An interesting headline appeared in the news after the Geneva Motor Show: “VW Chief Fights for Survival.” Does that sound familiar to anyone?
What do you do after more than 30 years in the auto industry engineering vehicles under OEM restrictions and timetables? You build your own car to OEM standards in your garage.
Here’s how J. Douglas Field, vp of Design and Engineering and Chief Technology Officer of Segway, sees the challenges and opportunities of product development. Know that he spent some time working in auto, so his ideas are not totally on the bleeding edge of development.
The Chinese government’s revised automotive policy, which aims to catapult local players into the global OEM league, encourages consolidation within this fragmented industry.
Although “supercars” carry price tags that brings race cars to mind—a single horsepower can cost as much as $1,200—unlike a racing car, they have to deliver daily driveability to someone who has spent, in the case of the Bugatti Veyron, around $1.2 million on the vehicle.
With the continued troubles at Ford and General Motors and the periodic announce-ments of another major supplier going bankrupt (e.g., the recent announcement by Dana), the conventional wisdom is that the North American automotive industry is an almost impossible place to make money and that we are “overdue” for a major industry re-structuring, particularly in the supply base.
It had been over 10 years since the last time I visited Audi’s Neckarsulm, Germany, plant.
Although there are Herculean efforts underway at Ford, General Motors, and a host of supplier companies to solve the financial crises that they are currently confronting, at the risk of adding to their burdens, I would like to suggest that they are in the midst of a crisis that is evident, visible, and probably not noticed by them.
Fred Reichheld has a rather revolutionary idea.
“One of the biggest challenges in manufacturing is to get more net good parts off the end of the line,” says Dennis Cocco, president and CEO of Activplant Corp. (London, Ontario; www.activplant.com), a provider of manufacturing software.
Stratasys, Inc. (Minneapolis, MN; www.stratasys.com) is the exclusive North American distributor of the “CAD to Metal” process from Arcam AB (Mölndal, Sweden; www.arcam.com). This process uses electron-beam melting (EBM) to transform titanium alloy (Ti6Al4V and Ti6Al4V ELI) or cobalt chromium (ASTM F75) powder into real metal parts.
In less than 40 years, Weber Automotive has evolved into a multi-national powertrain component supplier. Next on its agenda: the design, development, and supply of complete engines for automotive and recreational use.
While there is something to be said for “green” manufacturing, especially as cars and trucks like the Prius and the Escape Hybrid draw attention to environmental issues, at Denso (in the U.S.: Denso International America; Southfield, MI; http://www.densocorp-na.com), environmental initiatives have been part and parcel of what the company has been doing since shortly after it was established in December, 1949, in Kariya City, Japan.
When you’ve worked on a car in its variations over 19 years, you get a pretty good idea of what’s there—and what can be improved. And if you become the chief engineer, as Hiroyuki Hirata did for the fifth-generation Lexus ES, you’re bound to exceed all previous expectations.
Here are some new developments that you may find to be important for your machining operations.
While some companies proffer their customer satisfaction surveys as proof of how good they really are, Fred Reichheld thinks satisfaction may be nice but it is wholly insufficient for companies that would like to have sustained, profitable business. Which may explain why some of those same companies are also drowning in red ink.
Because Audi developed its SUV after the VW Touareg and Porsche Cayenne, they were able to make the changes necessary to make theirs distinctly Audi.
According to Ben Shirey, manager, Diagnostic Engineering, Mahle Powertrain (Novi, MI; www.us.mahle.com), “Durability and battery life have always been problems with portable testers.” This is especially true since they most often take the form of ruggedized laptop computers that can draw 25 W just for the processor, and more than two amps from the vehicle being tested.
As advanced high-strength steels are being deployed for automotive parts, the demands on the tooling used in the stamping of these parts are greatly increasing, observes Ed Severson, technical manager, New Business Development, Bohler-Uddeholm (www.bucorp.com ; Rolling Meadows, IL). Severson points out, “In the past, selecting a tool to improve performance was more straight-forward.
Continental Automotive Systems (www.conti-online.com) has launched a new generation of infrared sensors it says will pave the way for advanced safety and comfort features to migrate to lower priced vehicles in the near future.
The alleged Mark Twain saying “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated” comes to mind vis-à-vis the future of Saab AB, the division of General Motors that has been cited by the corporation’s board member Jerry York—before he was named to the board, mind you—for extinction.
Researchers at the University of Michigan have taken ordinary rigid plastics, rearranged their crystalline structures into predictable shapes, and created lightweight materials they believe will be suitable for hydrogen fuel storage.
Although it wasn’t first to the market with a hybrid SUV, General Motors will be offering its Saturn VUE compact SUV in a trim level known as the “Green Line” later this year.
The future for a new breed of automatic transmissions—manual gearboxes that shift themselves—is bright according to the folks at Germany’s Getrag (Untergruppenbach, Germany; www.getrag.de). According to their figures, the market for automatic transmissions will continue to grow, especially in Asia and Europe.
Providing a means by which engineering analysis can be accelerated is one of the drivers behind SimDesigner Enterprise from MSC.Software Corp. (www.mscsoftware.com; Santa Ana, CA), says Leslie Rickey, product manager.
Lead-acid batteries haven’t changed much since 1859.
Although one might make the Homer Simpson like “d-oh” noise in response to the notion that those who do the work ought to be more integrally involved in more than just the activity of performing the task, it seems as though the workers-work-the-managers-manage mindset is still prevalent in far too many organizations—much to the negative effect on them.
The last time most people saw a wedge brake was on a horse-drawn wagon.
Brose (Auburn Hills, MI; www.brose.net) has developed a direct drive window regulator that replaces the traditional cable and lifting arm with an assembly that attaches directly to the glass and pulls itself up or down a toothed rack via an electric motor driving a small gearbox.