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.

Need For Speed

My brother and I were recently talking about the game Need for Speed, and how after many iterations, it has lost out fans because of one specific game in the franchise. Apparently, that game, required internet to play. There was no way to play offline, which would be a huge deterrent. Since then, the franchise has struggled to get into gamers good graces.

As my brother pointed out, Forza and Grand Turismo are basically simulators rather than play for fun games.

So what would a new Need for Speed look like? Both gamers and car guys are, I think, the overlap in a venn diagram.

Right now, from a car guy standpoint, you have to put cars that are super popular in real life on the cover. A Datsun 510 would turn enough heads. If you want to really throw in a spark, put a GMC Syclone or a Porsche 944. Of course exotic cars are always a draw, but hyper cars tend to be the real show stopper now days. Cars like a McLaren Senna, Pagani Huayra, Koenigsegg Regera, are a bit more attention grabbing to enthusiasts, and still just as appealing to non enthusiasts.

Although, mentioning the GMC and the Porsche got me thinking that an expansion DLC for a Radwood edition would be REALLY popular.

I also recently read an article about how Road & Track had a hand in the original Need for Speed game. Back then, they pioneered the driving connection to the car. As the games increased, Road & Track parted ways. But ever since 2005 when Need for Speed Most Wanted came out, the game has gone down hill. I started to ask myself why.

I think that the game needs to get back to two anchors that made the game what it was. First, as debuted in Underground, they need to allow major modifications to the cars. For example, 2JZ swap a Lamborghini or safari a 94 Acura Legend. Let people get really creative with body kits, engine swaps, colors, lighting, interior, etc. A computer can swap out interiors and engines on a whim. Make it happen.

Second, and most importantly, is to have the ability to race and/or be pursued, at any time, anywhere in the game, in a semi realistic way. The original game was all about fast racing. Hot Pursuit was all about being chased. Suspension of disbelief is hard to achieve in a racing video game, especially if you are not making a simulator. But if there are options, like turning on and off damage, having a speed ratio to what is equipped on the car, and factoring in environmental effects like weather, are all things that have to have a delicate balance to give game players an extremely fun experience, but also have it be somewhat believable. To accomplish this, get a small group of strictly gamers, strictly car people, and people who know both, to accomplish the right balance for the game. If those things could be accomplished, Need for Speed can make an awesome comeback.

Dyson Ditched Car Making

dyson
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.