Listen to “AD #3208 – Buick Unveils Sleek Van Concept; Ford Doubles EV Production Target; Apple Headhunts Auto Engineers” on Spreaker.
Follow us on social media:
0:08 Apple Headhunting Automotive Engineers
0:47 Ford & GM Tackle Chip Shortage
1:41 Skoda Reveals New Slavia
3:15 Mercedes Moves EV Parts Production In-House
3:51 Ford Doubles EV Production Target
4:21 BrightDrop Receives New EV Van Order
6:13 What the Frunk?
7:46 Buick Reveals Two Concepts for China
8:48 NACTOY Winner Predictions
This is Autoline Daily, the show dedicated to enthusiasts of the global automotive industry.
APPLE HEADHUNTING AUTOMOTIVE ENGINEERS
Apple is headhunting engineers away from a bunch of automotive companies. Bloomberg reports that in just the past few weeks Apple hired people from Volvo Cars, Daimler Trucks, Karma, Cruise and Joyson Safety Systems. Apple is developing its own autonomous car and has a test fleet of 69 modified Lexus SUVs. As we’ve reported before, it’s part of Apple’s Project Titan, and the goal is to hit the market in 2025. Reportedly, Apple still hasn’t decided if it wants to sell AVs to customers or only offer robo rides.
FORD & GM TACKLE CHIP SHORTAGE
As we said the other day, this chip shortage is going to last longer than originally expected because the types of vehicles automakers are coming out with – connected, electric and autonomous – need more chips than your average car. So, Ford is teaming up with semiconductor maker GlobalFoundries to expand chip making and R&D into future needs. Ford will use the boost in chips to supply its current lineup, while the R&D will focus on new chip designs specifically for ADAS, battery management and AVs. GM is also trying to deal with the chip shortage and rather than just secure more chips, it’s working to slash the number of different chips that it uses in its vehicles. GM President Mark Reuss says they want to reduce the number of unique microcontroller units they use by 95%.
SKODA REVEALS NEW SLAVIA
We reported recently that Volkswagen would be coming out with a number of new vehicles for developing markets that are based on its MQB platform and powered by internal combustion engines. Well, here’s the newest, the Slavia, which was designed as an India-specific model. Styling of the sedan is very similar to other MQB-based vehicles and features Skoda’s signature grille on the front. The interior is clean and simple with decently sized digital display screens that include all the latest tech. Powertrain offerings will also look familiar. A 1.0L 3-cylinder engine with over 110 horsepower is standard, while a 1.5L 4-cylinder with about 150 horsepower is optional. They can be paired to a 6-speed manual or automatic or a 7-speed dual clutch transmission. The Slavia is being built in India and will be shipped to other markets as well.
MERCEDES MOVES EV PARTS PRODUCTION IN-HOUSE
When electric vehicle production was small it made more sense for automakers to buy EV components from suppliers. But now that volumes are increasing, more automakers are bringing that production in-house. Mercedes will start building electric motors at its plant in Berlin that currently makes diesel engines. It will spend over a hundred million euros over the next six years, to convert that plant. Unions play another role in bringing production in-house. Automakers with unions need to bring work in-house to try and offset jobs that will be lost since EVs are easier to make.
FORD DOUBLES EV PRODUCTION TARGET
Speaking of EV production, Ford CEO Jim Farley says they’re aiming to become the second largest EV maker globally in the next couple of years. Ford now expects to build 600,000 EVs worldwide annually by the end of 2023. That’s double its original plan. And once Ford expands its EV lineup and boosts manufacturing capacity, Farley says the goal is to become the largest EV manufacturer in the world.
BRIGHTDROP RECEIVES NEW EV VAN ORDER
Brightdrop, the electric van startup from General Motors, is filling up its order banks. Merchants Fleet, a big fleet management company in the US, just ordered 5,000 of Brightdrop’s EV410, a mid-size commercial van. That comes on top of the 12,600 full-size EV600 vans it already ordered. As we’ve said before, commercial fleets will be some of the fastest adopters of electric vehicles. Their trucks run the same routes everyday and return to the same yard every night. So it’s easy to size the battery to the route and have a place to charge it. Moreover, fleet operators are keen to cut their cost of ownership, and since EVs don’t need tuneups or oil changes, and since their brake pads last longer thanks to regen braking, and because electricity is far cheaper than gasoline or diesel, that TCO, or total cost of ownership, looks mighty attractive to a lot of fleet managers.
WHAT THE FRUNK?
Some EVs have frunks, some don’t. Some have dinky frunks, while others are gigantic. What’s going on here? Well, let’s do some industrial anthropology. If an EV has a big frunk, that means it’s built on a dedicated BEV platform. Any Tesla, the Hummer EV and Lucid Air are good examples. With a dedicated BEV platform automakers have greater packaging flexibility. The one exception is the Ford F-150 Lightning which has the biggest frunk of all even though it’s on a traditional platform. That’s because body-on-frame, full-size pickups have enormous engine compartments, so when you yank out the big lump of a powertrain it leaves a gaping hole that is perfect for a frunk. Some cars with dedicated EV platforms, like Volkswagen’s MEB, the Mercedes EQS or BMW i4 don’t have frunks at all. That’s because their BEV platforms are actually modified ICE platforms, so their electric cars can go down the same assembly line as their piston powered cars. And then there are EVs like the Jaguar iPace or Mustang Mach-E that have small frunks. They also use modified ICE platforms, but the engineers were able to leave enough room to squeeze in a small frunk. So when you look at a frunk, it’s telling you how the strategy the automaker used to make it. And that’s our Autoline Insight.
BUICK REVEALS TWO CONCEPTS FOR CHINA
Remember those concepts Buick teased for the Chinese market last week? Well, here they are. And soak it in because the GL8 Flagship Concept previews the next-gen MPV styling. It’s a very sculptural design with a cascading trapezoidal grille, very distinct upper and lower section and large glass roof. Buick revealed it will also have a “relaxed autonomous driving experience,” so likely Super Cruise, but it doesn’t say what will power the next-gen GL8. Now let’s shift over to the Smart Pod Concept, which is meant to be a way to travel from point A to point B in luxury. It’s built on the Ultium platform, so it’s electric and autonomous, and almost looks like a cross between a futuristic work van and shuttle. The side doors slide open to reveal a retractable 50-inch display screen and AI and intelligent voice commands will help keep passengers connected to their daily lives.
NACTOY WINNER PREDICTIONS
Looks like if it were up to a lot of you BEVs would take a clean sweep of the NACTOY awards. The finalists for Car, Truck & Utility of the Year were announced yesterday, so we asked you who you think will win and the Lucid Air, Rivian R1T and Hyundai IONIQ 5 topped a number of lists. And for good reason, too. They all seem to be really nice vehicles. But if anyone is going to take down the electrics, it’s going to be Ford. The Maverick pickup and Bronco got a good amount of votes and with the amount of buzz surrounding those vehicles it’s not too surprising to see them get some love. This year’s finalists seem much more compelling to me than in the recent past and I’m actually excited to see who takes home the prizes in January, which I don’t know that I’ve ever said about a NACTOY awards before.
But that brings us to the end of this show and this week. Thanks for joining us and I hope you have a great weekend.
Thanks to our partner for embedding Autoline Daily on its website: WardsAuto.com
Seamus and Sean McElroy cover the latest news in the automotive industry for Autoline Daily.