Automotive Name Game

Lately the automotive manufacturers seem to think that old names of cars should be revived. Some are putting their old car names on EV’s, some on SUV’s, and some are considering making entire brands out of them. No matter which way it happens to go, an automotive enthusiast is going to have something to say about it. The general public is going to have something to say about it too. Those two opinions might not be aligned.

The most recent, and potentially the most pivotal in terms of future unaffordable super/exotic/hyper cars, is that Lamborghini is reviving the Countach name. The Countach came out in 1974 as a wedge shaped, futuristic, made for speed vehicle. It was incredibly polarizing. By the end of its run in 1990 it grew to be an absolutely iconic, obnoxious, and completely impractical vehicle. But that was the point. Contrary to what most modern supercar owners do today, which is daily drive their quarter of a million dollar or more cars, the 1990 Countach was a loud 12 cylinder, painful cockpit, with brandishing looks that would gobble up miles on weekends in short bursts then be put away for 99.9% of the week, or more.

With styling, performance, and function all vital to understanding of what we know of as a specifically named vehicle, the Countach has a lot to live up to. It makes me wonder why they brought it back? Lamborghini has had no trouble coming up with names for vehicles. In my opinion, there was no need to bring back the Countach name. Ford has already shown how when you murky the water, you cause confusion. The Mustang Mach E and the Bronco Sport are prime examples.

I thought Lamborghini was smarter than that. A poster car of so many is now being brought back to life, but with a modern twist. If this is a production vehicle, which is unclear yet at the time of writing, it will really change the game for what these exclusive manufacturers might do. Granted, a lot of them already still have their legacy name plates or have brought back vehicles similar to them, without the old names. But the EV transformation could easily usher in a new Mercedes 300 SL (probably with slight change to EL), Ferrari F40 (probably to E40), Aston Martin DB5, even a McLaren F1. If you think I’m wrong or crazy, I get it, but I didn’t think the Countach would come back, yet here we are.

Consumers crazed with nostalgia are feeding the manufacturers with ideas that they want old cars. While that is true, we don’t actually want old car names. We want the idea of what old cars with iconic names have become. We want the limited edition, exclusive, fast, loud, and glorious looking vehicles that we grew up fantasizing about as kids. If the companies want to play games to see what works, fine, but to me a name is important. I’ll play. But, they should know, my bar is high.

Will Jaguar become Extinct?

My cousin and I were talking recently about the future of Jaguar and Land Rover. It was days before JLR announced they would be consolidating their lineup and explaining their plan to enter the electrification game. We all know that is where automobiles are heading, but is it sustainable?

The argument for electric vehicles in general can be an entire series of blogs, which I might do in the future. In this example, I want to focus specifically on Jaguar. One of the most shocking statements that I can’t comprehend is that Jaguar will not be introducing any new vehicles until 2025. That is 4 years of no new cars. What that means is they will continue producing the cars currently in their lineup, which is 5 different models, but they will not add another model. I am going to guess that they might not even do any refreshing of their current lineup either. They need to save as much money as possible. There is a huge chip shortage currently, and the pandemic has caused Jaguar to reduce their sales projections from 1 million vehicles sold to half that, with this information, I don’t think that Jaguar will survive. A car manufacturer can’t make money if it doesn’t make cars. It can’t make money if it doesn’t make new cars. It can’t make money if it doesn’t make a lot of cars.

They need to make money. Investing in electric is not cheap. It will require millions of dollars and I don’t think that Jaguar will have that. Only one of their vehicles is fully electric. With a goal to sell all electric vehicles by 2025, and only one currently being electric, with a goal to sell only a half million cars world wide, with only 5 cars in their lineup, that means with simple math, 100,000 fully electric Jaguars will reach the roads each year until 2025. I don’t know their sales numbers by models, so my estimation is a complete generalization. But, the fact remains, a car company can’t sustain itself on 500,000 cars a year and switch to all electric.

It is important to note as well, that I believe that projected 500,000 vehicles sold is combine with Land Rover sales. I am also not sure how all of the math adds up either, because 2020 sales according to the article were only 97,417.

With that perspective, the 500,000 might be the projection for total car sales by both brands until 2025. That is such a small, niche bunch of sales, that I don’t see how a profit can be found. I don’t see how a future can be forged. JLR is already sinking and creating a plan for an electric future only makes them look good on the surface. There is no way they can stay afloat beyond 2025.

I am going to make an educated guess that it would be wise to buy a Jaguar within the next 2 years. They very well could be some of the last Jaguar vehicles ever produced and they could become collectors items. Time will tell.

Hunting on the Range

Electric vehicles have created a new problem for commuting. That issue is called range anxiety. Essentially, it is the worry that the cars battery will die before a charging station is able to be found. While Tesla is the most well known electric vehicle, this blog is about is the Porsche Taycan.

A video on YouTube by Shmee150 shows his journey of taking his Taycan from London to Birmingham, which is roughly a 250 mile round trip. In the video, he says that the charging is not always the most quick thing to do. Not only did he wait over an hour, but he said it is a very social event. Part of that hour wait was waiting for the charger to become available. So, that is something to consider if you are going to drive an electric vehicle. The other part of the hour was trying to get the charger to work. Once it was working, it was not able to fast charge, so he spent over a half an hour to gain only 15 miles of range. In my eyes, that sounds like a waste of time. In regard to the social event, he said while charging his car other EV owners or just people in general come up to talk about their vehicles or experiences, or want to ask him about the Porsche. This does not sound like a car for people in a hurry or those who are introverts.

The other big story about the Taycan was published in Road & Track magazine. There, they took a cross country trip of the US from New York to California, and stopped 19 times to accomplish the trip. What most surprised me is that the chargers they preferred to use and the ones most accessible, were located at Walmart. While they were struggling to kill time at all the Walmarts they stopped at, because face it, we are not used to the idea yet that road tripping involves stopping for 30 minutes or far more at a time and gas station atmosphere is far more convenient in terms of travel foods, beverages, and accessories. The Road & Track drivers made it sound like the Walmarts became monotonous and boring after the first few.

This comes to my main point. As a Hot Wheel hunter, it sounds like a Taycan in the US would be the ultimate Hot Wheel hunting vehicle. You have more than one reason to stop at every Walmart now! Not only do you get to look for Hot Wheels, but you can charge your car as well! That is a win win situation! Although, paying the base model price of $103,800 for a Taycan can buy a lot of Hot Wheels and the waiting time to charge is still too much when on the hunt for the little cars. I like to get in and get out as fast as possible. As cool as the Taycan and the social event of charging sounds (I’m an extrovert), I think I’ll stick to Hot Wheel hunting in my Buick Rendezvous.

Dyson Ditched Car Making

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2 and a half years later, my shirt is the same but my prediction was completely wrong.

Two and a half years ago, there were reports that Dyson was going to be working on an electric vehicle. I made a video and a blog on September 28th, 2017 where I covered the topic briefly and predicted that Dyson would have a concept on the road before a Tesla semi would be on the road. That was one terrible prediction on my part. Tesla 1, Brentton 0.

Autoweek ran an article recently that explained how the founder of Dyson spent $609 million of his own money on the electric car project, only to find out that in order to simply break even, the car would have to be sold for $180,000. If this isn’t proof that profitability in transportation and mobility services is almost near impossible, I don’t know what more you could ask for.

While I am sad that Dyson abandoned the project, and let me down on my prediction, I can also understand and respect the choice. I want to step out of the auto industry for just a moment to provide an example of high cost, low profit projects. Recently, my wife has been looking into creating a point and click video game for PC and mobile. When you add up the cost of software, talent (if you can’t do everything yourself), time, materials, a somewhat simple game can start off anywhere from 3 to 5 thousand dollars to make. People pay for quality games. In order to turn a profit, we would most likely have to sell the game for $10 which might price out our audience. If we sold it at a $1, we would need to sell over 10,000 copies to turn some small profit. We don’t know if we have an audience that large. So, after counting up all the associated costs, and estimating and understanding the industry a little more, it is not surprising that large game studios spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce a top tier game, like The Last of Us or Forza or Fifa. Then, in order to make any sort of profit, there is a reason those games are nearly $80 at launch, even with the quantities they sell them in. The cost to produce video games is an upfront, staggering cost.

Hopefully that will help shed light on just how hard it is for these EV automotive start-up companies to produce a product. The industry is cut throat and expensive. No one works for free. If you can’t turn a profit you won’t stay in business. And for what it is worth, Tesla is barely profitable. Elon can get an Eskimo to buy ice in the arctic and has had investors pour millions into Tesla. If everyone wanted their return on investment right now, the company would cease to exist.

Electric Vehicles are on Fire

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A major subject in the news lately has been that of a Tesla bursting into flames in a parking garage. You can read about that here. While Tesla seems to be in the subject of media outlets quite often, this particular story has actually been quite the finale for a multitude of stories recently about electric cars on fire. And sadly, not in a hip cool way, but literally, on fire.

There was another story a few months ago (read here) about a Tesla crashing and instantly catching on fire. The driver was trapped in the car and perished because rescue personnel could not get the vehicle open in time. That kind of situation probably does not sit well with first responders and even the general public.

Another story out of Europe described an electric vehicle continuously reigniting after firefighters thought the fire was out. You can read about that here. Eventually, they had to submerge the car in a shipping container full of water for a few days to ensure that it would not catch on fire again. That is quite brilliant actually. Simple and effective, but should it be necessary?

Lastly, a Camaro modified to be fully electric was forbidden to take part in a Formula Drift event at Long Beach because firefighters were not prepared to battle an electric car fire. That is the big debate now regarding electric vehicles. Some people see this as a killjoy while others see this as a wake-up call. You can read about this here.

After reading all of these examples (there are many more out there), I lean towards the side of caution and safety, using these situations as a wake-up call. Electric cars are a lot of danger not just moving, but even parked! The evidence is unclear on if and what first responders are trained about electric vehicles and how to handle them in the event of a crash and fire. High amperage and voltage cables pose a risk to the very lives trying to save a life, which one could argue is the chosen job, but life or death scenarios are time sensitive. Will firefighters have enough time to pinpoint and precisely cut an electric vehicle where it needs to be cut in order to preserve their own life along with saving another?

Society has had batteries in devices for quite some time now. However, it is becoming more common to see in the news that even those small devices, cell phones, and electronic cigarettes, have blown up injuring the user. The odds might be relatively low for that happening considering the number of devices that are out there, but still. Automobiles are already a huge danger to human lives. Add in electricity and batteries and that doesn’t make the equation any safer. Take the time to educate yourself and feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below. I am going to proceed with caution as more and more electric vehicles begin to be produced.