Friday Fun: Teslas catch fire, Service King goes big and mirrorless cars may be on the way

Service King's new 70,000 sq. ft. shop in California.
By Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario — August 25, 2016 — Congratulations on making it through another week! In this edition of Friday Fun, we look at flaming Teslas, the “iphonification” of the car and the coming advent of mirrorless vehicles.
– Tesla has done very well in Denmark, but apparently was not able to keep up with support for the vehicles sold. The Tesla became the best-selling car in the country as a result of a tax break, but sales have “vanished” according to a report on Electrek, as it has become clear that thousands of vehicles still need to be serviced and Tesla is having difficulty keeping up with the demand. 
In response, some former employees of the company decided to “set up shop in order to independently service owners, but they report facing roadblocks from Tesla.” Emil Ellefsen, a former delivery specialist at Tesla, left the company to start a body shop and service centre aimed at servicing Tesla vehicles. The shop is called Autoskadestuen A/S. He partnered up with Henrik Tidemand Jorgensen, a Tesla-trained technician and mechanic, according to the report. The shop became the only approved body shop in the country. Once Ellefsen joined, however, they insist Tesla is blocking them from ordering parts, or getting certified by the company. 
– US consolidator Service King announced Monday the opening of a massive new 70,000 sq. ft. repair centre in Milpitas, Calif. According to a press release the facility has the capacity to repair 600 vehicles per month and includes a contemporary customer waiting area complete with “water features.” It sounds, and looks, fancy.  
– A report this week on UK news site The Star suggest motorists now “change their car more often than they switch their mattress or even their mobile phone…” A news story discussing the research says that the, “length of time motorists keep a car has plummeted from around five years to two years or less … some car makers now see average returns of vehicles in 24 months, and there is evidence of a growing number of 18-month leases in the market.” 
Mobile phone contracts are on average between 18 and 24 months, according to the report. An analyst quoted in the story said that, “What we are seeing is the ‘iphonification’ of the car industry as consumers increasingly pay to drive rather than pay to own their vehicles … It’s the same model as the mobile phone industry where people are comfortable paying a monthly fee – only they are now doing this with their vehicles as well as their mobiles.” Motorists are “increasingly looking towards usership rather than ownership,” according to the story.  
– Tesla continues to deal with that damning tendency for some of its cars to catch on fire and burn down to the ground. A couple of media reports over the past two weeks reported that a Tesla Model S burst into flames during a test drive in the southwest of France. As well, a Tesla in Norway burnt right to the ground when its battery caught on fire. 
According to the French newspaper Sud Ouest, the driver of the Tesla, “was accelerating along a main road when a loud noise was heard. The vehicle reportedly popped up a warning message, and the Tesla employee then asked the driver to bring the vehicle to a halt. All four occupants proceeded to execute a full and proper disembarkation. ‘In less than a minute, the car was in flames and, in five minutes, it was totally destroyed,’ the driver was quoted as saying….There have been other reported cases of the Model S bursting into flames, but they have always been after a severe impact punctured the lithium-ion battery pack.” 
Compared to other automakers, Tesla is small, young and closely watched by the media. Keeping in mind the overall stats, Teslas are not more likely to catch fire than other cars. Approximately 17 standard cars caught fire every hour in the US between 2006 and 2010 according to the Department of Transportation. That equates to one vehicle fire for every 20 million miles driven, compared to one fire in over 100 million miles for Tesla. 
– A planned protest by a group of taxi workers went ahead Wednesday, according to a report in the Toronto Star. The protest was in part a response to an “… announcement that the city has now licensed Uber as the first private transportation company in Toronto under new regulations. It’s the first time that Uber has been issued a vehicle-for-hire license in Canada… The city will now screen UberX drivers—who use their personal cars to ferry passengers at fares cheaper than those of traditional taxis—and provide them with a separate private transportation company driver license.” 
– Automobile and parts manufacturers are developing “mirrorless vehicles” that use cameras and monitors instead of traditional rearview and side mirrors. Sales of these cars are expected to pick up around 2018 according to a report. The idea behind a mirrorless car is to replace the mirrors with cameras. While this is doubtless high-tech, it seems like a solution to a problem that doesn’t actually exist. 
– A report from the Associated Press finds that traffic fatalities were up this year, at least in the US: “9 percent in the first six months of this year compared with the same period last year, continuing a surge in deaths that began two years ago as the economy improved and travel picked up …” The stats were in a report released Tuesday by the National Safety Council. “An estimated 19,100 people were killed on US roads from January through June … That’s 18 percent more than two years ago at the six-month mark. About 2.2 million people also were seriously injured in the first half of this year … The council estimates the cost of these deaths and injuries at about $205 billion.” 
If this rate continues for the rest of the year, the US is on track to exceed “40,000 fatalities … for the first time in nine years.” It has been widely assumed that technological advances like more automated safety features in cars would push those numbers down, but the report notes that unsafe driver behaviours are still pervasive, “including distraction, drowsy and drunk driving, speeding, and failure to buckle up.” 
US drivers have also put in a record 1.58 trillion miles on the road in the first half of this year, according to the report. That’s a 3.3 percent increase over the same period in 2015. 
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