Last week, Mercedes started production of the new C-Class in its factory in Bremen, Germany. The company is investing more than €1 billion in Bremen, which will be the center of competence for the C-Class. That is, Mercedes, anticipating great things for the car, will be producing it in four plants on four continents: East London, South Africa; Beijing, China; Tuscaloosa, Alabama; and Bremen.
Said Uwe Werner, Chairman of the Works Council at the Mercedes-Benz Bremen plant: "We've been making cars for 75 years in Bremen, and Mercedes-Benz cars for 35 years. I'm delighted that we are able to pass on our knowledge and expertise to our international colleagues in our role as a center of competence. We in Bremen will do all we can in terms of support and sharing of know-how to ensure that the new C-Class is produced around the world in Mercedes quality."
Shown here in front of the photo, wielding portable assembly tools at start of production in Bremen, are Markus Schäfer, member of the Divisional Board Mercedes-Benz Cars, Manufacturing and Procurement (right) and Wilfried Porth, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, Human Resources and Director of Labor Relations & Mercedes-Benz Vans. Presumably, that’s more of a photo op than a straight-forward production operation. (Incidentally, second left in the background is Andreas Kellermann, head of the Mercedes-Benz Bremen plant.)
The Bremen plant builds the C-Class sedan, C-Class wagon and C-Class coupé; the E-Class coupé and cabriolet; the GLK, and the SLK and SL roadsters. In 2012 the 12,700 employees in the plant produced more than 316,000 vehicles.
Speaking to the car and to the launch, Dr. Dieter Zetsche, chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, said: "The new C-Class is setting new standards in the premium mid-range segment in a number of aspects – from design and perceived quality, driver assistance systems to lightweight construction. Just as important: We are also raising the bar in terms of production. Within just six months we will have ramped up production in four C-Class plants on four continents. With this, we are leading the way - a further milestone in our Mercedes-Benz 2020 growth strategy."
Electric vehicle (EV) production is going to increase rather significantly in 2014, according to IHS Automotive.
It will achieve a 67% increase.
That’s for both full EVs as well as plug-in hybrids (PHEVs).
It will reach 403,381 units according to IHS Automotive.
Oh, one more thing about that number:
It is for global production. That’s 403,381 units for the whole world.
This is the walk in terms of global EV build, according to IHS Automotive: 2010, 13,866; 2011, 99,226; 2012, 168,608; 2013, 242,075; 2014, 403,381
According to IHS Automotive, the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region will have the biggest rate of increase, 40%, with the Americas and Asia-Pacific coming in at 30% each. Which is somewhat odd when you think about it, as the Japanese, Korean, and American companies have been leading in EV tech for the past few years.
Speaking to the first E of EMEA, Ben Scott, an IHS Automotive analyst, said, “European emissions standards are tightening in the second half of this year with the implementation of the European Commission’s Euro 6 legislation. At the same time, European automakers are introducing compel new EV models, such as the BMW i3. These factors will boost EV demand and manufacturing in Europe in 2014.”
Other Euro EVs include the VW e-Up!, the Mercedes B-Class Electric, and Audi A3 e-tron PHEV.
While range anxiety is certainly a factor when it comes to EVs, Scott said that lithium-ion battery prices are going down, which allows OEMs to install bigger batteries, which means longer range.
And speaking of prices, IHS Automotive posits that given comparatively high prices for EVs compared to more conventionally powered vehicle, governments can help boost EV sales through legislation and incentives.
While the 67% increase is impressive—especially in light of the fact that IHS Automotive expects global automotive to rise in total just 3.6%--there is still a long way to go before EVs are more than a fraction of the market.
This is the second-generation Renault Trafic light commercial vehicle (LCV), which was launched in 2010:
This is a tease of the third-generation Trafic, which is to launch later this year:
Admittedly, the first picture is of a real vehicle and the second is an illustration.
About the design of the forthcoming Trafic, Kihyun Jung, the designer of the vehicle, said, “Its lines embody Renault’s new brand identity. My aim was to achieve a dynamic, assertive stance without sacrificing either the robustness or user-friendliness customers expect of their van.”
Given that light-commercial vehicles like the Trafic often make their way over to the U.S. from elsewhere (think of the Mercedes Sprinter, which was a Dodge for a while; the Ram ProMaster, which started as the Fiat Ducato; the Chevy City Express, which is a Nissan NV Cargo with a bright bowtie), one could hope that something as stylish as the third-gen Trafic could make it (although arguably, given that there is the Renault-Nissan Alliance, and as Nissan already has NV vehicles in the market, built in plants in both Canton, Mississippi, and Cuernavaca, Mexico, the odds are slight).
Incidentally, the Trafic is produced at the Renault plant in Sandouville, which is in Normandy. The plant started production in 1964, with the Renault 16 family sedan.
The Trafic had been made in plants in the U.K. and Spain, but with a €230-million investment in Sandouville, the plant is going to handle the third-generation Trafic. Apparently, the Trafic, about which details are scant, is 60-cm longer and taller than other models built there, which necessitated a variety of modifications, from providing special skids for the vans (in addition to those that exist for the cars) in the paint shop, robots to apply mastic and paint to the interior of the vans (which aren’t used for the cars), installing 187 welding robots in the bodyshop, and more.
One thing that is certain about electric vehicles (EVs) is that when you’re going zero miles per hour, you pretty quickly get to a much higher speed rather quickly thanks to the nature of an electric motor versus, say, an internal combustion engine.
According to Brammo Inc., its 2014 Empulse motorcycle, which it assembles in a plant in Ashland, Oregon, is “the world’s fastest electric motorcycle in serial production.” It has a top end of 110 mph.
And it is also, the company claims, “one of the cheapest motorcycles on the planet to refuel.” It is offered with a 3-kW integrated onboard charger that is compatible with Level 2 chargers. It comes standard with a J1772 charge coupler that plugs into a standard household outlet. It uses lithium-ion batteries.
It is powered by a 40-kW permanent magnet motor. It uses an IET 6-speed transmission with a multi-plate, hydraulically activated wet clutch that takes 90 Nm of electric motor torque and leverages it to over 880 Nm at the rear wheel in first gear.
There are a couple of other, perhaps, unexpected characteristics of the Empulse. One is that the headlamp is not LED. While the company acknowledges that LEDs are more energy efficient than halogen or incandescent lamps, and while it does use an LED brake light on the bike, it calculates that an LED headlamp would save about 30 W/hr, which is fairly insignificant in the context of the 9.3-kW/h battery pack.
The Empulse swing arm is tubular steel, not aluminum. Isn’t lighter better, especially for electric vehicles? Yes. But Brammo points out that whereas the cast aluminum swing arm on the Triumph Street Trip R weighs 13.6 lb., the steel Empulse swing arm weighs 10.5 lb.
Let’s face it: When there’s snow flying or temperatures plummeting, one of the last things you want to do is to go outside to do anything of a non-recreational nature. And so one of the reasons why many auto companies reported less-than positive January 2014 sales in the context of January 2013 sales is because of the snow and cold that large portions of the U.S. were subjected to last month.
Seriously: Do you think that if you live, say, in Nashville and it is so cold that pipes are bursting in your house that you’re going to say, “Honey, I think we ought to go out and buy a new car”?
When you see that even Ford F-Series sales for the month of January had a minus sign in front of them, you know that it is possibly a sign of the Apocalypse. A snowy one.
(Of course, it should be noted that the F-Series sales were off 0.7%. That said, the total number of deliveries was 46,536. And that’s more than the total number of Fiestas, C-MAXes, Focuses, Fusions, Tauruses, Mustangs, and Police Interceptor Sedans—that is, the entire passenger car lineup—which was 45,894 for the month of January.)
One thing that was striking was that Acura pointed out that its RDX crossover has had 21 straight months of sales increases. It is striking, in part, because in the small, premium crossover market that the RDX is part of, it is a solid contender. According to Autodata, last year 44,750 RDXes were delivered. Audi’s Q5 was a reasonably close second, at 40,355. The BMW X3 was fairly well back at 30,623.
Later this year, Lincoln will be coming out with the MKC to compete in this space, and company execs have tended to concentrate on being competitive with the Q5 and the X3, which may be something of a misstep because the RDX is a bit hard to ignore.
While the magnitude is of a different order entirely, you never hear anyone at Ram, GMC or Chevy overlooking the F-Series.