Autofield Blog

What Some of the 1% Will Drive

By: Gary S. Vasilash 25. November 2014

Reportedly, the 1% in China control about one-third of the country’s wealth, while in the U.S. the richest of the rich handle about 40%.

Of course, given that the population of China is 1,393,783,836 and it is 322,583,006 in the U.S., there are about 14-million 1%-ers in China and a paltry 3.2-million in the U.S.

That said, it is immensely clear why last week Mercedes unveiled the Mercedes-Maybach S 600 at Auto Guangzhou 2014, then hours later at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Mercedes-Benz auf der Guangzhou Auto Show 2014 
Mercedes-Benz at the Guangzhou Auto Show 2014

The Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is, as its name implies, based on the Mercedes S-Class, the long version of the car. That car is 524.6-cm—or 17.21-ft—long. Which is insufficient for those who really need to stretch out in a car.

The Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is 544.6-cm—or 17.87-ft—long. That’s some real estate.

Mercedes-Maybach S 600 (X 222) 2014

That acreage is taken advantage of particularly in the rear, where there are two “Executive Seats,” which means well-upholstered seats that recline to the extent that taking a snooze is a foregone conclusion.

Powering the behemoth is a V12 bi-turbo engine that produces 530 hp.

As you may recall, Mercedes offered modern Maybachs starting in 2002, but stopped building them at the end of 2012, presumably due to the fact that they sold a few thousand during that period of time.

Mercedes-Maybach S 600 (X 222) 2014

Now that the world economy, at least for some people, is back and better than ever, presumably the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class makes more sense.

As Ola Källenius, Member of the Divisional Board Mercedes-Benz Cars, responsible for Sales & Marketing, explained, “Our new sub-brand stands for prestigious exclusivity and is aimed at particularly status-conscious customers. From China in particular, we have noted customer demand for us to offer a particularly exclusive and spacious variant of the best automobile in the world.”

If you’ve got it. . . .

Mercedes-Maybach S 600 (X 222) 2014

Scion Sustained

By: Gary S. Vasilash 24. November 2014

Scion was established in 2002. When it rolled out with the original model year 2004 xB—in California first, in June 2003, then the rest of the U.S. in early 2004—the car completely changed expectations with its boxy styling (which certainly looks somewhat less avant-garde today than it did some 10 years ago):

2004 xB

Over the years, the fortunes of the brand that was meant to be (a) a retail experiment for Toyota by having a straight-up price (remember Saturn’s no-haggle pricing) and (b) a means by which Toyota could attract a younger buyer: Chances are, if Mom or Dad is rolling in a Camry (and given the number of Camrys sold in a given year, odds are good that that might be the case), a teen or twentysomething probably wouldn’t want to opt for even a Corolla have somewhat floundered.

Presently, Scion offers five vehicles: the FR-S, iQ, xD, xB, and tC.

From January through October 2014, there is a minus mark in front of the percentage of sales for each of those cars.

And overall, Scion is off 14.8% compared to its January to October sales in 2013, and that is in a car market that is up 6.1%. (And the aforementioned Corolla’s sales are up a solid 10.3%.)

But Scion is not going to be throwing in the towel, as some speculated.

Rather, it is going on something of a product offensive.

At the LA Show last week, it revealed the iM Concept.


This five-door hatch will be in dealerships in 2015.

During the iM unveiling, Scion vp Doug Murtha said, “We plan to bring three new products in three years to our showrooms, offering a variety of exciting options for current and new Scion customers.”

It would have probably been easy to phase Scion out. Realize that through October, 50,285 Scions were sold, which is about 18% of the total number of Corollas (283,764). Even the Avalon alone outsold all five Scions (55,304).

Obviously, there is long-term thinking going on at Toyota, which is certainly a laudable thing when too many car companies are thinking only of the next sales period.

This Is What the Future Looks Like

By: Gary S. Vasilash 21. November 2014

Last week we showed you the original Chaparral 2E and the tease of what Chevrolet was going to unveil at the L.A. Auto Show this week.

Here it is, the Chaparral 2X Vision Gran Tursimo (VGT) concept that was developed for PlayStation 3’s Gran Turismo 6 game, the physical version, not the digital:


(Steve Fecht for Chevrolet)

Explained Frank Saucedo, who was in charge of the team that developed the car in GM’s Advanced Design Studio in L.A., “It was created in a no-rules atmosphere to challenge designers and test engineers to deliver the most exhilarating sensations. This is a fantasy car by design.”

No doubt.

Although it doesn’t have a visible wing like the positions the driver in a prone position, face down, arms and legs splayed toward the wheels, such that Saucedo said, “Think of it as adapting a wing suit to a racing car, where the driver’s movements control certain aspects of the aero package. In many ways, the Chaparral 2X VGT is like racing wing suit, with a protective fuselage for ‘flying’ very low to the ground.”

While the composite chassis may look exotic, it is almost run-of-the-mill vis-à-vis the proposed propulsion system:

There is a 671-kW mid-mounted laser powered by a pack of lithium-ion batteries and an air-powered generator. The laser pulses, the light focus in a shroud, and the result are shock waves that generate thrust. Thrust on the order of 900 hp.

So in the world of the game the Chaparral 2X VGT has a top speed of 240 mph and can accelerate from 0 to 60 in 1.5 seconds.

One of the issues that the auto industry faces is getting young(er) people interested in cars at a time when many of them simply see automobiles as something that can get you from point A to point B in an appliance-like manner.

Clearly, the Chaparral 2X VGT is an appliance in the context only of an alternative universe.


Clay Dean, GM executive director of Advanced Design: “This concept is an audacious and ambitious vision – and one that demonstrates to a new audience how Chevy’s engineering and design teams challenge norms and explore the technologies of tomorrow.” (Steve Fecht for Chevrolet)


Urban Audi

By: Gary S. Vasilash 20. November 2014

The third annual Audi Urban Future Award was recently presented in Berlin to a team from Mexico City. That team, headed by architect and urban planner Jose Castillo, beat out competitors from Berlin, Boston, and Seoul.

Castillo and his team had some strong impetus from trying to find a solution to urban mobility because, according to the IBM Commuter Pain Index, Mexico City is, well, the most painful in the world for commuters.

Audi Urban

So the team developed an operating system for urban mobility that is based in large part on turning commuters into what’s called “data donors.”

Simply, by having commuters provide information to an on-line data platform, the aggregated data can then be used to develop forecasts for commuters to reduce the pain of commuting.

Annegret Maier, head of Data Intelligence at Audi, said, “The team from Mexico City has succeeded in collecting reliable data in a user-friendly way. On the basis of these data, in future we can develop tailor-made mobility services.”

Audi CEO Rupert Stadler presented Audi’s vision of the future of mobility at the award ceremonies.

Stadler stated, “The car has to be seen once again as a desirable object of progress. To achieve this, we have to tear down the walls between infrastructure, public transportation and individual traffic.”

Stadler admitted that there are issues related to cars, particularly in the growing number of congested metropolises around the world, but said, “We have a responsibility for the problems that the car causes in mega-cities today, and will take an active part in solving these problems by means of our development work. To do this, we need local government, project developers and industry to work together.”

So just as the winning team came up with the notion of data donors, Stadler seems to be calling for cooperative concerns, public and private.

Among the things that Audi is working on are self-parking cars, which are said to be capable of reducing the amount of space required in parking garages such that a garage could accommodate two-and-a-half more cars, as well as systems that allow the car to obtain information from traffic signals so that the car’s speed and location are optimized, thereby reducing carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 15%.

Stadler said, “Our ambitions don’t stop at the car – they include its surroundings. Urban solutions will be a decisive business factor for us. If ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ leads to a better experience of urban life for our customers, we will have achieved our goal of success that is sustainable in every way.”

Porsche Builds Green

By: Gary S. Vasilash 20. November 2014

When you think “Porsche,” you probably don’t think fuel efficiency.

But you probably also don’t read press releases.

It is worth noting that the “boiler plate”—the stuff that is put at the bottom of documents of various types that provide descriptions or detail exceptions or whatnot—on the bottom of news releases from Porsche includes the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of each of its vehicles.

(E.g., “Porsche 911 series: Fuel consumption, combined: 12.4–8.2 l/100 km; CO2 emissions 289–191 g/km; efficiency class: G–F)

Yes, they are that serious about sustainability.

Porsche engine plant

Design of a new Porsche engine plant that is planned to open in 2016

So much so that as they begin construction of an 80-million Euro plant in Zuffenhausen, which is expected to be ready for production in early 2016, they are making sure that it meets the requirements of Deutsche Gesellschaft für nachhaltiges Bauen (DGNB), the German Sustainable Building Council.

They delivered a master plan for the “Werk 4” site (which measures some 69 acres and will include the new, two-story engine plant) to the DGNB and received the organization’s “Pre-Certificate in Gold” on first submission.

According to Porsche, the plan attained top marks in the rating’s ecological, technical, economic, process quality categories.

When in operation, the plant will employ approximately 400 people.

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