Home » Mercedes And Hyundai Will Continue To Develop Combustion Engines

Mercedes And Hyundai Will Continue To Develop Combustion Engines

Morning Dump Hyundai Combustion Engines

Hyundai plans to keep making combustion engines, Mercedes is open to future V8 production, Cruise doesn’t think its robotaxis will ever be fully autonomous. All this and more in today’s issue of The Morning Dump.

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.

Hyundai To Continue ICE Development

2022 Hyundai Elantra N combustion engine
Photo credit: Hyundai

Albert Biermann may have retired from his post at Hyundai, but he still advises the Korean company in a technical role. In an interview with Australian motoring outlet CarExpert, Biermann said that Hyundai remains committed to internal combustion.

“We are continuing for next emission levels [in internal combustion development]. We have no other choices. I mean, we are not giving up on combustion engines, right, we are global player,” he said.

“And there is no infrastructure available for EVs for quite some time in several regions.”

Quite the pragmatic approach. The simple fact is that it’ll be an unimaginably long time before every single new car sold in the world is electric. Since the general Western deadline of 2035 is a full 13 years away, we’re likely talking decades before everything goes all green. Of course, new Euro 7 emissions standards won’t make homologating future combustion-powered cars easy, but it will eventually be done.

Mercedes Might Keep The V8 Past 2030

Mercedes-AMG E63 S 4MATIC+ Wagon
Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz

In an interview with Australian outlet CarSales, Mercedes-Benz vice president for vehicle development Joerg Bartels indicated that Mercedes is leaving the door open for future V8 sales.

“In the end it has to fulfil our overall CO2 strategy, and we have a clear path on that one: being CO2 neutral at the end of the ’30s, by 2039. And from 2030 we just want to be pure electric,” he explained.

“But if there’s still a customer demand [for petrol V8s] in some regions, and it’s still part of our offering, why should we stop it?”

Exactly, why stop offering V8s? The fact of the matter is that combustion engines will remain useful in performance cars for quite a while. After all, weight is the enemy of performance and current battery packs are quite heavy. So long as market conditions allow, I say keep the V8s in niche applications.

The Chicago Skyway May Soon Be Partly Australian

Chicago Skyway
“Chicago Skyway Toll Bridge” by compujeramey is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

It seems like there’s a lot of news involving Australia today, but bear with me for one more piece. Bloomberg reports that Australian company Atlas Arteria Ltd. plans to invest in a big chunk of the Chicago Skyway.

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and OMERS Infrastructure sold their respective one-third stakes in the 12.5 kilometer (7.8 mile) road linking downtown Chicago to its south-eastern suburbs. The deal forms a venture with Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, which will retain a one-third interest, according to a statement Tuesday.

While an American toll road being partially-owned by other countries isn’t strange, it’s a little odder knowing the move goes against the wishes of Atlas Arteria Ltd.’s biggest stakeholder.

The acquisition was announced despite a strongly-worded statement Monday from Atlas Arteria’s biggest shareholder IFM Investors, following confirmation of the talks. It said the deal could be potentially “dilutive to distributions” and that those concerns were shared by other major shareholders.

“We are disappointed with the decision by Atlas Arteria to proceed with the acquisition of Chicago Skyway,” an IFM spokesperson said via text message. “As a major shareholder, we are considering our options.”

Of course, this deal is contingent on approval by the City of Chicago, among other things. It’s not quite set in stone, but it raises some questions on who actually owns certain pieces of infrastructure and what’s next for Atlas Arteria.

Cruise CEO Thinks Its Autonomous Vehicles Might Never Be Truly Autonomous

20210407 Baxtowner Cruise Cama Chinatown 707356 Crop
Photo credit: Cruise

Care to hear something funny? Not “haha” funny, more “The future is going to be so stupid” funny. Reuters reports that GM autonomous vehicle subsidiary Cruise plans to never have truly autonomous vehicles.

“Well, my question would be, ‘Why?'” said Kyle Vogt, CEO of Cruise, a unit of General Motors, when asked if he could see a point where remote human overseers should be removed from operations.

“I can provide my customers peace of mind knowing there is always a human there to help if needed,” Vogt said. “I don’t know why I’d ever want to get rid of that.”

It’s very clear that the goal here isn’t autonomy, it’s increased margins. Imagine ride-hailing services with significantly reduced driver overhead. Instead of one driver per vehicle, one controller will oversee a group of vehicles in what I can only imagine to be a call center for autonomous vehicles. Maybe put the call center in a place with a low cost of living so that workers aren’t paid Los Angeles or New York rates. It’s great for corporate profits, but what will gig workers do if this supervised autonomous ride-hailing future pans out?

The Flush

Whelp, time to drop the lid on today’s edition of The Morning Dump. It’s Tuesday, which means I’ll be off to the Detroit Auto Show very, very soon. With automakers frequently choosing to unveil cars outside of auto shows to avoid fighting for coverage, what role will auto shows play in the future? If OEM auto show spending continues to dwindle, it could deprive people who like cars of the opportunity to check out the latest and greatest. Those are my thoughts, I’m interested to hear yours.

Lead photo credit: Hyundai

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23 Responses

  1. Cruise: 8 self-checkout kiosks at the grocery store with one clerk there to punch a couple codes if you do it wrong, and now one ride-hailing call center attendant for multiple semi-automated taxis. It really all makes perfect (business) sense. And yeah, worrying about the gig economy worker is the least of any business owner’s concerns. I mean, the lack of concern by business owners is why we have gig economy workers in the first place instead of more full-time employees. The trend is perpetually downward.

    Auto Shows: I like cars but I’ve only gone to one auto show twenty years ago. And it was fine. I’m not lamenting their potential eventual death.

  2. Why is it surprising that Cruise would want to keep the option of having a person in the loop indefinitely? If the last 5% of driving scenarios is increasingly difficult to handle (and it is), you have to look at what the motivation in solving it is vs just having a person take over at that point. From the consumer’s perspective, the vehicle will still appear to be driving itself & you don’t need a warm body sitting in the drivers seat – they won’t suddenly be stranded if something difficult arises. From Cruise or the fleet operator’s perspective, they can deploy a mostly autonomous fleet sooner, under more conditions, and more reliably than if they had to develop an autonomous system that can handle everything conceivable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they’ll continue to develop things to continue to expand the conditions that AVs can operate under, but this allows them to start deploying fleets more quickly, bringing in $ and experience.

  3. “Quite the pragmatic approach. The simple fact is that it’ll be an unimaginably long time before every single new car sold in the world is electric. Since the general Western deadline of 2035 is a full 13 years away, we’re likely talking decades before everything goes all green. Of course, new Euro 7 emissions standards won’t make homologating future combustion-powered cars easy, but it will eventually be done.”

    Biermann is speaking facts. EV fanboys can hate it all they want. Those are facts he’s dropping on you. And the 2035 deadline is a total joke anyways, unless we’re going to do a mining-only speedrun of destroying the climate. In that case, the very idea of leaving the home-converted-into-a-bunker in your EV will be a distant memory in 2035. Seriously.
    The mining required for production is that absolutely destructive and polluting, and they’ll have to revoke what laughably ineffective environmental regulations they have around it to meet quotas. Trillions upon trillions of gallons of arsenic and high toxicity waste is just the start. Wide-scale deforestation, destruction of aquifers through unintentional contamination, and the list goes on.

    And like it or not, it’s a statement of fact that Hyundai has some of the best engines in terms of efficiency. Period. They haven’t been caught cheating on emissions with diesels. The ridiculously awesome Hyundai i30N with it’s maniacal Theta II at 280HP? It meets Euro 6d, the most stringent, at 191g/km. Most of their engines meet or can meet ULEZ. And that isn’t the cause of the reliability issues – that’s entirely the fault of bad manufacturing processes. (NOT the same as bad manufacturing. It was a systemic process failure in failing to perform a necessary step. Not a QC miss and not poor quality workmanship. The difference is subtle but very significant.)

    Given these quotes though, it makes me wonder if Hyundai isn’t quietly working on a revamp of the Genesis G90 with an even better V8 under the hood. They REALLY have understood that market segment better than anyone would have guessed – the G80 outsold the Audi A7/S7 nearly 2:1 last year, and doubled sales over 2020. And the G90 is successfully fighting it out with the likes of the Audi A8/S8, BMW 7-series, and S-class. With everyone else going to twin-turbo hybrid, a naturally aspirated V8 G90 (and DI naturally aspirated is where Hyundai really shines) could score quite a few sales among the purists.

    “But if there’s still a customer demand [for petrol V8s] in some regions, and it’s still part of our offering, why should we stop it?”

    Exactly. And one of those regions? Hi. Welcome to ‘MURICA!! Yup. EVs might be status symbols to an extent, but folks who buy M-B’s with V8’s over here? Either they absolutely insist on having a big Mercedes V8, or they have the Mercedes with a V8 and a Lucid Air to show off their money with. Mostly it’s the latter. (Isn’t hyper-stratification of wealth great?)

    “Of course, this deal is contingent on approval by the City of Chicago, among other things. It’s not quite set in stone, but it raises some questions on who actually owns certain pieces of infrastructure and what’s next for Atlas Arteria.”

    Ah yes. Privatizing public infrastructure specifically for-profit has NEVER gone poorly, and can NEVER lead to bad things. Next year the City of Chicago will announce plans to sell the Chicago Fire Department to Carrier Global’s Kidde division for a few billion dollars and a non-binding promise of free fire extinguishers. (Note that homes without working smoke detectors or fire extinguishers will no longer be entitled to fire department services.)

    This country is absolutely hellbent on taking the Gilded Age and finding every possible way to make it even worse.

    Care to hear something funny? Not “haha” funny, more “The future is going to be so stupid” funny. Reuters reports that GM autonomous vehicle subsidiary Cruise plans to never have truly autonomous vehicles.

    What this actually is, is a tacit admission that ‘autonomous vehicles’ always were and always will be the highest order of bullshit, on par with NFTs as investment vehicles, and crypto as a stable currency.
    This is one of the worst offenders from the hype machine desperately trying to manage expectations. “Oh, ha ha, uh, the human provides peace of mind. It has nothing to do with the fact that we can’t get the software even close to right and have no hope of ever fixing it. No, no. It’s because, uh, people want to be driven by people. Yep.”

    Seriously. Can this parade of bullshit artists please just fucking crash and burn already? Preferably while ensuring these grifters are flat fucking broke and permanently unemployable. Maybe then we can fucking get some actual progress on ADAS Level 3 instead of all these scammers trying to pretend Level 5 is just 6 months away, every 6 fucking months.

    With automakers frequently choosing to unveil cars outside of auto shows to avoid fighting for coverage, what role will auto shows play in the future? If OEM auto show spending continues to dwindle, it could deprive people who like cars of the opportunity to check out the latest and greatest. Those are my thoughts, I’m interested to hear yours.

    You know Thomas, this is a genuinely interesting question. One that definitely has a nuance to it.
    I think that realistically, the big industry-only auto shows are ultimately going away. As well as the ones focused on huge, splashy reveals, with millions of dollars in spend on fancy one-time-use turntables and smoke machines. With the Internet, the cost-benefit just isn’t there.
    However, manufacturers and customers recognize the need for consumers to actually have hands-on experience before dropping $40k and climbing on a new vehicle. And they’re now getting real pushback on the costs dealers have to bear to run a showroom. (What, you think they get cars for free or on consignment? Obtaining one and then keeping the halo model indoors costs them quite a lot.)
    I think as a result, we’ll see more manufacturers investing in and promoting ‘shared platform’ direct-to-consumer shows. The ones where they have not-so-flashy displays, a few generally technical folks, traveling set pieces, but mostly a lot of cars parked on temporary carpets for customers to get their hands on and sit in. When you’re splitting the cost of promoting the show with every other manufacturer, it’s a lot cheaper. The costs of being the headline brand are a lot lower. And most importantly, the return on investment by converting show to sales is much higher.
    95% of sales are made at the dealership. That’s just a fact. Hyundai did a huge research study into it and actually published their results. Customers visit an average of just 4.2 websites in their purchasing process. They’ll watch a lot of YouTube videos and the like. But you know what still has the absolute highest rate of getting people into your dealerships? Face to face interactions.
    Like at aforementioned auto shows. Which is orders of magnitude more important if you want to do anything like direct-to-consumer. Where else are they gonna see your car?

    I think at the end of the day, we’ll ultimately see Detroit “fade into a shadow of it’s old self” according to all the Very Thinky Journalests, but a much more relatable and enjoyable experience for actual car buyers.

      1. Do you have any actual engine expertise?
        I do. A lot.

        The Theta II recall was the result of a catastrophic, unforgivably stupid process error. Period. They failed to properly deburr and hot-tank after machining work. The people responsible are absolutely idiots.
        This does not change the fact that the properly manufactured Theta II is an extremely good engine design. Period. These things were making it over 100k without complaint even with the idiot mistake. And you know what other significant problems the Theta II has?
        None. It’s a 200k+ mile engine design when built correctly.

        Every issue with the Theta II has been gross manufacturing error. Overtightened or bent fuel lines, improper machining processes, wrong part installation, all things that have to do with the mass production of it. Not the design or engineering. It’s an unforgivable miss to do shit like leave metal shavings in the oil passages, absolutely. But this does not change the fact that the design and performance is exceptional.
        Or are you going to claim the Veloster N, i30N, Genesis G70 Sport, G80, and Kia Stinger are all complete trash? All of those are Theta II’s.

    1. “What this actually is, is a tacit admission that ‘autonomous vehicles’ always were and always will be the highest order of bullshit”

      “Maybe then we can fucking get some actual progress on ADAS Level 3”

      Explain like I’m five why we should give up on full auto and still work on Level 3? Just curious.

      1. Because the very idea that any commercially available system today could handle the computational requirements of Level 4, forget L5, is complete fucking idiocy.

        Any given true autonomous system must be able to predict all possible outcomes from all possible actions in order to determine the least risky action, based on inputs. We can’t even make commercially available computers solve Captchas, which is extremely analogous to trying to read road markings on the fly.
        “Select all images containing a crosswalk.”
        Except you also have to calculate all of the physics associated with any change in direction, and take an action, and do it all in under 500 milliseconds. Also, between 1 and ALL of the things you just identified are moving in an unpredictable or unknown fashion.
        And you have to do it in a fully reproducible manner. That means your error rate resulting in a crash needs to be a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percentage point.

        And we can’t get hardware that is literally hundreds of times more powerful than the most ‘advanced’ in-car systems to reliably solve basic Captchas. If a literal supercomputer can’t reliably identify the letter “Y” in a computer generated JPEG just because it has a line through it, how the fuck is hardware that was at the bottom end of performance 5+ years ago going to identify a speed limit sign with graffiti?

        Level 2 ADAS in stark contrast, does not require ANY of these complicated tasks. One, it can operate off static data or simple dynamic sources. If the object in front on LIDAR slows down, also slow down. It can reference simple GPS points on static maps to know when and where curves are, and rely on existing ESP to select appropriate speeds. (By the way, automatic distance following is not even remotely new. The Mitsubishi Diamante was the first production car to have it, in 1990.)

        Level 3 ADAS is extremely conditional, and can operate using heavily static data. It doesn’t need to and shouldn’t attempt to do complex image processing or guessing at road signs. You feed it maps and it can get more than 75% of what it needs from that alone. This highway has a speed limit of 65MPH, there is a car going 62MPH 15 feet ahead and a 1200R curve in 0.231 miles, and if anything disrupts the statics other than a car slowing or accelerating, the human takes over – period.

        Mind, SAE’s ‘levels’ are bullshit. But that’s the simple version.

      1. Manufacturers can offer as many EV models as they want, but there’s a good amount of the population for which they aren’t a viable option yet (that nasty old ghost, charging infrastructure).

  4. “But if there’s still a customer demand [for petrol V8s] in some regions, and it’s still part of our offering, why should we stop it?”

    The fact that these words showed up in a quote from Mercedes and not Dodge is baffling on some level. I wish they had come from Cadillac in defense of keeping the Blackwing around longer.

    As to the big auto show unveils, I’m not too concerned. What I’d personally prefer would be some type of reveal on the internet, Web3, at a Starbucks kiosk, whatever. Then, have more manufacturer-sponsored auto shows spread around the country in cities smaller than New York, Chicago, et al, so there would be a better chance I could go see one and get an up-close taste of whatever’s new.

    1. I am baffled that the EV offsets don’t allow for even better V8’s while dropping the Ho hum ubiquitous 2.0 turbo everything engines and forcing those drivers to deal with Range anxiety and Battery longevity concerns.

    2. Only two of MB’s V8s start under $80k, the rest start above $112k. And they can also sell those to the super rich across their global markets for even more to offset emissions requirements.

      Dodge exists primarily only in the US and emissions requirements will start killing their ability to sell budget V8s in cars.

  5. Hard to see auto shows sticking around in a meaningful way.

    The thought of a one-to-many call center employee to 95% autonomous vehicle system is frankly more terrifying than an allegedly 100% autonomous vehicle that doesn’t do edge cases well. At least in one there’s a chance they try to figure out the hard stuff.

    1. I don’t see autoshows going away any time soon. Too many people (such as me) are willing to spend money to go to them.

      And I don’t see the move to BEVs or having some companies not using dealers would affect that.

      Now having said that, car shows run by dealer associations (such as the big annual one in Toronto) have frozen out Tesla in the past. But the last couple of shows I went to (before Covid), even Tesla was there since too many people want to see what Tesla has.

    2. they used to be neat to see concept cars, and then to sit in the ones you might actually buy. considering the changes to online purchasing, they might actually become more relevant as many of us still want to put hands and actual eyes on what we plan to purchase.

  6. I consider myself to be an environmentalist. I believe in climate change, I’m concerned about how rapidly things seem to be escalating, my wife and I try to do our part to reduce our carbon footprint, et cetera.

    …with that out of the way, the EV push is a little ridiculous to me. Is it good that EVs exist and are improving rapidly? Yes! Do I foresee EVs eventually making up a large portion of vehicles? Yes! Do I think we need to be investing heavily in them, their infrastructure, and the technology in general? Oh yeah.

    But all of this freaking government grandstanding about them, coupled with society on a whole’s push to shift climate change responsibility onto individuals rather than corporations (far and away the biggest emitters of greenhouse gas) as well as our relative infancy in understanding the technology and its long term consequences is ridiculous. We still need ICE, and we will for many years. A lot of this NO ICE BY (insert deadline here) and guilt campaigning meant to get regular people into EVs is really misguided. Individuals driving gas cars are small drops in the overall bucket….and the tinfoil hat in me says it’s quite a coincidence that a lot of governments are pushing people into EVs rather than trying to hold corporate monoliths accountable. Follow the money….

    So I’m glad that Hyundai, Benz, etc. will still be pushing the technology forward. It’s needed and who knows if EVs really are any sort of long term solution just yet. I’m glad they exist, but I’m not ready to jump the gun anytime soon…and it’s telling that so many major manufacturers aren’t either. They know a lot more than we do.

    1. You nailed it. It’s way easier to commercialize people’s green guilt than it is to, say, ban Coke from using plastic bottles or increasing/electrifying our rail network to handle more freight.

  7. “The fact of the matter is that combustion engines will remain useful in performance cars for quite a while”

    Yes, and in trucks, in cars used on long trips, in vehicles purchased by people without access to home charging etc etc etc

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