Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares laid out a plan that’s good news for the development of pickups and SUVs at the company’s Auburn Hills tech center Wednesday, but the future of other iconic Chrysler and Dodge vehicles is an open question. “We expect pickups and SUVs to be developed in the Auburn Hills,” Tavares said following a visit to the former Fiat Chrysler’s Detroit manufacturing complex. The Oakland County tech center also will develop electrified versions of those vehicles, he said.
Source: Detroit Free Press
Toyota Motor Corp. plans to begin selling a pair of battery-powered vehicles in the U.S. this year, revising a wait-and-see approach to electric cars and trucks. The Japanese automaker said Wednesday it will start selling the unnamed EVs and an unspecified plug-in hybrid model, adding to a lineup with several gas-electric hybrids that accounted for almost one-fifth of its total U.S. deliveries last year. Toyota withdrew from EVs in the U.S. seven years ago when it ceased production of an all-electric version of its best-selling RAV4 crossover sport-utility vehicle.
The Biden administration said Thursday it is working to address a global chip shortage that is hurting U.S. auto makers and other industries, aiming to free up supply-chain choke points. President Biden will sign an executive order in the coming weeks that will involve a comprehensive review of supply chains for critical goods, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. A White House official said the administration is having conversations with auto companies, semiconductor firms and lawmakers “to see what actions can be taken to make sure American workers are not being negatively impacted by this shortage, and that there continues to be access to essential goods during this pandemic.” The official said the administration also is looking for longer-term solutions.
Source: The Wall Street Journal
AutoNation Inc., the country’s largest auto-dealer chain, expects U.S. sales of new cars and trucks to hit 16 million vehicles this year, rebounding on a pandemic-fueled increase in demand for personal transportation. Chief Executive Officer Mike Jackson is predicting growth despite disruptions to vehicle production caused by a global semidconductor shortage and lingering inventory issues from pandemic-related shutdowns last year. He expects the seasonally-adjusted rate of U.S. new-car sales to grow 7% this year, up from 14.5 million vehicles in 2020, which was the lowest since 2012.
For the second year in a row, about 150,000 UAW members might miss their summer vacation as the auto industry faces a series of production disruptions that will need to be made up later this year. The auto industry has been confronting a massive global shortage of semiconductor chips that has disrupted vehicle production in recent weeks. The chips are used in a variety of car parts, but are in big demand for personal electronics at the moment too. As if that wasn't bad enough, now severe winter storms have prompted many carmakers to shutter factories starting late Sunday night, including those that make high-profit pickups and SUVs.
Daimler AG’s blockbuster breakup plan has created a small quandary that lawyers will spend time resolving sometime in the coming months: rights to the company’s $49 billion Mercedes-Benz brand. The German manufacturer is working on a legal framework for how Mercedes and trademarks such as its famous three-pointed star logo will be used after spinning off its truck unit later this year, Chief Executive Officer Ola Kallenius said in an interview last week. The issue is significant because Mercedes is the world’s eighth most valuable brand, just behind Toyota and ahead of archrival BMW, according to consultancy Interbrand Corp. The ranking is led by technology giants Apple, Amazon and Microsoft.
Ford Motor Co. on Wednesday said it would invest $1 billion to convert its Cologne, Germany, plant into an electric-vehicle manufacturing center — a major commitment to Europe and to a future defined by electric vehicles. In a news release, the automaker said the facility will be "spearheading" the company's "advance into an all-electric future." Meanwhile, Ford pledged that its entire European passenger-vehicle lineup will be "zero-emissions capable, all-electric or plug-in hybrid" by mid-2026 and all-electric by 2030.
Source: The Detroit News
Calls it minus emissions
Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles produce only water vapor as emissions—water that could in theory be filtered and made potable. While that’s been the memorable party-trick of fuel-cell presentations over many years—well, that and some creative billboards—the lack of combustion gases being carried through the tailpipe creates a unique opportunity—one that Toyota is eager to note it’s taken advantage of in the new 2021 Mirai.
Put simply: Toyota claims that the Mirai cleans the air as you drive.
Fuel cells harness a chemical reaction between oxygen and hydrogen, yielding electricity, water vapor, and waste heat. The Mirai and other fuel-cell vehicles need to take in substantial amounts of ambient air, cycling it through the membranes of the system’s stack, where the oxygen is used for the reaction, and funneling it back out. It’s a net positive—both for the longevity of the fuel cells and for the environment in general—to filter that air obsessively.
In the 2021 Toyota Mirai, the air gets cleaned up through a two-stage PM2.5 particulate filter that removes dust, pollen and some “noxious chemicals,” according to Toyota. The first stage is a catalyst filter that can attract and neutralize sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and ammonia, then the second stage is an electrostatically charged paper-and-fabric filter that captures microscopic pollutants.
Toyota says that the combination of a special air-cleaning fabric captures fine particles as small as PM2.5, then a chemical filter removes harmful chemical substances in the air and further suppresses PM2.5 particulates. The company told Green Car Reports that the system is claimed to be effective in removing 94% to 99.7% of particulates between 0.3 and 2.5 microns as well. The effect is what Toyota is terming “minus emissions.” According to the automaker, more driving means cleaner air.
In a recent drive of the vastly improved and better-looking 2021 Mirai, my test car showed that over 1,351 miles covered it had cleaned 1457 kL (kiloliters) of air—roughly 48,000 cubic feet. That’s less air taken in than the typical internal combustion engine, nevertheless a significant amount. The air purification is illustrated in the Mirai’s infotainment screen in an offshoot of its efficiency displays.
Toyota cautions that the actual amount of air may differ because the required amount of air changes with power-generation needs and driving conditions like climate and altitude.
Of course there’s a very big “if” attached to this, and we’d be remiss in not mentioning it. Very little of the hydrogen used for fueling vehicles in the U.S. is “green” hydrogen—that’s using renewable energy to power the electrolysis of water. Most hydrogen is sourced through steam methane reformation, with natural gas—not such a carbon-friendly process, and not without air emissions of its own.
There’s definitely hope for the near future. But as for “minus emissions?” It might be time to recalculate given the current reality.
Source: Green Car Reports
Severe weather conditions hitting much of the U.S. have caused some semiconductor companies to idle production capacity, threatening to exacerbate a chip shortage that has already prompted car makers to curtail output at some plants. South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. , one of the world’s biggest chip makers, operates two factories in Austin, Texas, and was asked by local authorities to shut those down on Tuesday, said a company spokeswoman. Samsung expects to resume production as soon as possible and, the spokeswoman said, was waiting for electricity provider Austin Energy to advise when the chip maker’s operations could start up again.
The global semiconductor chip shortage is not likely to significantly affect the financial profiles of Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp or Honda Motor Co, ratings agency Fitch said in a statement on Wednesday. The automakers have enough financial flexibility to absorb more costs and maintain significant rating headroom, even if the shortage persists till the second half of 2021, according to the statement.
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