Auto blogWed, 30 Jul 2014
It's hard to believe that The Simpsons is moving into its 26th season, but there's good news for auto enthusiasts, especially of the EV variety. The show's executive producer, Al Jean, confirmed on Twitter that Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk would have a guest spot on the show in the upcoming season. Even better, it sounds like a pretty significant role.
Elon Musk in ep 1/11 and not a "kiss ass" celebrity guest star turn: Burns tries to kill him, and we reveal Musk's master password.
- Al Jean (@AlJean) July 29, 2014
When it comes to truly, genuinely interesting automotive design and craftsmanship, Icon is one of the finest outfits in the game. We've covered the company and its founder, Jonathan Ward, in the past, and have remarked on just how fully and intricately done the automotive art it turns out is. The company's next big thing, though, is a far cry from the modified Land Rovers and Chevy Thriftmaster pickups.
The sketches you see above are of the Helios, Icon's latest mad creation. While still remarkably early in the planning phases, it's safe to say that the streamlined, Art Deco-inspired, boat-tailed (every vehicle should be boat-tailed) coupe is the company's single most ambitious vehicle yet.
"Although almost all of our projects thus far have been recreations inspired by vintage vehicles, I am fascinated about the concept of revisiting history in our own way," Ward told Jalopnik staffer and former Autoblog editor Damon Lavrinc. "The most interesting way to do this is by celebrating a particular era of design, or design language."
There were questions about the nav system in the Tesla Model S when the vehicle launched in the US, and there are still people who don't like it. But here's the thing: the US version at least has a nav system. With the luxury electric vehicle now available in China, drivers are discovering that the car is shipping without a working navigation system at all.
As China EV blogger Alysha Webb reports, Tesla's explanation for the lack of a nav system is that "Google maps are not supported." At least the company is working on an alternative map database for the land where Google doesn't work right. We've confirmed with Tesla PR in the US that Webb's report contains an official Tesla response, which includes the following:
Currently there isn't a navigation system in Chinese Model S as Google maps are not supported in the country. However, teams are currently working on a solution with Chinese text and voice recognition. We plan to introduce navigation to Chinese cars later this year (as already communicated to our customers). Once it's available, maps will be pushed to customers' vehicles through software updates.
That darling of the electric car world, Tesla, is idling production at its factory in Fremont, CA, for the first time in order to expand the factory in preparation for its future Model X crossover. The $100-million renovation will add 25 robots and upgrades to the body shop and assembly line to support the new vehicle.
Since it will be offering two models simultaneously, Tesla will need to be able to keep up with the pace of demand. "This represents the single biggest investment in the plant since we really started operations and enables us for higher volumes," said Tesla spokesperson Simon Sproule to Bloomberg. The new robots will be able to boost production by 25 percent and will allow the automaker to build the Model S and Model X on the same assembly line. There won't be too much downtime at the California plant, though. The upgrades will be finished within the next two weeks.
With these factory updates, the Model X may finally get its electrically powered wheels on the road. The CUV has been delayed multiple times since its announcement. It was originally supposed to be on sale in early 2014, then later in the year, but now the latest news from Elon Musk places the crossover's launch in the second quarter of 2015.
The $10,000 prize for successfully hacking a Tesla Model S has been claimed. A team from Zhejiang University in China claimed victory at the Symposium on Security for Asia Network (SyScan360) event in Beijing by exploiting a "flow design flaw," whatever that means, to gain access to vital systems including the door locks, horn and window controls, while the vehicle was moving.
The group that was able to hack a Tesla reported its findings to the electric car automaker, so this security breach will hopefully be fixed in short order. The event was welcomed by Tesla, which said it "[supported] the idea of providing an environment in which responsible security researchers can help identify potential vulnerabilities."
Last year, potential security pitfalls of high-tech electric and hybrid cars came to light when the US Defense Department's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (better known as DARPA) successfully hacked into hybrids from Ford and Toyota. Questions about the security of the Tesla Model S have been raised before. If you're wondering why all this might be such a big deal, we suggest you watch this.
Tesla really is a unique automaker. Usually when a new model is confirmed, there are big press announcements touting a company's latest, greatest vehicle and everything it can do for consumers. Elon Musk's electric car company likes to do things a little differently, though. Instead, the CEO gave an interview about its long-awaited entry-level offering, the Model III, to the UK's Auto Express and confirmed the story on its Facebook page.
Post by Tesla Motors.
Corporate statements doesn't get much simpler and to the point that that. The smaller, cheaper Model III will be aimed against compact premium sedans like the BMW 3 Series and will be unveiled in 2016 before actually going on sale in 2017. According to Musk, the new vehicle will offer a 200-mile range and will carry a price tag of around $35,000.
In the world of computers, competitions that challenge so-called "white hat" hackers are fairly common. Break into this system in X minutes and we'll give you Y dollars. Rarely, though, does this world cross over with the realm of automobiles.
At the 2014 SyScan Conference, which runs from July 16 to 17 in Beijing, hackers have the chance to win $10,000, provided they can break into the systems of a Tesla Model S. According to BidnessETC, in order to win, a successful hack will need to remotely access the 17-inch touchscreen display (shown above) that dominates the Model S cabin in order to surf the Internet and access the vehicle's controls.
While we're not computer experts, it seems like a tall order. The Model S may maintain a constant data signal via its driver's cellphone, but it seems unlikely that Tesla hasn't installed a comprehensive security system to prevent electronic tampering. Tesla, for what it's worth, has no part in the competition.
Tesla Motors continues to be locked in a bitter trademark dispute with a Chinese man who claims to own the rights to the company's name there. Zhan Baosheng is now suing the automaker in China for trademark infringement, and he's asking for 23.9 million yuan ($3.9 million) in damages, plus for the business shut down all of its Chinese operations.
According to Automotive News, Zhan registered for the trademark in 2006 and was granted it in 2009, which was after the automaker was founded in the US in 2003 but before it began Chinese operations. The two sides have been fighting over the name for years. The business reportedly offered him two million yuan ($322,500 at current exchange rates) to buy the trademark in 2009, but Zhan allegedly came back with an astronomical counter-offer for the equivalent of $32 million.The company also nearly changed its localized brand name in China to Tuosule because Zhan owned the rights to its preferred Te Si La title, but the courts eventually sided with Tesla.
On his Twitter page, Zhan's profile says that he's "the owner of TESLA trademark in China." He also recently tweeted a photo of himself holding the trademark document.
A couple weeks ago, J.D. Power released its latest Initial Quality Study, which gave high marks to Porsche, Hyundai and General Motors, with the latter earning more individual IQS awards than any other manufacturer. Now, it's Strategic Vision's turn, and it's doling out its praise not to Porsche, but to Tesla, which wasn't even included in the JD Power IQS.
The Model S was named the best vehicle overall in total quality, while Porsche's corporate brother and endurance-racing rival, Audi, was named the best premium brand, alongside Jaguar. Strategic Vision cited the Q5 and the ancient Q7 for individual segment awards, as well as the A5, which was a mere point off the top of its segment. SV also handed out compliments for the Audi's interior work. The win for the German brand is a nice improvement over its IQS score, with which it landed above the industry average, but solidly mid-pack.
Jaguar was without a segment winner, although SV did say that the Indian-owned English brand had a number of vehicles very near the top of their segments. This is the second significant win for Jag in two weeks, after it finished second overall on the JD Power IQS a few weeks ago.
The Lexus LS is old. Sure, it received a refresh for model year 2013, but it hasn't had a clean-sheet redesign since George W. Bush was in office. It's the oldest vehicle in its segment, debuting in 2007, a full year before the current-gen BMW 7 Series, two years before the Hyundai Equus and Jaguar XJ and three years before the Audi A8.
This is particularly troubling as buyers flock to the heavily redesigned Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which debuted late last year, and the all-electric Tesla Model S. Despite this move, though, Lexus is (worryingly in our minds) not at all concerned.
"We don't feel it's a problem with the car," Brian Smith, VP of marketing for Lexus, told Wards Auto. "Many of the buyers in that segment want what's new and they're trying it."