By Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario -- August 4, 2017 -- Welcome to another edition of Friday Fun! This week we look at Nissan’s futuristic prototype, more news on the VW emissions scandal, Carlyle Group has unloaded its shares in Axalta and investors may be becoming “bearish” when it comes to Boyd Group.
- Nissan has unveiled the working prototype of its futuristic Nissan BladeGlider vehicle. The electric vehicle will combine, “zero-emissions with high-performance in a revolutionary sports car design.” The vehicles, developed from concept cars first shown at the Tokyo Auto Show in 2013, “have arrived in Brazil [for the Olympics] to symbolize future technologies that will combine Intelligent Mobility, environmentally friendly impact and sports-car driving capabilities.” According to a press release, “Nissan already sells the world's highest-volume zero-emission car, the LEAF, and is pioneering Intelligent Mobility systems that will be deployed in a range of vehicles over coming years ... With the Nissan Bladeglider, Nissan's vision was for an agile, efficient EV that would provide new dimensions of driving fun and excitement–a car that would 'glide,' thanks to the near-silent performance of its electric powertrain and aerodynamic shape … The system features torque vectoring, controlling the torque delivered to the driven wheels, improving the handling even further. With torque vectoring, if the car starts to understeer, it automatically sends more torque to the outside wheel to restore the handling balance.”
- Speaking of Nissan, a report on the website Oilprice.com says that Japanese auto manufacturer Nissan “concluded that charging stations for electric autos will surpass fuel stations in the United Kingdom (UK) by August 2020 ... an average of 129 British gas stations have been lost each year since December 2005. In contrast, during that same time, approximately 911 electric vehicle (EV) charging sites have been added each year. Therefore, Nissan believes around 7,898 EV charging stations will be found throughout the UK in four years, which is twenty-nine more than the forecasted number of gas stations … An average of one electric car is registered in the UK every13 minutes,” according to the report.
- The Detroit News reports that, “Electric-vehicle charging cords could soon go the way of the cassette tape, floppy disk and landline telephone.” Some automakers are beginning to implement cordless charging for electric vehicles. Mercedes-Benz will offer wireless charging on its S550e hybrid next year. The car simply drives on to a pad on the floor of the garage to begin charging. The report goes on to say that, “In the future, suppliers envision a world where wireless chargers would be built directly into roadways so the car would charge while you drive, eliminating range anxiety.”
- Tesla is about to get some serious competition according to a report on popular website, Businessinsider.com. Porsche will roll out its first fully electric vehicle, the Mission E, by 2020. The company, a subsidiary of Volkswagen, “said earlier this week that it plans to hire 1,400 people to bring its Mission E to life.”
- Uber claims (in a blog post on its site) that its cab-like service has prevented “about 1,800 drunk-driving crashes” since the launch of the company in July of 2012.
- The National Post reports that a US District Court in California may, “approve the details of a massive Volkswagen repurchase program as early as Monday.” If that's the case, “cheques are expected to trickle down this fall to US owners of some 482,000 Golfs, Beetles, Jettas and Passats, as well as Audi A3 sedans sold with engines that violate emissions standards.”
The settlement for the emissions scandal will be a windfall for owners. These “otherwise deeply depreciated vehicles,” will be purchased for a price expected to range “from US$12,500 to US$44,000, with values pegged to the value of each car just before the diesel scandal broke in September 2015. All of the afflicted vehicles will be considered in 'clean condition,' even if the wheels are falling off. Tacked onto the value of each car will be a 'restitution' payment equal to 20 percent of the vehicle value, plus US$2,987.” That is, all in, owners stand to “make at least double what their cars were worth just before news of the scandal.”
- John Lennon’s iconic personal limousine seen in the documentary “Imagine” will be auctioned in London on September 7. The car comes with the original title signed by Lennon. According to a press release, the 1956 Austin Princess “was the personal property of Lennon and famously used by him and Yoko Ono in the 1972 film Imagine ….The car is prominently shown in the film, which was created to promote Lennon's Capitol Records album that shared the same title. Austin Princess limousines were a popular mode of transport for The Beatles, and a number of them passed through the hands of Apple Records for use by the various band members. It is understood that the large rear door aperture made quick access to the vehicle an easy undertaking; a quality much appreciated when being chased by hundreds of adoring fans.”
- Axalta announced this week that the big and very well-connected private equity firm, Carlyle Group had sold out it stake in the company. Carlyle unloaded 41,621,996 common shares. As a result, “Axalta’s principal stockholders agreement will terminate pursuant to its terms and Carlyle will no longer have the right to designate members to Axalta’s board of directors.”
- Another report in the financial media speculated about whether investors are becoming “bearish” concerning Boyd Group Income Fund. Units of the Boyd Group Income Fund have risen 18.76 percent since December 23, 2015. The company has outperformed the S&P500 by 13.46 percent, so the thinking seems to be that the stock will begin to temper its remarkable growth rate. That a slowdown in growth could occur in the stock would make sense. The company is still posting negative earnings.
- A report in the Detroit Free Press claims there is “mounting suspicion Chevrolet is developing a mid-engine Corvette super car. The as-yet-unconfirmed car has become a hot topic of conversation among engineers.” GM is said to be investing $290 million in major upgrades to the factory that makes Corvettes. The report goes on to say that, “GM has toyed with the idea of building a super ‘Vette to compete with exotic cars like Ferrari and Lamborghini for decades.” Could it finally be happening?
- A scientist in the US is working on the development of a wooden car bumper. According to a report from Repairer Driven News, the parts would be made of plasticized wood chips. The scientist has “been developing 'ultra-lightweight' doors for CAFE/emissions-conscious OEMs as part of a $5.81 million, five-year Department of Energy grant ...” Now he has $481,000 from the Forest Service in an effort to find “something to do” with the leftover refuse from trees removed in wildfire-preventing forestry efforts. “We find appropriate outlets for all kinds of forest-derived materials,” a Forest Products Laboratory engineer was quoted as saying. “In this case, it’s cellulosic nanomaterials. We’re trying to move up the value chain with the cellulosic nanomaterials, creating high-value products out of what could otherwise be low-value wood. We’ll be producing the cellulosic nanomaterials, which are the most fundamental structural elements that you can get out of wood and pulp fibres.”
- Is the current auto boom already winding down? Some think so. A Wall Street Journal report this week notes that, “Ford Motor Co. last week jolted the US auto industry, saying industry sales have peaked following six straight years of growth. It projected lower sales industry wide through the second half of the year and said 2017 would be even tougher for it and its rivals … The warning reverberated across the market. Ford’s stock slid 8 percent, its worst one-day drop in five years. General Motors Co. And Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV fell in sympathy.”
- When Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced second-quarter earnings last week, CEO Sergio Marchionne made a remarkable statement: "All of our production assets in the United States, if we exclude Canada and Mexico from the fold, all those US plants will be producing either Jeeps or Rams. There will be no passenger cars that will be produced in the US." According to a report on Businessinsider.com, “after decades of manufacturing cars and trucks, FCA is going all in on trucks and SUVs … Marchionne has been leading FCA in this direction for a while, but it was still remarkable to finally hear the words. Earlier this year, he opined that a permanent structural shift is underway in the US, and that SUVs are in the process of displacing cars as Americans' vehicles of choice.”