Apple and McLaren

The 'Apple may buy McLaren' rumor is my favorite tech rumor this year. I think such an acquisition would be great for many reasons, but I'll outline 3 here.

First, McLaren is a technology company that happens to make cars. After changing its name to "McLaren Technology Group" in 2015, the company stated:

The McLaren companies now employ more than 3000 people, three-quarters of whom are not involved in motorsport. Technology drives everything we do – creating the world’s most advanced road cars, working with blue-chip companies to enhance their performance and their products, and/or developing the world’s most robust electronic control systems. Our new name therefore reflects our ever-increasing focus on innovation and the creation of disruptive technologies that will have a positive and far-reaching impact.

Having worked for a technology company, where my job involved working with OEMs, I understand how much differently car manufacturers think and operate than a technology company. Buying a car company would be an albatross around Apple's neck; the unbending 'mediocre-is-good-enough' mindset, the dealer network, the horrible buying experience, all seem to clash with Apple's sensibilities. A technology company is more malleable, and wrangling a technology company is familiar to Apple.

Lexus is Ugly Now

Lexus used to be a bit boring, now it's vehicles are homely without justification. The Pontiac Aztec - seemingly the inspiration for the current generation RX - was at least in part "functionally ugly"... the other kind of fugly. We may then infer some level of awareness on the part of the Aztec 'design' team. Not so for Lexus.

Tesla Model 3 in 2

The Model 3 is here (well almost anyway) and it looks quite good. This is important for the automobile space, and likely not just Tesla's most important vehicle, but perhaps the most important vehicle since Ford's Model T.  The Model T debuted a little over 100 years ago and the parallels with Tesla's Model 3 are truly interesting.

Ford called the Model T "the universal car," a low-cost, reliable vehicle that could be maintained easily...

Musk has essentially positioned the Model 3 as the 'universal electric car', a reasonably priced, reliable, fast, well designed all electric vehicle. Of course the concise Model 3 pitch is that 'the Model 3 will be the best car (combustion, electric or hybrid) that you can buy for the price'. Where Ford had its assembly line, Musk has his Gigafactory. Also interesting, Tesla has reportedly received more orders for its Model 3 in a couple of days than the combined yearly sales of the Acura TLX, Audi A4, Cadillac ATS, Infiniti Q50, Lexus IS, and Mercedes C-class. A few years in, Ford sold more Model Ts per year than its competitors combined, and by the mid 1920s more than half the cars on American Roads were Ford Model Ts.

The Best OEM Headlamp Bulb Replacement: LEDs

It would be remiss of me not to mention the difference between how LEDs and Halogen bulbs work at the outset, since many advantages and disadvantages of each lighting system, is tied directly to how they work. In fact while this post ultimately compares CG Automotive's LED bulb kit, with my OEM Halogen bulbs, you will find that the difference in processes and the choices made for the particular Bulb kit, imposed by the processes, drives the comparison. Lets dive in. Regarding the LEDs process, I can do no better than Phillips' explanation that:

as indicated by its name, [light-emitting diode], the LED is a diode that emits light. A diode is a device that allows current to flow in only one direction. Almost any two conductive materials will form a diode when placed in contact with each other. When electricity is passed through the diode the atoms in one material (within the semiconductor chip) are excited to a higher energy level. The atoms in that first material have too much energy and need to release that energy. The energy is then released as the atoms shed electrons to the other material within the chip. During this energy release light is created. The color of the light from the LED is a function of the ingredients (materials) and recipes (processes) that make up the chip.

Compare this to a Halogen bulb's incandescence process.

Close to perfect: 2004 G35 Sport Coupe with modifications

In December of 2003, I brought home a G35 Sport Coupe with leather and premium package (see original Window Sticker for full Specs). I first saw the G35 concept at the New York Auto Show a year or so earlier, and immediately thought it would be one of the most beautiful affordable cars on the road if the production version stayed true to the concept. Well, as Infiniti promised, the production version was strikingly similar to the concept. This meant that the production G-Coupe looked as if it should easily have cost twice as much as it did. At $31,550.00 without the premium package, the price was not far from a well-equipped Honda Accord Coupe EX-L V6. However, the cars were worlds apart. The G35 was rear wheel drive, 280 HP, 270 ft-lbs torque, tiptronic, and had a beautiful exhaust note. Meanwhile, "boring" would have been an understatement for the 2004 Honda Accord. As the Q60 Concept looms large, I thought I’d pay homage to my old G-Coupe by posting the ways in which I modified it over the years, my reasons for each modification, and of course tons of pics. Dive in after the break.

The Infiniti Q60 and Other Stupid Car Names

According to Motor Trend, Infiniti is set to unveil its all new "very, very, very, very close to [production]" Q60 at the upcoming Detroit Auto Show around mid January next year. Without condemning the yet to be revealed vehicle too much, the fact that I am not eagerly awaiting the all new 2016 "G37” or “G38” has left a bad taste in my mouth, possibly the remnants of curse words. I am more than a bit annoyed that I will not be able to refer to the impending vehicle as the “G Coupe”. I’m troubled in part because people who truly like cars probably get what's in a name and understand that a rose called 'protoplasma' [sic] smells a little less sweet.

The annoyance has led to this post and the following free points for automobile manufacturers: (1) I don't care what Don Draper or the ying-to-his-yang from Wharton tells you, people remember words best, and, (2) where fortune smiles on you and more than a modicum of success exists with an arbitrary silly alphanumeric nomenclature, leave it alone. 

Navdy: May be the best Aftermarket Heads-Up Display (HUD)

The aftermarket Heads-Up Display (HUD) space has been horrendous - a wasteland. It's almost as if companies who are in a position to make good iOS or Android phone-integrated-HUD systems, decided that they need not break a sweat while vehicle manufacturers continue to sell terrible $2000 dollar navigation systems. That is, expensive OEM solutions are so egregious and offensive to the public-at-large, that the big players in aftermarket car electronics can sell their lesser-of-two-evils $1000 head-units into perpetuity. I'm primarily referring to Alpine, Pioneer, and Sony here. Perhaps a bit less so for Pioneer, who at least made this in between watching "the fast and the furious," or whatever it is their mobile-audio department does nowadays. Garmin, with a "half-heartier" attempt, (and I use 'heartier' loosely) also threw their hat-in-the-ring with this thing.

Needless to say, Navdy looks as if it will easily be the best of its kind available when it launches. Jump into the post for some really cool tech not only from Navdy, but also from a company called MVS-California.

The Buckeye Stops Here: Tesla Motors' Battle With Ohio Auto Dealers Association

One more win for Tesla Motors against yet another Auto Dealer Association:

"Yesterday, a House committee declined to take up a one-paragraph amendment pushed by the Ohio Auto Dealers Association that would have blocked Tesla’s business model by prohibiting an automaker from owning an auto dealership. Dealers wanted to stick the amendment into a noncontroversial bill that would require drivers to move over when approaching a road-maintenance vehicle. But with Tesla representatives pushing hard, the committee passed the bill yesterday without amendments."

The Columbus Dispatch

It is understandable for automotive dealerships to be extremely fearful that their industry may one day be rendered obsolete by Tesla’s sales model. It is also understandable that auto-dealerships would like to get their hands on some of the money passing from consumers to Tesla. The question is whether auto-dealerships are entitled to remain in business or share in Tesla’s profits.

Not So Instant Karma: Fisker Files For Bankruptcy

Fisker Automotive has officially filed for bankruptcy. It’s difficult to think of Fisker's demise without also thinking of Tesla Motors' success. Aside from issues with the vision and execution of Karma’s powertrain, and the impossible to recover from Consumer Reports debacle, Katie Fehrenbacher’s February 2012 “3 key differences between Tesla and Fisker” write up was spot on. Fisker likely went bankrupt because of the major differences she outlined in her piece almost 2 years ago:

Honda Designers Have Been Years Behind Themselves and Modders

Honda Designers Have Been Years Behind Themselves and Modders

I've owned three vehicles, of which my 94 Honda Accord Coupe was the first. As such it has special meaning and I may be somewhat biased. Notwithstanding my bias, I believe reasonable persons would agree that this model is one of the best designed Honda Accord Coupes to date. It carried subdued lines that were simple and timeless.

Even now, seeing a 1994 Coupe next to a 1999 Coupe, one would be all but certain that the '99 Accord is the older model. I would argue that it has continued this way, with the 1994 remaining much more of a timeless design than Accord models from 1999 to 2007.  Keep in mind here that I am only referring to the Honda Accord Coupe and not the sedan, which carried on its fugliness through 2012. Those years were a kind of dark ages for the Accord, where at least styling wise, customers essentially bought an old american car, but not classic-good-looking-1969-old.

Automobile Dealers Fight “To [allegedly] Protect the Public” from Tesla Motors

First, no intelligent person believes that automobile dealers are fighting to stop Tesla from selling cars because they care about us consumers. While it is disgusting that automobile dealerships and various dealer associations have asserted “protection of the public” as a primary reason why Tesla should not be allowed to sell directly to customers, at least this type of action is expected by such entities. Simply, dealers and their lobbies are expected to be disgusting, slimy, and self-serving. What would be truly disturbing is if legislators and other politicos who should at least pretend to have consumer and U.S. economic best interest at heart, begin supporting ridiculous arguments and taking positions damaging to the market. Such arguments would be disrespectful to consumers, and waste judicial resources leading to outrageous litigation against essentially the essence of the already stymied American automotive consumer market: competition that begets progress.

Accord Coupe: 9th Generation HFP Wheels on 8th Generation

This is what the 8th generation (2008-2012) Honda Accord Coupe EX-L with HFP aero-kit looks like with the 9th generation (2013-20xx) 19 inch HFP Accord Coupe's HFP wheels. What a mouthful. I purchased the wheels from College Hills Honda. Great price through their "this sale goes to 11!" Christmas promotion, at $234 a piece.

DIY Phone Dock and BlackBerry Remote Stereo Bluetooth Gateway

No matter what automobile manufacturers tell and sell you, nowadays you only need one thing for infotainment in your vehicle – your smartphone. Like you, I use my iPhone for listening to Pandora, Mule Radio (the talk show, new disruptors etc.), Podcasts (The VergeCastScience FantasticThe Joe Rogan ExperienceThe Critical PathBill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast etc.) and for navigation. With voice assistants like Siri built into any real mobile phone, its also safer to use your phone while keeping your eyes on the road than ever. I don’t need the elaborate multi-screens designed to look as if they run android, iOS or the like. In fact, it is quite telling that automobile manufacturers will not work more closely with Apple or Google, and just allow certain apps (Google maps /iOS maps) to be mirrored unto our vehicle screens.  These actions tell you that automakers really don’t care about truly integrating vehicles with prominent mobile OSes. Truth be told, automakers think you are just stupid enough to be fooled and satisfied with a vastly inferior more expensive system. They’re betting that as long as the icons on their OEM screens looks similar to an iOS or Android icon you will remain lobotomized, as they take the load off, via your wallet.