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The Latest News And Reviews
Throughout The Car Industry

Categories: Technology

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.”

Harmon Kardon Climbing Back on Top as Car Sales Revive

On: Tue, Jun 1, 2010 at 8:56AM | By: Michael Jon Lazar

Harmon Kardon test 2

When you first step foot—or sit—inside one of the many very fine luxury cars that are out there these days, many people don’t think of the audio system that is in that car. In fact, I would be willing to bet that most people who drive these cars don’t even know that Harmon Kardon makes audio systems for some pretty fancy rides. Cars like BMWs, Audis, and Mercedes-Benz; to name a few. According to a recent report published on Barrons, “Sales of audio and other equipment to auto makers such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi account for 70% of the company's sales.”

If you could—because I know that I certainly would—would you choose to drive a luxury car? If, say, money were no object, would you desire that feature-loaded ride with a voice-activated audio system that interfaces with an MP3 transmitter to your iPod and even docks it while you drive? Or one with a touch screen Harmon Kardon GPS navigation system that will always get you where you are going safe and sound? For certain these things can be easily added to any car; you can just buy them and install them. But if you ask me, features like the Harmon Audio and GPS systems are staples that really make such luxury cars like BMWs, Audis, Mercedes-Benz, and others in the pack really stand out.

And Harmon—while showing dismal numbers recently, and falling stocks—is not going anywhere soon. Indeed, rather, it's quite the opposite. The company is on a strong track for success. And here is why.

Ford Recruits Virtual Factory Worker

On: Wed, May 26, 2010 at 5:10PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Ford Recruits Virtual Factory Worker test 1-1

Many manufacturers have implemented robotics to assist them in evaluating safe ergonomics for their employees, but Ford Motor Company has taken a step into the future as the company has recruited a virtual factory worker who can perform extraordinary feats.

He even has a name: Santos. Santos is a very unusual virtual worker in that he can decide to perform a task autonomously such as; walking, talking, and even answering questions when asked. His programming was designed to simulate the same movements and restrictions that humans encounter, and to enable the robot to record physical limits when he is working, such as how far he can reach, or how much weight he can lift, or to record when the simulated human body becomes fatigued.

Ford Has Done it All, Including A Car That Can Blog

On: Wed, May 26, 2010 at 3:47PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Ford Has Done it All, Including A Car That Can Blog test 1-1

Ford has done it again—another first for the Detroit automaker!—the first ever automobile to use social media to communicate while on the road.  Ford’s “American Journey 2.0 research project” has been successfully completed using a Fiesta that traveled from Ann Arbor, Michigan to San Mateo, California.

In partnership with the University of Michigan, Ford has developed a new computer application called “Auto”matic Blog.  The Fiesta’s is known as @AJtheFiesta and it uses the login name to tweet progress of the trip based on “vehicle telemetrics.” 

Two Ford Fiestas traveled from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor on May 13; they were linked to each other and to the global community through “Auto”matic Blog. The week-long road trip ended at Silicon Valley's annual ideas festival—the Maker Faire.

Upon the arrival of the two Fiestas, Ford announced the idea of the automobile as "a brand new technological platform for social media." "The car is the ultimate mobile device," claims Venkatesh Prasad, technical leader of the Infotronics team in Ford Research & Advanced Engineering.  "Ford has led the convergence of the auto and consumer electronics industries, and now we're researching how to responsibly and safely harness the Internet to enhance drivers' time behind the wheel."


Toyota Buys Into Tesla Motors

On: Sun, May 23, 2010 at 10:10AM | By: John Welch

Toyota Buys Into Tesla Motors test 1-1

Akio Toyoda is determined to erase Toyota's staid, Big Brotherish reputation. First mandating more passion be injected into Toyota's marginally boring line-up, now he is doing his best to instill a entrepreneurial spirit into Toyota's corporate philosophy. By dropping $50 million into Tesla Motors, Toyoda has found a use for the dormant NUMMI plant, as well as provided his company with some much needed positive motivation.

“I’ve felt an infinite possibility about Tesla’s technology,” said Toyoda, chief executive officer of Toyota, founded by his grandfather. “By partnering with Tesla, my hope is that all Toyota employees will recall that ‘venture business’ spirit.”

For Tesla, this is the second $50 million investment received in as many years. Diamler bought into Tesla in 2009, though they have reduced their stake since. The Toyota-Tesla partnership doesn’t impede Daimler’s cooperation with the California automaker, said Brigitte Bertram, a Daimler spokeswoman. Tesla is supplying Diamler with battery packs for a test fleet of electric Smart minicars.

The most important news here is the revival of the NUMMI plant in California, a joint venture between Toyota and GM for nearly 25 years. NUMMI produced the Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe twins most recently, but fell on hard times after 2008. The death of Pontiac and Toyota's moving Matrix production to Japan left NUMMI with little to do. First GM, then Toyota pulled out of the plant, leaving all of its 4,700 employees looking for work.

Though not rehiring that much man power right away, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, has a comprehensive plan for providing as many jobs as possible. Tesla has hired back about 90 former NUMMI workers and expects to add about 50 a month, Musk said. The plant’s restart “is welcome news for the state’s economy and workers after the closing of this highly productive plant,” UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said in a statement.

Toyota plans to use Tesla's technology to produce short-range plug-in Hybrids, similar to the Chevrolet Volt. The first plug-in Prius should turn a wheel in the fall of 2012.

Bon Voyage, Atlantis

On: Fri, May 14, 2010 at 4:17PM | By: John Welch

Bon Voyage, Atlantis test 1-1

Though not necessarily a car, the space shuttle Atlantis is still hella-rad. Atlantis is capable of speeds up to 2,500 mile per hour and turns faces inside-out at nearly 5-g on lift off. Top Fuel dragsters cower before the awesomeness that is Atlantis. Today, unfortunately, after 31 successful missions, Atlantis blasted the Kennedy Space Center tarmac for the last time. At 2:20 p.m EST the mighty Shuttle took off with no immediate issues and a 12-day space station assembly mission ahead of it. God speed, Atlantis, The AutoShopper wishes you and your crew—Navy Capt. Kenneth T. Ham, Navy Cmdr. Dominic A. Antonelli, Colonel (USAF, Ret.) Michael T. Good, Garret E. Reisman, Navy Capt. Stephen G. Bowen, and Piers J. Sellers, a British-born astronaut, a safe return to earth.

Auto Shopper - Storage Closet Time Machine

On: Thu, May 13, 2010 at 10:52AM | By: Clay Ritchings

Logitech Photoman our First Digital Camera test 2

It’s spring and, like most of us, I was doing a little cleaning around my office and decided to include a closet that was so accurately named “The Boulevard Of Broken Dreams”. The closet looks like something straight out of the TV show “Hoarders”. Boxes of parts from computers that can never be used again—old printers that we will never use—boxes of old cables that are so tangled that it would take hours to get one out. While digging I came across the first digital camera that we used here at Auto Shopper—The “Logitech Photoman”. The camera had its problems—like the exclusion of a removable storage disk. All the photos were stored in the camera’s internal memory, so if the battery died you lost all your photos. Even though this camera did not work for us, it was an important step in getting our feet wet in the digital darkroom age. Until that point we had to staff a full-blown darkroom to process the 250+ rolls of film generated by our sales staff every week. Thankfully we had a large processor that would do the grunt work of film developing—that was no picnic, but a vast improvement from when we used to process the film in the bathtub at someone’s home.

Prescription For Disaster

On: Tue, May 11, 2010 at 9:58AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Prescription For Disaster test 1-1

A scenario I would like to pose to you:

Say you haven’t been feeling well lately and decide to make an appointment with whichever local physician currently accepts your insurance. You walk in, and see all the doctor’s giant-sized degrees nailed to the wall in all of their monumental, well-earned pride.  Then you proceed to give all your information to the medical assistant and explain what the problem is. After she leaves, you find yourself waiting a little longer than you are comfortable with. You might even start to go so far as to wondering if the doctor has gone home for the day. Several seconds after you complete that thought, he walks in with a brilliant smile and makes you feel right at home… and terrible for getting angry with him.

He asks you very pointed questions, and you give him the best descriptions of the pain you’ve been suffering from. He then asks you to pull up your sleeve so he can check your blood pressure. He starts to pump, and after a couple awkward squeezes, can’t quite get the nozzle open quickly enough and has to start over. Then, he tries again, and this time says he lost count of your heartbeat. After half a dozen more tries, he laughs and says that was the one part of medical school he just could never get quite right. So he brings in a machine that will take it instead. It doesn’t actually make your visit any faster, and, in fact, takes longer because he has to engage the machine, but he assures you that the machine is much more efficient than he is anyway, so no big deal. At this point you might start feeling a little uneasy about what those big paper documents on the wall represent .

What does this scenario have to do with an automotive blog post? Please allow me to explain. Much the same as that medical degree your doctor has, your driver’s license signifies a few things to the world. It says you can legally operate a two-on piece of machinery at potentially fatal speeds with no problem. It says you can read and understand all of the signs and signals on the road and follow their instructions. At its most basic, your license to drive says you passed a test at the local DMV and maaaaybe failed one aspect of the test.  More than likely, as is the case with most people that fail something, it was parallel parking. But hey, it’s allowed right? Eventually you’ll get it, won’t you? Well, maybe not.

Volkswagen Will Launch New Plug-In

On: Fri, May 7, 2010 at 10:33AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Volkswagen Will Launch New Plug-In test 1-1

In keeping with German government’s goal to produce 1 million electric vehicles by the year 2020, Volkswagen approved a new plug-in electric version of the Golf Hatchback, scheduled to go on sale in the United States in 2013. The new Golf Blue E-Motion EV will join the future launch of the electric Jetta, Passat, and the Up Blue E-Motion electric city car. The Golf Blue E-Motion will be the higher-end electric vehicle, weighing in at a little over 3,400 lbs (600 lbs heavier than the current model Golf 1.6 TDI Blue Motion). 

When It Comes To Future Cars, Lighter Is Better

On: Thu, Apr 29, 2010 at 5:22PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

When It Comes To Future Cars, Lighter Is Better test 1-1

One of the major ways to save on gas is to shed the weight in an automobile. The less weight there is to carry around, the less energy is needed to do the hauling. Over the years as the automobile has evolved, the average weight has increased, not only to provide more space and comfort, but also to help to increase safety ratings in crash tests.

The Fisker Karma Goes on Retail Tour

On: Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 5:10PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

The Fisker Karma Goes on Retail Tour  test 1-1

Fisker is an ambitious new automaker we have been hearing a lot about in car news today; he plans to launch the first luxury high-performance, electric plug-in hybrid, known as the “Karma”.

Henrik Fisker has a long track record of designing first class automobiles, including some of the most desirable cars ever made, such as the BMW Z8, Aston Martin DB9 (both featured in James Bond movies), and more.