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Throughout The Car Industry



Categories: Technology

Substandard Features

On: Tue, Jun 22, 2010 at 10:38AM | By: Lou Ruggieri


Substandard Features test 1-1

One of the theories that physicists tell us about the universe is that it is a constant cycle of expansion and contraction. The red tint that glows around distant stars is empirical evidence that those celestial bodies are, in fact, headed far off into uncharted space. Those same scientists tell us that one day the expansion will cease and that the light around those stars will begin to have a blue tint to it, indicating that the universe is heading back inward, and that the contraction has begun.  

It seems that the financial cycles of the United States are not much different from the cycles of the universe. The Roaring 20s were a time of great celebration and expansion, while the 30s brought on the biggest contraction in US history, only to be followed by he booming expansion of WWII. This cycle of cycles has continued until the market crash of 2008 signaled the beginning of another contraction. As we’ve seen, major car manufacturers are not immune to the ways of the universe, with two of the big three needing bailouts from the federal government. Although those debts are all but paid off, it does not mean that the automotive industry is out of hot water by any means. Perhaps instead of fighting the Big Crunch, as it’s called in the scientific world (the antithesis of the Big Bang), car makers and consumers should start to change their attitudes towards embracing the coming contraction. How so?  Well, it seems that in times of crisis, all but the very essentials are deemed unnecessary. The superfluous extras that are expendable are well, expunged, and the bare necessities rise from sub-standard to the standard.  

In a country where people are losing their houses, jobs, and shirts at an alarming rate, a quality car is almost a luxury. But the fact of the matter is people like owning new cars. So how can car manufacturers find an acceptable compromise between the need or want for a new car and that fact that many people have had to make concessions and work jobs that will earn them less compensation? Easy, change the standard!  

For the last twenty years or so, car companies have competed with each other on the premise that more is more. More gadgets, more gizmos, more ‘packages’, more paint schemes, and more gimmicks will lure the potential buyer to their product. Anyone remember the Wide Track Grand Prix? How about the ‘Cab Forward’ Dodge Intrepid? Or maybe even more gimmicky ads like the Dodge Neon that always said, “Hi!” Or perhaps you remember Cadillac Catera: “The Caddy that zigs!” These were all goofy marketing ploys to suggest that those cars were different or better, when in reality they were just average cars with nothing all that special about them. But up until the late 20th century, options like power steering and power brakes were just that—options. Maybe it’s time to stop trying to push onward, and understand that car manufacturing, and the country, may have to take a step or two backwards before it can move forward. 


Never Change Your Vehicle's Oil Again?

On: Wed, Jun 16, 2010 at 3:28PM | By: Sherry Christiansen


Never Change Your Vehicle's Oil Again? test 1-1

What if a product existed that would enable motorists to never have to change their car’s oil again? The dutiful task that every car owner knows he/she has to perform every 3,000 miles. Imagine the amount of time, money, and resources that could be saved!

Believe it or not, such a product does exist, and not only does it prevent your car from needing its oil changed, it also increases fuel economy. The product is called an “Oil Refiner” and it has been around since 1977. For decades the specialized oil filter was used mostly on huge commercial ships, but it can now be utilized in cars, trucks, vans—literally just about any type of combustion engine that uses oil.


Five Ford Vehicles Named IIHS Top Safety Picks

On: Mon, Jun 14, 2010 at 2:32PM | By: John Welch


Five Ford Vehicles Named IIHS Top Safety Picks test 1-1

Ford just keeps on keepin' on, spewing good news from every pore. Today it was announced that five Ford models have earned a five-star rating for 2011 from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Ford now has eleven Top Safety Picks for 2011 models, more than any other manufacturer. The 2010 Ford Flex and Fusion, Lincoln MKZ and MKT, and Mercury Milan are the latest Ford models to be scrutinized. Due to extensive use of high-strength steel, all five models passed the IIHS tests with flying colors.

“Leading the industry in both Top Safety Pick ratings and government five-star crash test ratings is very significant because customers increasingly consider IIHS and NHTSA ratings when choosing a new vehicle,” said Sue Cischke, Ford’s Group Vice President of Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering. “These latest test results further demonstrate Ford’s commitment to continuous improvement on the safety front.”


Denso Becomes Number One Light-Duty Auto Supplier Worldwide

On: Mon, Jun 14, 2010 at 11:26AM | By: John Welch


Denso Becomes Number One Light-Duty Auto Supplier Worldwide test 1-1

Most Americans recognize Denso as a spark-plug manufacturer. Spark plugs that are expensive, but throw solid spark for millenia. Bosch, on the other hand, Americans are a little more familiar with. While also manufacturing spark plugs, we have seen their wiper blades and wastegates and electronic compnents for years. Denso Corp. does everything Bosch GmbH does and, if sales numbers count for anything,  they do these things better then Bosch. In 2009, Bosch's global sales to automakers fell 24 percent to $25.62 billion. Denso's fiscal-year sales rose 3 percent to $28.73 billion. Boo-yah, game, set, match.

Not so fast! What about the wacky Japanese April-March fiscal year? Huh? Under this thoroughly convienient fiscal time table, sales figures exclude the depressed first three months of 2009 and include the early 2010 rebound. Bosch contends that if it were operating on the same namby-pamby fiscal year it would have posted sales of $28.80 billion, beating Denso's $28.73 billion.

This situation gets even murkier. Toyota owns 23 percent of Denso, but arch-rival Bosch owns 5 percent! They manufacter similar products, as well. To go with spark-plugs, Denso makes fuel systems, radiators, air conditioners, and electronics. Bosch also produces electronics, brakes, chassis systems, motors, navigation systems, and other parts. Denso has been number two in sales behind Bosch for the last four years.

Denso Corp. isn't confused about its standing in the supplier market. "There are still some very, very strong competitors out there, and they're going to come back," says Terry Helgesen, senior vice president for sales and marketing at Denso International America Inc. "We've been fortunate to have a broad customer base and a broad product portfolio."

Suppliers provided most of the data for the ranking. Some companies' sales were estimated. The numbers do not include non-automotive, aftermarket, or heavy-duty truck sales. Sales are in dollars, translated when necessary from other currencies.


 

UPDATE: 24 Hueres Du Mans; Race Day!

On: Sat, Jun 12, 2010 at 9:36AM | By: John Welch


Audi R15 Plus test 2

The cars are waiting on the grid, the drivers anxiously pulling on their gloves and HANS device. I've got my pound of coffee, two laptops and a clear schedule. We will be updating the 24 Hours of Le Mans all day, but first a few dramatic happenings before the race has even begun.

The GT2 pole went to Risi Competitzione and Ferrari after qualifying, but it was stripped from the team after post-qualifying tech inspection. The rear wing on the Risi F430 GTE was found to be an inch to short. This infraction cost the American team the pole and possibly the race; they will now start from the very rear of the field. Crushing disappointment for Risi, the Ferrari teams penalty was Corvette Racing's gain. Having qualified second and third, Le Mans now has an all Corvette front-row in GT2. Another interesting note, both GT2 Corvettes qualified in front of several GT1 cars.

The Audi R15's are struggling for pace. Out qualified by all of the Peugeot 908's, the Audis need to hustle at the beginning of the race just to keep it interesting. Both diesel teams are light years faster then gasoline-engined car LMP's, but the Peugoet is one order faster then the Audi. Lack of testing due to economic kafuffles has seriously affected Audi's ability to stay ahead of their competition. The economic climate favors the older and better-sorted 908, rendering the R15 Plus's potential technological advantage moot.

The race is underway, and Allan McNish is ramming his R15 right up the ORECA Peugeot’s arsche. This apparent recklessness is classic McNish, driving the first lap of a 24-hour race as if it were the last lap. Updates throughout the day . . .


Saab To Use BMW Powertrains?

On: Fri, Jun 11, 2010 at 4:38PM | By: John Welch


Victor Muller test 2

The Saab 9-2 rumor mill is just getting ramped-up, and, naturally, the parties involved have "no comment". Word is, Victor Muller, chief executive of Spyker, and Chairman of Saab, says talks with larger companies regarding the Saab 9-2 power train are well underway. One of those companies just happens to be BMW, again, according to rumors.

Both Muller and BMW were quick to deny the reports, a BMW spokesman having this to say: "We are in talks with several interested parties who have interest in our technology, but there are no contracts with Saab at the moment." A spokesman at Saab said the carmaker was looking for "possible partners" but also declined to comment on the report. A Mini-powered 9-2 would be interesting, but would it relegate the car to front-wheel drive? Would that ruin the spirit of the 9-2? I mean, the BMW four banger they're referring to isn't even a 2-stroke . . . isn't that heresy enough?

Saab has other concerns as well. "We are concentrating on the 9-5 and the 9-4X," Eric Geers, a company spokesperson, said. "A smaller Saab below the 9-3 is not in our business plan though it would be on our wish list." Another possible BMW/Saab tie-up in the near future: BMW supply the requisite diesel engines the GM-sourced 9-4x will need to be competitive in Europe. Dagens Industri (a European ‘trade’ publication) reported on Friday that there were also plans for BMW to supply a diesel engine for Saab's 9-4X, which will be launched in the European market at the start of 2011.

Victor Muller is serious about saving Saab. He plans to double Saab's annual yearly output, to 85,000 by 2012. The addition of the 9-5 and 9-4x will help, but a large-volume small car would affect Saab's bottom line significantly. More on the 9-2 as details become available . ..


24 Heures Du Mans; The 'Shopper Preview - GT

On: Fri, Jun 11, 2010 at 11:38AM | By: John Welch


24 Heures Du Mans; The 'Shopper Preview - GT test 1-1

Zany mix-ups are always good for a laugh. Sometime around 2007, the entire world stopped caring about GT1 cars. Saleen, Maserati, even Aston Martin quit backing factory teams, and the mighty Corvette C6.R's were left to race each other. This whole "no competition" thing bored the hell out of CorvetteRacing, and they did what any self-respecting group of total-badasses would do: went andfound competition. With the American squad changing classes to GT2, that left no teams building or campaigning GT1 cars. It had become too expensive, too fast, too antiquated. GT1 was no longer relatable by 2009, the underbody aero-dynamics and carbon brakes just too costly for privateer teams. What to do, what to do . . .

Along came French driver Stephan Ratel, with is slicky-boy hair and his radical plans for molding GT1 into a relevant, global racing series. We will get further into the FIA GT1 World Championship and it's spectacular website later; all we need to know at the moment is that Ratel's plan would essentially create bigger GT2 cars. The under floor diffusers and carbon brakes would be shelved (just like a GT2 car,) and weight added to each car. Some of these new GT1 machines are specially built based on the rules, the Nissan GT-R's for instance, and some competitors are 'grandfathered' in. Start with a GT1 C6.R, take away all of it's aero-tricks, throw a sandbag or two in the trunk, and voila- new GT1 car. It could be argued that "New GT1 Car" stands for "Porky GT2 Car" and that the two classes being so closely matched should add up to some freaking amazing racing. It could also lead to some horrifying wrecks, as there are 8 cars entered in GT1 and an unprecedented 17 entries in GT2. Jeebus, that’s a lotta GT cars! Traveling at the same speeds! For 24 hours! 

We've got hard numbers inside the post. Qualifying times for all 26 GT entries, and possibly an image or two . . .


Chrysler Will Build New Fuel Efficient 8 Speed Transmission

On: Thu, Jun 10, 2010 at 5:37PM | By: Sherry Christiansen


Chrysler Will Build New Fuel Efficient 8 Speed Transmission test 1-1

As many automotive companies prepare for future government regulations regarding minimum fuel consumption by designing more fuel efficient vehicles, the Chrysler Group plans to spend $300 million to install special equipment in order to build a new eight-speed automatic transmission that will improve fuel economy by up to 25%.

The transmission is licensed by a company called ZF Group, located in Friedrichshafen, Germany.

Chrysler announced this week that producing the transmissions in-house will help the company retain over 1,200 jobs at Chrysler’s Kokomo Casting Plant located in Indiana. Official production is scheduled to begin in 2013.

In the meantime, while waiting for future production to ramp up in Kokomo, Chrysler will import transmissions directly from the German manufacturer.

The new transmission is projected to improve gas mileage by 25% by the year 2014, according to spokesperson, Paolo Ferrero, Chrysler senior vice president of powertrain. Chrysler has not yet announced for sure which models the new transmissions would be produced for, but it already exists in some BMW models; in fact, the technology for the ZF six-speed transmission initially made its debut in the BMW Gran Turismo and BMW 760Li.


Ford and GM Partner With Google

On: Wed, Jun 9, 2010 at 9:52AM | By: Sherry Christiansen


Chevy Volt Mobile App test 2

Google has become such a big name that it is now being integrated into automotive technology in many of Detroit’s Big Three vehicles. It was announced today that Google Maps will soon be incorporated into GM’s OnStar eNav technology.

Ford has also made a similar decision, today, to assimilate Google Maps into its Sync system which is similar to OnStar and includes: hands-free calling, turn-by-turn directions, 911 assist, traffic alerts, audible text messages, and now the ability to incorporate Google Maps.  In fact, the major difference between OnStar’s telematics system and Ford’s Sync technology is that Onstar has its own communications equipment and Ford’s system is linked through cell phones.


Panoz Unveils Abruzzi; So Wild It's Nearly Pornographic

On: Tue, Jun 8, 2010 at 11:46AM | By: John Welch


Panoz Unveils Abruzzi; So Wild It's Nearly Pornographic test 1-1

The Internet has a funny way of taking rumors and running with them. Like scissors. The Panoz Abruzzi is the source of a few rumors, and the Internet has sensationalized every aspect of the new Panoz supercar in any way it could.

"2,300 brake horse pressures!"

"Carbon-Kevlar dead-pedal and a licorice dispenser on the ceiling!"

"The nose doubles as a sweet three-blade razor! Lifts and cuts!"

On top of these ridiculous claims, the Internet has provided us with several concept drawings that were far from accurate. What I find hilarious about this is that the actual car is more outrageous than any of these fake Panoz drawings depict. I mean, geezus, this car is front-engined?! Where, exactly, does the engine go?! Not being manufactured by some elves in an Alpine cave somewhere, the Panoz Abruzzi has a lineage that helps us ease past the slightly Sci-Fi aerodynamic treatment. This is a real car, screwed together well, and the badge on its hood has the racing credentials to give it more cachet than, say, a Gumpert Apollo . . . which is built by some elves in some Alpine cave somewhere . . .


Detroit Gets New Plant for Making Jeep Suspensions

On: Mon, Jun 7, 2010 at 9:49AM | By: Michael Jon Lazar


Jeep Grand Cherokee test 2

Hyundai Mobis has announced that they are taking over a parts manufacturing plant in Detroit to build suspensions for the very popular car line of Jeep Grand Cherokees, which are assembled currently at the Chrysler Group’s Jefferson North assembly plant. The plant will be manufacturing the front and the rear suspensions and modules for all new Grand Cherokees that will be made in the US over the years to come. The UAW (United Auto Workers Union) executive vice president, Bob King, is simply ecstatic about more jobs coming back to a city that has been plagued by the shuttering of plants since the Big Three automaker fallout and car buying recession began a few years back.

He was quoted in a recent interview in Auto News, stating, “When you do it in an urban environment, we really appreciate that social commitment.” By urban environment, King is truly emphasizing that this will put some life back into the city which currently sprawls with empty auto plants that used to crank out thousands of cars per day. But after the calamity of the auto recession struck, it has been nearly turned into a car-making ghost town.

According to the report by Auto News, “The factory, which received $23 million in new investment, will add a second shift in July, Joon-hyung Lee, COO in charge of Hyundai Mobis’ global business division, said during ceremonies at the plant.”

Hyundai Mobis, the Korean supplier of the parts that will be used to make these suspension modules, has recently taken over the plant. This was after the departure of ArvinMeritor Inc.; the company has ceased production of lightweight vehicles and no longer requires the use of the plant for producing parts. This takeover is expected to start immediately—as Hyundai Mobis plans on adding shifts and hiring new employees starting in July of this year.

The company has no looming financial woes either, and this is great news for Detroit—a city that was once the auto-making capital of the US and the world.

The report by Auto News really shows the real numbers on how large the part maker is: “Hyundai Mobis ranks No. 20 on the Automotive News list of the top 150 suppliers to North America with parts sales to automakers in North America of an estimated $1.44 billion in fiscal 2009.”