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Brembo Invests Big in Brake. . .Castings


By: Gary S. Vasilash 24. July 2014

Generally, it seems that when people think about high-tech automotive components, they tend to think of things that are more along the lines of things silicon-based.

But arguably, companies like Brembo, as in the innovative company that produces brakes for a wide variety of automotive products, with some of the leading cars among them (e.g., Lamborghini Huracan LP 610-4, Lexus RC F Sport, McLaren 650S, Corvette Z06), are as technologically sophisticated as any out there.

Opel Astra brakes

And so it is surprising yet satisfying to learn that Brembo is investing $100-million to build a new foundry for cast-iron brake discs. . .in the U.S. Specifically, in Michigan.

While many companies have outsourced things like foundries, Brembo is going to be building one that will have an annual output of 80,000 tons of brake disc castings. The plant is expected to go into production in 2017.

It is all part of a strategy for more vertical integration. When announcing the new foundry, Alberto Bombassei, Brembo S.p.A. chairman, said, “The increasing number of global platforms being built by vehicle manufacturers prompts us to seek the best possible integration between the different stages of the value chain, replicating the integrated production model that we have adopted for some time now in our facilities in Italy, and recently in Poland and China.”

Who would have thought that there would be a $100-million investment in a cast-iron, not silicon, foundry in the U.S.?


Energy Use in the Future


By: Gary S. Vasilash 23. July 2014

Seems like the energy-consumption picture is one of those that can be characterized as: “On the one hand. . .but on the other hand. . . .”

At least that’s the sense from the Energy Information Agency’s Annual Energy Outlook 2014 report.

In the study, transportation energy consumption—that’s for light-duty vehicles, heavy-duty vehicles, aircraft, marine vessels, rail, and other (e.g., military transportation).

EIASource: EIA 

Back in 2007, the U.S. consumption was 14.6-million barrels per day oil equivalent (boe/d).

In 2012 that number was down to 13.8-million boe/d.

Of that 2012 figure, light-duty vehicles accounted for 63% of all transportation consumption. The EIA estimates, however, that by 2040 that will drop to 51%.

That’s the one hand.

Here’s the other:

The EIA has calculated that heavy-duty vehicle consumption was 18% in 2012, but it will rise to 28% by 2040.

(The total boe/d in 2040: 13.1-million.)

Perhaps the difference will be that there will be fewer miles put on cars because people will be buying a large percentage of their stuff from Amazon, which will be trucked to their abodes, thereby increasing the fuel necessary for the heavy-duty trucks.

Perhaps.  (They may have the drones ready by then.)


Chevy & GMC Make Quick Transmission Change


By: Gary S. Vasilash 22. July 2014

This didn’t take long.

The 2014 Chevy Silverado, GMC Sierra and GMC Yukon Denali/Yukon XL Denali models with a 6.2-liter EcoTec3 V8 were essentially all-new.

These trucks came equipped with a Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed transmission.

Those who are going to be getting 2015 versions of those models are going to find that the standard transmission is a Hydra-Matic 8L90.

2015 GMC Sierra Denali Crew Cab – Austin, TX

Yes, the “8” in that alphanumeric signifies that this is an eight-speed transmission.

The new transmission has a 7.0 overall gear ratio spread that’s wider than the six-speed. This means that there is a numerically higher first gear ratio that benefits starting out, especially when there is something heavy on the hitch. In addition, it enables numerically lower rear axle ratios, which reduces engine rpm on the highway, which is beneficial vis-à-vis fuel efficiency (GM will provide EPA fuel economy numbers around the start of production, which is the fourth quarter of 2014).

Once, not all that long ago, something like this wouldn’t have happened until a few years into the production run.

But nowadays, the game is being run that much faster.

 


General Motors Back on the Hill & More


By: Gary S. Vasilash 21. July 2014

It was a busy week in the auto industry last week. There was Mary Barra, GM CEO, back in front of Congress, this time in front of the Senate Committed on Commerce, Science and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Consumer Production, Product Safety and Insurance. (Whew!) The session even had a similarly wordy title: “Examining Accountability and Corporate Culture in the Wake of the GM Recalls.”

The long and short of the session is: if you were General Motors Chief Counsel and Executive Vice President Mike Millikin or a member of his staff, you had a bad day. A very bad day. The sort of day that might cause you to dust off your resume. (Though Barra staunchly had his back.)

GM's Barra and Millikin Testify Before Senate Subcommittee Photo by Fred Watkins for General Motors

(It is interesting to note that during the Senate session, Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin brought up a story written for the New York Times on the Chevy Cobalt—one of the massively recalled cars—back in June 2005. The story was written by former Automotive Design & Production editor Jeff Sabatini.)

On brighter GM news, there was the naming of Johan de Nysschen, formerly president of Infiniti Motor Car Company, formerly president of Audi of America, as president of Cadillac. Will de Nysschen be able to restart the seemingly stalled Cadillac sales in the U.S.? And will he be able to make Cadillac truly a global brand?

And just, nowadays, what exactly is luxury? It seems that every car company claims to be offering it, but how can someone really tell?

These subjects, and several others, are discussed on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” with a panel consisting of Keith Naughton of Bloomberg, Bill Visnic of Edmunds, and Michael Robinet of IHS Automotive Advisory Services (and, as some of you may recognize, a columnist for Automotive Design & Production).

You can see it here:

In addition to which, you might want to watch this promo for the show that will be on this Thursday, as not only is it going to be an unusual format, but promises to be both informative and entertaining, though not necessarily in that order:

 

 


Maybe You Should Reroute Your Vacation


By: Gary S. Vasilash 18. July 2014

If you’re going to be setting out on your summer vacation soon, perhaps taking a long drive across the U.S., then you might be careful depending on just where it is that your TripTik takes you.

UMTRI

Michael Sivak, a research professor at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, has crunched some numbers and discovered that although road fatalities across the U.S. are down about 23% since 2005, some states are a bit dicey when it comes to driving.

Looked at from the point of view of fatality rates per 1-billion miles traveled, West Virginia and South Carolina area tied for a dubious first place at 17.6. Montana follows at 17.3.

And when calculated in terms of 100,000 people, the northern Plains seems to be the place you don’t want to be, as the highest rates are North Dakota (24.3), Wyoming (21.3) and Montana (20.4).

The numbers for Montana certainly aren’t that good. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that it really is quite beautiful there, and perhaps people just are more concerned at looking at the landscape rather than the road ahead.

Be careful out there.




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