case scenario that Howstuffworks.com presents is sensors on a brake-by-wire make a calculation error and apply the wrong amount of pressure on brakes and the vehicle either stops too late or too soon causing an accident.  Knowing how airplanes work, it is possible to use braking systems of cars today and use by-wire for steering and accelerating.

Found at: http://auto.howstuffworks.com/car-driving-safety/safety-regulatory-devices/drive-by-wire2.htm

Also used: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/armstrong/news/FactSheets/FS-024-DFRC.html#.VTqHXZTF92A for NASA quote and picture