COVID-19 Pandemic: As factories shut down, automakers team up to build ventilators and masks
As the COVID-19 crisis deepens in Europe and the U.S., automakers join global effort to build ventilators and masks. Carmakers shift to production of medical equipment and supplies following shutdown of vehicle assembly in numerous factories across Europe and North America.
Here’s All You Need To Know About GM’s Major Restructuring
General Motors is in the midst of major restructuring, which it confirmed by announcing that five of its North American plants will be shut down, including the plant in Ohio that manufactured the Cruze and the Detroit-Hamtramck plant that was once part of an epic neighborhood battle. This also marks the end of the Chevrolet Volt Hybrid. However, the biggest announcement was that around 14,000 employees have been given pink slips.
General Motors and Honda Collaborate On Autonomous Technology
A lot of partnerships are arising these days. It’s not just automakers and tech companies, but also automakers and automakers. This time, it’s General Motors and Honda teaming up to take on the world with Autonomous Technology. General Motors and Cruise Automation announced collaboration with Japanese giant, Honda that will seek “large-scale deployment” of technology for autonomous vehicles.
One Minute News: Amazon to Start Delivering Packages to Volvo and GM Vehicles
Now that Amazon has moved past the idea of leaving packages inside our homes, it wants to start delivering packages straight to the trunks of our cars. And, it’s starting to do so already, thanks to a deal with GM and Volvo, which will allow anyone with a vehicle that’s 2015 or newer and actively subscribed to Volvo on Call or OnStar. For this to work, however, Amazon will get the GPS location of your vehicle and license plate number. And, the vehicle needs to be parked within a certain proximity to an address used for Amazon deliveries. Apparently, Amazon never gains access to your connected car credentials and instead requests access to each vehicle via an encrypted messaging service with the connected car service. On the plus side, GM, Volvo, nor Amazon look at this as a way to earn additional profit and instead want to offer it as an added convenience. The program has been available in California and Washington for the last six months and should now expand to other areas now that Amazon has signed a new two-year contract with GM and Volvo. The company will look to expand to other automakers in the future.
Ford is Hatin’ on GM’s Nine-Speed Automatic; Says It’s Too Inefficient and Too Expensive to Adapt
Five years ago, Ford and GM entered in a partnership whereby the two U.S. auto behemoths would share a few newly developed transmissions, all in the name of greater efficiency and lower R&D costs. Now, it’s looking like Ford will take a different approach than originally outlined, adapting the GM gearbox to better suit its needs.
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Pops’ Rants: GM’s Decision to Fire Johan De Nysschen Might Have Been a Big Mistake
Cadillac just fired president Johan de Nysschen, four years after it brought him in from Infiniti to revive the luxury brand. The news made headlines all over the world and sparked debates on whether the brand will do better without de Nysschen. The consensus seems to be that he made a string of bad decisions and that Steve Carlisle might be the man who will make things right. Well, I disagree.
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GM Fired Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen Because Sales are Down and He Couldn’t Keep Up With Audi, Mercedes, and BMW
In a move that nobody saw coming, Cadillac has let go of company president Johan de Nysschen after a four-year stint as the main decision-maker for the American automaker. Steve Carlisle, most recently the president and managing director of GM Canada, will step in to take de Nysschen’s place as Caddy’s new president, effective immediately.
Your Obsession With SUVs and Crossovers like the Ford Escape and Chevy Traverse Probably Just Led to 1,500 People Being Laid Off
The growing popularity of crossovers and SUVs has been a goldmine for a lot of automakers. As the demand for these cars grows, car companies are becoming more invested in building more of them. Unfortunately, there is a downside to the strong focus being put on crossovers and SUVs, and sedans are bearing the brunt of it. Sales of sedans have fallen off a cliff across the industry to the point that some automakers are taking drastic action to curb the increasingly worrisome trend. A good example is General Motors. The American automaker owns Chevrolet, and sales of the brand’s Cruze sedan is declining at an alarming rate. As such, the General has taken the difficult step of cutting the production of the Cruze by half, and in doing so, it could also cut as many as 1,500 jobs because of it.
2019 GM Pickups May Have Carbon Fiber Beds
General Motors might be using carbon fiber construction within the cargo bed of its next-generation 2019 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. The news comes from an insider close to GM who spoke with The Wall Street Journal. Apparently, GM will use the composite beds to save weight while adding strength. Only higher-end trims will be available with the composite box, though its availability could spread throughout the lineup.
The move would come as an alternative to aluminum, which Chevrolet has relentlessly poked fun at Ford for using with its 2015-current F-150. TV commercials and other ads have portrayed Ford’s aluminum beds as weaker than Chevy’s steel beds. Moving to carbon fiber would reduce the bed’s weight while providing more strength than aluminum – or so the insider says.
We can expect GM to debut its new pickups at the 2018 Detroit Auto show in January or the Chicago Auto Show in February. Sales will likely begin in the third or fourth quarter of 2018. GM hasn’t commented on the WSJ report or alluded to carbon fiber being present. There is also no word on whether the beds would be an extra-cost option or come as standard equipment on LTZ or High Country models. We should find out more in the coming weeks, so stay tuned to TopSpeed.com for the latest.
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GM’s New In-Car Marketplace Could Lead to More Distracted Driving
General Motors’ grand idea to introduce an in-car digital marketplace is a good idea…on paper. It accomplishes what GM describes as the system does make it easier for us to order food, pay for coffee, or even redeem gas coupons. It’s actually a great idea if you’re a passenger in a car. It’s when you’re the driver of the car that the marketplace idea immediately turns sour.
Sorry Ford: GM Trucks to Get Carbon Fiber Beds
General Motors is not messing around. The American automaker is reportedly pushing forward with plans to develop carbon fiber beds on its pickup trucks. The decision to use the lightweight but expensive material is seen as an attempt by GM to elevate the status of its pickup trucks, specifically the premium trims. There’s no exact timetable on when these lightweight beds will hit the market, but The Wall Street Journal report indicates that it could be ready in two years or by the time the next-generation pickups from Chevy and GMC hit the market.
Lord Help Us: GM Introduces In-Car Marketplace
As technology evolves we, as humans, become more and more physically disconnected from one another. GM is now pushing that one step further bring it’s new “Marketplace” commerce system to its infotainment systems. The system is designed to allow drivers to redeem gas coupons, order food, pay for coffee, pretty much anything you would usually have to get out of your car and interact with people to do now. GM has partnered with a few companies, including Dunkin’ Donuts, TGI Fridays, Shell, and ExxonMobil, among others. The system will be included in all new vehicles and updated OTA to vehicles on the road that are compatible. But, this isn’t all gravy as it will lead to things that aren’t so cool. Keep reading to find out more about GM’s new Marketplace and how it will ultimately be used to collect data and advertise.
Reuters is reporting that PSA Group now wants GM to refund nearly half, or about $700 million of the $1.353 billion it paid to the U.S. Automaker last July for the acquisition of Opel and Vauxhall. The report comes with claims that GM failed to disclose just how badly Opel and Vauxhall would miss hitting emissions targets set by the European Union for 2021 and beyond. PSA, which includes brands like Peugeot and Citroen, says it was misled and is owed this refund as the acquisition of brands that fall so far from 2021 emissions targets will cause it to incur significantly more fines than previously expected. GM claims that it provided “substantial information” and that “PSA undertook a robust due diligence process” that included “their employees, many experts, and lawyers.”
Want to know more? Keep reading to learn about the change to EU emissions rules in 2021 and what kind of fines PSA is looking at over the Opel and Vauxhall Acquisition.
General Motors Launches New Military Defense Division Called GM Defense
The U.S. Military now has a new supplier of vehicles and futuristic technology. General Motors announced its creation of a special division within the company designed to cater to military hardware, designed both by GM and in conjunction with the specific needs of the military. It’s called GM Defense LLC and is already working with the U.S. Army and Navy with at least three projects. According to a report by Automotive News, GM officials say GM Defense is "helping GM better anticipate and react to the diverse needs of global aerospace and defense customers."
GM Defense’s latest project is SURUS, or the Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure. The hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicle is fully autonomous and has a nearly limitless number of configurations thanks to its flat top designed to accept various accessory components like personnel cabs, cargo containers, and even mobile command and hospital pods. Preceding SURUS is GM Defense’ hydrogen fuel cell-powered Chevrolet Colorado ZH2, a modified Colorado mid-size pickup designed as a support vehicle for the U.S. Army. Both SURUS and the ZH2 boast silent operation with no smells or emissions, which are perfect for sensitive combat operations.
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GM Might Regret Saying it Would Take Blame For Autonomous Car Accidents
So, GM say’s it’ll take the heat for crashes involving its level 3 autonomous cars. That’s cool and the gang, but it’s quite possible that the brand spoke a little too soon and it could really come back to bite it right in the ass. How so? Well, when you consider that the month of September alone came with a total of six accidents involving GM’s Cruise Automation Division autonomous cars in the great state of California. To add a bit of an ironic twist, Cruise – which is a division of GM – says none of its cars were actually at fault…. Hmmmm what shoulder are they putting that blame on? After all, there have been 13 accidents involving these cars in California this year too… Okay, maybe we’re talking a little too early here to point out those ironies. According to Cruise, most of the incidents involved drivers of other cars (yes, human, and not AI) running into the autonomous cars that could.
It has been reported that in one case, a guy in a Ford Ranger was playing on his phone and rear-ended one of the self-driving cars. In another instance, a Dodge Charger attempted a risky and illegal overtaking procedure when it scraped the front sensor of the car and took off without the driver even looking in the rearview. There was even one case where a Cruise employee saw an accident in the making – a cyclist that was intoxicated and going in the wrong direction – and attempted to stop, but the cyclist smucked into the little Bolt anyway. Gm’s Cruise division says the new generation of Bolt EVs, which provide level 3 autonomy (think of being on point with Tesla AutoPilot,) but, even if they are, are we ready to share the road with artificial intelligence that is apparently more logical than your typical human driver?
Tesla Sucker Punches GM as Stock Prices Pass the $300 Mark
Tesla, as a company, has made huge advances in feasible, all-electric mobility and autonomous technology and has been growing at an alarming rate. One could even argue that it knows how to sell the hell out of its electric cars, evidenced by the delivery of just over 25,000 vehicles in the first quarter of 2017 that included an eight-percent growth in sales for the Model S and 381-percent growth for the Model X over the same quarter in 2016. But, one thing it’s doesn’t do so well is make profit – something that the brand is commonly criticized for by other key players in the business. Be that as it may, the company is doing well when it comes to stock market and valuation.
With production of the Model 3 on the horizon and a record-setting first quarter as far as vehicle deliveries go, Tesla’s stock jumped past the $300 barrier for the first time in company history. But wait; that’s not all. This jump also puts Tesla’s market cap over $52 billion, a feat that puts it above both Ford and GM here in the U.S. As of the time of this writing, Ford’s market cap was $45.07 billion, GM’s was at $51.23 billion, and Tesla hit $52.08 billion. This officially makes it the largest and most valuable automaker in the U.S. by market capitalization.
That’s a pretty big deal for Tesla, especially considering the company rarely turns out a profit. But what does it mean for the long term?
GM Sells Opel To PSA, Leaves European Market
After many months of speculation, General Motors and PSA confirmed today that German brand Opel, together with is U.K.-based Vauxhal Motors subsidiary, has been sold to the French company that produces Citroen and Peugeot. PSA will also purchase GM Financial’s European operations in a transaction that’s expected to be completed by the end of 2017.
GM will receive €1.32 billion ($1.4 billion as of March 2017) for Opel in the form of €650 million ($689 million) in cash and €670 million ($710 million) in PSA share warrants. An additional €900 million ($954 million) will be paid by PSA and BNP Paribas for Opel’s financing arm, which will be operated by the French bank. The whole transaction is valued at €2.2 billion ($2.33 billion).
“We are proud to join forces with Opel/Vauxhall and are deeply committed to continuing to develop this great company and accelerating its turnaround,” said Carlos Tavares, chairman of the Managing Board of PSA. “We respect all that Opel/Vauxhall’s talented people have achieved as well as the company’s fine brands and strong heritage. We intend to manage PSA and Opel/Vauxhall capitalizing on their respective brand identities.
“For GM, this represents another major step in the ongoing work that is driving our improved performance and accelerating our momentum. We are reshaping our company and delivering consistent, record results for our owners through disciplined capital allocation to our higher-return investments in our core automotive business and in new technologies that are enabling us to lead the future of personal mobility," said GM chairman and CEO Mary T. Barra.
General Motors admitted that selling Opel to PSA will free up resources for better opportunities in North America and China, as well as enable the automaker to return cash to shareholders. GM also claims that the European market has become so different from the company’s other major regions that only 20 percent of the vehicles in Opel’s lineup would have been shared with GM products. The company also expects the deal to free up around $2 billion in cash to use toward repurchasing its own shares. As a reminder, GM is in the middle of a buyback effort following its 2009 bankruptcy.
As far as its Buick and Holden brands are concerned, both sharing underpinnings with current Opel vehicles, the German carmaker will continue to provide parts. GM and PSA will also collaborate on electric car technology, so it’s safe to assume that the American firm and Opel will continue to have solid ties. However, some Opel models will be restricted from entering new overseas markets, while GM will be similarly barred from selling similar technology in Europe. All told, should GM plan to return to Europe with Chevrolet, it will have to develop its own vehicles without technology from Opel/Vauxhall.
PSA, which has now surpassed Renault to become Europe’s second-largest carmaker after Volkswagen, vowed to return Opel to profit after more than two decades of losses. Using the same strategy that saved PSA from going under, the French are targeting a two-percent profit by 2020 and six-percent profit by 2026. At the same time, PSA predicts joint cost savings of around €1.7 million ($1.8 million).
According to Tavares, the next-generation Opel Corsa will be the first vehicle to benefit from the new joint-venture. The subcompact will arrive in 2020.
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GM to Invest Additional $1 Billion in U.S. Manufacturing
General Motors has announced an investment of $1 billion into its U.S.-based manufacturing powerhouse spread across multiple vehicles, advanced technologies, and component projects. The sizable investment is expected to crease 1,500 new and retained jobs, while insourcing manufacturing that is currently taking place in Mexico. Chief among the insourced components with be pickup truck axle assemblies ready for the next-generation Silverado and Sierra trucks.
Mary Barra, General Motor’s Chairman and CEO, said, “As the U.S. manufacturing base increases its competitiveness, we are able to further increase our investment, resulting in more jobs for America and better results for our owners. The U.S. is our home market and we are committed to growth that is good for our employees, dealers, and suppliers and supports our continued effort to drive shareholder value.”
The billion-dollar investment is only the latest in sizable investments and job creation made by GM. In the last four years, GM says it has created 25,000 jobs inside the U.S., which along with raises, account for nearly $3 billion in additional annual wages and benefits to its U.S. workforce. Broken down, those jobs include 19,000 engineering, IT, and professional positions, along with some 6,000 hourly manufacturing jobs. Additionally, GM says it has insourced 90 percent of its IT work formerly being outsourced outside the U.S.
GM is also working with its independent parts suppliers in creating industrial park complexes near its main manufacturing and assembly plants. This self-contained parks allow for ultra-short-distance transportation of components from third party suppliers to GM’s assembly plants. Ultimately, this cuts down on cost and streamlines the assembly process.
All told, it seems General Motors is diligently working to reinvigorate its U.S. operations, both in blue- and white-collar positions.
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Next OnStar System to Use IBM Artificial Intelligence to Annoy Drivers with Targeted Offers and Services
GM’s OnStar system is evolving and the latest iteration, dubbed OnStar Go, is set to make it into 2017 model year vehicles. The system will build upon the services already available in today’s models, including features like diagnostics, security monitoring, hands-free calling, and navigation services, among others. But, OnStar Go will also utilize IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence technology to “optimize the driver’s time in the vehicle.” What that really means is that GM and IBM have partnered up to bring targeted offers and services to anyone who owns a GM vehicle.
These “targeted offers and services” will be available at no charge as part of the free and basic five-year OnStar plan included with the purchase of every new vehicle that is properly equipped and has a 4G wireless connection. So far, these customized offers will come from companies like Exxon Mobil, iHeartRadio, Glympse, Parkopedia, and Mastercard. GM and IBM will reportedly share revenue generated from these offers with the aforementioned partners. The offers presented to drivers will be tailored to them based on their habits, location, and other factors like current weather conditions.
“IBM and GM are changing the whole notion of where valuable, daily rituals occur. The combination of IBM Watson and industry-leading OnStar connectivity will enable vehicles with intelligent branded skills and services to empower drivers and passengers,” said Paul Papas, Global Leader, IBM iX. “Simply put, OnStar Go with IBM Watson transforms time wasted in the car into time well spent.”
As an example of how the system will work, if the vehicle is running low on fuel, the system will recognize this and locate the nearest Exxon Mobil gas station. It will then, make it make it on the navigation screen and direct drivers in the proper direction. Apparently, users will also be able to make authorized payments from inside the vehicle has well.
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The Era of Small Engines in Europe Could be Coming to an End
The war on emissions has been on-going with automakers continuously pressed to lower emissions output from their vehicles year after year. Over in Europe, the strategy to meet stringent emissions regulations has resulted in the downsizing of engines and the addition of turbochargers to make up for the power deficit. As such, the average engine size in Europe is anywhere between 1.3- and 1.9-liters. The shrinking of engines has worked well for emissions tests in Europe up until now, but according to Reuters, new on-the-road emissions testing has shown that smaller engines actually fail to meet the latest standards. This being the case, automakers are being forced to rethink their strategy, and those smaller engines could be on the chopping block.
So how bad is it? Well, real-world testing has shown that most of the smaller engines currently in use – like GM’s 1.2-liter diesel and VW’s 1.4-liter, three-pot diesel – can produce NOx levels up to 15 times the current legal standard when driven at higher loads. Smaller gasoline engines of similar size lose fuel-efficiency and “spew fine particles and carbon monoxide.” Renault’s 0.9-liter H4Bt engine injects excess fuel to prevent overheating, which has been found to produce massive levels of unburned hydrocarbons, fine particles, and CO2. So, what can automakers do to meet the tougher emissions regulations that must be adhered to by 2019?
Automakers have largely remained silent as to what their strategy will be going forward. But, sources have indicated that Volkswagen, Renault, and General Motors are all preparing to upsize some of their best-selling smaller engines while others will be retired altogether. All three have declined to comment on specific plans so far, but Alain Rapos – the Head of Powertrain for Renault-Nissan – said, “The techniques we’ve used to reduce engine capacities will no longer allow us to meet emissions standards. We’re reaching the limits of downsizing.”
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