End of an era: Ron Dennis steps down as McLaren big boss
Formula 1 fans are certainly familiar with the name of Ron Dennis. He orchestrated the F1 team’s championship years involving the likes of Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Mika Hakkinen and Lewis Hamilton. But apart from the team’s exploits on the racetrack, Dennis has been the guiding force behind the McLaren Group, which includes an automobile division responsible for producing such desirable supercars as the F1 and the MP4-12C.
But now, an era is coming to an end, as Dennis has announced his resignation as the group’s chairman and CEO. By all indications, Dennis was eased out by his fellow owners—particularly the Mumtalakat investment firm of Bahrain, and Mansour Ojjeh. It is said that while the 69-year-old Dennis owns 25% of the McLaren Group, Mumtalakat has the controlling 50%. Ojjeh owns the other 25%.
Word has it that Dennis’s business partners were no longer happy with his authoritarian style of management.
This comes as a shock to many in both the car world and the F1 community. Dennis has long been synonymous with McLaren, after all. It will be very interesting to see where the brand is heading now.
Mobile apps blamed for ‘biggest spike’ in US traffic deaths
The New York Times has reported that popular mobile apps like Snapchat, Waze and Pokémon Go resulted in “the largest annual percentage increase” in highway fatalities in the US in 50 years.
“In the first six months of 2016, highway deaths jumped 10.4%, to 17,775,” from the same period in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,” the newspaper revealed.
Indeed, while “distracted driving” used to mean texting or making a call, these days the term mostly refers to operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile app, which can truly divide one’s attention. So guys, please, quit uploading Instagram photos from behind the wheel of your car—yes, even if traffic is excruciatingly slow. Your driving deserves your full attention, period.
US gov’t to now require electric and hybrid cars to emit sounds
According to Reuters, the US government will now require silent cars like hybrid or electric vehicles to emit sufficiently audible sounds when they’re cruising at 30km/h. This is to enhance road safety among pedestrians, cyclists and blind individuals.
The deadline for carmakers like Tesla, Toyota and Nissan to install alert sounds on their quiet cars is September 2019. “The US Transportation Department said it expects the rules would prevent 2,400 injuries a year by 2020, and require the addition of alert sounds to about 530,000 2020 model vehicles,” the report said.
If you haven’t driven a hybrid or a fully electric car, let us tell you that the experience is eerily noiseless. In fact, one common mistake among new EV or hybrid drivers is starting the engine and then turning the ignition key or pushing the start button again, only to realize that the electric or hybrid motor is already on.
You know Jaguar’s F-Pace SUV? It now has an electric version
As if Jaguar coming up with its first-ever crossover SUV (the F-Pace) isn’t novel enough, the British carmaker has now unveiled an electric concept version of the vehicle, predictably called the i-Pace. Reports say that Jaguar is planning on selling this all-electric crossover in two years’ time.
The move is seen as Jaguar’s response to the US mandate that 15% of carmakers’ total sales in the state of California to be zero-emission vehicles by the year 2025.
“There’s no doubt the market is shifting,” Jaguar Land Rover North America CEO Joe Eberhardt was quoted by Reuters as saying. “There are differing views of how rapidly that shift is happening and to what degree. We want to be prepared.”
The i-Pace will reportedly have a 90kWh lithium-ion battery pack capable of providing a range of 350km. Exciting times to be a motorist, no doubt.
In the US, the manual shifter is nearly extinct
The Los Angeles Times has shared that less than 3% of all vehicle units sold in the US market feature a manual transmission. Yep, a new generation of American drivers is growing more and more unfamiliar with the stick shift and the clutch pedal.
A telling statistic: A decade ago, nearly half of new car models were available with a manual transmission. In 2016, only about one-fourth of new models have a stick option.
The newspaper pointed out that “Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo, Volvo, Lexus, Chrysler and Buick no longer offer a single model with manual transmission. Audi, Jaguar, Cadillac and GMC offer only one.”
And don’t think that this is just some fad or fleeting trend. Industry observers believe the figures are “never going to go back up, and that the trajectory is down, headed for zero.”
If you bemoan this development, well, you may console yourself with the thought that cars with automatic shifters are projected to be more efficient and more economical to operate. Thanks to the rapid advancement of technology, human beings can no longer out-drive the on-board computers of new cars. It is what it is.