Two influential figures from the 1980s automotive world died a week apart in late June and early July. Former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca was the better-known figure in automotive circles, but H. Ross Perot left his mark on Detroit as well.
Both men challenged the status quo of an auto industry undergoing massive change. Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, and Mitsubishi were expanding rapidly, challenging a market that had been dominated by Detroit’s Big Three.
Iacocca was a product of the glory days that were disappearing. As the executive in charge of the Ford Mustang in 1964, he shepherded an automotive unicorn – a vehicle so radically good and different that it established a whole new class. General Motors would follow with the Chevy Camaro, and Dodge would enter the fray with the Charger, but the Mustang ruled the pony car market.
Iacocca is better remembered for his career’s second act – the one that came after Henry Ford II fired him in 1978 for personality conflicts. As president and CEO of Chrysler, Iacocca lobbied Congress for a 1979 bailout, using loan guarantees to restructure debt and convince creditors, suppliers, workers, and executives to take pay cuts (taking a $1-a-year salary himself).
As the automaker recovered, Iacocca bought American Motors from Renault, bringing Jeep into the Chrysler family. And, he launched another unicorn – the 1983 minivan created a market Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) still dominates.
During his tenure, Iacocca showed how an American car company could react to a changing global market. The company’s tenure after his departure wasn’t as successful – merging with Daimler, being sold to a private equity company, seeking a second federal bailout, and being sold to Fiat for nothing but the promise of keeping jobs in the U.S.
Ross Perot’s impact on Detroit was more adversarial. In 1984, he sold his computer company Electronic Data Systems Corp. (EDS) to GM for $2.6 billion, becoming GM’s largest shareholder as the company sought to reinvent itself in the face of competition from Japan. Like Iacocca with Henry Ford II, Perot butted heads with then GM-CEO Roger Smith. GM wanted EDS’ expertise in managing the automaker’s global operations, and Perot thought he was getting a financial windfall and the ability to continue to steer the company he founded. But control issues led to public bickering and eventually lawsuits.
Frustrated by GM’s bureaucratic structure and autocratic chief executive, Perot once declared, “We’ve got to nuke the GM system.” Eventually, GM bought Perot’s shares, allowing him to create a new computer company and use his wealth for two failed independent presidential campaigns. Though his attempts at politics were the fodder for late-night comedians, history has been kinder to his criticism of GM’s 1980s management. The company’s slow-moving systems, coupled with an executive core that didn’t take criticism well, survived several more decades, and were painfully clear during the automaker’s 2009 bankruptcy, federal bailout, and restructuring.
Automakers sold 8.4 million cars in the U.S. during the first half of 2019, a 2.4% decrease from 2018. Cars continued their rapid decline while trucks, crossovers, and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) performed better.
The bulk of the decline came from two vehicles – the Ford Focus, which ended production last year, and the Chevy Cruze, which ended production in April. Those two vehicles represented more than half of the annual decline in industry sales. Without them, 2019’s first half would have been down only 1.3%. The year-over-year declines could accelerate in the second half of the year as General Motors and Ford plan to cancel the Chevy Impala, Ford Fusion, and other cars, but some of those closures are not expected until 2020.
Even without two medium-volume vehicles (the Cruze was once the best-selling compact in the country before settling in at No. 3, and the Focus was typically No. 5 in the market) the compact market fell with the class-leading Honda Civic down 4% and No. 2 Toyota Corolla down more than 5%. Overall, the compact market fell nearly 19% in the year’s first half.
Offsetting those declines were big gains for trucks. Ford sold more than 30,000 Ranger compact pickups in the year’s first half without significantly lowering F-150 sales (down less than 1%). When Ford cancelled its popular small truck a decade ago, executives feared that the less-expensive vehicle was taking sales away from the larger truck. Additionally, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ (FCA’s) Ram truck division was up 28%. GM’s Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra lines fell during the half, but the company is in the midst of launching new versions of those vehicles, so plants have not yet hit full production capacity. https://www.ford.com; https://www.gm.com; https://www.fcagroup.com; https://www.honda.com
A high-pressure pump and additional spraying bars provide solvent-based cleaning at 10 bar to 16 bar pressures. The spray pressure is adjusted via a high-pressure pump controlled by variable-frequency drive (VFD). Pressure, spray duration, spraying mode (simultaneous or alternating), and product movement can be defined in a part-specific cleaning program and stored in the machine controller.
Throughout the process, the spray jet dislodges contaminants from the part surface, the high fluid exchange rate flushes away dislodged foreign matter, and injection flood washing is performed with more intense turbulences, improving cleaning.
For cleaning processes requiring only external spraying and/or no high-pressure application, the central spray bar can be removed.
National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) has acquired British automotive technology company and in-wheel motor technology developer Protean Electric.
NEVS plans to include Protean Electric’s in-wheel electric drive technology, ProteanDrive, in its future products.
ProteanDrive in-wheel motors offer improved powertrain efficiency and greater flexibility in vehicle design. High-torque density ProteanDrive technology combines a direct-drive electric motor and power electronics which can be used in passenger cars, light commercial vehicles, urban mobility vehicles, and autonomous pods.
Protean Electric will continue to operate as an independent business under NEVS parent company Evergrande, developing future powertrain and mobility solutions to meet market needs. Protean Holdings will merge into Virtue Surge, a subsidiary of NEVS.
“This exciting new agreement will enable Protean Electric to fulfil its global potential, and to do so more rapidly,” says Protean Electric CEO KY Chan. “This acquisition will aid Protean Electric in establishing a strategic advantage in the new energy and mobility markets and bring in new expertise.”
In combining NEVS, Protean Electric, and several other leading companies within the automotive area, Evergrande has formed a diversified new energy vehicle group. https://www.evergrande.com; https://www.proteanelectric.com; https://www.nevs.com
Hitachi Automotive to buy Chassis Brakes
Hitachi Automotive Systems will buy Chassis Brakes Group from private equity company KPS Capital Partners. The deal should close before the end of the year, following consultations with labor groups and regulatory agencies.
Formed in 2012 when KPS bought Robert Bosch’s brakes business, Chassis Brakes makes automotive safety solutions and is a global Top 3 manufacturer of automotive foundation brakes and components. It develops safer, cleaner, smarter solutions that support large trends impacting the automotive industry, such as connectivity, electrification, and autonomous driving.
Chassis Brakes developed the Smart Brake and recently revealed a demonstration car operating exclusively with these electromechanical brake actuators (versus traditional hydraulic brake actuators) on four wheels.
Hitachi Automotive Systems President and CEO Dr. Brice Koch says the transaction “is in line with our commitment to strengthen core businesses such as powertrain, chassis, and safety systems.” https://www.chassisbrakes.com; https://www.hitachi-automotive.us; https://www.kpsfund.com
Toyota, Subaru to develop electric vehicles
Toyota Motor Corp. and Subaru Corp. will partner to develop a platform dedicated to battery electric vehicles (BEVs) for midsize and large passenger vehicles and a C-segment-class (compact) BEV SUV model under each company's brand.
Combining Subaru’s all-wheel-drive technologies and Toyota’s electrification prowess, the companies hope to create unique offerings for the competitive global market.
Toyota and Subaru have shared design and manufacturing resources since 2005 and shared vehicle platforms on the jointly developed rear-wheel-drive Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ in 2012.
Company officials say joint development is necessary to find the appropriate buying scale needed to make batteries affordable and to develop longer-range, more efficient vehicles.