Productivity Report Hits Home For Detroit

The much-ballyhooed 2006 Harbour Report—the industry bible on manufacturing efficiency—uncovered some interesting facts, not the least of which was the top two most efficient North American assembly plants are slated to be mothballed in the next few years.

It's All In The Interior Attitude

No one needs to be told of the challenges facing automakers these days: more products from fewer platforms, unprecedented cost pressures, increasing numbers of niche vehicles.

Past Perfect

Paying $26.95 for a copy of Hampton Wayt’s book Driving Through Futures Past (Kythe Publishing Co.) may seem insane when you consider it is slightly smaller than a sheet of paper, and has only 20 pages of the written word and 39 more with pictures.

Looking @ Audi’s RS4

The folks at quattro GmbH just couldn’t leave well enough alone.

Don't Bogart That Microbus

Although Volkswagen is working with Chrysler on what is known as “Concept M”—which will be a minivan that is slated to appear in the within the next couple of years (based on the forthcoming ’08 Chrysler minivan)—for reasons not entirely clear (publicity? engineering experiment?), VW had OSRAM SYLVANIA (Hillsboro, NH; transform a 1964 Type 2 Transporter (a.k.a. the “Microbus,” beloved particularly in and around the San Francisco area back in the days of flowers, beads, and, well, you know) by providing the latest in lighting technology for the vehicle.

Ovonics Devises New Semiconductor Control Device

Stanford Ovshinsky, president, chief scientist and technologist at Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. (ECD Ovonics;; Rochester Hills, MI), says his firm has developed a nano-control device that has the potential to replace transistors.

Crossing The Channel At BPG

A bit over 20 years ago, GM divided itself into two groups: C-P-C, (Chevrolet-Pontiac-Canada), and B-O-C (Buick, Oldsmobile and Cadillac). Now it has created the BPG channel to consolidate the products and sales organizations of Buick, Pontiac, and GMC.

Take Over At Cadillac

In 2010, Cadillac’s offerings will be both similar and very, very different.

A New Direction For Jeep: The '07 Compass

Although the word “icon” gets bandied about in the auto industry as though practically every brand is one, the truth of the matter is that the icons are few and far between and one of them is Jeep.

Objects of Interest


The J3 horizontal machining center from Makino (; Mason, OH) is compact, with a 50- x 124-in. footprint., a 15-kW spindle motor with a HSK-A50 tool interface, and X,Y, Z travel of 25.6 x 15.75 x 15.75 in.


Called a “hybrid” because it combines hydraulic and AC features, the Toyokoki HYB (from MC Machinery Systems;; Wood Dale, IL) uses hydraulic pressure to move the ram, but there is an AC servomotor pump used to deliver it, so that it offers a repeatability of five microns.


PRE-PAINTED FASTENERS Although the Painted FAS-NER from AKH Inc. (; Indianapolis) is being used in the appliance industry right now, presumably there is possibility for auto use.


AUTOMATION GRIPPERS The DPD Robohand series double-wedge parallel grippers from DE-STA-CO (; Madison Heights, MI) are available in 12 sizes that cover strokes from 1/16 in. to 2 in. and are available in configurations for short and long strokes.


Bore sizing and finishing of hard materials can be preformed with the ML-4000 Power Stroke from Sunnen Products (; St.


TUBE PROCESSING REIKA rotating head tube cut-off machines available from Graebener Group Technologies (; Napoleon, OH) can cut and simultaneously face and chamfer the OD and ID of tube ends.


Conair (; Pittsburgh) has developed the Axess line of servo-driven beam robots for handling parts weighing from 3 to 12 kg.


A Steamed-Cleaned Engine

Leave it to a Florida-based marine designer to develop a water-lubricated Rankine-cycle, closed-loop steam engine that runs on almost any fuel.

Hybrids: A 'Core Technology' at Toyota

Toyota’s position on hybrid technology is simply stated by Irv Miller, group vice president, Corporate Communications: he calls it a “core technology.” It is something, he explains that can be based on a number of powertrain types—gasoline, diesel, and even, eventually, fuel cells. (Toyota installed a hydrogen refueling station in Torrance, CA, three years ago, and while the company’s hybrid activities have tremendous commercial exposure, with the Prius being arguably the poster child of hybrid vehicles, there is corporate-level research underway on fuel cell development.

Head Up, Price and Volume Down

Cost is not the only thing that keeps head-up display (HUD) units limited to large and luxury cars.

A Sticky Situation

Adhesive bonding didn’t penetrate the market as quickly as expected, but the moves to multiple substrates and new, tougher to weld generations of steel, has increased interest in this technology.

Learning About Design from Non-Auto People

In which ideas about design and innovation are encountered at a conference at which there are no people from the auto industry.

Building Better Car Bodies with Plastic At Little Tikes

Conventional thinking would have it that the world’s most successful small car plant would be located either in Asia, Eastern Europe or South America. It’s not. Convention also would dictate that the most affordable small car on the market would not be made from plastic, but it is. Here’s how Little Tikes defies convention.

Lean Mobility

The city car of the future may be a tandem seater that leans as it turns.

Programmable Logic Controllers Transformed

A new generation of programmable logic controllers (PLCs) yields a new acronym: PAC (programmable automation controller). There’s a lot more control power today.

Saturn Redefined

Although it is a comparatively young division, GM’s Saturn has undergone several changes since the first cars went on sale in 1990, and it may now be going through its biggest change ever.


Insider: Beyond Borders

Of all the objects in the world, the box has to be the most complex and perplexing.

On Strategy: Creating A Sustainable Automotive Market in Brazil

After the boom and bust of the 1990s, the Brazilian market is growing again.

Profile: Ralph Gilles: How To Create Cool Cars

“So, how does it feel to be a suit?”And with that question, Ralph Gilles, the man who is undoubtedly the reigning rock star of U.S. car designers, a man who is lauded far and wide for his design of the breakthrough Chrysler 300, stares back with incredulity, arrayed as he is in something of a designer’s uniform, the obligatory black (sports jacket) on black (shirt) on black (trousers) on black (shoes), with nary a tie in sight. “A what?!?”“Well, you know, a suit—an executive—after all, you’re the vp of Jeep/Truck and Component Design for Chrysler Group.

Marginal: Avoiding the Spiral

On a recent flight out of Detroit, I overheard two flight attendants talking.

Profile: Harnessing Youthful Ideas

After spending a year researching various technologies in the quest to develop a crossover vehicle requiring less petroleum and improved emission performance, more than 17 teams from a variety of universities throughout the U.S. and Canada displayed their concepts at the second Challenge X: Crossover to Sustainable Mobility competition held at GM’s Mesa, AZ, proving grounds; the competition is underwritten by GM and the U.S.

Insight: The New Supply Chain

 When I first entered the automotive business in 1980, there were approximately 30 original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) globally.

Dudder: Conspiracy Theories

We are in one of those all-too-common periods in which the automobile is a target for everyone with an axe to grind.

EuroAuto: FEA for Coatings

When utilizing finite element analysis (FEA) it is possible to simulate a design concept and determine its real-world behavior under a number of different factors.