Le Car Letter No. 005: Make It Last

"Do I need to make more things?"

-- Mara Hoffman

Fashion designer Mara Hoffman  posited this question at a panel I attended a few weeks ago. " My friend Isolde Brielmaier, also one of the panelists, invited me to join the event, Building a Brand into a Catalyst for Change," held at the Neue House.

Several years ago, Hoffman shifted the business model of her eponymous New York-based line toward more sustainable fabrics, dyes, tags, and bags. Her fabrics are made from ethically sourced plant-based materials and most of the solvents are recycled. The company also shifted its manufacturing process to do less environmental damage and advocates for fair treatment in factories. Yet, despite her considerable efforts, she still struggles with what it is to make things for a consumption-obsessed society. When is more enough? It's not a straight forward path to do better, especially when the sustainable choice is at odds with progress. 

It feels like it’s time to ask those tough questions. It starts with the small things, like Hoffman's suggestion: "Wear more, wash less."

Another way to balance this footprint is to buy from brands that contribute back to the community. One example: These beautiful t-shirts by Daily Paper in collaboration with the Elman Peace Center to support art therapy programs for child soldiers in Somalia. (Read more about the program and development director, Ilwad Elman, below.)

Props for a positive charge:

If you're like me the headlines cut like warning shots, each one more dire, hinged on large horrific climate predictions. It's no longer only a trend to be more sustainable, but actually a matter of species survival. That means small things, like cutting down on plastic, but then there are the bigger questions. More and more I find myself questioning my own work as an automotive journalist; I've certainly promoted objects that were in no way sustainable. While I may have moments of indulging guilty pleasures, I am thinking about how I can balance the shift in this conversation.

I’m not the only one beginning to gravitate toward alternatives. Jaguar I-Pace swept three of the World Car of the Year categories — World Car of the Year, World Car Design of the Year, and World Green Car — voted by an international consortium of auto journalists, including me. Ian Callum, Jaguar Chief Designer, and one of my favorite interviews, accepted the award on behalf of Jaguar at the New York Auto Show. I drove the I-Pace last fall and everywhere I went people were intrigued, without even realizing it was a full electric powertrain. What this vehicle did for the industry is to push electrification into a recognizable vehicle, and a huge, risky step forward for a relatively small carmaker. It's exciting to see companies placing big bets on the electric future. 

Camp for Grownups:

This month I visited Oslo for the Mercedes-Benz EQC camp. A little background: I am a Summit Mercedes fellow and was invited to join the automaker’s brand ambassadors from a dozen countries, as an offshoot of the fellows program. We spent time in the European version of the EQC, Mercedes’ first fully electric vehicle both for driving impression and a deeper understanding of the thinking behind it, before it comes stateside in 2020. But I had no idea what I was in for on this adventure. I met a world class chef, an astronaut, a legit adventurer, big wave surfers, a couple race car drivers, a choreographer, several artists and designers, a DJ, multiple gold medal Olympians, gamers, a tech legend, a social scientist, photographers, an actor and a real muscle man, among others. Imagine the conversations! While there, I led a Le Car workshop on “Simplifying the Complicated” to glean further understanding of how the thinking behind our app might apply to people assessing and solving real world problems. As a reminder that, there is no one way forward, boat rides, trains, airfields, and electric-powered carriages were also incorporated into the week. 

In general, I find myself getting more excited about EVs to come — and there will be so many EVs. A few big picture takeaways on driving EQC: it’s got luxe level power numbers - 402 horsepower and 561 pound-feet of torque that adds extra oomph when you want to race down the road close to the finish line. The engine gurgle is absent, like most electric engines, but Mercedes uses sound dampening techniques to further drown out outside road noise. And you can make a game out of playing with different settings to cue the regenerative braking system.

Our test vehicle was speced out with MBUX, the newest infotainment system. After a year of testing it out in various vehicles, MBUX is starting to feel like second nature, which could be more of a reflection of my own learning curve. Most voice assistants don’t detect the tone of my voice, but this one does and answers to "Hey Mercedes." The only quibble is don’t say anything about “Mercedes” to your mates if you don’t want the assistant to butt in your conversation. 

We drove for an entire day through the super slow roads of the Norwegian country side, beautiful, lush and forest green (and punishing on those of us that suffer from seasonal allergies). We never even touched the edge of range anxiousness as we edged toward to the 200 mile mark. For everyone except those far off the grid, EVs on the market today will not leave you stranded. It’s early days in EV culture. It will be exciting to keep track of all the changes to come. The big question is when will the infrastructure and public preferences catch up to get this message across so we can get on with the business of saving our planet. 

Tamara Warren,
founder of Le Car, writer, journalist

Le Provacateurs:

ILWAD ELMAN is the program and development director for the Elman Peace Center a non-profit organization founded in Somalia to facilitate peaceful transitions from conflict by focusing on war related issues such as gender equality, poverty and marginalization — international work that is broadening the reach of traditional humanitarian aid. She is an advocate for the Kofi Annan Foundation and first addressed the UN Security Council on the Protection of Civilians debate in 2015. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appointed llwad as the youngest advisor to the Peace Building Fund last year. Follow her work here  @IlwadElman.

BRETT BERK is the author of the Gay Uncle's Guide to Parenting, a must-have book of practical advice and rye humor to survive small children based on his work in pre-schools and expertise in early childhood development. Brett, a multi-faceted author and writer is also a prolific automotive journalist and current works include "Understanding why Israel, which has no native car industry, has become a center for automotive technology, a hot take on the 11 most iconic movie cars, and the tongue-in-cheek "How to Spend $4 Million in One Day." @therealbrettberk 

BARBARA ABEL, a media coach, career strategist, and talent development expert lives by the motto, "Why fit in when you can stand out?" She authored the book How To Get Your Foot In the Door: Television Hosting & Presenting based on her work developing and casting TV shows. Her upcoming book, The Camera Ready Checklist, helps people prepare for on-camera appearances. What separates Barbara from others in this field is her holistic approach that celebrates individuality and empowerment. @barbarabarna

What we're driving:
2019 Cadillac CT6

Cadillac is perpetually steeped in the game of reinvention -- how to reference the past, while appearing in step with the future? Going back in time, big beautiful sedans were Cadillac's specialty. All of this becomes a trickier story to follow as products are pulled, swapped and rotated with other alphanumeric variations (like the new CT5, coming soon...). While it's longterm future is still uncertain, CT6 is the brand's flagship sedan and is the messenger to date that drives home the message that Cadillac is thinking future-forward. It's the first to offer the option for Super Cruise, its semi-autonomous driving system. We drove the 3.6-liter V6, the more powerful option, which will soon be the only option sold. (The plug-in-hybrid version of this vehicle is also cancelled.) There's a stately quality to the CT6, which glides along with a sense of ease and sophisticated application of power. However, its recommended only if tight parking spaces can be avoided, because the proportions are a doozy to navigate on city streets. 

2019 Audi Q8

Alphanumeric trends are everywhere, and the Q8 is new following the Q7 in order of release, but is smaller in proportion. This of course is confusing because when it comes to Audi cars the A8 is bigger than A7. Semantics aside, the Q8 is a handsome two-row midsize crossover vehicle. Where Q8 shines is in performance and ergonomics. It drives really well and feels snug. Handling is responsive to the touch and ideal for daily driving and scooting around town with powerful underpinnings of the 3.0-liter turbocharged V6; eight-speed automatic transmission. It shares a platform with the VW group's other luxe brands including the Porsche Cayenne and Bentley Bentayga, an indicator that its the right size for a do everything all-wheel drive vehicle. Q8, a newcomer to the lineup,  serves up plenty of in-car technology on its 12.3-inch virtual cockpit digital instrument cluster, its touchscreens and has options for adaptive cruise control and assisted driving. It's what we'd describe as an all-road solid choice.

2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid
Subaru occupies a fascinating position in the market -- a brand known as both utilitarian and rough and tumble that has its devotees along the northeast corridors where it snows nonstop on mountain passes. It seems like a plug-in hybrid is a good idea for the earth conscious customers. The hybrid is the more expensive version — add another $10 grand or so to the gasoline-powered model — but then count up tax abatement and fuel savings and this number begins to close in. It gets a decent 35 mpg and then 90 mpg in electric mode, which last 17 miles -- the length of many commutes. The hybrid is slightly less powerful on a vehicle that was already modest in power, making 148 hp, but you don't drive a Subaru to win drag races. Like all Subarus its user-friendly on the inside --  indestructible, well-spaced out and slightly plasticky. In other words, it's a vehicle that can be lived in. 
Le Car in the news:

Le Car is featured in this PSFK CX debrief: How Auto Brands Like Cars.com Help Consumers Navigate Complex Purchases

Le Car debuted on Cheddar Rides.
Source: Cheddar

Le Car is the recipient of the Summit x Mercedes-Benz EQ Fellowship.
Source: Coolhunting

Pay Attention:

It's never to late to brush up on music history and this backstory on the influential DJ Ken Collier.

Jane Dickson's "Slot Club" painting show is on view until June 2 at James Fuentes.

An Album of "Pure Michigan" songs drop this summer for those who know what it means to go up north, featuring Waajeed, John Beltran, and Windy & Carl. 

© 2019  Le Car.  All rights reserved.

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