Thursday, September 29, 2011

Consumer Reports give Chrysler 300C thumbs up

 Consumer Reports has guve te 2011 version of Chrysler 300C  an "Excellent" overall road test score of 80 in in a new test tests of four upscale sedans, including three from Japan and South Korea. The 2011Chryser 300C scored  64 points better than a for the previous model tested by CR  "The 300C now ranks midpack among the 10 upscale sedans that have been tested by CR. Previously, it had been near the bottom of the pack," the magazine said. It's unusual to see a redesigned model rise so far in Consumer Reports' ratings. CR's engineers and editors called the new 300 "the best Chrysler sedan we've seen in decades."
"The 300C's quick, muscular 5.7-liter V8 engine is now complemented by responsive handling and a more comfortable ride," said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center in East Haddam, CT. "And, thanks to a major upgrade, its roomy interior is now quieter, more luxurious, and has improved visibility."
  Consumer Reports said latest test group included the Hyundai Genesis, Toyota Avalon, and Acura TL. The Hyundai Genesis has topped CR's ratings of upscale sedans since 2009 and received an Excellent road test score of 92. The Genesis received a mild freshening for 2012, giving it a softer, more comfortable ride; a stronger direct injected V6; and a more fuel-efficient eight-speed automatic transmission, which helped to improve overall gas mileage by 1 mpg. Also receiving Excellent overall scores were the freshened Toyota Avalon and Acura TL, CR reported.  By Joseph Szczesny

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

BorgWarner provides compnents for Hyundai-Kia 8-speed

   Hyundai-Kia have turned to Auburn Hills-based BorgWarner to supply transmission components, including friction plates and roller one-way clutches, a  new 8-speed automatic rear-wheel drive transmission. Designed and assembled by Hyundai Powertech, the company’s performance and R&D group, the new high-performance transmission features a multi-step design with a wide gear span. The transmission will drive the recently launched 4.6-liter Hyundai Equus, Hyundai Genesis and Kia Mohave as well as the 3.8-liter Hyundai Genesis for the domestic Korean market.
“BorgWarner is pleased to produce components locally for this new transmission,” said Robin Kendrick, President and General Manager, BorgWarner Transmission Systems. “We look forward to continuing our 20-year relationship with Hyundai and Kia and supporting their success as major global automotive manufacturers." Kendrick said the BorgWarner friction systems are designed to provide industry-leading friction and efficiency characteristics for a wide range of clutch applications, including the most demanding, high-energy applications. BorgWarner one-way clutch systems provide superior engagement performance and very high efficiency. By Joseph Szczesny

Monday, September 26, 2011

Frankfurt auto show ends on a high note

 The global economy may be in  turmoil but the global auto industry continues to show signs of life. Attendance at the  huge Frankfurt Auto Show, which is held every other year,  climbed 10 percent, acccording to the shows organizers, indicating the enthusiasm for new vehicles is still very much alive in Germany, the largest market for new vehicles in Europe.  Strong attendance at auto shows is considered a good indicator of future sales and the attendance in Frankfurt suggested sales of new vehicles will remain stable despite the continuing controversy over Europe's banks,  soverign debt and the Euro.  The Frankfurt show not only attracts visitors from Germany but also Western and Central Europe. Organizers said the 64th IAA Cars gathered speed once again on the home straight as visitor interest climbed over the last weekend.  The show, which describes its self as the world's "most important mobility trade fair"  opened on 15 September and closes its gates at 7.00 pm on 25 September counted  928,000 visitors, organizers reported. "This stream of visitors demonstrates that for many people the fascination exerted by cars continues unabated" noted Matthias Wissmann, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry in a statement, summing up the show. The Frankfurt show was highlighted by the unveiling of a series of new concept vehicles not only by German and European carmakers but also by General Motors and its Opel subsidiary  and by Ford Motor Co., which used the show to unveil an important design study. By Joseph Szczesny

Friday, September 23, 2011

S&P re-affirms positive out look on new GM shares

 Investors shouldn't avoid General Motors Stock because of the weak economy, according to Standard & Poors. "With increases in U.S. and global economic concerns and pressures, we cut our (earnings per share)  forecast and target price. While we still see higher sales and profits, we see risk to volume growth rates and margins in various key markets. We lower our '11 EPS estimate 23 cent  to $4.43 and '12's by 56  cents to $4.58. Based on peer and historical P/E analysis, we reduce our target price by $6 to $34. Still, we see GM poised to take advantage of rising global vehicle demand. We project free cash flow in excess of $15B for '11 and '12 combined, and view GM's stock valuation as compelling," Efraim Levy, the Auto manufacturers & Parts Analyst for Standard & Poor's Equity Research said in a new note to investors. By Joseph Szczesny

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

GM inks pact to develop EVs in China

 General Motors and its Chinese partner, SAIC Motor Corp,Ltd. have signed an agreement  for the co-development of a new electric vehicle architecture in China. 
 The Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center  – SAIC and GM’s engineering and design joint venture in Shanghai – will serve as the development center for the architecture. Joint teams from the parent companies will also cooperate on the development of key components and vehicle structures.
 The agreement will utilize SAIC’s market knowledge and local expertise along with the expertise in electric vehicle GM has developed over the past two decades. It ensures local input in the development of electric vehicle technology and the delivery of products developed in China, GM and its Chinese partner said in a joint statement that followed a meeting of GM's board of directors in Shanghai. It was the first time ever GM's board had met outside the United States.
 Chen Hong, SAIC president, said, “Our agreement will enable SAIC and GM to take advantage of economies of scale and get new technology to the market faster than by going it alone. It will help bring about our goal of leading the automotive industry in new energy vehicles and our vision of sustainable transportation, which we introduced at World Expo 2010 Shanghai,” he said.
 The Chinese government has backed up from some of its earlier promises to develop a broad electric vehicle industry but the municipal government, SAIC's principal owner, remains one of the leading advocates of EVs in China because of the pollution in the heavily congested Shanghai area where traffic jams are now common.
 SAIC also has been pushing GM to turn over more of the intellectual property involved in the development not only of the Chevrolet Volt, which goes on sales in China this fall, but other EV developments. The  electric vehicle architecture will be the first to be co-developed by the two companies. Under the agreement, teams of SAIC, GM and PATAC engineers will work together to develop key components, as well as vehicle structures and architectures. Vehicles resulting from the partnership will be sold in China under Shanghai GM and SAIC brands. SAIC and GM will also use the architecture to build electric vehicles around the globe for their own purposes. Product details and timing will be announced at a later date.
 SAIC and GM are partners in a total of 10 joint ventures in China, which are engaged in vehicle and powertrain manufacturing, sales and aftersales, automotive engineering and design, automotive finance and telematics, and the sale of used vehicles. The companies’ manufacturing joint ventures, Shanghai GM and SAIC-GM-Wuling, are market leaders in China. In addition, SAIC and GM operate a joint venture in India and SAIC is an investor in GM Korea Co.
GM's directors were also given an overview of GMIO and GM China as well as  an introduction to SAIC-GM-Wuling’s lineup of models, including the new Baojun 630, which recently went on sale in China and is targeted at customers outside of coastal China The board also visited Shanghai GM, where members participated in the celebration of the production of the joint venture’s 5-millionth vehicle. Shanghai GM, which produced its first vehicle on Dec. 17, 1998, reached the milestone earlier than any other automaker in China. 
 Another joint venture, Shanghai OnStar Telematics Co., Ltd., has opened its second call center in the city of Xiamen last week underscoring that China is among the fastest-growing telematics markets in the world. The OnStar Xiamen Call Center currently has 200 advisors but capacity for an additional 750 more as customer demand increases. Shanghai OnStar, officially established only two years ago already has nearly 370,000 active customers in China. It achieved a milestone in May when it answered 1 million calls in a single month for the first time.. By Joseph Szczesny 

Monday, September 19, 2011

'69 Camaro crowned favorite Chevy

The 1969 Camaro was selected as the favorite Chevrolet of all time in voting arranged as part of Chevrolet Centennial celebration. The 1969 Camaro garnered 25,058 of the 124,368 votes cast, edging out the 1970 Chevelle SS in the fourth and final round of voting for the contes.
Tom Peters, Chevrolet Design director,  said he believes the ’69 Camaro is not only one of the best vehicles in Chevrolet’s history but one of the best vehicles ever.
“I can vividly remember seeing one for the first time as a kid,” Peters said. “The intent of the Camaro was instantly understood, even to a 14-year old like me, because it possessed a very powerful personality and an elegant, simple design. The Camaro was so cool because it offered this great style, high performance, and yet was attainable for someone just getting out of school.
“Today, the ’69 Camaro has become one of the best examples of timeless design in the industry,” Peters said. “Like the very best designs, the Camaro is much more than just a machine because it evokes powerful emotions in people of all ages. That’s why we looked to the ’69 for inspiration when designing the fifth-generation Camaro, and why the ’69 Camaro is an example of the timeless vehicles Chevrolet will strive to deliver for the next 100 years,” Peters said. By Joseph Szczesny

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Orion-built Chevy Sonic to get 40 mpg on highway

 General Motors is sayng the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic with the Ecotec 1.4L turbo, which is being built at the company's assembly plant in Orion Township,  delivers an EPA-estimated 40 mpg on the highway with a six-speed manual transmission. The Sonic's city fuel economy is 29 miles  per gallon. The Sonic's highway fuel economy makes it one of the most fuel-efficient small cars in the market, on par with the 2012 Ford Fiesta SFE and the 2012 Hyundai Accent. Along with getting 40 mpg, the 1.4L turbo Sonic can reach 60 mph in 8.2 seconds, according to Joaquin Nuno-Whelan, Sonic vehicle line director and vehicle chief engineer.
"Sonic changes the sub-compact stereotype and puts an end to the term 'econobox,'" said  Nuno-Whelan,  "The 1.4L turbo saves money at the gas pump and is a ridiculously fun car to drive. So, our buyers are getting a safe, exciting and fuel efficient car at a great price with the 1.4L turbo." The Sonic is the only sub-compact car currently built in America. 
The 2012 Sonic, which has two more air bags than its subcompact competitors, also was  named a "Top Safety Pick" by the influential Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Sonic achieved “good” scores in all four types of tests performed, including frontal offset and side impact. It also has standard StabiliTrak electronic stability control, which the institute requires of all vehicles receiving a Top Safety Pick designation.The IIHS tests vehicles to determine how well they protect occupants in front and side crash tests, in rollovers via a roof strength test, and in simulated rear impacts to evaluate seat and head restraints for protection against neck injuries.

"Only vehicles that perform with the highest level of safety in their class earn the Institute's top accolade," said IIHS President Adrian Lund. In addition, the Orion Plant also was recently featured on the CBS News as a place where jobs were being created in the United States. UAW/GM ORION ASSEMBLY

By Joseph Szczesny

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Toyota taps Wayne State for research project

Two Wayne State University research groups have been tapped by Toyota to work on projects aimed at improving automotive safety. WSU is one of six universities selected by  Toyota Technical Center, a division of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America work on projects for TEMA's safety research center -- the Collaborative Safety Research Center. 
The CSRC was established in 2010 to support  research focused on increasing the safety of vehicles, drivers, passengers and pedestrians. Over the next five years, the CSRC expects to invest  $50 million to improve vehicle safety. A significant focus will be on reducing the risk of driver distraction and better protecting the most vulnerable traffic populations, including children, teens, seniors and pedestrians.
Of the 10 projects announced by Toyota, WSU will take the lead on two projects. The first, led by Richard Young, Ph.D., research professor of psychiatry in WSU's School of Medicine, and Li Hsieh, Ph.D., associate professor of communication sciences and disorders in WSU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will focus on in-depth research and analysis of a driver's cognitive interaction with in-vehicle technologies. The second, led by King-Hay Yang, Ph.D., director of the Bioengineering Center and professor of biomedical and mechanical engineering in WSU's College of Engineering along with Haojie Mao, Ph.D and Xin Jin Ph.D., post-doc fellows in WSU's Department of Biomedical Engineering, will develop software models of a 10-year-old child and an elderly female human body for crash simulation purposes.
Young and Hsieh will be applying cognition models to traffic safety and driving issues -- a process often used in psychology and cognitive neuroscience areas, but infrequently used in traffic safety and driving issues such as distracted driving.  This project will create a cognitive attention model of driver performance to improve the understanding of driver inattentiveness and distraction. The study will advance the auto industry's understanding of a phenomenon that has been widely blamed for many accidents and injuries on U.S. roads and highways.
Yang and his team of researchers have been developing computerized models of the effects of car crashes on the bodies of young chldren. By Joseph Szczesny

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Chrysler Super Bowl ad gets another award

 Chrysler television spot for the 2011 Super Bowl has earned another major award.
The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences awarded an Emmy to the Chrysler brand’s  "Born of Fire" commercial featuring Detroit recording star Eminem and his song "Lose Yourself."  The 2010-2011 Creative Arts Primetime Emmy Awards awards program took place on  Sept 10 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. “The Chrysler Brand is thrilled to win a Creative Arts Emmy Award for our Super Bowl commercial, ‘Born of Fire,’” said Olivier Francois, Chief Marketing Officer, Chrysler Group LLC. “Born of Fire was more than a commercial about the Chrysler 200, it was our anthem and signified the return of the Chrysler Brand and our Company. We are honored to be given this award and would like to share it with the wonderful people of Detroit who served as our inspiration and, of course, the hard-working employees of Chrysler Group LLC.”
After its debut at the Super Bow. Born of Fire wasa cut into  two-minute commercial,  reflects where the brand is headed and pays tribute to its industrial roots. While the commercial focused on Detroit, in many ways, it encapsulated the spirit of the country and the comeback of the Chrysler brand and Chrysler Group, he said.
The Chrysler brand chose internationally known Detroiter, Eminem and his song “Lose Yourself” because the lyrics speak to the ability to do anything we set our mind to and that failure is not an option. The Chrysler brand, the company and its employees have adopted the principle that failure is not an option.  The Born of Fire also revealed the tagline for the brand, “Imported from Detroit,”  By Joseph Szczesny

Friday, September 9, 2011

BMW signs sponsorship deal with Big Ten conference

 The Big Ten Conference is the pride of the Midwest. But money is money, especially in college football these days and the Big Ten has bypassed the Midwest's domestic auto industry, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler,  to sign a sponsorship deal with BMW of North America. The German-made BMW's have been designated the “official luxury automobile” of the oldest Division I college conference in the United States.  The agreement will run for the duration of the 2011-2012 sports seasons covering football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball and Olympic sports programs, according to the BMW, which also happens to be the official sponsor of next year’s Olympic Games In London.
As part of the program, BMW will create vehicle displays at select events and establish a “Preferred Parking Promotion” for BMW owners, providing reserved parking access for several Big Ten events including the football championship game and men’s basketball tournament.
“The Big Ten is a great conference and home to some of the country’s top universities,” said David Lee, Sales and Marketing Manager, Central Region, BMW of North America.  “Big Ten schools pride themselves on academic excellence and we look forward to working together to make this partnership a success.”
BMW signage and messaging will also be featured at Big Ten arenas, in scoreboard promotions during live events including the football championship game, both men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and the baseball tournament and in commercial spots during televised events throughout the 2011-2012 college season.
“Much like the student-athletes of the Big Ten Conference, BMW is a brand dedicated to the highest levels of performance,” said Scott Bailey, General Manager, Big Ten Sports Properties, a property of Learfield Sports.  “We couldn’t think of a better group to work with and are looking forward to building a great relationship together.”
The Big Ten sponsors 25 official conference sports, 12 for men and 13 for women and 298 teams with more than 9,500 student-athletes competing for Big Ten Championships.  During the 2010-11 season, Big Ten schools claimed six team national championships with titles for Northwestern women’s lacrosse, Ohio State synchronized swimming and men’s volleyball, Penn State women’s volleyball and wrestling and Wisconsin women’s ice hockey.  From an academic standpoint, the Big Ten leads all conferences with the highest number of ranked graduate school programs among the top 25, according to the U.S. News and World Report in 2011, BMW officials noted. By Joseph Szczesny

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ford Transit Connect taxis growing more popular

 The Ford Transit Connect vans are making inroads in taxi fleets around the U.S  The first Ford Transit Connect Taxis have already gone into service in New York City and Transit Connect taxis running on compressed natural gas are entering service in Southern California.
  Order and interest for the versatile vehicle are soaring, Ford official said.
More than 400 Transit Connect Taxis are destined for New York City. Total orders for Transit Connect Taxis across the United States are fast approaching 1,000 in its first year on the market. The new taxi market in the U.S. averages about 6,000 units annually.
“Taxi operators are realizing the Transit Connect Taxi is a great vehicle and there’s a good reason – they helped us develop it,” said Len Deluca, director, Ford Commercial Trucks. “During product development, we visited cities across the U.S. speaking with taxi owners, operators, drivers and city officials on the key product attributes they wanted in a taxi,” he said.
 California’s first compressed natural gas (CNG)-powered Ford Transit Connect Taxis hit the greater Los Angeles area this week, giving taxi owners, drivers and passengers a chance to help the environment one small trip at a time.
California Yellow Cab of Orange County put its first 10 Transit Connect Taxis into service – marked by an event celebrating the increased presence of CNG use in California. Clean Energy, which owns and operates CNG filling stations, also participated in the event.
The first 10 Transit Connect Taxis are part of an order for 50 units that California Yellow Cab plans to put into service by 2012. In addition, Yellow Cab of Anaheim also ordered 69 units, bringing the total number of CNG Transit Connect Taxis that will soon be servicing Southern California to more than 100.
“Our goal is to convert our entire fleet to alternative fuels, so bringing the CNG Transit Connect Taxis into service is an exciting step in that direction,” said  Tim Conlon, president and general manager of California Yellow Cab. “The drivers are excited too. They have been lining up to be among the first to get behind the wheel of a CNG-powered taxi,” Conlon said.
CNG-powered Transit Connect Taxis are becoming more popular in other parts of the country as well, servicing places such as Las Vegas and St. Louis. Chicago is another city where CNG-powered Transit Connect Taxis are in service already.  By Joseph Szczesny

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New study sees rapid growth for advanced batteries

  A new study from Roland Berger, a consulting group with offices in Troy and Munich, estimates the worldwide market for advanced lithium-ion batteries forl  electric and hybrd vehicles is poised for rapid growth.
 "We expect the global market for Li-ion batteries to leap from the current volume of $1.5 billion to almost $9 billion in 2015," says Wolfgang Bernhart, Partner at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. "In our best-case scenario, worldwide market volume may even grow to over $50 billion by 2020. As sales surge, Japanese and Korean carmakers will be doing everything they can to establish themselves as the leading global providers of alternative drive technologies. Their share of worldwide production will reach about 40% in 2015. But auto production in the Asian factories will be dominated by hybrid vehicles by using, for the most part, nickel-metal-hybrid batteries.
 The downside of the rapid growth is that it likely to be accompanied  by substantial overcapacity, meaning there could be twice as many  batteries as buyers require, which should set the stage for consolidation. The five front-runners in lithium-ion batteries  – AESC, LG Chem, Panasonic/Sanyo, A123 and SB LiMotive – can, between them, be expected to control almost 80 percent  of the market by 2015.  Both A123 and LG Chem have made substantial investments in Michigan.  Overall, Roland Berger's experts expect the light vehicle, such as passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, to account for more than 80 percent  of total market value for Li-ion battery systems by the middle of the decade. By then, 2.5 million hybrids, 300,000 plug-in hybrids and 500,000 electric vehicles will be coming off production lines each year.  As sales surge, Japanese and Korean carmakers will be doing everything they can to establish themselves as the leading global providers of alternative drive technologies.
In the case of electric-drive buses, China will certainly be a front-runner in coming years. The Roland Berger experts estimate that around 80 percent  of Li-ion batteries for buses will be sold in China by 2015. "This is due to the highly ambitious plans of the Chinese government. It is targeting investment at growth industries and is also keen to improve air quality in the cities," explains Thomas Wendt, co-author of the study. "By contrast, the Chinese electric car market will initially see slower growth than Western markets," adds Bernhart. "Above all, that's due to the changed priorities of the Chinese government. As a first step, it's focusing on hybrid vehicles, with pure electric drives or plug-ins taking second place for a while," Bernhart said. By Joseph Szczesny

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Marchionne shakes up Chrysler board

Chrysler Group LLC has re-arranged its board of directors with the appointment of a Canadian executive and an ad executive to replace three executives that have decided to resign. The board shake-up follows Fiat’s acquisition during the summer of a 52 percent stake in Chrysler as well as control of the Chrysler’s board and the right to appoint directors  of its choosing.
Leo W. Houle, the former chief talent officer at Bell Canada, Canada's largest communications company, from June 2001 until his retirement in July 2008. and John B. Lanaway,  former Executive vice president and chief financial officer for North America at McCann Erickson were appointed to its Chrysler board as independent directors, effective immediately.  Houle and Lanaway replace C. Robert Kidder, George F.J. Gosbee and Scott M. Stuart, who have elected to resign, the Chrysler Group said in a statement.
"It is with great pleasure that I welcome these respected and knowledgeable professionals to join our Board of Directors. Their leadership, insights and counsel will be invaluable in reinforcing our determination to achieve the financial targets outlined in our 2010-2014 Business Plan announced in November 2009," said Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Chrysler Group LLC, who was elected Chairman of the Board.
"I also want to extend my gratitude to George and Scott for their support in putting the Company on a solid path, and in particular to Bob Kidder, who provided a solid point of reference in the last two years as Chairman of our Company. I thank them for their efforts and I wish them well," Marchionne added.
"Repaying our governments' loans six years early and refinancing our debt reinforces our conviction that we are on the right path to rebuilding this Company and restoring it to its rightful place on the global automotive landscape within the framework of Chrysler's global alliance with Fiat," Marchionne said in a statement. By Joseph Szczesny

Friday, September 2, 2011

Lutz makes another comeback with GM

 General Motors is bringing back former vice chairman
Robert Lutz to serve as an adviser to the company’s senior management team, GM
said Friday. The agreement will formalize Lutz’s role at GM. Lutz had been
acting as an informal adviser ever since his official retirement in 2010.Lutz
will be available to executives on a part-time consultancy basis effective immediately.
He brings a wealth of experience built over the course of more than 40 years in
the industry, including two stints at GM. He has also been a senior executive
at Ford, Chrysler, BMW and was CEO of Exide Batteries,” GM said in a statement,
Lutz is expected to provide advice both on strategic and prduct-related issues,
including design. By Joseph Szczesny