Homecoming: A MotorTrend Icon Joins the Family

Motortrend News Feed - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 15:52

I climb in, twist the key, and press the starter. The Ford flathead V-8 fires up instantly and quickly settles down to a growling idle. I pull the shifter across to the left and back, engaging first gear in the three-speed transmission. Ease out the clutch, and the low, broad-shouldered convertible oozes forward, vintage whitewall tires squirming on the concrete.

We’re old friends, this old roadster and I; most of the 70 miles on the odometer are from when I drove it for a MotorTrend feature story eight years ago. Even so, I can’t quite believe I’m again behind the wheel of the actual car that appeared on the cover of the September 1949 issue—the very first issue—of MotorTrend magazine. Or, more incredibly, that I’m driving it into the freshly revamped headquarters of the MotorTrend Group in El Segundo, California.

This 1949 Kurtis Sport Car, serial number KB003, the third of only 18 ever built and the first “production” model, is a priceless piece of MotorTrend history. And it’s come home.


The Sport Car was built by Frank Kurtis, who began his car-making apprenticeship in the early 1920s at a body shop owned by L.A. Cadillac dealer Don Lee. Lee’s shop specialized in creating custom cars for Hollywood stars, and not only did Kurtis learn to shape and weld metal, but he also picked up tips on drawing and body design from Harley Earl. Yes, that Harley Earl, who also worked for Lee before founding the Art and Color Section at General Motors—the prototype for all modern automotive design studios—in 1927.

Kurtis-Kraft, Inc., the company Kurtis founded in the late 1930s, made most of its money churning out hundreds of oval-track midgets, plus racers for the famed Indy 500; Kurtis cars won five of the six 500s held from 1950 to 1955. Just before the outbreak of World War II, however, Kurtis had built a handsome, Mercury-powered sports car for a wealthy Denver cattleman, Bill Hughes. He reportedly charged Hughes just $900 for the car. Hughes later sold it to a Hollywood director for $3,200, and just after the war it changed hands again, this time for a reported $8,000.

It’s highly likely Kurtis would have heard about that sale. At about the same time, he had customized a 1941 Buick, turning it into a two-seat sports car that he drove to Indianapolis for the 1948 500. It impressed a lot of people in Gasoline Alley that year, including Ford scion Benson Ford, who urged him to build copies. All this suggested there was a market for a new type of sports car, something that combined easy American power with responsive, European-style road manners and fresh, modern styling.

The 1949 Kurtis Sport Car was that car.

It was a fitting choice for MotorTrend’s first cover. With the booming postwar economy providing jobs and prosperity, American auto enthusiasts were ready to celebrate, and California was where the party started. It was the epicenter of the explosion of creativity that spawned the hot-rodding and custom car scenes in the late 1940s, and those echoes still ripple through a state that today is home to advanced designed studios for almost every major automaker on the planet. The Kurtis was a product of that fabulous, febrile, car-crazy environment. So, too, was MotorTrend.

Tyro 21-year old publisher Robert E. “Pete” Petersen had produced the first issue of Hot Rod magazine in January 1948 to cater to enthusiasts passionate about making their cars go faster and look better, connecting them with the companies manufacturing the parts and accessories they needed. As he worked on plans to build his own car, Frank Kurtis suggested Petersen also publish a magazine that covered new vehicles.

Flush with Hot Rod magazine’s success—circulation had zoomed to 85,000 copies a month inside 18 months—but frustrated at its inability to attract advertising from conservative automakers wary of California’s automotive counter culture, Petersen took the advice. “Pete once told me Frank Kurtis was one of the inspirations for MotorTrend,” confirms noted hot-rod and classic car authority Ken Gross.

Petersen took the pictures of KB003 himself as the first issue of MotorTrend went into production. Meanwhile, his friend Walt Woron polished his first editor’s column. “We wanted a magazine that would interest the foreign car exponent, the sports car enthusiast, the custom car fan, and also be equally interesting to the stock car owner,” Woron wrote, “a magazine that brings you the trends of the automotive field: designs of the future, what’s new in motoring, news from the continent, trends in design.”

The personal connection with Frank Kurtis perhaps explains why Petersen chose the Sport Car as the cover car for his new magazine rather than, say, a Chevrolet sedan, America’s top-selling car that year. But the choice was also an eerily prescient confirmation of MotorTrend’s mission statement.

Within two years of the Kurtis appearing on our cover, a senior GM executive in Detroit had instigated secret backroom program code-named Project Opel, a proposal for a fiberglass-bodied sports car that, like the Kurtis, used many regular production car components under its shapely skin. The GM exec’s name? Harley Earl. And the car? Well, it first came to the public’s attention as the EX-122, one of the stars of GM’s 1953 Motorama Show at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel. But you know it better as the Chevrolet Corvette. Frank Kurtis had the idea. GM had the money.

There’s a deep Hot Rod connection with KB003, as well. In August 1949, after the MotorTrend photo shoot, Petersen’s right-hand man and Hot Rod founding editor Wally Parks drove the car—fitted with a special full race engine built by Bobby Meeks at Edelbrock—to 142.515 mph at the inaugural Bonneville National Speed Trials. Parks autographed the glove box lid, right next to the small plaque commemorating his achievement, shortly before he died in 2007. “This is the only car I’ll ever sign,” he told owner DeWayne Ashmead at the time, “because it’s the only car worthy of my signature.”

Now it’s ours.

As I write, the Kurtis Sport Car is parked in the center of the newly rebranded MotorTrend Group head office in El Segundo. It’s surrounded by the talented people who create and manage content for all our iconic automotive media brands—among them Hot Rod, Automobile, Roadkill, 4Wheeler, Super Street, Head 2 Head, Truck Trend, Lowrider, and Wheeler Dealers—across our MotorTrend video-on-demand and MotorTrend Network TV platforms, as well as our website, magazine, and social media platforms.

The Kurtis is our touchstone, our origin artifact. It’s a reminder of how far MotorTrend has come, and, as we celebrate our 70th anniversary this year, an inspiration for us all to keep driving it forward, to keep telling stories for all of us who love cars and car culture.

I think Pete would have approved.

The post Homecoming: A MotorTrend Icon Joins the Family appeared first on Motortrend.

Categories: Property

Chicago tows about 50 cars from its streets every day

The Car Connection News Feed - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 15:40
Thousands of Chicago residents have left their homes this winter to find their cars no longer where they parked them. The vehicles weren't stolen. City workers instead towed them from their spaces after deeming they were in the way. According to local CBS News affiliate CBS2, the city has towed on average 50 cars per day during the winter. Records...
Categories: Property

CDP and Olympian sign deal for £120m Coventry scheme

Property Week News Feed - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 15:36
Complex Development Projects (CDP)and Olympian Developments have signed a £120m deal to develop student accommodation and a new boutique hotel in Coventry city centre.
Categories: Property

Takata airbag recall, 2019 Acura NSX driven, Cold-weather EVs: What's New @ The Car Connection

The Car Connection News Feed - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 15:30
1.5M more cars added to Takata airbag recall Last week, more than half a dozen automakers added another 1.5 vehicles to the growing list of cars recalled to fix faulty Takata airbags. Lexus unveils details for its subscription plan Lexus on Tuesday jumped into the new-car subscription foray. Tesla reworks model names, slashes Model 3 prices again...
Categories: Property

Commercial property values fell in January

Property Week News Feed - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 13:16
UK Commercial property capital values fell marginally by 0.1% in January 2019, according to the latest CBRE Monthly Index.
Categories: Property

The Hut Group's new logistics scheme approved

Property Week News Feed - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 13:13
Plans for The Hut Group’s new logistics and content creation studio at a Manchester Airport site have been approved.
Categories: Property

L&G invests in data centre group

Property Week News Feed - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 13:11
Legal & General Capital has invested in The Kao Data Campus, a state-of-the-art £230m data centre development servicing the London to Cambridge corridor.
Categories: Property

1.5M more cars added to Takata airbag recall

The Car Connection News Feed - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 12:35
Last week, more than half a dozen automakers added another 1.5 vehicles to the growing list of cars recalled to fix faulty Takata airbags, The issue is the same as other Takata airbag recalls and it affects both driver- and passenger-side airbags, depending on vehicles. Airbag inflators made by Japanese automotive supplier Takata may explode in...
Categories: Property

2019 Chrysler Pacifica

The Car Connection News Feed - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 12:07
The 2019 Chrysler Pacifica is proof that America still knows minivans. The jack-of-all-trades family hauler remains unchanged for 2019, which means it keeps all the things that made Best Car to Buy 2017. The Pacifica elevates the minivan aesthetic with a sleek, attractive design that all but hides its utilitarian underpinnings. The 2019 Pacifica...
Categories: Property

2019 Chrysler 300

The Car Connection News Feed - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 12:06
It’s still here. The 2019 Chrysler 300 has made more comebacks than some time-honored Broadway plays, though it too relies on some cheap seats to fill the audience. Chrysler still sells muscular V-8 models, and they’re our favorites, but the V-6-powered 300 sedan pays the bills and we have nice things to say about it, too. In its 15th...
Categories: Property

2019 Dodge Charger

The Car Connection News Feed - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 12:05
Time marches on. Cars get redesigned once, twice, three times. Most cars do, at least. The 2019 Dodge Charger carries on with the same basic platform it’s had since 2005. A styling update in 2011 gave it more of a Coke-bottle shape, and a 2015 refresh tweaked the front end, but it’s still the same basic Charger we’ve known and...
Categories: Property

2019 Dodge Challenger

The Car Connection News Feed - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 12:04
The 2019 Dodge Challenger soldiers on as an unapologetic muscle car, offering new high-power models to go with its more practical V-6 models. We rate the Challenger a 6.3 out of 10, adding points for style and power, as well as easy-to-use infotainment. (Read more about how we rate cars.) This year, Dodge replaced the 840-horsepower Demon with a...
Categories: Property

2019 Dodge Grand Caravan

The Car Connection News Feed - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 12:03
The 2019 Dodge Grand Caravan presents a first-world dilemma. We want low prices and nice things, and in another day and age, this minivan would solve that conundrum. But with the Grand Caravan, Dodge has aged out of the minivan system. Younger, prettier, more talented vans have come—and gone, and come again. No matter whether it’s sold...
Categories: Property

Should You Ditch Your Car for Uber and Lyft? We Try the Ride-Hailing Life

Motortrend News Feed - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 09:00

Matthew Stoudt has always been a new-car kind of guy, but when the lease on his BMW 3 Series was coming to an end in 2014, he started doing some math. He had just sold his company, so he no longer needed to commute to an office. Even though he lived in Los Angeles, a traditionally car-centric city, the calculations in his Excel spreadsheet told him he might be able to ditch his car in favor of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft and actually save some money.

His Bimmer returned, Stoudt started taking Uber and Lyft everywhere. Within a week, he was hooked. “I loved the freedom of it,” he said. “Not having to worry about going to get gas, not having to worry about parking, not having to worry about having a cocktail at night. So it really became freedom for me, being able to call up my fleet of drivers anytime that I wanted.”

Stoudt admits it wasn’t easy to give up his car, and for many other car-loving Americans, driving is an ingrained part of the culture. Vehicle ownership per person peaked in 2006 at 0.786 then dipped during the recession, but it has steadily returned to nearly its peak, according to a report by University of Michigan researcher Michael Sivak. But alternative transportation services like Uber and Lyft are trying to change that philosophy of personal car ownership.

According to a Pew Research Center study in fall 2018, 36 percent of U.S. adults said they had used a ride-hailing service such as Uber or Lyft, up from 15 percent of Americans just three years before. But like most trends borne of coastal environs, those who ride-hail tend to be younger, wealthier, and better educated, according to Pew data.

As someone who’s driven for Uber and Lyft since the early days, it’s been amazing for me to see the meteoric rise firsthand.

But it’s the actual number of rides happening on these platforms that may shock you. Ubiquitous Uber recently completed its 10 billionth trip, and second-place Lyft just completed its first billion. There appears to be no slow-down in sight. Uber and Lyft have raised billions of dollars in investor capital, and both are preparing for 2019 IPOs that could value them at $120 billion and $15 billion, respectively. Uber and Lyft are also investing in other modes of transportation, such as shared bikes and scooters. Getting you to take that first trip may be just the tip of the iceberg.

Fighting for Rides

Uber launched in 2013 with the slogan “Everyone’s private driver,” but its first real competitor was the taxi industry. Taxis have been around for 120 years, but within just a few years Uber and Lyft had overtaken them in market presence in key cities.

The reasons for the spectacular rise vary, but it was clear that Uber and Lyft offered a superior experience to taxis with the ability to hail a ride via an app, pay via credit card, and rate your driver. But taxis were only the first casualty in this ongoing saga.

The real market share for these companies will come when they can get consumers to ditch their cars entirely, as that would mean casual customers becoming super users like Stoudt.

“If only 4 percent of consumers are using ride-share weekly, there’s still huge room for growth in getting consumers to rely on ride-share as one of their primary modes of transportation,” Dmitry Shevelenko, an adviser to leading mobility companies and former head of business development at Uber, told MotorTrend, “Riders take more trips with each subsequent month since their very first Uber trip. So from a long-term growth point of view, ride-share companies benefit from getting as many customers started on their journey of more and more trips each month.” He has a point: Transportation is a $2 trillion market in the U.S. alone, according to Lyft data, so the opportunity is huge.

Car companies know the future of mobility is changing, but the timeline remains a question. Slower car sales are forecast, but could customers already be ditching their cars for ride-hailing services? Lyft and Uber sure seem to think so.

Lyft has always held a more utopian view of the ride-share world. In its early days, the company even encouraged passengers to sit up front and fist-bump drivers when they got into the car. But a recent promotion called Ditch Your Car took this a step further and offered passengers transportation credit if they were willing to give up their personal vehicles for a month for a mix of transportation options—including public transportation, bikeshare, Zipcar, and, you guessed it, Lyft.

“We are on the brink of a massive shift in personal transportation, moving away from ownership and into transportation as a service,” Lyft co-founder and president John Zimmer said. “Ditch Your Car is an extension of the mission we’ve been committed to for over a decade.”

The program was available in 35 cities. More than 130,000 customers submitted applications, of which just 2,000 were selected to participate. Obviously, free transportation is a compelling giveaway, but the results were also promising. According to Lyft, during the challenge:

  • 49 percent of participants used multiple modes of transportation to reach their final destinations (e.g., bicycle for part of the journey and public transport for the remaining part);
  • 35 percent reported they’re very likely to combine multiple modes of transportation for their commute to work;
  • 53 percent reported to love ride-hailing, but only 23 percent said they loved their household car;
  • 68 percent said that they experienced less stress;
  • 54 percent said their lives were easier during the challenge; and perhaps most important …
  • 57 percent said they intend to use their car less following the challenge.

Granted, this is a small sample size, derived from a cohort of hardcore early adopters of Lyft’s brand philosophy. But the participants could also be seen as brand ambassadors and influencers who could persuade a much larger population to follow their lead.

Traverse the touristy areas of almost any major American city these days, and you’ll likely see a large number of e-scooters and e-bikes being ridden, with many more parked ready and waiting for use. Companies such as Bird and Lime have raised hundreds of millions of dollars, and many are referring to them as Ride-share 2.0.

Bird and Lime weren’t around when Stoudt decided to ditch his car. But in the past year, these new modes of transportation have perhaps made the no-car argument more compelling because they’re even cheaper than UberX or Uber’s shared product, UberPool. Additionally, in 2018, Uber purchased e-bike company Jump, and both Lyft and Uber have recently followed in Bird’s footsteps by launching e-scooters in many U.S. cities.

For consumers looking to forgo car ownership, there are now multiple modes and multiple price points. Shorter one-person trips are better served by scooters and bikes, while Uber and Lyft handle longer multipassenger trips.

Here’s a comparison of costs for the various modes on an average 2-mile, 12-minute trip:

UberX UberPool Bird scooter Lime bike PASSENGERS 1-4 1-2 1 1 PRICING $0.24 per minute, $1.06 per mile, $2.30 service fee Variable: 30-60 percent off UberX price $1/unlock + $0.15/min to ride $1/unlock + $0.15/min to ride FINAL COST $7.40 $2.96-$4.44 $2.80 $2.80

Is it a smart financial move to ditch your car? According to Shevelenko, “while ride-share may still be too expensive as a complete alternative to car ownership, when users combine ride-share, scooters/bikes, on-demand car rental, and public transit, the reasons to keep their cars, which on average sit empty 95 percent of the time, will dwindle.”

For Stoudt, ditching his car was an interesting experiment at first, but the cost savings ended up being the real bonus. “I looked at my credit card bills for the last year, layered in all my vehicle costs (such as gas, lease payments, insurance, depreciation, and annual miles driven), and did the math,” he said. “Assuming you use UberX for all your trips, it would end up being a third of the cost.”

As the saying goes, however, your mileage may vary. If you’re considering making the jump, here are several important factors to consider:

  • City makeup: Ride-hailing is most prevalent in large metropolitan cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Boston, so your options for getting around will be more attractive in these types of cities.
  • Commute time: Generally, the shorter your commute, the better value you’ll get from ride-hailing or alternative mobility services (bikes and scooters).
  • Cost of your car: If you drive a luxury vehicle like a BMW, that will likely tilt the scales in favor of ride-hailing services.

Ride-hailing is still finding its way outside metropoles. About 45 percent of urban residents have used the service, as have 40 percent of suburban residents. But rural penetration is only 19 percent, as “lower population density, long travel distance, and relatively low incentives for drivers” hamper reasons for usage, according to Pew.

Over my own five-year ride-hailing driving career here in Los Angeles, it’s been eye-opening to see how many passengers now rely on these services for all their transportation needs. In 2014, it was just a passenger here and there. These days it seems like every time I drive, I meet at least one person who doesn’t own a car anymore. As ride-hailing services have become more prevalent and more reliable, more people are looking to make the switch.

Ride-Hailing Geography

There isn’t a specific threshold that determines whether you live in a good or bad ride-hailing city, but in general the larger the population and the denser the city, the better the dynamics for ride-hail growth.

The federal mileage reimbursement rate for 2019 is $0.58 per mile, and this is a good starting point to compare the cost of owning a vehicle versus mobility services. If you’re driving a fancy luxury vehicle, your cost might be higher, but if you got a great deal on a 2- to 3-year-old used Prius, the cost will be much lower. For one local Prius driver, the total cost per mile of driving his 2013 Prius was less than 20 cents per mile.

In 2018, AAA’s average cost to own and operate a new vehicle was $8,849 per year; that figure is calculated based on the cost of fuel, maintenance, repairs, insurance, license and registration, taxes, depreciation, and loan interest. That figure might sound like a lot, but depending on the length of your commute, it could come out way ahead or way below ride-hail services.

In Los Angeles, for example, a typical commute could be from Santa Monica to Downtown, and we’ll assume it takes 31 minutes and 15.7 miles. That ride on Uber or Lyft would cost about $26. Assuming an each-way commute, five days a week, and 48 weeks a year, the total cost for hailing a ride every day to work would be $12,480. So in this scenario, driving your own car comes out ahead.

But if your commute is shorter, say from Santa Monica to Beverly Hills, your ride-hail cost would only be $6,240—or $2,609 less per year than owning a car.

In general, this isn’t a perfect comparison because you’ll need to take some trips outside of commuting to and from work. But you can also reduce the cost of ride-hailing by opting for shared rides. You can also use apps like Bellhop to compare prices between Uber and Lyft in real time to ensure you’re getting the cheapest ride.

But whether you rely on ride-hailing services or a mix of mobility options in the future, the macro trend is that the cost of these new alternatives is going down.

The Sacrifices of Carless Life

Even if the finances pencil out, there are still some downsides to not owning a car—things that Uber and Lyft might not be able to help with. For Stoudt, one of the main negatives was that he lost the control he was accustomed to when behind the wheel. “The No. 1 negative is when you’re late for somewhere and you feel like you gotta get there, it can be frustrating if the driver is slow, even if they’re driving completely legal,” he said. “You can’t sit there and complain about it since they’re following the law, but since you don’t have agency, it just leads to anxiety and some frustration.”

That links to the matter of quality control. Uber and Lyft currently have more than 1 million drivers in the United States, but the consistency of the passenger experience can be a mixed bag, depending on the quality of the car and the skill of the driver. High turnover among drivers means that most drivers don’t stick around. A recent Uber study found that 68 percent of drivers quit within six months.

Profitability is another issue for both Uber and Lyft. Although they’re both slated to issue massive IPOs in 2019, the losses they’ve racked up have been staggering; Uber has lost nearly $2 billion in the most recent two fiscal quarters. There are only two options for the company to stem losses: Pay drivers less or charge riders more. If Wall Street pushes ride-hailing companies to prioritize profits over growth, there’s a chance that the cost of riding could increase, and owning your own car might not be such a bad deal anymore.

Julie Walmsley contributed to this report.

The post Should You Ditch Your Car for Uber and Lyft? We Try the Ride-Hailing Life appeared first on Motortrend.

Categories: Property

2019 Electra Meccanica Solo Review: A Three-Wheeled ‘Mobility Solution’

Motortrend News Feed - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 09:00

Jerry Kroll, Electra Meccanica’s mile-a-minute-talking chairman and CEO, describes his Solo electric-powered single-seater as “a Disney ride that escaped.”

Having driven an early-build version for about 20 minutes around Los Angeles’ South Bay, I am unsure if that’s a good thing.

Three-wheeled transport ideas are hardly new. The Corbin Sparrow fluttered for about a decade before going bust a few years back. Europhiles will recall the crazy-leaning Carver, from Holland, and the sleek Peraves MonoTracer from Switzerland. But while the Euro-cycles exude technology and cool, the monopod Solo gives more of an amusement park vibe—but less Disney than an abandoned second-tier theme park in rural New Jersey.

As I contort myself into the Solo’s cramped cabin—there’s barely enough door opening space for a 6-footer to swing in his knees—I am confronted by a steering wheel as opposed to motorcycle handlebars.

After fastening the three-point seat belt, I turn the ignition key to illuminate a digital screen with graphics akin to a 1980s Atari video game. A compact disc player is mounted in the dash, giving it a further retro touch. The turn signal lever feels ripped from a Malaise Era GM sedan—cheap to the touch and sticky in actuation. Choosing reverse or drive is actuated by a left-to-right flip-switch; reverse activates a rearview camera with crisp clarity.

Pulling away, the electric motor whirrs and chirps in the old-school Jetsons style. Despite the instant torque familiar to EVs, getting away from a stop sign is slower than we’ve become accustomed to from electric cars; it picks up the pace at about 25 mph, with a claimed 0–60 of 8.0 seconds, which feels about right. Top speed is a good-enough 82 mph. Kroll claims the Solo’s 17.3-kW-hr lithium-ion battery pack has a 100-mile range and a three-hour, 220-volt J1772 recharging time, neither of which I had time to verify.

This version of the Solo lacks power steering and power brakes—to purportedly be upgraded along with some interior bits when future models arrive. Photos of a future-build interior also show some upgrades consistent with a current base-model econobox.

Could ditching your car for ride-hailing services work for you? Read our feature here.

As equipped, steering is a chore, and brake pedal feel is similar to stepping on a brick. There is no regenerative braking, nor will there be. Steering feel is all over the place, at times darty yet completely vague. The suspension travel is short, and minor impacts jar my lumbar spine harshly. Any offset bump flops the Solo like sitting on a three-legged barstool with one leg an inch shorter than the others.

As the cabin warms up in the wintry L.A. sun, I roll down the windows. The ensuing wind noise din is louder than one would experience on a motorcycle wearing a helmet without earplugs. There’s no A/C in this model, but nonetheless I flip on the fan, which gives off a musty odor evocative of a urinal cake.

As I meander my way around the South Bay, I notice several people gawking at this unusual, low-slung vehicle, but it’s hard to tell if they are pointing in an awestruck, “Wow, that is so cool,” way or more laughingly, like, “That goofball is driving an electric banana.”

Initially, I don’t necessarily feel any more vulnerable than I would in a Mazda Miata. Kroll claims the Solo is safe, but knowing that the Solo is categorized as a motorcycle by regulators—and therefore doesn’t need to pass passenger-vehicle crash tests—is not encouraging. This proves especially true when an adjacent, inattentive BMW 3 Series swings too wide in a two-lane left turn and I am staring straight at the Bimmer’s kidney grille, mere inches away from the Solo’s thin composite shell. The low-slung Solo lacks the zip, maneuverability, and elevated 360-degree outward visibility of a proper motorcycle, and as such, I was a sitting duck. Had the BMW driver not suddenly course corrected, I would have been punted into the shoulder.

The Solo comes with a two-year warranty, along with a five-year warranty for the battery pack. The first pilot production units—like the one I am driving—are built in Vancouver, British Columbia. But series production will come from the Zongshen Industrial Group, located in Chongqing, China, according to Electra documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Kroll hopes to sell 5,000 Solos by the end of 2019—mostly in the Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle markets.

And they just could do it. The idea of a covered single-seater, priced at $15,500, is an intriguing proposition to folks fed up with commuting and urban parking hassles, especially if it gets you carpool lane access. But this early-build Solo shows a vehicle in dire need of some finishing school. We look forward to testing the updated versions coming from China.

2019 Electra Meccanica Solo BASE PRICE $15,500 VEHICLE LAYOUT Rear-motor, RWD, 1-pass, 2-door cyclecar MOTOR 82-hp/128-lb-ft AC Synchronous TRANSMISSIONS 1-speed automatic CURB WEIGHT 1,500 lb (mfr) WHEELBASE 80.5 in LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 122.0 x 52.0 x 53.0 in 0-60 MPH 8.0 sec (mfr est) EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON Not rated ON SALE IN U.S. Currently

The post 2019 Electra Meccanica Solo Review: A Three-Wheeled ‘Mobility Solution’ appeared first on Motortrend.

Categories: Property

As the Auto Industry Evolves, Expect More Automaker Tie-Ups – Reference Mark

Motortrend News Feed - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 09:00

It might seem antithetical for an automotive enthusiast magazine to allocate pages to the idea of life without cars. But this is the reality we live in. Five years ago, the concept of ride-hail and ride-share was barely a blip on society’s nav screen—a quirky Silicon Valley experiment. Now Uber is so commonplace that it’s in peril of becoming this generation’s trademark-protected verb, like Xerox.

This reality is also confronting automakers, who are being stretched to serve more masters than they ever expected. Making great engines and cars for the world’s drivers used to be the extent of the mission statement in Detroit, Stuttgart, and Tokyo. But automakers are now being pulled in multiple directions with the emergence of autonomous technology, battery-powered and fuel-cell vehicles, and, yes, creating cars suitable for ride-sharing.

That is a stressor on the balance sheets of every automaker, who still have to conduct their original Rust Belt businesses to satisfy demand for 80 million internal-combustion vehicles a year globally.

Spread so thin, and to make ends meet, many automakers are making alliances they once would have considered unfathomable.

To be sure, the existing cross-pollination of ownership interests, partnerships, and joint ventures among the world’s car companies resembles a drunken spider’s web. Expect even more entanglements.

January’s announcement at the Detroit auto show of Ford and Volkswagen partnering for global midsize pickup trucks and light commercial vehicles is just the latest in a line of eyebrow-raising deals—such as forever-rivals GM and Ford combining on a 10-speed transmission for their pickup trucks. But the language used during the VW-Ford executive conference call was far more pointed than the traditional “joining forces of excellence” claptrap heard in the past.

“The industry is undergoing widespread fundamental change,” Volkswagen AG CEO Herbert Diess warned. “We need to create scale effects in clearly defined areas. Partnerships are highly relevant. [They] will be necessary.”

The Detroit show also was the venue for the unveiling of another joint-venture exploration many would have deemed improbable not that long ago: the 2020 Toyota Supra. Built in partnership with BMW’s Z4 convertible, the Supra coupe would likely not have been born had Toyota tried to go it alone.

It wasn’t hard for Toyota to do the math: It would cost somewhere in the $500 million range to develop a bespoke platform and create a modern, emissions-worthy inline-six engine true to the Supra’s heritage—for a low-volume vehicle that might not generate a profit. Codeveloping with BMW was a logical way to share cost.

Sure, the snarkfest about the Supra not being a “real” Supra raged for a bit, but let’s be frank: BMW builds some fantastic inline-six engines and sporty-car platforms. Toyota did its own tuning. This is hardly badge engineering. Get the full story right here.

At its heart, the Supra is the epitome of what automakers face today: Who blinks first and sacrifices near-term goals in order to go all-in with future technologies that may or may not bear fruit within a decade?

“We have to ask how many dollars we put against today’s technology to give profits to our shareholders, as opposed to investing in tomorrow,” Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota Motor North America, said in an interview.

“At some point you hit a dead-end, because you don’t have the resources,” Lentz said. “You don’t want to arrive too early (to the new technology) and find there’s no party, but you don’t want to be late and be left behind.”

Lentz said it’s not prudent for an automaker to single-handedly invest in the development of its current automotive business (which includes expensive sports cars), as well as hybrids, plug-ins, hydrogen fuel cells, and EV powertrains and platforms—not to mention autonomous transport. And this is from a company with $28 billion in cash lying around.

This realization has led to a remarkable transformation at Toyota, who previously used partnerships sparingly and tried to keep as much R&D as possible in-house. In the past few years, company scion Akio Toyoda has forged strategic relationships with Tesla, Subaru, Mazda, and BMW. Lentz says this might be just the beginning.

Several years ago, visionary FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne predicted an era of industry mergers and consolidation to reduce unnecessary duplication of investment and tasks. We may be hearing the opening stanza of Marchionne’s symphony.

More by Mark Rechtin:

The post As the Auto Industry Evolves, Expect More Automaker Tie-Ups – Reference Mark appeared first on Motortrend.

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