It's Decision Time for Ford's Carbon Fiber Subframe

By the end of the year, you’ll know whether your next front-drive, non-supercar Ford might contain a carbon fiber cradle for its engine. As promised, supplier Magna has delivered a carbon fiber composite subframe prototype to Dearborn, destined for a rigorous life in a Fusion testbed.

There’ll be calculators working overtime as Ford engineers and bean counters figure out whether the lightweight, parts-saving component has a place in the brand’s stable.

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Breaking Up Isn't Hard to Do: Fiat Chrysler Announces Parts Division Spin-off

As Magneti Marelli prepares for its 100th birthday next year, the Italian parts supplier can expect to mark the occasion while newly single.

In a bid to streamline its operations, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has announced it is moving forward with a plan to spin off the weighty subsidiary. The split should be complete by the end of this year or early next.

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Amid Stock Slide, Tesla Issues Largest Recall to Date

Tesla’s once sky-high share price has taken a serious hit in recent days, so news of the electric automaker’s recall of 123,000 Model S vehicles couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Describing the recall as voluntary, Tesla sent emails to owners of all Model S electric cars built before April 2016 to warn of an issue affecting the car’s power steering system. The issue involves corrosion impacting the bolts holding the power steering motor to the rack, which can then shear off — leading to a loss of power steering.

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Noted Diesel Lover Promises 'Practically' One New EV Per Month

Just a week after claiming diesel technology will “ see a renaissance in the not-too-distant future,” Volkswagen Group CEO Matthias Müller said his company is prepared to bestow “practically one new electric model per month” on a world that’s apparently fallen out of love with diesel.

It’s a jarring change of tone from comments made at the Geneva Motor Show, but Müller’s not talking about next month or next year. Once the company’s MEB platform electric vehicles hit full production, he claims, expect the product floodgates to open. We’ve grown properly cynical about lofty EV promises, as well as the public’s supposed unquenchable desire for said vehicles, but Müller insists it’s the real deal.

Backing up the CEO’s claim, Volkswagen apparently has suppliers lined up to make it happen.

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Steel, Aluminum Tariffs Might Not Happen, Trump Says

As the U.S., Mexico, and Canada enter into the final day of the seventh round of NAFTA renegotiation talks, President Trump is offering his neighbors an incentive for signing a favorable deal.

“Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum will only come off if new & fair NAFTA agreement is signed,” Trump tweeted on Monday morning.

The president’s surprise announcement of tariffs on imported aluminum and steel late last week — 10 percent on the lighter metal, 25 percent on the heavier one — sent automaker stocks tumbling. Hoping to quell fears of new vehicle price increases, General Motors and Toyota released statements claiming the bulk of their aluminum and steel flies a red, white, and blue flag.

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Sheer Magnetism: Toyota's Plan for a Cheaper EV Involves Hard-to-pronounce Words

If buyers really do plan to line up to buy electric vehicles, even before the government forces them to, automakers had best figure out a way to make them affordable not just to buy, but to build.

We all know battery packs are expensive (with ingredients clouded by child labor and environmental issues), but batteries are only part of the equation. While simple in operation, electric motors are nothing like the aluminum or iron affairs under the hood of your dad’s Buick Enclave. There’s a lot of metals you’ve never heard of in a permanent magnet AC motor.

Toyota, which wants to be an electric car bigshot, just figured out a way to make a cheaper motor.

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Nothing Lasts Forever, but Your Saab Might (if You Sign on to a New Parts Warranty)

One day, if we’re lucky, we’ll see a documentary showcasing old Saabs in their natural habitat. The slinky 9-3 plying the interstate between Burlington, Vermont and the Connecticut coast, a valiant 9000 prowling between a Denver lawyer’s office and home, and a black 900 convertible sneaking up on a rural farmers’ market.

David Attenborough will handle narration duties.

Until that time, we can draw comfort that a conservation program exists to keep this extinct brand on the road. Started last fall by the defunct automaker’s official parts supplier, the warranty program means Saab owners in the United States, Britain, and the brand’s Swedish homeland can look forward to smaller maintenance bills in the future.

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Visteon CEO Bets Company's Future on Autonomous Vehicles

After spinning off from Ford in 2000, Visteon has set a corporate goal of expanding its supplier business to other companies. However, it hasn’t been smooth sailing. Granted Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009, Visteon emerged intact from its reorganization the following year. By 2013, the automotive supplier announced it would pare down its operations to focus primarily on vehicle electronics and HVAC systems.

Now, CEO Sachin Lawande says the company’s future hinges on autonomous vehicles. At this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Visteon will unveil its new DriveCore platform, a central control unit for electronics and software in autonomous cars known as a “domain controller.”

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Automakers Need to Improve Voice Command Systems ASAP

Amazon’s Echo has already invaded homes across North America, but it’s now beginning to creep into vehicle infotainment systems. My parents have one and both are quite fond of its ability to answer basic queries through intuitive voice commands. Though my mother refers to the system as my father’s “new wife,” it prefers to be addressed as Alexa when being issued instructions. If you need another point of reference, it’s reminiscent of Apple’s Siri, the computer from Star Trek, and any other automated technology using a female voice as the primary interface.

However, as handy as these systems are, they sometimes make mistakes. Alexa is great at giving me the weather but, when you give her more complex requests, she’ll sometimes get confused. That’s not a big problem when you are able to whip out your phone and go online, but it can be real annoying when driving. Early voice command interfaces in automobiles were infuriating — it was often easier to give up and input whatever information you were trying to shout at Ford Sync, BMW iDrive, or whatever decade-old system you happened to be using.

Thankfully, voice recognition is far better now than it was in 2008. But with so many concerns about automotive safety cropping up, it’s a little surprising that nobody has yet perfected an interface that effectively allows motorists to keep their hands where they belong — on the wheel.

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General Motors Eyes Carbon Fiber Beds for Future Pickups

General Motors, the company that ran a campaign criticizing Ford for moving away from steel on its F-Series, is expected to implement carbon fiber in the beds of large pickup trucks within two years. Hopefully, the wait gives consumers time to forget some rather negative ads that bemoaned the use of aluminum for its high repair costs and chance of deformation in an impact.

Carbon fiber is ridiculously strong and should hold up in any side-by-side impact test against aluminum. That is, until you start considering price. Carbon fiber costs substantially more to manufacture, form, and fix than either steel or aluminum. That’s probably why GM plans to limit its usage to only highest trim levels, at least until it can figure out a way to keep production costs down.

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Pence Meets With Automakers Annoyed by NAFTA Changes

The automotive industry is wary of any changes that might be made in regard to the North American Free Trade Agreement. Fortunately for them, little progress has been made during the last few months of negotiations. But that doesn’t create an assurance that changes aren’t still en route. So, manufacturers and suppliers have banded together via various trade groups to voice their opinion on how to best handle NAFTA.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has attempted to make itself appear friendly to the automotive business. Continuing these efforts, Vice President Mike Pence has met with General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Fiat Chrysler’s Sergio Marchionne, Ford North America President Joe Hinrichs, and a handful of other top-tier auto executives.

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Car, Tell: Quintet of Safety Suppliers Fined for Price Fixing

It appears the fictional JR Ewing isn’t the only one having to deal with cartels. Antitrust regulators in the EU have fined five safety equipment suppliers a combined 34 million euros ($40 million) for taking part in a scheme to fix prices for seat belts and airbags sold to Japanese automakers.

The cartels were allegedly supplying the safety equipment to Toyota, Suzuki, and Honda at inflated prices between calendar years 2004 and 2010.

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Ghosn: Suppliers Essential to Nissan's Future Success

Carlos Ghosn, CEO of the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance, says automakers are going to have to get comfortable with suppliers doing more of the work as the industry evolves. With in-car technologies progressing more rapidly than ever before, the alliance head says engineers will have to lean on parts providers to take the burden off its own engineers.

Ghosn even said he had recently spoken to supplier who accused him of not listening. “They said we are duplicating work,” the CEO recalled.

“They said, ‘We are developing the same things, and at the end of the day, you’re going to order parts from me, and you’re going to pay twice — for your own development and for mine. So why don’t we start from the beginning to work together?’ That’s an important point,” he said. “We are now probably one of the largest buyers in the world.”

The automotive collective intends to sell more than 14 million vehicles annually by the end of 2022, which represents an increase of about 3.5 million units from the expected volume for 2017. The strategy includes more shared platforms and powertrains between brands, a dozen EV models, and a fleet of autonomous taxis.

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Dealerships to Receive $335 Million In Payments Over Supplier Price-fixing Scheme

Roughly 8,000 U.S. dealers will share in a $335 million payday resulting from a colossal 2010 antitrust investigation. The issue? Suppliers were involved in a widespread price-fixing scheme that lasted decades, and nobody noticed until the FBI raided the offices of Yazaki North America Inc., Denso International America Inc. and Tokai Rika Group North America.

In the end, 65 individuals and 47 companies were charged by the Justice Department — resulting in over $2.9 billion in fines and jail time for a swath of fresh white-collar criminals.

However, none of that money made it to manufacturers, dealers, parts retailers, or consumers. Those players had to resort to filing civil suits in federal court against the companies. In 2012, the multitude of claims were consolidated and transferred to Judge Marianne Battani and the U.S. District Court in Detroit. Over $1 billion has been set aside for affected parties, with around $335 million of the sum going to dealerships.

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Tesla's Feverish Production Drive Sometimes Means Partial Assembly at Stores: Report

Never has the air of breathless futurism surrounding Tesla taken such a hit. Following a revealing earning report and numerous reports of continuing production bottlenecks, this week wasn’t a good one for either Tesla shareholders or Model 3 reservation holders.

The electric automaker pushed back its 5,000-vehicle-per-week goal to the end of the first-quarter of 2018, rather than the end of this year. Its 10,000-vehicles-per-week goal remains a question mark. Tesla also announced a decrease in Model S and X production to bolster resources for Model 3 builds. In reporting a quarterly loss of $619 million, Tesla made it clear it’s burning through piles of cash in an attempt to smooth out production line hurdles.

Now, a new report sheds light on the frenetic activity occurring inside its Fremont, California factory. One of the claims certainly won’t soothe those worried about a long-standing Tesla concern: build quality.

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  • SilverHawk Only if they keep it focused on what a corvette represents, in a similar way as to what Porsche has done. Badge engineering using lower tier platforms is not acceptable. Don't even think about it, GM!
  • Jeff S E-Vettes are coming to your nearest Chevrolet dealership. I reserve judgement on this I will have to see these and see the pricing. So far Lyriq is about the only GM vehicle I have any interest in.
  • Kukala J. Machus GM has an extensive history of bad decisions.....and it continues.
  • FreedMike Assumption: GM is making this "brand" into a Porsche competitor, which I think is a great idea. The problem is how to fit a Porsche-esque dealer experience into a Chevy dealership. I don't see that happening - the hoity-toity types who buy Porsches aren't going to want to rub elbows with the brodozer and "get me bought on a Trax with my 530 score" crowd. The ideal situation would be a standalone store, or a Tesla-esque "boutique" store. I also could see this being an add to Cadillac stores. The problem is that I don't see the Chevy dealers who currently make money selling Corvettes giving up the business willingly.So, unless GM comes up with some kind of separate sales channel for this, I vote thumbs down on viability.
  • Stuart de Baker Wyoming is the 9th largest state, but has the lowest population of any state, and so with ~580,000, it's the most sparsely populated state. Of course they're not interested in EVs. And the ranges do tank in the frigid Wyoming winters. Anyone who is in a one car family, and drives long distances with any frequency, is not going to be buying an EV at this point. I'm saying this as someone who thinks that global warming is the biggest, most urgent problem humanity faces right now, and I live in the Boston area. But I'm a one car person, I drive long distances multiple times a year, and I love my Civic (stick).