This is the Motoramic Dash, a daily roundup of the most interesting news in the automotive world
Modern-era semi haulers haven't changed much on the outside in a decade or so, aside from some aerodynamic smoothing; there's not as much payback in coming up with new truck models as there can be with making cars stylish. Yet Peterbilt has leap-frogged not just its competitors but other automakers by turning to a new source of inspiration: running a contest to envision a 21st-century long hauler with the crowd of designers who helped build the Local Motors' Rally Fighter.
As FoxCarReport notes, the contest sponsored by Peterbilt calls for designers to submit their ideas by June 26, with voting and a final winner chosen by July 23. Already the competition has spurred a range of designs from the conventional to the otherworldly, with a few cabs that look like something James Cameron might use in the next "Avatar." The design above by Clement Martineau offers several new ideas -- such as a fabric top cover that can change shape depending on whether there's a trailer attached to maximize aerodynamics. It's a bold move from a conventional industry, and one that shows there's great minds willing to share if you only ask.
Other stories from around the industry this morning:
Feds expand fire probe to 5 million Jeeps over fuel tanks: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration upgraded its long-running probe into safety questions surrounding 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees, 1993-2001 Jeep Cherokee and 2002-2007 Jeep Libertys. The crux: Whether Chrysler's decision to build the Jeeps with a plastic gas tank between the bumper and rear axle has lead to unnecessary deaths and injuries from fires; the probe includes reports of 15 deaths and 41 injuries. Chrysler contends the vehicles are safe, and that the deaths happened from crashes that no vehicle would have been able to survive. NHTSA's upgrade shows it believes the question of whether the vehicles are defective deserves close scrutiny. (Detroit News)
GM plans German plant closure, negotiates with unions: When General Motors had too much capacity in the United States, it simply shut plants down and laid off thousands of workers. In Europe, closing a plant and making layoffs requires at least four years of warning. (Financial Times)
Ford sees incentives, inventories rising in China: Meanwhile, things aren't looking so hot for automakers in China. If Europe stinks, and China starts to weaken, only North America remains as a profit center -- and the economy here isn't looking so bright, either.
App warns if child left alone in hot car: On the bright side, I'm glad someone's thinking about ways to prevent children from dying in hot cars because their parents forgot them. On the down side, no one should need an app to remember where they put their kids.
Top image: The Forge/Clement Martineau