Author Archives: automotiveiq

Automotive Industry And The Social Media

Interesting blogpost found on

If the internet has shown the motor industry one thing, it’s this: once something has become a trend then it is already too late to take any useful advantage from it. To run a successful campaign on the web requires some of that famous blue-sky, left field, off-the-wall thinking much beloved of training consultants and media gurus everywhere. In short – you’ve got to come up with it first, and in the last year Mini have done just that by taking that which was online, offline. In October 2010 the Mini Getaway campaign took place in Stockholm, offering the opportunity to win a Mini Countryman. This was a unique social media game, like a treasure hunt, and Stockholmers could download an app to take part. Users could view the location of a virtual Mini on a map of the city, hurtle around town and once within 50 metres of the virtual prize, could claim the car for themselves and then run away from the other participants shown on the map who could try and steal it. At the end of a week, the person with the virtual Mini won a real one. The campaign was a huge success, with 11,413 people taking part in the game. Now that’s good local publicity which went viral as people in over 90 countries watched it all unfold. How great is that? A real Mini adventure. In December last year it was the turn of Tokyo where the gaming area was 32 times larger than the Swedish city.

Inevitably, Stockholm spawned similar events. Britain had it’s Citroen DS4 Seekers and there’s currently the ongoing Mercedes Benz ‘Escape the Map’ game where a beautiful girl is trapped in a Merc C63 and must escape from Streetview before it pixelates her face! Competitors who successfully answer some interactive challenges are entered into a draw to win a car. This has got to be great publicity and, to be honest, it’s probably the only chance of many of us getting our hands on a C350 Coupe. These events are fun and demonstrate that marketing doesn’t have to intrude on people’s lives, it can also integrate into them. There are some clever folk out there who understand that social media doesn’t have to be fully online to deliver real consumer experiences that challenge the norm.

Today’s car industry is fully aware of the possibilities of social media marketing and have, as above, started doing their own dedicated campaigns to aid sales or repackage their image. It’s also a great way to attract new fans to a brand. Over a period of time, the Internet has been playing a key role in influencing potential car buyers, particularly young people. In a bid to offer the best possible exposure to its products companies are seeking to create the buzz but the key here has got to be originality. Whoever is first with new and innovative ad campaigns will always be ahead of the game. Anything else is just playing catch-up.

Can humans manage the new technology deluge?

QUICKER, BETTER, FASTER… Article by Larry P. Vellequette

DETROIT — Massive computing power and advanced graphics have revolutionized video games. Now they’re doing the same to the auto industry.

Engineers and designers are using computers to create and test new parts and vehicle technology at astonishing speeds.

For instance, in just eight months a team of Ford Motor Co. engineers redesigned a major portion of the 2012 Mustang’s 5.0-liter V-8, the “top end” or valvetrain, intake and exhaust manifolds and cylinder heads. A decade ago, the job required about two and a half years, the company says.

Suppliers and automakers, using computer data, can create, test and improve parts before a physical prototype is built. In some cases, parts are tested so thoroughly in the computer that engineers skip prototypes and early tooling and go directly to production tooling.

“Ten years ago, we would spend a year with three to four designers laying out the block and the head, and now we spend two to three months, with one designer doing the block and one doing the head,” says Jagadish Sorab, a technical leader in engine development for Ford.

What does today’s fast pace mean to the final product, the finished auto in showrooms?

Experts say faster development times enable automakers to load more equipment and advanced features into autos at reasonable prices. Time is money, and computers cut both.

Computers are “responsible for improved quality, for more of the features that consumers demand in their vehicle, and the better fit-and-finish on vehicles today,” says Bob Sheaves, a former Chrysler engineer and now a Detroit-area consultant.

Take the 2013 Dodge Dart, due in showrooms this quarter. Here’s a sampling of features on the Dart that were absent from the vehicle it replaced on the assembly line, the Dodge Caliber: a 7-inch customizable display for the instrument cluster, active grille shutters for increased fuel efficiency, a redesigned 2.0 inline-four engine, in-seat storage, a backup camera and an 8.4-inch infotainment screen.

Despite the list of new advanced features, the Dart’s base sticker is an affordable $16,790, including destination.

Moreover, the accelerating speed of product innovation is prompting some automakers, such as Chrysler Group, to find faster ways to judge suppliers’ ideas and give them “yes” or “no” answers within two months.

For suppliers, today’s computer wizardry puts a premium on speedy innovation. If a supplier doesn’t rush a new idea to an automaker, a competitor will.

Magna Mirrors, for instance, developed a touch-screen rearview mirror that for the first time dropped the bulky plastic housing. The whole development-to-market process took 18 months — half the time that would have been needed a few years ago.

Methode Electronics delivered the sensor switch that made MyFord Touch possible in 20 months — a year faster than what it said would have been typical for a similar job.

Magna Mirrors’ Infinity mirror and Methode’s switch are finalists for the Automotive News 2012 PACE Awards, which honor supplier innovation. Winners will be announced tonight, April 23, in Detroit.

Computer-aided design, commonly called CAD, has been widely used in the automotive industry since the 1980s, when it first augmented and quickly replaced manual drafting done with pencils and protractors.

But unlike pencils and protractors, the computer power of hardware and software for engineering, testing and development has expanded exponentially, especially in recent years.

Engineers today can digitally design components in three dimensions, see and test how they will — or won’t — work, and make adjustments to improve their designs, all without leaving a computer screen. They also can see how their design will interact with other components on the vehicle.

Thus, suppliers and automakers can skip many time-consuming physical prototypes.

“It’s a lot easier to cut electrons than it is to cut steel,” says consultant Sheaves.

And when engineers are finished, their digital designs can be sent to production machinery to create parts with outstanding accuracy, cutting more time and money.

Magna Mirrors’ Infinity mirror debuting this year in the 2013 Subaru BRZ and later in the 2013 SRT Viper is a prime example of accelerating product development.

Magna Mirrors’ engineering center near Grand Rapids, Mich., devised a new way to grind and polish the rearview mirror that made the outer layer of glass particularly strong. In fact, it was so strong that the mirror didn’t need a plastic housing, called a bezel. The first-ever bezel-free mirror is also a touch screen, allowing driver control buttons, such as those for General Motors’ OnStar system, to be incorporated into the glass.

Magna Mirrors spent a year and a half developing and then delivering the Infinity mirror — half the time required just a few years ago for the equivalent project.

“The one premise we run our group on is that we use [computer-aided engineering] tools from the very beginning of the process,” says David O’Connell, the supplier’s vice president of engineering. “We know in good confidence how the mirror is going to perform before we ever try to make a physical part.”

During that period, Magna Mirrors was able to automate the mirror’s performance testing — determining its field of view from different angles — saving weeks of computing time. The company also was able to skip construction of prototype tooling, going straight from its computer model to production tooling, saving weeks or months more, says Keith Foote, the company’s chief engineer for advanced product development.

“When we show a customer a new technology, the question is ‘When can I have it, and how much?’ Typically now, it’s the next model year,” Foote says.

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Italy’s slump will drag down European sales

The latest European automotive news by Luca Ciferri is Automotive News Europe’s chief correspondent below:

Italy has become Europe’s weakest major car market and the country is set to drag down sales across the region as a whole in 2011.

Car sales in France fell 23.5 percent in March and by 21.7 percent in the first quarter. Italy declined by 26.7 percent last month and by 20.9 percent in the quarter.

But the pain in France will lessen from this month.

France’s first-quarter numbers suffered from comparison with a first quarter last year that was inflated by scrapping incentives. Morgan Stanley estimates that the annualized selling rate was 1.97 million last month, while in April 2011 it was 1.93 million.

In Italy, an auto transport truckers strike, combined with a slow economy, hit March sales and the outlook for the rest of the year is far from rosy.

Rising fuel prices, bigger insurance premiums and higher highway tolls are reducing the use of private cars and causing people to switch to buses and trains to get around. So far this year, the number of passengers using public transport rose about 30 percent in big cities such as Milan, Rome and Turin.

Unemployment is also hitting spending power. In March, Italy’s unemployment grew by 1.2 points to 9.3 percent, the highest level since January 2004.

Full-year sales predictions based on March’s ugly results forecast historically low volume. UNRAE, the association of foreign automakers, estimated the March annualized rate at 1.37 million, a level last seen in Italy in 1979.

Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has a more optimistic forecast that I prefer for 1.5 million sales, which implies Italy this year will fall by a further 15 percent. Last year, Italy’s market fell 10.8 percent to 1.75 million, dropping for the fourth year in a row.

With a likelihood of 250,000 fewer sales, Italy’s horrible year will dampen new-car volume in the European Union by almost 2 percent this year no matter happens in the other 26 EU markets. The biggest European economy, Germany, where sales were up a 3.4 percent in March and 1.3 percent in the first quarter, will not offset the slump.

That’s not very comforting news in a crisis-hit Europe.

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Despite economic woes, Europe isn’t yet a cheap car market

Reblogged post by Luca Ciferri is Automotive News Europe’s chief correspondent.

New-car sales in Europe are expected to decline about 5 percent to 7 percent this year, but they are off to an even worse start in the first two months.

In February, sales fell 9.2 percent to 923,381 in the EU plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland compared with the same month in 2011, according to industry association ACEA.

The February decline was steeper than January’s 6.6 percent drop. In the first two months, European sales are down by 7.8 percent to 1.93 million units, equivalent to 164,000 customers lost in the period.

Kia and Chevrolet were the only two mass-market brands that showed strong growth last month. Kia’s volume rose 31.4 percent to 22,610. Chevrolet sales were up 17.3 percent to 15,248. Both brands sell low-priced cars largely built in South Korea.

Is the eurozone crisis creating a market where only cheap models win buyers?

Not exactly. Sales at Renault’s Romanian subsidiary Dacia, which sells low-cost, no-frills cars were down by 5.4 percent to 17,684 in February.

Moreover, the three brands which showed biggest sales gains last month were not low-cost marques.

•  Lexus increased sales by 72 percent to 1,627, thanks to the CT 200h entry-premium hybrid car, which starts at about 30,000 euros.

•  Land Rover’s volume rise of 69.8 percent to 6,111 was fueled by booming sales of the Evoque medium-premium SUV, which starts at 38,000 euros.

•  Jeep sales grew 58.1 percent to 2,257, pushed by its most expensive model, the 45,000-euro Grand Cherokee large-premium SUV, which tripled sales in the month.

All European volume brands lost ground in February, mostly mirroring the performance of their domestic market.

Volkswagen brand fell by 1.2 percent to 119,130. The flat German market helped limit the decline. As sales dropped in the rest of Europe, VW increased its European share by 1 percentage point to 12.9 percent

The French market declined by 20.2 percent, affecting sales of Renault’s namesake core brand, which fell 27.3 percent to 68,718. PSA/Peugeot-Citroen’s European volume was down 16.5 percent to 118,381.

•  Sales of Fiat brand cars fell 18.3 percent to 46,671, a drop that almost perfectly mirrored Italy’s 18.9 sales slump

•  Opel/Vauxhall sales slid 19 percent to 58,573, much more than the overall declines in its two biggest markets, the UK, where industry volume fell 2.5 percent, and in the flat German market.

• Japanese volume brands lost volume and share in February. Nissan sales were down 9.4 percent to 31,097 compared to a 9.2 percent market decline. Mitsubishi was the worst performer with a 35.2 percent decline to 6,248.

Among the German premium brands, only Mercedes-Benz had reason to be pleased. Mercedes’ sales rose 6.8 percent to 39,620. Audi sales were down 2.7 percent to 45,187. BMW brand sales fell 3.2 percent to 39,905.

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LAST CALL: 6th International Congress Automotive Doors

The design of automotive plays a crucial role in light of attempts to reduce weight and therefore carbon emissions of vehicles. The trend is to replace the steel doors with extremely light steel or lightweight materials such as aluminium or carbon fibre reinforced plastic. Meet experts and OEMs at IQPC’s 6th International Congress Automotive Doors 2012, 19 – 21 March in Mainz to discuss alternatives in door components and materials.

Which combination of materials will ensure a light-weight construction and customer comfort at the same time? Which are the most promising solutions with potential for serial production? A special focus lies on doors for electric vehicles.

Presentations by a number of OEMs and many networking opportunities provide room for addressing the most relevant questions of automotive door design.

 The congress covers the following topics:

  •  Automotive doors today – trends and developments
  • Lightweight door solutions – materials and concepts in practice
  • Renewable materials for the door interior
  • Challenges for noise reduction
  • Integrating new functions and vehicle access systems

Late bookings are still being accepted! Please get in touch via or visit the website.

Nissan now wants to be No. 1 Asian brand in Europe

Post by PAUL MCVEIGH managing editor at Automotive News Europe, published March 7, 2012 on

 Nissan said it aimed to become the top-selling Japanese brand in Europe at last year’s Geneva auto show, which would mean passing the current No. 1 Toyota. This year, Nissan changed its goal, saying it wants to be the region’s No. 1 Asian brand.

Why the change? Well, it’s no longer about beating Japanese rival Toyota, whose European sales are tumbling. All eyes are now on a surging Hyundai-Kia.

Paul Willcox, Nissan Europe’s head of sales and marketing, said the Korean brands are strong competitors. “If we want to be seen as leaders, it makes sense to have them in the mix,” he said at the Geneva show.

Korean rivals are relaxed about being in Nissan’s sights. “The fight for car sales is a global war,” Thomas Oh, Kia’s chief operating officer, told me. “We are confident that our three pillars — product, marketing and our dealer network — are strong in Europe.”

Nissan aims to be Europe’s No. 1 Asian brand by 2013 or 2014, Willcox said.

How are the brands doing?

Toyota, starved of new product, is still sliding in Europe while Hyundai, boosted by new cars such as the i30 compact, and Kia, helped by a new Rio subcompact, are going strong.

Sales of Toyota brand cars fell 12 percent in January to 44,351 in the EU and EFTA countries, according to industry association ACEA.

Nissan sales rose 1 percent to 35,792. Hyundai’s volume was up 17 percent to 33,204 and Kia saw sales rise 31 percent to 22,061.

European automakers are suffering flat or falling sales in their home region but Asian brands still have a long way to go to catch up.

Volkswagen brand, the region’s top seller, had sales of 128,993 last month, which were flat compared with January 2011. PSA, Europe’s No. 2, saw sales fall 15 percent to 124,240 for the Peugeot and Citroen brands.

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Advanced Turbocharging and Downsizing

Berlin, 23/02/2012 – Advanced turbochargers face the challenge of limiting emissions while at the same time reducing costs – an effective way is the implementation of intelligent downsizing and new turbocharging concepts for modern combustion engines. Meet a range of OEMs at IQPC’s 4th International Congress on Advanced Downsizing & Turbocharging Concepts, 26 – 28 March, 2012 in Stuttgart, Germany.

The turbocharger is a highly complex product that is set to become widely used in gasoline engines. In order to limit emissions, but at the same time improve overall efficiency while reducing costs, designers of turbocharger are facing sophisticated challenges. This has meant that new charging and downsizing concepts are required. Find out at IQPC’s conference about future concepts for boosting small gasoline engines and the potential of two stage turbocharging, as well as turbocharging systems in HEVs.

Key topics include the following:

 Future development of downsizing and turbocharging: research on extreme downsizing, two-stage turbocharging or variable inlet guide vanes

  • New downsizing concepts for diesel engines, e.g. pressure wave chargers
  • Turbocharger materials, such as high-performance thermoplastics
  • New charging concepts, such as fully electric turbocharging or SuperTurbo

Chairman of the conference is Dr. Geoff Capon, Turbocharger Systems Specialist at Ford. Other OEM’s presenting are Hyundai, Volvo, Fiat and Lotus. Use the opportunity to interact directly with the turbocharging experts at the Workshop Day on Wednesday, March 28 2012 on topics such as

  •  Innovative turbocharging technologies (Nick Baines, Concepts NREC, UK)
  • High performance materials for boosted engines
  • New engine configurations enabled by a SuperTurbo (Ed VanDyne, VanDyne SuperTurbo Inc., USA)
  • How much screw dose does a turbocharger need? (Eugen Perisutti, EJOT GmbH, Germany)

Please visit the website for more information!

Brose’s “product line approach” of ISO 26262

In the opinion of Dr. Pierre Metz, Organisational Safety Manager at Brose Fahrzeugteile, the greatest challenge is in the practical interpretation of ISO 26262. The collaboration of OEMs and Tier1 requires the understanding that functional safety needs a “systemic view” of the product.

IQPC: Since when has your company been involved with the ISO 26262 implementation? What does it mean for your constant and ongoing ISO 26262 implementation process?

Dr. Pierre Metz: Brose Fahrzeugteile has started using IEC 61508 in 2007 and adopted ISO 26262 in 2010. For us, ISO 26262 is another source of process, method, and product requirements that we incorporate in our standard process definitions for mechatronical systems, and in our internal in standard requirements specifications. We highly emphasize a pragmatic and down-to-earth interpretation of the content. We also embrace the exchanging of ideas and experiences with the community, e.g. by participating in boards and conferences.

IQPC: What major challenges is the industry facing at the moment in the ISO 26262 implementation and what does it mean for your company?

P.M.: From our perspective the greatest challenge is in the practical interpretation of ISO 26262. This standard is new to the automotive industry, so is the entire topic of functional safety (even though that IEC 61508 was the applicable standard before). This means that the experience with ISO 26262 is still rather low.

Interested in reading the full interview? Access it here.

Ethernet succeeds in automotive environments

Standard IT components and approaches increasingly enter automotive electronics. Now Ethernet is about to be established as the data bus standard for future car generations.

The latest version of the automotive infotainment bus system, MOST 150, has yet to enter the serial production phase, but now Ethernet seems to emerge as a powerful rival.  At the VDI congress on automotive electronics in Baden-Baden (Germany), several players launched commitments to Ethernet as a future standard for in-car data communications.

“After years of relative standstill, the field of automotive EE architecture has started to move again”, said Helmut Matschi who oversees the Division Interior of automotive supplier Continental AG. “With Ethernet, we anticipate a lot of changes in intra-automotive networking“.

During a press roundtable, Matschi explained that the tier one company sees enormous advantages for Ethernet in automotive environments. The networking standard from commercial IT could help to drive down costs without compromising performance or safety. Currently, for high-bandwidth data transmission, automakers have two alternatives: LVDS (Low Voltage Differential Signaling) and MOST. LVDS is fast, but expensive since it requires shielded cables. MOST is also rather fast and its EMC characteristics are undisputedly excellent, but its optical wiring is very expensive and difficult to handle in the car production (“A nightmare”, said an engineer familiar to the matter). Ethernet hitherto had a problem: It’s EMC characteristics was not as good as it should be as long as cheap UTP cable was used, and shielded twisted pair was not cost effective.

The Ethernet Physical Layer for automotive environments developed by Broadcom is the key element for a breakthrough of Ethernet in this environment. It enables OEMs and suppliers to implement Ethernet-based data bus systems without EMC problems and at very low cost in even safety-critical automotive environments, Matschi said. He added that in collaboration with Broadcom, Continental has developed its own circuits to defuse the EMC problem on Ethernet UTP cables.

Matschi said the roll-out of Ethernet in cars can also be regarded as an element of the merger between the outside IT world and the hitherto isolated in-car electronics landscape. But advanced driver assistant systems with very high data rates and the increasing usage of data from the outside world such as car-to-x communications systems and cloud-based services would make a closer integration a logical step.

At the semiconductor level, chip vendor Freescale demoed at the congress a camera-based parking assist system utilizing Ethernet – instead of the competing MOST bus – for the connection between camera and ECU. The chip vendor used the physical layer that was adapted to automotive requirements by Broadcom.

The very same application was in detail presented by carmaker BMW as part of its commitment to Ethernet. BMW was the first carmaker to use the de-facto data communication standard in automotive environments: Already in 2008, BMW utilized Ethernet to connect the OBD-interface (on-board diagnostics) with the car’s head unit. The rationale at that point of time was that with Ethernet it was possible to significantly speed up the process of downloading the application software into the car (“flashing”) at the end point of the production line. This Ethernet version however was not fit for “live” automotive use – it could not be activated during driving due to EMC issues.

BMW now unveiled that it entered a close collaboration with Broadcom for the development of a PHY layer that avoids these problems. “So far it was not possible to use Ethernet despite its merits such as low cost and high performance in automotive environments”, explained BMW engineer Albrecht Neff in his presentation. The camera-based assistant system with 360 degree view angle demoed by Freescale actually is a pilot project by BMW. Neff described Ethernet as an “elegant solution for cost-efficient, scalable automotive networking”.

Continental’s Matschi said his company is “fully committed” to deploy Ethernet in cars. Until 2020 – automotive design cycles are still somewhat slower than commercial IT design cycles – Continental plans to establish Ethernet in all automotive domains including chassis and safety. “Even an entire car based on Ethernet would be imaginable”, Matschi said. “We are at the point where the skeptical stance among the carmakers is vanishing”.

And MOST? MOST however will not disappear, Matschi said – at least not immediately. “We continue to support MOST. But under the bottom line, it is the carmaker’s decision.”

(Article Source:

Conference Tip:   Chassis Electrification – 09 – 11 May, 2012, Darmstadt / Germany

Future of Turbocharging

Roads are becoming more crowded, air quality will remain an issue, and we will be facing increasingly limited petroleum supplies as Peak Oil [1] becomes more apparent. Given the two basic types of turbocharging, the ambient air driving the compressor and the recirculating exhaust gasses doing so, it seems clear that the latter will be the only design, given present technologies. It pretty much is imperative to have all cars turbocharged, and one can see turbos as standard equipment. One may consider the introduction of natural gas in conjunction with turbochargers, further increasing the already efficient burning of that fuel. “Boosting” the fuel with substances that also enhance combustion may be in the offing. This will be essential if fuels not as efficient as gasoline are used. Ultimately, the goal is to have every molecule burned, and technological development will have this as the primary goal.

However, long-range, problems remain. Currently, there is a heavy reliance on fossil fuels, meaning that only alternative and renewable energy sources, such as hydroelectric, geothermal, wind, and solar (or, probably, a combination of these) will resolve the issue, biofuels being an exception. Turbochargers are only a stopgap to fuel economy. There cannot be a continued reliance on petroleum, given Peak Oil, environmental degradation, and world political conditions. Increasing traffic congestion militates against the use of private vehicles. Certainly in the metropolitan areas, either there will have to be an increasing reliance on intelligent vehicles that can be integrated into a network where all vehicles are coordinated in a traffic management scheme, or there will have to be public transportation. The cost of sophisticated technologies has to be reduced significantly if the average person is to have a private vehicle and maintain it. In former times, it was a relatively easy matter to get a car repaired at reasonable cost. However, even though durability has been built into modern vehicles, the cost of maintaining them is rising to an extent so as to make ownership available only to wealthier individuals. Given the increase of the world’s population and increasing limitation of the world’s resources, it is problematical whether there will be enough resources to produce a vehicle for everyone. Still turbos can be used on public transportation.

More interesting reads on turbocharging are also available here.


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