By Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario -- March 23, 2018 -- In today's Friday Fun: Tesla continues to struggle, the world’s first 3-D printed production vehicle, Ford returns to downtown Detroit, and much, much more!
Toronto firefighters were called to a York auto repair facility late Wednesday night. According to local media fire crews responded to the blaze at 4:21 AM to a fire than ended up being a three-alarm blaze, requiring a large contingent of firefighters and support vehicles. According to the report the fire was especially difficult to knock down as there was a large store of tires on the site. Luckily no one was injured. The fire continued to burn Thursday morning. "Hopefully we will be able to get it under control soon," a fire official was quoted as saying. Streets in the area were closed off.
-The CBC ran a great feature this week on collision repair tech, Cecile Bukmeier, who has been recruited to work at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. The feature relates her life story. According to the report she was drawn toward autobody and cars, having been a reader of Hot Rod magazine when she was young. She loved the amazing paint jobs shown off in the magazine. "I read the credits and I was like, 'Oh, my gosh, this was painted by a person, not a machine. How did they do this, how can I learn how to do this?' That's when autobody came into mind. And I was really interested in, you know, painting and fixing damaged cars or bringing old cars back to life. Just giving them that new look," Bukmeier is quoted as saying. As a 15-year-old high school student in an apprenticeship program she found that technicians in the autobody shop wouldn't let her near the cars. According to the story she spent years sweeping floors and taking out the trash in autobody shops before getting her first break at painting and finishing cars. Apparently one tech asked her, "What if you break a nail while you're here, or what if you get pregnant and have to take time off?" Eventually the owner of Shield Autobody, Jeff Hicks, gave her a chance. She became a highly skilled tech, winning both provincial and national Skills Canada competitions. Today Bukmeier sits on the Skills Canada committee. She was also asked by NAIT to apply as an instructor and now Bukmeier is the first woman to teach in NAIT's autobody technician program. "These days, it doesn't matter if a person is male or female or old or young. If they're willing to put in the effort, there's a shop willing to take them on," said a source quoted in the story. Going on, the source said that owners are more likely to look at someone's skills and attitude. "They want people who are committed to learning, to bettering themselves. Cecile was very good at doing all of that," he was quoted as saying. http://bit.ly/2FXGoX8
-Negative stories continue to leak out about Tesla, concerning the company’s challenged effort to manufacture the Model 3 in large numbers. According to several media reports last week current and former Tesla employees say the automaker is manufacturing a huge number of flawed parts and vehicles. “One current Tesla engineer estimated that 40 percent of the parts made or received at its factory in Fremont, California require rework,” according to one report. “Another current employee from Tesla's Fremont factory said the company's defect rate is so high that it's hard to hit production targets.” According to a manufacturing expert quoted in the story, "Even during what is considered 'launch' mode, if a company is selling its cars to customers, it should not be experiencing large amounts of rework. This speaks to an internal quality issue that is on a magnitude that is not normal for most car manufacturers." At the same time Tesla continues to suffer an outflow of talent. According to a report from the respected financial website, Bloomberg, the list of executives who have departed Tesla include the corporate treasurer and vice president of finance, chief accounting officer, the president of global sales and service and the vice president of business development. With many other vehicle manufacturers gearing up to offer electric vehicles some wonder whether Tesla can survive the coming wave of competition. Musk had been hustling to get his electric car to market before the competition showed up. We may be watching him blow that lead in real time.
Arguably, Elon is about to face new competition from the big German OEMs. As it is, Volkswagen vehicles recalled and fixed after the worldwide ‘dieselgate’ emissions cheating scandal “are using more fuel and still failing pollution tests,” according to a study by Australia's auto regulator. VW admitted in 2015 to equipping million of cars with a software application that allowed them to deceive emissions laboratory tests but emit 40 times the allowable amounts of nitrogen oxide during actual driving. The tainted cars have been recalled by VW, but according to the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) tests show the cars continue to exceed regulations. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Diesel is an innately dirtier fuel than gasoline. According to a press release from the AAA, "Emissions analysis found an affected VW diesel vehicle to be using up to 14 percent more diesel after recall, and still emitting noxious emissions more than 400 percent higher than levels observed in laboratory testing.” As European cities begin to consider banning diesel cars from city centres the big German OEMs are beginning to get serious about EVs and have been announcing huge plans around electrification of late. A report appeared last week noting that “Germany's massive car industry is now the biggest investor worldwide in electric vehicles, as it scrambles under increasing pressure to adopt low-emissions technology. As elsewhere around the world, German carmakers have a slew of electric and hybrid models slated for release over the coming years. Volkswagen is spending close to two billion euros to convert two factories in Germany to electric car manufacturing, while Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler plans a battery plant in the United States.”
-A company from Italy claims it is close to beginning mass production on a 3D printed car.
According to a report the firm, XEV, plans to have the X Electrical Vehicle on the road by the second quarter of 2019. Nearly all its visible parts are 3D printed except for its windows, tires and chassis. Using this method shortens the manufacturing process and development time and can offer customers tailor-made products. “Production costs can be slashed further as volume increases and by 2024, the total costs for our cars will be cut by half,” said a company executive quoted in the story. According to the report, “The LSEV is essentially made of polyamide, commonly known as nylon. XEV has partnered with Polymaker, a Shanghai-based new material developer, to upgrade the material to make the car more flexible but also more stable. The two-seater weighs just 450 kilograms, nearly half that of a similar sized, conventional vehicle.” The electric car is expected to sell for about U.S. $9,500. It will have a maximum speed of 70 kilometres per hour and a range of 150 kilometres. The company claims it has received 7,000 orders from companies including postal service providers.
-Americans continue to borrow ever greater amounts to buy new and used vehicles. The latest stats finds the average new vehicle loan hit a record high $31,099 according to a report from the website Experian. According to the report, “For used autos, the average loan rose to a record of $19,589. In the fourth quarter, the average monthly payment for a new vehicle hit an all-time high of $515.” Experts suggest that affordability is becoming a question for borrowers. “When you look at how much income you need to support that payment, it certainly is higher than your average individual income,” said a source quoted in the story. In the fourth quarter, the average monthly payment for a new vehicle hit an all-time high of $515, while the average used auto loan payment hit a record of $371 per month. At the same time Americans are extending new car loans over longer times lines, up to 69 months now. “Consumers are stretching out their loans because prices paid for new vehicles has climbed more than 10 percent over the last five years,” according to the report.
-The company that kicked off the age of mass auto manufacturing is set to take part in the remarkable revival of downtown Detroit. Ford has announced that it is going to refurbish the massive building that was once Michigan Central Station in the Detroit neighbourhood of Corktown. The station has long been a symbol of Detroit’s decline. The massive stone building was once the main train station for one of the largest cities in America. But abandoned long ago and has sat empty since. In the 90s this reporter did some urban exploration on the site. The interior of the turn-of-the-century architectural jewel was covered in graffiti, the windows were smashed and the floors littered with debris. Now Ford plans to renovate the building and turn it into the HQ of what the company’s calling the next generation of transportation, or Auto 2.0. The phrase describes the current shift toward self-driving, shared and battery-operated cars and logistics that is currently disrupting the auto industry. According to an article in the Detroit Free Press, “Ford is considering perhaps a few hundred workers at the site and work space for top executives who would also keep offices at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn.” The renovation will be part of the ongoing revival of downtown Detroit that is now inccurring decades of decline and decay. “There’s going to be several more big announcements” in the next several months, said a Ford exec. “People want to be back here.” Another source was quoted as saying, "Young people like to be in urban areas and they like things that are cool. I think it would be a magnet. The building is an icon. For past generations, we sort of see that building as a white elephant, as a big, old underused facility. But now, young people look and see opportunity and they can dream. Plus, people now want to live near where they work." Long time industry observer, John McElroy, the host of local TV show, "Autoline," said the automotive community is buzzing about the idea. "I think it's awesome. In fact, instead of the train station, we can now call it the brain station. They'll recruit a lot of smart people that would want to work there. Corktown is red-hot. And I'm sure Ford is looking at this as a multi-use building – not just a bunch of offices. I'd expect baristas, bars, restaurants, retail. They could make it a mini city within Corktown,” he said.