Detroit vs. California: A huge rivalry

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

It’s no secret there’s a growing rivalry between Silicon Valley and Detroit in the auto space. The Left Coast sees a lumbering dinosaur making obsolete gas engines. Detroit sees a brash upstart that doesn’t understand manufacturing costs.

At the L.A. Auto Show’s Connected Car Expo, a panel was convened to address this rivalry. Mostly the panelists played nice.

But Valley-based Honda engineer Nick Sugimoto did mention the culture clash between Detroit’s “over-engineering” ethic and the Valley’s “Minimal Viable Product” culture, where venture capital-driven startups often prioritize getting new products to market at the expense of tested reliability.

“You can’t have a vehicle die on the road,” conceded Sugimoto about the higher standard consumer electronics products must meet as they are increasingly adapted to cars. “A vehicle has to be more reliable than a computer app.”

Fix It Again Tokyo

Auto acronyms are as thick as wine and cheese bars at show. HMI (Human Machine Interface), LED (Light-Emitting Diodes), V2V (Vehicle-to-Vehicle communications), LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging radar), and AWD (All-Wheel-Drive) are just a few of the must-know abbreviations at this year’s show.

My favorite is FIAT — once humorously translated as “Fix It Again Tony” in a nod to the Italian automaker’s quality woes. This year FIAT has a new twist as the brand is teaming with Mazda to bring the “Fiata” 124 Spider to market to help jump-start the company’s U.S. sales.

FIAT, wags say here, now stands for “Fix It Again Tokyo.”

Sleepless in L.A.

Toyota North America VP Bill Fay outlines his company’s plans to grow the market for the fuel-cell-powered Toyota Miraj. Fay says the Miraj has sold out its first year of limited production. He extolled hydrogen’s virtues over electric vehicles, including its short refueling time, long range, and the fact that hydrogen can be made from just about anything — including lemonade, as he demonstrated in a video.

Fay said the challenge of hydrogen is not unlike marketing hybrid-electrics technology over a decade ago when the Toyota Prius debuted.

“But we have to coordinate Miraj with infrastructure which is a challenge we really didn’t have with Prius,” added Fay. The challenge is not insignificant as Toyota is trying to build an entire hydrogen refueling infrastructure in California beginning with 12 stations this year — a number that will grow to 30 next year.

“It adds another dimension to things,” he said. “It keeps us a little bit nervous at night.”

What’s in a name?

The 2017 Lincoln MKZ that debuted at the LA Auto Show is more than just a pretty face. In addition to its new one-piece grille, the compact luxury sedan also sports an all-new, 400-horsepower, twin-turbo engine.

Just don’t call it an Ecoboost.

Ford’s “Ecoboost” turbo engines have established the Blue Oval brand as a world leader in forced-induction technology, including winning the International Engine of the Year in 2014 for the third year running for its 123-horsepower, 1.0-liter three-banger. But as it reinvents itself, Ford’s luxury brand is trying to distance itself from mainstream Ford (even as it shares the same global platform as the Ford Fusion sedan).

So the Lincoln’s new engine is a twin-turbo like in BMWs, Alfas, and Mercedes. Not an Ecoboost. Got it? Good.

Quote of the Day

“While Germans make, Italians create.” Reid Bigland, CEO of Alfa Romeo North America, surrounded by sexy runway models, introducing the BMW M3-fighting Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio.