Auto Notes - September 2015

Longer distance. The Renault ZOE is the best-selling electric car in France, and its newly released R240 model is said to have a range of 149 miles on one charge, hence the name R240—149 miles in kilometers. While Renault manufactures several electric models, the new unit with improved electronic management is expected to be the company’s top seller because of its longer driving range and quick charging (80 percent charge in one hour).

Toyota goes hydro. The Toyota Mirai customer order portal is available in California, at least for now. A hydrogen fuel cell electric car that combines hydrogen and oxygen to create onboard electricity, the Mirai has the highest EPA estimated driving range (312 miles) and EPA-estimated fuel economy of 67 MPGe combined city and highway driving.

     California customers can request a Mirai now for limited deliveries in October at four Southern California and four Northern California Toyota dealers. Those customers lucky enough to purchase a Mirai (MSRP is $57,500) will receive three years (or a maximum $15,000) of complimentary fuel, three years of Safety Connect and Entune that includes a fuel finder app, three years of 24/7 customer call center support, complimentary roadside assistance, an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty on key components, and more.

     Fuel tanks on the new Mirai are designed not to leak and in the event of a collision, sensors stop the flow of hydrogen. The model has no internal combustion, no carbon emissions, and only emits vapor. We drove the Mirai at a press event in Portland, Ore., in late July and found it to provide plentiful acceleration and overall power, as well as superb handling characteristics. Greater Portland will be the next likely market for the Mirai after California, as well as a five-state region in the Northeast.

Hall of famers. At a late July gala event in Detroit, three industry icons were inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame. Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons, Roger Penske, founder and chairman of Penske Corp., and Luca Di Montezemolo, former Ferrari chairman, were recognized for their contributions to the global automotive industry.

     Tata’s major achievements were cited during a presentation before an audience of more than 450 industry executives and media. In his 21-year tenure as chairman, he grew the India-based Tata Group to include 96 companies in 56 countries, more than 500,000 employees, and revenues in 2014 exceeding $100 billion.

     Michael Martini, chairman of the Automotive Hall of Fame, said Tata’s quest to provide mobility in India resulted in the nation’s first indigenous car in 1998, the Indica, followed by the groundbreaking Nano in 2008 that was priced under $2,000. In addition, Tata’s investment in Jaguar Land Rover “saved or created more than 33,000 jobs in England, while preserving the rich tradition of performance and style that are signatures of these marques,” he said.   

     “Since Mr. Tata acquired the business from Ford in 2008, Jaguar Land Rover has doubled in sales and employment, and invested billions in new product creation and capital investment,” said Chris Marchand, executive vice president of operations for Jaguar Land Rover North America, who attended the Hall of Fame event.

     Both Penske and Di Montezemolo praised Tata for his achievements worldwide during their remarks. “Ratan is a key industrialist in the automotive business,” Penske said. “Taking on risk, taking his money and expertise to Jaguar Land Rover —today two of the best brands in our business.”

     “This is a great honor, and a very humbling one for me,” Tata said. “Nothing has equalled the excitement, the reward, and the exhilaration that the car industry has provided. I owe this award to my colleagues in our companies who have transformed the business.”

     Since 1939, the Automotive Hall of Fame has honored close to 800 industry leaders, inducting just 350 into the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Mich.

No salt! Due to bad weather and a lack of salt, Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats (BSF) in Utah, scheduled to begin Aug. 8, was cancelled. The event organizers, the Southern California Timing Association/Bonneville Nationals Inc., determined that only about two miles of salt for the eight-mile long track was adequate for racing.

     Speed Week started in 1949 at BSF and over the years every type of racing, from motorcycles to roadsters, streamliners to trucks, has taken place at the Flats, a facility managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Speed Week was also cancelled in 2014 due to excessive rain.

     When the track at the BSF was 13 miles long, it was used by virtually anything motorized, including jet-propelled machines, to set world speed records. With the current shorter track, BSF is rarely used to set motorized speed records.

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.