Sunday, March 10, 2019

IndyCar/Sportsnet Hastily Throws Together Terrible 2019 Broadcast Package

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy/Car FYI Canada


After a brief hibernation from auto racing, March brings forth a full motorsport awaking. While NASCAR season is a few weeks old and the Rolex 24 at Daytona kicked-off the start of sports car racing, we welcome an all-new Formula 1 and NTT IndyCar Series schedule for 2019. With the latter organization, we were left waiting news on the network and channels we can anticipate watching the 17 races of this year. With only 5 days remaining before the green flag dropped, news of the Canadian broadcast package was announced leaving me to quote Vito Corneone from The Godfather in inquiring to Sportsnet, Rogers Communications as well as the open wheel racing sanctioning body. “What have I ever done to you to treat me so disrespectfully?” I ask as a longtime motorsport fan eager to watch a new year of IndyCar competition without major obstacles. Sadly, the so-called broadcast deal made between Sportsnet and the NTT IndyCar Series equates to a slap in the face to a large fan base.

In the press release Sportsnet issued relating to news of their 2019 agreement, the headline didn’t even mention IndyCar but was instead promoted their annual pass for SN NOW+. An online streaming sports platform being sold at a yearly cost of $249.99 (generously offered for a $50 savings at $199.99 until April 1st), SN NOW+ will be the only place to watch all 17 races of the racing series. The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series coverage announcement was given just enough attention in effort to sell the service. To be fair and pains me to say, the cost per month of SN NOW+ isn’t the worst deal but it is no less a kick in the teeth to Canadian IndyCar viewers expecting races on more conventional television channels that already carry steep prices.

Besides the SN NOW+ online streaming service option, IndyCar fans are also being provided with 16 of 17 races on television through another premium cost platform. Sportsnet World (a $32.98 per month set of channels bundled with the WWE Network) is broadcast all events with exception to this weekend’s season opener on the street course in St. Petersburg, Florida. Sportsnet reported a scheduling conflict prevents the live airing of the race (an EPL Soccer game with Manchester United vs. Arsenal on that is also on the main Sportsnet channel). In a recent development announced less than 24 hours prior to the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Sportsnet is now providing free live streaming of the event on their website sportsnet.ca. The same news was shared on the IndyCar website that also includes mention of free live streaming in Latin America. Only two races are slated to air by traditional means on television (Indianapolis 500 and the Honda Indy Toronto).

I’m pleased by the realization that my meager voice is not the only one being transmitted on this issue. The legendary Norris McDonald (a 2013 Inductee into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame) and the familiar, long-serving auto racing television personality Todd Lewis has also been vocal opponents to the Sportsnet/IndyCar package for 2019. According to an article written by McDonald, he reported inside knowledge that Rogers and Sportsnet were less than enthusiastic with the prospect of airing IndyCar racing for 2019. While dealing with disinterested management at Sportsnet, IndyCar was also pursuing this season’s agreement through a different avenue. An in-house IndyCar Media branch was setup to handle international rights for the auto racing series replacing the job previously held by ESPN International. Whether inexperience with the negotiating process played a part in the ultimate outcome is uncertain McDonald’s article also cited that IndyCar Media made no attempt to pursue other broadcast partnership options in Canada (namely with Sportsnet rival TSN).

Besides the attention of two well-known Canadian motorsport media personalities, the nature of the 2019 IndyCar broadcast agreement has become the source of content beyond our country’s border. Marshall Pruett for Racer Media & Marketing as well as a YouTuber named David Land are a few sharing the apparent nonsense of the Sportsnet/IndyCar deal with an international audience. Those commentators also brought up a relatively worse arrangement for Australia that currently contains no live race telecasts. Beside the American’s deal with NBC, the only other IndyCar media package gaining any praise is with Sky Sports F1 for the United Kingdom. The Sky Sports F1 itself is a pay-TV arrangement and it is also worth noting Sky and NBC is now both under the Comcast-NBCUniversal corporate structure.

Personally, I wonder how much a 12-year, 5.2 billion-dollar Canadian media rights deal with the NHL has encumbered Rogers Communications and Sportsnet. As much as I and many Canadians enjoy hockey, the deal seemed ridiculous even at the time of the announcement as NBC Sports negotiated a 10-year, 2.0 billion dollar agreement (in US money) for American television rights. After the 2015-2016 Stanley Cup playoffs where no Canadian clubs were featured in any games, Sportsnet slashed a large contingent of their on-air personalities as well as several employees representing behind the scenes talent for hockey broadcasts heading into the next season. A similar issue may be plaguing ESPN in the United States recalling an analysis produced by the YouTube channel called the Company Man. The video called “The Decline of ESPN” pointed at the increase costs in securing major professional sports rights as one of the contributing factor to rising cable fees and massive layoffs. The obvious concern is the financial demands from elite organizations like the NHL, NBA or NFL is leaving a lot less funds for other sports.

While Sportsnet has apparently failed the motorsport base in Canada wanting to watch events on television, some solace may be best found with signals from the United States. According to American television schedule for the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, eight races are slated to be televised on the main NBC channel with the remainder on NBCSN. I’ve prepared the following list below detailing the race events being shown on NBC that should be available on basic pay TV and perhaps over-to-air in some locations.

NBC Main Channel Broadcasts of 2019 NTT IndyCar Series

Date Event Time

May 11 Indianapolis Road Race 3 PM
May 26 Indianapolis 500 11 AM
June 1 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Race 1 3 PM
June 2 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Race 2 3 PM
June 23 REV Group Grand Prix at Road America 12 PM
July 28 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio 3 PM
Sept 1 Grand Prix of Portland 3 PM
Sept 22 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey 2:30 PM


Outside of the United States, the complexion of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series broadcast program can only be summed up with the phase “What a mess”. Instead of various interesting storylines attached to a whole new season of open wheel competition, cheering for our national motorsport athlete James Hinchcliffe or any other driver for that matter, the focus has been on how dedicated IndyCar viewer in Canada will even be able to watch this weekend’s race. Was it ignorance, incompetence, greed or the combination of all of these factors that resulted in what can be easily described as a bumbled 2019 broadcast viewing experience.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Walmart Canada Ups Order for Tesla Semi Trucks Transitioning to Cleaner Fleet

Photo Source: Walmart Canada/Tesla



Operating 410 stores and directly employing 85,000, Walmart’s presence in Canada went from virtually nothing to being one of the country’s largest, most-influential retail businesses over the course of nearly 25 years. While there are varying positive and negative views of Walmart Canada by the population in general, there is no deputing in the fact that the company is currently the go-to physical destination for Canadians. Understandably, moving goods from coast to coast requires a great deal of energy. Even if dealing with e-commerce, large quantities of items need to flow often through the use of transport trucks. Walmart Canada maintains a massive logistical network that includes 8.75 millions square feet of total distribution space. Despite importance for moving goods across Canada, the retailer is now focused in reducing the amount of energy consumed and emitted for daily distribution. In a bold 10-year plan, Walmart Canada will convert their entire vehicle fleet to operate alternative energy supplies with a soon-to-be released all-electric truck serving a major role.   

Shortly after the announcement of Tesla’s potentially game-changing Semi truck late last year, Walmart placed an order for 10 vehicles. Early this September, Walmart Canada has quadrupled their initial plans in purchasing Tesla’s soon-to-be released all-electric transport truck. Committing to 40 Tesla Semi trucks, the ultra-sleek 0.36 drag coefficient-conforming shape projects a bold, new image for Canadian roads. When the full order of Tesla Semi vehicles will be integrated into the retailer’s fleet, Walmart Canada is going to possess the one of the largest collection of electric vehicles by a company in this country.

By 2028, Walmart Canada plans to go operate a vehicle fleet on alternative energy solutions. Beyond the Tesla Semi trucks, details for the plan have not been fully revealed. In 2010, the company’s opening of its Balzac fresh food distribution centre involved a number of features focused on sustainability including hydrogen fuel cell forklifts.

The Tesla Semi is an upcoming purely electric transporter primarily boasting a useful range up to 800 kilometers. Propelled through four electric motors located at the rear axles, the Tesla Semi demonstrates impressive performance attributes that exceed those of traditional transport trucks including 0 to 100 kilometers per hour acceleration in just 25 seconds and the ability to travel more than 100 kilometers per hour on a 5 percent grade. The vehicle comes with an advanced safety suite consisting of Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning and a complement of cameras surround the vehicle.

Of the 40 Tesla Semi trucks, half of them will be based in Walmart Canada’s upcoming distribution centre in Surrey, British Columbia. The high-efficiency, high-technology location was set for construction in 2021 and is described as a zero-waste facility when it is set to open in 2022. The Tesla Semi trucks will serve an important part in the environmentally-conscious distribution centre. The remaining count of the all-electric transport truck will be deployed at Walmart Canada’s Mississauga, Ontario distribution centre around the same time period.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

First-Ever Porsche Sports Car Built Will Visit Toronto This Weekend

Photo Credit: Porsche AG


For the limited time when North American climate permits, exotic and classic pieces of motoring are given a chance for be seen as well as heard. Sadly, we’re entering into the final days of summer of 2018. It’s been another year where the bright, warm roadways have doled out some savoury automotive eye-candy that succeeds in dazzling our sights. Before shorter days and the regrettably inevitable trek towards cooler Canadian temperatures will ultimately draw those machines into hibernation or migration, a few remaining treats remain. Appearing at Vancouver’s Luxury & Supercar Weekend between September 7th and 9th, Porsche’s crown jewel 356 No.1 Roadster will continue its brief summer layover in Canada as it will arrive in Toronto this weekend.

A vital component to German sports car maker’s 70th anniversary celebrations in 2018, the Porsche 356 No.1 Roadster is scheduled to appear on September 15th and 16th at the Toronto Harbourfront. The weekend in Toronto will be the second and last Canadian stop for what is an extraordinarily important vehicle to Porsche.

The car that started a seven-decade legacy that has emerged into admiration on roadways and a dauntless spirit in motorsports, the Porsche 356 No.1 Roadster is a humble representation of what the automotive marque would become. Spawned from the idea of a Volkswagen sports car, Ferdinand Porsche and his son Ferry was the driving force of what was vehicle “Number 1" assembled in a small garage in Austria. For the elder Porsche, the car proved to be an important postwar stepping stone after years where the engineer’s contributions were towards the Germany military.

A hand-built, aluminum-bodied open-top vehicle, the 356 No.1 Roadster was constructed using many parts used on the early Volkswagen Beetle (Ferdinand Porsche’s previous engineering masterpiece) with a steering system, axles and brakes donated to the sports car. Powered by a 35-horsepower, 1.1-liter engine, the Porsche 356 No. 1 Roadster made its first public outing on February 5, 2018 with Ferry Porsche behind the wheel.


Photo Credit: Porsche AG



While wearing the 356 nameplate that ran from 1948 to 1955, the No.1 Roadster contains a number of distinguishing features. Similar to the first 52 hand-built examples of the 356 produced through a two-year period assembled in Gmund, Austria, the 365 No.1 Roadster’s aluminum body construction was a rarity as Porsche elected for steel bodies when production was relocated to Stuttgart, Germany. The Porsche 356 No.1 Roadster is also uniquely defined with a mid-mounted engine as opposed to the rear-engine 356 production cars.

As a young auto company in need of money, Porsche sold their first car last in 1948. In the hands of several private owners, Porsche 356 No.1 underwent a number of modifications that included enhancing braking system, enlarging the displacement size of the engine from 1.1-liter to 1.5-liter and reworking of the car’s original body. Porsche recovered the 356 No.1 Roadster in 1958 and is currently one of few automakers able to claim ownership of their first-ever vehicle.

One of seventeen stops on the 70 Years of Porsche Sports Cars tour, the Toronto Harbourfront appearance of the Porsche 356 No.1 Roadster comes as the sports car company touts 8,249 vehicles sold in the Canadian market for 2017.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Dodging Dodge: Is the Brand Being Buried by FCA?

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy


A little less than a month ago, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) held a Capital Markets Day function discussing plans across their entire fleet of brands. Jeep, Ram, Alfa Romeo, FIAT and Maserati all received mention through the presentation by FCA Chief Executive Officer detailing the company’s plans over a five-year time line. Expanded model lineups, electrification and an expanding autonomous driving partnership with Waymo were subjects being highlighted in the major announcement to investors and financial analysts. Receiving notably less attention through the FCA Capital Markets Day were two classic American brands. While Chrysler’s Pacifica were connected to the Waymo announcement but received little additional mention in regards to product plans for the brand as a whole. As for the Dodge brand, the entire presentation went with little acknowledgement leading to questions on the brand’s future relevance.

Since 1914, the marque existed as the legacy of the Dodge brothers. Despite passing away at a relatively young age, John and Horace Dodge made a lasting tread print on roadways, off-roading, race tracks and importantly driveways. Prior to the formation of their namesake company, the duel originally functioned as component suppliers entrusted to provide vital pieces for the early vehicles sold by American automotive pioneers Ransom E. Olds as well as Henry Ford. When the brothers set out to make their own mark inside the ultra-competitive American auto industry of the early 20th century, their success was immediate. After just its third year as an auto company, Dodge was ranked as the third highest-produced automobile manufacturer in the United States behind Ford and Willys-Overland.

Dodge Charger 100th Anniversary Model
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy


Absorbed into the Chrysler Corporation in 1928, Dodge has served as a premium car brand in the 1930s, a performance line starting in the 1950s as well as a trusted name in light-duty and even heavier duty trucking. The nameplate’s presence in both the passenger car and truck market ultimately resulted in Dodge being the workhorse brand for Chrysler Corporation from the 1960s through to the parent company’s 2009 bankruptcy. Outselling the budget-minded Plymouth in 1979 for the first time in 50 years prior, Dodge maintained a diverse vehicle range that would eventually include the Viper supercar. In 2007, the Dodge lineup consisted of 11 products (collectively recognizing the vast Ram pickup truck as a single product assortment). Today, only five vehicles make up the auto division.


Dodge Power Wagon 1
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy


Although the 2018 model year has been highlighted by two high-performance vehicles in the form of the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon and the Dodge Durango SRT, there are still some troubling details beyond the captivation of pure horsepower. A narrowing product line features aging platforms with FCA seemingly kicking the can down the road on massive upgrades. Since 2005, the Dodge Charger and Challenger have been built on a mechanical architecture derived from the LX platform. Since introduction, the two-door Challenger is officially noted as the LA while a heavy redesign of the Charger in the 2012 model year resulted in the sedan platform being renamed the LD platform. Positively though, both vehicles are some of the sharpest designs in their class thanks to several styling and technical upgrades as well as a strong initial creation based on the LX platform. In addition to the Durango sport utility vehicle built on the same underpinnings of the Jeep Grand Cherokee but uniquely featuring three-row passenger capacity, Dodge continues to sell the Grand Caravan and Journey. Both the Dodge Grand Caravan and Journey have been in the marketplace for 10 years without a major generational update.

Ranked as the 6th highest-selling automotive brand in the United States in 2009, Dodge was ranked 12th among nameplates after the 2017 calender year. Along with the before-mentioned smaller product lineup, some massive decisions made by Chrysler Group or Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in 2010 played a major role in the sales decline. Following the 2009 bankruptcy, the company chose to divide the truck and performance arm of Dodge. Dodge’s full-sized pickup truck and the Dakota mid-sized truck were integrated with the new Ram brand in 2010 becoming the exclusive supplier of pickup trucks and commercial vehicles. As the new company also received Dodge’s Ram badge, a logo incorporating dual racing stripes with the Dodge name. The SRT brand was also created as a high-performance distributor of a redesigned 2013 Viper. A short-lived experiment, SRT and the Viper would be re-integrated with Dodge in 2014. The move did insure Mopar fans the familiar Dodge nameplate would be the home for FCA’s American-style performance heading forth into upcoming years. Both occasions were sad incidences where it seemed the heart of Dodge’s heritage was ripped away.


Dodge Viper SRT
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy


Since 2009, the only completely-new product created for Dodge was a compact sedan (accepting the Viper was introduced as a SRT model that joined the division). Spawned from a modified platform first used with the Alfa Romeo Giuietta, the famed Dart name was resurrected once again to be a leading name in small cars for the 2013 model year. Despite initial hype, the Dodge Dart underperformed compared to other compact competitors in the North American marketplace. Recalling the Dodge Dart, it would be worth questioning in hindsight how much Fiat Chrysler Automobiles would want to devote efforts to one compact car when the Fiat brand intended to relaunch in North America with the modern 500 line. 

Inside the new Fiat Chrysler Automobiles family, Jeep, Ram, Alfa-Romeo, Maserati and Fiat appear to be the spoiled children. At the FCA Capital Markets Day gathering, projection charts confirm production for four of the five is expected to account for an overwhelming share of the corporation’s net revenue heading into 2022. In fact, Jeep is predicted just under half of earnings will depend on the Jeep brand. In the center of the road for providing performance cars and everyday vehicles, Dodge is fitting the role as a middle child within the corporation. Particularly with the relaunch of the Fiat and Alfa-Romeo brands back in the United States, FCA has been bumping-out vehicle types that may have been conceived for Dodge. The Fiat 124 Spider was the compact roadster Dodge fans would have wanted for so long. The Fiat 500 delivered when the long-delayed and eventually cancelled Hornet subcompact failed to materialize. While Dodge is without a compact or mid-sized sedan in 2018, the Alfa-Romeo Giulia arrived and is perhaps stealing the performance thunder away from the Charger. While the Dodge Charger has a lower starting price, the premium-oriented Giulia competes tightly with the well-equipped American-based sedan. Finally and maybe the most offensive to American high-performance fans, the Dodge Viper was retired last year with no replacement in the pipeline. However, a new version of the Alfa-Romeo 8C production supercar is slated for release within the next five years.

After the years, FCA’s position on Dodge’s product line has also been a matter of speculation and confusion. Uncertainly have surrounded the continuation of the Dodge Grand Caravan when the company decided to market their all-new Pacifica minivan under the upscale Chrysler nameplate. Massive updates to the Charger and Challenger have also been forecasted for years but ultimately end-up in cosmetic retouches and the occasional performance variant. Similar uneasiness is also plaguing the Chrysler brand. In fact, some industry insiders believed there may have been an official word by FCA that the Chrysler was going to be discontinued. While that did not happen, Chrysler still only has a full-sized sedan and minivan for the 2018 model year with no plans to expand the lineup for the immediate future.


Photo Credit: Chris Nagy



Despite Dodge’s questionable standing in FCA, there are several reasons not to discount the brand. The recent SRT models of the Charger, Challenger and Durango generated buzz pulsating at the same level as the exhaust sound pounding from their HEMI engines. Another advantage for the brand remains with the Grand Caravan. Opposing the more-advanced Chrysler Pacifica, the Dodge Grand Caravan continues to win over families heading through 2018. Thanks to a lower price point, the Grand Caravan continues to outsell the Pacifica. The Dodge Grand Caravan will endure through 2019 before a replacement vehicle is set.

There always seem to be common traits among automotive brands shortly after cancellation. The reduction of products, indecision of the brand’s identity and ultimately loss of corporate focus affected Plymouth, Oldsmobile, Saturn, Mercury and Pontiac. Forgive the thoughts that unless we see more concrete plans for the Dodge and Chrysler line from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, there will remain questions regarding the ongoing presence of both badges.