This coming weekend there will be the sixth of eight FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) races. It will be held at the Shanghai International Circuit.
Which is notable for those who are interested in the series, which pits builders Toyota (which is presently in first place in the Manufacturer category with 183 points), Audi (175) and Porsche (109) against each other with their LMP1-H hybrid vehicles.
However, people sometimes wonder why companies spend millions on racing programs.
And in its news release about the Shanghai race, Audi spells it out rather plainly:
“The track is regarded as very challenging, the team achieved victory there last year, and the ‘Middle Kingdom’ has evolved into the largest sales market for AUDI AG. In China, the company delivered 415,704 automobiles between January and September – 16 percent more than a year ago. Audi operates production sites in the cities of Changchun and Foshan.”
To amplify that a little: at the Beijing Auto Show in April, Rupert Stadler, chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, said: “We are extending our production capacities in Changchun and Foshan up to 700.000 automobiles per year with Foshan being home to the promising Audi A3 Sedan.”
They sell a lot of cars in China. They are building a lot of cars in China.
To amplify that a lot: Stadler also said, “In fact, China has become our second home.”
That’s why Audi is racing in China.
Incidentally: the A3 Sedan that is available in the U.S. market isn’t being built in Foshan, but in Györ, Hungary, where Audi has been building the TT Coupé and Roadster as well as the A3 Cabriolet for a number of years.
(And in case you’re wondering: there is no WEC race in Budapest.)
One thing you may not know about Kia is that the rapidly growing vehicle manufacturer is “The Official Automotive Partner of the NBA.”
Yes, that’s as in National Basketball Association.
And even if you did know that, you might not know that LeBron James, legendary forward for the Cavaliers, is the first-ever Kia “K900 Luxury Ambassador.”
“Wait a minute,” you say.
“K900? What’s that?”
Yes, this is one more thing that you may not know.
Sure, Kia is the company with the funky Soul and the stylish Optima. But it has recently entered a higher automotive realm, one befitting of King James.
“I was a Kia K900 driver and fan before we decided to become partners, so I'm really excited to be Kia’s first-ever luxury ambassador," said James.
That’s right: James, who has a reported salary of $20,644,400 for this season, rolls in a Kia.
Which brings us to the full-size, V8-powered, rear-drive K900.
This is not your uncle’s Kia, unless your uncle happens to be Scrooge McDuck, a character who is as rich as he is thrifty.
That is, the K900 is a sedan that has all of the luxury accoutrements that you can reasonably expect (leather and wood; seats that are heated and mechanically driven in all sorts of axes; telematics galore; sensors fore, side and aft; LED headlights that adjust adaptively vis-à-vis steering wheel location; a sunroof as big as the Ritz) and even at least one that seems outré: a power closing trunk lid (that’s right: push a button on the lid inner and it closes for you, even though the truck action is so smooth that simply bringing your arm down from having reached up to activate the button would probably be sufficient to secure the hatch.
It has that aforementioned V8 engine that produces 420 hp and an eight-speed automatic transmission that is so smooth as to be operationally invisible.
It rides on standard 19s.
It has a base MSRP of $59,500, and when you opt for the “VIP Package,” which adds $6,000 to the sticker, you get a surfeit of stuff, including technology like adaptive cruise control, heads-up display, a 12.3-inch full LCD TFT instrument cluster (i.e., the gauges and dials look like analog gauges and dials except they’re digital, not physical), and even front-seat power headrests (after all, who wants to tussle with those things?).
The vehicle is about comfort. Although that V8 is powerful, it has to power a 4,555-lb. sedan. You can get a 2015 F-150 pickup that weighs less. So this is not about fast getaways, but about stately progress.
Stately at a comparatively low price point.
One more thing. LeBron James is 6’8” and weighs on the order of 250 lb. Meaning that he is a big man. Yet he evidentially (even before he became the Luxury Ambassador) he found the K900 sufficiently roomy. Given that the average U.S. male is 5’9” and weighs 195 lb. and the average female is 5’3” and 166 lb., there is certainly more than enough leather-covered furniture in the K900 to make anyone feel reasonably royal.
Engine: 5.0-liter, DOHC, direct-injected V8
Horsepower: 420 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 376 @ 5,000 rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 119.9 in.
Length: 200.6 in.
Width: 78.8 in.
Height: 58.7 in.
Curb weight: 4,555 lb.
Seating capacity: 5
Passenger volume: 110.8-cu-ft.
Cargo volume: 15.9 cu-ft.
EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 15/23/18 mpg
SEMA is just around the corner, and the OEMs are rolling out with their tricked-out vehicles meant to resonate with that cadre in the youth culture that still think that cars are something of interest.
Hyundai announced that one of the cars it will be displaying in the Las Vegas Convention Center is a 2015 Sonata that has been modified under the direction of John Pangilinan.
Yes, that’s what I wondered. So I Googled him and discovered that he is. . .a PR guy.
Or, as he puts it on his site: “Resides in Downtown Long Beach, CA and worked the agency life for a number of years before moving into the freelance world where he specializes in PR, marketing and photography. When not traveling with the Formula DRIFT series, he can be found surfing, watching MMA, or building various project cars.”
The car in question uses the stock white paint. Then he and Flexfit| SCMP and Mr. 44, “a renowned Los Angeles-based street artist” (again: who knew?) set to work on the vehicle.
About the car, Pangilinan said, “This build features a balance of performance products, in-car entertainment with the latest innovations and clean styling, representing the enthusiasts whose cars showcase an extension of their personalities and lifestyles.”
Mechanically, there are:
· AEM cold-air intake
· MagnaFlow exhaust kit
· Bisimoto engineering hot-charge pipe
· KW coilovers
· LTMW lip kit
· 19-in. RAYS Gram Light 57 Getter wheels
· Toyo R888 tires
And inside the car:
· RECARO cross sportster seats in the front
· BP Auto Sound engineered audio system with Alpine and Scosche electronics
Pangilinan: “Inspired by a trip earlier this year to the Pow! Wow! Hawai’i art event in Hawaii, I wanted to connect the street art culture to automotive, without going too over the top with a full blown art car.”
Well, it is a 2015 Sonata.
(What do I mean by that, you might wonder. Well, were it a 2014 Sonata, the midsize that changed everything people thought a midsize should look like, then arguably it, in and of itself, could be considered a “full-blown art car” with its Fluidic Sculpture design language.)
Passive safety systems are those that act in response to something that has occurred. Like airbags deploying as a consequence of a collision.
Active safety systems are those that act to prevent something untoward occurring. Like blind spot monitors in side-view mirrors (ideally keeping the driver from moving into a space that is already occupied, thereby actively avoiding a collision).
(Photo: John F. Martin for GM)
Active safety systems are all about sensors and monitors and interface devices that warn the driver without untoward distraction (i.e., all manner of bells, buzzers and flashing lights might cause the driver to become exceedingly agitated, thereby perhaps initiating an accident that has nothing to do with the bells, buzzers and flashing lights).
So while automakers make much of all of their systems that allow access to the Internet for various recreational applications, they are also undertaking the deployment of technologies that will help in the area of active safety.
While much of the work is done digitally, there is nothing like actual vehicles on actual roads.
To that end, GM announced late last week that it has nearly completed construction of the Active Safety Testing Area (ASTA) at its Milford Proving Ground in Michigan.
This is a $12-million project that started in June 2013 and is slated for being ready to go in December.
The ASTA is a 52-acre site for developing, testing and validating active safety technologies. In addition to various road courses, it has a 16-acre dynamic pad that test drivers and engineers will be able to safely toss vehicles around, simulating what could happen in the real world.
In addition to which, it will be used for the development of “Super Cruise,” GM’s automated driving technology (hands-off lane following, braking and speed control that can be a safer way to drive, particularly in stop-and-go conditions) as well as vehicle-to-vehicle communications technology (a car might provide a car following information about road conditions that can enhance safety) that the company plans to introduce in 2017 on the Cadillac CTS.
OK. Everybody knows all about the 2015 F-150. The aluminum-intensive truck.
For those in the auto industry it is, at the very least, provocative. Possibly exciting.
But that’s not the only material that is ordinarily associated with the aerospace industry that’s come to auto*.
Word from Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies is that it has taken a material that it ordinarily uses in aerospace applications and has made it automotive-appropriate.
Specifically, it is using high-temperature nickel-based alloys—materials that exhibit high-temperature and cracking resistance—to produce stamped gaskets.
These so-called “HTA”—for “high temperature alloy”—materials also exhibit a property whereby they can become stronger over time with heat exposure. Consequently, gaskets can be produced for powertrain applications with a thinner gauge and reduced embossment width than would ordinarily be the case.
According to Scott Anderson, product marketing manager at Freudenberg, “Companies have used similar HTA materials in the heavy-duty industry due to the prevalence of turbocharging in high-torque producing diesel engines. Adapting this technology to the automotive market made sense. Smaller engines are running at higher speeds for longer times, and as a consequence, more heat is generated in the engine bay and in the engines exhaust system specifically.”
All of which is to say that cross-fertilization of technologies—from aircraft to earth-moving equipment to auto—is absolutely essential.
The HTA gaskets are produced at a Freudenberg-NOK plant in Necedah, Wisconsin, and shipped to customers globally.
*Auto has long used aluminum for such things as engine blocks and suspension components. But this use of aluminum skins—like those on aircraft—is certainly somewhat different, applications at places like Jaguar Land Rover notwithstanding.