FROM Dan Neil
There's Likely to Be an Electric Car in Your Future It's been 100 years since electric cars ruled the roads of industrial countries, until they were replaced by the internal combustion engine. But now, in Europe, China — and especially the US — electric cars are seen as the wave of the future. It won't be long before they're talking to one another. We hear how they're getting a boost from the scandalous cheating by Volkswagen and others to deceive the public about so-called "clean diesel." Car makers, government regulators and savvy investors predict the demand for electric cars is about to go through the roof.
La Ferrari and Other Super Hybrids Redefine the Green Car You can save on gasoline and still go 210 miles an hour — if you're willing to pay $1.3 million. That's the price tag for the La Ferrari, a new hyper-hybrid that sold out at this week's auto show in Geneva. It's not just Ferrari. Porsche and the Formula 1-maker McLaren are going hyper-hybrid as well, as we hear from Dan Neil, auto critic for the Wall Street Journal .
Tesla's Quest for the Ultimate Electric Car If you’ve seen the movie Skyfall, you may have noticed that there's one staple of James Bond films that's missing—a sensational new car. The one memorable vehicle is from yesteryear: 007’s old Aston Martin, kept like a relic in a hideaway garage. It’s as if the filmmakers determined there was no contemporary car worth salivating over. In real life however, there is. It’s Elon Musk’s Tesla Model S , an all-electric car that—as numerous excited car geeks will tell you—has a completely reinvented powertrain and a driving experience like no other. Wall Street Journal auto critic Dan Neil tells us exactly why it's so revolutionary. Last month the Tesla Model S was anointed Car of the Year by both Automobile Magazine and Motor Trend—sweet success after years of naysaying from industry critics and even badmouthing on the campaign trail by a presidential challenger. The reason Romney and others poo-poohed Tesla is because it was a clean energy startup utilizing government subsidies that appeared to be unable to deliver its product to the thousands of people who had put down deposits on the car. But it's now clear that Tesla has delivered—and then some. At the Tesla design studio in Hawthorne, Frances meets up with Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Tesla’s chief designer Franz Von Holzhausen to find out how they went about creating both a game-changing car, and a new car company in an age of massive corporations. In an industry dominated by long-established, global behemoths, just how did Tesla get off the ground? And what's it like to drive a Tesla Model S? Tesla's chief designer Franz Von Holzhausen gave his car to his father, Frank Von Holzhausen, who is also a designer, of products. He’s driven every car that his son has designed. Frances called him at his office in Connecticut and asked him first how the car compared to previous ones designed by his son, who has worked for Audi, General Motors and Mazda. Tesla's design studio in Hawthorne A Tesla supercharger at the Hawthorne design studio The huge 17-inch screen on the console Franz Von Holzhausen's father Frank gives the thumbs-up to his new Tesla, designed by his son
Tesla, California's Own, is Motor Trend's 'Car of the Year' Forget the Porsche 911, the Ford Fusion and the Honda Accord. This year's Motor Trend Car of the Year Award goes for the first time to an automobile without an internal combustion engine. The choice was unanimous — and it's a car made in Silicon Valley — Elon Musk's Tesla Model S four-door sedan. Dan Neil is auto critic for the Wall Street Journal .
Driverless Cars Coming Soon They can zip around blind curves, stop on a dime and observe the speed limit at all times—without ever taking a phone call. They are driverless cars—now legal in California. Google has been putting their robotic cars on the roads of California, with safety records that might put human drivers to shame. What are the consequences for America’s romance with the automobile?
Chris Burden's High-Speed Vision of LA's Future Urban Light, a grove of ornate, historic lampposts at the entrance to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art , has become a much-loved landmark, and a gentle evocation of the Southland’s past. Now the same artist, Chris Burden, has created a new interpretation of Los Angeles, that’s the opposite of a stroll down a Victorian street. Burden, known for his performance and installation work, has created a kinetic sculpture named Metropolis II , a room-size imaginary city, with multi-level freeways and rail lines looping around cheerful skyscrapers. It’s made of Plexiglas, glass and stone tile and children’s building materials: Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, and Haba wooden blocks. It's also a feat of engineering, involving years of experimentation by a team of artists and lead engineer Zack Cook. The result is a delight, an artwork that’s instantly accessible, and appeals to the kid in all of us. But it’s meant to do more that. Burden says the sculpture is meant to evoke an LA of the future, where self-driving cars zip along at 200 miles per hour and one could drive from Pasadena to Santa Monica in a handful of minutes. Thomas Crow, professor of modern art at New York University, comments on this clattering, whirring vision of the future, especially in comparison to the peaceful Urban Light. And LACMA's director Michael Govan speaks about why Burden's interpretation of the city was the perfect addition to LACMA's collection. But could Burden's vision really be a glimpse into LA's future? Frances asks Dan Neil, auto critic for the Wall Street Journal, for his take on whether or not Metropolis II could eventually be a reality. A video of the making of Metropolis II by Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman The sculpture is so complex an operator must stand at the center while it's running to make sure nothing goes awry. Photo by Alissa Walker Chris Burden points out some structural features at one corner of the sculpture. Photo by Alissa Walker
Los Angeles, the Automobile and the Rest of the World For weeks, drivers in LA have been warned on freeway signs, televised news conferences and by celebrity Tweeters about possible chaos beginning at midnight tonight. The capital of car culture will be without a major artery for 53 hours when the 405 freeway shuts down between the Westside and the San Fernando Valley. What's come to be called " Carmageddon " might be a warning to other cities in a world now clogged with more than two billion automobiles. Should the romance with the automobile be turned into tough love in order to ease congestion, protect public health and counteract climate change?
Little Cars, Green Cars at the LA Auto Show The exhibition opening tomorrow at the downtown convention center is not your father's LA Auto Show . Bentley, Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini won't even be there. That has a lot to do with what's selling these days and the answer is, not much. The automakers, of course, want to turn that around.
The Fall of an Industrial Titan: GM Goes Bankrupt It used to be said that “what's good for General Motors is good for the country.” Not any more. The car company that muscled its way to becoming one of the largest manufacturers in the world filed for bankruptcy today. It's the fourth largest bankruptcy in American history. After pouring billions of dollars into the failed company, how will the US government restructure GM, as it becomes the major stakeholder? Will the United Auto Workers Union survive or be forced to merge with another union? What kind of cars will roll off the assembly line of a new, streamlined GM?
The Fall of an Industrial Titan: General Motors Goes Bankrupt It used to be said that “what’s good for General Motors is good for the country.” Not any more. The car company that muscled its way to becoming one of the largest manufacturers in the world filed for bankruptcy today. It’s the fourth largest bankruptcy in American history. After pouring billions of dollars into the failed company, how will the US government restructure GM, as it becomes the major stakeholder? Will the United Auto Workers union survive or be forced to merge with another union? What kind of cars will roll off the assembly line of a new, streamlined GM?
Today, It's Chrysler... Tomorrow, GM? Big banks who've accepted billions in federal bailouts had little choice when President Obama demanded that they take "haircuts" to keep Chrysler in business. But smaller investors, including hedge funds, said no deal, and now Chrysler's reorganizing in bankruptcy court.
Today, It's Chrysler... Tomorrow, GM? President Obama says he does not want to run a big automaker , but the federal government could end up owning 50% of General Motors. In the meantime, it will own 10% of a new, multi-national company when Chrysler merges with Fiat , presuming, of course, that bankruptcy goes well. Big banks who've accepted billions in federal bailouts didn't have much choice when Obama demanded they take "haircuts" to keep Chrysler in business. But smaller investors, including hedge funds, said no deal, forcing Chrysler's reorganization in bankruptcy court. We hear about the economics and politics involving investors, unions, part suppliers and dealers. Also, what about the cars? Will American drivers change their ways and go European?
The Tata Nano Has Arrived The Tata Nano has gone on sale in India for 100,000 rupees, just under $2000. Tata Motors hopes that means big sales for what's now the cheapest car in the world. Will millions of Indians give up their bikes and mopeds? What about air pollution and traffic? Can you get one here? Dan Neil is the auto critic for the Los Angeles Times.
Gran Torino Wins Box Office but Signaled Downfall of Detroit Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino had played in just 84 theaters since limited release in December. This weekend, it expanded to 2,808 theaters and, to the surprise of industry watchers, it out-grossed all other films with $29 million. Dissolve now to the Detroit Auto Show , where the companies that made cars like the Gran Torino back in the 70's are still trying to get over it. Dan Neil is auto critic for the Los Angeles Times .
The flight bumping heard around 'round the world Recent video of a passenger forcibly removed from a United Airlines plane is a worst-case example of what's happened since consolidation into just four US-based carriers. Management seems to be tone-deaf to a decline in service — and even abuse — of passengers.