The automotive news this week had highs of the JD Power & Associates awards and newly-announced innovations like in-wheel power motors and a water-cooled exhaust manifold. There were also downsides that caught our readers’ interest, like the Ford Focus upcoming production move to China and Porsche’s need to reinvigorate its brand image after the Volkswagen Dieselgate debacle.
Here are those stories and more on this week’s edition of the “Gas2: Week in Review.”
With an increasing number of consumer-reported problems for automakers and suppliers, JD Power & Associates acknowledged that problematic voice recognition systems, Bluetooth connectivity issues, inconsistent collision avoidance and lane departure systems, and other consumer dissatisfaction with digital world applications demonstrated the critical importance of automakers responding to feedback regarding vehicle quality. And the automaker that seems to have been most proactive is Kia, which won the 2017 Initial Quality award for the second year in a row. Its parent company, Hyundai finished down in 8th place. Tesla declines to share data with JD Power.
Elaphe Motors, a Slovenian company that is pioneering work with in-wheel motors, has released information about its new distributed propulsion system. Through sophisticated electronics, each wheel can get precisely the amount of power and torque it needs and no more. Four separate electric motors allow for torque vectoring, which means that each wheel can operate independently from the other three. The system is mounted completely inside the rims and is built around a standard disc brake and bearing. The European Union has given Elaphe Motors a €1 million grant to develop the technology and find industrial partners.
This potentially exciting innovation also had one of our astute readers wondering about “the vehicle handling and performance (as) wheel motors increase unsprung mass and rotational inertia in the wheels.”
A new exhaust manifold technology that casts the tubular exhaust manifold and head out of a single piece, along with water channels that keep coolant flowing around the integrated exhaust manifold, really caught our readers’ interest. They primarily wondered aloud…
- “The extra heat of the manifold would seem to really require increased cooling workload;”
- “Wouldn’t decreasing exhaust temperature impact the function of the cat?”
- “Never underestimate the staying power of incumbents…nor their unwillingness to embrace big technology change!”
In response to President Donald Trump’s condemnation of Ford’s plan to build the Focus in Mexico, CEO Jim Hackett has announced that Ford will move production to Chongqing, China and import the cars from there. Trump has not issued one of his expected Tweets in response. But our readers did have plenty of reaction, including:
- “Hopefully Trump slaps a reciprocal tariff on cars coming from China;”
- “The government or companies in general could’t give 2 shits about US workers.
I’ve think we’ve all learned that much by now;”‘
- “Hopefully some of that ‘saved’ $1B will help the US economy by focusing on training the US workforce to be able to transition to product development (better jobs and better wages);”
- “Great for business but HORRIBLE for the American populace.”
The diesel debacle just won’t go away for Volkswagen. Even its subsidiaries of Audi and Porsche are feeling the negative vibes. So, wouldn’t it make sense for Porsche to grab the glamour and glory of Formula 1 to help that oh-so-unhappy scandal to subside? Porsche execs will be sitting in at the next F1 engine manufacturers’ meeting in Baku, where they’ll discuss future options with Renault, Mercedes, Ferrari, and Honda. Of course, this is all speculation, with Formula E also a real possibility for Porsche to make a statement about how forward thinking it is. Other rumors also have Porsche heading for Formula E and/ or Le Mans.
- “Porsche’s real battle is to find customers for performance cars among the world’s younger buyers… But, with reduced disposable income and a higher percentage of younger people living in our cities, these “Device Culture” buyers don’t need a vehicle as much as in years past;”
- “To put it in perspective, Porsche has proven to be a more than competent wielder of hybrid tech in racing and with the 918… if there is any company that could make it work, it’s Porsche.”