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0:07 Ford May Close U.S. Plants Due to Engine Shortages
1:02 Employees Want Ford to Stop Making Police Vehicles
1:46 Harley-Davidson Struggling
3:26 Racing Series for Electric Scooters Kicks Off In 2021
4:16 Electric Parking Brake Repair Now Less Expensive
4:54 Subaru Refreshes the Crosstrek
5:33 Opel Updates Its Logo
6:12 Ford Slashes Vehicle Development Time
8:21 Barn Find Revealed
This is Autoline Daily, the show dedicated to enthusiasts of the global automotive industry.
FORD MAY CLOSE U.S. PLANTS DUE TO ENGINE SHORTAGES
Like all automakers, Ford really struggled to get its plants in the U.S. all up and running after the COVID lockdowns. But it could be forced to shut down some plants again due to COVID problems in Mexico. The company’s plant in Chihuahua is only allowed to have half of the employees in the facility at a time due to Mexico’s social distancing requirements. Ford’s suppliers there also face the same limitations, so it’s not able to produce the number of engines it needs. The Chihuahua plant produces the Duratec I4, 4.4L V8 diesel, and Scorpion 6.7L powerstroke engine used in the Super Duty. This is a serious issue for Ford. Those engines go into some of its most profitable products and it could close plants in the U.S. as soon as next week.
EMPLOYEES WANT FORD TO STOP MAKING POLICE VEHICLES
In other Ford news, a group of employees want the company to stop making cop cars, in light of the protests over police brutality. CEO Jim Hackett wrote a letter to employees saying that while they support the Black Lives Matter movement and making police reforms, those issues have nothing to do with the vehicles law enforcement are driving. Here’s our Autoline Insight. There’s no way Ford is going to walk away from such an important business. It accounts for nearly two-thirds of police vehicle sales in the U.S. Dropping out of that segment does not seem like the solution. If Ford drops out, some other automaker will step in and gladly take that business. We welcome your feedback on this subject.
Ever since the pandemic broke out car sales took a nosedive. But at the same time sales of motorcycles are going through the roof. Honda, BMW, Suzuki and Yamaha cannot believe how good business is. Get this, Honda’s sales in May were up 100% over a year ago. That sort of thing just never happens. But the story is completely different at Harley-Davidson, where sales are down by double digits this year. It is going to lay off 700 workers worldwide and it just let its Chief Financial Officer go. Harley rode the Baby Boomer wave to roaring success for a couple of decades, but failed to attract enough new buyers. Harley moved some production to Asia to cut costs and to avoid import tariffs in Europe on U.S.-made bikes. It’s also introducing a line of electric motorcycles. But so far that hasn’t put the company on a growth path. Even so, Wall Street likes its restructuring plans. Harley’s stock is up 30% since April.
RACING SERIES FOR ELECTRIC SCOOTERS KICKS OFF IN 2021
Put a motor on anything and someone is going to want to race it. The eSkootr Championship is, you guessed it, a racing series for electric scooters, which kicks off next year. Races will take place in city centers on custom scooters that are able to go up to 62 mph or 100 km/h. A prototype will be shown off later this year. The series already has current Formula E driver Lucas di Grassi and former F1 driver Alex Wurz on board and hopes to get other professionals, like cyclists, skaters, snowboarders, motorcyclists, and even e-sports racers. I can see how racing your friend on one of these would be fun, but do you think it translates into an event fans will enjoy?
ELECTRIC PARKING BRAKE REPAIR NOW LESS EXPENSIVE
Replacing faulty or broken electronic parking brakes just got less expensive. Supplier Continental now offers the servomotor, which clamps down the brake pads when the parking brake is activated, as a separate piece from the caliper. They’ll first be available on a number of models from the Volkswagen Group, but Continental will soon offer it for many other European manufacturers. Continental is also launching fully pre-assembled units in a number of colors if the caliper itself goes bad and even offers training for diagnostics, service and recalibration.
SUBARU REFRESHES THE CROSSTREK
Subaru’s updated Crosstrek is going to start arriving at U.S. dealers soon. There’s only a slight modification to its appearance. The redesigned front fascia includes a new bumper and grille and it also offers new wheel designs. Subaru’s driver assistance system, called EyeSight, is upgraded with Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Centering and a new Crosstrek Sport trim with a 182 horsepower, 2.5L engine is available as well. That engine is also standard on Limited models. Pricing for the 2021 Crosstrek starts at a little over $23,000, including destination charges.
OPEL UPDATES ITS LOGO
German automaker Opel, which is now part of the PSA Group, refreshed its logo and the new Mokka is the first vehicle to feature it. As you can see, it’s similar to the previous logo but the surrounding ring is now slimmer and the Opel lettering is located on the lower part of the ring instead of the top. Opel has used a version of this logo since 1963.
FORD SLASHES VEHICLE DEVELOPMENT TIME
A couple of years ago Ford adopted a different approach to product development that it calls customer centric design. It’s all about watching how customers use their vehicles and coming up with new features that they’ll love. Of course, all car companies do that. What makes customer centric design different is that it relies on making cheap prototypes fast, using cardboard, foam board and scotch tape. Those cheap prototypes are then shown to customers to get quick feedback, then the engineers quickly improve the design and they keep iterating it until customers tell them it’s perfect. On Autoline After Hours yesterday, we asked Hau Thai-Tang, the head of all product development at Ford, what kind of benefits the company is getting out of this approach. Here’s a clip from that conversation.
“Has that process accelerated your product development process? Has it gotten you more sharp in terms of coming out with products people really want? And most importantly, can you take cost out of the process by using this approach?”
“Yes to all of those things. So, we’re being much more agile. We’re testing and iterating with non-precious prototypes that are able to go really fast. If I look at our traditional way of looking at our global product development system versus some of these new programs, we’re seeing somewhere between 20 to 30% reduction in terms of time speed to market and engineering costs that’s associated with it. And time will tell, but we’re finding that we have more clever, ingenious solutions that we’re able to claim being first to market with. I think that will pay dividends with in terms of customer satisfaction, market share gains and pricing power.”
Did you catch that? A 20 to 30% reduction in the time it takes to develop a new car? That is astounding. By the way, that show is jam packed with a lot of great insights into the development of the F-150, and you can watch it right now on our website or YouTube channel.
BARN FIND REVEALED
Well, it looks like someone might have a hoard of classic Nash’s sitting out in Wisconsin. With your help, we think yesterday’s Barn Find is either a 1939 or 1940 Nash Ambassador sedan, which looks like it is resting right around the corner from our last Barn Find, a 1951 Nash Ambassador. Nash was founded in 1916 and made cars all the way up until 1957. As you may remember, another viewer pointed out that these Nash’s likely didn’t travel far because they were made in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Thanks to everyone for leaving your guesses and I can guarantee you our next Barn Find is not a Nash. Stay tuned for that.
But that wraps up today’s show and this weeks’ worth of reports, thanks for watching and we’ll see you again on Monday.
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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.