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Wednesday
Jul012015

Canada Day

Have a great day with your family and friends...

 

 

Tuesday
Jun302015

Driverless Vehicles

At times you get moments where all the pieces fit. Last week we got such a moment that spurred our thought process further regarding driverless vehicles.

Having spent several hours in a 2015 Suburban on the 401 on adaptive cruise control, and some time in GTA traffic too. Especially on the 401 the thought of driverless vehicles crosses your mind on numerous occasions.

From an auto industry perspective we are inching much closer to actually having driverless vehicles on roads in the not too distant future. The technology is there to keep a vehicle going straight or even negotiate curves at a constant speed on highways without actual driver input.

Agreed...in Canada we have winters which can affect the technology. Lets overlook winters for a moment.

In all "driverless" discussion the variables of vehicle, driver, insurance, liabilities are often overlooked. As well as the choices made by the technology. Its a very real though who is responsible, the driver or the technology. In addition to the "ethics" of the choices the technology will make. Lets look at a simple case "A driverless vehicle rear ends the vehicle in front while the driver is slightly distracted texting, or checking e-mails." Who is responsible the driver, the technology, the vehicle manufacturer? You can see where this is going, but lets put it aside for a moment.

From a human perspective, driving (monitoring) a vehicle that drives itself is more auspicious to distractions especially on highways. Imagine in commuter congestion the distractions might be even higher. The driver is monitoring the vehicle that is driving itself...think about this for a moment. The "monitor" needs full trust in the technology, needs to be aware at all times, and needs to know exactly how the technology behaves in their vehicle. How many folks have an understanding of ABS brakes and what to do (ABS has been around for 30 years). The same for traction control, stability programs...

Its unsettling to be driving, having a vehicle invade the selected space for the adaptive cruise control, and trust the technology to apply the brakes and scrub off the speed of the vehicle. There is a definite learning curve in monitoring a "driverless vehicle". You can just see folks, and manufacturers offering driverless courses..."How to monitor your driverless vehicle".

Consider that driverless vehicles follow a consistent, disciplined, driving plan. Can you say the same of the envelope of other vehicles around a driverless vehicle? How do "monitored" (driverless) vehicles interface with "driven" vehicles that are less disciplined? From our perspective surprising well, although because its disciplined the "monitored" vehicle is at a constant disadvantage.

When the adaptive cruise control is set at xxx kph, and for whatever reason the vehicle has scrubbed off appreciable speed lets say close to 50%. You can sense in the vehicle that all the systems are ready to regain the set xxx speed as soon as possible. If the distance is set at 5 lenghts as an example, if 6 lengths become available the vehicle will immediately down shift and aggressively accelerate to reacquire the set speed. In real life someone will cut in to the space (in commuter traffic) the vehicle your monitoring down shifted 2 gears now the 5 lengths just became 3.5 your monitored vehicle applies the brakes to scrub off speed and maintain the 5 lengths. Your monitored vehicle just went from almost flat out, to braking, and now controlled by the driven vehicle in front of you.

From our perspective the technology for driverless vehicles is almost there. Its impressive how these vehicles drive themselves in a smooth seamless fashion especially on the highway. Once you understand how the technology behaves. Its actually more relaxing to monitor than drive.

The challenge is the "driven" vehicle envelope around a "monitored" vehicle.

What do you think?

 

Saturday
Jun272015

1941 Willys Coupe

Informative walk around of a 1941 Willys with Jay Leno a drive in rain, slicks, no wipers, and a flat tire.

 

 

 

 

Friday
Jun262015

Vroom Room

Good Morning,

Its the last Friday of the month, its the Vroom Room, enjoy the cappuccino and biscotti, join the conversation.

Lets agree that July 1st is the start of the Dog Days of Summer...we are very close.

The Goodwood Festival of Speed is on this week end.

With all the talk of Toronto real estate, many condos in the city core have limited parking spaces for owners, appreciable bike racks for owners, and dedicated car sharing spaces. Think of this from the suburban driveway to accomodate several vehicles, to bike racks to accomodate bicyles.

The Colonel has been quite busy with several projects, more to come on some of his stuff.

Have you noticed that gas is not so cheap, we told you months ago that oil companies have no interest in retailing cheap gas to consumers (you). You have certainly noticed that food too is not so cheap either.

For some reason vehicles are inexpensive...go figure...must be the banks enabling the financial services.

We wondered why on road trips we seem to always come across interesting historical churches. Last road trip across the street from where we were staying was an interesting church, and while exploring the historical areas of Pointe Claire we came across Eglise St.Joachim on the waterfront with impressive architecture.

Its a case of, if we would go looking we would never find, we do not look and we find.

This morning its old cars from the San Marino Motor Classic in California.

 

 

Thursday
Jun252015

The Teamwork Spin

We are all keenly aware of all the talk about "teamwork" from a myriad of publications, consultants, mentors, it literally runs the entire gamut of work, people, management conversations.

The Team

The idea is that a well coordinated, motivated team generates higher results, and wins on a regular basis. We see it in sports on a regular basis. We could keep on going but you surely have an understanding.

Its the "team" here, there, and all over...without the team success would be elusive.

The Work Team

This same sports team philosophy is transferred to the work environment, where the "team" will make a difference and generate higher results. Makes perfect sense...

We all work together, we all reap benefits together, we all win together. Simple...or not so simple.

We all know that once you put a few individuals together, things tend to get "political" in one fashion or another.

The REAL Work Team

Does it really exist when the team has to genuinely, and unselfishly pull together? When humans provide lip service to the team, and ultimately are in "taking care of #1 mode".

It sort of does exist in a structured, rigid work environment.

The Spin

Everyone spins the yarn of being part of the team, being a team player, a mentor, helping, when in reality the higher agenda is always "taking care of #1" and "what's in it for me".

Did we forget "cover your a$%s".

The verbal spin is idyllic, the reality is human nature at its best or worst depending from which perspective you are looking at the situation.

What do you think?

 

 

Tuesday
Jun232015

New Vehicle Sales

The other day we were reading a fascinating article on new vehicle sales tactics in the Globe and Mail. Almost as if its a novelty, and only 1 or 2 manufacturers are deploying the tactics.

If you have been in the auto business ate the retail level (dealers) for a few decades, the tactics of meeting monthly sales objectives are not new. Its been going on for decades...

What has changed is the appreciable bonuses that are now attached to meeting monthly sales targets.

Lets take a look at a few points in no particular order.

  • Meeting new vehicle sales objectives is an intrinsic part of the auto business, it will continue to be so for the foreseable future.
  • All manufacturers have one form or another of a bonus system attached to meeting monthly and yearly sales objectives; with a variety of imaginative names.
  • Agreed...some manufacturers have a variety of creative and imaginative tactics.
  • From the dealer perspective reporting a vehicle sold to the manufacturer generates a sale/delivery, and starts the warranty.
  • Reporting a vehicle sold does not require a sales contract, although it requires a customer name and address.
  • Nothing stops a dealer from increasing their demo or courtesy vehicle fleet.
  • Yes...on the dealer side there is a level of creativity as to when and why a vehicle is reported sold.
  • On a specific month the last sold vehicle to meet an objective can trigger an appreciable bonus for the dealer.
  • The last few days of the month usually involve a flurry of calls from the factory representative to various dealers seeking additional sales.
  • You can just imagine...yes let your imagination run as to the tenor of these conversations between the factory representative and dealers.
  • When mainstream media attempts to look into this aspect of the business they are trying to look "Behind Closed Doors" and always meet total discretion on the part of everyone.
  • The various sites that advise CMS (Citizen Main Street) about the various promotions and programs are never privy to the bonuses attached to sales objectives.
  • We all know that CMS waits towards month end to finalise purchase decisions...perhaps CMS has an intrinsic understanding on the possibility of having a better deal towards month end.

Its not new, been going on for decades in one form or another, and it will continue. Its an intrinsic par of the business.

In the auto business all the stakeholders play the game to WIN.

 

Monday
Jun222015

Pick Up Battles Revisited

We have been mentioning for some time the continued Canadian love affair with full size pick ups. Especially pick ups from the Detroit 3 who have the lion's share of the market.

As you know today's pick ups are big, yes...really big compared to the same trucks of a few years ago. While the most popular configuration is the crew cab with the short box. Agreed these pick ups mimics full size cars of a few decades ago, especially luxury cars from back in the day.

If you have looked at pick up prices they are certainly in the luxury territory, you can get a mid size car from MerBimAu (Mercedes-BMW-Audi) for the same price. Not fair to call them them luxury vehicles, although the features are comparable to luxury cars. Its still a truck, and they still drive like a truck, they are not sport sedans.

Its also the classic layout of body on frame, a 2 speed transfer case with a low range on the 4x4 version (the majority). They can still carry a load, or pull a substantial trailer.

Although they are huge, with parking sensors, blind spot monitors (you cannot see a car on the side of the truck) and back up camera. These truck are easy to maneuver in tight spaces or park.

Fuel economy is not spectacular, but reasonable considering the size and especially the frontal area which pushes a good amount of air on the highway. Yes...the Ram has the Eco Diesel which is quite economical for a pick up. Similar to luxury cars from back in the day, the gas tanks are substantial in size.

How do pick ups from the Detroit 3 compare as of year to date May?

 

YTD May...........................2015.............2014

Ford F Series.....................46,868..........48,060

Ram................................38,297..........36,425

Silverado..........................17,526..........15,276

Sierra..............................20,998..........18,123

Total..............................123,689.........117,884   a 5% increase

Ford has been having supply challenges with the F150, yes dealers are not happy.

GM has benefitted from the Ford supply challenges.

Ram keeps on going.

Is it the presumed lower price of gas, or the expanding love affair with pick ups that encourages more sales?

What do you think?

 

 

Saturday
Jun202015

Form and Function

Experience a 280SL...

 

Friday
Jun192015

Vroom Room

Good Morning,

Corvette C7R Winning at LeMans Click on image to enlargeIts Friday, its the Vroom Room, enjoy the cappuccino and biscotti, join the conversation.

Le Mans

Porsche on its first try after countless years gets the overall win which had become an Audi stronghold for the past several years. As you know Porsche and Audi are part of the same Teutonic conglomerate. You have to wonder how much "sharing" there was/is between Porsche and Audi to achieve racing cost savings.

Yes...we are Corvette fans and they won the GTE Pro class...a huge accomplishment considering they raced only 1 car the pressure must have been monumental.

Mercedes-Benz Dealers

Have you noticed the propensity of white Sprinter vans in front of their showrooms some with monthly payments plastered on the sides. If a prospect needs a work van the fact that a Sprinter is displayed in front of a Benz dealer will it improve the decision process? What do you think? Perhaps they are considering Freightliner medium duty trucks in the near future.

Road Trip

We had an opportunity to go on a road trip to Montreal with a 2015 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ, which is a supreme higway cruiser. As well as discovering interesting historical churches, and experiencing first hand covering appreciable kilometers with the adaptive cruise control.

Our habitual old race cars from the Indy Brickyard Invitational 2015

 

 

Thursday
Jun182015

A Suburban With Adaptive Cruise Control

Adaptive cruise control has been around for over 10 years in one form or another on a variety of vehicles.

If you have experienced adaptive cruise control or have followed a vehicle on adaptive cruise control some aspects of "how it works" surely captured your attention. Especially compared to the classic "old school" cruise control.

In our case it was "You can set the cruise at xxx kph, and the vehicle will slow by itself, if the flow no longer permits the set speed".

With all the talk on self driving vehicles adaptive cruise control evolves into a different thought process as being a component of "self driving"....a different perspective. Its not just the cruise control, but how the vehicle would possibly drive itself with the cruise control as a component.

Some of the stuff we see on TV is perhaps slightly idealised.

Through the years we have always had unique and memorable experiences with Suburbans, this time was no different, we had a 2015 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ with adaptive cruise control, and a roas trip on the 401 heading east then west on the return.

We travelled at least 800 kilometers on with the adaptive cruise control dealing with a variety of traffic situations. As you probably know some of these systems are more refined than others.

From our perspective the system in the Suburban is leading hedge.

Our impressions in no particular order:

  • This Suburban is a supreme highway cruiser smooth, effortless, good passing power.
  • Fuel economy...not so bad considering the size and frontal area.
  • We set the cruise at xxx kph as expected the Suburban will scrub of speed, or accelerate.
  • It will brake quite aggressively if a vehicle pulls in to the space (distance).
  • Stepping of the gas overrides the braking feature.

How do you the driver and road reality interface with adaptive cruise control:

  • You set the speed and distance from the vehicle in front of you.
  • The vehicle in from will control your speed agenda...if you permit it to do so.
  • Passing must be done prior to reaching the set distance.
  • You will quickly scrub off speed and continue cursing at the speed of the vehicle in front.
  • You still have to make your way through lane congestion the cruise control has no understanding of alleviating lane congestion.
  • Accelerating with the gas pedal negates the braking feature.
  • If you accelerate to a higher rate of speed to improve your road position the cruise control will apply the brakes once you stop accelerating.

Its a new way of driving with the cruise control, once you grasp the operation of the adaptive cruise control in some ways its easier since the distance from the vehicle in front is set and the Suburban keeps the distance, even if a vehicle cuts in.

At the same time managing your speed requires constant attention, its very easy to scrub off speed due to the vehicle in front.

Are self driving vehicles around the corner:

  • From a technology perspective, yes they are.
  • Dealing with road reality still requires a good level of human involvement / intervention.
  • Self driving vehicles promote a higher level of distraction.