Tag archives for Brazil

Wheelies: The Charged Argument Edition

Elon Musk, at the Tesla Motors factory in Fremont, Calif., in June.Noah Berger/Reuters Elon Musk, at the Tesla Motors factory in Fremont, Calif., in June.

In which we bring you motoring news from around the Web:

• Under scrutiny for bypassing a traditional, dealership-oriented retail model in favor of manufacturer-owned stores, Elon Musk, chairman of Tesla Motors, defended his company’s strategy in a blog post on Monday. Mr. Musk said Tesla products would be undermined in the setting of a traditional dealership, where a salesperson would be unable “to explain the advantages of going electric without simultaneously undermining their traditional business.” Mr. Musk said two lawsuits asserting Tesla circumvented state laws aimed at protecting franchisees were baseless because Tesla has not granted any franchises. (Tesla Motors)

• Facing a crisis of overcapacity at its plants in Europe and a projected loss of more than $1 billion in the region this year, Ford has called a meeting for Wednesday with union leaders to discuss the status of its plant in Genk, Belgium. Some media outlets, including the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, have reported that Ford intended to close the plant outright. (Bloomberg)

• On Monday, the eve of the São Paulo auto show, BMW announced its intention to build a production plant in the southern state of Santa Catarina, Brazil. Plans for the facility are subject to government approval, but BMW has aggressive targets, saying it would inaugurate the plant in 2014 with capacity to produce 30,000 vehicles annually. (BMW)

• Chevrolet said it would introduce the next generation of the Silverado 1500 full-size pickup truck on Dec. 13, a month ahead of the 2013 Detroit auto show. The automaker has not disclosed pricing or powertrain information for the truck, but emphasized it would have progressive design elements, including “jewel-like, projector beam headlamps.” (General Motors)


Formula E Racing Goes Hunting for Respect, and a Market

Formulec EF01 prototype, which is scheduled to be raced in demonstrations in 2013.Formula E Holdings Formulec EF01 prototype, which is scheduled to be raced in demonstrations in 2013.

For years, efforts to bring a Formula One race to the streets of an American city have failed in part over residents’ objections to noisy gas guzzlers whizzing past their homes. Alejandro Agag thinks he has a solution: Race electric cars instead.

Mr. Agag, the chief executive of Formula E Holdings, is trying to build a global racing circuit using battery-powered racecars modeled after their gasoline-fueled cousins in Formula One. Aside from being cleaner and quieter, the cars and the event itself would be showcases for vanguard technologies. With $100 million from investors including Enrique Bañuelos, the Spanish real estate magnate, Mr. Agag is trying to secure commitments from 10 cities around the world, including a few in the United States, for racing to get under way in 2014.

Mr. Agag persuaded the F.I.A., the governing body of Formula One, to sanction the series. A prototype car, the EF01, is built in France by Formulec, a company owned by Formula E Holdings. All that remains is to persuade the world’s largest cities to let him race on their streets, investors to buy race teams and sponsors to spend millions of dollars to lend their names to a sport that would, he said, help develop the electric car industry.

“This will combine the racing world with the environmental world,” Mr. Agag said during a recent visit to New York, where he met city officials. “This is a sport that will have a direct effect on the quality of cities,” he added, noting the lack of air and noise pollution. “You don’t want to have the opposite reaction where you are a hated event,” he said.

Mr. Agag said he received strong interest from Monte Carlo, and in August Rio de Janeiro became the first city to commit to hosting a race, but the prize he coveted most was a presence in the United States. Mr. Agag, who formerly owned part of the Queens Park Rangers, a soccer team in the English Premier League, said he would ideally have races in New York, Los Angeles and Miami.

Like all new sports properties, Mr. Agag faces a chicken-or-egg quandary: How to persuade host cities, sponsors and television networks to invest when there is little product to invest in. He has an additional challenge in trying to introduce a new technology to an established sport. Though Formula E cars are cleaner and quieter than gas-powered Formula One cars, racing them on the courses envisioned by Mr. Agag would still require the closure of city streets, installation of concrete barriers and creation of reserved space for racing crews, spectators and everything that accompanies a road race.

Further complicating Mr. Agag’s ambitions is his insistence on racing in the most scenic parts of a city possible, in part to provide wide access for fans and to increase the appeal of the races for television. In New York, he would like his cars to race around Central Park, a long shot given how heavily used the park is on weekends. Plan B, he said, would be Governors Island in New York Harbor, which has the advantage of having no permanent residents and unimpeded views of the New York skyline and Statue of Liberty.

In London, Mr. Agag wants to race near Hyde Park, while in Paris, he would build a course around the Eiffel Tower.

“We want to show the cities to the world,” Mr. Agag said, adding he did not expect any television revenue for the first three years.

Formula E Holdings is approaching an array of companies, including electric car manufacturers like Drayson Racing, Fisker and Tesla; racing teams including McLaren; big manufacturers like Honda, Toyota, BMW and Porsche; and technology companies like Amazon and Google that may want to buy a custom car to attach their brands to the sport.

Races would be one-day events on 1.5- to 2-mile tracks. Each team would have two cars with batteries that could last for about 25 minutes of racing. Rather than wait to fuel up, drivers would run about 100 meters to their second car. Cars will have a push-to-pass button to provide 40 additional horsepower for 20 seconds. The teams would compete in knock-out races until a winner was determined.

In addition to the initial investment, Formula E hopes to sell title sponsorships for each race, generate sanction fees from host cities and, ultimately, sell television rights.

The hurdles remain high. Few new sports thrive without television deals, and history is littered with ventures that withered from lack of exposure. Mr. Agag remains convinced that adding a twist to a popular sport like Formula One can work.

“We’re new, fresher,” he said. “It’s like snowboarding versus skiing.”