Wednesday, February 29, 2012

GM, PSA complete deal on alliance

 General Motors and French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroën have announced the creation of a long-term strategic alliance  will use the combined strengths and capabilities of the two companies, contribute to the profitability of both partners and improve their competitiveness in Europe and other parts of the world.
 However, the alliance is aimed a future vehicle development, sourcing of components through a global sourcing venture capable of buying up to $125 in parts and services annually. In addition, GM is expected to purchase a 7 percent of equity stake in the family-owned French automaker.
 However, the new alliance doesn’t contemplate any broader cooperation. Each company will continue to market and sell its vehicles independently and on a competitive basis.
“Beyond these pillars, the alliance creates a flexible foundation that allows the companies to pursue other areas of cooperation,” the two companies said in a joint statement issued in New York.
“This partnership brings tremendous opportunity for our two companies,” said Dan Akerson, GM chairman and CEO. “The alliance synergies, in addition to our independent plans, position GM for long-term sustainable profitability in Europe,” Akerson said.
However, the alliance while promising to produce savings that could grow to $2 billion annually, does not address the other issues facing GM in Europe, including the restructuring of the Opel and Vauxhall brands and the costly overcapacity issue embedded in GM’s European operations, which have no lost money for 15 consecutive years.
GM’s losses in Europe, which now total more than $20 billion dollars over pas two decades, coupled with devastating losses from in foray into mortgage market in the US, were among the underlying causes for the company’s financial crisis in 2008 and 2009 that forced into a Chapter 11 bankruptcy in which the US Treasury Department put up the capital to reorganize the company.
 Akerson has vowed to stop the losses.
 The family-ownership of PSA Citroen has protected the French automaker from some of the stresses created by the turbulence in the financial markets over the years. However, the competitive pressures in the auto business have forced PSA to look for other partners.
 In connection with the alliance, PSA Peugeot Citroën is expected to raise $1.3 billion through a capital increase with preferential subscription rights for shareholders of PSA Peugeot Citroën, underwritten by a syndicate of banks and including an investment from the Peugeot Family Group, as a sign of its confidence in the success of the alliance.
  As part of the agreement, which includes no specific provision regarding the governance of PSA Peugeot Citroën, GM plans to acquire a 7 percent equity stake in PSA Peugeot Citroën, making it the second-largest shareholder behind the Peugeot Family Group.
Philippe Varin, chairman of the managing board of PSA Peugeot Citroën, declared, “This alliance is a tremendously exciting moment for both groups and this partnership is rich in its development potential. With the strong support of our historical shareholder and the arrival of a new and prestigious shareholder, the whole group is mobilized to reap the full benefit of this agreement.”
Under the terms of the agreement, GM and PSA Peugeot Citroën will share selected platforms, modules and components on a worldwide basis in order to achieve cost savings, gain efficiencies, leverage volumes and advanced technologies and reduce emissions.
 Initially, GM and PSA Peugeot Citroën intend to focus on small and midsize passenger cars, MPVs and crossovers. The companies will also consider developing a new common platform for low emission vehicles. The first vehicle on a common platform is expected to launch by 2016.
This alliance, which will be managed by a steering committee with an equal number of executives from each company,  enhances but does not replace either company’s ongoing independent efforts to return their European operations to sustainable profitability
  PSA sells no cars in the US but competes with GM in markets such critical markets as China, South America and Russia.
 The alliance also is exploring areas for further cooperation, such as integrated logistics and transportation. To this end, GM intends to establish a strategic, commercial cooperation with Gefco, an integrated logistics services company and subsidiary of PSA Peugeot Citroën, whereby Gefco would provide logistics services to GM in Europe and Russia.
The total “synergies” expected from the alliance are estimated at approximately $2 billion annually within about five years. The savings will largely coincide with new vehicle programs, with limited benefit expected in the first two years.  It is expected the synergies will be shared about evenly between the two companies.  By  Joseph Szczesny

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

LaSorday takes over as Fisker CEO

Tom LaSorda,  the former Chrysler and General Motors  executive, has been named chief executive officer of Fisker Automotive.  LaSorda replaces Henrik Fisker who will remain  as executive  chairman and diesign chief of the California-based company.
 Fisker is the first new American automobile company is the first new Ameican Automobile company in more than 60 years to put a fully certified vehicle on the road. The new Fisker  Karma is an extended range electric vehicle, meaning it runs on electricity by has a conventional internal combustion  engine to serve as on on-board generator,  that gets more than 52 miles  per gallon but can run almost indefinitely by using named Luxury Car of the Year by the British televisio show “Top Gear.”
 he 57-year-old LaSorda will have plenty of challenges.  The launch of the l it is behind schedule and it needs to raise money to finish the development of second vehicle, which is smaller less expensive version  of the Karma and to renegotiate $528 million in federal loans.
 LaSorda said founder Henrik Fisker “didn’t have to twist my arm,” adding that he is “impressed with the passion that’s here…and the company itself. But I am more impressed with the product,” both the Karma and the still-secret Project Ninn
 The son of a Canadian auto union leader, LaSorda crossed into management into the ranks of management first at GM, where he earned reputation for  as a troubleshooter and then with Chrysler.  He served as the CEO of the smallest domestic maker during its final years as part of DaimlerChrysler AG.
When the troubled Detroit maker was sold off to Cerberus Capital, LaSorda agreed to a demotion, serving as co-president.  He left in 2009, following the Chrysler bankruptcy and restructuring, as the carmaker was effectively taken over by Italy’s Fiat SpA. He then went on to serve as consultant during Penske Automotive Group’s effort to revive the Saturn brand. By Joseph Szczesny

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lighting part of 2013 Fusion's overall design

  The interior lighting in the 2013 Ford Fusion was designed specifically to consider the critical role lighting plays in relaying information to the driver.
Michael Arbaugh, chief designer for the Ford Fusion,  the first Ford vehicle to use only LED, or light emitting diodes exclusively througout the interior,  moves beyond simple functionality to helping scupt the environment inside the cabin. Lighting in a vehicle is about space and dimension, he says. With the right lighting, everything else falls into place,  he adds.
 Mahendra Dassanayake, Ford technical leader for Design, says, “Lighting gives you a sense of orientation. It’s a unique combination of functionality and comfort. Lights, graphics and displays are critical to drivers; we need to make sure that information is presented to the customer in an effective way,” he says.
Developing Ford’s signature ice blue color available in the ambient, or accent, lighting palette was critical, since it is a shade that can help keep drivers and passengers more alert. It makes it easier for a driver to absorb all the other messages coming from inside the vehicle, Dassanayake says.
The same balance has been used to make sure that the ambient colors available in the Ford Fusion enhance the driving experience,
  Ford researchers also have tested how the lighting affects the vehicle’s interior from the driver’s perspective, checking the textures and materials under a multitude of lighting conditions to make sure that glare and reflection are limited on smooth surfaces and that eye strain would be minimized.
 Colors also influence drivers moods.
 Certain levels or combinations of light trigger enzymes in the brain. Those enzymes cause emotional responses within the body - states we recognize as stress or calmness or happiness. “The emotions are created based on the secretions of these enzymes that are associated with certain light wavelengths,” Dassanayake said. “There are certain triggers.”
So it’s not your imagination - color can affect how you feel. In fact, it affects everything from your buying choices to your blood pressure. For example:
-- There are shades of yellow that stimulate parts of the brain, bringing clear-headed, decisive action
-- Green, on the other hand, affects the nervous system, causing us to breathe slowly and deeply, helping the heart to relax by slowing the production of stress hormones
-- Red - arguably the most attention-getting of colors - likely will evoke the strongest emotions, be that passion or anger
On the Ford Fusion, the palette is ice blue, purple, blue, orange, red, white and green. The palette allows the customer to set and change each color, depending on wants and needs.
With a seven-color palette, customers have several options. “We’re opening this up to let the customer decide,” Dassanayake said. “It’s offering them a choice,” Dassanayake says.
 “The brain does not see color,” he adds. “What we call color of light is actually a form of electromagnetic energy with different wavelengths.
“Light is like a pond, with ripples as the wavelengths. These ripples form and reflect and interact with each other, just like a ray hits a surface and sends a signal and then another sends a signal, and the sensation between the two is what people perceive as blue or red or green.” By Joseph Szczesny

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

GM, PSA alliance looks like a long shot

By Joseph Szczesny
 A strategic alliance between PSA and General Motors or Fiat could help in the medium- to long-term lead to a major restructuring of the European auto industry but would be difficult to achieve because of the need to close factories, according Fitch Rating Services. Fitch released the report after both GM and PSA confirmed they have held discussions about organizing an alliance that would include PSA and GM's European operations. However,
"European volume carmakers struggle with structural issues such as overcapacity, relentless competition and heavy price pressure, which are compounded by declining consumer and corporate confidence in several European markets. Pressure for further M&A or more severe restructuring will increase as new car sales fall and may not be avoided as in 2009. Fitch assumes new industry-wide car sales to decline by more than 5% in Europe this year. This includes a drop of 2 percent in Germany, 7 percent in France, 8 percent in Italy and 3 percent in Spain and the UK.
 "In addition, further pressure on price and heavy discounting in Europe could shrink revenue and profitability in 2012," Fitch said.      
 "In particular, PSA has said it is looking at potential alliances to improve
operational performance. What form any alliance or collaboration will take is unclear,and any impact on either company's ratings remains uncertain. In particular, we believe that a deal involving up-front cash outlays from either of these companies is highly unlikely, as they are looking to protect their financial structure," Fitch added.     
 Fitch said any discussion between two car manufacturers would revolve around long-term benefits from synergies, cost sharing, shared R&D investments, platform consolidation and broader diversification, versus short-term costs and political issues of restructuring. Given the highly sensitive issue of plant closure in Europe, which would be required to help address overcapacity, benefits could take time to accrue and be difficult and costly to implement, it said.   
 An alliance, whatever its form, between PSA and GM or Fiat would also need to clarify in which markets and segments it would operate and how synergies would be derived. All three manufacturers have large operations in Europe and Latin America; creating synergies without hurting market shares would need to be planned carefully.
 GM's and PSA's respective current market valuations and PSA's conditions for a merger prevent a full merger in our view, although a cross-shareholding similar to that between Renault and Daimler could be an option. PSA has repeatedly said that a merger would be possible, provided it is consistent with its strategy, builds real synergies and maintains the group's independence. Any full merger would be difficult to comply with the group's conditions, the analysis said.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Polk says buyers keeping cars longer

R. L. Polk  & Co of Southfield reports the average length of ownership of vehicles that were purchased new has risen to a record 71.4 months, or nearly six years, according to  new study by  the firm.   For consumers who purchased used vehicles, the average length of ownership is nearly 49.9 months.  Combined, new and used vehicle owners are holding on to their vehicles for an average 57 months.  For new and used owners combined, the length of vehicle ownership among U.S. consumers has increased 23 percent since the third quarter of 2008, when combination of recession and financial crisis cut into sales of vehicles of all kinds  
A number of factors contributed to the increased length of ownership, according to Polk, which analyzed vehicle registration data through Sept. 2011.  First, consumer spending remains conservative in a still-weak job market with relatively high unemployment rates.  Second, many buyers have used longer-term financing options to secure more affordable payments.  Third, vehicles produced in recent years have been more durable and more reliable than their predecessor. Various manufacturers are also offering longer warranties for new vehicles, reducing the risk for consumers who want to keep vehicles longer.  
The  new findings, coupled with the increased average age of vehicles on the road, which now stands at 10.8 years for cars and light trucks combined, creates new opportunities for companies making after parts,
"As the aftermarket prepares to service this aging vehicle population, this creates concerns about appropriate parts inventory," said Mark Seng, global aftermarket practice leader at Polk.  "As a result of our analysis, we're currently working with customers in the aftermarket to help them prepare for increasing demand throughout the entire supply chain," he said.
Moreover, Polk analysts don't expect new vehicle sales will reach pre-downturn levels of 16 million units until 2015. Nor does the firm expect to see an immediate decline in the length of ownership trend over the next few years, according to Seng.  "Unemployment rates continue to be high, and we expect many consumers will suffer from the lingering effects of the downturn, further contributing to longer ownership trends," he said.  By Joseph Szczesny

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ford honored for support of women-owned business

 Ford Motor Company spent $1.06 billion with women-owned suppliers in the U.S., a 22 percent increase from $866 million in 2010. Since 2009, Ford has more than doubled its sourcing with women-owned businesses.was named as one of America's top corporations for its support of women-owned suppliers by theWomen's Business Enterprise Council for i13th annual listing of America's Top Corporations for Women's Business Enterprises.  It is the first time an automaker has earned the award.
  Ford earned the award for developing and driving innovative best practices across its organization that result in productive business partnerships with women entrepreneurs and valuable products and services for their customers. The increase in 2011 includes higher spending with suppliers that are playing roles in Ford's expanding portfolio of high-quality, safe, fuel-efficient products equipped with smart technologies. 

  "Building a financially healthy, diverse supply base is a central part of the Ford purchasing strategy," said Tony Brown, group vice president, Ford Global Purchasing. "We are proud to receive this recognition, and we hope it brings renewed attention to this important segment of our supply base," he said.
 The list of women-owned suppliers tapped by Ford include Dura Automotive Systems of Auburn Hills owned by Lynn Tilton's Patriarch Partners investment company. Dura, which makes a variety of control systems, engineered assemblies and other products, supplies the award-winning heated power rear window for the F-150 pickup Another  isSystrandy Manufacturing, a Brownstown owned b Sharon Cannarsa. Systrand is producing machined parts for the next generation Ford's hybrid transmission that will be used in the new Ford Fusion Hybrid and C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid. Another is Dakkota Integrated Systems, owned by Andra Rush and based in Holt. Dakkota won a contract to produce fascias and headliners for th  redesigned Ford Explorer, which more than doubled sales in 2011 from 2010, finishing the year with 135,704 units sold in the U.S. By Joseph Szczesny

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Fiat 500 takes prestigous design award

Travel + Leisure Magazine has selected the 2012 Fiat 500 as  the "Best Car" in its eighth annual "Travel + Leisure Design Awards." The 2012 Travel + Leisure Design Awards recognize new products, buildings and destinations that improve the travel experience through thoughtful design. "The Design Awards jury applauded the Fiat 500 for its combination of compact practicality with a real sense of style, speed, and fun," said Luke Barr, News Director of Travel + Leisure.
The Fiat 500 will be featured in the March issue of Travel + Leisure -- available on newsstands February 17 and is currently online at In addition, the Fiat 500 will be recognized at the Travel + Leisure Design Awards event on March 7 in Berlin, Germany. "We are extremely honored to win the 'Best Car' Design Award title from Travel + Leisure -- as the 2012 Fiat 500 offers a unique combination of Italian design, driving fun and efficiency at an unbeatable value," said Tim Kuniskis, Head of Fiat  Brand North America. "In addition, our open-air Fiat 500 Cabrio, the exclusive 500 and 500c by Gucci models and the high-performance Fiat 500 Abarth provide drivers with the best of Italian style and driving excitement." By Joseph Szczesny

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ford has almost 500 patents for new hybrid

 Innovations have led to a 50-fold increase in the number of patents obtained by the Ford Motor Co. on the new fusion hybrid. Ford said it has obtained nearly 500 patents for the Fusion, which is expected to reach an unprecedented 47 mpg, making it America’s most fuel-efficient, non-rechargeable sedan
The2013 Ford Fusion is the first sedan to offer gasoline, hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains - each with expected top fuel economy - underscoring Ford’s commitment to give customers the power of choice “Ford continued to invest to develop new products like our new Fusion hybrids during the depths of the economic downturn,” said Chuck Gray, Ford chief engineer of Global Core Engineering Hybrid and Electric Vehicles. “We succeeded in transforming our lineup with leading fuel efficiency, thanks in part to the many Ford inventors who are helping make our Fusion Hybrid America’s most fuel-efficient sedan.”
One of those inventors is Ming Kuang, who has helped grow Ford’s hybrid patent portfolio from 10 in 2000 to nearly 500 today.
“The work on the Fusion Hybrid is all about a commitment I made a long time ago to have a positive effect on our environment,” said Kuang. “It’s about helping make the world my children live in - and the world my children’s children will live in - a better place.”
Kuang’s innovations can be found throughout Ford’s transformed lineup, one-third of which will feature a model with 40 mpg or more in 2012 and build on the company’s commitment to go further by giving fuel-efficiency-minded customers the power of choice.
His name is on 40 of the 461 patents held by Ford that fall under the hybrid category. Twenty-five of the 40 patents are in production including key components of Ford’s innovative powersplit architecture system found on vehicles like the all-new Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid.
For example, one patent covers the display system for the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid that shows how efficiently the power of the car is being used. Fusion Energi, scheduled to be available later this year, is projected to achieve a better miles per gallon equivalent in electric mode than Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid.
“I’m proud to have always had the resources and freedom to keep pushing forward on innovations for those vehicles,” said Kuang. “Being part of an organization that has so much respect for research and advanced engineering is what really gets me out of bed every day.”
Hybrid patents - yesterday and today As recent as 2000 Ford owned just 10 patents that it classified as hybrid technology.
Things slowly began to change with the evolution of the Escape Hybrid - the first hybrid vehicle from a U.S.-based automaker that was designed and developed in the early 2000s. Still, by 2002 Ford only had approximately 30 hybrid patents.
Kuang, who graduated from the University of California-Davis in 1991, was at Ford in those early days of hybrid technology development.
“The level of cohesiveness wasn’t anywhere close to where it is today,” said Kuang. For example, research and advanced engineering and product development didn’t work as closely as they do today, slowing the pace of innovation.
However, the amount of green patent activity began to increase significantly in the mid-2000s, Kuang said. With the launch of the One Ford strategy designed in large part to accelerate development of new products customers want and value, a more efficient method of innovation emerged.
“We stopped trying to create and fix one-off, niche vehicles, and it made all the difference in the world,” he said.
With better collaboration, inventors are more in tune to where opportunities exist. In the last three years alone, the number of inventions submitted to Ford’s legal team to be considered for patents has increased more than 25 percent.
But David Kelley, a Ford attorney who handles hybrid patents, said Ford doesn’t engage in the practice of getting patents for the mere sake of getting patents.
“We get the high-quality patents that Ford really needs,” said Kelley. “With the high level of innovation from people like Ming, it makes sense that we should see our hybrid patent levels increase the way they have.”
Eric Kuehn, Ford’s chief engineer, global electrified programs, said that level of innovation makes him happy to be part of the team working on vehicles including the Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid.
“One of the best parts of being involved with Ford’s electrified vehicle group is that they are never satisfied,” said Kuehn. “They are always striving to go further and see how far they can push toward creating even larger gaps between Ford and its competitors. That is ingrained in the culture and mindset of the team here and isn’t going to change anytime soon.” By Joseph Szczesny

Monday, February 13, 2012

GM Tech Center wins environmental award

General Motors’ Technical Center in Warren, Mich. earned the Clean Corporate Citizen award for maintaining and enhancing Michigan’s environmental resources. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality recognized the engineering campus for results like reducing natural gas 5.56 percent and water consumption by 9.55 percent within a year. Ind addition, The Tech Center also reduced total waste by 29 percent and increased recycling by 85 percent. 
“We are very pleased to welcome General Motors’ Warren Tech Center as the eighth GM facility in the Clean Corporate Citizen program,” said DEQ Director Dan Wyant. “This program recognizes companies that voluntarily go above and beyond the state’s environmental standards in their operations. We applaud GM’s consistent commitment to environmental excellence at these eight facilities and look forward to a strong partnership for the future.”
“The Tech Center sits at the cusp of GM innovation,” said Craig Duprey, Warren Tech Center facility area manager. “Whether it’s our wildlife habitat or pilot programs that focus on energy efficiency within our walls, we ensure our innovation works in concert with the environment.”
 For more information on GM’s environmental efforts , visit you can visit the company's sustainability report and environmental blog. By Joseph Szczesny

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Army shows quiet vehicle at Chicago Auto Show

  Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide and  the U.S. Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center in Warren is showing  off Quantum's  "Clandestine Extended Range Vehicle" or CERV  during the Chicago Auto Show. The display in Chicago showcases the latest energy-efficiency efforts that can save money and address environmental concerns. The U.S. Army labeled the CERV as one of the "greenest technologies" to demonstrate how the advanced diesel hybrid-electric powertrain developed by Quantum and TARDEC saves taxpayer dollars and can save the lives of soldiers.
  Designed for reconnaissance, targeting and rescue missions, CERV has silent run capabilities of eight miles and have  a top speed of 80 mph. CERV incorporates Quantum's Q-Force all-wheel drive diesel hybrid-electric technology and a light-weight chassis to produce a torque in excess of 5,000 foot-pounds, and ability to climb 60 percent grades. The vehicle also has been certified for internal transportation in aircraft.

 The CERV consumes up to 25 percent less fuel compared with conventional vehicles of comparable size. A recent Army Energy Security Task Force report states that a 1 percent improvement in fuel economy results in 6,444 fewer "soldier trips"  on fuel convoys, which are often extremely hazardous.

"Quantum's high efficiency powertrain technologies help to save fuel, while enhancing vehicle performance and versatility," said Alan P. Niedzwiecki, President and CEO of Quantum. "Our new generation powertrains are ideal to support tactical operations in both urban and un-urban environments across the broad range of U.S. military operations and terrain profiles, for direct action, reconnaissance, and unconventional warfare and counter terrorism." By Joseph Szczesny