Sweeping changes in auto industry

Issue #55, Jan 31st, 2021

Electrification and digitization are two sweeping changes happening in the automotive industry globally, not incremental any more. Internal combustion engine driven vehicles are gradually getting replaced by other other sources of power – an electric motor driven by a battery or fuel cells, to name a few. Digitization is happening in both inside the vehicle and in the operations required to make a vehicle – from conceptualization and design of the vehicle to its manufacture, sale and service. Here are some sweeping changes reported recently in the auto industry.

GM going all electric by 2035

G.M. has had a love-hate relationship with electric cars going back decades. But under chief executive, Mary T. Barra, who took over in 2014, it has inched its way toward a full embrace of the technology. The world’s biggest car market, recently ordered that most new cars be powered by electricity in just 15 years. “We are doing this to build a sustainable business,” Mr. Parker, the company’s chief sustainability officer, said in an interview. “We want to have a business in 15 years that’s a thriving business.” G.M. has already committed to spending $27 billion to introduce 30 electric vehicle models by 2025, and is building a plant in Ohio to make batteries for those cars and trucks. – NY Times

Tesla reinventing the steering wheel

Those who learned to drive by placing their hands at “10” and “2″ are in for a surprise when they climb into Tesla’s upcoming refreshed Model S sedan. Images revealed by Tesla on Wednesday ahead of its quarterly earnings call showed a lopped-off steering wheel known as a “Yoke” design, prompting controversy online as fans and foes of the electric vehicle company immediately had opinions. – Washington Post

AR for remote vehicle repair

The jump in demand for augmented-reality (AR) is forecast to continue over the next five years, buoyed in part by increased adoption by some industries during the pandemic. AR, which superimposes digital content onto a user’s view of the real world, became more valuable for some companies such as Mercedes-Benz USA and L’Oréal last year amid social distancing requirements and lockdowns. The companies are using the technology to provide assistance for employees and consumers in real-time, without needing to be physically present. Mercedes-Benz USA trained more than 1,200 automotive technicians at all 383 dealerships last summer on how to use AR HoloLens 2 headsets for remote assistance. – Wall Street Journal

Fuel cell alliance

Truck maker Navistar is joining the shift to less carbon-intensive, cleaner fuels by tapping General Motors’ decades of hydrogen research in a new partnership with the automaker, a trucking company and a fuel provider to get fuel cell big rigs on U.S. highways in three years. The goal is that the Navistar trucks will have over 500 miles of range per fueling and be able to be refilled with hydrogen in about 15 minutes, Persio Lisboa, Navistar’s president and CEO, told reporters, without providing details on potential pricing or sales targets. – Forbes

Diesel engine to electric motor

The world’s biggest diesel engine factory in Tremery, eastern France, is undergoing a radical overhaul – it’s switching to make electric motors. From less than 10% of output in 2020, electric motor production at Tremery will double to around 180,000 in 2021, and is planned to reach 900,000 a year – or more than half the plant’s peak pre-pandemic output – by 2025. For Tremery’s 3,000 workers, and the wider car industry, there’s an added complication. Electric motors only have a fifth of the parts of a traditional diesel engine, putting a question mark over jobs. – ET Auto

Online platform in Maruti’s constitution

India’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki revised its memorandum of association, or constitution, to include operating a web-based sales platform as a business activity indicating the company’s increased focus on developing an online sales ecosystem. The new activities include operating and maintaining a web-based platform for the sale of goods and services, charging a fee for providing this platform and providing advertising space to third parties on such a platform. – Economic Times