GM Commits to 30 EVs through 2025

Mary Barra, General Motors Chairman, and CEO recently gave an update on the company’s plans for electric vehicles.

In a virtual conference for investors, Barra said that GM is committed to launching 30 EVs globally through 2025 and that 40% of its lineup here in the United States would be battery-electric powered by the same date. The twelve upcoming EVs were revealed back in July.

Barra said that GM will spend $27 billion over the next five years to fund the development of all of these EVs, as well as self-driving technology. This is $7 billion more than what the auto company previously planned.

Most of the future EVs will be powered by GM’s own batteries branded Ultium. The GMC Hummer EV and Cadillac Lyriq, which are due in late 2021 and early 2022, respectively will be the first vehicles to use Ultium batteries.

GM had made further advances to its Ultium batteries and estimates the biggest battery packs will deliver up to 450 miles of range, up from a previous estimate of 400 miles. The automaker wants to continue refining the technology and has already begun testing a second-generation design estimated to cost 60% less than today’s Ultium batteries with double the energy density and is due by the middle of the decade.

The lower cost of the second generation design is due to new cell designs that enable higher energy density and use less non-active material, making more room for the part of the battery that produces energy. Additionally, the cells use less expensive materials and eliminate the need for expensive cobalt found in batteries today. There is also better integration between vehicles and their battery packs which allows fewer cells and modules.

According to GM, Ultium batteries will be much easier to service at the module level which will lead to less expensive costs for repairs instead of having to replace the entire pack. The batteries are also flexible enough to accept new chemistry as well as new cell types, without doing major tweaks to the design.

Because of this flexibility, the development of many of GM’s future EVs can be accelerated. For example, starting with the upcoming GMC Hummer EV, GM’s benchmark development speed for a new EV is now 26 months instead of the standard 50 months.

Japanese Auto Brands Rank Highest in This Year’s Consumer Reports

Japanese auto brands took five of the top ten spots for this year’s Consumer Reports Reliability Survey, with Mazda finishing on top for the first time, followed by Toyota and Lexus. Last year, Lexus ranked first, followed by Mazda and then Toyota.

Buick was the highest-rated domestic brand in this year’s survey, finishing fourth, with Hyundai and Honda taking the spots for “most reliable.”

The survey covers model year 2000 through 2020 and collects data from each organization’s members about their experiences with more than 300,000 vehicles. The nonprofit then assigns a predicted new-vehicle reliability score to various nameplates on a scale of 1 to 100. The scores of all brand’s models from which the magazine has gathered statistically sufficient information is used to determine that brand’s average reliability score.

Buick moved up fourteen spots from last year, followed by Ram and Dodge.  GMC, Chevrolet, Jeep and Cadillac improved from last year but still finished below average. Ford dropped six spots and fell into the “less reliable” tier.

Lincoln finished last among all brands, with an average reliability score of only 8, sitting 21 points lower than Tesla, which was seconds to last. Porsche took the spot for highest-ranked European brand. Consumer Reports said vehicle owners “reported everything from transmissions needing replacement after as little as 5,000 miles to display screens that required hardware replacement.” It also said all of Toyota’s models had average or better reliability but said Lexus’ standing was dragged down by the LS sedan.

Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports said “what we’re seeing now is, when automakers launch EVs, they’re changing a lot,” including new platforms instead of modifying existing vehicles with an electric powertrain. “Almost all automakers seem to use the opportunity to make these vehicles a technological tour de force, and as a result, they’re creating problems because they’re changing everything.”

Used Cars Are In Demand

COVID-19 has affected the way the world runs. Many industries have had to quickly adapt to new changes to keep afloat. The automotive industry has especially been hit hard. In the midst of a recession, people are wary about purchasing vehicles. No one wants to make a large purchase with jobs potentially on the line. The jobless rate in the spring was the highest the U.S. has experienced since the Great Depression. It took years for the Great Depression to reach its lowest point. The coronavirus pandemic devastated the economy in a matter of weeks.  Because of this, used car sales have skyrocketed during the pandemic. Even more, shoppers are actively searching for used leases.

While dealerships have been struggling to sell new cars, facing lockdowns at one point, the complete opposite has occurred with selling used cars. The past two months, August and September, posted the fastest rate of used car inventory turnover in the past six years, according to Edmunds.com data. According to more data, the number of sales is exceeding pre-COVID sales. This is pretty remarkable.

At the beginning of the pandemic, during lockdown, there were no cars made during these few months. This helped create the situation we have today. Dealerships have had to get creative with finding inventory. The situation created a buyers and seller’s market because if you’re selling a car, you’ll get a good rate, and the buying is happening at insane speeds. There might even be inventory shortage  if this continues on.

Another reason why there has been such is a boom is because people are concerned about taking public transportation or take car-sharing services like Uber with strangers. People don’t want to risk their health by getting on crowded buses and trains. The best option is to buy a used car. It is economical and for some people, it might be temporary. Among people living in cities with public transport available who do not currently own a vehicle, interest in owning a new car has risen significantly. According to what the market has shown so far, people may now be eager for a safer and more private alternative to public transportation.

Mercedes Focus on Evolution of Cars, Tesla Continues to Focus on Automated Driving

As Tesla recently announced its new Full Self Driving software, Mercedes-Benz says it has developed a similar system, but won’t allow the technology to yet be used on public and urban roads. German engineers that developed the advanced driver assistant systems (ADAS) are taking a step-by-step approach to releasing new technology, relying on their own insight rather than the public to validate their findings.

While the Mercedes approach is more conservative in nature, Tesla continues to be more bold and determined to push highly automated driving onto public roads, a step that could reduce accidents since computers respond much quicker than the reflexes of humans.

ADAS can provide steering, braking and acceleration support under limited circumstances, generally on highways.

Automakers have stayed away from relying on technology completely, yet Tesla broke this mold with it released its FSD software, which allows computer-powered cars to test their reflexes in inner-city traffic. Mercedes does not allow members of the public to test their systems which are still in an experimental phase. Rather than force their customers to put their trust in processors, software and the ability of machines to learn over time, German engineers want their cars to be validated by engineers so that they remain predictable for owners.

“We do not want blind trust. We want informed trust in the car. The customer needs to know exactly what the car can and cannot do,” a Mercedes spokesman told Reuters on the sidelines of the automaker’s test track in Immendingen, Germany. “The worst thing would be if the car gets into a complex situation and there was ambiguity over whether the car is in control or not,” he said.

For this reason, Daimler has emphasized its decades of experience with ADAS as it seeks to gain regulatory approval for its Level 3 autonomous systems. Level 3 means the driver can legally take their eyes off the wheel and the automaker would assume insurance liability, depending on the jurisdiction. The new Tesla system requires customers to take responsibility for any crash.

Mercedes started using camera-based systems in 2009, offering traffic-light recognition and lane-keeping assistance systems, switching to stereo cameras in 2013, to add depth of field and pedestrian recognition for emergency braking functions.  It was on a joined project that Elon Musk of Tesla learned about camera and radar-based systems.

Mercedes plans to launch Drive Pilot next year and is pitching it as an evolution of its Distronic system, launched in 2013, which uses cameras and radar to keep cars in lane and at a distance to the car in front. Drive Pilot will add a new sensor: lidar. It will be used to cross-reference data gathered by radar, ultrasonic sensors, high-definition mapping, radar and cameras.

“It is a paradigm change from Distronic, but it is a strategic evolution. For us, this is the logical next step and it is not shooting for the moon,” said Michael Decker, manager of automated driving at Mercedes.

It will function only on highways in Germany starting in mid-2021, if a new law is passed.

Super Cruise Rated Higher than Tesla Autopilot by Consumer Reports

General Motors’ Super Cruise has been compared to Tesla’s Autopilot in an evaluation of 17 vehicles equipped with driving assistance systems by Consumer Reports. The Tesla Model Y with Autopilot feature finished second to Cadillac CT6 that was equipped with Super Cruise, which GM is rolling out to more than 20 vehicles, including its new Hummer electric pickup truck. Experts in safety and insurance has warned about the risks of consumers relying too closely on ADAS systems and their abilities. Many automakers call their products Autopilot, ProPilot or Co-Pilot, leaving consumers with a false sense of complete security.

Two years ago, the Cadillac CT6 with Super Cruise scored higher than a Tesla Model 3 with Autopilot, in a Consumer Reports test of just four vehicles equipped with ADAS.  Now in the most recent test that was conducted in summer on a track as well as on public roads, the Cadillac scored 69 points out of a possible 100, while the Tesla scored 57. A Lincoln Corsair vehicle that was equipped with Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 system scored a 52.

The critical difference in the Super Cruise system is a driver-facing infrared camera to make sure he or she is paying attention to the road and is ready to take over manual control when necessary, said Kelly Funkhouser, head of connected and automated vehicle testing at Consumer Reports. The group noted that Autopilot can shut off abruptly in some situations, while Super Cruise did a better job of notifying the driver when the system is disengaging.

In similar tests concluded in Europe, a Tesla 3 with Autopilot placed sixth out of 10 systems, with high marks for performance and ability to respond to emergencies but low marks on maintaining driver’s ability to focus on the road. “The features might be cutting edge, even cool, but we think buyers should be wary of shelling out $8,000, or potentially $10,000 soon, for what electric car company Tesla calls its full self-driving capability option,” the report said.

Using Renewable Energy To Power The Future Of The Auto Industry

Often when we think of cars in the future, we imagine sitting in a cockpit as our vehicle does the driving for us. Sometimes we don’t see roads at all and take the popular term the sky is the limit to a whole new level. 

The flying cars we see in The Jetsons aren’t reality as yet, but the future of driving electric vehicles is fast approaching 

Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH is leading the way in electric car manufacturing.  The company is headquartered in Zwickau, Germany, and is a fully-owned subsidiary of the VW Group. It operates production plants in Chemnitz and Dresden and employs over 10,200 people across the three sites. 

Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH is devoted to meeting the company’s commitment to sell more than one million vehicles annually by the year 2025. To do so, they sought further insight into manufacturing profitability, optimizing efficiency, reducing manual workflows, and minimizing environmental impact. 

Green Light for Green Energy 

Because consumers are demanding higher environmental consciousness, there has been a rise in sustainable mobility. The VW Group strived to deliver e-mobility for everyone while minimizing the eco-impact. However, the VW Group needs support to meet its TOGETHER-Strategy program. 

To identify and deploy the best technology options for the TOGETHER—Strategy 2025 programVolkswagen Sachsen GmbH launched an 18-month project with partner IBM. One of the VW Group goals is to launch 75 entirely battery-operated models by 2029. The two companies worked closely with SAP in order to support the company’s move towards sustainable production. They developed a custom integration code, enabling Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH to connect their core SAP S/4HANA solution with SAP S/4HANA Sourcing and Procurement. 

A New Technology Platform Set New Standards 

Lead Project Manager of Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH, Ronald Göllnitz said, “Electric mobility has to be affordable. With SAP S/4HANA, we have created a new technology platform that helps us set new standards at Volkswagen.” 

Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH has finally laid the groundwork for a global template for the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand with the help of IBM Services to implement standardized financial processes. 

VW Sachsen GmbH designed a standardized finance system that integrates existing processes, leading to increased transparency as well as productivity while enhancing analytic capabilities. The following became possible, based on SAP Best Practice templates and additional work with IBM Services:  

  • Reducing the complexity of its data structures resulting in 30% fewer cost centers 
  • Optimizing organizational processes with leaner approval processes, needing only 8 instead of 13 hierarchical levels 
  • Reusing 80% of workflows for global rollout of the new ERP applications 

Because of innovations in this environmentVW Sachsen GmbH realized its electric mobility mission. This takes us one step closer to a future with cars flying up against the sky. 

Winter Car Care

With the weather continuously changing and winter fast approaching, giving one’s vehicle extra care is important. For startersit is ideal to make sure your car is prepared for the winter during early fall to ensure that your car is prepared for whatever the cold weather brings. The last thing any driver needs during the winter is for their car to break down or get into an accident because you can’t see through your windowsLuckily, these tips can help you avoid these dangerous situations. 

First of all, get your batteries checked by a professional to ensure that it is strong enough to last the winter because it is more difficult for a battery to operate in colder weather. Also, get an oil change. This tip is easy to miss because of its simplicity, but the cold weather can negatively affect your oil’s effectiveness by making it thicker and reduce your engine’s circulation. Check your owner’s manual and purchase oil that is thinner than normal, especially if you live in really cold areas. 

Be sure to check your antifreeze level as it is essential for your engine in the winter. Make sure that the antifreeze levels are high and that there aren’t any leaks where it might be draining from. It works to keep your engine from freezing.  

Make sure to check that both the defroster and climate control are working properly in your vehicle. The climate control helps to keep you warm, while the defroster keeps your windows from getting foggy or icy—avoiding a potential crash. 

Wash your vehicle with special soap formulated specifically for cars and wax it to protect your exterior against the elements. Waxing should be done at least four times a year, ideally at the beginning of every season. 

After washing and waxing, it is important to check out the exterior of the car that are exposed while driving. Tires are the first accessory that should be checked because it is harder to grip wet roads if the tires are worn down and have less traction.  

If you live in areas that experience heavy snow, consider getting snow tires. They are made of a softer rubber than standard tires and have tread patterns that allow them to retain flexibility in cold climates and grip snow and ice. 

The other accessory that needs attention is the windshield wipers. Car wipers have a short lifespan and in the winter your wipers need to be in excellent condition to keep your windshield free of snow, ice, and other dirt that gets in contact with it. Do a thorough inspection of your windshield and wipers during the winter season so that you can prevent uncomfortable situations. 

The safe winter driving checklist also includes heaters, break, light, and filter. It is necessary to get all of these items checked before the winter season hits because it reduces the probability of a car breakdown. Try taking your car to the professional to get these parts down so that it’ll be in tip-top shape to endure the tough winter ahead. 

If you need a car that is in better condition or maybe just has more features to help brave the various types of weather, check out swapalease.com. For more information on finding the best car lease deals or to learn how you can have a successful car lease trade, visit Swapalease.com or contact them at 866-SWAPNOW 

The new trend in automotive hiring: Amazon

With sales flourishing and low employment rates, recruiting workforces over the past few years have been hard prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

As businesses are slowly slipping back to normal, automotive companies now face a new challenge, Amazon.

With a starting wage of $15, about 20 percent more than what auto parts plants usually pay to start, the online marketplace plans to recruit 100,000 hourly U.S. and Canadian workers.

Recruitment troubles

This is making auto-sector expansion a bit tougher than usual.

“Not just Amazon, but all of the employers who have done well through the pandemic while the auto industry was stalled, like Home Depot, food companies, grocery chains, and medical-sector companies,” said Dietmar Ostermann, U.S. automotive advisory leader for PwC.

Many other factors are affecting automotive manufacturers’ production expansion as they continuously compete for hourly labor with these major corporations and large gig economy employers.

Automotive employers are getting creative and reevaluating how they can secure talent in order to compete with other business segments. According to Keilon Ratliff, vice president and automotive lead at Kelly Professional & Industrial, this includes waiving some of the traditional hiring contingencies, such as drug testing as well as background screenings.

“You now have different sectors all looking for the same talent, and people are amending some of the qualifications that they have on the front end,” he said. “Companies have had to adjust those processes in order to compete.”

Auto manufacturers have been dealing with some of the lowest unemployment rates in America since World War II. Trying to recruit workers in a market where there is little available work has been quite difficult.

Although thousands of American workers were laid off and are coping with a recession, the recruitment of factory workers has been aggravated by COVID-19 this year. People are now more hesitant to take a job in a factory. Additionally, with the availability of unemployment benefits of up to $25 an hour, it beats out the bait of lower wages to go work in the risky, dangerous quarters of an assembly plant.

It’s all now coming to a head.

“There is a significant shortage of workers in the auto industry right now,” Ostermann said.

Different strategies

Employers are trying to get new hiring projects on track while some are simply returning to previous production levels. But the shortage of workers is a blockage. With about a tenth of a much-needed workforce missing, this can hold back volumes and hinder efforts to operate a plant efficiently.

David Kalb, president at Applied Tech Industries, a Tier 2 specialized automotive coatings provider in Chesterfield, Mich., said that shortly after the industry came back online, he has not been able to find enough workers to keep up with production commitments.

“We had to go to 10-hour shifts, six days a week because we couldn’t get good help, other than the people we had,” said Kalb, who services 12 auto assembly plants.

Kalb had to outsource some work to competitors, in addition to working extra hours. “Just in trying to find people, we’ve added more temp agencies. We had to increase our pay by a couple of bucks an hour because that’s what the market was doing at the time,” he added.

Additionally, others have asked salaried engineers to fill gaps on assembly lines.

“There’s definitely a battle for talent,” Ratliff said. “Customers are experiencing higher turnover rates. As we’re looking to engage with the workforce, there’s lower enthusiasm to go back to work due to COVID. The war for talent became that much more challenging.”

Some employers are even considering making their wages more competitive and are teaming up with organizations that have a connection to the manufacturing workforce.

The Texas Workforce Commission, which is a state agency that provides workforce development services to support the state’s economic development activities, creates grant programs that aim to increase the available worker pool by connecting incoming or expanding companies with those workers.

Texas is currently awaiting the arrival of a new Tesla Gigafactory truck plant southeast of Austin, which is expected to pull in more suppliers and incite local parts companies to expand production, creating the need for more auto workers around Austin. With the University of Texas, state government offices, and Dell Technologies as a major local employer, the area is hardly hurting for jobs. But now a new Apple campus there plans to hire 15,000 people.

“You can have all the great tax incentives and benefits and be a nonunion state and all these things that Texas has, but if you don’t have the workforce that is ready to meet those needs, that’s going to hurt that recruitment,” said James Bernsen, deputy director of communications at the state commission. “A key input is having that workforce, and that’s really been our strength.”

Brexit Could Cost Auto Industry Several Billion Dollars

Britain’s separation from the European Union could cost carmakers and suppliers up to $13 billion unless cross-border trade remains tariff-free and unbureaucratic, said BMW Chief Financial Advisor, Nicolas Peter.

During a virtual roundtable discussion on Thursday, Peter told journalists that BMW has spent about a million dollars this year to prepare for Brexit.

“The auto industry association ACEA has estimated that it could cost carmakers and suppliers 10 to 11 billion euros ($11.7 billion to $12.9 billion),” Peter said. “We need tariff-free trade. And even then, it needs to be seamless. We have a just-in-time manufacturing system so the administrative processing at customs needs to be efficient.”

He also suggested that Britain continue to keep pace with European Union emissions requirements so that carmakers can offer the same cars in all European markets.

“Strong demand for electric and hybrid cars has helped BMW stay ahead of projected fleet emissions reduction targets for 2020”, Peter added.

At this moment, BMW is on track to meet its full-year targets after a recovery in auto sales led by China helped the manufacturer overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.

Peter asserts that BMW will meet both its full-year forecasts and the European Union-mandated CO2 targets this year. He cited a boon from China, where car sales rose by a fifth in September compared to a year ago.

“The third quarter was much better than the second quarter, but with different speeds in different markets and regions,” Peter said to the reporters on a call.

The German carmaker has projected an automotive earnings margin, before interest and taxes (Ebit), between 0-3 percent this year, and for sales to be significantly lower than last year after the pandemic shut down both factories and dealerships. Earlier this week, the company said that deliveries of BMW-brand vehicles were down 11 percent this year through September.

Additionally, the company is trying to increase sales of EVs to meet emissions regulations in Europe which will get stricter in 2021. Peter said that he sees the company meeting those demands this year and next year.

Why should you get an Oil Change?

Have you ever wondered why we change the oil in our cars regularly?

A lot of people who do this regular maintenance on their automobile do not know or understand what it is or why they are doing it.

Changing the oil in a car is a type of routine maintenance—and is one of the most important routine maintenance for your car. The process is more than just replacing the old oil with fresh new oil, but it also replaces and recycles the engine oil filter to ensure that the vehicle is running safely.

Because motor oil and the engine oil filter are necessary and important to run and protect your vehicle, getting a regular oil change is the best way to keep your vehicle in a healthy condition.

Over time, the moving parts of vehicles rust or erode from friction and create heat. The motor oil lubricates the engine of the car and absorbs heat to prevent overheating so that the internal parts of the car can work together efficiently.

Engine oils break down and wear out eventually. When this happens, it loses its ability to absorb heat and lubricate your engine effectively. Vehicle owners should change their engine oil before this happens to avoid major engine troubles.

The regularity of your oil change depends on a few factors such as the type of oil and filter used, the way you drive, where you live, and your engine type. Most mechanics recommend getting an oil change every 3,000 miles, whereas automobile manufacturers suggest a longer interval, such every 5,000 miles. However, people who tend to drive at much higher speeds, have older engines, and live in very hot, cold, or dusty areas, should consider changing their oil more often. Manufacturers also suggest getting an oil change every 10,000 miles for those who use special synthetic oil. Car owners should consult the owner’s manual in the glove compartment of their car so that they will know exactly when an oil change is needed.

The oil filter, which is the tool used to clean the motor oil as it runs through the engine, is also changed during the oil change. Like the motor oil, if it is not changed, it will also lose its effectiveness, and will not have the ability to clean the motor oil. If the oil filter can no longer clean the motor oil, the oil will eventually become ineffective at protecting your engine.