GM Developing Smarter Cars

When drivers are distracted, inattentive, or otherwise not doing what they’re supposed to be doing while behind the wheel, communications technology, sensors, GPS, and powerful processors just might make all the difference, as a General Motors demonstration proves.

Modules De Plastique

Plastic Omnium (Paris, France; www.plasticomnium.com) is developing modules that integrate functions, reduce weight, and provide pedestrian protection.

Tripping The Light Fantastic

Forget dials and pointers, LCD screens, and incandescent illumination. If OLED technology can live up to its promise, automotive interiors will be very different places.

2006 Lincoln Zephyr

The last time Lincoln introduced a Zephyr as its entry-level vehicle, the year was 1936, and the vehicle-it was a line of vehicles, actually, that included two-doors, four-doors, sedans and coupes-followed the front-engine/rear-drive convention of the day.

Additional ABCs About PLM

Two years ago we tried to sort out the meaning of product lifecycle management (PLM) in “The ABCs of PLM”. Alas, some people are still confused about PLM. So here we go again, this time trying to get the explanation via the consultants who focus on the tech.

From Accent To Azera

Hot off the success of the new Sonata, Hyundai takes on a new Accent and replaces the unloved XG350 with a contemporary large sedan.

The New Members of The SRT Team

Chrysler is on a roll; that’s an undisputable fact. Once labeled the black sheep of the domestic business, the vehicle manufacturer is raking in the dough, as witnessed by its $374-million profit in the third quarter and 6% profit growth through the first nine months of 2005. While the other domestic Big Two lick their wounds and try to regroup, Chrysler continues to branch out into new segments, and one that is gaining particular traction is its performance SRT brand (for Street & Racing Technology). The Chrysler 300C SRT8 racked up 6,000 sales within its first months of availability and is exceeding expectations. The performance derivatives of the Dodge Ram (SRT-10) and Dodge Neon (SRT4) continue to do well, even as the SRT4 is reaching the end of its life. Chrysler is expanding the SRT moniker with the ’06 Dodge Charger SRT8, Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 and Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe.

Creating Clever Things With Plastics

The auto industry and its suppliers are coming up with some clever ways to do everything from saving gasoline to providing pedestrian protection with plastics. Here are the category winners in the SPE Automotive Div.’s annual plastics awards.


EuroAuto: Bosch Pursues Diesel Technology

With the cost of fuel remaining at high levels around the world, the quest to find the most cost-effective solution on how to propel a vehicle remains as intense as ever.

Insider: Ford’s Leadership Debacle

There’s a new running joke in Detroit these days that is both humorous and disheartening at the same time.

Insight: How Much Does R&D Matter?

A headline in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago caught our eye: “In R&D, Brains Beat Spending In Boosting Profit” (October 11, 2005). Intrigued by this notion of technical meritocracy, we read the article and the study by the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. (www.boozallen.com), “The Booz Allen Hamilton Global Innovation 1000: Money Isn’t Everything,” on which it was based.

On Strategy: Reductions & Relocations: The Suppliers’ Challenges

Over the last few years, the car industry’s investment focus has rapidly shifted to the new growth regions in Asia and Eastern Europe.

Dudder: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Delphi is the poster child for industry, and more than a few OEM executives are praying that Steve Miller and company will force changes with the UAW they can borrow.


Producing Cool Cars

Speaking to a group of like-minded people on the eve of this year's SEMA show (www.sema.org), Paul Wilbur, president and CEO of ASC Inc. (www.ascglobal.com; Southgate, MI), announced, "From this point on, ASC is pro-life for cool cars." That statement, given the time and place, is analogous to coming out in favor of apple pie at a Pillsbury Bake-Off held in Washington, DC, on the Fourth of July.Wilbur explained that while there are typically an array of outstanding and appealing concept cars (a.k.a., "cool cars") shown by the major OEMs, more often than not these cars and trucks experience an ignominious disappearance as they do the show circuit before being inventoried (or worse). A reason this is the case is because the nature of major OEMs is that they're ordinarily interested in volume, not variety.

Flexible Automation Deployment Strengthens in North America

Although there is continued concern about manufacturing in the U.S., according to the Robotic Industries Association (www.roboticsonline.com; Ann Arbor, MI), a trade association, robot orders for the first three quarters were up 30% overall in North America.

Corning Filters Diesel Exhaust for VW

A cellular ceramic substrate developed in the early 1970s by Corning Inc. (www.corning.com; Corning, NY) is said to be the standard for use in catalytic converters used in cars and trucks worldwide.

Improving E/E Design

The complexities associated with designing electronic and electrical (E/E) components for vehicles is being further addressed by Mentor Graphics (www.mentor.com; Wilsonville, OR), which is complementing its design toolset for things like wiring harnesses with a suite of capabilities developed to handle the design of various mechatronic vehicle systems.

F1 biplanes?

Bored by the continuing saga of high-dollar single seaters that can't pass each other because of aerodynamic turbulence?

PLM: What it is (a view)

"PLM is a category of solutions." That is a distinction, made by Peter Schroer, president of Aras Corp. (www.aras.com), that is often not entirely clear when the acronym is bandied about.

In Gear

Ikona Gear International (Coquitlam, British Columbia; www.ikonagear.com) has begun development of a continuously variable transmission based on its proprietary gear platform.

Improving Crank Output

Heller Machine Tools (www.heller-machines.com; Troy, MI) is offering a new lineup of machines for heavy-duty crankshaft milling, the RFK series, which are available in two types: for external or internal cutting.

A New Twist

Maybe it's the name.

Down-To-Earth Ideas From the Top

A book written by a man who is proclaimed in the subtitle of his book as "the world's #1 executive coach" might seem to have little relevance to any but those who are, or who plan to become, executives.

KIA Getting The Message Out

Len Hunt, the recently named executive vice president and COO of Kia Motors America candidly admitted that so far as potential customers go, half of them don't know Kia and the other half thinks of the automaker in the context of vehicles with bad quality, bad safety, and similar non-advantageous attributes.

The Canary Croaked and Other Circumstances To Avoid

Gary Sutton, author of Corporate Canaries: Avoiding Business Disasters with a Coal Miner's Secrets (Nelson Business; $19.99), a book that you can easily read in a couple of hours but will spend significantly longer thinking about-and ideally putting into practice-has the sort of intestinal fortitude that's sometimes called "guts" and sometimes called something else.

GM Ypsilanti Begins 6-Speed Production

Predicting the demand for 6-speed automatic transmissions will continue to grow to more than 30% of new vehicles sold by 2012, General Motors Corp. initiated production of a new family of Hydra-Matic 6-speed rear-wheel drive automatic transmissions at its Ypsilanti Transmission Operations adjacent to the historic Willow Run transmission plant in Ypsilanti, MI.