Automotive News, June 2019


BMW and Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) are to join forces on developing electric car technologies. The car giants said they would work together to develop electric motors, transmissions and power electronics.

Both firms have struggled to maintain profit margins amid falling car sales and higher costs as well as the need to invest in future technologies. Car firms are being forced to make low emission vehicles to meet more stringent anti-pollution rules.

There have been a number of similar tie-ups aimed at sharing the costs of developing electric cars. Volkswagen and Ford, for example, are working together on new vehicles. Meanwhile, rivals Fiat Chrysler and Renault were exploring a $35bn tie-up.

BMW board member Klaus Froehlich said: “Together, we have the opportunity to cater more effectively for customer needs by shortening development time and bringing vehicles and state-of-the-art technologies more rapidly to market.”

BMW and Jaguar Land Rover said they would save costs through shared research, shared production planning, and by jointly buying electric car components.

Jaguar Land Rover is still run by former BMW managers, including Ralf Speth the company’s chief executive who spent 20 years at BMW prior to joining JLR.

BMW has been developing electric motor, transmission and power electronics in one housing that it calls “Gen 5” of its “eDrive” technology. A joint team of BMW and JLR engineers in Munich will further develop this Gen 5 technology, and then both companies will produce their own electric drivetrains, BMW said.

JLR will produce these drivetrains at its Wolverhampton plant, which employs 1,600 people. Nick Rogers, Jaguar Land Rover’s engineering director, said: “We’ve proven we can build world-beating electric cars but now we need to scale the technology to support the next generation of Jaguar and Land Rover products.”

Car manufacturers are increasingly open to sharing electric car parts because the technology is expensive.

“Carmakers are much less precious about sharing electric car technology because it is much harder to create product differentiation with electric car tech. They all accelerate fast, and everybody can do quality and ride and handling,” were according to Carl-Peter Forster, a former chief executive of Tata Motors and a former BMW executive. JLR is owned by Indian car giant Tata Motors. 

Fiat Chrysler has withdrawn its merger proposal for French carmaker Renault, the Italian-American firm has said. The announcement followed a failed attempt by Renault board members to reach a decision on the offer. Renault said it had been unable to reach agreement because French government representatives had requested a postponement. The French government is the biggest shareholder in Renault; with a stake of more than 15%

Japan’s Nissan also owns 15% of Renault, while Renault owns 43.4% of Nissan’s shares. Fiat Chrysler made the offer for Renault at the end of last month, describing it as a “transformative” proposal that would create a global automotive leader.

“It has become clear that the political conditions in France do not currently exist for such a combination to proceed successfully,” Fiat Chrysler said in a statement.

However, it said it remained “firmly convinced of the compelling, transformational rationale” of the proposal, the terms of which were “carefully balanced to deliver substantial benefits to all parties”.

Industry shifts toward electric models, along with stricter emissions standards and the development of new technologies for autonomous vehicles, have put increasing pressure on carmakers to consolidate.

Older, and often heavily indebted carmakers, also face rising competition from new entrants in the motoring sector including Tesla, as well as cash-rich companies developing driverless technology such as Amazon and Google-owned Waymo.

The Fiat Chrysler tie-up with Renault would have allowed the companies to share development costs on key technology such as electric vehicles and self-driving cars and to create an important player in the automotive industry. The merger proposal came at a time when Renault had already been facing challenges as part of an alliance with Japan’s Nissan.

Jaguar Land Rover has confirmed it is asking its 2,500 workers at its Castle Bromwich factory to go on a four-day week to help safeguard the future of the plant. The staff will also be asked to agree to changes in other working practices in a ballot later this week.

It is part of a move to make the factory become more flexible and more efficient in order to get more investment in the future.

Production of the XJ model, which is built at the factory, ends on 5th July while the XJ brand will continue to exist but it has not been decided yet where any new XJ models would be built. JLR announced last month it had slipped to a £3.6bn annual loss as it continued to face slowing sales in China.

The car manufacturer was hit by a £3.1bn write down in the third quarter of 2018, to cover falling demand for newer models and for diesel-powered cars.

Delivering complex components for new automotive ‘light-weighting’ projects is reaping dividends for a Black Country supplier. Alucast, which is one of the UK’s largest independent aluminium foundries, has secured more than £3m of new contracts from carmakers keen to explore ways of reducing weight on future models.

Backed by support from Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, Black Country LEP and the Black Country Growth Deal, it has opened additional facilities adjacent to its Wednesbury headquarters to cope with the expansion, giving the company an additional 7000 sq. ft. of dedicated machining space to work with.

“The automotive industry continues to move to lighter vehicles as the car makers look at ways where they can meet emission targets and improve fuel performance,” said Tony Sartorius, chairman of Alucast.

“We have been working on this approach for some time, supporting some of the world’s most prestigious OEMs to design and cast lighter components to what they’ve been using previously.

“This is now paying off with £3m of new contracts secured in the last twelve months alone, with the promise of a lot more to come if we continue to invest in our capabilities, our design team and our rapidly growing machine shop.”

 Alucast, which is on course for £8.5m annual sales, specialises in providing aluminium castings for a global customer base involved in automotive, agriculture, hydraulics and the oil and gas industry.

Investment in a new £175,000 die penetrant facility, combined with more than 50,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing space, gives it the flexibility to offer low, medium and high-volume production.

The management has recently signed off the £400,000 acquisition of three 5-axis CNC machines from the Engineering Technology Group (ETG) in Wellesbourne, which will help it supply final machined parts to the customer.

Alucast is part of the Manufacturing Assembly Network, an eight-strong group of sub-contract manufacturers and an engineering design agency who work together to win orders and share best practice and resource.

The collective, which enjoys more than £75m sales and employs over 800 people, can offer every engineering discipline imaginable, including automation and control systems, fabrication, forging, plastic injection moulding, PCB development, precision machining and high-volume pressings.

Its membership also includes Barkley Plastics, Brandauer, C-MAC SMT, Grove Design, Kimbermills International, Mec Com, Muller Holdings and PP Control & Automation.

The government has announced a £23m fund for large and small businesses to develop the latest technology for electric car batteries.

A Jaguar Land Rover-led project to maximise battery performance while maintaining safety is one of the winning schemes.

And Stoke-on-Trent based mining consultancy firm Wardell Armstrong will work with experts at the Natural History Museum and mining firm Cornish Lithium to lead a new study looking to develop a UK supply of lithium, helping to meet the massive demand expected from the transition to electric vehicles

They join companies across the country set to benefit the government investment to help them keep the UK at the forefront of developing the latest electric vehicle technology. It forms part of the government’s drive to maintain the UK as a world-leader in the latest technologies and emerging markets, through its modern Industrial Strategy.

“We are committed to ensuring our world-leading automotive sector can flourish,” said Business and Energy Secretary, Greg Clark. “These exciting new projects will build on the UK’s reputation for excellence, our rich heritage in the auto industry and pave the way for advances towards a cleaner economy.”

Businesses ranging from small designers to major car manufacturers are among the winners of the government’s Faraday Battery Challenge announced by Business Secretary Greg Clark.