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The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
It’s no secret that the upcoming Corporate Average Fuel Economy targets, whereby all automakers who sell vehicles in the US, must achieve 35.5 miles per gallon as a fleet average between now and 2016 and 54.5 mpg for cars and light trucks by 2025, represent a formidable hurdle.
In order to better achieve these targets and reduce the risk of fines, some manufacturers are finding the best way is to join forces and develop technology together.
One of the latest such endeavors could likely see General Motors and BMW teaming up. The idea is for the General to leverage its expertise in fuel cell and electric vehicle technology, while BMW would provide its own in conventional gas and diesel powertrains.
By joining together, both companies will be able to develop competitive advantages in the marketplace, thanks to reduced R&D and operating costs.
According to Forbes, such a partnership could prove advantageous for GM, enabling it to deliver good quality, fuel efficient vehicles in a variety of international markets, while keeping a cap on overall costs. Forbes believes that offering such vehicles will allow for significant market share gains over the medium and longer term, boosting the price of GM’s stock in the process.
Next year, Federal safety officials plan to test an automotive data exchange whereby vehicles can talk to each other in an effort to warn drivers of possible collisions.
As many as 3,000 cars and light trucks will be fitted with the testing equipment (often referred to as car-to-x technology) in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the results gained from the program are expected to help the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) decide whether or not to mandate wireless communications in vehicles to help prevent accidents.
The technology works by incorporating GPS systems which allow the individual tracking of various vehicles, along with communal wireless communication that enables the cars to share their location with others and, via onboard computers transmit signals to warn drivers of impending accidents.
Last week, Denso, which hopes to be one of the companies that supplies the technology to automakers, put on a press demonstration in Metro Detroit, showing how, by using the technology, one car was able to send a signal for the driver to brake at an intersection, while another zoomed through, thereby avoiding a collision.
“The technology is here today and it works,” declared Roger Berg, vice president of wireless technology at Denso International America Inc.
A final decision on whether to mandate the technology in new cars and light trucks is expected sometime in 2013.
[Source: Car Tech Blog]
It’s tough being an independent automaker; just ask Saab. Although Aston Martin has weathered the storm far better since going it alone, it’s still finding things rather tough in the high-end luxury segment.
One major issue, according to some industry analysts, is having to rely on a single, aging platform for new models. The current crop of Astons (aside from the pint-size, Toyota Aygo/Scion iQ derrived Cygnet and One-77 Supercar), including the four-door Rapide and Vantage coupe, are all based on the same architecture that originally underpinned the 2003 DB9.
While luxury rivals, including Mercedes-Benz and BMW are heavily investing in new research and development ,as well as developing new vehicle platforms and propulsion systems, Aston Martin is having to squeeze every last drop out of the technology and resources it currently has, which means that yet more cars are likely to be built off the same aluminum DB9 chassis, in addition to the new £330,000 ($540,880) Zagato (shown).
Unlike other luxury car makers, the Gaydon concern simply cannot produce any ‘cost no object’ flagship models, purely as prestige exercises. ”All the projects that we are doing have to make a profit, we can’t afford a project that is just a marketing tool,” CEO Ulrich Bez declared during a recent press conference at Aston’s HQ in Warwickshire, UK.
That said, smart moves by the company, including reliance on engines supplied by Ford Motor Company as well as recycling technology, has resulted in Aston Martin being able to produce vehicles with much higher profit margins (around 20 percent) compared than some of the bigger automakers, like Mercedes-Benz, whose margin on high-end vehicles is often around half that.
This focus on maximizing resources has also put Aston Martin in relatively good financial stead; in June, the company managed to raise some £304 million ($499 million) by selling high-yield bonds, allowing it to pursue future projects as well as expanding into new markets, such as China. An initial public offering of shares is also probably on the horizon which would raise further capital, though CEO Bez says that the idea of an IPO will only be explored when the company sees the “right window.”
So while it might not have the latest in terms of architecture or technology, Aston Martin is proving that in some respects, small can be beautiful (and highly profitable) when it comes to building bespoke luxury cars. And if it’s able to pour a good deal of that profit into new projects and technological developments, then the future is arguably looking very bright for one of the UK’s most famous car makers.
[Source: Automotive News]
Not too long ago, four-cylinder engines in most North American market vehicles were seen as an afterthought, something to give the rental fleets and entry-level buyers.
Today however, that perception appears to have changed, certainly among volume brands like Chevrolet. So far this year, GM has reported that four-cylinder powered vehicles are representing approximately 46 percent of total Chevy retail sales, contrasting with just 23 percent in 2007. Higher fuel prices and environmental ‘awareness’ likely play a part, but so does technology.
Today’s four-cylinder engines are much more refined and powerful, to the point that the old adage ‘there’s no replacement for displacement’ doesn’t really apply any more.
GM has spent a huge amount of R&D and engineering on improving its four-cylinder engines, via such technologies as direct injection and turbocharging and according to Rick Scheidt, US Chevrolet Vice President this has resulted in “performance and refinement drivers expect from Chevy in smaller engines that deliver the fuel efficiency they want.”
Efforts toward meeting stringent Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards is also likely a major reason why four-cylinder engines are becoming more popular in the US.
[Source: egm Car Tech]
Daimler AG has gone on the record as saying that while producing a fuel cell vehicle for under $50,000 by 2015, is difficult, it is still possible.
Herbert Kohler, in-charge of the company’s future mobility and e-drive programs, believes that the cost of fuel cell vehicles will decline rapidly in future years as the technology becomes more widespread.
During an interview with trade publication Automotive News, he said ”by 2015, we think a fuel cell car will not cost more than a four-cylinder diesel hybrid that meets Euro 6 emissions standards.” He also stated that Daimler wants to bring at least a four digit number of fuel cell vehicles to market by 2014.
Ambitious? Perhaps, but he also expects fuel cell vehicles to be more affordable than rival battery powered cars over the next five years. At present, US customers can already lease a fuel cell vehicle from Daimler, in the shape of the Mercedes B-class Blue Efficiency, at a rate of $849 a month plus tax.
However Kohler says that a second generation version of this car, due to be launched around 2013; will likely be cheaper as fuel cell technology becomes more cost effective.
Additional fuel cell Mercedes models, based on the A, C and even the E-class could also be on the roads by mid-decade and provided the company can spread the development costs over a wide range of models, could become the next practical solution in alternative fuel motoring. We’ll keep you posted of any further developments.