Top FIVE Automotive News of 2015

2015 had its share of scandalous stories and the ups and downs of the automotive business, but we were also entertained by new trends and i...

2015 had its share of scandalous stories and the ups and downs of the automotive business, but we were also entertained by new trends and impressed with cutting edge technologies. If last year's news was a movie, it would be a sci-fi with multiple plot twists and shocking moments throughout, riddled with intrigue and conspiracy! But it would also end with a sense of hope for the future. Here are our top five automotive news from last year:

Personal mobility heats up 

There are more and more personal mobility devices being offered for arguably the laziest creatures on earth (humans). Short distance transportation is an important gap that is fast being filled, as the popularity of car ownership begins to wane. Competition is already rife in this arena. In April, the Chinese startup, Ninebot, which vehicles resemble Segwey’s, bought over its struggling American competition after battling it out in a patent infringement lawsuit.

There were other ridiculously priced and not altogether practical vehicles, like the Ryno and the Golfboard. But futurists are looking toward the skateboard for inspiration, with a plethora of prototypes making headlines, like the celebrity-endorsed IO Hawk and, more excitingly, the ones that hover – the Hendo 2.0  and Lexus’s “nitrogen-powered” version

Even the world's top seller, Toyota, has been showcasing the i-Road (pictured above), a sort of love child between a motorbike and a car, and paving the way for the company's eventual transition into a personal mobility provider.

Speaking of Toyota...

Toyota stays on top

At the start of the year, industry observers (Automology included) predicted that VW would topple Toyota from its reign as world's largest automaker by volume. By July, we were already patting ourselves for our sagacity as VW outsold Toyota in the first half of the year, with 5.04 million cars for the German marque against 5.02 million for its Japanese rival. But in the third quarter, as news of VW's emissions cheating scandal broke, Toyota produced better sales numbers than VW, whose market share in Europe, China, USA and Brazil began to shrink.

By November, Toyota had secured the "Top Selling Automaker" title yet again as group sales reached 9.21 million units compared to VW's 9.1 million.

Speaking of VW...

VW Diesel Scandal a.k.a. Dieselgate

It's one of those David topples Goliath stories. A small, unknown, non-profit clean transportation council was trying to prove that diesel vehicles could actually be clean, but found that test results on VW cars did not add up. What the ICCT found and corroborated with further tests was that VW diesel cars were spewing out nitrogen oxide by up to 35 times the emissions standard.

The truth then unfolded - VW had installed a defeat device in the car that lets it cheat when it is being tested. Car sales for the German marque plummeted while it faced the impending slew of lawsuits and penalties. VW CEO, Martin Winterkorn - who had vowed to seize the top spot from Toyota and was on the path to achieving that this year - stepped down.

Read: VW cheated on emissions tests of its "clean diesels" and UK Consumers Fuming with VW Emissions

Some believe that Dieselgate might have killed the diesel car, especially in nascent markets like USA and China. Even VW is talking about redirecting its focus to electric, which has been the other strong thrust toward cleaner, greener vehicles.

Ride-sharing war 

It’s Uber against the world, but the San Francisco-based company is a survivor. It still is the highest valued ride-sharing service company out there, but its rivals are ganging up to make sure that Uber doesn’t dominate their territories. China’s Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache merged, while in India, Ola acquired TaxiForSure.  Just last month, the biggest regional players - Lyft (US), Ola (India), Didi Kuaidi (China) and GrabTaxi (South East Asia) – announced a landmark collaboration to allow users to book rides from any of these platforms from the app that they use at home.

Meanwhile, these ride-sharing companies are also venturing outside of just hailing four-wheel vehicles, to include rickshaws and even motorbikes, where alternative vehicles such as these are popular. We know that Uber is at least trying to improve its chances for survival with this seemingly minor but rather crucial (we think) improvement.

SPACE, the next frontier

There has been renewed interest in space travel, in no small part thanks to monumental milestones achieved last year by NASA as well as private space companies. 

We celebrated with our sponsor, X-1R, as they passed the 21-year mark of working with NASA, arguably the most awesome engineering organisation in the world - it did, after all, send the New Horizon spacecraft past Pluto with no more "brain power" than there are in two Playstations.  For a moment, we worried that one of our Automologists would leave us to sign up for a job with NASA that involved 70 days of continuous bed rest. Luckily, he didn't qualify.

Hanz and Franz, the space crawlers that transport rockets on their last leg on Earth, to the launch pads, turned 50. They certainly don't act like their age - thanks in part to the X-1R lubricant they use -  and are still in commission all these years later. They were, in fact, overhauled in preparation for an even greater task - manned missions to Mars.

Commercial space travel could very soon come true and you will be able to book your ticket to the outer regions of Earth, if you have a large and deep enough coffer. Elon Musk's SpaceX managed to successfully land its Falcon 9 rocket in one piece (let's try to forget the earlier crash and burn incident), after delivering satellites into space. SpaceX also revealed its reusable craft for humans, the Crew Dragon capsule, which means that soon it will be able to send more than just inanimate objects into space.

As for this year, we hope to continue to be on the ball with news and reviews that might interest you, our readers. Our Automologists thanks you all for the support, and keep sending us your feedback and suggestions. Happy 2016!


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