Automakers face big challenges as they look to tech solutions

Recall worries hit shares of Toyota (TM -1.5%) and Ford (F -0.5%) in early trading, while General Motors (GM -2.2%) has been stung by a harsh Morgan Stanley downgrade on top of its own recall crisis.

A common thread between the spate of recent recalls and the line of reasoning behind the MS downgrade is the need for automobile manufacturers to upgrade and integrate technology inside of vehicles. There's a disparity on the design side between risk-tolerant tech firms and risk-averse automobile companies that could worsen as software fixes become part of the recall atmosphere.

"There’s no doubt the future of the industry is heavily dependent on building a bridge between Silicon Valley and the auto industry," notes Delphi's chief technical officer.

What to watch: Today's faulty ignition switch could be tomorrow's coding error if the transition isn't done right.

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Comments (13)
  • funfundvierzig
    , contributor
    Comments (5038) | Send Message
    It is not only technology demanding an upgrade at GM. It is leadership badly needing to be upgraded from outside to shake up the embedded inbred and inept GM Management. GM needs a new leader with the quality and talent of a Meg Whitman or Alan Mullally, a leader to bring integrity and direction to the entire organisation…funfun..
    9 Apr 2014, 10:19 AM Reply Like
  • Engineer&Far
    , contributor
    Comments (172) | Send Message
    GM just got a new leader. Give her some time to adjust to the job. She didn't create these messes, but hopefully she can deal with them. Does anyone else see a marked increase in the number of automotive recalls? (in the last few years, Toyota, Ford, GM, etc). Either the worldwide engineering competence is decreasing or US regulators are feeling empowered to 'punish' evil corporations.
    9 Apr 2014, 11:05 AM Reply Like
  • samuel_liu
    , contributor
    Comments (2753) | Send Message
    "and talent of a Meg Whitman"


    Governor Whitman right!
    9 Apr 2014, 11:07 AM Reply Like
  • funfundvierzig
    , contributor
    Comments (5038) | Send Message
    Ms. Barra is hardly a "new" GM "leader". With over thirty years in this corrupt organisation, she is steeped in the GM culture of evasion and fraud-mongering. She is quintessential "old" GM posing as an innocent and ignorant ingenue on the advice of counsel and her public relations handlers. Those repelling qualities are hardly the character of strong and ethical leadership.


    Finally it's not recalls per se which is the issue. It's the gross criminal negligence in failing to recall, having known of deadly defects in your cars for over a decade!


    9 Apr 2014, 11:45 AM Reply Like
  • Herschel Sparks
    , contributor
    Comments (12) | Send Message
    Hey, Engineer&Far, blaming the regulators is absurd. They are not the cause of most of the recalls. It is the failure of automakers to install high quality tech systems in their autos and their cynical misuse of cost/benefit analyses that is at the root of the problem. If anything, there needs to be more remedial regulation.
    9 Apr 2014, 12:58 PM Reply Like
  • Engineer&Far
    , contributor
    Comments (172) | Send Message
    Another new recall announced by Toyota today... You who have never designed or probably created anything but a mess in your life cannot judge the work of those who do. Wisdom: Tis easy to criticize, hard to create.
    10 Apr 2014, 10:04 AM Reply Like
  • jeepnsam
    , contributor
    Comments (54) | Send Message
    > Today's faulty ignition switch could be tomorrow's coding error if the transition
    > isn't done right.


    Transmissions are already using firmware DUH!!
    Today's Trannies are not our grand dads SM420 or T18A LOL!!
    9 Apr 2014, 10:49 AM Reply Like
  • Tdot
    , contributor
    Comments (9373) | Send Message
    transition, not transmission.


    It is the idea of the transition from what used to be mechanical parts, for example a key-based ignition switch that is operated by a human hand and some springs and key and lock cogs and mechanisms, to an electrical push to start button with a bunch of software that decides whether to actually start cranking the engine through the start-up sequence, and whether to kill the ignition.


    Example - you have a push-to-start button and a key-fob that remains in your pocket rather than hanging from the steering wheel. You start up the car with the push of the button, and get on the freeway. At 75 mph you are reaching for a radio button and inadvertently bump the ignition switch instead. Does the car ignore the accidental button push? Or does it immediately shut down the engine, and disable the airbags while still coasting at 75 mph on the freeway with no power steering or power brakes, or ABS? Conversely, if the vehicle starts "running away", should hitting start/stop button safely shut down the engine and bring the vehicle to a halt? Or ignore it and let it keep running?


    GM has what amounts to a software issue related to a hardware problem. The fault with the ignition switch is of interest. But what the plaintiffs would or should contend is that how the ignition was shut off is moot: the weak ignition switch is irrelevant. If the ignition is "killed" by whatever means, and the vehicle is still moving, the vehicle should still be fail-safe: meaning it is still capable of maneuvering (steering, brakes, etc.) and any safety systems like passive restraints should still be available (air bags, etc.).
    9 Apr 2014, 01:04 PM Reply Like
  • Wise Timmy
    , contributor
    Comments (298) | Send Message
    So we can sue Microsoft and Toyota the next time our accelerator gets stuck? I wonder how long the tech world will remain risk tolerant.
    9 Apr 2014, 12:18 PM Reply Like
  • Budavar
    , contributor
    Comments (1418) | Send Message
    So far there have been zero accountability at GM.
    Has any body been fired?
    Like some if not all the many CEOs of the past decade?


    With lack of any sign of accountability
    We'll have GM stock downward mobility = pun intended indeed.


    Down below $30? $20? $15?
    Even to zero, in case of another bankruptcy.
    9 Apr 2014, 12:58 PM Reply Like
  • Engineer&Far
    , contributor
    Comments (172) | Send Message
    Two engineers were fired today by the new CEO.
    10 Apr 2014, 09:52 AM Reply Like
  • starcorral
    , contributor
    Comments (1758) | Send Message
    The memory of a Pinto, Vega, Tercel, Dart, Accord or Gremlin play a primary role for investors in picking "their poison", the rhyme and reason of owning any automobile stock is - for the vast majority - based on forward guidance that sounds good to you. Unfortunatelty forward guidance has more factors than analysts typically recognize. My bracket just triggered on GM; I'm out.


    Most car companies do not let us see them without makeup. The reason for numb, numbing press releases where fatality was caused by design faults is to appear as innocuous as possible while providing absolutely no usable information whatsoever.


    Ford learned its lesson with Explorer years ago. Today there is no excuse; for this I rate Toyota and GM as pathological. Any entity which will sacrifice customers to fatality does not belong in my potfolio. Consider Tesla doing thousands of retrofit upgrades FREE OF CHARGE because Elon Musk follows his conscience.
    9 Apr 2014, 02:02 PM Reply Like
  • trappermax
    , contributor
    Comments (4) | Send Message
    Ford has been in GM's shadow and has earned their spotlight and leadership role in the automotive industry worldwide! The market maker needs to step up and be fair on how he controls the way Ford moves in todays market! I have watched the way he is manipulating this stock and makes me sick to think of how the SEC allows him to continue to do it! This stock should be in the low 17's but it is being held back every week. A very educated investor in Ford and he makes want to move to treasuries and go to the beach.
    9 Apr 2014, 08:54 PM Reply Like
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