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Ford Looks at Variations on a Car Sharing Theme Through Time


By: Gary S. Vasilash 29. July 2014

Ford has created an infographic on the subject of for-hire transportation which is both informative and somewhat mystifying.

That is, the whole concept of owning cars or renting cars or sharing cars or taking cabs or taking a service like Uber or Lyft is something that a whole lot of people—both individuals looking for a way to get from A to B in a reliable way as well as automotive OEMs that are either starting their own vehicle-sharing services (Mercedes car2go) or are working with an existing one (Ford and Zipcar)—are talking about more and more often of late.

So that’s the informative part.

The somewhat mystifying part is how Ford calls out that it ended production of the Ford Crown Victoria and the Lincoln Town Car—the ne plus ultra of cabs and black cars—back in 2011, arguably one of the greatest puzzles or gaffes in recent automotive history.

Still, it is worth taking a look.

The Business of the Back Seat

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Making Draft Selections, Automotive Style


By: Gary S. Vasilash 28. July 2014

Car and Driver.

Cars.com.

The Detroit Bureau.

Motor Trend.

The Detroit Free Press.

Motor Trend Audio.

Automotive Design & Production.

You get a group of guys who work for those outlets together, and quite naturally the conversation turns (after discussions about food and complaints about long airline flights stuffed in insufferably small seats in the back of the plane) to cars, car companies and automotive executives.

Portlandia

Team logo for one of the fictitious car companies

But in this case, rather than having a completely free-flowing conversation, Jeff Sabatini, Aaron Bragman , Paul Eisenstein , Scott Burgess, Mark Phelan, Charlie Vogelheim, and I (each of whom work for the aforementioned publications, in that order), had it focused in the “Autoline Automotive Fantasy Draft.”

There are “team owners” who are tasked with making decisions about how they’d staff their very own car companies and how they’d position it in the market.

Find out why Sabatini thinks there could be an intersection between cars, bicycles and beer. Find out why Bragman thinks an ideal feature for his automobiles would be sourced from Weber Grill. Find out why Eisenstein is looking, not surprisingly, for global domination (and is probably working on a Death Star at this very moment). Find out why I would put my premier dealership in Omaha, Nebraska.

Find out why Phelan and Burgess—the color commentators—pretty much think we’re all jackasses.

And see the announcer, Vogelheim, performing his thankless duties while wearing a tux.

This may be one of the funniest hours you’ll ever spend in front of a computer.

OK. Moderately funny.


Bentley Goes Racing


By: Gary S. Vasilash 25. July 2014

It has been several years since we’ve had the opportunity to drive—maybe that should be pilot—a Bentley, but our recollection is that it is the most sumptuous and powerful car we’ve ever been in. There have been more sumptuous cars in terms of amenities (e.g., the new Mercedes S-Class comes to mind) and there have been more powerful cars in terms of, well, as Iggy might put it, raw power (e.g., the new Dodge Challenger, with the Hellcat engine that produces 707 hp vs. the 500 hp of the Continental GT V8).

Bentley Continental GT3-R 

This is the Continental GT3-R, which will reportedly cost on the order of £ 240,000

That said, the Bentley cars are nothing if not notable in many ways. Including what’s done with them.

Because racing is the sort of thing that vehicle manufacturers do to validate their bona fides, Bentley races. In the Blancpain Endurance Series. As of right now, the #7 Continental GT3 is leading the points in that series.

This Saturday, July 26, they will be on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium for the Total 24 Hours of Spa.

The Continental GT3 is built by Bentley’s motorsport team in conjunction with M-Sport, a racing organization best known for its activities in rally racing. Somehow the Ford Focus RS WRC seems a long, long way from the GT3, but racing is racing.

Bentley at Goodwood Festival of Speed, 12 July 2013

Racing at Goodwood

What is rather amusing (in a droll British sense, mind you) is that one of the sponsors of the Continental GT3 racing program is Naim Audio, a British purveyor of high-end audio systems.

Somehow we can imagine the drivers in Belgium rolling along in their GT3 with a bit of Handel’s Water Music cranked up to 11. . . .


Brembo Invests Big in Brake. . .Castings


By: Gary S. Vasilash 24. July 2014

Generally, it seems that when people think about high-tech automotive components, they tend to think of things that are more along the lines of things silicon-based.

But arguably, companies like Brembo, as in the innovative company that produces brakes for a wide variety of automotive products, with some of the leading cars among them (e.g., Lamborghini Huracan LP 610-4, Lexus RC F Sport, McLaren 650S, Corvette Z06), are as technologically sophisticated as any out there.

Opel Astra brakes

And so it is surprising yet satisfying to learn that Brembo is investing $100-million to build a new foundry for cast-iron brake discs. . .in the U.S. Specifically, in Michigan.

While many companies have outsourced things like foundries, Brembo is going to be building one that will have an annual output of 80,000 tons of brake disc castings. The plant is expected to go into production in 2017.

It is all part of a strategy for more vertical integration. When announcing the new foundry, Alberto Bombassei, Brembo S.p.A. chairman, said, “The increasing number of global platforms being built by vehicle manufacturers prompts us to seek the best possible integration between the different stages of the value chain, replicating the integrated production model that we have adopted for some time now in our facilities in Italy, and recently in Poland and China.”

Who would have thought that there would be a $100-million investment in a cast-iron, not silicon, foundry in the U.S.?


Energy Use in the Future


By: Gary S. Vasilash 23. July 2014

Seems like the energy-consumption picture is one of those that can be characterized as: “On the one hand. . .but on the other hand. . . .”

At least that’s the sense from the Energy Information Agency’s Annual Energy Outlook 2014 report.

In the study, transportation energy consumption—that’s for light-duty vehicles, heavy-duty vehicles, aircraft, marine vessels, rail, and other (e.g., military transportation).

EIASource: EIA 

Back in 2007, the U.S. consumption was 14.6-million barrels per day oil equivalent (boe/d).

In 2012 that number was down to 13.8-million boe/d.

Of that 2012 figure, light-duty vehicles accounted for 63% of all transportation consumption. The EIA estimates, however, that by 2040 that will drop to 51%.

That’s the one hand.

Here’s the other:

The EIA has calculated that heavy-duty vehicle consumption was 18% in 2012, but it will rise to 28% by 2040.

(The total boe/d in 2040: 13.1-million.)

Perhaps the difference will be that there will be fewer miles put on cars because people will be buying a large percentage of their stuff from Amazon, which will be trucked to their abodes, thereby increasing the fuel necessary for the heavy-duty trucks.

Perhaps.  (They may have the drones ready by then.)




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