By Mika Rekai - Friday, May 3, 2013 - 0 Comments
The Karma was once the future, now it’s trying to stay on the road
When the Fisker Karma debuted in 2008, its stunning design and innovative plug-in hybrid drivetrain were heralded as the future of America’s automotive industry. Today, the company is on the brink of bankruptcy after selling fewer than 2,000 cars worldwide.
Last week, Fisker missed a $10-million loan payment to the U.S. government—it had been approved for a $529-million loan in 2009, and had received $192 million before being cut off—and the company is now being held up by critics as an example of the Obama administration’s failed green policies. At a hearing before Congress, conservatives accused the administration of making a rash and risky bet on Fisker and its untested technology.
Indeed, when Karmas landed on showroom floors in 2011, they were riddled with defects, and several needed their batteries recalled. And at $100,000, they were roughly the same price as a Porsche 911, which doesn’t need to be pulled over to be recharged.
By Elio iannacci - Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 10:50 AM - 0 Comments
Off the runway and onto the road
On a breezy night during L.A.’s auto show in November, a group of mainly middle-aged execs were shuffling their feet inside Jim Henson’s Hollywood studio. Above them, a sparkly Smart car—conceived by Kansas-born fashion designer Jeremy Scott, and launching next month—sat dramatically unveiled on a stage. Faux laser beams hit the milk-hued vehicle’s wing-shaped taillights, and gun shots blasted through speakers as rapper M.I.A. performed Paper Planes, a song about globalization’s damaging effects. Then through the VIP doors, and into the uniformed mass of charcoal grey and navy jackets, came rapper A$AP Rocky, actress Liberty Ross and the rest of Scott’s guest list: 30 twentysomethings wearing a mix of punk, ska, skater and Goth-inspired drag. “My designs can make worlds collide,” said Scott, who was sporting PVC pants, a mesh top and a canary yellow coif for the occasion (“my version of business casual”).
Scott, named by Karl Lagerfeld as his possible successor at Chanel, is one of many style-focused eccentrics conscripted by an automaker. Mini asked Italian Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Franca Sozzani, to work with them on developing a one-off Roadster, which was uncloaked and auctioned off at the big-ticket Life Ball event in Vienna last year. Emerging designers such as the U.K.’s Louise Gray, James Small and Fred Butler have produced versions of a new Vauxhall car called Adam, which launched during London Fashion Week last month. Victoria Beckham has designed a Range Rover, and even Chrysler entered the fray, producing a 2013 300C John Varvatos Limited Edition model with Varvatos, a Detroit designer. It’s a “brute in a suit,” as Chrysler put it, painted in phantom black—a trendy hue snatched right from the fall-winter runways. And in perhaps the biggest news, fashion house Courrèges—which began designing electric cars in the ’60s—is getting back into the game. According to the Financial Times, the label’s new owners, Jacques Bungert and Frédéric Torloting, plan to roll out electric cars this year in a soon-to-be announced partnership with a European carmaker.
By Colin Campbell - Monday, February 4, 2013 at 10:43 AM - 0 Comments
‘A very difficult year’ for Hyundai and Kia gets worse
Last year, Hyundai, along with Kia, which it partly owns, admitted it had overstated fuel-efficiency ratings on some new cars and promised to compensate buyers. This week, the carmakers revealed just how much the error will cost. They have set aside nearly half a billion dollars (US$225 million for Hyundai and US$187 million for Kia).
The hit comes at an already tough time for the South Korean companies. While they’ve been enjoying rising sales in North America, one key advantage—favourable exchange rates—is deteriorating fast as the won rises against the dollar and the yen in Japan, home to chief rival Toyota. Last week, Hyundai reported that its quarterly profit fell a surprising 5.5 per cent. Over the past four years, Hyundai was the world’s fastest growing automaker. Now, facing what company chairman Chung Mong Koo calls “a very difficult year,” that streak seems certain to come to an abrupt halt.
By macleans.ca - Monday, September 24, 2012 at 1:18 PM - 0 Comments
A weakening economy, congestion and pollution are all curbing the need for cars out East
Carmakers have long seen a road paved with gold in China. The country currently accounts for almost 25 per cent of global car sales, and Chinese buyers have a fondness for foreign brands. (Volkswagen has the biggest auto-market share in the country.) For the past two years, however, Chinese auto sales have been slowing down sharply. Last month, growth in the industry was just 3.7 per cent, down from 11 per cent in July. Two years ago auto sales were growing by a healthy 32 per cent. By 2011 that number had dropped to 5.2 per cent.
The worrisome figures come at a time of general turmoil in the world’s second-largest economy. This month, China’s economic growth has been its weakest since the global financial crisis began in 2007—unsettling news for automakers who are banking on growth in China’s auto sector amid weak demand in the United States and Europe. By 2007, mostly foreign companies had invested $25.5 billion in the market, and in 2009, China overtook America to become the world’s largest auto market.
While the weakening economy remains a chief concern, automakers are facing yet another threat: the government. In July, Guangzhou became the fourth city in China (after Beijing, Shanghai and Guiyang) to limit auto sales in an attempt to halve the number of cars on the road in an effort to fight congestion and pollution problems. The crackdown could eventually do more than just hurt local sales for automakers. Anthony Faria, director of the office of Automotive Research at the University of Windsor, says excess production in China could eventually result in the country exporting product to North America, undoubtedly hurting plants in Canada and the U.S.
By Blog of Lists - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 10:17 AM - 0 Comments
1. Le Roy: Designed by Nelson and Milton Good, the Le Roy was built in 1903 in Berlin, Ont., now Kitchener. No more than 20 were built before the company went bankrupt. Why? The purchase price of a new Le Roy in 1903 was $650, while the average annual income in Canada was only $275. The brake pedal on the Le Roy was also the same pedal that put the vehicle into reverse, which caused confusion among drivers.
2. Frontenac: In 1931, with the U.S.-based automaker Durant Motors near collapse, a group of investors acquired the company’s Canadian operations in Toronto and established Dominion Motors. Dominion released the Frontenac, a six-cylinder car, but it didn’t sell well. The next year Dominion rolled out a restyled Frontenac. But as the Depression deepened, Dominion shut down and the Frontenac’s brief run was over.
3. Manic GT: The Manic GT was the brainchild of Montreal native Jacques About. Despite keen demand—there was a two-month waiting list for new buyers—the factory based in Granby, Que., produced only 160 cars. The problem, a dependence on parts from Renault, proved to be the company’s downfall. The supply of parts could not meet the demand and the Granby factory closed in May 1971.
4. Bricklin: American millionaire Malcolm Bricklin’s idea was to develop a “high-performance safety car” in Saint John, N.B. He hired Herb Grasse, who created the original Batmobile. The car was designed without an ashtray because Bricklin believed it was unsafe to drive and smoke. That, combined with design and engineering flaws, lead to the collapse of the company in 1976.
5. Ballard fuel-cell car: There was never a single car from Ballard Power. Rather the company teamed with Ford and Daimler to develop experimental models using its hydrogen fuel-cell technology. In 2000 investors were convinced fuel cells would replace the internal combustion engine, and Ballard stock soared to $180. But steep costs, technological challenges and a lack of refuelling stations brought Ballard’s aspirations back to Earth (along with the stock price; today the shares are worth about $1.) In 2007, Ballard abandoned the hydrogen vehicle market.
Sources: Canada Science and Technology Museum; news reports
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By Chris Sorensen - Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
After a hot start, the now sputtering Scion brand is trying to win over young buyers all over again
When Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, first introduced its youth-oriented Scion brand to the California market in 2003, the idea was to pique the interest of twentysomethings who viewed vehicles like the Camry as something only their father would drive. The styles were eye-catching—particularly the boxy xB wagon—and the marketing was Guerrilla 101. The cars were parked outside hip nightclubs, where trendsetting patrons might be convinced to book a test drive. Marketers created video game contests and a record label to give the Scion brand more street cred.
It worked. Sales took off—that is, until the recession hit and sent youth unemployment levels soaring. In 2009, Scion’s U.S. sales fell nearly 50 per cent, to about 58,000 from some 114,000 a year earlier. The brand also suffered from a lack of new models, so Scion responded by promising a refreshed lineup. And, this year, the cars will be sold in Canada for the first time at 45 Toyota dealerships across the country.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 30, 2009 at 6:42 PM - 45 Comments
The Scene. In preemptive move, the government side sent up another of its backbenchers before Question Period—this one named Greg Rickford—to report on the latest outrageousness of the Liberal leader.
“Mr. Speaker, Canada’s auto industry directly employs over 150,000 Canadians and another 340,000 indirectly … half a million Canadians and their families depend on the health and viability of this industry and are looking to their leaders to ensure that Canada remains a strong part of the North American automotive industry through these economic times,” Rickford began. “That is why it is absolutely shameful that the leader of the opposition has turned up his nose to auto sector workers by saying: ‘No voter in B.C. wants to throw money into the auto sector and neither do I.’”
To Rickford’s credit, this was not entirely incorrect. Mr. Ignatieff did speak those 16 words. And one assumes it was by innocent omission that the Conservative failed to note the two preceding sentences. ”I don’t believe in bailouts,” Mr. Ignatieff reportedly said. “What I believe in is fully-refundable loan packages for industries that give you a business plan that will restore them to profitability.”
Undaunted by such details, Rickford went on. “I wonder if he would repeat the same sentiment at a town hall meeting in Ontario,” he whined. “I am sure he has more savvy than that. He has shown time and time again that he is more than willing to flip-flop on the content of his message to suit whatever audience he is speaking to, whether it be in Saanich, St. Catharines or at his home in Harvard.”
This last bit was, apparently, meant as a put-down. Continue…