The former IIHS president gets into a crash, Faraday Future’s bad year continues, Bentley restores an original. 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 you’re morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.
Theory Versus Practice
Crash testing is one line of work you’d never want to take home, yet former Insurance Institute for Highway Safety president Adrian Lund recently found himself on the business end of a serious crash. Unfortunately, the IIHS writes in its press release, the person in the other vehicle was ejected from the cabin and died, but likely thanks to safety improvements ushered in under Lund’s guidance, he is alive and well to tell the tale.
Lund was traveling down the express lanes of I-95 in Virginia at around 60 to 65 mph last August when his 2020 BMW 540i was struck by a wrong-way driver in a car-to-car small-overlap impact. Considered the 800-lb. Gorilla of crash tests, small-overlap impact testing puts immense stress on footwell and A-pillar structure (see Lund’s slideshow presentation at the bottom of this section to learn more about it). It shouldn’t be a surprise that small-overlap impacts are some of the deadliest collisions on our roads.
After the wrong-way driver’s car glanced off of Lund’s 5-Series, Lund’s car went into a rollover. That rollover eventually ended with the 5-Series on its roof. After the emergency services cut Lund out of his busted Bimmer, Lund felt a certain relief. He’d survived a serious small-overlap crash without any broken bones, something that would’ve been almost impossible ten years ago. IIHS mentions that the vehicle had earned top ratings in six tests, with the two most applicable ones being the small overlap test and roof crush test, both devised under Lund’s leadership. From the IIHS:
Lund, who retired from IIHS-HLDI in 2017, credits his car, a 2020 BMW 540i with saving his life. The model, a 2020 IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK, earned good ratings in all six crashworthiness tests, including the ones most applicable to Lund’s crash, the small overlap front and roof strength.
As for the person in the other car, which had also scored good ratings in IIHS testing, IIHS says the issue wasn’t the car’s crash structure:
The other car in the crash, a 2016 BMW 228i, also had good crashworthiness ratings for the five tests that IIHS was conducting in 2016. Because the driver wasn’t belted, she was ejected from the vehicle, virtually eliminating any chance of survival. Without knowing more about the condition of her car, it’s impossible to say whether she would have survived this particular crash even if she had been belted. After striking Lund’s car, her car immediately collided with the jersey barrier. In addition, because of its smaller size and lighter weight, the midsize 2 series was at a disadvantage in a crash with the 5 series, a large car.
Look, old cars are really cool, but there’s something to be said about owning a daily driver with a decent crash structure. If Jason got into a small-overlap impact in the Changli, I’d likely have to bring a pressure washer to rinse him off of the pavement. David might be slightly luckier if he pilots one of his ZJs, but it still wouldn’t be pretty. I’d likely fare better with my 21st-century German safety structure, but this story gives me a sudden desire to create a saved search for used P2-platform Volvos. Remember, even if you’re a good driver, you still have to worry about every crazy moron who got their license from the inside of a cereal box.
Big Trouble In Silicon Valley
Hey, remember the investigations going on regarding electric car startup Faraday Future? It looks like consequences are hitting the electric carmaker for allegedly misleading investors. Bloomberg reports that hot off the heels of an internal investigation, Faraday Future has issued some demotions, suspensions, and probationary periods within its C-suite.
Among the disciplinary actions and firings, a few stand out. Jia Yueting, Faraday Future’s founder, will no longer be an executive officer. Jiawei Wang, VP of global capital markets, plans on resigning. Matthias Aydt, senior vice president of business development and product definition (240p at this point) is going on a six-month probationary period. Chairman Brian Kolicki has been demoted to a regular board member. These are some pretty serious cuts, especially considering that the SEC investigation is only getting started. You have to truly, royally screw things up to take such severe preemptive measures as these.
She Cells Sanctuary
To make a ton of electric vehicles, you’ll need a ton of electric cells. While most automakers are out inking big deals with single suppliers, Rivian is taking a significantly more nimble approach to cut costs, boost output and gain experience.
To start, Rivian is courting multiple cell suppliers. Honestly, this isn’t a bad strategy, and it’s not uncommon. Most cars are built with bits from multiple suppliers, so why not batteries? It’s a solid plan to gain allocations, develop supplier relations and generally build more vehicles. Next, Rivian is planning on chucking lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries into their standard-range models. LFP cells may be less power-dense than lithium manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) cells, but they’re also much cheaper to make, don’t require rare earth materials and degrade more slowly than NMC cells. Sounds like a great way to bring the fiscal and social costs of entry-level EVs down to earth, yeah?
The third prong of Rivian’s plan is to eventually produce their own cells, a solid vertical-integration plan that reduces dependency on suppliers. Speaking with Reuters, Rivian CEO R.J. Scaringe said that, “Long-term, we envision a world where we will make some of our own cells, (and) we’ll purchase cells from great partnerships we have.” Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if more automakers take this hybrid cell sourcing approach in the future. Putting all your eggs in one supplier’s basket is a recipe for trouble should a shortage or a recall occur. Just ask Chevrolet and Honda how their LG and Takata reliances worked out.
So Solid, Crewe
It’s time to load the beer bong full of Dom Pérignon, Bentley is finally restoring the first-ever T-Series sedan. Admittedly, the T-Series doesn’t have massive name recognition. Most people know its Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow brother better, the default classic cruiser for every wedding under the sun. Still, the T-Series was a very important car. It was the first monocoque Bentley, featuring rubber-bushed subframes and four-wheel independent self-leveling suspension. More importantly, it signaled a departure from coachbuilding and said hello to the future of Bentley – building beautifully-crafted yachts with license plates.
This particular T-Series genuinely is the first one off the line, serial number 001. Finished in Shell Grey over blue leather, it was quickly put to work in worldwide testing. After Bentley was done with it, this T-Series ended up in California with the suitably appropriate license plate, ‘T 1001’. Nowadays, a test car would never end up in the public hands, but times really were different in the ‘60s. Anyway, Bentley expects this T-Series car to be fully-restored in 2023, after which it’ll be added to Bentley’s heritage fleet. It’s genuinely amazing what bits of automotive history are still out there.
Whelp, time to drop the lid on today’s edition of The Morning Dump. That crash story, while sad, really is something when you consider how old cars just fold like a taco on impact. For all the jokes in our corporate backchannels about daily driver crashworthiness, there really is something to be said for a solid crash structure. Are you like me and drive old German tat with safety structures at least as good as that on a Mitsubishi Mirage? Do you like the peace of mind that comes with a late-model daily driver? Are you okay with your knees being the crumple zones? I’d love to know more about your approach to daily driver safety.