All Transportation stories

Bryan Walsh
Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Oct 30, 2021 - Economy & Business

The supply chain of the future is (slowly) coming online

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Pandemic-driven disruptions have left the global supply chain in a deep crisis, but new technologies and approaches could help avert the next one.

Why it matters: The inability to get goods made and shipped is raising prices and dragging down the global economy.

First look: American Airlines' new plan for net-zero emissions

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

American Airlines is more aggressively leaning into sustainable aviation fuels and research into new propulsion technologies to reach its goal of net-zero emissions in 2050, the company tells Axios.

What’s new: The Fort Worth-based airline gave Axios a first look at new details on how it plans to get to net zero.

Oct 28, 2021 - Economy & Business

How Hertz is fighting to stay relevant

A Hertz car rental counter in the Miami International Airport. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In the span of less than a week, Hertz has made three big strategic moves intended to keep the car rental giant from fading into oblivion.

Why it matters: Ride-hailing and other mobility innovations are rapidly changing the way people get from A to B, posing an existential threat to traditional car rental services.

Oct 26, 2021 - Economy & Business

How Hertz's big Tesla deal could boost EV adoption for everyone

Hertz is adding 100,000 Teslas to its rental fleet in a big push toward electrification. Photo: Hertz

People who are on the fence about buying an electric vehicle — or who can't afford one — can now rent one from Hertz.

Driving the news: The giant rental car company said Monday it is adding 100,000 Teslas to its fleet as the first step in a major shift toward electrification.

  • The order represents $4.2 billion in revenue for Tesla and is the carmaker's biggest-ever order, Bloomberg reported. Tesla's market cap reached $1 trillion following the deal.
  • The vehicles will account for more than 20% of Hertz's global fleet. And Hertz is also adding thousands of charging stations to its rental locations and hiring seven-time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady to pitch EVs to consumers.

Why it matters: Broader availability of electric cars on rental lots could give the EV movement a needed boost by allowing cautious consumers a no-risk way to try before they buy.

The big picture: President Biden wants half of all new cars sold to be electric by 2030, and many carmakers are making the pledge to switch away from gasoline-powered vehicles by the middle of the next decade.

  • But consumer demand remains low, with battery-electric vehicles accounting for less than 5% of auto sales.

Yes, but: Consumers are getting more curious about plug-in models.

  • "Consumer confidence and acceptance of EVs is growing gradually," says Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Cox Automotive, adding that the opportunity to try one for a few days could snag more interest.
  • Surveys show that when people gain experience with new technologies, they become more accepting, she said.
  • For example, luxury car owners with driver-assist systems like adaptive cruise control are much more accepting of autonomous vehicles than those who've never experienced the technology.

What they're saying: "Electric vehicles are now mainstream, and we've only just begun to see rising global demand and interest," Hertz interim CEO Mark Fields said in a statement.

What's next: Consumers will be able to rent a Tesla Model 3 at Hertz airport and neighborhood locations in U.S. major markets and select cities in Europe starting in early November, with availability growing through 2022.

  • They'll have access to 3,000 Tesla Supercharger stations, besides the Hertz-installed chargers.

But EVs take some getting used to and features like regenerative braking could be confusing to drivers getting acclimated to their rental car late at night in an airport garage.

  • Hertz said it will offer help to educate customers about their EV through the Hertz mobile app.

Of note: Teslas are already popular on the peer-to-peer car rental site, Turo, CEO Andre Haddad tells Axios.

  • Some are booked by travelers and others by potential buyers looking for an extended test drive.
  • Many Turo hosts maintain small fleets of Teslas and EVs to keep up with demand.
Hope King, author of Closer
Oct 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Rising car prices fuel AutoNation's great year

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Chip shortages could be viewed as a blessing for AutoNation at this point.

Driving the news: The car chain reported its sixth-consecutive quarterly earnings record on Thursday. That's thanks to higher consumer prices driven by production constraints.

Oct 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

What we're driving: the year's best vehicles

Joann Muller in the battery-electric Hyundai Ionic 5, which has a futuristic interior. Photo: Miles Johnson for Axios

This week, I spent two glorious fall days evaluating dozens of cars, trucks and SUVs on the roads near Ann Arbor, Michigan, to determine the best of the best.

Why it matters: The annual comparison drive brings together 50 professional automotive journalists from the U.S. and Canada who are jurors for the independent North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year awards.

Oct 15, 2021 - Economy & Business

What we're driving: The $110,000 Jeep Grand Wagoneer

The interior of the 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer. Photo: Stellantis

Carmakers keep testing the limit of what people will pay for an automobile packed with luxury, high-tech features. Consider the $110,000 Jeep Grand Wagoneer I drove recently.

This is the largest, fanciest Jeep ever, with a spectacular interior bathed in dark walnut and supple leather that's outfitted with every tech gizmo you could want.

  • It's hard to imagine off-roading in this luxury yacht — though it has a 10-inch ground clearance and can ford two feet of water.
  • But that's not the point: this SUV is about exploring the reaches of American opulence.

The big picture: The Stellantis-owned brand known for its iconic and rugged Jeep Wrangler has already mined the low end of the SUV market with the Cherokee, Compass and Renegade. So now it's pushing the other end of the spectrum, taking on premium full-size SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator.

Details: The stately, upright Grand Wagoneer is massive and hard to maneuver — though the 360-degree, bird's-eye camera helps — yet it's still surprisingly refined and comfortable on the highway.

  • It's powered by a 6.4-liter V-8 engine which gets an EPA-rated 13/18 mpg city/highway.
  • It comes in five trim levels, ranging from about $90,000 to $110,000. (A slightly less grand model — the similarly sized Jeep Wagoneer — starts around $69,000.)

There are screens everywhere — including a 10-inch front passenger screen that has a special privacy filter to prevent distraction for the driver.

  • Second-row passengers have a 10-inch touchscreen between the captain's chairs, and individual screens mounted on the seatbacks in front of them.

Are we there yet? The Grand Wagoneer and Wagoneer are the first in the industry to come with Amazon Fire TV for Auto, which lets passengers stream content from Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu and YouTube, among others.

  • When you sync the system to an existing Amazon account, you can even pause programming in your home and resume watching in the car.
  • A fun feature lets kids track the trip's progress, and the time to destination, just as airline passengers can.
  • There's also a rear-seat monitoring system that lets drivers see passengers seated behind them on a video feed.

There are some surprises too, like an optional cooler in the front center console or a touchpad-controlled safe to stow valuables under the split front armrest.

The bottom line: You have to wonder if it's worth spending $110,000 on a Jeep, but if you've got the money, the Grand Wagoneer won't leave you asking for anything more.

Former top Boeing pilot indicted for "scheming to defraud" airline customers

Boeing 737 MAX airplanes are seen parked on Boeing property on Aug. 13, 2019, following two fatal jetliner crashes. Photo: David Ryder via Getty Images

A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted a former top Boeing pilot who is accused of deceiving the Federal Aviation Administration when the company sought the regulator’s approval for its 737 MAX plane.

Why it matters: A malfunction with the jet's flight control software, known as Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), had a hand to play in two crashes that killed 346 people.

Kate Marino, author of Markets
Oct 14, 2021 - Economy & Business

Delta Air Lines CEO warns fuel costs could dig into profits

Photo: Nicolas Economou via Getty Images

Delta Air Lines’ biggest concern for the fourth quarter isn’t “the variant” — as CEO Ed Bastian refers to it — it’s fuel costs.

The big picture: Warnings like Delta's are a natural result of the global fuel chaos.

Oct 14, 2021 - Technology

Car owners pay dearly for tech they don't use

BMW's gesture control technology is hard to master for many drivers, who say they just don't need it. Photo: BMW

Technology can be a big seller in new cars, but it turns out that many digital features go unused — assuming owners even know their car has them.

Why it matters: High-tech features are driving up vehicle prices. But if consumers don't use them — or are frustrated because the stuff doesn't work properly — then both automakers and car buyers are wasting their money.

Driving the news: For more than 1 in 3 advanced technologies, most owners didn't even use the feature during the first three months of ownership, a J.D. Power tech study found.

  • Usually, owners say it's because they don't need the feature, but sometimes it's because they don't know about it or find it difficult to use.

BMW's gesture control technology is a great example. It's supposed to let you wiggle a finger or wave your hand to perform tasks like adjusting the radio volume or answering a call — as opposed to touching a screen or button.

  • But the tech had the lowest overall satisfaction score in J.D. Power's annual U.S. Tech Experience Index for the second year in a row, with owners reporting 41 problems — meaning complaints — per 100 vehicles.
  • My thought bubble: I drove a BMW X6 last year that had gesture control as part of a $2,300 Premium package. I concur with BMW owners. It was easier to just use the buttons.

Other built-in technologies often go unused, despite big investments by automakers to add them. Some examples:

Digital marketplace: General Motors was the first to equip millions of cars with an in-car commerce platform called Marketplace that lets you order food, make restaurant and hotel reservations, and find gas stations from your dashboard.

  • But 61% of owners say they've never used their car's digital marketplace, and 51% said they don't need it.

Driver/passenger communications: Honda, Hyundai and Toyota are among carmakers that let drivers talk more easily with rear-seat occupants via a microphone or camera.

  • 52% say they've never used the system, and 40% say they don't need it. (Who needs a mic when you can just turn around and yell at your kids?)

Between the lines: Consumers are more likely to use emerging technology if the car dealer does a good job of demonstrating how it works, J.D. Power found.

  • But a lot of car salespeople aren't fully trained to explain all the features of the cars they sell — and often buyers don't ask, aren't interested, or can't take it all in.
  • Some dealers encourage buyers to schedule a follow-up visit to the dealership for a refresher.
  • When a buyer does get a lesson from their dealer about how to use an advanced feature, they use it more, the study found.
  • Examples of these features include "safe exit assist technology" — which warns parked drivers to wait for traffic before opening the door — and trailer assistance technology, which helps drivers maneuver a boat or RV, for example.
  • Yes, but: Owners are more than twice as likely to learn about such technology from an outside source (71%) than from a dealer (30%), the study found.

What car owners love: cameras, cameras and more cameras.

  • The top-rated technologies all provide an extra set of eyes: backup cameras with trajectory guidance, rear-view mirror cameras that enhance visibility, and 360-degree ground view cameras.
  • Electric vehicle owners also love one-pedal driving technology — which allows a driver to lift their foot off the accelerator to slow or stop without having to brake.

The bottom line: In-car technology has to be simple to use — and well-explained to the driver ahead of time — or it's not worth the money.