July 15th, 2010 at 12:00pm
Ford is shuffling its management deck, pulling Jim Farley away from operations in Latin America and expanding his role in the global sales and service arena. Nissan was forced to halt production in Japan because of a shortage of electronic parts and now the problem has spread to the U.S. BMW reveals its redesigned 2011 X3. All that and more, plus a look at a new display technology supplier company Continental is developing.
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
This is Autoline Daily for Thursday, July 15, 2010. And now the news.
FORD SHUFFLES MANAGEMENT DECK (login required)
Interesting management changes at Ford. Jim Farley, who was running global marketing as well as operations in Latin America, will surrender those operational duties and see his marketing role expanded to include global sales and service. Eduardo Serrano will take over those operations in Latin America and Mexico and will report to Executive Vice President Mark Fields. In other developments, as we’ve been reporting here for months, Steve Odell will leave Volvo and take over as CEO of Ford of Europe. Remember him? I keep pointing out Steve Odell was the guy who started the Zoom-Zoom campaign when he was at Mazda. The exec that had been running Ford of Europe, John Flemming, will move to Ford headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan to take over global manufacturing and labor relations for the company. I find these to be very interesting changes, and we’ll be talking more about them tonight on Autoline After Hours.
NISSAN HALTS PRODUCTION
The problem started in Japan, but now it’s spread to the U.S. Nissan had to halt production at several plants in Japan because it cannot get engine computers from its supplier Hitachi, and now it’s closing two plants in the U.S., and could close them in Mexico. And Hitachi stopped shipping them because it can’t get the right integrated circuits from its supplier, STMicoelectronics, which is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Electronics Weekly.com reports that the ASIC, or application-specific integrated circuits, control the fuel injection in cars like the Sentra and Altima.
INDYCAR SELECTS NEW CHASSIS
IndyCar announced the new chassis teams will use starting in 2012, and once again it will be a Dallara. According to Autoblog, the Dallara beat out other entries from BAT, Lola, Swift and even this wild concept from DeltaWing. The new chassis is 185 pounds lighter, weighing a total of 1,380 pounds. IndyCar will allow teams to modify the bodywork, which includes aero kits for front and rear wings, sidepods and engine covers. The cost of the chassis is $350,000 – nearly half the cost of the current one. And with the engine IndyCar estimates the cost of the race car at less than one million dollars.
CHINA’S AUTO INDUSTRY IN “GOLDEN AGE”
China’s auto industry has been booming for the last several years and a new report suggests that that will continue for some time to come. According to the People’s Daily, a study done by China’s State Council, the Society of Automotive Engineers and Volkswagen China, says that the golden age for the country’s auto industry will last another 20 years. The report says sales will reach 15 million this year and by 2030 sales will grow to over 35 million a year.
FORD IMPROVES VOICE RECOGNITION (login required)
Moore’s Law states that the power of computers roughly doubles every two years. Ford is proving this rule true with its SYNC system. When the automaker introduced the hands-free infotainment technology three years ago it could understand about 100 commands. Now, after working with voice-recognition company Nuance Communications, the latest generation of the system – called MyFord Touch – can recognize more than 10,000! The newest version of the technology aims to be easier and more natural to use, so, for example, it recognizes direct commands like “call Autoline Daily” or “find a shoe store.” There’s no need to first go to the telephone or navigation menus. It also recognizes “aliases,” different commands for a common function. For instance, if you’re on the climate control menu you could say “warmer,” “increase temperature” or “temperature up,” any of which will accomplish the same thing. TALK about progress.
2011 BMW X3 (login required)
Tuesday we ran part of an interview we did with Richard Brekus, the head of sales at BMW North America. In the sound bite he talked about some of the new products the company is developing, and one of the vehicles he mentioned was the X3. Well, now BMW has released details and video of its redesigned crossover. Overall it’s a little taller, wider and longer than the outgoing model, plus has more ground clearance. In the U.S. you can expect it to be powered by a 3.0-liter straight six with 240 horsepower or a turbocharged version with 300 ponies. Of course other markets in the world will get additional engine options, namely diesels. Sending the power to the wheels is an eight-speed automatic transmission. The 2011 BMW X3 will be built in the company’s Spartanburg, South Carolina plant. Look for it to go on sale later this year.
After the break we’ll take a look at one of the new technologies supplier company Continental is working on. Back right after this.
CONTINENTAL’S CURVED DISPLAY
German supplier Continental makes all kinds of different components, from sensors and actuators to fuel pumps and control modules. Many of these parts are necessary, but fairly unglamorous. The average car buyer never sees any of them – but Conti also makes things that drivers interact with everyday, like switches and display screens. One new technology under development aims to give car designers greater freedom over what they can do with vehicle interiors.
Continental is also a major supplier of instrument clusters. OEMs ranging from Mercedes-Benz to Hyundai buy their components. On this front the company is working on digital gauges, ones that can be programmed to show any kind of information automakers – or drivers – want.
In a conversation with one of the company’s engineers, we learned about a big challenge they faced in developing this prototype, and that was how to get the gauges to sweep across the screen smoothly. She said it took a lot of work to get it right, and so did the small, reflective chrome accents at the base of the needles.
It will be interesting to see how automakers implement both of these technologies. Several manufacturers already use digital instrument clusters – Jaguar has them on the brand-new XJ – but they’ll probably become the industry standard in a few years.
That report was filed by Autoline Daily’s Craig Cole.
Don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern Time when Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics will be joining us to talk about anything and everything going on behind the scenes in the automotive industry.
And that brings us to the end of this edition of Autoline Daily. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.