First off, a caveat. The publishers of Today’s Motor Vehicles, its parent company GIE Media, and its editor do not support theft or other criminal activity against automotive dealers. With that out of the way, investigators in Louisiana need to track down the criminals who stole 124 car wheels from a Chevrolet dealership in late April to figure out their astonishing efficiency.
In less than 45 minutes, thieves removed all four wheels from 31 vehicles, concentrating mainly on trucks and crossovers with valuable 20" tire and wheel assemblies. That works out to 21 seconds per wheel to remove the lug nuts and wheel and put it in the U-Haul van brought along for the 3 a.m. heist. Formula 1 race teams can hit those speeds – with 20 people surrounding the car instead of two.
While police focus on how the criminals defeated security systems and scour the site for physical evidence that may identify the perpetrators, I want to know the hows. How did two people move nearly 3,500 lb of material in less than an hour? How did they know how to load their rental truck so expertly while moving at such a torrid pace? Did they use 3D visualization and simulation software to optimize their efficiency? Given how tightly cars were crammed together on the lot in police photos and videos, how did the thieves get their jacks and tools in those narrow rows without damaging the vehicles?
While most of my interest is morbid curiosity, there could be some real lessons in logistics and efficiency. For an industry that prides itself on manpower optimization, I can’t imagine I’m the only one thinking that these criminals missed their calling as clipboard-carrying industrial engineers.
Matt Bowers, owner of the Matt Bowers Slidell Chevrolet dealership, estimates the thieves stole $120,000 in wheels and tires in 45 minutes. He’s offering a $25,000 reward for their capture. Due to the efficiency and professionalism (altering lighting to hide what was going on, moving security cameras), police suspect experienced, organized crime involvement. Police also identified two similarly brazen thefts in Oklahoma and Texas, raising the specter of an organized crew working in a tri-state area.
So, despite the somewhat flippant response above, this is a serious crime, and police are investigating. However, I’m not entirely joking when I ask how these criminals developed and honed their methods. Industries often learn from criminals. Frank Abagnale Jr., the forger played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Steven Spielberg’s “Catch Me if You Can,” consulted with law enforcement, banks, and other businesses after serving his sentence. Some of the best cybersecurity advisers in the world are former hackers who learned about protection from breaking other peoples’ protections.
Years from now, this wheel theft could be the opening sequence in a movie about the people who revolutionized material handling in manufacturing plants. But clearly, we won’t know what we can learn until police catch them, putting an end to the crime spree.
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GM considering selling Lordstown, Ohio plant to EV-maker Workhorse
General Motors, a company that has drawn extreme criticism from President Donald Trump and the United Auto Workers (UAW) for its decision to close its Chevy Cruze plant in Lordstown, Ohio, is in talks to sell that facility to commercial truck maker Workhorse LLC.
A finalist to provide new postal vehicles and a company that has supplied electric delivery trucks to UPS and other shipping companies, Cincinnati, Ohio-based Workhorse’s offices are about 4 hours from the Northeast Ohio Lordstown plant.
“This potential agreement creates a positive outcome for all parties involved and will help solidify the leadership of Workhorse’s role in the electric vehicle (EV) community,” Workhorse CEO Duane Hughes says. He adds that if the deal succeeds, the first vehicle would be a commercial electric pickup.
Since November 2018, GM and the UAW have been negotiating Lordstown’s future. The union’s contract doesn’t allow GM to close or sell the site during the contract’s term – officially, the plant is still open but with no product. In July 2019, the union and GM will negotiate new terms.
UAW Vice President Terry Dittes, director of the UAW-GM Department, says the union still wants GM to put a new product in the plant and will continue its lawsuit protesting the closing of Lordstown and three other U.S. sites.
Still, Dittes left open the possibility of non-GM ownership, saying “We will monitor this situation as it develops to determine what course of action will most benefit UAW-represented workers at General Motors.”
GM CEO Mary Bara says the automaker continues to invest in Ohio at plants in Toledo, Parma, and Moraine, and it sees the sale of Lordstown to Workhorse “a potential win-win for everyone. Workhorse has innovative technologies that could help preserve Lordstown’s more than 50-year tradition of vehicle assembly work.” https://www.gm.com; https://workhorse.com
Calsonic Kansei buys Magneti Marelli from Fiat Chrysler
A former Nissan partner has purchased Magneti Marelli, a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) subsidiary that makes lighting systems and other automotive components. Calsonic Kansei, a Japanese company once 42% owned by Nissan, bought Magneti Marelli for about $6.5 billion in cash.
Calsonic Kansei has a strong North American presence, primarily supporting Nissan plants in Mississippi and Tennessee, and it supplies other global automakers. The Magneti Marelli merger will slightly more than double Calsonic Kansei’s revenue (based on 2018 numbers) creating a $16 billion sales company about the size of seating maker Adient or wiring harness supplier Yazaki Corp – at or close to the Top 10 largest Tier 1 suppliers.
The combined business will be called Marelli. Private equity firm KKR owns Calsonic, having purchased Nissan’s shares in 2016 and the rest of the company in 2017.
Marelli CEO Beda Bolzenius says, “Our relationship with FCA remains an important one, as we continue to serve them as part of our multi-year supply agreement.”http://calsonic.com; https://www.fcagroup.com; https://www.magnetimarelli.com; https://www.nissanusa.com
The rotary table workholding system uses the Kurt DX6 CrossOver hydraulic vise with a trunnion mounted onto a 4th-axis rotary table. Double-acting hydraulics support automated part loading/unloading via a robotic system and can also be used for manual part loading/unloading.
Designed for 3-axis vertical machining centers (VMCs), the rotary table workholding system provides three-side access to the part, supporting more-complex machining and contouring work.
The DX6 CrossOver hydraulic vise improves secure hydraulic gripping. Manufactured to high standards of flatness, parallelism, and strength for critical high-precision machining, its high clamping force keep workpieces rigid as they are machined on each side.
The vise features a 1/4" jaw stroke. The vise body also provides chip evacuation straight through the body at the sides and end of the vise to prevent chip build-up.
Kurt Mfg. Co.
Two months after General Motors (GM) apparently backed out of plans to invest in startup electric vehicle (EV) maker Rivian, Ford is planning to invest $500 million in the Irvine, California-based company. Ford’s cash comes on top of $700 million invested in Rivian in a February funding round led by online retail giant Amazon. Leading up to the February announcement, several industry watchers predicted GM would be a lead funder of the startup, but the nation’s largest automaker stayed silent.
GM’s exit opens the door for Ford to place a member on Rivan’s board – Ford automotive chief Joe Hinrichs – and use Rivian’s skateboard-like EV chassis for a future vehicle. The Rivian chassis underpins that company’s two upcoming vehicles, the R1T electric pickup and R1S electric SUV.
Rivian Founder and CEO RJ Scaringe says, “Ford has a long-standing commitment to sustainability, with (Ford Chairman) Bill Ford being one of the industry's earliest advocates, and we are excited to use our technology to get more EVs on the road.”
Rivian has been building buzz in the auto industry since the debut of its pickup last year at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Company officials promise that its EVs will deliver more than 400 miles of range per charge while offering 11,000 lb towing capacity and 750hp. The truck and SUV are slated for release late next year.
The company is restarting production at a former Mitsubishi-Chrysler joint-venture plant in Normal, Illinois, that opened in 1988 (Mitsubishi bought out Chrysler’s interest in 1991) and closed in 2015.
The Rivian-derived Ford vehicle will come in addition to the automaker’s $11 billion leap into electrified vehicles that calls for a Mustang-inspired EV crossover next year and an EV F-150 pickup. https://www.ford.com; https://www.rivian.com
Panasonic rethinks future Tesla battery investments
Panasonic will meet 2019 commitments to boost battery capacity output for Tesla, but the company is reconsidering further investments. In 2014, Panasonic and Tesla agreed to produce 35GWh of battery storage capacity annually by the end of 2019, and Panasonic officials say they plan to meet that commitment.
However, the deal called for 50GHw of capacity by the end of 2020, a figure that Panasonic officials are now “studying feasibility of various options.”
The decision won’t hurt Tesla’s ability to grow electric vehicle (EV) sales this year, but it casts doubt on how much EV demand is growing. In the first quarter of this year, Tesla deliveries badly missed expectations.
Tesla officials billed the Panasonic decision as a strategy change.
“There is far more output to be gained from improving existing production equipment than was previously estimated,” Tesla officials say. “We are seeing significant gains from upgrading existing lines to increase output, which allows Tesla and Panasonic to achieve the same output with less spent on new equipment purchases.” https://na.panasonic.com; https://www.tesla.com