On August 31st, the sun spewed a massive coronal mass ejection (CME) that dwarfed the Earth and on September 3rd, it came close enough to Earth to connect with our magnetosphere and cause an Aurora to appear. So what in the world does this have to do with cars? Well, let’s have a look.
In 1859, a huge CME – the last one since, by the way – caused a geomagnetic storm that then caused telegraph systems to fail, shock their operators, and even work while unplugged. Fortunately in those days, they didn’t rely on all of the high-tech things that we do.
Autonomous cars are all the rage lately, as we continue to cover the advances that Google and Cadillac are making in this area. Autonomous cars actually use one of the technologies that Mike Hapgood, a pace weather scientist near Oxford England, says will be hugely affected by a geomagnetic storm of large proportion – GPS.
Imagine if a moderate portion of the cars on the road are using autonomous technology using GPS in some way, like the Google car. People by nature become complacent and comfortable, therefore leading to many of these drivers not paying attention to the road, but instead playing video games, reading the paper, or eating lunch.
If a CME-caused geomagnetic storm should take place and knock out GPS satellites, imagine the massive traffic it would cause, at best. Even worse, it could result in major accidents, should these cars veer off of the road and out of control. That’s a scary possibility that this recent solar flare close call should bring to the forefront. The engineers must devise a backup plan that overrides the GPS part of autonomous driving, should the signal be lost.
This additional engineering process may ultimately delay the public release of these automated cars. If this simply goes by the wayside without any safety measure, besides human intervention, it could cause a serious issue.
An heir to the Red Bull fortune, left behind when its co-creator died in march, was arrested on charges stemming from a hit-and-run death of a police officer in Bangkok. According to the reports, Vorayuth Yoovidhya, the grandson of Red Bull’s co-creator, was arrested for striking a police officer on a motorcycle, while driving his Ferrari FF . He dragged the officer for several meters, before fleeing the scene.
The officer died from his injuries and, initially, a fake suspect was arrested in an attempt by other officers to cover up the crime. After an investigation by higher-ranking officials and a trail of oil leading straight to Yoovidhya’s home and his wrecked Ferrari, the 27-year-old heir was arrested.
He was later released on $15,000 bail and is now roaming the streets again. Yoovidhya claims innocence and that the officer pulled in front of him, causing the accident, but he still faces up to 10 years in prison for “causing a death by driving” and leaving the scene of a crime. Yes, in some Asian countries, causing a death while driving is a crime, regardless of fault, unless there is undeniable evidence of innocence.
An interesting note is that the same family is the sole importer of Ferrari cars in Thailand, so there is no wonder he was whipping a $295,000 Ferrari FF, which likely costs much more in Thailand.
This all comes thanks to a report from Bloomberg, through Handelsblatt, that VW’s CEO, Marin Winterkorn, has said “We have enough to do at the moment in taking our twelve brands to where we want to be” in response to the company possibly buying Proton. He also said “We need to grow in Southeast Asia,” then followed that up with “but that does not mean that we will buy Malaysia’s Proton, like some are speculating.”
In the world of automobile acquisitions, you can always take a CEO’s words with a grain of salt, as they are saying what is true at any given second. At the drop of a hat, that truth can suddenly change, especially if DRB-Hicom decides to offer up Proton at a bargain price. Add in the fact that VW has been very shady with its business tactics lately – avoiding the tax man and sneaking Ducati under Lamborghini’s umbrella to help it meet mpg standards – and you can see why we don’t believe a word of what Winterkorn says.
VW will say what it needs to say in order to keep its labor group happy, but ultimately it is in the automobile manufacturing game to make money. If Proton and/or Lotus are seen as potential profit, VW will tell the labor group to suck it up, as they ink a deal for the Malaysian automotive group.
We’ll keep a close eye on this whole situation and see if VW stays true to it word or reverses ship if Proton falls in its lap.
Just recently, we reported that Johan de Nysschen left Audi USA to head up Infiniti , and it appears he is already making some necessary changes. According to Car Sales, Nysschen confirmed that it, like many other automakers, is heading away from V-8 engine configurations to help reduced CO2 emissions and help it meet the anticipated CAFE standard of 54.5 mpg by 2025. He was quoted saying: “I don’t think any car that is on Infiniti drawing boards from here onwards we should expect a V8 to be included in that plan”
It is admirable seeing luxury automakers willing to take a step forward to help meet the needs of the world, as fuel prices continue to rise. This is a sharp contrast to his former employer stance, as Volkswagen has spoken out pretty harshly against these upcoming regulations and is one of only a handful of car manufacturers that has not signed the CAFE agreement. We wonder if this was a ideological difference that helped push Nysschen away from Audi and VW .
Keep an eye out for the next generation of Infiniti cars to be lacking the all mighty Nissan 5.6-liter V-8 engine and we are now awaiting Nissan to announce a similar changeover. This would entail changes to the Nissan Titan and NV van lineups. Ford has already shown that a turbocharged V-6 engine works great in a pickup truck and we’re sure it translates well to a van too.
The phrase ’filing for insolvency’ has been been thrown around a lot in the past couple of weeks. It wasn’t long ago that Melkus filed for insolvency amidst lagging sales that have effectively torpedoed their standing in the industry. It certainly didn’t help that they overpriced themselves out of the market, but that’s a story for another time.
What is the story, at least the latest one involving insolvency proceedings, is Gumpert’s decision to follow in the footsteps of Melkus in its home country, citing - you guessed it - the company’s failure to balance the supply of their cars with the demands of it, particularly in the Chinese market.
Now before you start crying for Gumpert’s demise, their move to apply for insolvency isn’t considered a death knell for the company. Rather, it gives them an opportunity to restructure their business in order for them to be able to cope with the demands of the market.
There’s still a chance that Gumpert can get back on its feet, something Görge Scheid, the attorney tapped to handle the company’s insolvency case, alluded to in a statement to the media. Not much was divulged by the official announcement, but the company did acknowledge that they’ve been aggressive in looking for potential new investors for the company. It’s a move that could potential infuse some new life to Gumpert and restore its place in the business as one of the most popular niche supercar makers in the world.
We often bring up the CAFE standards, as they directly impact our covering of supercars that obviously do not fit into this plan. As much as we hate to admit it, fossil fuels are at about a quarter tank right now and fading fast, so something had to be done.
First came the “Gas Guzzler” tax, but that had very little impact, as the folks buying those types of cars could afford the extra several thousand dollars. With our backs against the wall, gasoline prices over $4 per gallon and the current CAFE standards expiring in 2016, the government stepped in and began composing an extension to the CAFE standards, which would push the average mpg of all cars and light trucks up to 54.5 mpg by 2025.
There was some battle over these standards being unconstitutional and unnecessary, but ultimately the courts and all sides of the government came to the conclusion that it was a necessary evil. Now this law has become official, as it has successfully passed its final obstacle, the pen of Barack Obama.
The new law takes effect in the 2017 model year, but there is a chance that Mitt Romney could beat Obama and he made it clear that he would immediately repeal the CAFE standards and move more toward encouragement than legislation. We’re not a political site, but it’s likely too late for encouragement to move the mpg needle fast enough.
We have already outlined what the supercar realm may look like by the year 2020, with high-strung 4-cylinders powering our fastest cars instead of massive V-12 engines. This can also cause a push toward LPG, CNG or hydrogen in the future, as the new law includes incentives for natural gas and fuel cell vehicles. We’ll have to wait and see exactly what happens, but the changes in the next 13 years will be drastic.
Click past the jump to read the press release about the finalization of these standards.
We seriously lost count of how many times Youngman was blocked while trying to purchase Saab before it was finally awarded to a lower, but more “suitable” bidder. Finally, after numerous swings and misses, Youngman has found a suitable partner in its automobile-manufacturing venture. Ironically, it is with the company he was originally blocked from buying Saab from, Spyker .
Spyker and Youngman have just inked a framework deal that assigns 29.9 percent of Spyker’s stock to Youngman. In turn, Youngman will pay €10,000,000. Of the initial investment, €6.7 million will be used to pay for the 29.9 percent ownership, while the remaining €3.3 million will act as a shareholder loan. The entire deal should be completed within 45 days of the signing of the deal, as that is the time frame that Youngman has to pay the deal in full.
In this deal, the two companies will form a joint venture called Spyker P2P B.V. (Spyker P2P) Youngman will contribute an additional €25 million to this venture and take 75 percent share hold in it. Spyker’s 25 percent share hold comes in the form of technological contributions. Spyker P2P will use this technology to develop the Spyker D8 Peking-to-Paris super sports utility vehicle (SSUV). The $250,000 SSUV is set to launch in 2014 and Spyker P2P B.V. will use its technology to help launch additional models.
A second joint venture, dubbed the Spyker Phoenix , will see Youngman contribute the Phoenix platform technology that he bought from Saab and fund 100 percent of the venture. This will net Youngman an 80 percent share hold on the Phoenix and give Spyker 20 percent — we assume this share is for Spyker manufacturing the car.
This is certainly a great big mess of numbers, but essentially, Youngman is giving Spyker a ton of money and Spyker is providing its technology on one vehicle and, we assume, the manufacture of the other vehicle to gain minority share in said vehicles.
We’ll keep a close eye on this one and let you know if it actually ever pans out or simply fizzles away.
Click past the jump to read the full press release.
After a healthy drought between Bahar-and-Lotus divorce articles, we have now started a new streak for this dysfunctional divorce. We recently learned that Lotus is auctioning off Bahar’s custom 2002 Lotus Esprit and it may be a fund-raising effort for their upcoming legal battle with its former CEO.
You guessed it. It is now official that Bahar has filed a high-court suit against Lotus for wrongful termination. The suit is reported to be worth ₤6.7 million and is against both Lotus and DRB-Hicom, with the former being the first defendant and the latter being the second in the case.
According to a report from DRB-Hicom, it opposed Bahar’s accusations and is prepared to defend them vigorously. In addition, DRB-Hicom has filed a counter-suit against Bahar, likely for misuse of corporate funds, as he was renting a house on Lotus’s dime, which isn’t a big deal, but dumped tons of money on having the rental property refurbished, using Lotus funds, allegedly.
In a statement, DRB-Hicom stated "The exact quantum of costs arising from the claim cannot be determined at this point in time... We will make the requisite announcements when appropriate." That sounds like corporate-ese for “we are trying to dig up every last penny that Bahar used without permission and add it up to really make him look bad.”
For now, this is all the news we have on this front, but we’ll keep you up to date on this lawsuit as it progresses.
Criminals are all too often not the brightest bulbs in the pack and this usually results in them using something like a 1989 Dodge Shadow as their getaway car. Well, not to compliment a robber, but this UK thief took planning to a whole new level and stole himself a real getaway ride, a 450-horsepower Audi RS5 .
After his 16th robbery of a UK business, he took off in the RS5 and the police could hardly keep up – seeing the cars they drive, it is no surprise. The dude even outran a helicopter. It wasn’t until he decided to make a stopover at a local apartment complex that he was tracked down and busted.
The police estimated that he was doing upwards of 180 mph during the chase and by the looks of the helicopter camera, his tires gave way at some point and he was shooting sparks from the rims – a tribute to that wonderful Quattro AWD system, if I may add.
In all, this 65-mile run from the cops in a stolen Audi beast – and the multiple robberies – landed this thief in jail for nine years. A rather light sentence for all of those crimes and an extremely fast police chase. We guess they do things a little differently in the UK.
Anyways, check out the above video to see all of the craziness. You’ll notice that the cameras are pretty choppy in the beginning, but the chase section is nice and smooth.
We have just received word that the testing process of these “connected” cars is not only a Mercedes job, as the DOT has brought in 3,000 vehicles to test their crash-avoidance skills. This is actually the second phase of product testing, but the first time that the DOT will actually test the Wi-Fi communication between these vehicles.
Once all of this information is gathered, the DOT will crunch the numbers and is expected to make a decision on continuing testing this technology or not sometime in 2013. the goal of this testing phase is to find out “how to apply the technology in an effective way in the real word,” according to David Strickland, NHTSA Administrator.
Now, don’t confuse this progress with movement toward automated vehicles. This is just one of the many major steps toward legalizing autonomous cars, but not the final decision. If this test goes well, then this does set the ball moving slightly faster on automated cars.
To read the DOT’s full press release, click past the jump.