22 May 2018

Fiat Italy (Model) : 2012-17

Fiat is a mainstream brand fighting in an area where competition is high and profits are a challenge, especially in Europe. In its home market, Fiat takes slightly more than 20% share. That's a good result although whether that is achieved with reasonable margins I don't know.

The tiny Panda is the big volume model, then comes the 500 variants and the compact Tipo. The Punto is on the way out and the rest are small in volume. Fiat specialise in small models and a larger car would be a welcome edition to the range, although in Italy it wouldn't be a big seller. Perhaps a collaboration such as the 124 Spider could be useful.

The figures below include the Abarth range.

Model/Year 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
Panda/Seiciento 146,062 147,360 127,460 105,255 101,681 117,772
500 58,564 49,329 44,179 45,676 42,322 43,012
Tipo/Bravo/a/Stilo 56,060 31,612 839 1,917 6,203 10,983
500L 46,461 54,748 51,837 52,729 38,229 6,159
500X 45,795 46,240 32,587 97

Punto 37,265 45,239 58,295 59,266 64,200 80,035
Qubo 10,047 8,984 6,978 6,873 8,957 10,781
Doblò 3,592 3,823 4,014 2,645 3,383 3,617
124 Spider 2,022 965

1,436 5,703 8,494 10,681 14,417

29 1,377 3,097 4,850

16 2,878
Other 11 13 3 9 21 8
Total 405,879 389,749 331,924 284,338 278,790 294,512
% of total 20.4% 21.1% 20.9% 20.7% 21.2% 20.8%

20 May 2018

A Tale Of Two Countries

The UK: There is a commitment to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2040. This is to encourage people to buy electric vehicles or perhaps fuel cell cars, if the car industry and infrastructure is in place by then. However, domestic car manufacturers such as Land Rover sell many diesel vehicles but will move promptly in new directions.

There is another issue getting the attention. With the UK already importing 10% of its electricity, switching to electric cars will place a strain on the National Grid. So the focus is on increasing the electricity supply. I would have thought that is an issue that should be addressed anyway. I guess nothing like a potential power crisis to get things happening.

Germany: A very different way of looking at it. Hamburg also announced it will create a partial ban on diesel cars in the city, the first major German city to do so. There is pressure from environmental groups to lower pollution levels to ensure reasonable clean air. However, the car industry and government are concerned it could have grave consequences for the German auto industry.

On the issue of making present diesel cars less polluting the Chancellor said  it was not in the country's best interest to use force manufacturers to retrofit diesel vehicles to make them cleaner, despite many customers being deceived by the industry into believing they were better than they were.

It seems the German car industry needs to be healthy to prosper and any costs like this would not be advantageous for them. Of course they can afford it but they want to remain at the forefront of the industry globally, even if they have got there by questionable means at times. The attitude of some is the car industry's health is more important than the health of its citizens. Others in Germany place the quality of human life as the priority. It will be interesting to see who wins out.

Summary: In the UK, the car industry has to be prepared to change and there is little sympathy if they not up to speed. In Germany, the car industry is sacrosanct and nothing should be done that impacts negatively on it. A tale of two countries with differing ways of addressing an issue.

19 May 2018

Human Nature & Driving

When a human is driving a car, they have their hands on the steering wheel, feeling the car react as the wheel is used. The pedals on the floor also cause fluctuations in velocity. The human is then connected to the job at hand and is fully involved. Of course distractions, over confidence and other factors can intervene, which can lead to accidents. However, a driver feeling the car respond to inputs they make keeps the person engaged.

We are seeing cars being released to the public with Autopilot. They work well on aeroplanes although used for the boring flying parts. I've seen videos showing a pilot asleep while the plane is in autopilot. So how do car drivers react to autopilot? I'm a human so I know.

Once the hands and feet disengage from the controls, the driver immediately starts to disengage from driving. It is impossible for a human to sit in a car, passively allowing the car to be driven for them and remain fully alert. They will not be able to react to a situation anywhere near as quickly and efficiently than they would if they were driving. Even the most alert passive driver will be affected, and the longer they are passive, the harder it will get.

Then there are those who won't remain passively alert at all. They will find other things to do. Read, text, snooze, turn to talk to other passengers, try to find something in their glove box, look at what's going on around them.

Amazingly, some people don't get this, or don't want to get it. They are the people behind making the car self driving. I've discussed some of the problems associated with that at other times (see under label "Safety') but this is focusing on Autopilot. Here is a recent case:

Reports state that a Tesla Model S that went through a red light and crashed into a stationary fire truck at high speed was in Autopilot mode. The driver told police she was looking at her phone prior to the collision and estimated her speed at 60 mph.

The company that makes the car warns drivers using this mode to remain alert and active and to be prepared to take action at any time. You couldn't make this up. No understanding of human nature with that instruction. How can you remain active while the car drives for you? Personally I wouldn't use Autopilot if my car had that feature. It doesn't work with a human driver. There are also too many variables with motoring. I like to keep control because I want to remain actively alert. I cannot do that while the car drives for me.