Archive for the ‘Automotive Insight’ Category

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Ford’s DCDQ Product Development

October 20th, 2008 at 4:24pm

As heard on
WWJ Newsradio 950

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Ford has come up with a new product development process it calls DCDQ, and here’s what those letters mean for the company.

DCDQ stands for dependable, contemporary, driving, quality. It’s the tagline Ford of Europe is using for its new product development process and the plan is to drive that plan through the entire company. To put it simply, in April of this year Ford merged its product development and engineering organizations, and it assigned a buyer from purchasing to work with an engineer for each and every commodity.

The idea is to slash investment costs by using fewer platforms and power trains and yet come up with more unique models in the showrooms. Of course, that’s what every automaker’s trying to do. But it all hinges on how well they execute, and DCDQ is the way that Ford wants to get it done.

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Detroit Ignored Small Cars

October 7th, 2008 at 4:57pm

As heard on
WWJ Newsradio 950

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When Jim Farley was at Toyota he was stunned by Detroit’s total lack of response to the small car market.

What really put Jim Farley on everyone’s radar screen in the auto industry is when he was put in charge of launching the Scion brand for Toyota. He led a brilliant launch of three small cars, the Scion xA, the xB and the tC. At the same time, Toyota launched another small car, the Yaris.

Sales of those small cars quickly boosted Toyota’s sales by 250,000 units and gave the company more market share. Farley says he braced himself, fully convinced that Detroit’s Big Three would respond to Toyota’s bold move.

Instead, he was flabbergasted by the total lack of response from the American automakers. But that was then. Now Farley is at Ford, and it will have 6 new small cars coming out in the next four years.

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: There’s no need to Raise the Driving Age

October 3rd, 2008 at 9:30am

As heard on
WWJ Newsradio 950

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Stop

The insurance companies want to raise the driving age from 16 to 18, but there’s a better way to deal with younger drivers.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is calling for the minimum driving age to be raised from 16 to 17 or even 18 years old. They base that on the fact that young drivers have more accidents than older ones. But that’s nothing new, it’s always been the case.

A better solution would be to make driver’s training a lot more effective. Most teens who get their license have never driven in the dark, or in the snow or ice. They’ve often never been in rush hour traffic and some have never even been on an expressway.

By teaching teens better driving skills and getting them more experience, and combining that with a graduated license system like Michigan is using to great effect, we could greatly lower traffic accidents with teens and let them keep on driving.

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: DOT Wants a 90 Percent Fatality Reduction

October 2nd, 2008 at 2:28pm

As heard on
WWJ Newsradio 950

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DOT Logo

The transportation department wants to drastically reduce traffic fatalities by adopting what they’re calling a BHAG.

Every year in the United States there are 6 million traffic accidents that kill over 41,000 people and that costs the country $230 billion. But the Department of Transportation is adopting a goal of slashing those fatalities by 90 percent by the year 2030.

Paul Brubaker, the head of R&D at the DOT, says that’s what they call a BHAG, a big hairy audacious goal. But he says technology is going to make that possible, by allowing cars to electronically communicate with each other.

With sensors and GPS, it’s possible to make it impossible for cars to crash into each other. It’s all part of what’s being called the connected car program. And it’s a technology that should start showing up sometime after 2013.

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Ford’s wants the Youngest line-up in the Industry

October 1st, 2008 at 6:00pm

As heard on
WWJ Newsradio 950

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The best way to get customers into your showrooms is to have the newest products out there, and in that regard Ford says it’s going to meet or beat Toyota.

Ford says that by the end of next year the average age of the models in its showrooms are only going to be three to three and a half years old, and it claims that’ll be the same or better than Toyota.

To achieve that it’s going to start refreshing its models every three years. Then, it will have a significant redesign after six years and then a refresh three years after that. This is a very clever plan. Refreshing a design every three years versus the four to five that’s the norm in the industry today is going to cost more at first, but it enables Ford to stretch out the life of a platform to 12 years versus the normal eight years today and that’s going to save a ton of money. In other words, it puts newer designs in the showrooms at the same time it cuts costs.

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: There’s Plenty of Corn for Ethanol

October 1st, 2008 at 9:38am

As heard on
WWJ Newsradio 950

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CornThere’s a lot of controversy over using corn to make ethanol, but here’s what the people who grow the corn have to say about that.

According to the agricultural department, about 22 percent of all the corn grown in the United States now goes into making ethanol. But thanks to a bumper crop last year, and what looks like another bumper crop this year, more corn is being devoted to both ethanol and livestock feed.

Last year there was a 1.5 billion bushel surplus of corn, and this year there’s expected to be another billion bushels on top of that. Some critics say wheat prices have jumped because farmers are dropping that crop in favor of corn, but again, the Agricultural Department says wheat production is the highest its been in 10 years.

No doubt there will still be plenty of controversy of using food to make fuel, but another telling fact is that almost all commodity prices are now coming down, including the price of corn.

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Chevy Volt Designed For Stop And Go

September 24th, 2008 at 5:12pm

As heard on
WWJ Newsradio 950

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The Chevy Volt is going to have a neat little feature that will make it easier to drive in stop and go traffic.

Like most cars, the Chevy Volt is going to have Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive. But if you pull the gear shift lever back one more notch, you get a lot more regenerative braking when you decelerate.

That’s one of the ways to put energy back into batteries in hybrid and electric cars. Regenerative braking makes the electric motor in the car produce electricity and that’s put back into the battery.

Anyway, on the Volt, you can set the regenerative braking to be super aggressive, so aggressive in fact that in stop and go driving you can slow the car down and practically bring it to a stop without ever putting your foot on the brake pedal. All you have to do is back off the gas, which should make driving in traffic jams just a little bit easier to take.

Click on an image to see larger photos of the Chevy Volt

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Ford Fiesta Is Terrific Small Car

September 23rd, 2008 at 10:38am

As heard on
WWJ Newsradio 950

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The new Ford Fiesta is a terrific small car that is going to stun a lot of the company’s competitors.

I just got a chance to drive the European version of the new Ford Fiesta, which will be in showrooms here in two years time. And it’s such a good B-class car that companies like Toyota and Honda are going to have to tear it down to see what makes it so good.

This car is remarkably quiet, it’s fun to drive, and the interior materials and quality are far better than cars that cost a lot more. This is the first car to come out of Ford’s new global product development process, and if this is any indication of what’s to come, Ford is going to soon have an impressive line-up of vehicles in its showrooms.

Of course, the Fiesta is still two years away before it will available here, and a lot of other competitors will be out by then. But the new Fiesta is a sure sign that Ford can build cars like the best of them.

Click on an image to see larger photos of the all-new Ford Fiesta

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Waterborne Paint is not that Green

September 19th, 2008 at 4:43pm

As heard on
WWJ Newsradio 950

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Paint Booth
A decade ago, waterborne paint was seen as a great way to reduce emissions from assembly plants. But now the industry seems to having second thoughts.

Painting cars requires a lot of paint solvents, and they give off a lot of emissions. It’s what they call volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. That’s why the industry got interested in water-based paints as a way to cut down on emissions from their painting operations.

But paint experts tell me that you have to use twice as much waterborne paint to make sure it goes on right. And since even waterborne paint has solvent in it, using twice as much paint means it puts out about the same emissions.

Plus, waterborne paint shops need to be air conditioned, which uses more energy. And so it looks like there will not be as much business going forward with waterborne paints, because they no longer look as ecologically beneficial as they did a decade ago.

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Ford Mirror Eliminates Blind Spots

September 18th, 2008 at 7:00pm

As heard on
WWJ Newsradio 950

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Blind Spot Mirror

Ford is coming out with a new type of rear view mirror that eliminates blind spots, and it doesn’t use any kind of electronics.

Electronic blind spot detection is all the rage as the latest in automotive safety. But Ford is coming out with a new kind of rear view mirror that can do the same kind of thing for a fraction of the cost.

You know those little round convex mirrors that people glue onto their regular rear view mirrors? You especially see them on trucks that tow some kind of trailer. Well the Ford mirror is kind of like those, except that instead of gluing a round mirror on, Ford builds it into the rear view mirror.

That way it will never fall off, or get scraped off in the winter. And Ford designed its mirror so it only reflects what’s in the outside lanes so that you will not have any problem with blind spots.