BendPak Blog

Why a Car Lift Needs Big Wire Rope Sheaves

February 19th, 2018

When it comes to working under an elevated vehicle for hours, days and weeks at a time, it might be comforting to know just how precisely that lift was engineered and constructed. Like a well-oiled machine, there are literally dozens of parts and components that must work in perfect harmony to keep you and your vehicles safe.

BendPak upper lift column with cable sheaves

Cable sheaves in upper BendPak lift column

For this chapter of lift know-how, we’re going to talk about cables, sheaves and shafts, which are the most used, abused, fatigued and will-wear-over-time parts on any car lift, whether it’s a two-post or four post design. In varying roles, these critical parts are typically broken up into two categories: load-holding and equalization. Quite simply, that means that they, all by themselves, are either supporting that truck up in the air (load-holding components), or they’re being used to make sure that truck, as it rises and lowers, stays level, (equalizing components). The latter is not quite as weighty as the first.

First of all, cable or wire rope. Which is it?
In engineer-speak, “wire rope” typically refers to diameters larger than 3/8 inch (9.5 mm), while smaller diameters fall under the “cables” category. Wire rope has several strands of metal wire twisted together to form a spiral or helix shape. We call this the “rope.”

Wire cables showing corrosion

Wire cables showing corrosion

Rope strength design factor.
Rope strength design factor is the ratio of the actual strength of a wire rope divided by its max operating stress or load. Let’s say a rope has been tested by a nationally recognized test laboratory (NRTL) to have a strength of 50,000 lbs., and that same wire rope is being used to support 10,000 lbs. It would be shown to have a rope strength design factor of 5, as it is operating at one-fifth or 20% of its rated strength. Because car lifts involve elevated risk, high rope strength design factors must be maintained.

Types of Sheaves
There are two main types of sheaves that support wire cable, round grooves and V-grooves.

1) V-groove sheaves are not used in BendPak lifts. This sheave style is preferred in situations where traction is a high priority, so older and modern elevator styles often utilize these sheaves. As a consequence of a narrower channel for the cable, there’s more wear on both the cable and the sheave.

2) Round grooves are the preferred sheave for car lifts. These sheaves feature wider cable channels that reduce friction on both cable and sheave. BendPak uses over-sized sheaves—ones that are larger than necessary for the lifting application—because the larger the sheave, the longer the components will last.

Load holding wire rope.
If the wire rope is being used as a load holding component, the tensile strength should be tested and verified to safely support FIVE TIMES the load as per the North American ANSI/ALI ALCTV:2017 car lift standard, a standard that paraphrases many parts of the Federal Specification, Wire Rope and Strand RR·W-410E and ANSI/ASME 829.8, Leaf Chain Clevises and Sheaves standard. As you would have guessed, the 5x standard also applies to all connections and anchorages as well. See where we’re going here? Read more about certified lifts here.

Equalizing wire rope.
If a wire rope’s key responsibility is making sure that both cylinders on a two-post lift stay in relative unison, then it’s labeled as an equalizing component. The safety standards for an equalizing wire rope are a little more relaxed, not to say that they are not as important, but when a wire rope is used primarily for equalizing, fatigue on that wire rope is minimized. Tensile strength for an equalizing wire rope is THREE TIMES the load as per the ANSI/ALI ALCTV:2017 car lift standard, along with the connections and anchorages.

Earlier we referred to wire rope sheave as “the most used, abused, and fatigued and will-wear-over-time parts on any car lift.” Quite a mouthful! Yet most consumers are focused on other less-likely-to-fail features. At BendPak, we receive more inquiries from shoppers about ramp widths, lift arm heights, post size, lift color etc., but when we mention wire ropes, sheaves and axles, the importance of these critical components can get lost. Wire rope and their associated components when being used on a car lift are expendable items. In other words, they are items that will eventually need to be replaced. The question is, when will that time be? Will you remember to do so, and how much cash will it set you back? Remember, if you’re piloting a plane, be more critical of the wings and landing gear than the back-seat video monitors.

Single-Hub vs Dual-Hub Sheaves
Cable sheaves are specially designed to outperform your expectations on a daily basis. But not all sheaves are built the same. Some BendPak lifts feature cables that bend over single-hub sheaves and meet and exceed all contemporary lifting standards. However, we always put dual-hub sheaves at the necessary parts of our heavy-duty lifts. Dual-hub cables further reduce stress and fatigue, protecting the cable wire fibers. The more surface area on the sheave, and dual-hub sheaves significantly increase surface area, the less stress on the lift, and the longer the lift will go before requiring maintenance. The higher the weight capacity on a car lift, the bigger the sheaves. The difference between a 10.5″ and 12″ sheave might seem small, but to a mechanical engineer, it makes a world of difference. No matter which type of sheave you see on a BendPak, you’re getting the optimal choice for that design to meet and often exceed ALI standards. We never leave you questioning the integrity of any aspect of our lifts.

Dual-hub cable sheaves with wire cables inside car lift column

BendPak dual-hub cable sheaves

All About Sheaves
At BendPak, the importance of cable sheaves is no less important than any other part of the lift. This is because they protect your lifting and equalization cables, which require more attention than other lift components. (Your hydraulic lines and cylinders might be a close second.) While we know a good cable sheave will save you in maintenance expenses down the road, they remain somewhat forgotten elements of lifting. A well-made sheave should rarely require any serious inspection other a quick peak when you change the cables every few years. For your protection, BendPak’s sheaves are visibly more massive and sturdy than others in the industry. It’s no secret—just look at the image below!

BendPak cable sheaves next to a smaller sheave from another brand

BendPak cable sheave vs. other brand

It’s our goal to do our part to inform lift buyers who just see a “round steel thing” where we see a beautiful piece of engineering. Sheaves matter, and we hope you appreciate what needs to go into these vital components. Too often, other lift companies get away with putting smaller, weaker sheaves in their lifts’ columns. They use single-hub when they should use dual-hub, or they use smaller sheaves that increase cable wear, whereas BendPak spares no expense to ensure the longevity of your product. Wire cable replacements can and will make up the initial difference in savings with a cheap lift. Even worse, those cheap components compromise the efficiency and safety of your lift.

Love Your Lift
If you own a car lift, we have a quick challenge for you. The next time you do your inspections and maintenance, even if it’s just 30 seconds out of your day, take a moment to appreciate the little things that go into the making of this massive tool that’s lifting and protecting your cars. BendPak has built a name on being the best, and we’re glad you’re reading this article, because it means you want to know more about what’s really behind your investment. Until next time, wrench wisely and be safe out there.

BendPak Welcomes New Facility Early 2018

December 18th, 2017

 

 

Artist's close-up rendering of a BendPak building

The planned entryway of BendPak’s new facility.

BendPak Inc. is set to expand for the second year in a row with a 50,000+ sq. ft. facility. The bold move, coming on the heels of a massive expansion just months prior, marks a new chapter for BendPak in one of the company’s most decisive growth phases. According to BendPak management, this long-awaited announcement is simply the next step in a long series of expansions and updates that will be revealed throughout the new year and beyond. Work on the new facility is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2018.

With two new on-site facilities constructed in as many years, BendPak is setting itself up for another generation of success. When asked about his 50 years of oversight with the company, BendPak founder and President Donald Henthorn spoke glowingly about the future of his beloved brand. “BendPak is going to be here for another 50 years or more,” he said. “When you move as many large products as we do, you need a lot of space to store them. We’re making that space now and for the future.”

Because planning and multi-department coordination is critical during the early phases of construction, BendPak’s department leaders have remained involved in planning every detail since the very first discussion. “We’re excited to see all of our hard work come to fruition,” said Mr. Henthorn.

Sr. Vice President of Sales and Marketing Jeff Kritzer suggested this might be the most important, if not the most exciting, period in the company’s long and storied history. He said, “Our renewed focus on customer experience solutions and our pledge to become leaders in same-day-shipping mean both inventory and our ability to move freight are in a constant state of refinement,” adding playfully, “We’re in all-out attack mode.”

Early in 2017, BendPak management unveiled a 70,000 sq. ft. expansion to improve supply chain management and facilitate their growth initiatives. According to Javier Arias, BendPak’s Vice President of Operations, it was crucial that the 2017 and 2018 expansions remain on-site and on-schedule. “25 years ago when we purchased our current acreage, the aim was to expand our facilities and operational efficiencies as sales demanded.” Although our recent growth has accelerated faster than expected, BendPak has remained successful at keeping ahead of the curve.

Artist wide-angle rendering of a BendPak building

Artist rendering of BendPak’s upcoming 50,000 sq. ft. expansion.

The REAL STORY behind this Car Lift Photo that went Viral

October 13th, 2017

This article has been heavily edited from its original form.

A few things raced through our minds when we first saw the internet’s latest car lift fail. (Most of them are not safe for work.) BendPak has been in the car lift industry for over 30 years, so this would not be the first mistake we’ve encountered. Only this time, the photo went viral, with BendPak’s name clearly in the shot. Most of our customers are excellent when it comes to safely installing their car lifts. If they aren’t able to do the installation themselves, they hire a certified BendPak installer. This photo SEEMED to represent the exception, not the rule.

But we were WRONG.

Text message sent of car parked under BendPak four-post car lift, and left column has anchor bolts sticking out of the ground.

Unsafe… or just unfinished…

So, let’s clarify something right off the bat: no BendPak installer would EVER install a car lift like this. Today was a reminder of a hard truth. The internet can be full of foul play. This photo popped up at least 24 hours before we decided to comment on it, and it was really gaining steam across different channels. After we posted this article as a way  clarify our position on dangerous-looking installations, Chris, the owner of the lift, commented directly on our BendPak Facebook page. He posted this image and commented (below photo) on it:

Car under BendPak car lift with custom blocks under posts.

The REAL, final car lift installation

“Gotta love the internet. This pic must have been taken minutes before they (professional company) laid the slab concrete pedestals which can easily hold up the lift. No car ever went on this rack pre-concrete. Also worth noting that those bolts are 12″ long into the foundation plus [and now have] concrete pedestals.The rack is 100% level and we have custom ramps that work perfectly. Hope everyone can remain calm now…”

We definitely feel calm now. While it’s always safest to drill anchor bolt holes directly into the flooring, his custom installation should be fine. Anchor bolts are designed to fasten themselves deep into concrete. Once the bolts are turned in the concrete, they wedge themselves against the bolt hole. They’re now basically part of the concrete. The force of a vehicle lifting and lowering on the lift is dispersed throughout the columns and the concrete. When the bolts are sticking up in the air, you’re not only losing the surface area of the base plate, you’re applying force directly to loose bolts that aren’t designed to handle load in that manner. It’s quite to know the car lift was installed with all this in mind!

Chris, we all owe you an apology! We were just worried about your safety, as well as the safety of others. You did what you were supposed to do, as did your installation team. We’ll make sure to do a better job tracking our sources in the future. You never know what’s real and what isn’t these days, and in this case, we clearly came to the wrong conclusion. Hopefully the internet helps get the word out. False alarm. This lift looks great.

Please see Step 15, Page 26 in this HD-9 four-post lift instruction manual for proper anchor bolt drilling/installation.

BendPak Growth More Streamlined than Ever

July 19th, 2017

BendPak has grown to be a dream 50 years in the making. During this half-century of evolving into the automotive equipment specialists we are today, our mission has been continually focused on improvement in all areas, including engineering and design, production and logistics, and of course, customer service.

A look inside our new shipping facility expansion:

Ever since our ribbon cutting ceremony earlier this year, we have been relocating over 5,000 part SKUs from previous housings to new designated bar-code bins in new warehouses. We have relocated almost the same amount in large equipment items, as well including every finished lift and wheel service product, not to mention the hundreds of other shop equipment items we stock.

Our new Total Warehouse Logistics (TWL) approach supports day-to-day operations in our multiple warehouses. All warehouse tasks are now managed in a real-time environment, supported through radio frequency data collection devices that are carried by our warehouse workers. The new wireless barcode scanners and mini-computers record all inventory and order processing transactions in real time. Warehouse productivity and workflow, including product movements, receiving, shipping, picking, counting and accuracy, are being improved and streamlined. This new era in BendPak’s history will result in greater efficiency and higher capability. We’ll be faster and fully automated.

It’s an honor for us to supply each and every one of you with our products. We’re keeping the fires lit around the clock, burning the midnight oil and then some, as we quickly become bigger and better than ever before. This entire process is going to make the best even better, so stay tuned for more big news from BendPak.

RP50FJC Fruit Juice and Oil Filter Crusher by Ranger

March 29th, 2017

Click here to view the product page.

You’ve seen oil filter crushers before. Ranger Products makes several, such as our renowned 25-ton monster crusher, the RP50FC. What you haven’t seen is an oil filter crusher that doubles as a fruit juice maker. Finally, no more switching from kitchen appliance to garage tool, and back to kitchen appliance. Who has the time? No one in our kitchen. The high-capacity RP50FJC allows operators to crush up to 10 small pieces of fruit at once!

This combo fruit juice and oil filter crusher is the first and only tool of its type, so the world-class safety certifications and quality standards of virtually all other Ranger products are less than an afterthought—to us, they don’t even apply! This idea has been rejected so many times, it’s even become a punching bag for the industry. The testimonials say it all!

One guy wrote, “Why are you doing this?”

Another said, “Is it safe for fruit to be crushed by the same device that removes hazardous oil from used oil filters?”

Within five minutes of seeing the crusher demoed in his store, one of our distributors said, “Get the hell out of my office.”

The RP50FJC is new, so we’re not surprised that no one really understands it yet. New things are often scary and hard to understand, like making fruit juice with a converted oil filter crusher. Think of what it was like to be one of the first people to see math. “Numbers?” They must have said. “That’s not going to catch on.” Well, look around you! Math is everywhere nowadays!

We have no reason to believe the RP50FJC is going to revolutionize the industry the way math revolutionized numbers, but we’re counting on it! In fact, we’re so sure you’ll love your new combo fruit juice and oil filter crusher, we’re devoting most of our earnings from 2016 into marketing the RP50FJC. If this doesn’t work out, we won’t even be able to afford therapy. YIKES!!!

But that’s confidence. And confidence means juice. It’s good business to be confident, and it’s good juice to be in business. And that spells R-A-N-G-E-R. Whatever you do, don’t overlook the cost RP50FJC combo juice and oil filter crusher. Only $9,999.99!!!

Is it safe?

Just repeat after me: Ranger makes juice!

These Parking Lifts Will Make You Go Bananas

March 28th, 2017

Funny phrase, “Go Bananas.” Not sure what it takes to make people reach an excitement level equal to or greater than bananas, but we should add it to our BendPak mission statement. “If you don’t go bananas when you buy a car lift from us…” On second thought, maybe not. But we are excited about our new PL-6KDT double-wide and PL-6KDTX double-wide/extended-width parking lifts. And that’s to say nothing of the PL-6KT triple-wide model that lets you park up to six vehicles at a time.

If you’ve seen double and triple-wide parking lifts before, you probably haven’t seen one like ours. For one, the platforms rise and descend independently, which takes care of the morning car shuffle. Moving three vehicles just to get to one kind of misses the point of a parking lift, doesn’t it? The extended-width PL-6KDTX is neat-o because it permits clearance of wide-stance vehicles like trucks and SUVs. Those truck mirrors are finally kept safe. FINALLY!

So, who uses this kind of parking lift? Basically, space is the number one factor. Any commercial parking garage/lot that has room to install a lift will take one and never look back. A spacious home garage with valuable collector cars will house one of these puppies without a hitch. Repair shops, custom shops, etc. can safely hang onto customer vehicles while their customers’ cars are in the queue. Parking lifts are a small investment with a big payoff, as long as storing more vehicles in as little space as possible is important to you.

And now, at last, you can sing along as you do your celebratory parking lift… banana… thing. Warning: we’re experts when it comes to car lifts, not banana dances. BendPak is not responsible for inappropriate or awkward looks associated with the dance of the bananas. You have been warned.

Designer Car Lifts: Why Should Auto Shops and DIY’ers Care?

March 2nd, 2017

BendPak gold fashion label

The next time you pass by an auto shop, whether it’s a competitor of yours or a shop far away and out-of-state, hang back a minute and check out what kind of equipment they use. Consider:

  • What brand(s) do they use?
  • If their equipment is better than yours, how does that make you feel about your shop?

If you own a shop, you should be putting yourself in the shoes of your customers, as well as your competition. This is especially true if you’re more impressed by their BendPak equipment than you think they would be of your off-brand, bargain barrel stuff. That desirable BendPak label sits near a second label too: the gold ALI Certified sticker prominently featured on the post. As purveyors of the world’s best “designer” two-post lifts, four-post lifts, scissors lifts and alignment lifts, we have a list of reasons why our ALI Certification and designer status matter. You already know BendPak is the real deal. Here’s a reminder of what we offer.

1. Car lift quality

ALI Certification gold label

Only buy certified car lifts

There are a lot of cheap lifts out there. They’re cheaply priced, cheaply made and cheap-looking too. Some shop owners will wonder why they should pay more for an ALI Certified lift when they can get a non-certified product for a few hundred dollars less that’s rated for the same weight capacity. Well, it’s the same principle behind spending $120 or more on a pair of Ray-Ban® sunglasses when there’s a six-dollar knockoff at the local convenience store. The cheaply made sunglass pair is going to break. For the cheap price, you get a set of ill-fitting, crappy-looking knockoffs. Unlike car lifts, a broken pair of cheap sunglasses is easily replaced. With a bad lift, you risk some serious damage to your property, even your own life.

2. Create an identity, not an identity crisis

The stuff in your garage or shop says something about you. Everything talks, from the posters, art and photos that decorate your wall, to the cars you drive, to your choice of garage equipment. If you drive a Prius, you’re probably concerned about mileage and the environment. If you drive an SRT Hellcat, you’re our kind of friend—let’s hang out. But seriously, your car lift speaks volumes about you. Off-brand, uncertified lifts don’t belong in a garage full of nice things; what’s more, those knockoff lifts speak for themselves. They say that the owner doesn’t respect his or her business (or his or her customer’s property) enough to make long-term investments with real BendPak car lifts.

Identity matters in professional environments. Word gets around when shops take shortcuts with their equipment. If a shop owner is willing to skimp on car lift purchases, what conclusions will a customer draw about how that owner treats his or her customers, charges for parts and labor, etc.? Not good conclusions, that’s for sure. When you see a shop outfitted with BendPaks, you’re entrusting your vehicle to smart minds and capable hands.

Try as they might, even DIY’ers will be on the receiving end of judgment for their garbage, off-brand equipment. While working from home in a locked-up garage is likely to disguise your shoddy image most of the time, your friends and fellow car aficionados care about the BendPak name too. When they rip on your cheap lift, they’re basically saying you don’t know what you’re doing. Your identity as a car expert is tarnished. You’re out of the club. Maybe there’s an opening at the bridge table…

3. Stand out

This is related to creating an identity. A strong identity will earn you respect, and therefore help you to stand out. (It’s also possible to stand out by being the worst, but we don’t wish that on anybody.) As you know, not everyone buys the best brands, but most people can identify those brands by name. Those familiar with fashion know the difference between a Coach® purse (granted, men don’t usually notice things like this, but we’re making a point) and one of those “Coach” purses children sell off the tourist-ridden streets of Jamaica. Likewise, BendPak is the real deal, and people are going to recognize you on that basis alone. We’re not shy about showing off our name along the posts of our lifts, loud and proud. You won’t be, either.

4. Elevate your status

By now you’re probably noticing a trend among numbers 2, 3 and 4. They all have to do with image. The designer status that appeals to fashion lovers also appeals to car lovers. While quality is the backbone of designer status, people who walk into your shop or garage won’t be thinking, “Gee, that ALI Certification is so important, good thing they have it.” They’ll be thinking, “BendPak. Nice car lift, man!” They’ll connect with you more on that emotional level, and associate you with good feelings. Why? Because everyone knows BendPak is the designer name that’s all over town.

At the risk of sounding vain, we’re proud of the fact that our car lifts cost a little more than the competition. We put pride into our work, which means better engineering, a sleeker aesthetic and safer, oversized components for your protection. It takes a savvy businessperson to go with BendPak over a no-name, and it’s an investment you won’t regret.

In fact, people with a few extra bucks to invest on intelligent purchases tend to flock together; these are the people who are investors, spenders and go-getters. You want them to notice you, as their attention improves your appeal, wins you their business and increases your bottom line. Trust us: you do not want to be known as the ugly duckling the auto industry. Even if you’re new on the block and struggling to pay rent, people gravitate toward the most successful-looking shop. Money matters, and BendPak will help you look and act like you already have it.

DIY’ers also benefit greatly from the respect of the car community, even if their reasons are not business-related. A higher status among the experts will ensure you stay engaged in better discussions about garage work, finding better deals, etc. The people you want on your side will always, always, always respect your BendPak equipment.

5. Celebrity car guys and shop owners choose BendPak

Gas Money Garage guys with BendPak lift

The boys of Gas Monkey Garage… monkeyin’ around.

Watching most TV car shows, you’ll notice something they have in common: BendPak car lifts service their expensive custom cars and trucks. The guys you see on TV don’t use BendPak just to make their shops look pretty. While there’s a level of glitz and glamour to the world of television, these guys are on tight deadlines, both in their shop work and their film schedules. They want the best, so they choose us. It’s not bragging if it’s true, right? It’s a competitive world out there. If we didn’t meet and exceed their needs and expectations, these shops simply wouldn’t choose BendPak lifts. Pay attention to who’s-who in the automotive world, and you’ll see that BendPak car lifts inspire the highest trust, not to mention that extra glimmer of celebrity status. We like the attention, and we earn it by being the only car lift name worthy of the hype.

BendPak Wins NASPO Contract for Vehicle Lifts and Garage Equipment

February 17th, 2017

NASPO How to Purchase link
SANTA PAULA, CA—February 2017—BendPak Inc., a global manufacturer of car lifts and specialized garage equipment for servicing wheels, tires and brakes, won its contract bid from the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO), formally WSCA-NASPO. Under Master Contract no. 05316 for Vehicle Lifts and Garage Associated Equipment, BendPak will be providing municipalities and government buyers two-post lifts, four-post lifts, mobile column lifts, scissors lifts, wheel balancers, tire changers and brake lathes via central purchasing offices in each of the 50 states, including the District of Columbia and other U.S. territories.

As a national cooperative purchasing program, NASPO utilizes the collective purchasing power of all 50 states to acquire the best deals for a variety of products and services. A single Lead State manages select contracts on behalf of other states. Furthermore, NASPO membership states and government entities are not required to pay membership fees.

Several BendPak two-post lifts in an open garage space. Trucks, SUVs, and sedans are loaded on the car lifts.

The Master Contract was awarded to select companies that fulfill strict government, military and vocational requirements and only those companies that have globally recognized products specifically designed for heavy-duty and commercial fleet services.

BendPak’s vehicle lift offering provides a broad service range covering vehicle types ranging from buses and military vehicles, to fleet, passenger cars, trucks and SUVs. Specialty lift models including two-post lifts designed for lawnmowers, turf equipment and landscaping utility vehicles help fill the special needs of schools, parks and golf courses. According to Jeff Kritzer, BendPak Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, this is an intentional move by the company in order to reach the widest audience possible.

“Our cities and military typically have different needs when searching for car lifts and service equipment,” said Kritzer. “They want heavy-duty equipment that can handle the big stuff, in addition to smaller passenger vehicles and trucks. From government fleet vehicles, to city buses and military transport trucks, safety is always paramount.”

Military vehicle on a BendPak four-post lift

Military vehicle on a BendPak four-post lift

“It’s a huge opportunity for BendPak,” said Pat Weber, Director of Sales and Business Development. “Only the best of the best get included in NASPO contracts of any kind, so it’s an honor to be recognized as leaders in our field.” BendPak’s contract runs from February 2017 – February 2019 with an optional three-year extension.

NASPO awards contracts only after vetting competing businesses through a lengthy, comprehensive bidding process. Companies are awarded contracts for their pricing, warranties, service record, distribution network and guarantee of available parts after-the-sale.

About BendPak‐Ranger: BendPak / Ranger manufactures car lifts, parking lifts, pipe benders, and air compressors. Their Ranger Products brand includes tire changers, wheel balancers, wheel aligners, brake lathes, and a wide variety of garage equipment. BendPak and Ranger related marks are registered trademarks of BendPak Inc. in the U.S. and other countries. For more information contact BendPak Inc. at 1-800-253-2363 or visit www.bendpak.com. General press inquiries: info@bendpak.com

What We Saw at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show

January 12th, 2017

The term “American-made” is a bit confusing these days. When the Toyota Camry is considered the most American-made vehicle on the market, perhaps our sense of pride and place becomes tangled in the globalized web that is the world of auto manufacturing. What’s the line between foreign and domestic anymore? For all intents and purposes, we believe the United States dominates the car industry. While it’s true that China actually out-buys America in vehicles sold, America ranks 3rd in vehicles per 1,000 people (the no. 1 and 2 spots are from much smaller countries), whereas China ranks 99th. In other words, America is very much still the auto industry’s darling, and GM and Toyota are essentially vying to be the world’s greatest auto seller. Here’s what we saw this year at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show.

Toyota Camry steals headlines
Who would have believed the world’s best-selling sedan and Supreme Sultan of Boringness would steal one of the nation’s most heavily attended auto shows? Not many people, most likely. The eighth-generation Camry is longer, wider and—if you ask Toyota—comes in variations of “sexy or very sexy.” Its ceiling is also lower, and you sit lower in the cockpit, giving it a sportier look and feel. At the end of the day, it’s still a Camry. Whether you get the 3.5-liter six-cylinder, the four-cylinder or the gas-electric hybrid, you’re getting one of the most reliable four-doors ever built. If it looks a little nicer, so much the better, but no one ever bought a Camry because of—again, in the words of Toyota—it’s “more sexy.” Still, pedestrian detection and lane departure warnings come as intriguing standard options.

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Ford F-150 is still cool
The top American seller, the Ford F-150 is the local pride and joy of the auto market. The new edition offers a diesel and 10-speed transmission, as well as a 3.3L V6 and 2.7L EcoBoost gasoline options. As usual, their marketing department excels (just watch the new commercial, posted below, and tell us it doesn’t put some hair on your chest), and what they call their pickup’s high-strength, military-grade aluminum alloy body is lighter and more powerful than older steel models. Updated cruise control lets you set the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you, so you’re not constantly slowing down for every Prius chunking up the left lane. A pre-collision assist program is a great way to convince a skeptical significant other that yes, you do need this big truck, because of safety.

Honda Odyssey is cool again… for some reason
We’re groaning, too. But for every gas-guzzling hotrod, electric wonder-car and badass truck that hits the market, there’s an equally necessary minivan. If we get over the boringness for a moment (recall Camry), there’s a particular importance to redesigns of vehicles that are often intended to hold large numbers of young people in the back. They carry our future, if you think about it. Anyway, the 2018 Odyssey has a “magic slide” second row that makes it easier to get kids in and out. A rear-facing camera, CabinWatch™, complete with night vision puts eyes in the back of your head. CabinTalk™ is the intercom system that lets you scold children without raising your voice, even interrupting their video games and movies. Which, in the wrong hands, could be a pretty hilarious delivery system for dad jokes. The vehicle is also a roaming 4G LTE, Wi-Fi hotspot with streaming video. So that’s cool, right?

2018 Honda Odyssey

2018 Honda Odyssey

Waymo’s neat self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Minivan
It’s puzzling even to us that two minivans made our list, but Waymo’s self-driving Chrysler Pacifica is no ordinary minivan. Obviously not something that’s going to hit the general market, this vehicle tech is more of a sign of things to come. Google (Waymo), Apple and Uber are all in a competition to be the first to fully automate the auto industry, and the race is on. Google’s “Waymo” project intends to launch a rideshare program in California in the near future using these vehicles, and if they’re successful, it will go a long way toward seeing more programs like it. For now, human drivers are left in place to take over test drives as necessary, but someone will be the first to do away with that human safeguard, and that’s when things will get really interesting. Until then, it’s mind-blowing that we’re probably going to see this happen in our lifetimes.

Waymo self-driving Chrysler Pacifica

Waymo self-driving Chrysler Pacifica

Watch list: China vs. U.S. Government
Keep an eye on how this develops, as there’s great potential for China to reshape the global auto industry. It’s been well-established that the incoming President-elect has threatened to tax Mexican-made vehicle imports, should American auto plants relocate there. A number of car manufacturers have stated they will not close their American plants, while Toyota has warned that the Camry would see a $1,000 price increase if a proposed 35% import tax were adapted. The auto industry is not in total agreement over the “best” approach, but there is a newcomer on the block looking to shake things up: China.

2018 GAC GS7

2018 GAC GS7

One of China’s larger auto companies, the Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC), has returned to Detroit for the second time with the GS7, an SUV, the GE3, an all-electric with a touted range of 190mi on a single charge, and the EnSpirit concept car, a plug-in hybrid that the company claims can travel up to 435mi. The quality of these cars has yet to be truly tested, and it’s yet to be seen how American buyers will receive Chinese autos in a market that’s essentially dominated by Japanese, American and even Korean enterprises.

Will the political climate also have an effect on how well Chinese cars sell in the States, or will buyers gravitate toward the best value for their dollar, regardless of the country of origin? We live in interesting times, to say the least.

5 Impressive Auto Tech Ideas and Innovations You Missed in 2016

December 30th, 2016

2016 was a strange year, in many respects. The auto industry saw some of the most interesting tech inventions and ideas to date. As a standalone achievement, SEMA 2016 was chock full of product unveilings, which only figures to increase next year. As we look forward to 2017, we’re taking a look at five fresh products and ideas you might have missed.

  1. Ford finds its groove with record number of patents

Long-considered one of the lesser companies for innovation, surprise and registered patents, Ford has spent the last few years reinventing itself, and in 2016 the company showed off its impressive tech contributions yet. According to mlive, “The Ford Motor Co. led all automakers in granted U.S. patents for the first time in the company’s history in 2016.” Considering how long Ford has been around, that’s a pretty major accomplishment. There are some things in their wheelhouse that it’s safe to say no one else is thinking about. Their eChair is a self-loading wheelchair that makes driving easier and more comfortable for disabled persons and wheelchair users. Ford engineers are even refining a water purifier that recycles and purifies condensation from the car, funneling drinkable water through a faucet in the cabin. We can only imagine the implications for developing countries and travelers in need of a clean water supply. Not sure what vehicular condensation water will taste like, but if it’s potable, that’s impressive.

  1. Goodyear’s spherical concept tires

The Eagle-360 concept tire by Goodyear looks like the bottom part of the BB-8 droid from J.J. Abram’s Star Wars reboot. The physics behind spherical wheels make them tough to master. In a way, it’s kind of embarrassing to call this one of the best ideas of 2016 because there are so, so many flaws in both Goodyear’s pitch and concept (i.e., floating wheels powered by magnets), but whatever—it’s still cool. Lots of question here. How will the “magnetic levitation” concept work? How is water repelled off the tire through “centrifugal forces” when any physics tells us centrifugal forces don’t actually exist? Alright, it’s a ridiculous concept as of this moment, but Goodyear claims to be working on it, and companies don’t like to waste money on cool ideas that don’t stand a chance of coming to light. So, maybe there’s hope?

  1. Ford Mustang 2.3L Ecoboost Turbocharger by Turbonetics
Turbonetics Mustang 2.3L turbocharger

Turbonetics Mustang 2.3L turbocharger

Taken out of the shop, the 2017 4-cylinder Mustang is capable of 310 HP. Mustang fans have been turbocharging their rides for decades, but Turbonetics has made the process simpler and more streamlined than ever. The real advantage to this turbocharger, and the reason it makes this list, is because their direct drop-in installation does away with the need for adapters or installation modifications. With a full suite of mods and custom tuning, your 2.3L Mustang will be capable of 520 HP. That’s pretty great in a drop-in device, wouldn’t you say?

  1. The Chevrolet Bolt EV
Blue 2017 Chevy Bolt

2017 Chevy Bolt

Welcome the most affordable and drivable electric vehicle to hit the mass market. Unlike Tesla vehicles, a Chevy won’t cost you an arm and a leg for basic parts and repairs. A lot has been said about the Tesla III coming out for about $35,000, but Tesla repair locations are far less common, and parts are far more expensive, meaning Tesla remains an expensive investment. Meanwhile, the Chevy Bolt is about $30,000 after federal tax rebates and boasts a driving range of 128/110 MPGe. Obviously, this isn’t a turbocharged dream machine, but it gets the job done, saves money, helps the environment and has all the techy frills of a modern road warrior, including 10.2” touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and 4G LTE Wi-Fi. We have a feeling this is going to be a top seller for 2017, especially if the mileage turns out to be as strong as they claim in variable driving conditions.

  1. Hundai Sonata augmented reality app

Hundai is giving us a glimpse of the future of auto care. Their augmented reality app, if you haven’t seen it, is just a tiny step into the next wave of auto tech that will soon become standard. Users simply download the app and point their phones at different parts of the car. The app can tell you simple things like what the radio tuner is used for (tuning the radio, as it turns out), and more useful applications, such as engine oil and wiper fluid levels. The device is a maintenance helper and user manual all-in-one. We imagine that as more companies put resources into expanding the tech in their car, apps like these will follow and become more useful and sophisticated. Imagine and entire engine diagnostic with visual aids.

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