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0:00 UAW Labor War Far from Over
1:23 GM Cruise Halts All Operations
2:21 China Going Flat Out with Autonomous Cars
2:47 GM Acquires Gigacasting Company
3:49 Renault’s Ampere Has Bold EV Plans
6:20 Toyota Expands Crown Brand with A CUV
7:05 Toyota Camry Going 100% Hybrid
7:49 ZF Announces Dry Brake-By-Wire System
8:25 GM Building F1 Engine for Andretti
This is Autoline Daily, the show dedicated to enthusiasts of the global automotive industry.
UAW LABOR WAR FAR FROM OVER
Uh-oh, the more this UAW contract voting goes on, the more that union members seem to be opposed to it, at least at General Motors. So far only 52% of GM members voted in favor of the contract, compared to 66% at Ford and 80% at Stellantis. Five GM locals have rejected the contract and 19 have yet to vote. At Ford, two locals rejected the contract, and nine have yet to vote. At Stellantis, two locals rejected it and 17 have yet to vote. So this thing is far from over. Labor expert Marick Masters at Wayne State University, says that if GM workers reject the contract, the UAW will face serious questions. It will have to decide if it sends workers back on strike. It will face a problem of maintaining a pattern agreement with all three Detroit automakers. And it’s going to have to figure out a way to convince its members that it actually got the best contract possible. We think UAW president Shawn Fain probably raised expectations too high when he started out demanding a 46% raise, a return to full pensions and a 32-hour work week.
GM CRUISE HALTS ALL OPERATIONS
The bad news continues for General Motors’ autonomous unit Cruise. A few weeks back the company halted all of its driverless operations in the U.S. and now it’s even suspending rides with drivers inside, while it expands a safety review of the company. Cruise announced it’s hiring a permanent safety officer and a third-party expert to do a full study of its safety operations and culture. Cruise previously hired a third-party consulting firm to investigate the root cause of an incident in October in which one of its autonomous vehicles dragged a pedestrian after they were hit by a different driver. That accident is also being investigated by NHTSA. We think GM CEO Mary Barra is apprehensive about any kind of safety issue because of the lessons it learned from the ignition key fiasco, which cost GM billions of dollars. So maybe she’s just being super careful?
CHINA GOING FLAT OUT WITH AUTONOMOUS CARS
But while GM is pulling back on its AV operations, China is going flat out. WeRide is testing a fleet of robotaxis in Inner Mongolia. Yeah, Inner Mongolia. Not the palace you’d expect. And XPeng announced that it is acquiring all of ride-hailing company DiDi’s intelligent vehicle assets, which includes AV technology as well as EV technology and DiDi’s ride-hailing platform.
GM ACQUIRES GIGACASTING COMPANY
But here’s some good news for General Motors, in fact, some very good news. Reuters reports that GM bought TEI, or Tooling & Equipment International, which played a critical role in helping Tesla develop its gigacastings. GM is using TEI, which is based in Livonia, Michigan, to make large castings for the Cadillac Celestiq. TEI developed a way to use 3D printing to make sand molds to make the castings, so the tooling is literally dirt cheap, and it can easily be modified. Reuters says GM may have bought TEI for only $80 million. And the deal indicates that gigacastings will play a big role in GM’s future EVs.
RENAULT’S AMPERE HAS BOLD EV PLANS
Renault has some pretty lofty targets for its new EV division Ampere. It officially carved out Ampere from the rest of the company two weeks ago and gave it its own diamond-shaped logo. It will use two EV platforms to launch 7 models in the B- and C-segments by 2031. By 2025 it expects to reach the breakeven point with its operating margin and sell roughly 300,000 EVs. 2027 or 2028 is when it expects to reach cost parity with ICE vehicles. And by 2031 it hopes to sell about a million EVs a year and control 10% of the European market. One of its first all-new vehicles will be the Renault 5, which will offer up to 400 kilometers or nearly 250 miles of range and a starting price around 25,000 euros. The 5 will be followed by the Renault 4 in 2025 and then by an all-new model called the “Legend,” which is a compact car that will have a starting price under 20,000 euro. I think Ampere put the name “Legend” in quotes because it can’t use it. Honda and Acura used the name on cars from 1985 to 1995. Ampere will also make models for Renault’s other brands Alpine, which has at least two vehicles in the pipeline, and Dacia. And Alliance partners Nissan and Mitsubishi will get models as well. It confirmed that it will make the Micra for Nissan, but did not say what the model for Mitsu will be. When the time comes for Ampere to launch the second generation of its new EVs it expects even more gains. It forecasts total variable costs to go down by 40%, including reductions to battery, powertrain and platform costs. More streamlining will come by slashing its number of suppliers. Around 40% of its suppliers won’t be used in the future, but it will give the ones it does use more opportunity to invest in and develop alongside the company. But Ampere needs to make money too and will offer a number of services through its software defined vehicle platform. With apps, connectivity, autonomous driving add-ons and charging and energy services, it projects to generate 500 euros per year per vehicle. The next big step for Ampere will be an IPO. It says that would give it the funds it needs to operate into the future, but it’s already put off those IPO plans at least once and may not do it until the middle of next year.
TOYOTA EXPANDS CROWN BRAND WITH A CUV
Toyota revealed the new Crown model for the U.S. that it previously teased. This is the Signia, a crossover with seating for five that’s expected to start hitting dealer lots in the summer of next year. Right now there’s only one powertrain, Toyota’s two motor hybrid system that pairs with a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine. The setup makes 243 horsepower. AWD is also standard. While there’s clearly a styling difference between the Crown that’s sold in the U.S. right now and the Signia, from what I can tell the interiors are exactly the same. The new model will be built in Japan and then shipped to the U.S., but no word on pricing yet.
TOYOTA CAMRY GOING 100% HYBRID
In other Toyota news, the Camry is going hybrid only. The redesigned model will also use Toyota’s two motor hybrid system that pairs to a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine. But in FWD form it will make 225 horsepower, while AWD versions will have 232 horsepower. Styling is more in line with other Toyota vehicles. We see inspiration from the Prius in the Camry’s new front lighting signature. And I like how it extended the slats on the air vents into a styling element on the dash as well as incorporating similar material from the seats and doors. Toyota expects the new Camry to start hitting showrooms in the spring of 2024.
ZF ANNOUNCES DRY BRAKE-BY-WIRE SYSTEM
ZF announced it developed a new brake-by-wire system without any brake fluid. Instead, it uses an electric motor at each wheel. The company says its system offers shorter braking distances, better recovery of braking energy and lower maintenance costs. With automatic emergency braking, the braking distance when traveling 100 km/h can be up to 9 meters or about 30 feet shorter than typical braking systems. And EVs can get up to 17% more range thanks to better recuperation of energy.
GM BUILDING F1 ENGINE FOR ANDRETTI
Formula One has always been something of a circus with plenty of action both on and off the track. As you may know, Michael Andretti is trying to enter the racing series in 2025, but has been opposed by almost all the F1 Teams. There are only 10 teams currently in Formula One, and they’re afraid that another team would only slice up the prize money more thinly. The FIA, or Federation of International Motorsports, already endorsed Andretti’s application, but the team owners are still opposed. Andretti is backed by General Motors for a team that will be branded Andretti-Cadillac. One industry insider told Autoline that Mark Reuss promised GM CEO Mary Barra that he will make Cadillac a top global luxury brand again and that F1 is key to making it happen. Andretti wants to launch his F1 team in 2025 with an engine from Alpine, which is the racing branch of Renault. But yesterday, GM president Mark Reuss announced that GM will build an F1 engine for Andretti that will be ready in 2027. That could be up to a billion-dollar commitment on GM’s part and it will be fascinating to see if the F1 team owners are willing to put their own interests ahead of what we think would be something good for the sport.
But that brings us to the end of today’s show. Thanks for tuning in.
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