GM to begin testing self-driving Chevy Bolts in Detroit
General Motors will begin testing on the streets of metropolitan Detroit a fleet of autonomous Chevrolet Bolts. GM will become the second automaker to test fully autonomous vehicles on public roads outside of its proving grounds, with Ford having done some tests on public roads since July 2015.
The Bolts to be tested will be assembled starting early next year at GM’s Orion Assembly plant in Oakland County.
“We expect to be the first high-volume auto manufacturer to build fully autonomous vehicles in a mass-production assembly plant,” GM CEO Mary Barra noted in a blog on LinkedIn.com.
The company acquired early this year Cruise Automation, a start-up firm in San Francisco that has developed much of the sensors, cameras, LiDAR and radar that enable the cars to drive with little or no human direction.
GM and Cruise Automation have already tested a small fleet in San Francisco and Scottsdale, Arizona. The automaker has 40 Bolts equipped with the autonomous hardware from Cruise Automation.
Although autonomous driving vehicles show potential in highway or urban driving, there are challenges in operating the vehicles in winter. In the first versions of autonomous driving systems, the system struggled when the lane markings on roads were obscured by snow or even heavy rain.
Thai car sales set for another downturn this year
Vehicle sales in Thailand are expected to end the current year with 750,000 units, or a likely downturn compared to 2015.
Surapong Paisitpatanapong, a spokesman for the Federation of Thai Industries’ automotive club, said it is likely Thai car sales will be down by 6.2% from the 799,592 units sold last year.
Driven by a tax break in 2012 for first-time buyers, domestic car sales reached 1.45 million units. Then sales fell to 1.33 million in 2013, 881,832 in 2014, and then 799,592 in 2015.
For the first 10 months of 2016, sales were slightly down by 0.7% year-on-year to 617,159 units.
Last week, Inter-Media Consultant Co., the organizer of the Thailand International Motor Expo, said vehicle bookings tallied 40,364 from November 30 to December 12, down by 10.1% from last year’s show.
Chalatchai Paphatphong, vice president of Inter-Media, said that while car bookings at the event failed to reach the target of 50,000, most participating car firms were still satisfied with the outcome.
Toyota led the bookings with 5,124 units, followed by Honda (4,902), Isuzu (3,620), Mazda (3,434) and Ford (2,441). Mercedes-Benz secured the most bookings in the luxury segment with 1,722 units, while BMW came second with 979.
Maruti Suzuki eyes millennial buyers in India
India’s largest automaker, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., will enable starting January next year the online booking of its Ignis through a dedicated website.
The company will sell the Ignis through its retail chain Nexa, which only sells the S-Cross and the Baleno for now. Maruti is in negotiations with partner banks to facilitate 100% financing for the Ignis.
By bringing the car-buying experience online, Maruti Suzuki is targeting more millennials or the Instagram generation as buyers of its vehicles, particularly the Ignis.
“This generation is well informed and loves to flaunt its possessions,” R.S. Kalsi, executive director for marketing and sales of Maruti Suzuki, said at a pre-launch event for the car model. “The Ignis comes with distinct design and options for customization of both exterior and interior, including roof wraps. It’s a new segment that we are creating for the people pursuing a passion in life, those in their first jobs, and those who seek to differ on everything that’s conventional.”
The Ignis will be powered by a 1.2-liter petrol engine or a newly developed 1.3-liter diesel unit. An automatic gearbox will be offered for both the petrol and diesel models.
Maruti will manufacture the Ignis at its Maneswar factory, and will increase capacity when its new factory at Gujarat becomes operational early next year.
Bruce Springsteen’s ’57 Chevrolet Bel Air auctioned
If you’re a fan of automobiles, any vintage car in decent condition is enough to make you drool. Even more so if said car used to be owned by a rock star. Specifically, a rock star of Bruce Springsteen’s stature.
A “super fan” of the American musician, according to a Reuters report, was banking on such fanaticism when he decided to auction off a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air said to previously belong to Springsteen.
The fan, identified as Michael Crane, owned the car as part of a huge Springsteen collection. The real estate developer had purchased the car on eBay in 2006, complete with documents certifying Springsteen’s prior ownership.
“I’ve been a fan since I was seven years old,” Crane was quoted by Reuters as saying. “I got to meet Bruce Springsteen with the car, which was amazing. But I’m ready to move on in my life, and I want to pass the torch on to somebody who will enjoy the car.”
Other items in the collection were handwritten lyrics, guitars and posters.
It wasn’t revealed what Crane’s asking price for the car was. But how much would you pay for The Boss’s classic ride?