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0:07 U.S. Car Sales Dip in February
0:57 Volvo To Limit Car Speeds
1:29 Car Finance Costs Skyrocket in UK
2:18 EVs Not Easier to Build Than ICE Vehicles
6:05 Tesla to Debut New Supercharger, Model Y Soon
6:38 Ford Ends Taurus Production…Again
7:05 Edsel Ford’s Importance to Company’s Success
This is Autoline Daily reporting on the global automotive industry.
U.S. CAR SALES DIP IN FEBRUARY
Car sales fell 2.4% last month in the U.S. market. Wards reports the SAAR came in at 16.5 million versus 16.9 million the year before. Even so, automakers sold 1.2 million vehicles in February, and anything over a million is still a good number. But here’s something that jumped out at us. Both Audi and Mercedes saw their sales drop over 12%. The Audi A3, A4, A5, Q5 and Q7 saw big declines. At Mercedes, the GLA, GLE, GLS and GLC had double digit drops. You know, it’s one thing when your passenger cars fall, but when your SUVs drop off, something’s wrong.
VOLVO TO LIMIT CAR SPEEDS
Volvo says it wants zero deaths in its vehicles by 2020 and now it’s focusing on driver behavior to reach its goal. It’s going to limit the top speed on all its new vehicles to 112 MPH or 180 km/h. Volvo also plans to use technology that makes sure the driver is alert and paying attention and will even use geo-fenced speed limits in key areas, like around schools.
CAR FINANCE COSTS SKYROCKET IN UK
Ever since the UK voted to leave the European Union, vehicle finance costs have gone up as much as 49%. When combined with the falling value of the pound, it is costing drivers an extra $128 a month or about $6,000 over the life of a loan. More than 90% of vehicles bought in the UK are financed, so people are in for a nasty surprise at how much their next new car will cost.
EVs NOT EASIER TO BUILD THAN ICE VEHICLES
Electric car advocates often claim that electric cars are easier to manufacture because they use fewer parts compared to cars with internal combustion engines. But that’s not really the case. There is no productivity advantage when assembling electric cars compared to those with internal combustion engines. Gunter Apfalter, the President of Magna Europe, says they both use “about the same number of assembly stations and line workers.” He ought to know. Magna is the giant Tier 1 supplier that makes both the Jaguar I-Pace electric and Jaguar E-Pace ICE on the same line at its assembly plant in Graz, Austria. Jaguar contracts Magna to manufacture them.
While electric cars don’t have gas tanks and fuel lines, or radiators and hoses, or exhaust pipes and mufflers, they do require other assembly steps that piston engine cars don’t require. For example, the installation of the battery pack on the I-Pace requires two separate assembly stations that are part of a feeder line located off the main assembly line. The battery pack is a massively large part that is lifted into place from under the car, then secured with multiple bolts to become a structural member of the chassis. Once the pack is installed the vehicle moves to a second station where more workers connect wires and perform quality checks. It is a more complicated process than, say, installing the gas tank on a piston engine car.
Moreover, with the I-Pace, the installation of the electric motor requires more line workers than installing the gasoline or diesel engines in the E-Pace. Both vehicles use a modular cradle which includes the engine, transmission and front suspension. The cradle is fed in from under the car, then bolted into place. While it takes 4 men to install the module with a piston engine, it takes 6 men to install the one with an electric motor. That is partly due to the design of the air suspension on the electric I-Pace, which is more complicated than the simpler strut suspension on the E-Pace. Even so, installing the electric motor module requires 50% more labor input.
As already noted, piston engines cars require the installation of other parts and components that are not needed with electric vehicles. But electrics require assembly steps of their own. In the end, both types of cars use about the same number of assembly stations and line workers. So the claim that electric cars are easier to make is not true, or certainly it’s not true in the case of the Jaguar I-Pace. EV proponents point out that electric motors have far fewer components than a piston engine, and that’s correct. But it is a misleading comparison because it does not compare total-system-to-total-system. A battery pack, for example, can contain nearly as many parts and components as a piston engine. Sandy Munro, the president of Munro and Associates, and an expert in benchmarking cars, says that on a system-to-system comparison, electric cars and internal combustion engine cars are “about the same in part numbers.” So while there are many positive aspects to electric cars, it’s not true that they use fewer parts or are easier to assemble.
TESLA TO DEBUT NEW SUPERCHARGER, MODEL Y SOON
It wouldn’t be a day in the auto industry without news about Tesla. Yesterday, Elon Musk tweeted that the company will open its first Supercharger V3 station on Wednesday. But we still don’t know what the charge rate will be, which vehicles it’s compatible with or where it’s located. Elon also revealed that Tesla will unveil the Model Y on March 14th. He said the SUV is about 10% larger than the Model 3, so it will cost about 10% more and have slightly less range.
FORD ENDS TAURUS PRODUCTION…AGAIN
Ford has once again ended production of the Taurus. You probably remember that the car was killed back in 2006 but was revived a few years later, as a rebadged version of the Five Hundred. The Taurus was built at the company’s Chicago Assembly but Ford is investing $1 billion at the facility to expand production of the Explorer and Lincoln Aviator.
EDSEL FORD’S IMPORTANCE TO COMPANY’S SUCCESS
Speaking of Ford, everyone knows how Henry Ford built the company, but on last week’s Autoline After Hours, Ford historian Bob Kreipke, explained why Henry’s son Edsel was equally important.
(The AAH preview is only available in the video version of today’s show.)
You can watch that entire discussion right now on our website, Autoline.tv or you can find it on our YouTube channel.
But that’s it for today, thanks for watching and please join us again tomorrow.
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John McElroy is an influential thought leader in the automotive industry. He is a journalist, lecturer, commentator and entrepreneur. He created “Autoline Daily,” the first industry webcast of industry news and analysis.