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Vehicle Manufacturers

[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB (NEVS) and Dongfeng Motor Corporation enter strategic cooperation, focused on new energy vehicles

August 17, 2015

National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB (NEVS)—the rebirthed Saab—and Dongfeng Motor Corporation (Dongfeng) have signed a strategic cooperation agreement to achieve global industrial synergies.

According to the agreement, Dongfeng will support NEVS on the construction of new energy vehicles production and R&D in Tianjin and the formation of NEVS’ sales and service with support from Dongfeng’s dealer network. Dongfeng will also support NEVS to achieve the new energy vehicle mass production.

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Additive manufacturing company Carbon3D named Technology Pioneer by World Economic Forum; work with Ford

August 10, 2015

Additive manufacturing (3D printing) company Carbon3D Inc. was named one of the World Economic Forum’s 49 Technology Pioneers for 2015. Carbon3D joins the Technology Pioneers program as the first additive manufacturing company to be selected. Carbon3D recently emerged from stealth mode to introduce an innovative approach to polymer-based 3D printing that it says will advance the industry beyond basic prototyping to 3D manufacturing.

The new Continuous Liquid Interface Production technology (CLIP) uses a tuneable photochemical process instead of the traditional mechanical approach, eliminating the shortcomings of conventional layer-by-layer 3D printing technology, rapidly to transform 3D models into final parts in a range of engineering-grade materials. Ford has been working with Carbon 3D since December 2014, and has produced elastomer grommets for the Ford Focus Electric and damping bumper parts for the Transit Connect.

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Ford working with OSU on sustainable alternative rubber sources for non-tire vehicle applications

August 06, 2015

While there are a number of efforts underway exploring the use of sustainable, natural rubber alternatives for use in tires (earlier post, earlier post, earlier post), cars use a great deal of rubber for non-tire applications as well; the Ford Fiesta, for example, contains about 3 kg of the material, excluding the tires.

Ford Motor Company is thus investigating alternative sustainable sources of rubber for automotive use in these non-tire applications. The company is working closely with The Ohio State University’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s (OARDC’s) Program of Excellence in Natural Rubber Alternatives (PENRA) on researching the use of latex from guayule and Russian dandelion root in applications such as the car’s interior (cup holders), floormats, suspension bushings, engine mounts and so on, said Janice Tardiff, Elastomer Technical Expert at Ford.

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Tesla posts record deliveries in Q2; hedges a bit on full year outloook

Tesla Motors delivered 11,532 vehicles in the second quarter of 2015, and produced a record 12,807 vehicles, exceeding plan (12,500 units) while improving efficiency, according to the company’s quarterly letter to shareholders. This represents a 15% sequential increase in production and a 46% increase from a year ago. Total GAAP revenue was $955 million (+24% year-on-year) for the quarter, while non-GAAP revenue was $1.20 billion (+40%). Net GAAP loss was $184 million (almost triple the $62-million loss in Q2 2014); non-GAAP net loss was $60.2 million (an almost 4x increase). Total Q2 gross margin was 22.3% on a GAAP basis and 23.4% on a non-GAAP basis.

Globally, Model S orders increased following the launch of 85D (earlier post) and 70D (earlier post). In the US, Q2 Model S orders grew almost 30% year-over-year. In Europe, Q2 Model S orders grew more than 50% year-over-year, despite two price increases in the past six months. In Asia, Q2 Model S orders nearly doubled from last quarter, helped by the initial success of a revised China strategy. Encouraged by this improvement, Tesla is increasing its investments in China by planning to grow this year from one to five retail stores located in high foot traffic areas.

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Volkswagen Group selects LG as FAST partner for high-voltage batteries

August 01, 2015

The Volkswagen Group nominated the first 44 suppliers who will be collaborating with the Group on a new common strategic level under the joint FAST initiative. Among the 44 is LG Electronics for the supply of high-voltage batteries. (Earlier post.)

Volkswagen Group Procurement is responding to the challenges currently facing the automotive industry by working together with its suppliers under the “Future Automotive Supply Tracks” initiative (or FAST for short) and will implement technical innovations even faster. Volkswagen AG said it chose the first tranche of suppliers for “their outstanding performance in their respective field of competence based on a systematic selection process.

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FCA to pay record $105M over recall failures

July 27, 2015

In a consent order with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has acknowledged violations of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act’s requirements to repair vehicles with safety defects and will submit to federal oversight, buy back some defective vehicles from owners, and pay up to $105 million in penalties and remediation—the largest such settlement yet imposed by the Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The company must pay a $70-million cash penalty—equal to the record $70 million civil penalty the agency imposed on Honda in January. In addition, Fiat Chrysler must spend at least $20 million on meeting performance requirements included in the Consent Order. Another $15 million could come due if the independent monitor discovers additional violations of the Safety Act or the Consent Order.

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Mitsubishi Motors officially announces end of production in US; seeking buyer for plant

Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) officially announced, after several days of press reports, that Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc., (MMNA) a wholly owned subsidiary of MMC in the United States, is preparing to end production of its sole production model—Outlander Sport—at its Bloomington-Normal, Illinois plant at the end of November 2015. Production of the model will be consolidated in Okazaki plant in Japan, pending a final decision by the MMC Board of Directors on 30 July.

MMNA said it will be making efforts to identify a buyer with the help from United Auto Workers (UAW).

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Honda opens new Silicon Valley facility to advance connected mobility; refreshed 2016 Accord; Honda Xcelerator

July 24, 2015

Honda officially opened its new Silicon Valley R&D facility, using the occasion to unveil a refreshed 2016 Accord featuring Honda’s first application of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Honda also announced a new open innovation R&D initiative—Honda Xcelerator—which will provide resources to breakthrough technology innovators to help rapidly develop prototypes with the potential to transform the automotive experience.

Honda’s Silicon Valley operation, which was first established in 2000, is charged with researching and prototyping innovations and harnessing new ideas and technology. Current areas of focus include connected mobility; novel human-machine interfaces; supporting app developers through initiatives such as Honda Developer Studio; and computer science research for vehicle intelligence. Silicon Valley engineers also spearhead the company’s working relationship with Silicon Valley-based technology companies.

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BMW launches operations at Center of Urban Mobility Competence; boosting electromobility through EV sharing

July 17, 2015

BMW Group has officially launched operations at its Center of Urban Mobility Competence, which it established earlier this year. Its experts are working with cities and the relevant stakeholders to develop sustainable concepts for future mobility in urban areas.

BMW established the Competence Center to help bring the goal of creating a sustainable model for urban mobility, reducing traffic volumes and improving the quality of life in cities within reach, through partnerships with cities themselves. At the same time, BMW also announced that 100 all-electric BMW i3 cars are now available for DriveNow car sharing customers in Berlin, Hamburg and Munich. In London the BMW i3 was already added to the DriveNow fleet in May, and other cities in Germany and Europe will soon follow suit.

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Magna to acquire Getrag for approximately €1.75B

July 16, 2015

Magna International Inc. signed an agreement to acquire the Getrag Group of Companies for approximately €1.75 billion (US$1.9 billion). This represents an enterprise value of approximately €2.45 billion (US$2.7 billion) less proportionate net debt and proportionate pension liabilities, which together are estimated to be approximately €700 million (US$762 million) at closing.

Getrag is the world’s largest (by volume) OEM-independent supplier of automotive transmissions, offering a range of transmission systems which include manual, automated-manual, dual-clutch, hybrid and other advanced systems.

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Electrochemical Society and Toyota announce fellowship winners for projects in green energy technology

July 15, 2015

The ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship Selection Committee has selected three recipients who will receive $50,000 each for the inaugural fellowships for projects in green energy technology. The winners are Professor Patrick Cappillino, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth; Professor Yogesh (Yogi) Surendranath, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Professor David Go, University of Notre Dame.

The Electrochemical Society (ECS), in partnership with the Toyota Research Institute of North America (TRINA), a division of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. (TEMA), launched the inaugural ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship about six months ago. More than 100 young professors and scholars pursuing innovative electrochemical research in green energy technology responded to ECS’s request for proposals.

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Audi e-gas plant qualified to participate in balancing market to stabilize grid

The Audi e-gas plant in the city of Werlte in Lower Saxony (earlier post) produces CO2 neutral-fuel (synthetic methane from water, renewable electricity and CO2); it now also contributes toward stabilizing the public power grid. After successfully completing a test sequence, the plant is now qualified for participating in the electricity balancing market.

In the German electrical energy mix, the share of renewable energies is growing rapidly, reaching 33% in the first half of 2015. However, regional expansion of wind and photovoltaic generation plants leads to increasingly larger load fluctuations. It is therefore important to have flexibly available consumers such as the Audi e-gas plant to buffer load peaks and thereby stabilize energy grids.

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Renault-Nissan Alliance posts record €3.8 billion in synergies in 2014, up 32.4% from 2013; role of CMF

July 10, 2015

The Renault-Nissan Alliance posted record synergies of €3.80 billion ($4.25 billion) in 2014, up 32.4% from €2.87 billion the previous year. Purchasing, engineering and manufacturing were the biggest contributors. The launch of the Alliance’s first Common Module Family (CMF) vehicles (earlier post), as well as the recent convergence of four key functions—Engineering; Manufacturing Engineering & Supply Chain Management; Purchasing; and Human Resources—helped drive synergies in all three areas, said Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Synergies are generated from cost reductions, cost avoidance and revenue increases. Only new synergies (not cumulative) are taken into account each year. Accounting for synergies helps Renault and Nissan determine if they are meeting their performance objectives.

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Ford Smart Mobility shifts from research to implementation; company announces new programs, next areas of focus

June 24, 2015

In the opening keynote at Ford’s annual trends conference, 2015 Further With Ford, CEO Mark Fields announced the next phase of the company’s Smart Mobility plan, originally announced in January this year at CES (earlier post). Ford Smart Mobility is the company’s plan to deliver the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience and big data; the initial stage was the creation of 25 mobility experiments across the globe.

Fields said that Ford, which has “learned tons in the past several months” from those initial experiments, is now moving from research to the start of implementation, including new strategic areas of focus, new pilot programs and new mobility product experiments.

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PSA Peugeot Citroën and Bolloré Group sign strategic cooperation agreement on Bluesummer EV and car sharing

June 17, 2015

PSA Peugeot Citroën and Bolloré Group have signed a strategic cooperation agreement covering electric vehicle production and distribution as well as car sharing. The two said the agreement is aligned with their common goal of becoming a leading player in the car sharing market, which will account for a significant portion of the new mobility economy, alongside public transport solutions.

The electric vehicle that will be distributed by PSA Peugeot Citroën is the Bluesummer, a four-seat cabriolet designed by Bolloré, with an urban driving range of 200 kilometers (124 miles). Top speed is 110 km/h (68 mph), and the vehicle is powered by a 30 kWh Bolloré BlueSolutions LMP battery pack.

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“Energiewende” in a tank; Audi e-fuels targeting carbon-neutral driving with synthetic fuels from renewables, H2O and CO2; Swiss policy test case

June 12, 2015

Like other major automakers, Audi (and its parent Volkswagen Group) is working on meeting its medium-term regulatory requirements (e.g., in the 2020 timeframe) by reducing the average fuel consumption of its new vehicles using a combination of three primary measures: optimizing its combustion engines for greater efficiency; developing alternative drive concepts, such as hybrid, plug-in hybrid and gas-powered vehicles; and reducing total vehicle weight through lightweight construction with an intelligent multimaterial mix.

Unlike the others, however, Audi over the past few years has embarked on a comprehensive approach to developing a range of new CO₂-neutral fuels as part of its overall strategy for sustainable, carbon-neutral mobility: Audi e-fuels. Audi’s basic goal is to combine renewable energy (e.g. solar and wind), water and CO2 to produce liquid or gaseous fuels with a very low carbon intensity. Audi e-fuels are intended to use no fossil or biomass sources; do not compete with food production; and are 100% compatible with existing infrastructure.

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Oak Ridge Lab, Hyundai Motor collaborating through new R&D agreement

June 09, 2015

Hyundai Motor Company and the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have signed an agreement intended to strengthen the automaker’s US research and development portfolio. The MOU is an expression of intent and does not create a legally binding obligation, nor does it commit funds from either party.

Hyundai Motor Company and its affiliate Kia Motors Corp. will be identifying and providing R&D needs of the automotive industry; providing feedback and evaluation technology concepts; consulting with ORNL on R&D topics related to the industry; and developing potential Hyundai-sponsored projects to be carried out under separate, legally binding agreements.

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Up close and personal with Volkswagen’s e-Golf carbon offset project: Garcia River Forest

June 08, 2015

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TCF, the manager of the Garcia River Forest Project, would like to enable its increasing number of redwood trees to reach the 1,000-year-old status of some of their neighbors, like this one. Click to enlarge.

In 2014, Volkswagen of America announced that starting with the launch of the zero-tailpipe emissions battery-electric 2015 e-Golf (earlier post), it would invest in projects to offset the carbon emissions created from the e-Golf on a full lifecycle basis: production, distribution and up to approximately 36,000 miles (57,936 km) of driving.

Last week, Volkswagen provided a close-up look at one of the projects in which it is investing: the Garcia River Conservation-Based Forest Management Project, located in Mendocino County, California. This project, to which Volkswagen contributes along with companies such as UPS, repairs and preserves a ~24,000-acre native redwood forest, increasing carbon sequestration and storage, while also helping to restore the natural wildlife habitat. Emission reductions produced by the project are verified by an approved third party and registered with the Climate Action Reserve (Project ID CAR102).

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Volkswagen Group and SAIC to produce EVs and PHEVs in China

June 03, 2015

The Volkswagen Group and SAIC Motor Corporation Ltd, Volkswagen’s original joint venture partner in China, have agreed to expand the main plant of their joint venture Shanghai Volkswagen (SVW) in Anting to support the local production of electric vehicles. Full localization of the Volkswagen Group’s electric vehicles in China will be gradually implemented.

With the development and local production of electric vehicles and components, Volkswagen is taking the next step in the further expansion of its research and development activities in China. The company said that it will also intensify its local research in the fields of fuel cells and plug-in hybrid vehicles as well.

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Ford opens portfolio of patented technologies to competitors to accelerate industry-wide electrified vehicle development

May 28, 2015

Ford Motor Company is offering competitors access to its electrified vehicle technology patents in a move to help accelerate industry-wide research and development of electrified vehicles. In 2014, Ford filed more than 400 patents dedicated to electrified vehicle technologies. This is more than 20% of the patents the company filed, totaling more than 2,000 applications.

Ford currently offers six hybrid or fully electrified vehicles including Ford Focus Electric; Ford Fusion Hybrid; Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid; Ford C-MAX Hybrid; Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid; and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. In total, Ford has more than 650 electrified vehicle patents and approximately 1,000 pending patent applications on electrified vehicle technologies.

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Ford partners with Haier, Trina Solar and Delta Electronics to launch MyEnergi Lifestyle in China

May 27, 2015

At Consumer Electronics Show Asia, Ford launched a strategic collaboration with Haier (home appliance), Trina Solar (solar power) and Delta Electronics (power management) to introduce MyEnergi Lifestyle (earlier post) to China, a holistic approach for lowering the energy costs and carbon footprint of Chinese families.

MyEnergi Lifestyle, designed to address China’s energy needs and air quality concerns, showcases how combining renewable energy sources, efficient home appliances and a plug-in vehicle can significantly reduce energy costs and carbon footprint. Ford introduced a MyEnergi Lifestyle collaboration for the US in 2013, working with Whirlpool, SunPower and Eaton.

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Ford makes GoDrive car-sharing available to public in London

May 26, 2015

Ford Motor Company will begin making its London-based GoDrive car-sharing service available to the public. (Earlier post.) The service offers flexible, practical and affordable access to a fleet of cars for one-way journeys with easy parking throughout the city.

The project started as one of more than 25 experiments that form Ford Smart Mobility, Ford’s plan to use technology and innovation to take the company to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience and big data. The pilot was called City Driving On-Demand. The application being introduced to the public is called GoDrive.

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Smith Electric Vehicles and FDG form JV for commercial EVs in US; new joint EV platform

May 13, 2015

Smith Electric Vehicles executed an agreement to form a joint venture with China-based strategic partner and investor FDG Electric Vehicles, a vertically integrated electric vehicle and lithium-ion battery manufacturer engaged in the R&D, production and distribution of all-electric vehicles. Both parties have also entered into Intellectual Property (IP) and technology licensing agreements with the JV, taking full advantage of the combination of FDG’s electric vehicles designs and Smith’s technologies and distribution network, so as to accelerate the development of the FDG brand name and products in the US market.

FDG will contribute the US-exclusive right to use its self-designed passenger van, minibus, panel van and cab/chassis (a US$30-million consideration) into the JV and also subscribe to the JV’s shares with US$15 million in cash; Smith will inject all of its US-exclusive IP pertaining to electric vehicles and its current client base (a US$40-million consideration). In addition, the JV will enter into an exclusive sourcing agreement for electric vehicles’ SKD (semi-knocked down) kits and electric vehicle battery with FDG, and the exclusive agreement of assembly and production with Smith respectively to entrust Smith to manufacture electric vehicles using FDG SKD kits and batteries.

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Toyota and Mazda agree to build long-term partnership; environmental and advanced safety technologies

Toyota Motor Corporation and Mazda Motor Corporation entered an agreement to build a long-term partnership, leveraging the resources of each to complement and to enhance the other’s products and technologies. The two companies are now setting up a joint committee to evaluate how best to utilize each company’s respective strengths.

The committee will encourage “broad and meaningful collaboration” across a range of fields, including environmental and advanced safety technologies. Speculation on a potential agreement prior to the actual announcement had focused on the exchange of Toyota fuel cell and Mazda Skyactiv technologies.

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SAE World Congress panel highlights progress on H2 infrastructure and fuel cell vehicle commercialization

May 12, 2015

Although the SAE World Congress has been running panel sessions on fuel cell vehicle commercialization since 2005, this year was the first in which three participating automakers—Toyota, Hyundai and Honda—had fuel cell vehicles that customers can buy now or within a year. (Earlier post.) Many other OEMs are also working on development of fuel cell vehicles as well.

The PFL 799 technical executive expert panel at this year’s world Congress, chaired by Jesse Schneider (from BMW), invited those automakers as well as infrastructure leaders to discuss their progress in fuel cell technology and hydrogen infrastructure and challenges remaining. Participants included Hyundai, GM, Honda, Toyota, Linde and Air Liquide.

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Tesla posts $154M GAAP loss, $45M non-GAAP loss in Q1 on record deliveries; confident in 55K total deliveries this year

May 07, 2015

In its Q1 2015 financial report, Tesla Motors said it produced 11,160 vehicles in Q1 (10% better than guidance, at an average of 1,000 cars per production week); delivered 10,045 (worldwide), a quarterly record; and posted a $154-million GAAP net loss (non-GAAP net loss of $45 million). The Q1 GAAP net loss was 43% greater than the Q4 2014 GAAP net loss and 210% greater than GAAP net loss in Q1 2014.

Tesla has begun breaking out the revenues and costs of its automotive business from its other activities—i.e., powertrain sales, service revenue, Tesla Energy (the new line of stationary energy storage systems) and pre-owned Tesla vehicle sales. Automotive revenue and related costs reflect activities related to the sale or lease of new vehicles including regulatory (e.g., ZEV) credits, data connectivity and Supercharging.

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Volkswagen moving MAN and Scania into an integrated commercial vehicles group

May 06, 2015

Volkswagen is moving MAN and Scania into an integrated commercial vehicles group and thus putting in place a structured framework for business with mid-sized and heavy trucks and buses. Truck & Bus GmbH is the new Volkswagen Group holding for the MAN und Scania commercial vehicle brands. Shares in Scania AB held by Volkswagen AG will be transferred to Truck & Bus GmbH. The wholly-owned Volkswagen subsidiary already holds 75.28% of the voting rights in MAN SE.

Truck & Bus GmbH will establish processes specific to the commercial vehicles business, thus leveraging the full synergy potential between the brands. The company will be led by Andreas Renschler, member of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG. The Supervisory Board, composed on a parity basis, will be chaired by Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, CEO of Volkswagen AG.

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Ford investing $2.5B for new engine, transmission plants in Mexico

April 17, 2015

Ford is investing $2.5 billion in new engine and transmission plants in the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Guanajuato, respectively. The investment covers three projects: a new engine plant in Chihuahua; expansion of Ford’s I-4 and diesel engine lines in Chihuahua; and a new transmission plant—Ford’s first in Mexico—in Guanajuato.

The investment, which comes during the celebration of Ford’s 90th anniversary in the country, will bring 3,800 direct new jobs plus additional indirect jobs to Mexico. Ford officials announced the investment today during a ceremony with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and other members of the country’s Federal Government.

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Toyota investing $1B in new TNGA plant in Mexico, realigning North American manufacturing; expansion in Guangzhou

April 15, 2015

Toyota is embarking on a multi-year plan to realign its manufacturing operations in North America in support of the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) (earlier post), a comprehensive approach to achieving sustainable growth by making ever-better vehicles more efficiently. Toyota also announced an expansion of its joint venture plant, Guangzhou Toyota Motor Co., Ltd. (GTMC), in China (one of Toyota’s three assembly plants in China).

As part of this strategy, Toyota will invest approximately US$1 billion to construct its newest North American manufacturing facility in the state of Guanajuato in Central Mexico to produce the Corolla. The plant is the first designed from the ground up with TNGA production engineering technologies and will leverage the existing supply base and transportation infrastructure in the region. Toyota will also establish a plant preparation office in the state of Queretaro.

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Daimler & Renault-Nissan Alliance expand cooperation to 1-ton pickup trucks

April 07, 2015

The Renault-Nissan Alliance and Daimler AG are expanding their five-year strategic cooperation (earlier post) into the pickup truck segment. Together, Nissan and Daimler will develop a 1-ton pickup truck for Mercedes-Benz. Mercedes-Benz recently announced its entry into this segment. (Earlier post.)

The Mercedes-Benz pickup will share some of the architecture with the all-new Nissan NP300 but it will be engineered and designed by Daimler to meet the specific needs of its customers. The vehicle will have all of Mercedes Benz’ distinctive characteristics and features.

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Toyota progress report on TNGA; half of vehicles sold in 2020 to feature new platforms

March 27, 2015

In 2012, Toyota Motor introduced its new development framework, the Toyota New Global Architecture. (Earlier post.) Designed to balance product advances with cost reductions, TNGA supports the grouping of the development of new vehicles to promote strategic sharing of parts and powertrain components. One goal is the reduction of resources required for development by 20% or more.

Toyota recently provided an update and an outlook on its progress with TNGA, focusing on new vehicle development (powertrain components and vehicle platforms) as well as production systems.

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Mercedes-Benz to introduce 10 plug-in hybrids by 2017; GLE PHEV coming soon

March 18, 2015

Mercedes-Benz is making a strategic push on plug-in hybrids: the Stuttgart-based automaker will introduce 10 new plug-in hybrid models by 2017. The company said that the main emphasis as regards alternative drives in years to come will be on plug-in hybrids.

The announcement follows the market introduction of the C 350 e (earlier post, earlier post), the company’s second plug-in hybrid model following the S 500 Plug-In Hybrid (earlier post). At the Geneva Motor Show, the company showcased the new MPV plug-in hybrid Concept V-ision e study. (Earlier post.) As the plug-in hybrid comes into its own especially in larger vehicles and with mixed distance profiles, Mercedes-Benz is opting for this drive concept from the C-Class upwards—the technology will make its entry soon into the SUV segment with the new Mercedes-Benz GLE.

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Tesla delivers mixed results with 4Q and full 2014 report

February 12, 2015

In its Q4 and full 2014 release on Wednesday, Tesla Motors reported mixed results. The company built 11,627 vehicles in Q4, achieving its production target of 35,000 Model S vehicles in 2014. However, deliveries slipped by about 1,400 vehicles due to a variety of factors.

In 2014, about 55% of new Model S vehicles were delivered into North America. While North American Model S orders grew year-on-year, deliveries were about flat as vehicles flowed into Asia/Pacific (APAC) markets to support the first year of deliveries there. The APAC region represented about 15% of Tesla deliveries for the year, and the remaining 30% of deliveries were to Europe, where delivery volume more than doubled from a year ago.

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Volkswagen Group acquires Ballard automotive fuel cell patent portfolio, extends engineering services contract in US$80+ million deal

February 11, 2015

Ballard Power Systems has entered into a Technology Solutions transaction with Volkswagen Group for an aggregate amount of approximately US$80 million for the transfer of certain automotive-related fuel cell intellectual property (IP) and a two-year extension of an engineering services contract. (Earlier post.)

Ballard will transfer the automotive-related portion of fuel cell IP assets previously acquired from United Technologies Corporation in return for payments from Volkswagen Group totaling US$50 million, a majority of which is expected to be received at the closing of the transaction during the current quarter. The remainder is expected to be received in early 2016.

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Ford opens new Silicon Valley research center; focus on connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, big data

January 22, 2015

Ford has opened its new Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto, growing its global research team and accelerating the company’s work in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, customer experience and big data.

The new Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto joins Ford’s global network of research and innovation centers, including its location in Dearborn, Michigan, which focuses on advanced electronics, human-machine interface, materials science, big data and analytics; and Aachen, Germany, which focuses on next-generation powertrain research, driver-assist technologies and active safety systems.

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Thomson Reuters analysis finds automotive new propulsion technology patent activities surge 6-fold in 5 years

January 20, 2015

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Automotive patent filings reduced to one document per DWPI family charted by category and the publication year of the earliest family member. Source: Thomson Innovation & Thomson Reuters Derwent World Patents Index. Click to enlarge.

An analysis of the global automobile industry’s recent patent activity by the Intellectual Property & Science business of Thomson Reuters has found a massive commitment from carmakers and their suppliers to new propulsion technology. Patent data from 2009 through July 2014 show that activity in propulsion technology grew from fewer than 2,000 patents to nearly 12,000: more than any other technology area in the automotive industry. It was also the only area of patents to reflect a year-over-year growth in the five-year span.

For the report, “The State of Innovation in the Automotive Industry”, Thomson Reuters broke patent activity in the automotive industry into five broad categories: Propulsion; Navigation (which included telematics); Handling (which included autonomous driving); Safety & Security (which included driver assistance systems); and Entertainment.

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Ford announces Smart Mobility plan; 25 initial projects

January 06, 2015

At CES, Ford CEO Mark Fields announced “Ford Smart Mobility”—a plan to use innovation to take Ford to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience and big data. The initial step is the creation of 25 mobility experiments across the globe designed to help change the way the world moves.

Smart Mobility builds upon Ford’s Blueprint for Mobility (earlier post). As outlined by Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford in his keynote at the 2012 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the Blueprint for Mobility defines the start of Ford’s thinking on what transportation will look like in 2025 and beyond, and the technologies, business models and partnerships needed to get there.

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Toyota inviting royalty-free use of ~5,680 hydrogen fuel cell patents

January 05, 2015

At CES, Toyota announced that it will invite royalty-free use of approximately 5,680 fuel cell related patents held globally, including critical technologies developed for the new Toyota Mirai. The list includes approximately 1,970 patents related to fuel cell stacks, 290 associated with high-pressure hydrogen tanks, 3,350 related to fuel cell system software control and 70 patents related to hydrogen production and supply.

The announcement covers only fuel cell-related patents wholly owned by Toyota. Patents related to fuel cell vehicles will be available for royalty-free licenses until the end of 2020. Patents for hydrogen production and supply will remain open for an unlimited duration. As part of licensing agreements, Toyota will request, but will not require, that other companies share their fuel cell-related patents with Toyota for similar royalty-free use.

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Ford issues 2015 trends report; the emergent role of Generation Z

December 29, 2014

Ford has issued its third annual trends report, a compilation of consumer research and insights from thought leaders around the world, which is intended to provide a look at micro-trends expected to influence products and brands for 2015 and beyond. From the growing influence of young, socially conscious consumers, to a greater acceptance of modern-day rebels and a shifting perspective that de-stigmatizes failure, Ford Motor Company’s trend report suggests 2015 will be marked by a broad desire to enact change for the good.

The Looking Further with Ford 2015 report pays particular attention to the role of Generation Z—roughly defined as those born after 1993. Generation Z, which follows the Millennials, is the first truly global generation, born into an on-demand, technology-driven culture. Expected to account for more than 20% of the world’s population, these digitally savvy, socially conscious consumers, most of whom are still teenagers, are working to help define the trends of both today and tomorrow, Ford says.

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Audi boosting investment over next 5 years by 9% to €24B; 70% to new models and technology

December 27, 2014

From 2015 through 2019, Audi plans to invest €24 billion (US$29 billion)—€2 billion (US$2.4 billion), or 9% more, more than in the previous planning period. 70 percent of the investment will flow into the development of new models and technologies. Audi aims to meet stringent CO2 limits worldwide with a new generation of extremely economical combustion engines and alternative efficiency technologies as well as new features in the areas of connectivity and driver assistance.

Audi also plans to create additional production capacities worldwide in the next five years through large-scale investment. More than half of the planned investment will take place at the German sites in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm.

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Orbital suing Daimler and Bosch for alleged patent infringement on direct injection technology

December 23, 2014

Australia-based specialized engine and vehicle systems company Orbital Corporation has filed court documents in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia alleging the infringement of Orbital patents on direct injection technology by Daimler AG, Mercedes-Benz USA LLC, Mercedes-Benz US International, Inc. (Mercedes), Robert Bosch GMGH and Robert Bosch LLC (Bosch). (3:14-cv-00808-REP Orbital Australia Pty Ltd et al. v. Daimler AG et al.)

Specific patents covered by the complaint are United States Patents Nº 6,923,387 (the “387 patent”) ("injector patent"); Nº 5,655,365 (the “365 patent”); and Nº 5,606,951 (the “951 patent”) (“control patents”),under 35 U.S.C.§271.

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Ford CEO: Ford to focus on 5 key areas of innovation: mobility, autonomy, connectivity, customer experience and performance

December 19, 2014

In a pre-Christmas media event, Ford president and CEO Mark Fields said while 2014 was a good year for the company, 2015 has the potential to be a “breakthrough year”. Fields said that Ford’s investments in products, people, plants and technology, combined with industry growth, are not only delivering a year of growth in terms of revenue, pricing power, operating margins and profitability in 2014, but are setting the stage for growth in and beyond 2015.

The global automotive industry is staged to experience $1 trillion of revenue growth over the next five years, Field said: from about $2 trillion today to about $3 trillion by the end of the decade. “That’s a tremendous amount of growth. We want to get our fair share of that growth.” In moving forward on that, Fields said, Ford will focus on five key areas of innovation: mobility, autonomy, connectivity, customer experience and performance.

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Toyota Motor to consolidate development and production of diesel engines under TICO; manual transmissions under Aisin Seiki; brake systems under Advics

November 29, 2014

Toyota Industries Corporation (TICO) and Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) will consolidate their joint diesel engine development and production under the control of TICO. The purpose of this decision is to strengthen the competitiveness of both companies by bringing the development and production of diesel engines under one roof and enabling more efficient allocation of resources.

Further, Toyota is consolidating development and Japanese production of manual transmissions under Aisin Seiki subsidiary Aisin AI Co., Ltd. and will accelerate the consolidation of brake system engineering, manufacturing and sales under Advics, which was founded in July 2001 by Aisin Seiki, Denso, Sumitomo Electric, and TMC. (TMC, TICO, Aisin Seiki and Denso are part of the Toyota Group.)

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Volkswagen Group to invest $106 billion over next 5 years in Automotive Division

November 21, 2014

The Volkswagen Group will invest a total of €85.6 billion (US$106 billion) in new models, innovative technologies and its global presence in its Automotive Division over the coming five years. Around two-thirds of the total investment amount will flow into increasingly efficient vehicles, drives and more environmentally friendly production.

Investments in property, plant and equipment, investment property and intangible assets, excluding capitalized development costs (capex) in the Automotive Division will amount to €64.3 billion (US$80 billion), on a level with the planning approved in the previous year for the period from 2014 to 2018. At €41.3 billion (US$51.3 billion)—roughly 64%—the Group will spend most of the total capex in the Automotive Division on modernizing and extending the product range for all its brands. The main focus will be on expanding the SUV range—in particular in the A/A0 class—as well as on modernizing part of the light commercial vehicle portfolio.

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Volkswagen Group PhD Day in Wolfsburg: 600 experts, 95 theses

November 04, 2014

More than 600 experts attended Volkswagen Group’s PhD Day, when 95 young scientists presented their research findings at the MobileLifeCampus in Wolfsburg, Germany. PhD students from the Volkswagen Passenger Cars, ŠKODA, Audi, Porsche, MAN and Scania brands as well as from Volkswagen Group China presented their doctoral theses on topics from twelve different specialist departments.

26 young scientists conducted research in the field of drive technology; 14 in production; eleven in electronics; 11 in vehicle technology; and nine focused on various aspects of human resources, organization and IT. Their projects focused on topics such as driver assistance systems; personnel development; e-mobility; and sales and marketing. In total, Volkswagen supports some 490 young men and women studying for their doctorates.

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Ford projects utility vehicles to account for 29% of its global sales by end of decade

October 30, 2014

Ford projects utility vehicles will account for 29% of its global sales by the end of the decade. Ford utility vehicles—ranging from the compact EcoSport to the eight-seat Expedition—accounted for 23% of brand sales globally in 2013, up from 17% a year earlier.

Utility vehicle sales are expanding rapidly in many of the world’s fastest-growing markets according to a Ford analysis of data from IHS Automotive, which forecasts market information and competitive data on the automotive industry. Worldwide demand for utility vehicles is up 88% since 2008, making SUVs the fastest-growing segment. Utilities now account for 19% of the global automotive market, with the segment expanding at more than three times the rate of the vehicle industry overall.

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Daimler restructures cooperation with Tesla; termination of share-price hedging and sale of 4% stake

October 21, 2014

Daimler AG has restructured its cooperation with Tesla Motors. Daimler has terminated the share-price hedge it initiated in 2013 and has sold its stake in Tesla of approximately 4%. The cooperation between the partners on the automotive projects is unaffected. Development work for the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive (http://www.greencarcongress.com/2014/10/20141021-bklasse.html) is completed, and the partnership with Tesla remains in place, Daimler said.

Daimler initially acquired a 9.1% interest in Tesla in May 2009. 40% of that investment was transferred to Aabar Investments PJSC in the context of a joint strategic project in July 2009. Tesla has been listed on the stock exchange since the end of June 2010. As a result of capital increases at Tesla, Daimler’s stake in the company decreased to around 4%, without affecting the two companies’ strategic cooperation or joint development projects.

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Volkswagen extends cooperation with China joint venture partner FAW Group for 25 more years; enhanced R&D on alt drive systems

October 10, 2014

After 20 years of cooperation, the Volkswagen Group and its Chinese joint venture partner First Automotive Works (FAW) are extending their present partnership for a further 25 years—i.e., until the year 2041. In addition, the Volkswagen Group and the Chinese joint venture partner SAIC are investing in the Shanghai Volkswagen (SVW) proving ground in Xinjiang province, western China.

Both agreements were signed in Berlin in the presence of Li Keqiang, Premier of the People’s Republic of China; Dr. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany; and Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG. A joint memorandum concluded with the Chinese Ministry of Education concerning cooperation in the field of vocational training was signed yesterday in Wolfsburg.

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EPA annual trends report finds new vehicle fuel economy at record 24.1 mpg; new powertrain technologies rapidly gaining share

EPA released the latest edition of its annual report on trends in CO2 emissions, fuel economy and powertrain technology for new personal vehicles in the US. Among the top-level findings was that Model year 2013 vehicles achieved an average of 24.1 mpg (9.76 l/100 km)—a 0.5 mpg increase over the previous year and an increase of nearly 5 mpg since 2004. Fuel economy has now increased in eight of the last nine years; average carbon dioxide emissions are also at a record low of 369 g/mile in model year 2013. The majority of the carbon and oil savings from current vehicles is due to new gasoline vehicle technologies, the report observed.

The report, “Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and Fuel Economy Trends: 1975 Through 2014”, also found that the light truck market share increased slightly in MY 2013, after several years of volatility; that the vehicle weight trend is flat and vehicle power trend is increasing more slowly; that many new powertrain technologies are rapidly gaining market share; and that consumers have an increasing number of high fuel economy/low CO2 vehicle choices.

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Mercedes-Benz realigning global production organization for passenger cars; organizing by product architecture

September 10, 2014

Mercedes-Benz is realigning its global passenger cars manufacturing activities and is strengthening its German passenger cars locations with investments worth billions of euros. “We want to continue to grow and will significantly increase our production capacities in the coming years. At the same time we want to permanently and sustainably strengthen our competitiveness with a high-performance organization,” said Markus Schäfer, Member of the Divisional Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Production and Supply Chain Management, during a media event at the Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen plant.

This year alone, Mercedes-Benz is managing 18 vehicle ramp-ups at eight locations worldwide, among them the start of production of the new C-Class sedan on four continents. Through 2020, Mercedes-Benz will introduce and additional 12 models which do not have a predecessor.

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Lux: Tesla likely to miss 2020 vehicle target by >50%; Gigafactory to bring only modest reduction in costs, >50% overcapacity

September 03, 2014

Lux Research forecasts that Tesla Motors’ Gigafactory—the announced new 35 GWh lithium-ion cell production facility that is the target of hot competition between five states (earlier post)—will bring about only a modest reduction in Li-ion battery costs and create significant overcapacity, given likely Tesla EV sales in 2020 of less than half of the company’s targeted 500,000.

Tesla and its partner, Panasonic, will contribute about 45% and 35%, respectively, of the initial $4 billion required to build the Gigafactory, proposed to go on-stream in 2017. Lux Research’s new report—“The Tesla-Panasonic Battery Gigafactory: Analysis of Li-ion Cost Trends, EV Price Reduction, and Capacity Utilization”—projects sales of some 240,000 Tesla cars in 2020, leading to razor-thin margins to Panasonic and 57% overcapacity.

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