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[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.]

Volkswagen Group’s new Future Tracks program targeting digitalization era in auto industry; “James 2025”

March 10, 2014

At the Geneva Motor Show and now at the IT trade fair CeBIT in Hanover, Germany, Volkswagen Group executive management has begun to outline its “Future Tracks” program which will address, among other things, what Chairman of the Board of Management Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn calls an approaching new era of digitalization.

In an address at the opening ceremony of CeBIT 2014 in Hanover in the presence of Federal Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel, the British Prime Minister David Cameron, the Minister-President of Lower Saxony Stephan Weil and Prof. Dieter Kempf, President of BITKOM, the IT industry Association, Winterkorn declared that the increasingly intensive networking of cars with their surroundings and automatic driving would be the key topics for the intelligent mobility of the future.

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Volkswagen to introduce Passat Plug-in hybrid “soon”; Group electrifying more than 40 more models over next few years

March 04, 2014

In remarks before the opening of the Geneva Motora Show, Volkswagen Group Chairman of the Board of Management Prof. Dr. Winterkorn said that a plug-in hybrid version of the Volkswagen Passat would join the Group’s range of low-CO2 vehicles “soon.”

In his remarks, Winterkorn noted that Group research and development expenditure rose by 15% last year to the record value of €10.2 billion (US $14 billion), with the “lion’s share going to green technologies.” Winterkorn said that the Group was reinforcing its objective to become the world’s leading automaker, also in ecological terms, by 2018.

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Honda to end production of the Insight hybrid, commits to the expansion of hybrid offerings in the US

March 01, 2014

Honda
Annual sales of the second-generation Honda Insight. Data: Honda. Click to enlarge.

Honda announced that while the US model Insight will be available at dealerships in the US through the end of the year, production of the hybrid will end in summer 2014.

Honda said the move reflects its reinforced commitment to a clear product strategy focused on further advancing fuel-efficient and alternative-fuel vehicle technologies that are better aligned with customer needs and that strengthen the company’s US sales momentum. The Insight, introduced in 2009, had posted steadily decreasing sales, from a high of 20,962 units in 2010 down to 4,802 units in 2013.

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Honda begins 2015 Fit production at new plant in Mexico; plant designed exclusively for subcompacts

February 23, 2014

Honda continued the expansion of its manufacturing operations in North America with the production start of the redesigned 2015 Honda Fit at a new, automobile plant of Honda de Mexico, S.A. de C.V. (HDM). The start-up of the Celaya Plant increases Honda’s annual automobile production capacity in North America to approximately 1.92 million units. In 2013, more than 90% of the Honda and Acura automobiles sold in the US were produced in North America; this is expected to exceed 95% when the Celaya plant reaches full capacity.

Located in Celaya, Guanajuato, the US$800-million plant began production less than two years after construction started in early 2012, and will employ 3,200 associates with an annual capacity of 200,000 vehicles and engines when it reaches full production later this year. In addition to the 2015 Honda Fit, the plant will begin production late this year of an all-new compact SUV.

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Tesla shipped 6,892 Model S units in Q4 2013, 22,477 full year; battery Gigafactory announcement next week

February 20, 2014

Tesla Motors announced record deliveries of 6,892 Model S vehicles worldwide in the fourth quarter of 2013, with 22,477 vehicles in the full year. For the quarter, non-GAAP revenue was $761 million, up 26% from Q3. GAAP revenue for Q4 was $615 million, up 43% from Q3. Q4 non-GAAP net income was $46 million, or $0.33 per share, while Q4 GAAP net loss was $16 million or $(0.13) per share.

The differences between GAAP and non-GAAP are primarily due to lease accounting for resale value guarantee (RVG) and employee stock-based compensation as a result of the increase in stock price last year. The results show Tesla moving closer to break-even or profitability even on a GAAP basis. (GAAP net loss per share for the quarter ending 30 Sep 2013 was $(0.32), and for Q4 of 2012, $(0.79). For the full 2013 calendar year, net loss per share $(0.62), while for all of 2012, it was $(3.69).

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Dongfeng Motor Group deepens partnership with Peugeot with $1.1B stake, new industrial plan

February 19, 2014

China’s Dongfeng Motor Group (DFG) will invest at least €800 (US$1.1 billion) in France-based PSA Peugeot Citroën as part of a €3-billion (US$4.13-billion) capital increase newly approved by PSA’s board. The French government is making an equal investment at the same time.

The investment also marks a strengthening and deepening of the existing industrial and commercial partnership between PSA and DFG, China’s second largest carmaker. Since 2013, China has been PSA Peugeot Citroën’s second largest market, with around 550,000 vehicles sold in 2013 via DPCA, its 50/50 joint-venture with DFG. The capital increase and the closer ties to DFG are aimed at:

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Chevy buying carbon credits from US colleges; new formula helps fund campus energy-efficient projects

February 12, 2014

Chevrolet is investing in clean energy efficiency initiatives of US colleges and universities through its voluntary carbon-reduction initiative. The funding opportunity is open to all US universities and colleges; a campus determines whether its performance in reducing carbon emissions will qualify based on new methodologies that Chevrolet developed through the Verified Carbon Standard.

To develop the new methodologies, Chevrolet worked with an advisory team led by the Climate Neutral Business Network with support from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, the US Green Building Council and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

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CAR report quantifies automotive’s position as a leading high-tech industry

January 08, 2014

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Percentage of Global R&D Spending by Industry, 2013. Source: Booz & Company “Global Innovation”; Battelle R&D Magazine; Center for Automotive Research 2012. Click to enlarge.

A newly-released report by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) concludes that the automotive industry is not only “high-tech,” it is frequently a leader in technological developments and applications. The report, supported by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, measures the technological nature of today’s auto industry and compares it to other sectors of the economy often viewed as technologically advanced.

The report authors acknowledge the difficulty of defining “high-tech” in an ever-changing economic environment. After reviewing of the works of several researchers and government agencies, CAR developed a working definition to differentiate high-tech industries from other sectors. Broadly, high-tech industries generally have the following characteristics:

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Volkswagen Group to invest €84.2B (US$114B) in automotive division over next 5 years; China JVs to invest separate €18.2B (US$24.7B)

November 22, 2013

The Volkswagen Group will invest a total of €84.2 billion (US$114 billion) in its automotive division over the coming five years. Investments in property, plant and equipment in the automotive division will amount to €63.4 billion (US$85.9 billion).

The Group will spend €41.2 billion (US$55.8 billion)—about 65%—of the total amount to be invested in property, plant and equipment on modernizing and extending the product range for all its brands. The main focus will be on new vehicles and successor models in almost all vehicle classes, which will be based on the modular toolkit technology and related components. This will allow the Volkswagen Group systematically to continue its model rollout with a view to tapping new markets and segments.

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Mazda showcases CNG and hybrid Axela models in Tokyo; Mazda’s approach to environmental performance

At the Tokyo Motor Show, Mazda is showcasing the recently-released Mazda Axela (known as Mazda3 overseas) with a variety of engine types at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, including a CNG concept and hybrid variants. (Earlier post.)

The Axela accounts for more than 30% of global sales; the latest Axela is the third generation. The new Axela range also introduces a hybrid vehicle, and marks the first time for a single model launched on the Japanese market to include gasoline, diesel, and hybrid power plants in its powertrain lineup.

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Daimler takes 12% stake in Chinese parter BAIC Motor; first non-Chinese automotive company to acquire an interest in a Chinese OEM

November 19, 2013

Daimler AG is taking a major step forward in its China strategy with the closing of the company’s 12% investment in long-standing partner BAIC Motor, the passenger car unit of Beijing Automotive Group (BAIC Group), one of the top automotive companies in China. This marks the first investment by a non-Chinese automotive company in a Chinese OEM.

The official closing of the transaction followed a short time after the signing of the investment agreement between the two companies in Stuttgart earlier this year and a smooth approval by the relevant Chinese authorities. Daimler’s investment will take place through the issuance of new shares corresponding to a 12% stake in BAIC Motor. With this investment, Daimler is proving its strong support for BAIC Motor’s intention to launch an initial public offering (IPO) in the future.

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Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Mitsubishi to provide financial assistance for EV charging infrastructure in Japan

November 12, 2013

Toyota Motor Corporation, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., Honda Motor Co., Ltd., and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation have agreed on the details of specific financial assistance they will provide to installers of charging stations for electric vehicles (PHVs, PHEVs, and EVs). This announcement follows an agreement the four companies announced in July jointly to promote the construction of a user-friendly network of charging infrastructures. (Earlier post.)

In order for electric vehicles to become widely adopted, the partners point out, it is imperative that charging infrastructure be made widely available as quickly as possible. By assisting installers with the part of their costs not covered by government subsidies, the four companies intend to promote wider availability of chargers to make electric vehicle use more convenient.

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Renault-Nissan Alliance and Mitsubishi Motors to explore expanded cooperation; new EVs

November 05, 2013

The Renault-Nissan Alliance and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation intend to explore several new projects covering shared products, technologies and manufacturing capacity among the automakers. As a consequence, they agreed that the strategic cooperation between Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors could be expanded across the broader Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Between Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors, it is expected that the existing NMKV joint-venture company (earlier post) will be extended to co-develop a new small car including a specific electric version that can be sold on a global basis. (NMKV was established in June 2011 for the purpose of co-developing a range of Kei cars for both brands; the first of these products—the Nissan Dayz and Mitsubishi eK wagon—went on sale in Japan this year.)

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GM and US Army expanding collaboration on fuel cells; up to 5-year project

September 30, 2013

General Motors and the US Army Tank Automotive Research, Development & Engineering Center (TARDEC) are expanding their collaboration in the development of hydrogen fuel cell technology. TARDEC currently is evaluating GM fuel cell vehicles in a comprehensive demonstration in Hawaii. (Earlier post.)

Through a new Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) GM and TARDEC will jointly test new hydrogen fuel cell-related materials and designs to evaluate their performance and durability before assembling them into full scale fuel cell propulsion systems. The partners said that the collaborative effort will enable them jointly to develop technology that meets both of their requirements, accomplishing more tangible results than either could achieve on its own. The project is expected to continue for up to five years.

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EPA recognizes Volkswagen Chattanooga with a Green Power Leadership Award for on-site generation

September 24, 2013

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The 9.5 MW solar park at Chattanooga is owned and operated by Silicon Ranch; VW has signed a 20-year power purchase agreement. Click to enlarge.

Volkswagen Chattanooga has received a 2013 Green Power Leadership Award from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—the only automaker to be so recognized. The annual awards recognize the country’s leading green power users for their commitment and contribution to helping advance the development of the nation’s voluntary green power market.

Volkswagen Chattanooga was one of only four organizations nationwide to receive a Leadership Award in the category of on-site generation of green power. (The others were Apple; the County of Santa Clara, CA; and Kaiser Permanete.) The award recognizes EPA Green Power Partners who distinguish themselves using on-site renewable energy applications, such as solar photovoltaic (PV) or landfill gas. Volkswagen Chattanooga is currently generating more than 13 million kWh of green power annually from its on-site 9.5 MW solar energy system, which is enough green power to meet 12% of the organization’s electricity use. (Earlier post.)

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Chrysler Group files S-1 for IPO; snapshot of R&D priorities; exploring a light-duty hydraulic hybrid

Chrysler Group LLC has filed a registration statement on Form S-1 with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) relating to a proposed initial public offering of common shares. Details of the offering—i.e., number of shares and price range—are yet to be determined.

However, the document not only provides a detailed look at the finances of the company, it also provides a quick recap of recent technology developments and some insight into the company’s immediate research priorities. Chrysler writes that its has “made the development of more fuel-efficient vehicles a priority to meet retail consumer preferences, comply with future regulations and as part of our commitment to sustainability.

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Volkswagen Group selected as new Industry Group Leader in Dow Jones Sustainability Index

September 13, 2013

For the first time, the Volkswagen Group has been classed as the most sustainable automaker in the world’s leading sustainability ranking. RobecoSAM AG has listed Volkswagen AG as the Industry Group Leader in the Automobiles and Components sector in this year’s review of the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI).

The 2013 review analyzed the corporate economic, environmental, and social sustainability performance of 31 automotive companies, seven of them from Europe, with reference to criteria such as environmental and climate protection strategy, innovation management and corporate social responsibility.

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Daimler/Renault-Nissan collaboration expanding

September 12, 2013

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The smart fourjoy introduced at Frankfurt is being developed on the basis of a Daimler/Renault-Nissan shared architecture. Click to enlarge.

The chief executives of the Renault-Nissan Alliance and Daimler AG said during an annual briefing at the Frankfurt Motor Show that their companies’ partnership (earlier post) is advancing quickly, and the scope of the collaboration is increasingly global.

The French-Japanese-German partnership began in April 2010, with three “pillar projects” primarily focused on Europe. Since then, the portfolio has increased to ten significant projects, including major initiatives from North America to Japan. In addition, relevant business units are working together in best-practice sharing and other forms of cooperation.

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Ford says its own RWD hybrid system for pickups and SUVs to be ready “later this decade”

July 24, 2013

Following the conclusion of a collaboration with Toyota (earlier post), Ford is moving forward with the development of a rear-wheel-drive hybrid system on its own; the company says that it will have the hybrid system ready “later this decade” on rear-wheel-drive Ford pickups and SUVs. The new hybrid system will be based on an all-new architecture.

In August 2011, Ford and Toyota signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the joint development of a new rear-wheel drive hybrid system for light trucks and SUVs. (Earlier post.) Following the completion of their feasibility study for collaboration, the two companies agreed to develop hybrid systems individually. Ford has been rapidly gaining share in the hybrid market in the US; Ford’s share of the US electrified vehicle market has grown to nearly 16% in the first half of 2013—a 12-point gain over last year.

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Renault-Nissan jointly developing new vehicle program for growth markets; CMF-A for affordability

July 17, 2013

CEO and Chairman Carlos Ghosn confirmed that the Renault-Nissan Alliance is developing all-new vehicles to meet the specific demands of new car buyers in the world’s fastest growing economies.

The announcement marks the first all-new program developed from the ground up by Renault SAS and Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., teams working side by side from inception. The program, internally named CMF-A, covers the most affordable category of cars in the Common Module Family (CMF, earlier post), Renault-Nissan’s modular system of vehicle architecture. Development work on CMF-A began last year at the Renault Nissan Technology Business Centre, a Chennai, India-based engineering facility.

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UK government and industry to invest >$1.5B in Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) for low carbon vehicles; technology roadmaps for 5 priority areas

July 12, 2013

The UK government and automotive industry are investing £500 million (US$755 million) each over the next 10 years in an Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) to research, to develop and to commercialize the technologies for the low carbon vehicles of the future. Backed by 27 companies in the sector, including supply chain companies, the commitment is expected to secure at least 30,000 jobs currently linked to producing engines and create many more in the supply chain.

The investment forms part of the report “Driving success – an industrial strategy for growth and sustainability in the UK automotive sector”, published jointly by the government and industry. It follows the recent plans for construction, aerospace and other key sectors to secure sustainable future growth in the economy.

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Renault/Nissan Alliance introduces Common Module Family (CMF) for new engineering approach

June 20, 2013

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The Common Module Family represents a new approach to engineering for the Renault/Nissan Alliance. Click to enlarge.

The Renault/Nissan Alliance announced its Common Module Family (CMF) engineering architecture. CMF is not a platform; it can involve several platforms. A platform is a horizontal segmentation; a CMF is a cross-sector concept.

CMF covers Renault/Nissan Alliance vehicles, from one or more segments, based on the assembly of compatible Big Modules: engine bay, cockpit, front underbody, rear underbody and electrical/electronic architecture. CMF will be deployed across 5 continents in more than 10 countries through 2020. The first deployment of CMF, for the compact and large car segments, will cover 1.6 million vehicles per year and 14 models (11 Renault group + 3 Nissan).

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Honda outlines short-term directions for China; local production of hybrids pushed back to 2016

June 17, 2013

Jointly with Guangqi Honda Automobile Co., Ltd. and Dongfeng Honda Automobile Co., Ltd., Honda’s automobile production and sales joint venture companies in China, Honda Motor (China) Investment Co., Ltd. (HMCI), a wholly-owned Honda subsidiary, outlined Honda’s technology directions, plans for new model introductions, and increasing localization of research and development operation in China. Honda is planning to introduce 12 new models in China before the end of 2015.

Among the outlined directions was a statement that Honda “is striving to begin local production of hybrid models within the next three years”—i.e., by 2016. The company earlier had suggested that it would begin local production of hybrids, which it sells into the China market, in 2014. (Suggestions of local production of Honda hybrids in China go back further than that to at least 2004. Earlier post.)

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Tesla Motors posts first quarterly profit

May 09, 2013

Tesla reached profitability in the first quarter of 2013 for the first time in its ten year history. According to the shareholder letter, the company exceeded its targets for deliveries; significantly expanded gross margin; and improved execution throughout the company.

Excluding non-cash warrant and stock option items, the company generated a profit of $15 million. Including those factors, its GAAP profit was $11 million. The company said it achieved profitability despite the benefit of a one-time accounting gain related to the US Department of Energy (DOE) warrant.

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EV maker CODA files for Chap. 11 bankruptcy; restructuring business around energy storage

May 01, 2013

Struggling electric vehicle manufacturer CODA Holdings, Inc. has filed a voluntary petition under Chapter 11 in the US Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Petition Nº 13-11153) to enable the reorganization of its business solely around energy storage based on its Li-ion battery systems. This process is intended to enable CODA to complete a sale, to confirm a plan and to emerge from bankruptcy. CODA expects the sale process to take 45 days to complete.

FCO MA CODA Holdings LLC, an affiliate of Fortress Investment Group, is leading a consortium of lenders intending to provide debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing to enable CODA’s extant energy storage business (CODA Energy) to remain fully operational during the restructuring process.

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Winterkorn says Volkswagen developing 10-speed DCT and high-performance diesel; plug-in hybrids offer great potential

April 26, 2013

Powertrain
Volkswagen’s view of powertrain technologies to minimize greenhouse gas emissions. Source: Prof. Dr. Jürgen Leohold, Executive Director Volkswagen Group Research. Click to enlarge.

At the International Vienna Motor Symposium Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG, gave a forecast of future drive system technologies. Areas of work being focused on by Volkswagen include the development of a high-performance diesel engine delivering 100 kW (134 hp) per liter of displacement and a new 10-speed dual clutch gearbox that reduces fuel consumption.

The high performance diesel engine features a variable valve-train assembly, a high-pressure injection system at up to 3,000 bar and combined charging with an innovative e-booster. Among alternative drive systems, plug-in hybrids in particular offer great potential, Winterkorn said. (The Volkswagen Group intends to launch at least 6 new plug-in hybrid models starting in 2014 and beyond. Earlier post.)

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GM outlines plans for China with 17 launches this year; developing advanced propulsion and electrification tech in China

April 21, 2013

General Motors discussed its future plans in China during a press conference in conjunction with the start of Auto Shanghai 2013. GM and its joint ventures are launching 17 new and upgraded models in China this year, including the Chevrolet Cruze hatchback; the new Wuling Sunshine; two new Jiefang light-duty trucks, the S230 and F330; and the Insignia Sports Tourer, Zafira Tourer and Astra GTC from Opel.

GM is also in the process of bringing Cadillac’s entire global portfolio to China, adding one locally produced model per year through 2016. Earlier this year, it introduced the locally produced XTS luxury sedan as well as the refreshed SRX luxury SUV, which is Cadillac’s best-selling model in China.

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Cummins/Peterbilt SuperTruck shows 54% improvement in fuel economy, 61% improvement in freight efficiency

March 14, 2013

SuperTruck
The new SuperTruck achieved a 54% increase in fuel economy. Click to enlarge.

Cummins Inc. and Peterbilt Motors Company, a division of PACCAR, released test results showing their demonstration SuperTruck tractor-trailer achieved a 54% increase in fuel economy, averaging nearly 10 mpg US (23.5 l/100 km) under real world driving conditions. In addition, the truck also demonstrated a 61% improvement in freight efficiency during testing compared to a baseline truck driving the same route. Freight efficiency is based on payload weight and fuel efficiency expressed in ton-miles per gallon.

Cummins is a prime contractor leading one of four vertical teams under the Department of Energy’s SuperTruck project, one of several initiatives under the 21st Century Truck Partnership. (Earlier post.) Objectives for the program, which runs from April 2010 through April 2014, include:

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