Horace Dediu and Jim Zellmer discuss the politics, processes and possibilities of cars in light of: 1. Young people deferring drivers licenses. 2. The growth of car sharing. 3. Practical alternative power trains. 4. Urbanization. 5. Increased Congestion. 6. Driverless cars. 7. Rise of the "App Economy".

Hosted by Horace Dediu and Jim Zellmer.

#17: 27 Quadrillion BTUs

August 20, 2014 at 12:30PM • 60 minutes

Part I is a review of the “automotive stack” and note how there is no singular event that seems to affect disruptive change. From changing jobs to be done, modular design and manufacturing processes, powertrain evolution, urbanization, environmental interests, regulation and taxation. Part II is a review of a framework of analysis based on sources and uses of energy. Inputs, efficiency/losses, network effects and inertia, what can change and what can’t change. For a shot of theory, Horace reflects on the dichotomy of efficiency vs. efficacy when it comes to predicting change in the sector.

#16: Do the Numbers Add Up? Fuel Cells vs Batteries

June 26, 2014 at 12:00PM • 58 minutes

Steve Crandall joins us to discuss hydrogen fuel cells vs. lithium batteries. The two alternatives to post-internal-combustion motoring are far harder to assess than it might seem. Both require systems analysis and the systems themselves need to be weighed against the incumbent infrastructure and jobs to be done. We begin with Toyota’s fuel cell sedan announcement and recall Honda’s Clarity. The conversation leads to the observation that technical merit is not always sufficient or even necessary to market adoption success. We note that Toyota supported the Prius through years of low volume. Steve compares this to ATT’s abandonment of a cell service in the 1990?s. Steve compares the energy performance of hydrogen and gasoline and shares a look at the economic conditions necessary for a successful hydrogen fuel cell launch.

#15: Sunray Sedan

June 18, 2014 at 12:00PM • 51 minutes

Matt Grantham joins us to discuss electric vehicles, renewable energy, smarter software, solar opportunities and economics. Matt introduces us to Solar X, the solar car challenge. He reflects on these emerging technologies in light of Australia’s nearly extinct auto manufacturing sector. We explore the concept of a car as the home power source and consider possible EV disruption of traditional power generation and distribution concerns. The potential business models arising from these emerging technologies makes us pause in light of solar firm’s stock performance.

#14: Grand Prix

June 16, 2014 at 12:00PM • 54 minutes

Ossi Oikarinen, Horace and Jim dive into the culture, interests, rules, technology and organization of Formula 1 and DTM racing. We explore the driver’s role in an increasingly technology driven competition while comparing Germany’s DTM series with America’s NASCAR. We consider racing’s future in light of the replacement of the broadcast TV model with pay per view.

#13: Pilgrimages and Fundamental Evil

May 20, 2014 at 12:00PM • 56 minutes

On continental road trips, joys of rear wheel drive, diesel engines and autobahn speeds, pilgrimage to Porsche and BMW’s brand meccas. How to understand the world through toy cars, from Matchbox to Hot Wheels, Siku, Majorette to Tomica. Jim returns to the business of car distribution with an Alfred Sloan quote: “Between 1923–29 the leveling of demand for new cars logically resulted in a change of emphasis in the industry from production to distribution. On the sales end that meant a change from easy selling to hard selling. Dealer problems of an entirely new nature began to arise.” We consider car dealer data and discuss the “channel stuffing” origins of state franchise regulation. Horace reminds us that the current auto industry is constructed around production and distribution. We close by reflecting on Apple’s routing around now defunct computer retail channels via its highly successful stores, just 13 years ago.

#12: Cycle Times

April 15, 2014 at 12:00PM • 1 hour 2 minutes

Jim shares the joys of two recent rural road trips. The changing landscape, from discarded bank buildings and big box stores to a lack of traffic on these roads offers an opportunity to reflect on the atrophying auto eco-system. Horace notes the behavior changes leading to reduced use of autos. Alternatives, including bicycles, public transport, walking and car sharing services can be used to move atoms in a more efficient and environmentally friendly manner. Jim reflects on Ford’s $1,500,000 facility subsidy to a small town car dealership – in a community that lacks a grocery or clothing store. Perhaps the growing American use of “subprime” auto loans to “move the metal” explains the bricks and mortar strategy. Horace counters that people are figuring out ways to get things done without moving atoms. We marvel – again – at the industry’s glacial pace of change and contrast the auto industry’s tiny volumes to smartphones and personal computers. We conclude with a look at today’s youth culture and consider the sense that driving is for old people.

#11: The Thin Red Line

March 14, 2014 at 12:00PM • 1 hour 2 minutes

We explore the strategic and tactical considerations behind BMW’s i sub-brand. Why did BMW attach a new BMW sub-brand to a new powertrain rather than using another brand, like Mini? The answer helps explain how innovations and brands inter-relate and how incumbents can attempt to absorb what is potentially non-sustaining. We consider the pros and cons of innovation within an operating business – “intrepreneurship” – compared with creating an autonomous enterprise for the “new new thing”. Horace contrasts BMW i with General Motors’ failed Saturn experiment and notes that today, GM offers a mainstream plug-in car through the long serving Chevrolet brand and sales channel. We consider the burden that regulation, girth, cycle times, legacy practices, financialization and strategy taxes place on incumbents. Finally, we look at what it takes to cross over the line which separates the device-based nice-to-have infotainment options from the must-have driver and ownership assistants that will inevitably find home in these devices.

#10: Asleep at the Switch

February 20, 2014 at 12:00PM • 1 hour 4 minutes

The orthodox vs. the unorthodox: Tata, Tesla and Toyota. Why might an asymmetric competitor lose and a symmetric competitor win? We begin with Tesla and Apple. We continue with aluminum vehicles and re-visit information asymmetry as Horace exploits it to buy a Mercedes on eBay. We talk about car APIs (Aux input jack and ODBII). Jim muses on the risks used car buyers face from eye-watering transmission costs to the parallels between iPhone mules and American citizens recently prosecuted for flipping new German cars to buyers in mainland China. A brief discussion considers the perils of endless line extension up and down the market, perhaps fueled by financialization. We close by considering the track record and business models of recent “disruptive” entrants from Toyota’s Prius to Tesla and the Renault (Dacia) Logan.

#9: Stasis: Depreciation, Brands, Information Intransigence

January 10, 2014 at 12:00PM • 1 hour 2 minutes

Horace and Jim discuss shopping online for used cars and how and why the value of cars disappears so quickly. The conversation drifts into information asymmetry, the declining interest in auto maintenance and the perpetual closed-loop auto information model. We hypothesize on the impact of the coming self-monitoring and awareness of the lives of vehicles. Finally we ask whether the dysfunction in the industry is the cause or the effect of the ancient integrated factory model and the sustaining auto eco-system incentives that impede transformation. Finally, we note Gordon Murray’s iStream vision and the deal with Yamaha.

#8: The EcoV

December 13, 2013 at 12:00PM • 1 hour 7 minutes

Richard Marks, a battle-hardened veteran of the electric vehicle wars, joins Horace and Jim in Asymcar 8. Our exploration considers the lessons of General Motors’ EV1 and subsequent conversion initiatives. We charge into the organizational, distribution and regulatory dynamics that sustain the long-serving Henry Ford production system. We reflect a bit on Tesla’s use of this century old production model. Richard galvanizes the conversation with a description of his EcoV concept. The disruptive potential of its modular design, impressive economics and off the shelf components sparks a look at potential urban markets, from delivery vehicles to car sharing services. We close with a discussion of the investment and distribution climate for disruptive vehicles such as the EcoV.