Over 25 Million Vehicles Recalled…and it’s only June!

As of last week, 25.3 million vehicles in the U.S. had been recalled1. In the meantime, GM sent notice that it is recalling an additional 3.36 million vehicles2. The reason for this recall – an ignition switch defect.

In fact, 1 out of 10 vehicles on the road in the United States has been recalled this year. Just to clarify, that’s not 1 out of 10 vehicles sold this year but literally 1 out of every 10 vehicles currently registered across all makes and models. When I read that statistic, I literally gasped. To be fair, many vehicles are recalled each year for reasons that are far less serious than an ignition switch that can turn off and disable critical safety systems like airbags. For example, some Ford Taurus cars were recalled for a license plate lamp assembly that may get corroded due to water intrusion.

Federal legislators are looking into GM’s handling of their initial recall earlier this year related to faulty ignition switches and have certainly given Mary Barra a grilling on Capitol Hill. I certainly do not envy the position that she’s in.

One of the questions that comes up a lot in discussions with other members of the Automotive IQ team is ‘What is going on in the auto industry?’ This is an incredibly loaded question and it would be unfair to generalize about car manufacturers in general. That said, I see three major issues that have contributed to this ‘year of the recall.’

  1. Some manufacturers have retained a culture that was not focused on product safety and instead employed a defensive strategy of damage mitigation. In some companies, employees did not fear being fired for their failure to act in the interest of safety.
  2. In some cases, the large recalls involve very high-tech electronic systems. The auto industry is at a very exciting crossroads where a lot of potentially disruptive technologies are emerging. Technologies that will lead to more automated driving experiences that attempt to remove the error inherent to a real person driving are being integrated into modern vehicles. These technologies are still in their infancy and it’s normal that there are some bugs to work out.
  3. Global supply chain problems. The Aston Martin accelerator pedal recall earlier this year was a prime example of how possible it is to lose control of the quality of a supply chain. As supply chains become more global and take advantage of prices in emerging markets, it is increasingly important for the one with ultimate responsibility over the product (the OEM) to have oversight.


One of the unfortunate side-effects of having so many very public recalls in such a short period of time is that it begins to normalize the problem and de-sensitize consumers. Ultimately, the power to change the industry lies with the consumer.


The Car Industry Needs a Diet

At the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Ford unveiled the production version of the previous years Atlas F150 prototype. This time around the F150 stole the show, not only because it’s America’s favorite mode of transport but notably this American stalwart now sported an all aluminum cab and load body.

A number of car companies are beginning to produce vehicles with lightweight alternatives to steel. Aside from the new F-150, BMW boldly moved into carbon fiber composite with its i3 and i8 and no doubt they’ve learned a lot from this experience. Jaguar’s new XE, designed to compete against the German small sedans, supposedly is going to feature an aluminum unibody.

Nevertheless, according to Philippe Houchois, UBS Head of European Automotive Research, in order for manufacturers to meet CO2 limits in Europe, vehicles will need to lose 300 – 400 kgs/car and he believes that the industry is nowhere near that reduction.

Personally, I am an optimist and a strong believer in the potential of an industry to reinvent itself when placed under pressure. I recently had the opportunity to interview Ed Bernardon who is the VP of Strategic Automotive Initiatives at Siemens PLM Software. He is a wealth of knowledge on lightweight materials such as composites.

Our interview can be viewed in the lightweight materials section of Automotive IQ

Beware of the Small Print: The Easiest Ways to Invalidate Your Insurance

European roads see hundreds and thousands of new drivers every month, and with that come thousands of new insurance policies. Worryingly however, only a handful of new and seasoned motorists alike actually check the small print on their insurance, leaving them all too open to breaches of their terms and conditions. Unless you’re familiar with the ins and outs of your cover, it’s very easy to invalidate your car insurance, which can easily lead to a hefty bill, points on your license and even prosecution. So, just what can invalidate your insurance policy?

Modifying Your Car

When it comes to modifying your car, expect nothing less than a mammoth hike in your insurance premium. From spoilers to turbos, it can be tempting not to notify your insurer about any modifications you’ve made, as the last thing you’ll want to do is fork out more money on your car. However if you don’t, you certainly won’t be covered for your extras, and your insurer can instantly void your policy. This means if you crash, you’ll be paying out of your own pocket to repair your car, as well as any others you damage.

Driving Your Car Abroad

Most insurance policies will provide some degree of cover within Europe, however the vast majority of this cover is third party only. Depending on your insurer, you may be required to purchase additional cover if you’re planning to take your car abroad, and you’ll probably be asked to state the countries you’ll be traveling through too, as some places in Europe have higher rates of road accidents than others.

Track Days

From the Nurburgring to Silverstone, nearly all insurance policies will be immediately void if you drive your car on a race track. Even if your policy does cover track driving, there will no doubt be a number of clauses that will prevent the insurer for paying out altogether, or paying out for anything other than car-related damage, such as damage to parts of the track if you do crash.

Driving With Illegal Tyres

There’s a reason why tyres are inspected during an MOT, and that’s because of the increased risk worn treads present on the roads. If you happen to have a crash, and the quality of your tyres comes into question, insurance companies can void your insurance due to lack of tyre quality, something which is inherently the driver’s responsibility. Furthermore, if you insure your car with run-flat tyres, and subsequently change them to a different kind of tyre, insurers will see this as a modification, and can again void your insurance.


This post was written by Hiten Solanki


*Editor’s note: The above article relates to insurance policies within the UK. These statements may or may not hold true for insurance policies in other European countries.

Supercars Help Re-introduce Turbochargers and Superchargers

The new standard trend for supercar engineers is to have a normal engine mated with a turbocharger or supercharger. Why? Both can significantly boost an engine’s horsepower without significantly increasing its weight, which is  a huge benefit for supercars and that makes them so popular!

Growing up, I’ve always been a car enthusiast and to this day every time I hear about turbo engines I think of the Ferrari F40, a car which defined supercars with its engaging drive and lightening pace. Quite simply, the F40 changed everything. Turbos and supercharger popularity waned since then, but now in 2014 they seem to be fighting back stronger than ever with the highly anticipated new Honda NSX, the Jaguar C-X75, the Porsche 911 turbo and the Ferrari California T.

Some may be asking how turbo’s work and what’s the difference between a turbo and supercharger? So… here on Automotive IQ we explain both these intriguing questions, so sit back and visualise the voodoo mystery.

How turbo’s work

Turbochargers are a type of forced induction system where they compress the air flowing into the engine which allows the engine to squeeze more air into a cylinder, the extra air results in more fuel delivered to the engine therefore providing extra power. In order to achieve this boost, the turbocharger uses the exhaust flow from the engine to spin a ceramic turbine blade, which in turn spins an air pump. The turbine blade in the turbocharger spins at speeds of up to 150,000 rotations per minute (rpm) — that’s about 30 times faster than most car engines can go. And since it is hooked up to the exhaust, the temperatures in the turbine are also very high; explaining why almost every supercar has big air inlets to ensure the turbocharger doesn’t overheat.

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The difference between a turbocharger and supercharger?

Superchargers like turbochargers are also called forced induction systems. Superchargers work the same way as turbos described above, but as you can tell from the name superchargers offer more power. In a supercharger, there is a belt that connects directly to the engine and receives its power the same way that the water pump or alternator does. A turbo charger on the other hand, gets its power from the exhaust and as mentioned above the exhaust runs through a turbine which generates compression.

Both systems have trade-offs. A turbocharger is more efficient because it utilises ‘wasted’ energy in the exhaust stream for its power source, however turbo chargers create back pressure in the exhaust system which creates turbo lag causing the car to bog down until the engines generates enough pressure and is running at higher rpms. Due to this turbo lag, supercars are now mating turbo’s with electric engines to compensate for any lag, so that you don’t look foolish at the lights when your car bogs down and you get overtaken by a Nissan Micra whose car insurance is definitely cheaper than yours.

Superchargers generate tons of power, sounds cooler and offer a great feeling of excitement, but, and this is a big but…it all depends on how the chassis can utilise this extra power; does the car have enough grip to put the power down, or does it just spin up its wheels and/or torque steer like mad? Superchargers are easier to install and are more reliable but of course more expensive, however this may be worth it as the power is always available throughout the rev range.

To conclude, supercars tend to favour turbo engines, as they are more manageable in terms of power efficiency, they are cheaper and quieter reducing noise pollution. Hypercars being so dramatic tend to favour superchargers.

This post was written by Hiten Solanki

The Exciting New World of F1 Turbo Engines – the Brave Unknown

With the first 2014 testing session underway this week at Jerez, the majority of F1 fans will be eager to hear the sound from these new 1.6 V6 turbo engines. This year will be one of the biggest changes to Formula 1 engine regulations in the history of the sport. The previous V8 2.4 litre engines were naturally aspirated and pierced your ears from its soundtrack and the introduction of turbo’s will be more of a growling sound, which will take some time getting used to.

Each car for the 2014 season will have two less cylinders than the previous year resulting in 600bhp, and the introduction to a much more powerful energy recovery system (ERS) will not just harvest kinetic energy from braking (sound is completely different to previous years) but will also recover heat from the turbo’s turbine shaft and the exhaust gases. Unfortunately, it gives engineers and drivers two more acronyms to learn on top of the new turbos which will be nothing like the turbo’s of the past, and nobody knows exactly what’s going to happen.

The electrical energy can be either directed to the kinetic energy (MGU-K as known to engineers) as extra power boost or to the battery for storage for later use. However, when acting as a generator, heat energy (MGU-H as known to engineers) is used to match the speed of the turbo to the engine and cut out turbo lag. The new ERS will produce 160bhp of the overall power (estimated to be around 760bhp combined), making it significantly more important to lap time than in previous years.
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In this complex new era of F1 motor racing I will shed some light on the new engine regulations:

The new engines represent a huge step into the total unknown, the first day at Jerez testing summed that up perfectly, with both Ferrari and Force India coming to a halt within matter of corners on their first voyage out of the pits. What we also don’t know is how the V6 combined with the turbo and the energy recover system will work on a full race distance, major concern among engineers will be the cooling of the turbo engine, especially with Red Bull who’s designer Adrian Newey is fond of tight exotic bodywork packaging around the rear of the car. Don’t be surprised if you see half of the grid not finish at the season opener at Australia.

Fuel Saving
Drivers will now have to complete the same race distances as they did in 2013 but with just 100 litres of fuel, a rough estimation of 35% less fuel than 2013 and this will present a serious challenge for engineers and drivers in order for races not to become an economy run. The new engines will not use as much fuel for a start as they are smaller, while much more power is available from the ‘hybrid’ technology ERS. Race strategy will become even more important to ensure cars complete races.

The ‘drive-ability’ and power delivery of the new units should prove a big challenge and watching how well the drivers and cars handle that extra power will be fascinating. Turbo engines produce significantly more torque than naturally aspirated engines, but the delivery of the torque can lag behind the application of the throttle, drivers have already commented that the throttle pedal should be a metre long to control the torque of the engine.  One of the great challenges of the new power unit is to reduce turbo lag to near zero by using the heat recovery (MGU-H) to power the compressor while the turbo reaches full boost.

Although the engines are smaller next season the cooling requirements are much higher with an intercooler for the turbocharger, plus extra cooling for the ERS system. All of these combined will not be welcome news for designers in the aero department where cooling means bigger radiators and bigger openings in the bodywork, one thing working for them is the bigger sidepods which have been introduced this year for safety reason (T-bones crashes).  

Many of you may be thinking that all these engines changes will be costing teams significantly more than previous years which is absolutely correct, but in the long run these systems will help reduce costs with fuel, aerodynamics, etc. and unlock technology which can be used in everyday motor engineering which will save billions.

To sign off on one of the most exciting aspects of the 2014 regulations is that it shifts the emphasis ever so slightly away from aerodynamics. For the first time this decade engine departments will have the opportunity to innovate and compete with one another over the coming years.

This post was written by Hiten Solanki who writes for Tempcover -day insurance.

BMW 4-Series

I have a friend who is the spitting image of Rory McIlroy. He spends much of his time on any night out trying to convince people he is not Rory McIlroy. Even in a backstreet kebab shop in a provincial town at 2am, as he spills garlic mayo down his shirt he will be asked if he is Rory McIlroy. It can be hard to make a name for yourself when you are constantly having to tell people what you are not.

That issue is similarly faced by the BMW 4-Series, a car which has thus far spent its entire existence denying that it is the BMW 3-Series. The 4-series coupe is essentially the two-door version of the much-loved 3-Series coupe with better model delineation and greater exclusivity. It is a slimmed and optimised version of a traditional staple; it is like short-term car insurance – fast, effective, immediate and modern – to a traditional annual policy.

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In terms of distancing itself from its predecessor though, despite the inevitable connections, the 4-Series is already making strides to make a name of its own. For a start, the 4-Series is already considered to be much livelier than its predecessor, its improved steering and a lower centre of gravity helping it to bring more balance to the road alongside a more responsive suspension.

The 4-series is also slightly lighter than the 3-Series, around 25kg so, and comes with a choice of six engines – all rear-wheel drive. Two petrol options are turbocharged 2.0 litre four cylinders giving 181bhp or 242bhp respectively, whilst the other is a 302bhp turbocharged 3.0 litre six cylinder. There are three diesel choices too; offering between 181 and 309bhp, and these are expected to prove more popular.

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In terms of future developments for the 4-Series BMW have already tabled a Hybrid version of the vehicle with a 340hp output 450 Nm of torque. There had been rumors that the 4-Series Hybrid would be making a cameo appearance at the LA Auto Show at the end of November, but alas the new model appears to have suffered from stage-fright and failed to make it to the Los Angeles Convention Centre for the event, leaving us to twiddle our thumbs in anticipation of its arrival in the new year.


This article was written by guest blogger Hiten Solanki

Is The Future of Cars Electric?

We’ve been told that the future is bright; we’ve even been told that the future is orange, but when it comes to cars is the future electric? Should we be turning our backs on the increasingly old-school petrol driven cars and be fully embracing electric cars so as to future-proof ourselves?

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It isn’t uncommon for the US to lead the way when it comes to technology, and particularly California. The home base of the behemoth Google, not to mention the hundreds and thousands of start-ups in Silicon Valley, when it comes to the future Californians should know their tablet-form onions. And if you’re looking to California for guidance then the suggestions are that electric cars are very much the next step.
Charging stations and points for electric cars have been a common sighting in The Golden State for some time, but earlier this month the region took the next step. The first public EV charging station that supports all models of electric vehicles has now opened in San Diego, all the more reason to buy an electric car. The charge point, located at the Fashion Valley Mall, can charge the batteries of cars that operate on any of the three existing connection systems to about 80 per cent in around 20 minutes.

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In the UK, charging points remain few and far between and for the most point limited to slow performing charging stations dotted around the big cities. If you drive around London regularly then you’ll have a lot less trouble keeping your car charged than you will in North Yorkshire say, where you’ll have to cross your fingers that you can make it from York to Scarborough in one charge.
The plus point, I suppose, is that our concerns have shifted from the vehicles themselves to how to keep them running. Thanks to celebrity endorsements and a greater range being produced by manufacturers, electric cars are no longer the concept fads they were once supposed to be. Just this year the BMW has gone all guns blazing with UK television advertising to herald the arrival of their i8 and i3 vehicles. Neither comes cheap, but they each mark a significant departure from the staid conservative nature of the Toyota Prius.
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As more vehicles come on to the market, an electric future on the road appears to be inevitable, although not quite a here and now solution. If you live out in the country then you may want to hang fire before putting all your eggs in a snazzy new electro-basket to save being stuck on a darkened ‘B’ road in the middle of the night, but if you’re in the city then perhaps the time has come to embrace the electric car future.

This article was written by guest blogger Hiten Solanki

Police Forces Look to Performance Cars for Patrols

In recent years, as the economic climate has begun to show signs of recovery, the country has seen a rise in sales figures for supercars. More disposable income it seems means more speed for many. But with this rise comes a dilemma for the nation’s police forces; how do they keep up with the Joneses speeding down our motorways? Increasingly it appears that the answer is to fight fire with fire.

Across the UK Police forces have started to source high performance vehicles of their own in order to meet the challenge of policing supercars head on. A far cry from the traditional Rover and Vauxhall ‘Panda’ cars with low premiums on one day car insurance, the boys in blue have lately been taking to the road in more powerful vehicles. Officers in South Yorkshire have been covering the county’s roads in a Mitsubishi Evo X, whilst their compatriots on the Humberside force have been policing the east end of the M62 corridor in a V8 Lexus IS-F. And this approach is not just limited to the industrial north, down in the South West, Gloucestershire Police have been trialling the 155mph BMW interceptor.

Whilst this may seem a drastic departure for UK forces as we know them, supercars on patrol are a much more common site across other areas of the globe. In South Korea officers have several high performance vehicles in their fleet including a Porsche 911 and a Lamborghini Gallardo. And they are not the only police force to have Lamborghini at their disposal either; the manufacturer famously donated two of their Gallardo LP560-4s to the Italian Police in 2004, although officers are now down to just one after the other was written off in an accident 2009.

In the money-rich United Arab Emirates losing a police supercar is perhaps less of a trauma than it had been to Italian officers. Money was seemingly not an obstacle to the Dubai force when they upgraded their enforcement fleet. Police officers can be seen cruising round the streets of the city in a range of high performance vehicles including the Lamborghini Aventador and a Ferrari FF, Mercedes SLS AMG, Roush Mustang, Bentley Continental GT, Audi R8 V10, and a Brabus B63 S all done up in the green and white livery of the Dubai force. Anecdotal evidence suggests the swish new vehicles seem to have made officers’ jobs drastically easier too as a number of criminals have reportedly asked to be taken downtown in order to sample the cars for themselves.

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Despite the high-performance nature of the vehicles, and their incredible top speeds, officers in Dubai have indicated that the majority of the arrests made using the vehicles have not been through high-speed chases through the desert, but for more routine offenses such as prohibited parking or driving without adequate temporary car insurance.

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Of course there are two sides to the debate, and when the BMW Interceptor was deployed by Gloucestershire Police earlier this year concerns were voiced that such high performance vehicles could be something of a red rag to a bull for young drivers. However, police maintain that the vehicles act as a useful ploy to deter would-be speeders. As PC Angus Nairn told the UK Press when his West Midlands force were loaned a Lotus Evora in 2011; “It’s a very quick car and we hope it will prove an effective deterrent to anyone thinking of speeding or trying to outrun us. It will attract a lot of attention on the motorways but that is the whole idea”.

This article was written by guest blogger
Hiten Solanki

Has Tesla’s Safe Image Gone Up in Smoke to the Public?

Has the Tesla S’ Reputation as the Safest Car Gone Up in Flames?

Specialist automotive company, Tesla Motors has certainly made its mark as a manufacturer of safe, high performance electric vehicles. In May 2013 Consumer Reports magazine proclaimed that the Tesla Model S had outscored “every other car in our test ratings.”

In August, the NHTSA awarded the Tesla Model S a Five-Star rating, with an overall Vehicle Safety Score of 0.42, for frontal, side, and roll-over crashes. This is the best score of any vehicle the agency has tested under a new rating system it began applying in 2011.

Although the NHTSA test has no specific battery tests, it’s interesting that in Tesla’s press release on their achievement they state: “The Model S lithium-ion battery did not catch fire at any time before, during or after the NHTSA testing. It is worth mentioning that no production Tesla lithium-ion battery has ever caught fire in the Model S or Roadster, despite several high speed impacts. While this is statistically unlikely to remain the case long term, Tesla is unaware of any Model S or Roadster occupant fatalities in any car ever.”

A Tesla Model S experiences a battery fire after an accident.

All this good news translated to a share price that rose from $35 on the 2nd of January to $184 in September. Everything was going well for the small company from Fremont, California… until a Model S was involved in an accident early in October. The resultant battery fire saw Tesla shares fall 6 percent in 24 hours, and drop a further $7.64, or 4.2 percent the following day.

Despite the fact that there were no injuries the news soon went viral and at $173.31Tesla’s market value dropped about $2.4 billion in two days…

( Excerpted from an article by Peter Els)
To read and download the rest of this article please view it on Automotive IQ:

http://bit.ly/Tesla_S_FireTesla_S_Fire_View Full Article

Fuel Cells Are Back in the News…Are They Here to Stay?

A few years ago, the major car manufacturers were all bringing fuel cell concept cars to the auto show circuit. There was a lot of excitement in the press and amongst consumers. The environmental benefits and potential of having a car that achieved great fuel efficiency without the need for a long recharge was attractive. And then, suddenly those concept cars disappeared from the public eye.

However, universities and car companies were still at it. One of the most interesting concepts is to use a hydrogen fuel cell as part of a hybrid electric vehicle. By utilizing a fuel cell, the hybrid would run clean even when it is not running on battery and fill up times would be comparable to a traditional car. By utilizing this range extender concept, the expensive and sizeable battery of a pure EV would be unnecessary which would dramatically reduce the cost of an alternative powertrain.

Automotive IQ recently performed a market survey to determine whether the auto industry thinks fuel cells are viable as a range extender concept. 80% of respondents said yes. Below is a graphic representing the timeframe that respondents believe is likely for fuel cells to achieve a significant market share. To view the full results of our survey click here.

When will fuel cells gain market share?


Will Hornick is the Managing Editor of Automotive IQ

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