Tag: R&D

By on April 28, 2021

Ford badge emblem logo

On Tuesday, Ford Motor Co. said it would be putting $185 million toward the construction of a research and development site focused on electric vehicle battery development in southeast Michigan. The facility will be called Ford Ion Park and employ roughly 150 full-time employees that will be focusing on small-scale projects that it hopes might lead to technological breakthroughs offering it a competitive advantage.

While the facility was said to also be capable of manufacturing cells, Ford made it clear during the teleconference that it won’t be operating as a battery plant. Any packs assembled at the R&D center are likely to exist exclusively for evaluation, with the luckiest batteries being installed into concept or test vehicles.  (Read More…)

By on July 31, 2020

With regulatory bodies the world over forcing the automotive sector to prioritize efficiency over mightiness, industry rhetoric has gradually shifted away from the powertrain. While every brand still wants to squeeze out all available power from ubiquitous four-cylinder motors, providing excess is only a priority in a handful of cases catering directly to enthusiasts.

The idea of a big, brutish luxury car with a monstrous engine still exists, but it’s being supplanted by technology-driven features catering to tech-focused minds and the green movement. Modern luxury is based in connectivity, applications, and distancing one from the experience of driving altogether  or at least that’s what the automotive industry now seems to believe.

And they may have a point. While we’re well aware those advocating “mobility” desperately want it so that they can tap into your data (to enhance revenue using the same grimy business tactics favored by big tech firms), carmakers also need something shiny to dangle in front of consumers so we’ll buy the latest and greatest product. The tech sector is also booming right now, and the industry’s dying to get investors back on its side after seeing the Wall Street performance of EV companies  especially Tesla Motors.

Even the traditionalists at Toyota are buying into it, announcing an important push into software development as they attempt to craft the next industry-standard operating system for cars. It’s also the song Volkswagen Group has sung ever since Dieselgate. Meanwhile, Audi recently explained its own commitment to software after its parent company (VW) tasked it with ensuring the botched launches of the ID.3 and Mk8 Golf don’t become commonplace.

(Read More…)

By on July 29, 2020

Carlos Tavares, CEO of Groupe PSA, believes the secret to mainstreaming electric vehicles may have something to do with the industry being able to sell them at a profit. The French automaker’s boss has expressed concerns about a segment that’s almost entirely propped up by taxpayers — sounds likes someone might have taken a business course before running a multinational automaker!

It’s not that EVs are bad; they’re just too novel to be a bargain. Tavares believes the high development costs associated with newer technologies have effectively made electric cars money-losers without financial assistance from the government. He thinks their ultimate success (or failure) hinges upon finding a way to make them profitable without being perpetually subsidized by the government while reducing the amount of raw materials required for battery manufacture. As a bonus, he hinted that automakers might have juicer R&D budgets if they prioritized spending  hopefully accelerating the process of making EVs a little easier on everyone’s bank account.

“Affordability will be the challenge for the next five years in terms of costs,” Tavares told the Financial Times this week. “Those breakthroughs need to come from real estate, distribution costs, sourcing all the components of cost structure will have to be combined to bring this affordability.” (Read More…)

By on April 3, 2020

On Thursday, NASCAR announced the planned debut of the next-generation stock car is being pushed back until 2022. The new breed was originally expected to take the field at next year’s Daytona 500, but the COVID-19 pandemic has reportedly made that impossible.

“Due to challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic, the debut of the Next Gen car will be delayed until 2022,” John Probst, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Innovation, said in a statement. “The decision was made in collaboration with the OEMs and team owners. We will continue to develop the Next Gen car, and a revised testing timeline will be shared when more information is available.” (Read More…)

By on March 2, 2020

2019 BMW M2 Competition badge

Ahead of a product reveal that was pushed into the online realm after last Friday’s cancellation of the Geneva Motor Show, 150 German BMW employees were told to stay in their homes after an R&D employee tested positive for the coronavirus.

The employees work at the research and development center in BMW’s home base of Munich. As viral outbreaks grow in western Europe, spurred by a recent outbreak in northern Italy, this story will surely be repeated across the industry — and the globe. (Read More…)

By on January 27, 2020

Anybody with more than a casual interest in the automotive industry will tell you the relationship between Nissan and Renault is falling apart. Even the alliance’s founder, executive-on-the-run Carlos Ghosn, says it’s on the cusp of going under. But existing employees have tried to be a little more optimistic, acknowledging that the business partnership has become strained while making suggestions to correct its course.

One plan involves pushing more collaborative projects, which is one of the main reasons for forming an industrial alliance. Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard has already said both sides are committed to making the partnership succeed, citing joint projects as a primary focus. Alliance engineers will meet in Japan at the end of January to discuss new development programs — and attempt to revive a few that fell by the wayside.  (Read More…)

By on December 12, 2019

There was a time where you could ask just about anybody on the street which car brand they felt was the most reliable and they’d pause for a moment before answering — unsure as to whether they should suggest Toyota or Honda.

While the realities of what constitute a “reliable car” are a little more complicated than simple branding, both automakers deservedly made a name for themselves by undercutting and outlasting rival products coming from Detroit.

Times have changed. These days, you’ll usually see Toyota (and Lexus) sitting at the top of most reliability/quality surveys while Honda has settled uncomfortably to the middle of the pack. Perhaps more telling is the deluge of recalls that swept away some of the automaker’s credibility over the last five years. Honda is wisely blaming itself, allowing it to make the changes it believes are necessary to remedy the problem and regain some of its consistency.  (Read More…)

By on May 29, 2019

Like all automakers, Volvo is keen to promote itself as a cutting-edge manufacturer, and now has a new tool in its arsenal to impress tech-obsessed shareholders. Thanks to a corporate partnership with Varjo, the brand says it will begin implementing the latest in VR headsets to help streamline development. However, Volvo’s plan is more concerned with augmenting our existing realities than creating new ones.

By using Varjo’s new XR-1 headset, the automaker believes it can manufacture plausible portions of augmented reality littered with virtual obstacles and encounters that are as real to the driver as they would be to the car — without putting either in any legitimate danger. This is ultimately supposed to allow the company to effectively test real vehicles sporting autonomous hardware while subjecting living subjects to the same experience. But the full depth of these simulations has yet to be explored.  (Read More…)

By on December 17, 2018

2018 Kia Stinger - Image: Kia

What new products will Albert Biermann spearhead? That’s what Hyundai watchers wonder as they read that the former BMW M performance head — and later boss of Hyundai’s fledgling N division — has in store for the Korean automaker.

Late last week, Hyundai announced that Biermann would become the first foreign-born executive in charge of the automaker’s R&D. He does so after getting the Kia Stinger and Hyundai N line off the ground; clearly, those at the top approve of his vision. With this latest appointment, Hyundai Motor Group now finds itself with a former Bimmer performance chief and a design head from Bentley. Not a bad place to be. (Read More…)

By on November 3, 2018

VW logo, Image: Volkswagen

According to sources who spoke to Reuters, Volkswagen Group has more interest in pursuing technological relationships with new partners, especially Ford, than continuing on with Audi as its main development hub. At least for a while.

VW CEO Herbert Diess will reportedly unveil a 10-year plan to his company’s board later this month, part of an efficiency initiative born of diesel fines and the need to stay ahead of rivals. While the move would lessen Audi’s importance in the group, VW would stand to save big on R&D costs. Meanwhile, Ford might get access to VW’s electric vehicle architecture. (Read More…)

By on August 28, 2018

Toyota Motor Corp. is set to drop about $500 million into Uber Technologies Inc. under an agreement that will see both companies work jointly on self-driving vehicles. The ultimate goal is for Toyota to bring to market its own autonomous vehicles using some of Uber’s hardware, with direct access to its ride-sharing network.

According to the automaker, the initial push will use the Sienna minivan as a platform for the “Autono-MaaS” (autonomous-mobility as a service) fleet. This makes the arrangement sound very similar to Waymo’s deal with FCA, which allows Alphabet’s autonomous arm to use the Chrysler Pacifica as a test platform for its self-driving hardware in exchange to having improved access to autonomous technology. However, Toyota said the partnership’s primary goal is improving safety and lowering transportation costs for the public.  (Read More…)

By on July 16, 2018

Subaru is a once-tiny manufacturer that grew in leaps and bounds thanks to high demand from the United States. The automaker is the eighth best-selling brand in the region, despite being a scrappy upstart, and has managed multiply its volume many since the 1990s. But, like any business loaded into a cannon with the word “success” emblazoned on the side, it can’t continue streaming through the clouds indefinitely without encountering some turbulence.

Subaru may be in for troubled times. (Read More…)

By on February 5, 2018

Crosstrek Hybrid

If you’re a modern-day automaker without an electrification strategy, you’re in trouble. Not only will you face the global stigma of being truly evil, you might also miss out on the possibility of future sales. Sure, electric vehicles only account for about 1 percent of total domestic deliveries right now, but it’s a growth market, spurred on by political pressure and regulatory action. Some regions, like California, have plug-ins taking up as much as 5 percent of annual car sales.

Subaru needs help, as it doesn’t sell a single electrified vehicle. The brand discontinued the Crosstrek Hybrid, and its only battery-driven plug-in, the long-defunct Stella EV, was sold only in Japan and proved about as popular as VD. While Subaru can certainly build a good car, it hasn’t had the best luck with electric vehicles.

It’s now calling on its “friends” for backup.  (Read More…)

By on October 4, 2017

Ford Escape Titanium badge logo, Image: Ford Motor Company

After much speculation, Ford CEO Jim Hackett has finally outlined where his company’s dollars will be spent in the foreseeable future. Hackett spent his summer performing what Ford called a “four-month deep dive” into the company’s strategy and business operations to see what changes needed to be made. His conclusions? This may surprise a few readers, but Ford will continue building and selling automobiles.

Alright, that isn’t a bombshell, but the brand is trying to frame itself as the Ford you’ve always trusted while also letting everyone know it’s still a “mobility company” with its eyes fixed on tomorrow. Without the public relations veneer, that plan translates into a reduced number of production models and trims, more money for electrification R&D, less for internal combustion engines, and a significant reduction in material costs.

Hackett’s address also served to reassure the nervous shareholders who ousted his predecessor, Mark Fields. Ford’s stock declined more than 30 percent during Fields’ tenure and many complained that his vision of transitioning from a traditional automaker to a Silicon Valley look-alike was partly to blame. Hackett did everything in his power to ease those fears.

“We’re going to be in the vehicle business moving both people and goods. Some myth about not being in the car business is gone,” Hackett told Wall Street. (Read More…)

By on July 28, 2017

autonomous hardware

Thanks to rhetoric beaten into us by the automotive industry, we know autonomous vehicles are “right around the corner.” Some manufacturers predict self-driving vehicles will be on the commercial market by an ambitiously early target date of 2021. However, those trick new rides are going to come at a premium that’ll keep them out of the hands of most normal people for a while.

LIDAR, the imaging system that allows an autonomous vehicle’s software to make sense of the road, is prohibitively expensive. High-end systems can approach the six-figure threshold while lower quality units rarely fall below 10 grand. Burgeoning technology is never affordable and automakers have traditionally found a way to produce advancements in cost-

effective ways. But the timeline for autonomous cars is too short, meaning any manufacturer wanting to sell one is going to have to have to accept the costs or defer production.  (Read More…)

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