Automotive

Automotive News, July 2017

Germany’s transport minister has announced a recall of 22,000 Porsche cars to remove what he says is illegal emissions-controlling software.  He said that luxury marque Porsche would bear the cost of the recalls of the affected 3-litre Cayenne models.

 

It comes as Porsche’s sister firm Volkswagen says it will refit almost a million more diesel cars in Germany.  Allegations about Porsche first emerged in German in magazine Der Spiegel last month.

 

It said it was told by a source that the Porsche Cayenne had a “warm up mode” whose true purpose was to comply with emissions requirements. It said tests showed that once the car was confronted with small bends or a slope it switched to a different mode and emissions were higher.

 

“There is no explanation why this software was in this vehicle,” German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said last week.

 

“These vehicles are equipped with modern emissions-controlling technology so we think these vehicles are technically able to stick to emissions limits and we therefore believe Porsche will quickly be in a position to bring the software into conformity (with the law).”

 

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Jaguar Land Rover is opening an engine plant in China, its first outside the UK, as the premium carmaker ramps up its international expansion. The Jaguar and Range Rover maker’s plant will provide petrol engines for local assembly line.

 

JLR has a joint venture in China with Chery Automotive, through which it already runs a car plant that has made 100,000 vehicles since opening three years ago.

 

 

The engine facility, which is on the same site, will cut costs of transporting engines, which were previously shipped from the UK.  The engine facility has a capacity of 130,000 units a year, and will only make engines to be used in the Chinese market.

 

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German carmakers are facing a cartel probe into suspected collusion on component costs and suppliers.

 

A new EU competition investigation into Germany’s top carmakers threatens the credibility of the entire industry, a German minister has warned, after Brussels confirmed it was probing suspected collusion on technology.

 

If proven, the allegations could plunge an industry already battered by Volkswagen’s emissions-cheating scandal into a fresh crisis.  Brigitte Zypries, Germany’s Economics Minister, said she took “very seriously” the allegations that Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, BMW and Daimler’’ had for years run secret technology working groups.

 

“What’s at stake here is nothing less than the credibility … of the whole German car industry.” She added that all the carmakers implicated in the allegations would be “well advised to fully co-operate with the authorities and ensure transparency.’’

 

The European Commission said had received information on the alleged collusion, which it was assessing. It said it was “premature at this stage to speculate further. The statement appeared to be partial confirmation of a report in Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine that authorities were investigating evidence that all the big German carmakers had since the 1990’s been meeting in secret working groups to agree on costs for components and the choice of suppliers.

 

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Car production in the UK fell for the third month in row, down 13.7% in June compared to a year earlier. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said the UK market was cooling in line with forecasts, following a long period of record growth.

 

The industry is likely to fall short of its ambition to produce more than two million cars a year by 2020, it said.  The fall in production mirrored a decline in UK car sales. Overseas demand for British-built cars has remained broadly steady in the first half of this year, falling only by 0.9% compared to the same period last year. As a result, total output for the year is 2.9% lower than a year ago.

 

Independent forecasters are predicting output will pick up in the second half of the year, thanks to new and updated models coming into production.

 

The SMMT warns that output could fall in 2019, if the UK fails to secure a deal with the EU, or at least an interim agreement, that maintains current trading conditions after Brexit.

 

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BMW have announced that the Cowley plant in Oxford will be the main ‘Production location’ for the fully electric version of the Mini. However, the electric motor will be built in Germany before being shipped to Cowley for assembly.

 

BMW said it had ‘Neither sought nor received’ any reassurances from the UK on post-Brexit trading arrangements. About 360,000 Minis are made each year, with more than 60% of them built in Oxford. However, BMW has built up an alternative manufacturing base in the Netherlands amid concerns about Britain’s suitability as an export hub after Brexit.

 

BMW’s Chief executive Harald Krueger said the company had to remain ‘flexible’ about production facilities. BMW commented that the case for building the electric Mini in Oxford is compelling due to the fact the car is not a new design, and in many ways will be identical to the cars already being built in Cowley.

 

The new car is due to go into production in 2019, months after the UK leaves the EU. With imported drivetrains and the export of many completed cars back into the EU, costs could rise sharply if a tariff was introduced on cross-channel trade.

 

BMW employs around 18,000 staff in the UK, including the Cowley plant, the Rolls-Royce factory in Sussex and at other sites in Birmingham and Swindon.

 

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Supercar manufacturer McLaren has agreed a deal for a 75,000 sq ft. bespoke unit at the Advanced Manufacturing Park, which is part of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).

 

McLaren announced in February that it intended to create 200 jobs with a £50m investment, as part of its research partnership with the University of Sheffield’s (AMRC).

 

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Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at the University of Warwick has announced a partnership with the Institut Laue-Langevin’s (ILL), Tata Steel and the UK’s EPSRC to examine safety critical welds in cars made from boron steel.

 

WMG is using a stream of neutrons from ILL’s nuclear reactor in France to examine the welds in boron steel.  A large proportion of car manufacturers use boron steel for structural components and anti-intrusion systems, due to its high strength and weight-saving potential.

 

Currently in the automotive industry, a major joining method for boron steel components is ‘resistance spot welding’, which exposes the boron steel sheet directly under the electrodes. This creates a heat-affected zone, where the surrounding material contracts and its microstructures are altered.

 

 

 

Dr Darren Hughes from WMG said ‘Automotive manufacturers and designers want to understand the exact effects spot welding has on boron steel, as the heat-affected zones can exhibit reduced hardness which can in turn reduce the components strength.’

 

‘However most conventional scanning methods will struggle to penetrate such a strong and challenging material so we decided to seek out a partnership with a research facility that could give us access to more powerful means of conducting non-destructive testing – a directed beam from neutrons beams generated by a nuclear reactor.’

 

Dr Neill Raath from WMG said ‘The findings have indicated the need to develop new welding methods that do not have the same damaging impact on the mechanical properties as spot welding, especially because there is nothing that can be done to avoid tempering when spot welding is used on boron steel.’

 

One big advantage of the new welding method, according to WMG, is that it can lengthen the lifetime of the widely-used boron steel to its full potential.

 

 

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