The Week That Was
By: Graeme Roberts
Deputy/news editor Graeme Roberts' Friday wrap on the important automotive news from the week just ending.
The two top-read stories on just-auto this week were both on subjects I get no joy from publishing - axing of a brand and (so far, voluntary) axing of people in a region proving troublesome to automakers.
Started the week with, shock horror, driving an actual car for once, in fact several - old Kia Sportage as a means of transportation to the airport and then several variations of the new one, which made its debut at Frankfurt last year. I had never got around to a pedal in the outgoing model, which has been with us since 2010, and facelifted in 2014, and was wondering if they really needed a new one yet but, of course, the redesigned crossover is quite an improvement with new engines and transmissions (hello, in-house-developed twin clutch automatic) and connectivity among many items Kia had to shout about. Fourth generation, already; anyone remember the first?
News that Volvo Cars has ended a long-running joint venture in China with Changan Ford attracted much interest on just-auto this week. This was a legacy of Ford's one-time ownership of Volvo, and platform and engine-sharing, which saw the JV make some Volvo models alongside Fords, and, going back a bit further, Mazdas. Volvo is now forging its own path in China under Geely ownership and has its own car and engine factories, one of which is even shipping cars to the US, plus an R&D centre.
We scored a rare treat this week while attending the Detroit show and associated events in what I am told was a "really cold" Michigan this week. I guess I fluked my one visit to Motown's big do several years ago when I enjoyed crystal clear skies and temperatures mild enough to sit outside and enjoy the sun while waving to the residents of Windsor across the river and discovering it is possible for Canada to be south of the US. In places.
The global automotive industry stands on the brink of unprecedented change due to the impact of eight discrete megatrends, according to a new report from just-auto.
Not unsurprisingly, given just-auto's audience, news from the supplier sector generated the most interest from readers this week. Topping the bill was news Corning's Gorilla Glass would be used for the windscreen and rear window/engine cover of the 2016 edition of Ford's delectable GT. The words gorilla and glass should ring a bell with many - it's also used on higher end smartphones and tablets as it often survives even cracking when said gadgets are accidentally dropped and its scratch-resistant properties keep screens looking box-fresh new longer, too.
The really interesting stuff all happened as this week drew to a close - yesterday Volkswagen 'fessed up over the 'dieselgate' scandal and, today, Tata Motors' English luxury vehicle unit Jaguar Land Rover finally confirmed the location for its new manufacturing plant.
The Volkswagen group 'emissions scandal' rumbled on this week as more skeletons were rattled out of closets. There's bound to be a few more when the automotive equivalent of the Spanish inquisition starts internally, following this week's report that "around 50" employees have come forward just ahead of the deadline to testify in the group's internal investigation into the emissions controls cheating scandal. Employees had been given until Monday to come forward to testify without fear of repercussions - on the part of VW.
I'm not long back from a fascinating week in Ontario, home to all of Canada's car assembly plants, major suppliers such as Magna and Linamar and a bunch of clever companies and academic boffins all working in what we might term the connected and automated car space.
News that Škoda is building a new, energy-efficient press shop at its main factory in Mladá Boleslav drew a lot of eyes to just-auto.com this week. Construction has now begun on the M4 hall and, next spring, the VW Group automaker will install a servo press line in the new hall that will be able to press aluminium body panels for the first time. The new facility is expected to go into operation in February 2017 at a cost of EUR86m (US$93.47m).
Continuing just-auto's series of interviews with tier one suppliers, this week Matthew Beecham talked with Detlef Jürss, group vice president and general manager Seating Components, Johnson Controls Automotive Seating. Well worth a look if you haven't enjoyed yet. He's also talked to Schaeffler about smarter repairs.
Volkswagen Group stayed very much in the news this week. The company posted a set of results that were dragged down by provision made for costs associated with ‘dieselgate’. I suspect it won’t be the last set of disappointing results to come out of Wolfsburg.
Volkswagen's diesel issues and some wider ramifications continued to make the news this week.
We'll permit ourselves a small 'told you so' this week after Jaguar Land Rover finally confirmed it would build the Range Rover Evoque in Brazil from early 2016, as well as the previously confirmed Land Rover Discovery Sport - which Our Man in Brazil first reported last May. JLR had said earlier it would only do 'new' models at the plant, but our sources said otherwise, and it makes sense to do the country's top selling JLR model locally as it (a) gets the price down, increases supply and frees up capacity at the Halewood, England, mother ship. And the high local content encouraged in Brazil allows local variation to suit market needs. JLR also now makes the Evoque at a joint venture in China (again, this gets the price down in a tax-protected market) and also assembles some models in India (ditto). All of which frees up UK capacity.
One guess what dominated just-auto's news, analysis and comment this week. VW, emissions, diesel and recalls, natch. Early in the week we asked: "Where will 'emissionsgate' end?" Well, for a start, some work with the slide rules by our own analysts swiftly concluded: "The expected decline of the popularity of diesel-fuelled vehicles in the European car market has been significantly accelerated."
- Q&A – Delphi Chief Technology Officer, Jeff Owens
- F23 2 Series Convertible & future BMWs
- Analysis - Bull market for Lamborghini
- EU heavy truck market sees 19.4% gain in 2015; pos
- Interview with Harman Connected Car division
- GM's Opel promises Europe a "revolutionary" EV
- Tesla reports higher losses in Q4
- Wrist smartphone speeds Ford quality checks
- Geneva premieres list - 6.6-litre BMW world debut
- Chicago show debuts list - Patrol becomes Armada