Friday, 22 March 2013

Rolls-Royce considers hybrids

Rolls-Royce will not be able to continue growing once capacity is reached at its factory at Goodwood.

Chief executive Torsten Müller-Ötvös said: "We made more than 3,500 cars last year but eventually we will be restricted in expansion because the factory is in a conservation area.”
He said there were “no plans” to open another plant in the UK so ultimately volume will be determined by the size of the plant.
“There is no chance that we will build the cars anywhere else because it is not what our customers expect," he said.
Müller-Ötvös became head of Rolls-Royce in April 2010 and admitted the job has been “quite a challenge” being the custodian of a brand that has become a generic term for quality and luxury. The best of almost anything is referred to as being "the Rolls-Royce".
Müller-Ötvös has been with parent group BMW since 1988.
He said the added expense of making a Rolls-Royce motor car, besides meeting customers’ bespoke needs, came from the bespoke, hand-made craftsmanship that went into the cars at Goodwood. Each car takes 450-500 hours to make and with bespoke work this can grow to 800 hours.
Finding workers with the ability for fine craftsmanship is becoming increasingly difficult.
He said: "When we first started at Goodwood we were lucky that we were able to call on some very talented people who had been involved in boat and yacht-building or furniture making but these are becoming harder to find. Whoever we take on spends a minimum three months training before they can touch one of our cars. We do offer apprenticeships and we currently have 40 at the factory."
Hybrid power trains are on the agenda although Müller-Ötvös claimed that a Rolls-Royce does have best-in segment emissions, a segment in which he includes the likes of Bentley, Ferrari and Lamborghini.
"We have to be mindful of legal and emissions requirements around the world, particularly in China, now our biggest market and where the rules are getting tougher all the time.
"A plug-in hybrid would be a sensible solution but once again, whatever we do with powertrains, there can be no compromise - the customers simply would not accept it."

YouTube boost for Torotrak

In a YouTube video clip released today, Jeremy Deering, chief executive of Torotrak plc, declared the “synergies are tremendous” when he referred to the recent link-up of Torotrak and Flybrid Automotive Ltd. He stated that Allison Transmission Inc. has confirmed its exclusivity in Torotrak’s IVT technology.

The YouTube video clip is a further indication of the manner Deering is bringing a breath of fresh to Torotrak since he took over the helm from former CEO Dick Elsy.

Jon Hilton added that Torotrak’s stake of 20 per cent in his company was important because it allowed the Flybrid to “press on and get our product to market”.

And Torotrak group director Garry Wilson added that “this year we will build a demonstrator bus” to highlight the benefits of Torotrak and Flybrid’s combined technologies.                                               

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Clarke to head Navistar as CEO

Troy Clarke has been appointed chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of Navistar International Corporation.

Clarke assumes responsibility on 15 April when he replaces Lewis Campbell, 66, chairman and interim CEO since last August. Clarke has been president and chief operating officer of Navistar.

Campbell withdrew from retirement from Textron Inc. to assume the senior post at Navistar. Campbell’s role has been to define a new course for the company and Clarke’s role has been to implement these changes.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Bentley set to build an SUV

IF Bentley is to achieve its goal of 15,000 sales a year by 2018, then it will require a sports utility vehicle (SUV), according to the company’s chief executive officer, Dr. Wolfgang Schreiber.

The Crew-based company sold just over 8,500 cars last year – 22 per cent higher than in 2011, but still down on the 2007 best-year total of 10,000.
Dr. Schreiber said the business case of an SUV is “extremely positive”.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Torotrak cashes in on Flybrid

Jon Hilton and Doug Cross could be about to realise every entrepreneur’s dream: to sell on the business they established to develop a unique fuel economy technology.

Torotrak plc, buoyed by a cash injection from Allison Transmissions Inc. of the US, has forked out £3 million to acquire a 20 per cent stake in Flybrid Automotive Systems Ltd of Silverstone. Torotrak has the exclusive option to acquire the remaining 80 per cent by 20 December 2013.

The two firms have worked together on various projects to develop technology that can be applied to obtain both performance and fuel economy benefits for commercial vehicle and passenger car applications.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Ford nears break with Escobedo

Ford is nearing the point when it will launch production of F-650 and F-750 medium commercial vehicles at its Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake.

In December 2011, Ford Motor Company announced plans to save 1,400 jobs by investing $128 million at its plant in Avon Lake, west of Cleveland and close to Lake Erie, to convert production of its E-Series van line to commercial trucks then made in Mexico. Executives said production would be transferred in 2014.

At the time, Jim Tetreault, vice president of Ford’s North American manufacturing operations and a former plant manager in Avon Lake, said the plan would provide steady work for a plant that previously had faced many downturns.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Greenwell to retire from Ford

Ford of Britain chairman Joe Greenwell CBE has ‘elected’ to retire effective end of April 2013. Mark Ovenden, currently managing director, will add the chairman’s role to his responsibilities.

Chairman of Ford of Britain since 2009, Greenwell was also president of the automotive industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders in 2009 and 2010.

Greenwell's career in the motor industry spans over 40 years.  

Monday, 11 March 2013

VW sees nine per cent growth

Volkswagen Passenger Cars delivered 893,400 in the first two months of 2013, compared with 818,800 (+ 9.1 per cent) in the same period last year.

The delivery level in the month of February was almost unchanged, with the brand handing over 401,400 (February 2012: 399,700; + 0.4 per cent) vehicles.

Christian Klingler, board member for sales and marketing for the Volkswagen Group and the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand, said. ‘We compensated for weak markets in Western Europe with growth in the Asia-Pacific region and in Central and Eastern Europe.

Friday, 8 March 2013

BMW scores best-ever February

 With 133,630 BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce brand passenger cars delivered worldwide compared with 127,638 in the previous year’s period, the BMW Group achieved its best-ever February sales result.

A record number of 256,929 (239,802 in the previous year) vehicles have been delivered to customers since the start of the year – an increase of +7.1% compared with the same period last year.

A total of 114,908 BMW brand vehicles were sold worldwide in February, an increase of +7.0% (107,362 in 2011). Year-to-date, sales are +9.2% higher at 222,207 vehicles than for the same period last year (prev. yr. 203,546).

Mini plant will have 1,000 new robots

As BMW’s Mini plant leads the celebrations of a centenary of car-making in Oxford, preparations are under way to install 1,000 robots for the next generation of Mini.
The celebrations take place on 28 March 2013 - 100 years to the day when the first "Bullnose" Morris Oxford was built by William Morris, a few hundred metres from where the modern plant stands today.
The plant built 20 cars each week at the start, but the business grew rapidly and over the century 11.65 million cars were produced. Today, Plant Oxford employs 3,700 associates who manufacture up to 900 Minis a day, and has contributed over 2.25 million Minis to the total tally.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

CGI diesels in the news at Navistar

Diesel engines with compacted graphite iron (CGI) cylinder blocks are hitting the headlines at Navistar International.

Navistar has just showcased its production-ready International TerraStar  4x4 commercial truck, one of the company's newest additions to its Class 5-8 portfolio, at the National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) Work Truck Show in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Launched in 2010 in a 4x2 configuration, the TerraStar, is the smaller sibling to the DuraStar.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Hotfire engine plant set for a benchmark?

Will JaguarLandRover’s (JLR) new engine plant in Wolverhampton, UK, establish an industry benchmark? That is the question many are asking as work gathers pace to bring this unique plant to the first stage of fruition.

Ratan Tata, Tata Motor’s supremo will hope so. He will expect it to be ‘best-in-class’ when he comes to tour the plant in the final stages of shake-down as production gradually ramps up.

At the Geneva Motor Show, executives announced JLR would add a further £155million to its original investment commitment of £355million making it a genuine £500million plant

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Daimler readies nine-speed gearbox

JaguarLandRover (JLR) will not be the only European passenger car maker to offer a nine-speed automatic transmission. Daimler in Germany is working on one too that will appear first in its AMG offering and other large cars.

Daimler’s Mercedes transmission plant at Stuttgart Untertuekheim is currently the scene of much activity as some of the latest machine tools are being put in place ready for the start of production.

All the machines delivered to the plant have passed pre-acceptance trials in vendors’ plants. The implication is that they have achieved both quality and cycle time criteria for one of the Europe’s most demanding customers.

Hotfire plant gathers speed

JaguarLandRover (JLR) is reinforcing its commitment to UK manufacturing by increasing the investment in its new engine manufacturing centre at site i54 in Wolverhampton to more than £500 million.  

The company will invest £2.75 billion in product creation during the year to support its ambitious growth plans that will see the business introduce eight new or refreshed products during the year.

The new engine manufacturing centre is essential to support the company's long-term strategic growth plans. As reported here it will be the home for Hotfire, a new generation of technologically advanced, lightweight four-cylinder low emission diesel and petrol engines. (See also one of our exclusive popular posts ‘Cut-and-pasteHotfire engine plant for JLR’.)

Monday, 4 March 2013

Land Rover’s all-electric Defender

Land Rover has built seven all-electric Defender 110s as test-beds to explore electric vehicle components survive in tough off-road conditions.
There are no plans to enter production with the Defender EVs, according to Tony Harper, head of advanced research at JaguarLandRover (JLR), but the vehicles could be useful in sensitive areas such as forestry and game parks.  One vehicle is in use at the Eden Project in Cornwall. The Defender EV can haul 12 tonnes up a 13 per cent gradient, stopping on way.
The project began in 2010 at the Londolozi Game Park in South Africa, which had a requirement for a zero-emissions game viewer and developed one of its Defenders but it had a top speed of only 40 mile/h. Land Rover developed a second generation electric Defender with a top speed limited to 70 mile/h. The vehicle can be driven for up to eight hours at low, off-road speeds, and is ideal as a game viewer or for work in forests and other sensitive areas.

Kia unveils hybrid at Geneva

Kia’s Prova concept car launched at the Geneva Motor Show this week opens up new possibilities for the future. It contains the company’s first seven-speed double clutch transmission (DCT) gearbox.
The 3.88m-long vehicle also uses an ingenious Smart 4WD power train. The four cylinder turbocharged 1.6-litre GDI (gasoline direct injection) engine develops 204PS or the equivalent of 127.5PS/litre.
Engine also benefits from a regenerative-powered electric motor driving the rear wheels either automatically when required (during cornering or rapid acceleration) to give a power boost of 45PS, or in a button-activated ‘creep’ mode at low speeds to avoid generating emissions in city traffic or when ‘stealth’ is required.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Cummins V8 is ‘still in development’

The 5-litre V8 diesel engine, originally slated for Chrysler, is ‘currently in development’, according to sources at Cummins Inc. in Columbus, Indiana.

A company spokesman said Cummins was ‘not ready’ to discuss engine details (like bore and stroke) publicly, adding ‘We are currently formulating broad communications plans and would rather not say any more about this engine program at this time’.

He added: ‘As an independent engine supplier, Cummins constantly pursues all potential customers at various levels. In the on-highway world, Cummins typically will let a major OEM announce the availability of our engines before we discuss details of the engine with the media.’

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Nissan UK tops plants, brands

In the UK, Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK at Washington on Tyneside produced the most vehicles in 2012 with an output of 510,572 units. It also made the most of any one single brand – 310,837 of its Qashqai model. In June, the plant will begin building the second-generation Leaf electric car.

The figures produced in the SMMT Motor Industry Facts 2013 of the ‘top five’ UK producers and brands, showed that Jaguar Land Rover held second position with 305,467 vehicles built, though in model ranking its Evoque brand came fourth with 112,331 units built. A new nine-speed automatic gearbox from ZF will be fitted first to Evoque models before spreading through the range.

The third highest output was recorded by BMW’s Mini plant at Oxford with 207,530 units built. The Mini brand came second behind Quasqai.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Ford’s UK engine production dips

Ford Motor Company’s Dagenham Engine Plant (DEP) is the top UK engine supply source but overall the company has seen its output of UK-built engines steadily decline from 1.75 million in 2008 to 1.7 million in 2011 and in 2012 to 1.55 million.

Nearly 2.5 million engines were made in the UK last year according to the SMMT’s Motor Industry Facts 2013. The total of 2,495,371 was just shy of the 2,504,054 built in 2011, but well short of the 3,164,569 the industry built in 2008.

Top performer in the UK was DEP with 812,791 units (981,078 in 2011 and 1,047,570 in 2008 – its best year.)

Strangely, both Jaguar and Land Rover refuse to reveal to journalists how many vehicles sold in 2012 were powered by diesel engines. The V6 and V8 diesels are sourced from Ford. Both of Tata Motors’ carmakers also fit 2.2-litre I4 diesel engines.