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0:07 Ford Invests in EVs & AVs
0:46 Volvo Expects EV Margins to Match Traditional Vehicles by 2025
1:06 Volvo Goes After Distracted & Drunk Drivers
1:41 IIHS Says Pickups Need Better Passenger Protection
2:48 Our 2019 Chevrolet Blazer Impressions
4:42 Magna Prototype Features 10 Drivetrain Combinations
This is Autoline Daily reporting on the global automotive industry.
FORD INVESTS IN EVs & AVs
A few days after announcing plans to expand production of its big SUVs, Ford is revealing more manufacturing plans for North America. It will invest $850 million through 2023 to expand production at its plant in Flat Rock, Michigan, which includes building the next-gen Mustang and battery electric vehicles. The company will also begin assembling autonomous vehicles at a new facility in Southeast Michigan starting in 2021 but it did not say where it will be located. And that same year, Ford will start production of the next-gen Transit Connect in Mexico.
VOLVO EXPECTS EV MARGINS TO MATCH I.C.E. BY 2025
Volvo’s CEO, Hakan Samuelsson, told Reuters that it expects margins on its electric vehicles to be the same as cars powered by internal combustion engines by 2025. He said reduced costs for EV components and falling margins on traditional vehicles will help Volvo hit that goal.
VOLVO GOES AFTER DISTRACTED & DRUNK DRIVERS
It also recently announced it will lower the top speed of its vehicles as a way to improve safety and now Volvo’s going after distracted and drunk drivers. The automaker will install in-car cameras and other sensors that monitor the driver and allow the car to take over if the driver does not respond to warnings. The system could limit the car’s speed, alert the Volvo on Call assistance service and, as a final course of action, actively slow down and park the car. Volvo will start to roll out the system in 2020.
PICKUPS NEED BETTER PASSENGER PROTECTION
Speaking of safety, due to their high seating position, big trucks can make feel very safe, but the IIHS says most pickups need better passenger-side protection. It recently tested 11 crew cab pickups in its small overlap test and only three earned a “good” rating; the Ford F-150, Nissan Titan and Ram 1500. The majority of the trucks earned a “acceptable” or “marginal” rating, but the Toyota Tundra was the only one to receive a “poor” rating. The IIHS says “pickups took longer than other vehicle categories to meet the Institute’s challenge for driver-side small overlap protection, so it’s no surprise that they are lagging a bit in the newer passenger-side evaluation.”
OUR 2019 CHEVY BLAZER IMPRESSIONS
We just got a chance to drive the 2019 Chevy Blazer and since it’s an all-new vehicle, we thought we’d share some of our impressions. When it comes to ride and handling, Chevy nailed it. And you know it in the first 100 yards of driving. The Blazer is also impressively quiet on the highway and we found the optional 3.6L V6 to be surprisingly responsive. And here’s something we found kind of clever. Puddle lights normally shine down from the side-view mirrors, but on the Blazer it shines down from the rear bumper, more toward the driver’s side. It’s actually marking where you need to kick your foot to open the hands-free liftgate. Overall the interior is ok. We like the large center vents with the outside bezel that spins to adjust the temperature, but the other control buttons are small and shoved right below the infotainment screen, which can make them hard to read and push when driving down the road. And as a taller person I found the bottom seat cushions to be too short and not very supportive of my legs. Our test vehicle was a bit pricey at nearly $47,000, but we think your local retailer will be ready to make a deal.
And don’t forget to join us for Autoline After Hours this afternoon. We’ll be taking a dive into the glory days of General Motors with Greg Wallace, who used to work at the company’s Heritage Center. That’s today at 3PM eastern time on our website and YouTube channel.
The supplier Magna has created a prototype with 10 different drivetrain combinations. We’ll tell you why right after this.
MAGNA BUILDS THE SWISS ARMY KNIFE OF PROTOTYPES
Suppliers like to build prototypes to show car companies the new technology they’ve developed. But building prototypes can be expensive. And demonstrating different technologies in different vehicles can be time consuming. So Magna built an intriguing prototype that incorporates 10 different drivetrain combinations in one car.
Walter Sackl, Director Global Product Management, Magna Powertrain
“We wanted to ensure that, we ourselves, but also our customers get a fairly good understanding about the potential of scalability with just one car. So, it represents more or less 10 different types of architectures in one car.”
The car is a BMW 218i, which is sold in Europe and China. But Magna now calls it the e2 prototype because they made so many changes to the drive train.
Walter Sackl, Director Global Product Management, Magna Powertrain
“So, it starts with the standard ICE combined with the main transmission, a dual clutch transmission, fairly comfortable 7-speed and goes up to high performance plug-in hybrid versions, including torque vectoring. So, all the levers of electrification, from mild-hybrid through plug-in hybrid, up to BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) represented power, we can show in that car.”
The e2 can operate in front wheel drive, with the expected wheel spin.
Or it can operate in all wheel drive, with much better acceleration.
But the real benefits of driving in all-wheel-drive with torque vectoring is seen in how stable the e2 is on a skid pad on a frozen lake. The car is impressively neutral, not exhibiting understeer or oversteer.
Walter Sackl explains why the e2 feels so stable driving on ice.
“Why? Because it combines the mechanically torque vectoring solution with the electric drive, which opens us new ability to control the car. Electric drive has higher accuracy but also higher performance in terms of controllability. And that, combined with the torque vectoring style, gives us a real asset in the future ability of providing fun to drive to the customer.”
Magna’s strategy is to demonstrate modular and scalable technology. It can keep adding modules to get different powertrain solutions.
But that wraps up today’s show, 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.