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Automotive: Ford's Mustang "Problem"; Tesla Delivering Model 3; Nascar's Big Skid; etc…


Mustang sales have recently slumped, and it (at least temporarily) lost its top spot in the American affordable sports car genre to its nearest competitors: The Dodge Challenger and the Chevrolet Camaro. This venerable vehicle has a half-century production history; and the term "pony car" was coined in its honor. Although sales have slipped for the entire market niche, the Mustang apparently has a unique problem.

Die-hard enthusiasts are waiting for the next iteration.

This article explores the difficulties of keeping an icon saleable.

Ford's Mustang Has a Problem: The New Mustang
Sales have slumped as drivers wait for the newest iteration, and the Dodge Challenger is challenging.
By Kyle Stock
August 4, 2017, 7:10 AM EDT
© Bloomberg, L.P.
Source; drill down for charts; excerpts follow:

Quote

… With a new and improved Mustang just months away, buyers for the incumbent model have vanished. U.S. sales have plummeted 30 percent, to just 50,800, through July of this year. In June, it was outsold by the Dodge Challenger, something that has happened only one other time in the past five years. Sales of the Challenger, meanwhile, have climbed slightly in 2017.

… Assembling a vehicle, however, is more complicated than snapping together a smartphone. Carmakers retool massive assembly lines to make a new car and can't continue stamping out the dated version. To mitigate the pain before a big release, car companies can either scale back production to match demand or roll out special editions to tempt a small number of loyalists into paying more for what is essentially the same car.

Ford has done both. In 2016, it started selling the Mustang Shelby GT350, a track-focused version with a souped-up engine and bigger brakes. In October, Ford idled its Michigan Mustang plant for a week, sending some 3,702 workers home.

… Updating and relaunching a vehicle, however, gets expensive. If Ford is forced to keep tweaking its pony car so often, it will become a much less efficient economic machine.


Related: Ford Adds 'Good Neighbor' Mode To 2018 Mustang GT (Adjustable exhaust note)

Also related and celebratory: Ford Trucking Turns 100 and Still Driving U.S. Sales


Elon Musk is a colorful and complex character: Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity, Hyperloop; who knows what else is going to splash out of his mind, into culture and industry. He's an "idea man" who gets people excited (or at least interested) in what he's doing.

I was thinking the other day that, throughout history, there have been many brilliant minds of various types (technological, artistic, philanthropic, political, military…) who absolutely sucked when it came to business and financial sense. (Ironically, Nikola Tesla comes immediately to mind.) Musk, it seems, not only has visions but is making them work. He's not just a deep thinker; he has enough showmanship, emotional intelligence, and cleverness to cut deals, get financing, and show results.

But that doesn't mean it's easy.

With Tesla, Inc., Musk has shown that he can sell all-electric cars to "true believers" like himself. But since he wants to change America's car culture and make electric cars more desirable and popular, he's essentially placed a huge "bet" on the Tesla Model 3, a mass-produced electric car for the masses. This article explores the challenges and hurtles facing him.

Tesla Is All the Rage. But Barely Anyone Is Actually Buying Electric Cars
Jul 31, 2017
© 2017 Time Inc. All rights reserved.
Source; excerpts follow:

Quote

For all the excitement Tesla Inc. mustered by starting to deliver its cheaper Model 3, the tall order ahead for the sedan will be to pull off what no electric car has done to date -- move the needle on the auto market.

Tesla's sedan starting at $35,000 has landed as U.S. sales of EVs and other green autos, including hybrids, perk up for the first time in four years. The gains have been too modest to matter to an industry in decline during the first half of the year. Total car and truck deliveries probably shrank a seventh straight month in July…

"If you're trying to make a difference in the world, you obviously have to make cars that people can afford," Elon Musk, Tesla's chief executive officer, told reporters Friday before handing over the first 30 Model 3 sedans to company employees. "This is a car that about half of the people in the U.S. -- in an advanced economy -- can afford."…

While EV (electric vehicle) sales surged 41 percent in the first half of the year, according to car-shopping website Edmunds, they still accounted for just 0.5 percent of the total light-vehicle market. While adoption has been slow to date, even some of their leading skeptics are beginning to see their rise as imminent….

"I still think that there's going to be a huge increase in prices in '21, '22, if effectively electrification becomes as widespread as people expect," (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's Sergio) Marchionne said during an earnings call. The higher cost of EVs "will cause a shrinkage of demand," he said…

"If automakers want car shoppers to adopt green technology, they can't just offer it exclusively in a little econobox," Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell said in an email. "As tastes have taken a dramatic turn away from passenger cars, and battery technology improves, automakers have an opportunity to drive adoption forward by offering electric powertrains in vehicles shoppers actually want."…


Related: Driver in Tesla Autopilot accident would buy another Tesla "Both (the driver) Pang and Tesla confirmed that the car was in Autopilot mode, and that he did not have his hands on the wheel."



I'm not any kind of sports "fan", especially not of the "men playing at children's games" variety. Growing up, although I kept trying, I really sucked at sports. Although I possessed a modicum of athleticism, the interest just wasn't there. And without that, there's little motivation to improve one's game… or even win. ("Go clock, go!") And let's face it, some significant portion of sports fandom is vicarious (like air guitar); experienced by observing instead of doing.

Perhaps the only sport genre that really piqued my interest is "motor racing": Cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, airplanes, wheelchairs; whatever. Since I could actually envision myself driving at high speed… (no comments from the Peanuts gallery please)… this was something I could watch. Maybe not all 500-miles at Indianapolis or Daytona (etc) but it caught my attention.

So, from not too long ago, I remember when the term "NASCAR voters" was part of the American political environment. I wasn't entirely sure what it meant; were politicians sponsoring stock cars?

"It's Smith in the Clinton Special and Jones' Trump Trundler neck-and-neck in the final lap!" Yeah, probably not.

It was more of a cultural stereotype; a handy way of pigeonholing and targeting certain voters.

Attendance at and audiences of NASCAR events (and revenues) have been dropping for about 10-years. This article explores several possible reasons for this; I'm most interested in the last one.

4 Reasons for Nascar's Big Skid
Is it the economy? Bad management? Too boring? Or are Americans just over it?
by Justin Fox
July 28, 2017, 8:58 AM EDT
© Bloomberg, L.P.
Source; excerpts follow:

Quote

1. It's maybe not the best-run organization in the world…

2. It's the economy's fault…

3. Nascar got boring…

4. Fewer people love cars.
Putting too much weight on the particular foibles of Nascar may be a mistake given that Formula One auto racing has been contending with a similar decline in interest. This hasn't really been brought up in any of my Nascar-related readings, but I wonder if it's just that the great love affair with cars that consumed the U.S. and other affluent countries in the post-World War II decades has given way to a different sort of relationship in which most people simply rely on their (increasingly reliable) vehicles without thinking about them, and only a tiny minority do the sort of tinkering and driving for pleasure that was once common. Autoshop classes have become rare, generally less-fun-to-drive pickups and sport utility vehicles outsell cars by a wide margin in the U.S., and a growing percentage of Americans never even bother to get driver's licenses. Watching cars drive around in circles for hours is always going to be an acquired taste, but people are going to be far more likely to acquire it if they actually care about cars in the first place…

The "job" of automotive manufacturers is to sell cars; the more the better. Hence, over the decades, driving has become increasingly easier (and safer) in order to grow the potential client base. (I blame the automatic transmission.) Simultaneously, automotive technological advances have made maintaining and repairing cars increasingly complex and difficult, such that (I think) a growing majority of drivers have trouble finding the hood latch release, and wouldn't know what's going on under there even if they did.

All they know is: "Key and D" (turn the key and put it in Drive). That makes me sad.

I think the written test for a driver permit should include a brief essay on the basic workings of an internal combustion engine (at least name the 4 cycles), and the road test should include checking fluid levels and changing a tire. C'mon folks; you're piloting hundreds of pounds of glass, metals, and plastic, which at highway speeds collectively contain the kinetic energy of a fair-sized bomb; the least you can do is know what makes it work.

Yada, yada; I'm old-fashioned. I worked on my own cars, I was a maintenance mechanic, a professional driver, and yet I haven't changed my own oil in years. But I know what to do when you turn the key and nothing happens, I know where to find the jack, and:

  • Intake
  • Compression
  • Power
  • Exhaust

Repeat several thousand times per minute.

The World is moving toward driverless cars, modern advances in driver-assist technologies are the stepping stones, and I'm not going gently into that good night. I like driving, I like tinkering, and I'm intent on being one of the "variables" that your "autonomous" vehicle must contend with for as long as possible. So there.

Let's close with a classic joke:

I want to die quietly in my sleep, like my grandfather,
Not screaming in terror, like his passengers.


:coolshades:
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1 Comments On This Entry

NASCAR has definitely changed, in a way that's it's just not "fun" anymore.

Used to be ALL about "Skill". YES, skill is still part of it. It takes a great deal of skill - and nerve - to go around a track that fast and that close to the next car.

But these days it seems MORE about just plain old-fashioned "Dumb Luck" - the fortuity of not being in any of the 10-car or 15-car crashes when the guy three cars ahead wipes out and takes a dozen others with him.

Heck, just this year at Daytona, over a number of incidents, by the time it was over Almost 75 percent of Daytona 500 field involved in crashes. Kurt Busch won the race after having led for only 1 lap but having the good fortune of not being crashed out.

I could argue that Kurt Busch is a good driver, but not necessarily a better driver than Dale Jr, or Jimmie Johnson or Danica Patrick or even Kyle Busch. He just happened to be "luckier". This time.
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