Insight: Interesting Times

Given the impact of China on the global automotive industry, it makes sense to use one of their well-known Chinese curses to describe the state of auto right now: "May you be blessed to live in interesting times". You would be hard pressed to find more interesting times in automotive than what is happening today.

Profiles: Mercedes' Peter Pfeiffer Takes a Bow

After forty years of service-nearly 10 of them spent at the helm of Mercedes design-Peter Pfeiffer is preparing to leave his drafting table later this year and hand the reigns over to Gorden Wagener-current head of Mercedes' strategic design department.

Insider: A New Frontier

While most observers have been focused on China as the next potential juggernaut to further erode America's automotive market, an unexpected force has emerged.

Close Up: Haas Machines Race

As it is May, the traditional month of racing because of the still-venerable Indianapolis 500, and as we have coverage of racing in this issue, it brings to mind that there are some machine tool companies that are seriously involved in racing, one of which is Haas Automation (; Oxnard, CA), which operates Haas CNC Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Competitive Challenges: Leadership Lagging

Laurie Harbour-Felax, Managing Director, Operational Strategy & Performance Improvement Group, Stout Risius Ross It used to be that leaders in the auto industry jumped from one of the Big Three to the next without much concern because wherever they landed, a good job was there for them.

EuroAuto: innovITS Develops

If emissions are to be reduced and better fuel economy achieved, then it has to be recognized that the automobile is not going to achieve the best results all by itself, as it is but one piece in an interlocking jigsaw that involves other vehicles, traffic control systems, public highways, and the application of the highest level of telecommunications.

Marginal: The Future Is Now

In this issue, executive editor Chris Sawyer takes a look at what we loosely call "The Future" around here.

Dudder: The Comedy of Tragedy

If only the participants at the Art Center College of Design's recent summit had as great a grasp of irony as they do of what's wrong with the industry, they might have had as much fun as did I.


Matrix Metalcraft’s Laser Focus

Matrix Metalcraft’s (Clinton Twp., MI; recent acquisition of a high-performance 5-axis VZ1 Mitsubishi Laser cutting system with pallet changer (from MC Machinery Systems; provides a significant piece of the foundation on which the company plans to boost its output while providing another resource for manufacturers looking for high-capacity laser cutting of large parts.

At a Glance: Mercedes C 63 AMG

New Front Structure Marking a first for AMG, engineers chucked the base C-Class front suspension to accommodate the 6.3-liter V8 engine. “For the first time, all of the engineering was done by AMG, although we worked very closely with the series engineering team,” says Sven Graeble, product manager forE-, C-, CLS- and CLK-Class AMG vehicles.

Dynamic Chassis Setups

Did you ever wonder how the chassis for some race cars are set up prior to the cars getting to the track?

GM Upgrades Its Simplest Hybrid

While the Volt and its E-Flex architecture has been drawing most of the attention at GM these days, the engineers at GM Powertrain have been quietly updating the belt-driven motor/alternator system first introduced in 2006 on the Saturn Vue Green Line.

Machining Better Bearings

Brenco, Inc. ( isn’t an automotive supplier, but it does provide products to the transportation industry, to an industry that uses wheels: the railway industry.

The Audi R8 TDI Le Mans: Forget What You Know About Diesels

According to Uwe Haller, kooordination konzeptfahrzeuge for Audi AG (Ingolstadt, Germany), an engineer whose job it is to work on concept cars for the company, the development of the Audi R8 TDI Le Mans had three months cut out of its program.

Bravo! Mi.ToAlfa Takes on the MINI

The name “Mi.To” is meant to symbolize the fusion of Milan’s fashion sense with Torino’s manufacturing prowess, but that doesn’t mean Alfa Romeo’s new small car is genuinely Italian.

Autodesk Seeks to Transform Sculpting

The next blockbuster motion picture or video game may have an impact on the way tomorrow’s vehicles are designed in the studio, according to the experts at Autodesk ( Using technology gained from its recent acquisition of Skymatter, whose founders all worked on films including The Lord of the Rings and then went on to develop Mudbox 3D modeling software (, Autodesk plans to allow sculptors to articulate shapes and proportions digitally for improved efficiency and accuracy. “We’re looking into workflows right now to demonstrate the parallels in technologies used in gaming and motion pictures and how those can be used, especially in sculpting, to develop a sketch book that can be articulated in 3D,” says Thomas Heermann, product line manager-manufacturing solutions division at Autodesk.Mudbox enables sculptors to use 3D layering, asymmetrical mirroring and texture-baking tools in one software package. “We want to get sculptors into 3D very early, but we also want to make it easy to use; not requiring them to have the knowledge of a math modeler,” Heermann says.

Objects of Interest

Objects of Interest: May 2008

Shop Floor CMMAvailable in three measuring ranges-20" x 24" x 16" to 30" x 40" x 24"-Sheffield Measurement's ( Discovery III coordinate measuring machine features hardened linear guides, lighter weigh bellows and recirculating ball bearings-in place of air bearings-for improved resistance to shop-borne contaminants.


A Look Into The Future

INTRODUCTIONNot since the late 1970s and early 1980s has the future of the automobile industry been as murky as it is today.

A Cool Steel Hose

European cars built with air conditioning systems after 2011 will no longer be able to use R134a as a refrigerant.

Measuring Millions (of Armature Pins)

At the Robert Bosch plant in Hildesheim, Germany, 8.5 million starter armatures are produced annually.

Advancing Metalcutting

Work at Mori Seiki, a leading machine tool builder, is not just on developing better machine structures and spindles. While there is that, they're also focusing on improvements in gaging, workholding, and tooling.

Calty: Designing Today For Tomorrow

Kevin Hunter is president of Calty Design Research, Toyota's design studio in Newport Beach, which he says "exists to advance design" and to perform "experimental design," although there are production versions that roll out of there, too (e.g., the FJ Cruiser was originally a Calty concept; the Matrix was designed there, as were the third-generation Avalon and the second-generation Scion xB), Hunter says, "Mainly we're here to understand the U.S. market and to create ideas for this market." He says the primary question they ask, then, is, "What does the American buyer need?" Truckin'.

What's Driving Factory Control?

Smaller controllers, industrial controllers with built-in HMI, more powerful industrial computers, and Ethernet, Ethernet, Ethernet-these are the latest developments driving factory control.

Waterjet System Speeds Part Production

Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR; Cornelius, NC; runs four teams, three that compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and one in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Wirth Research Races Toward Virtual Engineering

Wirth Research (; Oxfordshire, England) began in 2002 as a fledgling group of engineers focused on R&D activities for a small number of race car programs.

Ford Racing: Polishing The Oval

When you think "Ford Racing," you probably think "NASCAR." Possibly NHRA.