Just one glance at a NASCAR race shows you that there is a proliferation of commercial support, from bath soap to energy drinks, from hand tools to website domain firms. Looking at the drivers’ fire suits can lead to speculation as to whether even if they weren’t made with Nomex or some other NASA-like fabric, the drivers would be protected from flames by the multitudinous sponsor patches.
Not all sports related to horsepower provide the same level of logo opportunities as NASCAR does. Like last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
But as the old saying goes, driving suits abhor a vacuum, and so Maserati took advantage of the situation, and on the riding silks of a number of riders, including Derby winner Joel Rosario, who wrote Orb, there was found the trident logo of the Italian brand.
Clever how the mud missed the message.
Last week there was a notable event in Buffalo. No, not the one known for wings. One that will become known for engines: Buffalo, West Virginia.
That’s the location of the 1.8-million-square-foot engine plant known as Toyota Motor Manufacturing, West Virginia (TMMWV).
The plant, which went into production in 1998, produced its 10-millionth engine last week.
Camry four-cylinder engine
This is the first Toyota engine plant outside of Japan to make that many engines.
The plant has the capacity to make 420,000 four-cylinder engines, 233,000 V6 engines, and 520,000 six-speed automatic transmissions on an annual basis.
While the folks in Torrance, California, at Toyota Motor Sales, probably weren’t too thrilled at their numbers last week—Camry sales were down for the second month in a row and even the Prius is off by 21% compared with April 2012—the people in Buffalo were undoubtedly on top of the world regarding their accomplishment.
Although Toyota has become more closely identified with hybrid vehicles than any other OEM—let’s face it: If someone were to be making a dictionary and they wanted to show a picture defining “hybrid vehicle,” they’d probably use a Prius—they’re also involved in other types of powertrains for cars, including electric vehicles.
There is the RAV4 EV, which is a last-generation RAV4 with battery technology from Tesla.
Then there’s this, the TMG EV P002.
It isn’t from Toyota Motor Manufacturing. It is from Toyota Motorsport GmbH, out of Germany.
Toyota is having the car sent from Cologne to Salisbury, North Carolina, to the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) facility. There the Radical-based chassis will get some aerodynamic upgrades and undergo track testing.
Then its real test will be on June 30, when it will participate in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. Rod Millen will be piloting the vehicle.
The car set a record at last year’s climb for electric vehicles, finishing in 10 minutes, 15.380 seconds.
They hope to best that.
The TMG EV P002 produces 400 kW (536 hp) and 1,200 Nm (885 lb-ft). It has a top speed of 230 km/h (143 mph). It has a 42 kWh lithium-ceramic battery. Given that there aren’t a whole lot of infrastructure amenities out at Pikes Peak, they are using an off-board battery-to-battery charging system, including the Schneider Electric EVlink DC Charger. Essentially, the TMG DC Quick Charger has a 42-kW lithium ion battery. It is charged from the grid. It is located in the back of a Toyota pickup truck. The truck travels to where the TMG EV P002 is staged, and then the charger is connected to the car’s battery to get it juiced for the race.
Without going too far out on a limb here, chances are, if you were to ask U.S. college graduates in engineering and business management what company they would want to work for, a car company probably wouldn’t top the list.
Over in Germany, things are quite different.
According to Audi, the annual research programs conducted by Trendence and Universum—with the former polling >23,000 students at 107 universities and the latter 37,000 at 130 universities—shows that in Germany, Audi is the #1 employer for those grads.
The Universum survey shows 1 in 4 engineering grads and nearly 1 in 5 business grads would like to secure a spot at Audi.
Speaking to the company’s success, Thomas Sigi, board of Management member for Human Resources and Labor Relations director, said, “Our attractive working conditions and the excellent development opportunities in Germany and at our international sites appeal to future specialists and executives.”
We’re betting that developing cars like the R8 doesn’t hurt, either.
Last week Chevrolet announced that the Malibu LTZ has a new option. It’s a four-door passive entry system. There are small buttons on each of the door handles. Assuming that there is a key fob within about three feet of the vehicle—with the key fob communicating with the car’s closed-loop communication system—then by pushing a button on a door handle the previously locked door is opened.
Explained Ron Asmar, lead engineer for vehicle access, “We investigated fully passive systems where the key fob would automatically unlock the door when a person was within a certain distance, and deiced against it. We wanted to make sure that the system prevented the car from unlocking just because the person and fob were close to it, such as when walking through the garage to take the garbage out.”
This is a handy feature. One that is available on various other cars, and it is a good thing that Chevy is putting it on the Malibu.
That’s because last week General Motors announced its sales for the month of April. While the corporation’s total sales were up 11.4% compared to April 2012, Malibu was down 0.8% for the month and calendar year-to-date, off 11.9% compared with last year. In April 21,734 Malibus were sold. Ford reported sales of its Fusion were up 23.7% compared with April 2012, to 26,722 units.
Camry sales were off 13.9%, yet 31,710 of those Malibu competitors were sold. The Honda Accord was down 5.2% compared with April 2012, yet 33,538 of those cars rolled off dealer lots.
Clearly, Chevy needs to do something with the Malibu. Which was one of the topics on last Thursday’s “Autoline After Hours.” I asked host John McElroy what he would do to fix the Malibu, and he suggested that they do what they once did back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, which was to make significant modifications to one area of the vehicle. For the Malibu, he thinks that redoing the rear end of the car in a big way might be the way to go.
Peter DeLorenzo of Autoextremist.com is less restrained in his approach: He thinks the entire car ought to be redesigned. Period.
That and other car-related topics are discussed.
In addition to which, Bob Purcell, CEO of Protean Electric, talks about why the wheel motors that his company has developed is what he believes is the answer to the exploding car parc in China. I first met Purcell back in the early ‘90s when he was heading up the technology activities at GM dedicated to finding the best ways and means to put fuel-efficient vehicles on the road—even if that “fuel” was electricity, as in the EV1.
Protean’s electric drive motor is bolted to the inside of a wheel that’s at least 18 inches. The motor weighs 31 kg (68 lb.), and produces 75 kW (100 hp) and 1,000 Nm (735 lb-ft) of torque.
Purcell explains that the architecture of this approach is such that existing platforms can be readily transformed into hybrids without massive tear-ups of what’s already in place.
How the motor works and why China (after all, the former head of the GM Advanced Technology Vehicles Group knows more than a few people in Detroit) are among the things that Purcell delves into with McElroy, DeLorenzo, and me.