September 30th, 2010 at 12:03pm
It looks like talks between Nissan and Daimler about sharing engines and platforms is progressing nicely. Delphi announced it’s teaming up with WiTricity Corporation to develop wireless charging systems for EVs. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill yesterday allowing windshield-mounted cameras to record video and audio inside vehicles! All that and more, plus some of guest-host Murray Feldman’s thoughts on the problems facing the automotive supplier industry.
Hello again and welcome to Autoline Daily for Thursday, the last day of September, 2010. I’m Murray Feldman from FOX 2 News here in Detroit. You guessed it; it’s my turn to fill-in for John this week who’s still in Europe covering the Paris Motor Show. Lucky guy. Anyway, here are the top headlines from the global automotive industry.
It looks like talks between Nissan and Daimler about sharing engines and platforms is progressing nicely. Bloomberg reports the two automakers are hammering out a deal which is expected to be completed on Saturday. According to the article, future Infinitis will be built… off an existing Daimler architecture. The unnamed models will also offer Daimler diesel engines. They will be sold in Europe, the U.S. and China.
HAPPIER DAYS ON THE HORIZON (subscription required)
Even though it still feels like the economy is stuck in neutral, the auto industry is seeing some glimmers of hope. If a forecast published by PriceWaterhouseCoopers turns out to be true, things are on track to get a lot better. According to Ward’s, the accounting firm projects that capacity utilization in North America will hit 95 percent in 2015. The rule of thumb is that a plant breaks-even when it’s running at 75 to 85 percent capacity . . . anything beyond that is money in the bank. That means OEMs could be poised to rake-in record profits. Automakers are on-track to hit 80 percent this year and exceed 90 percent in 2011, largely because the Detroit Three closed so many factories and streamlined their operations. But their European competitors haven’t made these difficult decisions yet. Their rebound is not expected to be as strong.
WIRELESS CHARGING FOR EVs
Yesterday Delphi announced it is teaming up with WiTricity Corporation, which makes wireless energy-transfer technology. They’ll develop wireless chargers for vehicles. The system would not need plugs or cords, the driver simply has to drive over a wireless energy-source that sits on the ground and it automatically transfers power to the battery. Let’s hope it doesn’t sterilize men and zap your cell phone. The system can transfer over 3,300 watts to charge a car, which is the same rate as a residential plug-in charger. Delphi says the technology can be integrated into the design of a vehicle, but there’s no word on when it could become available. Your first born and your phone are safe for now!
PEUGEOT, MITSUBISHI EXTEND PARTNERSHIP (subscription required)
Peugeot and Mitsubishi are extending their electric vehicle relationship. The two companies already have an agreement that will supply Peugeot with EVs based on Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV, and now the AFP reports that the two will develop light-commercial vehicles together. The carmakers said they will develop electric-versions of the Peugeot Partner combi-van and the Citroen Berlingo. Look for production to start by 2012.
PEUGEOT, FORD CONTINUE COLLABORATION (subscription required)
In other Peugeot news, its parent company PSA and Ford announced they will continue their diesel collaboration. According to Ward’s, the two will develop and produce a range of Euro 6-compliant diesel engines for light vehicle and commercial use. The new line-up is scheduled to begin production in 2013. The two companies have partnered on diesel engines for the last decade.
HASTA LA VISTA, PRIVACY
Big brother is watching . . . LITERALLY. According to the Associated Press, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill into law yesterday allowing windshield-mounted cameras to record video and audio inside vehicles. The measure is designed to promote safe driving – particularly for vehicle fleets – and to record data if there is a crash. Only 30 seconds of information may be stored. There are obvious privacy concerns around this law, let’s hope it doesn’t spread any further than California.
After the break I’ll share a few of my thoughts on a critically important, though often-overlooked part of the auto industry.
Finally – the domestic automakers have things where they want them. Consumer demand is up – product is rolling off showroom floors. Some Chevy dealers are saying they could sell two or three times as many vehicles as they have.
So companies like GM are boosting production. Sounds like good news, however that is now creating another problem. Suppliers! Many have been barely hanging on during the automotive downturn and are under-capitalized. They reduced costs . . . cut workers . . . shut down some lines. Now they’re being asked to fund increased production. And they can’t afford to.
Sheldon Stone Is a partner at the turnaround firm Amherst Partners. He has many clients in this jam. He tells me their collateral base simply won’t support an increase on the production line. He’s already seen one supplier go out of business – because they couldn’t meet the increased production.
So let’s hope people keep buying new cars – and automakers continue to do more business . . . but that production increases come slowly – slow enough to keep suppliers in the loop and in business. If not, automakers may find their supplier base is shrinking . . . companies going bust, at a time when they can’t afford to have that happen. It could impact nearly all automakers here in North America. It could become the next automotive crisis.
On a lighter note, join us for Autoline After Hours TONIGHT. Mr. Peter De Lorenzo himself is hosting the party, which starts at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Our special guests include David Welch from Bloomberg/Business Week, and Jean Halliday of Advertising Age. Should be a good show. You can watch it LIVE on our website, AutolineDetroit.tv or download it as a podcast from iTunes or the Zune Marketplace. And don’t forget to leave us your questions and comments on our Google Voice number. Just dial 1-620-AUTOLIN, that “Autoline” without the “E.” Again, that’s 1-620-288-6546. We’d love to hear from you. And with that we can wrap things up for today. Again, I’m Murray Feldman from FOX 2 News, Detroit. Thank you for watching. I’ll see you tomorrow.