By Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario -- January 28, 2016 -- It’s time once again for our round-up of the unusual, the bizarre and the just plain funny stuff that happened in the last week. This time around, we’re looking at why the head of Apple’s car project is stepping down, how Takata can’t make airbags fast enough and the visit Daimler’s Chairman paid to Google.
- Paint producer Axalta continues to find friends among the Wall Street crowd. The most recent analyst report puts a $45 price target on Axalta stock. Considering the company is trading under $22 today this is a sign of real confidence in the company. Hitting that target would be a greater-than 80 percent return on investment. The analyst also pointed out that Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway bought in to the company through a private placement to “the tune of 20 million shares from the Carlyle Group at a price of $28.00” earlier this year.
- An insurance survey in the UK finds that “six out of 100 drivers have crashed into a parked car and driven away without leaving their details.” The results were described as “shocking.” To be honest, it's surprising the number is that low.
- Ontario sellers of used cars will soon have a harder time getting the green light on a safety inspection. The province is updating inspection standards on used cars for the first time in 42 years. Mechanics will have to go through a 96-page checklist before letting the car pass. Current requirements state that the engine has to be able to get the car up to 60 km/hr. That metric is expected to change. Oil leaks won't pass muster. There will be new checks on things that didn't exist in the 1970s, like air bags, power train and anti-lock brakes. A crack larger than 50 millimetres in the area covered by the wipers will result in a fail. Current regulations are that the crack couldn’t be in “the driver’s immediate field of vision.” Estimates are that an additional 25 percent of cars will fail as a result of the new standards. The new requirements come into effect July 1.
- The Manitoba and south central Ontario branches of the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) recently announced their formal intention to merge. The proposed merger will occur on Sept. 30. The two companies will continue to operate under their current respective brands, but the hope is that the merger will enhance roadside assistance, travel and insurance services in both Manitoba and Ontario. You can see more about this on our sister site, Canadian Towing & Recovery.
- This year's Detroit auto show was the “most successful yet,” according to a spokesman for the Detroit Auto Dealers Association (which produces the event). Sunday's attendence was 104,263, bringing the total to 815,575, edging out last year’s total of 808,775. "I think the mild winter led to more people venturing downtown," said the spokesperson.
- Honda announced last Friday that its new 2016 Clarity Fuel Cell car will sell for about $60,000 when it goes on sale near the end of the year. Fuel cells use hydrogen instead of gasoline. The car will only be on sale in the Los Angeles and San Francisco where there are a few hydrogen fueling stations.
- The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports that the head of Apple's “secret” car project has stepped aside. According to the article a person "familiar with the matter" says that it wasn't linked in any way to his performance. However, the article also says that people behind the project mentioned that the team had come across a couple of problems in "laying out clear goals.” Sources were quoted as saying that that employees are struggling without "clear goals for the project," and that some of management's deadlines “are too ambitious to hit in the expected timeframes.”
- Volkswagen is responding to its emissions crisis. The company has just announced it will restructure into four new divisions. Most importantly, the development “of all Volkswagens with batteries will now be the responsibility of one group of employees with one general manager.”
- The Insurance Fraud Task Force in the UK will look into the practice of consumers who "game" price comparison websites on auto insurance. Apparently doing things like changing a career title from “nurse” to “care assistant” can result in prices that are 10 to 25 percent lower.
- Air bag manufacturer Takata is said to be “struggling under the load” of manufacturing the millions of air bags that need to replaced. Reuters is reporting the company is looking to the “auto industry for financial help and plans to cull its senior officials, including the grandson of the founder ...” The company seems to have also formed a joint venture with rival Daicel to produce enough airbag inflators to meet the enormous demand of the recall.
- Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk has said his “customers will be able to summon an electric car to drive autonomously from Los Angeles to New York within two years.” He also admits that the current low oil prices are affecting the sales of electric vehicles. "[The] industry as a whole, I think, will definitely suffer from lower oil prices," he said. "It just makes economic sense."
- The grandly mustachioed Chairman of Daimler AG, Dieter Zetsche, recently visited Google. Speaking to a German publication he said he was impressed and surprised at how rapidly the technology had evolved. “Our impression was that these companies can do more and know more than we had previously assumed. At the same time they have more respect for our achievements than we thought,” said Zetsche in the interview. “There were concrete talks ... I will not say anything about the content. It was not just about the fact that there is an innovative spirit in the Valley. We know that already. We wanted to see what drives it, and all the things that can be created from it.”
- When police recently busted a chop shop they didn’t just find auto parts and late model cars. They found treasure. To be precise, they found “A 1968 Mercury Cougar completely intact and reported stolen from Oakland in 1991.”