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0:07 New Toyota Highlander Headed to Dealerships
1:07 Audi Refreshes the Q7
2:38 Truck Makers Cutting Jobs Too
3:18 Volvo & Isuzu Form Truck Alliance
3:42 PSA & FCA Make Merger Official
4:19 Bosch Develops Tech to Monitor Occupants
5:32 Hyundai/Kia Use VR to Aid Vehicle Design
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This is Autoline Daily reporting on all aspects of the global automotive industry.
NEW TOYOTA HIGHLANDER HEADED TO DEALERSHIPS
Toyota revealed the all-new Highlander back in April and now it’s going on sale. It rides on Toyota’s New Global Architecture and is over 2-inches longer than the outgoing model, which was all added to the cargo area. Powertrain options include a 3.5L V6 mated to an 8-speed automatic, expected to return 24 MPG combined and a 2.5L hybrid setup that’s estimated at 36 MPG combined. Three different all-wheel drive systems are also available. An 8-inch display screen comes standard with most models, but a 12.3-inch screen is available as well. And, of course, no new model would be complete without a suite of driver assistance technologies. Highlander pricing starts at nearly $36,000, all-wheel drive adds another $1,800 and the Hybrid, which won’t be available until February, starts just over $39,000.
AUDI REFRESHES THE Q7
Audi revealed the updated Q7. It’s powered by an all-new 3.0L V6 engine that’s mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive is standard. And to make it ride smoother the new Q7 is available with adaptive air suspension, which adjusts the ride height and firmness of the dampers. The styling of the SUV features design elements from the company’s current design language and the interior design borrows elements from the Q8. The interior also features a new MMI touch response system that replaces the rotary dial and other buttons with two hi-res touch screens. The new Q7 carries a starting price of just under $62,000.
Be sure to join us for Autoline After Hours on Thursday, as we look at the end of a year and the end of a decade. Automakers had a smooth ride over the last 10 years but the next ten look bumpy. We’ll have consultant Paul Eichenberg, and Joe Langley from IHS Markit on the show to point out the most important trends and where that’s taking us. So join John and Gary for some of the best insights into the automotive industry.
TRUCK MAKERS CUTTING JOBS TOO
As we’ve reported, automakers and suppliers have announced plans to cut thousands of jobs over the next decade and now commercial truck makers are following suit. Yesterday, Navistar announced it is cutting 10% of its global workforce. And last month, Cummins said it plans to cut 2,000 salaried jobs. Trucking companies ordered too many big rigs last year when freight volumes were growing. But that trend has reversed and orders for big trucks are drying up, which is why we’re seeing these jobs get cut. On top of that, a slowdown in the global economy is hurting sales.
VOLVO FORMS TRUCK ALLIANCE WITH ISUZU
In other big-truck news, Volvo and Isuzu announced they’ve agreed to form a strategic alliance in commercial vehicles. The deal includes Isuzu buying Volvo’s subsidiary UD Trucks, which is valued at around $2.3 billion. The two companies said the alliance will also explore other opportunities for collaboration on a global basis.
PSA AND FCA MAKE MERGER OFFICIAL
And speaking of alliances, PSA and FCA made their merger official. The two companies signed an agreement to create the fourth largest automaker globally by volume and the third largest by revenue. But the devil is in the details. It’s expected that completing the deal will take another 15 months, and then there’s that GM racketeering lawsuit against FCA, so who knows what will happen between now and then?
BOSCH DEVELOPS TECH TO MONITOR OCCUPANTS
Automotive suppliers are getting cranked up for the CES show next month. Bosch will be unveiling driver monitoring technology, all with the idea of eliminating driver distraction, which is a major safety concern the world over. It will likely go into production by 2022 because that’s when the EU will mandate a system like this as standard equipment to warn drivers of drowsiness and distraction. Europe’s NCAP, or new car assessment program, will use this technology by 2025 in rating the crash safety of cars. Bosch’s system is similar to Cadillac’s Super Cruise which uses a camera to watch the driver’s eyes and make sure they’re paying attention to the road. But the Bosch system monitors all the people in a car. It will warn if a child unfastened their seat belt, if someone is leaning too far forward, or has their feet up on the seat next to them. If this sounds like the nanny-state and Big Brother are getting too much control, just keep in mind that this technology is expected to save more than 25,000 lives and help prevent at least 140,000 severe injuries by 2038.
HYUNDAI/KIA USE VR TO AID VEHICLE DESIGN
Ask any automotive designer and they’ll tell you, designing in clay is still important because you have to look at an actual, physical model, but new digital technologies are helping to improve the design process as well. The Hyundai-Kia group are now using virtual reality to aid design evaluation at its R&D center in South Korea. The system allows up to 20 engineers and designers to look at any and all parts of a vehicle at the same time and recommend changes. I recently talked to a Nissan designer who said these current VR systems are really just for collaborative evaluation where suggestions can be made. And would not be replacing complex design, whether that be on paper, computer or in clay. But it’s not like it doesn’t have its benefits. Hyundai and Kia say they anticipate a 20% reduction in vehicle development times and a 15% reduction in annual development costs using the VR system.
But that’s it for today, thanks for watching and we’ll see you 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.