By on September 17, 2020

Bugatti Chiron speed attempt

Croatian supercar firm Rimac Automobili is reportedly in the process of acquiring Bugatti from Volkswagen. While rumors had been swirling that VW might offload a few of its brands in a bid to focus on electrification and emissions compliance, this is is the first time we’ve heard credible rumblings about real action being taken.

Considering the space Rimac occupies, adding the formerly French Bugatti brand also makes some amount of sense. We’d be a lot more skeptical if founder Mate Rimac was alleged to be making a move on SEAT because he suddenly found a passion for designing economy cars. But the prospective tie-up is more complicated than it seems at first blush. Volkswagen Group’s Porsche actually owns a 15-percent stake in Rimac so it can tap into some of its sweetest technical equipment for the purpose of building EVs.

(Read More…)

By on September 16, 2020

General Motors refuses to let the dismissal of its federal racketeering case against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles stand in the way of getting what it believes is true justice. On Monday, the automaker filed its latest claim with Wayne County Circuit Court in Michigan. These are separate from the New Jersey lawsuit it has targeting former board member and ex-UAW vice president Joe Ashton, who GM has accused of being a hired mole. However, Ashton was named in the trio of new court filings, along with Alphons Iacobelli  the man who pled guilty to embezzling union funds and kicked off a gigantic federal corruption investigation into the UAW.

The automaker also named some of the banks it claimed were involved in the union scandal and continues to allege that FCA “provided millions of dollars to co-conspirators via numerous undisclosed offshore bank accounts and utilized such accounts to purchase the support and silence of numerous high-level UAW officers and FCA executives.” Fiat Chrysler’s assumed goal? Forcing General Motors into a merger or destroy it if the merger failed by negotiating favorable terms with the union and encouraging leadership into adopting positions that would harm GM.

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By on September 14, 2020

Not that it should be any surprise with pricing creeping up, but U.S. vehicle inventories are some of the lowest we’ve seen in roughly a decade. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to get a solid estimate on supplies as many automakers no longer have the balls to conduct monthly reports, at least not any they’re willing to share. The few that still do have been a little light on the lot, however.

Going into fall, we’d expect to see supplies around the 60-day mark with about a quarter of those vehicles representing the upcoming model year. Mainstream brands seem to be running with a lot fewer cars this month. On Monday, Automotive News estimated that September was probably representing the lightest industry-wide supply of vehicles since October of 2011. Meanwhile, Cox Automotive has the industry sitting on 56 days worth of cars — noting that national inventories shrank to 2.26 million vehicles, or about 870,000 fewer from the year before.

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By on September 3, 2020

Once reserved for aircraft and the world’s most expensive sports cars, carbon fiber has been gradually wriggling its way into the mainstream. On Thursday, Nissan announced it had whipped up a method to manufacture carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) more easily and shorten production time by around 80 percent — adding that it planned to take advantage of the material in order to build increasingly lightweight cars.

The manufacturer also suggested the new process will reduce the cost of manufacturing CFRPs, addressing the industry’s favorite excuse for why they don’t use it more often. That said, the financial inconvenience of implementing carbon fiber is really a byproduct of how labor intensive it is. Most parts are laid into molds one layer at a time with the help of an expert and use vacuum pressure to ensure the resin sets evenly, since they can’t be machine pressed. Yet Nissan felt stamping was the way to go with carbon fiber and claims to have figured out how it should be done. (Read More…)

By on September 2, 2020

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Barely a full day after news broke that Ford was on the cusp of announcing layoffs, Ford announced those layoffs. On Wednesday, the automaker informed employees that it needs to eliminate 1,400 salaried jobs as part of its $11-billion restructuring program. The good news is that these cuts will be handled through retirement buyouts that won’t leave the departing workforce empty handed. The automaker’s internal memo also stated that the buyouts would be voluntary.

The Blue Oval previously said it expects a full-year loss in 2020 thanks to the pandemic, with a pre-tax profit of anywhere between $500 million and $1.5 billion in the third quarter. (Read More…)

By on September 1, 2020

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With a large number of automakers pinching pennies these days, it’s easy for the details of various restructuring plans to fall down the memory hole. For example, Ford has been engaged in an ambitious cost-cutting program since 2018. The $11-billion plan was said to take anywhere from three to five years to complete, requiring legitimate sacrifices at the company — including the discontinuation of all sedans in the United States, ending operations in Russia, closing facilities in Europe, and rolling layoffs around the globe.

Ford has actually accelerated its timeline to see how much it can get done before 2021, resulting in the elimination of 7,000 salaried positions globally last year. The company has decided to end another 1,000 salaried positions in the United States. (Read More…)

By on August 27, 2020

Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer Xpeng announced Thursday a decision to increase the size of its U.S initial public offering (IPO) by more than a third after realizing Wall Street can swallow anything so long as it promises a greener tomorrow.

Co-founded in 2014 by two former executives from China’s GAC Group, the EV startup has already managed to produce around 20,000 vehicles for the Asian market. It also became engaged in an intellectual property dispute with Tesla (which claimed Xpeng stole its Autopilot source code) in 2019 and ran afoul with California’s Department of Motor Vehicles after failing to submit disengagement reports on its self-driving test vehicles in 2018.

Such hurdles don’t seem to have slowed the company’s rise to prominence, however. Xpeng is adept at fundraising, amassing well over a billion dollars through strategic partnerships in just the last two years. Meanwhile, the adjusted IPO filed on the New York Stock Exchange this August now targets a cool $1.5 billion USD. (Read More…)

By on August 26, 2020

Alleged absenteeism stemming from the coronavirus outbreak encouraged General Motors to place salaried volunteers on assembly lines in Wentzville, MO. This has not gone over well with the UAW, which suggests GM’s decision to utilize non-union staff is in direct violation of its 2019 labor contract. The union claims white-collar workers have no business being on assembly lines and has issued a formal warning to the automaker.

Established in 1983 as a stamping and production facility, the site is currently responsible for General Motors’ full-size vans (e.g. Chevrolet Express) and midsize trucks (Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon). The facility has room for 4,560 employees — most of whom are hourly. Those employees are split between the the usual three shifts, with GM claiming difficulties in keeping them populated.

In July, the company said it might have to reduce the plant to just two shifts before pressure from outside convinced it otherwise. This led to the automaker seeking about 200 temporary workers and placing ads with local outlets. (Read More…)

By on August 26, 2020

General Motors and Ford Motor Company are about to conclude their prolonged stint of ventilator production. In case you were unaware, these businesses typically manufacturer automobiles (cars, for the layperson) and have allocated a portion of their factory space to build medical equipment that was assumed to be useful during the pandemic. However, the United States now has more ventilators than it knows what to do with, and most of them seem like they won’t be required — so it’s mission accomplished, unless COVID-19 suddenly becomes a much more vicious illness.

Either way, GM and Ford both plan to re-prioritize vehicle production. The Blue Oval moved core staff off ventilator lines and back to their normal places of assembly months ago. Some of the remaining temporary workers hired to assist with the medical equipment are said to have an opportunity building the new Ford Bronco. Meanwhile, GM says it wants to move ventilator production to a facility in Kokomo, Indiana, next month, where it will hand operations over to Ventec Life Systems as it regains the union employs allocated for the project. Temporary hires will be absorbed by Ventec. (Read More…)

By on August 14, 2020

General Motors’ attempt to revive its RICO lawsuit has failed after a federal court claimed the new evidence presented was too speculative to start the legal process back up. U.S. District Judge Paul Borman dismissed the case with prejudice in July, calling it a “waste of time,” but GM returned with new evidence it hoped might turn the tables.

Filed in November, the General’s case against FCA claims its rival finagled a labor advantage by bribing UAW officials during key contract negotiations. With a federal corruption case still probing the union, and with Fiat Chrysler’s known involvement, it seems like GM might have had a case here. But Judge Borman didn’t think there was sufficient evidence before, and hasn’t changed his mind since.

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By on August 13, 2020

General Motors said it plans to share some of the safety technology it developed as a countermeasure to the coronavirus pandemic this week. These include a thermal scanning kiosk that uses infrared imaging to take temperatures of people as they stream into facilities, as well as a touchless printer app designed to keep staff from repeatedly touching the control panel. However, it’s the third item, GM’s contact-tracing software, that’s the most novel and controversial.

Practically every company in the world is working on ways to better track people, and their efforts have only accelerated during the pandemic. The presumption here is that by knowing every person someone has come into contact with, you can effectively track the progress of a virus. Despite sounding terrifyingly dystopian just a few years earlier, the notion has become a favorite among tech giants  most of whom are working on their own version.

GM’s involves a wristband, integrated into iOS and Android devices, that keeps tabs on how close employees are to each other. The company has since added support for Bluetooth beacons.

“We believe our application advances the state of the art when it comes to mobile apps for contact tracing, which is the subject of massive software development efforts across multiple industries today,” Tony Bolton, GM’s chief information officer of Global Telecommunications and End-User Services, said in a release. (Read More…)

By on August 12, 2020

Unifor will take on the Detroit automakers this week, with the Canadian union undoubtedly planning to do everything within its power to keep as many jobs as it can manage. Unfortunately, that might be easier said than done, what with vehicle demand suppressed by months of lockdowns and an associated economic recession. Despite the positivity surrounding Wall Street, regular folks aren’t in the mood to buy lately.

No matter. Union negotiations are always famously contentious anyway. Corporations want rock-bottom prices for top-shelf work and labor associations always have to ask for more to rationalize their existence. Unifor President Jerry Dias noted that he’s ready for whatever the Big Three throw at him, though we doubt it will include totally sweet offers for line workers. The best the union can probably hope for in 2020 is not losing more Canadian jobs than absolutely necessary. (Read More…)

By on August 5, 2020

With practically every automaker on the planet attempting to make the electric vehicle segment work for them as well as Tesla has, they’re stepping all over each other to gain access to the components necessary to build them.

Everything from securing the raw materials for high-density cells to improving relationships with established battery suppliers will be essential for maximizing market share and embarrassing industry rivals like the little bitches they (hopefully) are. This has been especially true of German brands, who are trying to roll with increasingly demanding emission rules in Europe and China while likewise hoping to improve all-electric range and lower EV production costs.

Daimler, which already has supply deals with SK Innovation, LG Chem and Farasis, is seeking to bolster its partnership with China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd. (CATL) to address some of the challenges listed above. Mercedes-Benz wants to launch its EQS luxury electric sedan using CATL cells in 2021 — ideally with at least 435 miles of range per charge. While Daimler uses Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) metrics that typically average lower when assessed by the U.S. regulators, the proposed target remains enviable. (Read More…)

By on August 4, 2020

Last November, General Motors filed a racketeering suit against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, claiming its rival was involved in a prolonged bribery scheme with UAW leaders to gain an unfair labor-cost advantage. Despite FCA already having staff participating in a vast union corruption scandal, U.S. District Judge Paul Borman dismissed the GM case in July after claiming there was nothing to it beyond petty corporate squabbling.

Now GM is back, claiming it has new evidence against FCA that’s going to blow the lid off everything.

On Monday, the General asked the court to reinstate the racketeering lawsuit. It now claims that there’s evidence of foreign bank accounts used in the alleged bribery scandal. We say “alleged” despite the FBI’s continued investigation into the UAW (separate from the GM-FCA suit) showing criminal levels of corruption. The company even suggested that Alphons Iacobelli (who is already serving time for bribing union officials) channeled sensitive information back to FCA after being hired by GM. The claimed plot then has Fiat Chrysler paying the Iacobelli  family millions of dollars via overseas accounts.

“These new facts warrant amending the court’s prior judgment, so we are respectfully asking the court to reinstate the case,” GM said.

(Read More…)

By on July 24, 2020

Volvo Cars will be unable to reach its global volume target of 800,000 vehicles this year. Considering everything that has — or hasn’t — happened in 2020, any automaker that ends the period moving more metal than they did in 2019 should probably have a statue erected in front of their headquarters celebrating a major industrial achievement.

Volvo sold 705,452 units the last time our Earth went around the sun, forcing it to face the music when considering goals in what CEO Håkan Samuelsson calls the “corona year.”

(Read More…)

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