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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Tesla engineers warn Model 3 batteries could catch fire

tesla.com
Article thanks to John Paul Hampstead and freightwaves.com. Links provided:
Jan 26, 2018  Yesterday CNBC reported that a number of current and former Tesla employees have confirmed that Model 3 productions problems are deeper and more persistent than has been previously reported or acknowledged by the company in its last earnings call. When in the past Tesla CEO Elon Musk has tried to minimize the depths of ‘production hell’ at the Gigafactory, he pointed to specific, limited issues like a last minute rewrite of battery software to explain hangups in production. Yesterday’s reports, however, identified more widespread problems, ranging from hand-assembled batteries to hiring temp workers with no automotive experience to perform quality control. 
Responding to concerns about the company’s reliance on unqualified temps, a Tesla spokesperson wrote that “We’ve been able to teach new skills to thousands of new employees.” Tesla stock has dropped 5% since reaching its peak on January 23rd. 
Most startling were the claims by two engineers that Model 3 lithium ion batteries were being assembled by hand so hastily—borrowed Panasonic employees were “slapping bandoliers together as fast as they possibly could”—sometimes without adequate gaps between the cells. If separate battery cells touched, the engineers warned, the battery could short-circuit or even catch fire. 
“The implication that Tesla would ever deliver a car with a hazardous battery is absolutely inaccurate, contrary to all evidence, and detached from reality,” a Tesla spokesperson wrote in response. “Every battery in a Tesla vehicle has thousands of cells, the vast majority of which are at the same voltage potential as neighboring cells. Hypothetically, even if two cells of the same voltage potential were touching, there would be absolutely zero impact, safety or otherwise – it would be as if two neutral pieces of metal touched,” the spokesperson continued. The Tesla representative went on to describe the safety and quality checks performed in Tesla’s battery production process.
Model 3 batteries are still being assembled by hand at Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory because the machines that would automate that process are still being completed. Early last year, Tesla made a controversial decision to skip the soft-tooling prototype stage of car production that would have allowed the company to adjust and calibrate its machines before the final versions were ordered. At the time, Elon Musk argued that skipping soft-tooling would allow the Model 3 to reach full production more quickly, but the opposite has proven true. One Tesla engineer said that even today, “There's no redundancy, so when one thing goes wrong, everything shuts down.” Tesla is still not close to mass-producing the battery for its basic $35k Model 3. 
Of course, we know that Tesla doesn’t actually want to sell the base model because they’ve said they’re prioritizing the higher-spec models—the least expensive car they’re offering is priced at $49k. “While I've no doubt that Tesla will eventually work out its Model 3 production problems,” said Mark Spiegel of Stanphyl Capital, “the base model will cost Tesla at least mid-$40,000s to build. The company will never deliver more than a token few for less than the current $49,000 lowest-cost offering. Sales will hugely disappoint relative to expectations of over 400,000 a year. And even at those higher prices Tesla will never come anywhere close to its promised [profitability].” Stanphyl Capital has taken a large short position against Tesla stock, representing about 15% of Stanphyl’s assets under management. Spiegel clarified that he doesn’t expect Tesla stock to decline linearly, but instead views the company as a landmine that could explode at any moment with “company-killing news”, and he wants to make sure that he has a large short position when the inevitable happens.
For his part, Elon Musk told the New York Times that, “I actually see the potential for Tesla to become a trillion-dollar company within a 10-year period.”
But what do the Model 3’s seemingly insurmountable production issues mean for the Tesla Semi? Tesla’s arduous pursuit of profitability will only be encumbered by an additional multi-billion dollar investment in completely new truck manufacturing lines. The carmaker is already more than $8B in debt and would have to raise additional capital to begin truck manufacturing—far more money than what Tesla has already collected from pre-order deposits. Even though a Tesla Semi was spied on the road in Santa Clara (see Brandon Camargo’s video), the array of other issues Tesla is currently facing make it difficult to imagine mass production of the Semi by 2019.
To sum up: Tesla is having trouble mass producing the Model 3 and only has a hope of making a profit on the most expensive $49k higher spec version. A car at that price is much less competitive in the mass market than a car selling for $35k. If Tesla is forced to commit to the high end version of the Model 3, the company will not meet its sales targets of 400k units in 2018 and will continue losing market share to its competitors. Where does the money to invest in the Semi come from in that scenario?
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Sunday, February 18, 2018

New details, possible motive emerge in I-80 shooting near Atalissa

qctimes
Article thanks to Tara Becker and the qctimes.com. Links provided:
Jan. 19, 2018  Court documents provide new details and shed light on a possible motive behind a shooting earlier this month on Interstate 80 in Atalissa.
According to an application filed Jan. 18 in Cedar County District Court in support of a search warrant, accused shooter Charles S. Johnston told police after his arrest that he had become “enraged or obsessed over a family that was killed in an accident with a semi and that the motive behind his actions was to harm a truck driver or truck drivers in retaliation. “
The 60-year-old Belvidere, Illinois, man told officers that he was currently taking several prescription drugs and had recently been hospitalized, according to the application.
A spokesperson for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, which is investigating the case, could not be reached for comment Friday. 
Johnston is charged in Cedar County with attempted murder, a Class B felony, and assault on a peace officer with a dangerous weapon, a Class D felony.
He will be arraigned March 2, according to online court records. Bond has been set at $1 million cash-only.
According to the application for the search warrant sought by the Cedar County Sheriff’s Office:
Around 2:15 p.m. Jan. 11, the Cedar County Sheriff’s Office started receiving multiple reports of a person shooting a firearm at vehicles on I-80. Reports also came from the area of 273 mile marker towards the Atalissa Pilot Station that shots were being fired from a small black car.
A semi driver was pulling out of the Pilot Station onto Atalissa Road when a person in a black Volkswagen was pulling in. The driver of the Volkswagen, later identified as Johnston, pointed a handgun out of the window and fired multiple shots at the semi driver.
The semi driver saw the car circle around behind him on the passenger side, and so he swerved and struck the Volkwagen, pinning the car under the trailer.
Johnston fired several more rounds into the passenger door of the semi. The semi then pulled onto Atalissa Road, just south of the interstate, and observed the black Volkswagen travel south on Atalissa Road and turn around and park.
Moments later, the black Volkswagen approached the semi.
A trooper with the Iowa State Patrol arrived on scene, and shortly after getting out of his patrol vehicle, Johnston fired two shots at the trooper, striking the squad car.
Officers fired shots on the Volkswagen. Several additional officers arrived and secured the scene while orders were given for Johnston to show his hands and get out of the vehicle.
After several minutes, he eventually exited the vehicle and followed commands of the officers and was taken into custody.
Johnston was brought to an ambulance to be checked out and then was transported to the Cedar County Jail. After his arrest, he mentioned that he was currently taking several prescription drugs and had recently been hospitalized.
Officers found several prescription pill bottles in plain view in the vehicle.
Johnston also said that he became enraged or obsessed over a family that was killed in an accident with a semi and that the motive behind his actions was to harm a truck driver or truck drivers in retaliation, according to the application.
No one was injured in the shootings. The search warrant application did not indicate why Johnston was in the area that day. 
Offices searched the Volkswagen and found a metal marijuana pipe; a prescription bottle with marijuana inside; a prescription bottle with no label and with marijuana inside; a jar of "Explosion Pre-workout" with a glass pipe; a prescription bottle that held pills that did not match the label; and a box of cigarettes with a marijuana "joint" inside, according to a receipt for property that was filed with the search warrant.
Johnston said in court documents that he is employed by Harper College in Palatine, Illinois.
College spokeswoman Kim Pohl confirmed in an email Friday that Johnston has been employed by the college since 1996 and is an associate professor in the psychology department.
She said Johnston is “absent without approved leave” and that he has been barred from campus.
“Harper College is prepared to cooperate with authorities in whatever way possible,” Pohl wrote in an email.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Bad Drivers are Taught, not Born That Way

Article thanks to Bob O'Connor and the National Motorists Association. Help support the cause, you can join for free at the links provided:

"Johnny will get better as he drives more", said the mother of a 16-year-old who was beginning to learn how to drive. This statement of course is not necessarily true because it depends on your definition of “better.” It also depends even more on how he was instructed to drive. Did the instructor know more than how to operate the vehicle, and was that "more" taught?

In the United States, a 16-year-old driver-in-training must complete X amount of classroom/instruction and then must drive with mommy or daddy for X amount of hours before a license is issued (or something close to that). What is the end result though, when mommy or daddy, who knows how to "operate a vehicle” but does not know how to actually "drive a vehicle,” is the instructor?

For example, if Johnny was never instructed in the correct way to use turn signals or even how to properly adjust the side mirrors (if you can see the car behind you in all three mirrors, your mirrors are adjusted incorrectly), why would just driving longer have him gain that knowledge? Turn signals are meant to communicate to other drivers your intention, not what you're currently doing, which is exactly what happens when you engage your turn signal mid-turn and probably after you have hit the brakes. Unfortunately, having non-pros like most parents teach their children the skill of driving can perpetuate all kinds of bad generational habits.

In Germany, if you want to learn how to drive, you attend a professional driving school and it takes upwards of six months with both classroom and practical driving lessons. No parents in sight. And Germans are known to be some of the best and most courteous drivers in the world. 

Many of us think of ourselves as excellent drivers because "Well, I've never had an accident, therefore, I must be an excellent driverI should be able to teach my kid how to drive.” 

But some of these excellent drivers might easily find themselves in a road rage incident and have no idea why. Perhaps because he or she was unaware of proper left lane usage, knew nothing about signaling a lane change, or always rides the brake pedal, etc. If you have been in one or more road rage incidents, maybe you're the unwitting instigator. This was learned behavior. 

Should parents really be teaching their kids how to drive?

Our state governments say yes and since this is the norm and not the exception, here are some thoughts on important topics that parents should prepare when teaching their teen children how to drive.

·    How to start, stop, turn, park, back out of the driveway, merge on a highway ramp, understanding stoplight etiquette and how to avoid driving distractions.
 
·    Using cruise control and other car technology while keeping your eyes on the road.

·    How to become situationally aware. You don't tempt fate by walking on thin ice because the dangers are apparent. The same idea goes for driving. 

·    Understanding the capabilities of your car. Drive within the envelope of the vehicle. Learning the when, where and how of braking and acceleration on different surfaces. Don't put yourself in a dangerous situation—anticipate and adjust accordingly. 

·    Understanding how different tires handle in certain weather conditions. Counteracting hydroplaning and general skidding. Understanding how anti-lock brakes and traction control work.

·    How to safely correct your car after dropping a tire off the road surface and how to prevent the far too-common problem of steering overcorrection that often leads to rollovers.

·    How to practice left lane courtesy and the proper way of when and how to pass. Communicating to other drivers your "intentions", not what you're doing. Use turn signals before brake lights.

·    Making sure you are visible to others, e.g., don't drive in their blind spots for more than a few seconds. Teach about blind spots, where they're located and how to avoid them.

·    How to change a tire. THIS SHOULD BE MANDATORY

·    How to anticipate, is perhaps the most important lesson of all. Don't wait for things to happen and then react. Watch the traffic in front of the car in front of you, brake lights, cars changing lanes, etc. Change lanes to avoid a bottleneck.

Teaching someone to drive is not easy. After 60 years of driving, I would like to offer two concepts that if taught and followed would make everybody a better driver.
1.    Anticipate other drivers and road conditions.
2.    Don't impede other drivers.

Just some thoughts from a guy who has seen just about every type of situation and every type of driver on the road.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this newsletter are those of the author.


Saturday, February 10, 2018

6 Car Salesman Secrets To Know Before You Buy A Car

thenewswheel.com
Article thanks to R.J. Wilson and urbo.com. Links provided:

Sept, 2017  Americans are buying more new cars than ever before.

In 2016, U.S. drivers purchased a record setting 17.5 million light vehicles new, according to a report by The Washington Post. While that trend isn't expected to hold up through 2017, auto dealerships still aren't hurting.
But while the industry flourishes, surveys show that Americans hate dealing with car salespeople. According to a 2015 Autotrader study, only 17 out of more than 4,000 respondents said that they preferred the current car-buying process to alternatives such as online shopping. That's not 17 percent, by the way—only 17 individual people said that they enjoyed going to the dealership (and in our opinion, even that number seems a little high).
That's partially because salespeople will do just about anything to sell their stock. We spoke with a former car salesperson, who asked to remain anonymous, about how modern dealerships operate. If you're about to buy a new vehicle, here's what you need to know.

1. Before you've even stepped onto the lot, they're getting you ready to buy.

"We're not above using tricks to get people in the door," says our source, who worked as a salesperson at a city dealership for four years. "That might mean rotating the stock, putting up balloons, or advertising sales that aren't really sales."
Once you've stepped onto the lot, your salesperson will quickly try to start up a conversation to figure out how to sell to you. As soon as possible, they'll start asking about your budget.
That's where this next bit of information comes in handy...

2. They're trained to sell based on incremental payments rather than the full price.

There are two reasons that dealerships focus on payments: First, monthly payments can hide the true cost of a vehicle.
"$200 per month might seem like a great deal if you're used to paying $300 per month for financing," our source says. "What the salesperson won't mention is that you're paying that rate for 72 months at a 9 percent interest rate, which adds thousands to the purchase price."
Secondly, financing means more money. While you're paying, the dealership profits.
"We made money off of financing interest rates, and that's true of most dealerships today," our source says. "That's often where we'd make most of our profit on low-value sales, so we quickly learned to hate customers who insisted on using cash."
If you're planning on paying for a car without financing, our source recommends saving that revelation for after the negotiation.
"If the salesperson asks about payments or financing, change the subject," they say. "They'll probably figure it out eventually, but you'll stand a better chance of getting the price you want with no strings attached."

3. If you do your research, your salesman will hate you.

"Smartphones are a salesperson's worst enemy," our salesperson says. "People can instantly look up a car's value and compare it to the prices at other lots."
However, salespeople have a few tricks ready for this eventuality. They might tell you how the online price doesn't reflect condition, or how their financing options are superior to anything you'd get at another dealership.
"Usually, that's not true, or at least it's stretching the truth," our source says. "Do your research. If a car catches your eye but you haven't researched it, don't buy it. Go home and look it up [and] see what other people are saying."
That also applies to the financing phase of the purchase. Our source notes that he's not a financing expert, but he saw a few customers walk out with much better deals simply because they were willing to do more legwork.
"If you can work with your own bank and get your own loan without involving the dealership, do it," they suggest. "We might get quotes from a dozen banks, just to show you that some of them rejected you—it strengthens our negotiating position. If you come in with a pre-approved loan, we're toothless."

4. They'll do just about anything within reason to make the sale, but you'll have to work for it.

"I wasn't an unethical salesperson," our source says, "and I really enjoyed helping people find good cars. However, nobody does this type of work for free, and I was always trying to make as much of a commission as possible, within reason."
At a well-run dealership, the sales team works together. They might pass a customer around, giving them the impression that the new salesperson or manager can offer a better deal than the first salesperson. A time-honored trick was to pause negotiations to "check with a manager," à la the famous undercoating scene from Fargo.
"Sometimes, we really did go back and ask our manager if we could offer a better price," our source says. "That really happens. Most of the time, though, we're just talking about our weekends or discussing sales tactics to use. The manager will usually come out right after the 'conversation' to show the customer that we're not just wasting his time."
If customers insist on a certain price—and it's reasonable—salespeople will eventually agree to the deal. You might have to wait for a while, however, and you'll have to keep insisting on the price you want.
"Very few people are willing to sit for hours to make a deal, but financially, it makes sense," our salesperson says. "If you can knock $1,000 off the price of a car by strong-arming your salesperson for a couple of hours, you're making $500 an hour. I don't know too many people who wouldn't take that deal."
When you're ready to buy, decide on a fair price. Call other dealerships—in front of your salesperson, if you're feeling especially bold—and you'll likely start a bidding war, which will reduce the time you're spending.
"That's mainly because, at that point, we just want to get rid of you," our source jokes.

5. They might lie about trade-in value.

Well, not lie, exactly, but they'll grossly inflate your current vehicle's trade-in value in order to make you think that you're getting a great deal. In reality, they're just offering you a modest discount on the price of the new vehicle.
"Let's say that I'm trying to talk you into a $20,000 car," our salesman says. "You're trading in a car with a Blue Book value of about $1,000. I might tell you it's worth $2,500, which will blow you away—after all, you probably looked up your car value before you got to [our lot]."
"But really," they continue, "I've just offered you a $1,500 discount on the $20,000 car, which isn't that significant in the grand scheme of things, especially after we've gotten you through financing and sold you on a few extras. It just feels like a great deal, since you're so focused on your current car."
The way to get around this trick: Don't think of your vehicle as a bargaining chip. In fact, you might not even want to bring it up until you're already through with negotiations for the new car. You should also be wary of any too-good-to-be-true offers.
"If the dealership offers a certain trade-in value without looking at your car, watch out," our source says. "The only reason they wouldn't want to inspect for damage and condition is that they're fleecing you somewhere else."

6. They're experts at reading people, and they'll adjust their pitch based on what you're looking for.

If you're concerned with vehicle performance, you'll have a very different experience at the dealership than someone who's concerned with reliability. If you walk in ready to buy, your salesperson will figure that out and push you towards the sale, while if you're not ready to sign the papers, the salesperson will try to get your phone number for a follow-up. The salesperson's tactics will change, so it's hard to prepare for them.
Andrew Gruffudd, principal of BusineVersity International Group, specializes in luxury car sales. He told Urbo that these tactics make sense, given that cars often elicit an emotional response from their buyers. Selling to a buyer's needs isn't unethical—it's a practical way of accommodating your client.
"You sell the sizzle, not the steak," Gruffudd says. "The buyer isn't interested in whether the car has six or eight cylinders, a magnesium-carbide propshaft or a gold-plated exhaust, per se. He's interested in what it can do for him, how much money he will save and whether or not he can look good driving it."
"Naturally, to what extent he's interested in these things dictates how you set out your stall," Gruffudd explains, "but that's what you find out by talking to him beforehand."
A salesperson might look to see whether your current vehicle has a full tank of gas; if it does, you're probably not ready to buy today. If you've got your significant other with you, you're likely ready to make a purchase. If you ask about a vehicle's sound system, your salesperson will find a car with a high-definition Bose system, while gearheads will see more V8s than casual drivers.
"Good salespeople will hone in on someone who's ready to buy, and they'll adjust their pitch accordingly," our source says. "Sometimes, I'd know that a customer was ready to buy before the customer even knew."
The solution: Read between the lines. Come prepared and show that you're not easily swayed, and your salesperson will give you more useful information.
"At the end of the day, I had to make the sale, or I didn't really get paid," our source says. "If someone showed up knowing their [stuff], I adjusted and did what I could to make the purchasing process easier."
"That's how you beat salespeople—know what they're selling as well as they know what they're selling."