Our automotive discussions this month center on recalls, technology and electrics.
Poor heat treatment resulted in the recall of 5,400 model-year 2017 Civics for right driveshafts that can break in operation. Also, Tesla has voluntarily recalled 123,000 Model S vehicles (built before April 2016) with power-steering bolts exhibiting “excessive corrosion.” This is Tesla’s third and largest recall.
It may come as no surprise that a recent Kiplinger article indicated that five of the 10 biggest recalls in history have been automotive-related. Number 8 was the Toyota floor-mat recall in 2010, which totaled $3.2 billion. Number 6 was a General Motors ignition-switch recall in 2014, which was linked to 124 deaths and cost $4.1 billion. Number 4 goes back to 2000 for a cost of $5.6 billion. This was the Firestone-Ford tire recall that was linked to 271 deaths and more than 800 injuries in the U.S. alone.
The number-2-biggest recall in history was the 2015 Volkswagen “Diesel-gate” recall/scandal. VW recalled 11 million vehicles worldwide at a total cost of $18.3 billion. A Reuters video depicted the vast scope of this recall. Finally, the largest of all time is the ongoing Takata air-bag recall beginning in 2008 with costs in excess of $24 billion. Check out the full top-10 list and the Reuters video at www.industrialheating.com/recalls.
Automotive technology could almost be labeled “Tesla” because of their involvement in much of it. Hybrid-electric technology can now be found in virtually every vehicle category, with Tesla falling on the all-electric end of the spectrum. Tesla has apparently produced 9,766 Model 3s in the first quarter, which is well behind predictions of 2,500 per week. As a result, founder Elon Musk has taken charge of Model 3 production, saying it is his “most critical” job right now and indicating that he is “back to sleeping at the factory.”
Autonomous vehicles certainly are high-tech. Recent news of two deaths associated with the technology may have set progress back a bit, but “semiautonomous” technology such as lane-departure, dynamic cruise control, radar-based collision avoidance and autopilot systems continue to move forward. Watch a company called Aurora Innovation, which is creating autonomous systems for use by Volkswagen and Hyundai – two of the largest automakers.
A newer consumer of autonomous technology is the commercial trucking industry. Needless to say, Tesla is participating by developing the Tesla Semi with prototypes expected in 2019. Watch for companies like Daimler, Volvo and Freightliner to be involved in addition to newcomers such as Starsky Robotics, TuSimple and Nikola Motors.
For my entire lifetime, flying cars have been a topic of conversation. Moving from conversation to production, Uber is building a flying taxi, and hovercraft-maker Kitty Hawk (backed by Alphabet CEO Larry Page) is working on consumer transports. Will Tesla be far behind?
All of this high-tech talk is important for us to be aware of because it could shape the future of our companies. We didn’t want to leave out something that feels a bit more tangible and just as interesting. Were you aware that the Corvette C8 moves to a mid-engine V-8 in 2019? For many of its 65 years, a mid-engine Corvette has been discussed, but it’s finally happening. Materials will play an important role in this newly designed Corvette, including a hydroformed aluminum space frame. Cast and forged aluminum components will be used in the chassis and powertrain, and die-cast magnesium will reinforce the dash. The bodywork will combine carbon fiber, fiberglass and injection-molded plastic, and fiberglass will be used for the leaf springs as well. Brake rotors will be manufactured from carbon-ceramic.
All this tech talk hasn’t dissuaded me from my goal of waking my old-technology classic convertible from its winter nap. I, for one, am glad May is finally here.