Thursday, 30 May 2013

Mercedes in, Renault out, at Williams F1

 Mercedes-Benz has won a contract from the Williams F1 Team for a long-term engine partnership for the 2014 Formula One World Championship season onwards. 

Under the agreement, Williams will be supplied with a Mercedes-Benz Power Unit (an internal combustion engine with an Energy Recovery System) by Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) in Brixworth, UK. Williams will continue to manufacture its own transmission. 

The 2014 regulations have set the sport's engineers the challenge of completing a 300km race distance on a fuel load of 100 kg.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

JLR beats last year’s sales

JaguarLandRover Automotive plc (JLRA) has reported revenues of £15.8bn for the fiscal year ended 31st March 2013, up 17% year on year (£13.5bn last year).

Retail sales increased 22% to 374,636 vehicles, supported by significant product actions including the all-new Range Rover, Jaguar all-wheel drive XF and XJ and the XF Sportbrake.

The company generated positive sales growth in all regions: China up 48%, Asia Pacific up 27%, UK up 20%, Europe up 18%, North America up 9% and other overseas markets up 19%.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Volvo Car joins up manufacturing and purchasing

Volvo Car Group (Volvo Cars) will establish a new global purchasing and manufacturing function in order to reduce complexity and costs.

The new organisation, claims Volvo Car group, will also create “more distinct governance, quality assurance and cost control throughout the entire value chain”. The new unit will be headed by Lars Wrebo, currently senior vice president manufacturing.

"This change is part of our efforts to reduce complexity. We need to strengthen the substantial processes within the company at the same time as we strive to reduce bureaucracy. Lars Wrebo will have a central and comprehensive role through this new function which will be a natural hub together with Research & Development and Product Strategy," said Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive officer of Volvo Cars.

Friday, 24 May 2013

GM and Nissan unite in van deal

General Motors and Nissan Motor Company are to be reunited once more in a van project as Nissan aims to supply its compact NV300 to ‘The General’ as a Chevrolet-branded vehicle.

It will be recalled that some years ago, Nissan’s operations in Barcelona manufactured some versions of GM’s European van, marketed as the Opel and Vauxhall Vivaro. Plant managers from Vauxhall’s plant in Luton, UK visited the plant from time to time to study Nissan’s methods of manufacture.

Now the two manufacturers will join forces for the first time for a vehicle of this type in North America.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Ford homes in on emerging markets

Global strategy expert Michael Mol believes Ford’s decision to close its Australian operation shows it is honing its strategy on emerging markets and its American home market.

After 88 years of manufacturing in Australia Ford announced it will cease production there in 2016.

Professor Mol, a Professor of Strategic Management at Warwick Business School, UK, says the car industry is undergoing a transformation with more emphasis on emerging markets.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Truck turbine pioneer dies

Noel Penny, best known the world over for his pioneering work in the development of truck gas turbine engines, died last Friday at the age of 87.

Penny most notably received recognition as managing director of Leyland Gas Turbines Ltd (LGT); it developed the two-shaft gas turbine engine with regenerative heat exchangers between 1968 and 1974. Prototype vehicles were used by several oil companies for route proving and demonstration.

In the 1960s and 1970s, companies such as Chrysler, Fiat, Ford, General Motors, MAN and Mercedes-Benz were all working to develop gas turbine engines for passenger cars and trucks. The concept proved unsuccessful, largely because of its high fuel economy. It was unable to challenge the specific fuel economy of a diesel.  More recently, Volvo has devoted some development effort to gas turbines for trucks.

Millbrook’s security vital to new owner

Millbrook Proving Ground’s extensive facilities in secluded Bedfordshire are expected to be vital to its new owner, details of which will be revealed later this year.

For the utmost secrecy of any clandestine comings and goings of both engines and new vehicles can be assured at a site which is ideally screened from prying eyes.

Meanwhile, the seemingly endless and painstaking process of due diligence is currently unfolding at Millbrook as accountants and lawyers probe the minutiae of accounts, paper trails and business practices. But also under scrutiny are the site’s security processes.

Honda engines to return to F1

Honda Motor Company will make a return to Formula 1 in 2015. It will provide engines for the McLaren team.

The Japanese company, which quit the sport in 2009 after years of poor results with its own team, is reigniting one of the most successful partnerships in F1 history.

The move to feature turbo engines and extensive energy recovery technology from 2014 is behind Honda's re-think.

Honda claims that F1 regulation changes have been "central" to its participation. And joining with McLaren is a 'cheaper option' than funding an entire race team.

A senior Honda executive explained: "Honda has a long history of advancing our technologies and nurturing our people by participating in the world's most prestigious automobile racing series.

"The new F1 regulations with their significant environmental focus will inspire even greater development of our own advanced technologies," he added.

It will be recalled that Honda and McLaren dominated F1 from 1988 to 1991 by winning four consecutive world drivers' titles with Ayrton Senna in 1988, 1990 and 1991 and Alain Prost in 1989.

Between them, they produced the most successful year in F1 history, winning 15 of the 16 races in 1988.

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh described the new partnership as "a new and exciting chapter" in his team's history. No doubt, however, Ron  Dennis, McLaren's supremo, had a hand to play in this development.

Whitmarsh added: "The names of McLaren and Honda are synonymous with success in Formula 1, and, for everyone who works for both companies, the weight of our past achievements together lies heavily on our shoulders. But it's a mark of the ambition and resolve we both share that we want once again to take McLaren-Honda to the very pinnacle of Formula 1 success. Together we have a great legacy - and we're utterly committed to maintaining it."

McLaren will continue with current engine supplier Mercedes in 2014, but, with Honda waiting in the wings, it will undoubtedly be a slightly uncomfortable relationship. Meanwhile, Mercedes will also be keen to ensure that Honda has no access to its engine technology.

McLaren driver Jenson Button raced for Honda's factory team in F1 from 2006-8, winning the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix but enjoying very little other success. The Englishman, who won the 2009 world championship for the team after it was renamed Brawn following Honda's pull-out at the end of 2008, said he was "thrilled and excited" about Honda's return, describing it as "a great development for Formula 1 fans and the sport as a whole".

McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale said Honda would be prepared to supply other teams if required to do so, as specified in the F1 rules.

F1 engine regulations  
Engine: 1.6-litre, V6s, with single turbo. Engines can rev to 15,000rev/min, five power units per season per driver (each engine does 4,000km). 15% fewer moving parts
Turbo: Size unlimited, maximum revs 125,000rpm
Energy recovery (Ers) system: 161bhp for 33.3 seconds a lap
Fuel limit: No more than 100kg (about 140 litres) of fuel in a race; max fuel-flow rate of 100kg per hour. This is a 30% increase in fuel efficiency
Thermal efficiency: 40% (target)

The new F1 engine regulations have come in for criticism from F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who believes they are unnecessary, and smaller teams are concerned about the up-front costs of the engines.

These are significantly higher next year than they are at the moment, although the manufacturers have all promised to ensure costs come down over a five-year period so that they even out in the end.

Neale noted: "Clearly F1 has to be cost-conscious but I think we have to also recognise that F1 cannot sit still. If it's going to be a technology showcase and contemporary with its markets, then embracing technology and making sure we are energy efficient is ensuring it stays healthy for the long run.

So I'm sure there will be short-term pain, but I'm also sure that these technology steps are long-term the right way to go."

It is claimed the engine rules were changed to make F1 more relevant to the road-car industry, and with the hope of attracting more manufacturers back into the sport. The new regulations could lead to engine turbocompounding, a concept that Mercedes-Benz has seriously considered and has plans to adopt .

Honda's return appears to be a vindication, and there are rumours other companies are considering entering the sport also. Toyota, Hyundai, VW/Audi and Ford have been mentioned.                       

Thursday, 16 May 2013

VW breaks ground on new plant in China

Construction work has just begun on Volkswagen’s new vehicle plant in Changsha in the province of Hunan, south-central China.

The factory is being built in cooperation with the Chinese joint venture Shanghai-Volkswagen (SVW).

"We are expanding our capacity in China to four million vehicles per year by 2018 in order to meet demand from our Chinese customers," Professor Dr. Jochem Heizmann, member of the board of management of Volkswagen AG, said at the contract signing ceremony and ground-breaking in Changsha. He has responsibility for "China" and is president and chief executive officer of Volkswagen Group China.

Ford aware of pending US diesel introductions

Terry Aldea, global executive, casting and forging operations, Ford Motor Company, speaking today at the annual general meeting of SinterCast, held in Stockholm, Sweden, said Ford was “well aware” of what is happening in the US diesel pick-up market.

Aldea, who provided the meeting with an overview of Ford’s international operations, highlighted Ford's success as the global leader for the application of Compacted Graphite Iron (CGI). He noted that Ford's CGI leadership began with the introduction of the first-ever high-volume CGI engine in 2003 and continues today with an industry leading seven CGI engines, with displacements ranging from 2.7 to 9.0 litres, used in Ford and partner vehicles sold in Europe, Australia and the Americas. 

Aldea stated that the engine design community within Ford has embraced CGI as an element of Ford's engine strategy.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

First production Infiniti Q50 emerges at Tochigi

The first production model of the Infiniti Q50, the all-new premium sports saloon, rolled off the assembly line at the Tochigi production plant on 14 May.

The official off-line ceremony was presided over by Carlos Ghosn, president and CEO of Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., and Johan de Nysschen, president of Infiniti Motor Company Ltd.

The Q50 is the first in the new generation of Infiniti vehicles. It sets fresh benchmarks in the areas of emotive styling, advanced technology and performance.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Honda to make NSX in Ohio

Honda will make the all-new NSX supercar at a new Performance Manufacturing Centre in Ohio, in the US.

The $70 million advanced production facility encompasses 184,000 square feet and will be housed inside Honda's former North American Logistics facility. One interesting possibility is that Honda could use friction-stir welding (FSW) as one of its processes in the plant for the new NSX.

The site, Honda's third car plant in Ohio, is located close to the Honda R&D Americas Inc.’s Ohio Centre and which is engineering the supercar for production. The R&D centre is adjacent to Honda of America Mfg.'s Marysville automotive plant, north-west of Columbus.

BMW predicts further success

BMW Group is paving the way for continued success in the future with a high level of expenditure on new technologies and models and investments in its production network.

"In this way, we are preparing for the company's next phase of growth and making the BMW Group more competitive for the future. Anyone who wishes to shape the mobility of tomorrow must make the necessary investments today," said BMW AG chairman of the board of management, Norbert Reithofer, at the Annual General Meeting today in Munich.

The BMW Group will continue to invest in existing and new locations: for example, in the new site planned in Brazil, which will produce up to 30,000 vehicles per year. The start of production is slated for 2014, with investments in Brazil of more than €200 million over the coming years. Last year the BMW Group production network comprised a total of 29 locations in 14 countries.

Audi V6 diesel powers VW Amorak

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has wowed the crowds at the annual GTI enthusiasts' meeting on the shores of Lake Wörthersee in Austria with an Amarok Power-Pickup concept featuring a 3.0-litre V6 TDI engine with a power output of 272 PS and 600 Nm of torque.

The engine is similar to that which Audi uses in passenger cars. It has a compacted graphite iron cylinder block. The engine is always arranged longitudinally.

The Power-Pickup, based on an Amarok single cab, is designed as a rolling workshop to carry spare parts, tools and race equipment, with performance to take it from standstill to 62 mph in 7.9 seconds in conjunction with an eight-speed automatic transmission and permanent 4MOTION transmission.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Volvo Car starts new engine family

Volvo Car Group has begun production of the first engine variants in the new, high-efficiency four-cylinder engine family.

The development and production take place in-house at Volvo Car Group and form a vital part of the company's strategy for independence.

The strategy of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines and driveline electrification is the path that Volvo Cars has chosen for the future. With its ability to control the development and production of engines and drivelines and by reducing the number of engine variants, Volvo Cars claims the result is increased flexibility.

Capacity boost for CGI foundry

Halberg Guss, one of the world's leading automotive foundry groups, has ordered an upgrade of its existing compacted graphite iron (CGI) process control system and an additional new System 3000 from the Swedish process control specialist SinterCast.  

The commissioning is scheduled for summer 2013. This coincides with the installation of increased liquid metal holding capacity at the Leipzig foundry.  

The two System 3000 installations are required to increase Halberg's CGI capacity and productivity in advance of increased production demand.  

Sunday, 12 May 2013

JLR boosts Middle East testing

JaguarLandRover (JLR) has enhanced its Middle East test programme by opening a new engineering test centre in Dubai, UAE, to conduct extreme hot weather vehicle research, development and testing.

With temperatures in the desert typically reaching 48 to 50°C in the summer months, the new 11,120 square feet facility in the Al Barsha area of Dubai, UAE will offer a comprehensive range of tests including durability, calibration and hot weather testing for heat and humidity.

The engineering team at the new centre, which replaces a smaller facility in Dubai, will also test powertrains, chassis and heat and ventilation systems, as well as the off-road and sand driving capability of Land Rover’s unique Terrain Response system.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Nissan sales reach record high

Nissan Motor Company’s results for the year ending 31 March 2013 were: net revenue: JPY 9.63 trillion (US$ 116.16 billion, €90.17 billion); operating profit of JPY 523.5 billion (US$ 6.31 billion, €4.90 billion); ordinary profit of JPY 529.3 billion (US$ 6.38 billion, €4.96 billion); and net income of JPY 342.4 billion (US$ 4.13 billion, €3.21 billion).

In FY2012, global sales reached a record-high of 4.914 million units, up 1.4% over FY2011.  Ten new models were launched to global markets, including the new Altima in the US; Sylphy in China; and the Note in Japan.

Carlos Ghosn, Nissan president and chief executive officer, said: "Fiscal 2012 was marked by both successes and challenges for Nissan. We ended the year with a sound balance sheet, record global sales, an improved brand, and an expanded presence in critical growth markets.”

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Jaguar F-Types leave the production line

The first Jaguar F-Type customer cars have left JaguarLandRover’s Castle Bromwich manufacturing facility today.

The all new sports car has resulted in contracts worth £2.8 billion being placed with companies internationally, with in excess of £1.5 billion placed with companies in the UK.  

Contracts have been awarded to more than 270 companies globally following the completion of a global competitive tendering exercise on component sourcing for the vehicle. Of these, 116 are based in the UK and 50 per cent are from the Midlands.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Audi breaks sales threshold

 For the first time, Audi AG has exceeded the threshold of half a million deliveries after just four months. In particular demand for the new A3 family and the Q3, Q5 and Q7 SUV models strengthened business for the brand with the four rings.

The Ingolstadt-based premium manufacturer sold around 133,500 cars in April, representing an increase of 6.6 per cent compared with the same period in 2012. In total, around 503,000 customers worldwide have chosen a new Audi since the beginning of this year, an increase of 6.7 per cent.

“Given the extremely difficult market situation in Europe, we see our global sales result for April as positive. Especially the USA and China are currently setting the pace for Audi,” said Luca de Meo, member of the board of management for sales and marketing at AUDI AG.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Nissan short of 60 engineers

Japanese car maker Nissan is seeking 60 engineers to work at it Nissan European Technical centre (NETC) Cranfield, Bedfordshire, according to a senior manager.
Nissan’s site in Cranfield employs about 1,000 people creating vehicle designs for the world market but claims to need engineers to fill a big skills gap.
David Moss, vice president of vehicle research and development at Nissan, said the company is about 60 engineers short, but is particularly short of electronic engineers. Cars are becoming more and more electronics based and the lack of local skills is a threat to the company.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Navistar starts shipping MaxxForce 13 SCR

According to Diesel Progress, Navistar, Inc. has started shipping – ahead of schedule – its first International ProStar trucks powered by the MaxxForce 13 SCR diesels.

 This follows certification of its SCR-based 13-litre diesel engine earlier this month by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California Air Resources Board (CARB). 

Navistar claimed it began shipping the first units on April 26, from truck plants in Escobedo, Mexico and Springfield, Ohio.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Flat trading for Fiat

Fiat Group achieved revenues of €19.8 billion on the back of worldwide shipments of more than 1 million vehicles. Group revenues were 2 per cent lower in nominal terms but flat over the prior year at constant exchange rates.

Trading profit came in at €618 million – this compares with €806 million for Q1 2012. Net industrial debt increased to €7.1 billion (from €6.5 billion at year-end 2012) due to seasonal cash absorption for Fiat, but excluding Chrysler. It was partially offset by cash generation for Chrysler. Liquidity was strong at over €21 billion.

The U.S. vehicle market closed Q1 2013 up 6% to 3.75 million vehicles. The Group's overall market share rose to 11.4%. Jeep vehicle sales totalled 101,000 for the quarter, down 12% year-over-year, primarily due to the phase-out of the Jeep Liberty, pending the production launch of the all-new 2014 Jeep Cherokee in Q2 2013, and a 12% decline for the Grand Cherokee attributable to changeover to the new 2014 model.