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Ford Plants the Blue Oval in Detroit

Bill Ford says move isn't a gesture, company expects a return on its investment.

by on Jun.19, 2018

Ford CEO Jim Hackett, left, and Bill Ford share a laugh after the announcing the company's plans for the Michigan Central Station in Detroit.

In a ceremony that was equal parts pep rally, political rally and outdoor concert, Ford Motor Co. officially told the world it would be putting its new most precious resource – its mobility campus – in the city of Detroit in a yet-to-be-renovated train station.

The automaker purchased the Michigan Central Station, once the hub of train travel in and out of Detroit, for an undisclosed sum. Bill Ford Jr., founder Henry Ford’s great grandson and current company chairman, also declined to say how much the company would spend renovating the structure.

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Ford also was quick to note that even through the company was in the midst of a cost-cutting effort that was initially set at $14 billion and has since gone up to $25 billion, the acquisition of the building and some of the surrounding ones and property parcels fits within the company’s belt-tightening measures. (more…)

Tesla Claims Employee Tried to Sabotage Plant – But Refuses to Say if Authorities Were Notified

Musk blames employee who didn’t receive promotion, hints others might be involved.

by on Jun.19, 2018

In a letter to employees, Tesla CEO Musk said the Fremont plant was the subject of sabotage.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk advised employees late Sunday that the company had been sabotaged by an employee who sent “highly sensitive” data to unnamed outside parties, but he and Tesla have so far refused to provide details, declining to even say whether police or other authorities, such as the FBI, have been asked to investigate.

Musk’s e-mail to Tesla workers, first reported by CNBC, was sent hours after a small fire at the Tesla assembly plant in Fremont, California briefly shut down due to a fire in its welding area. The incident was deemed minor and work quickly resumed. Tesla has been struggling to boost the factory’s output, primarily of the new Model 3 sedan, and has gone to an around-the-clock production schedule.

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In his note to employees, Musk said an employee committed “quite extensive and damaging sabotage to our operations,” among other things making “direct code changes” in Tesla’s manufacturing system while also sending “large amounts” of “highly sensitive” company data to an address outside the company.

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Audi CEO Stadler Arrested as Germany Expands Diesel Emissions Probe

As many as 20 current, former Audi employees now under investigation.

by on Jun.18, 2018

German prosecutors have arrested Audi CEO Rupert Stadler, though no charges have yet been filed.

Audi CEO Rupert Stadler has been “provisionally” arrested, the luxury arm of Volkswagen AG confirmed Monday morning, as the German government probe into emissions rigging by VW and the Audi subsidiary continues to expand.

Nearly a dozen executives and managers from the vast Volkswagen Group empire have been indicted since the automaker was first charged in September 2015 with rigging various diesel engines to illegally pass emissions tests. Several have already been convicted in the U.S., though others have fled to Germany where they cannot be extradited. But as many as 20 others are now under suspicion as Germany moves forward with its own investigation, according to the Associated Press.

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“Audi CEO Rupert Stadler was provisionally arrested this morning,” VW’s largest luxury brand said in a statement Monday morning. It added that “the presumption of innocence remains in place for Mr. Stadler.”

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Polestar Will Pump Up New Volvo S60 Performance Model

Volvo takes performance to new level with modified S60 sedan.

by on Jun.13, 2018

The 2019 Volvo S60 Polestar Engineered gets unique Brembo brakes, among other modifications.

Few brands have done more to try to transform their image in recent years than Volvo, and the new S60 T8 Polestar Engineered sedan should continue shifting the Swedish marque in its new direction.

The latest version of the S60 not only puts more of a premium on sporty styling but backs it up with a 415-horsepower engine. But that’s no ordinary powerplant. No V-8s or turbo-sixes for this new Volvo. It’s a Polestar-modified version of the carmaker’s T8 plug-in hybrid, the top-performing version of its all-four-cylinder line-up.

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“The new S60 T8 Polestar Engineered is an electrified car that does what you want it to,” said Volvo’s Senior Vice President of R&D Henrik Green. “All components have been fine-tuned to work together, delivering a responsive and exciting driver’s car.”

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Harvard Alchemists Want to Turn Air into Gasoline

Pilot plant already operating in British Columbia.

by on Jun.08, 2018

Is that gasoline in the making pouring out of those smokestacks?

A popular bible tale tells how water was turned into wine for thirsty wedding guests. And alchemists once hoped to turn lead and other base metals into gold. Now, a team of Harvard scientists say they’ve found a way to do something equally miraculous: transforming CO2 from the air we breathe into gasoline.

A new paper published this week in the scientific journal Joule says the Harvard University researchers, working with the Canadian energy company Carbon Engineering, have found a way to remove a metric ton of CO2 from the atmosphere for no more than $232, and possibly as little as $94. By using a little magic – and some limestone and hydrogen — that an alchemist would be proud of, the process can then yield new hydrocarbon fuels, such as gasoline or jet fuel.

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The basic concept, known as “direct air capture,” or DAC, has been around for some time. The problem has been finding a way to drop costs and then make it work on a large scale.

“Until now, research suggested it would cost $600 per ton…making it too expensive to be a feasible solution to removing legacy carbon at scale,” said Harvard Prof. David Keith in a statement. “We now have the data and engineering to prove that DAC can achieve costs below $100 per ton.”

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Volvo Hopes to Electrify Customers – and Investors

All-electric models now expected to generate half its sales by mid-2020s, with 1/3 self-driving.

by on Jun.08, 2018

The Volvo 40.2 Concept hints at what's coming with the marque's first all-electric vehicle.

Volvo took a lead in the push into electrification last year, announcing it would use some of battery-based drive system on all future products, whether mild, conventional or plug-in hybrids, or pure battery-electric. And, last January, it gave us a hint of what that first BEV would be with the debut of its 40.2 concept.

The production version will follow in 2019 and, if Volvo’s latest forecast is any indication, so will plenty of other all-electric models, as the Swedish automaker now says it wants them to generate half of its sales by mid-decade.

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The mid-term plan Volvo is laying out is nothing if not ambitious. It also predicts that half of the Chinese-owned automaker’s sales will come from self-driving vehicles, and that half of its volume will come through its Care by Volvo subscription service, rather than conventional sales and leasing. Oh, and add a goal of boosting volume – and profitability – to match other premium manufacturers.

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Freightliner Takes Aim at Tesla with Two Big EV Semis and a New E-Mobility Center

Daimler’s U.S. truck division will put first 30 into field tests this year.

by on Jun.07, 2018

The new Freightliner eCascadia and eM2 semis.

Freightliner, the U.S.-based truck subsidiary of Daimler AG, is taking direct aim at Tesla with the debut of two new battery-powered semis that it plans to begin fleet testing later this year.

The eCascadia and eM2 join a range of smaller delivery trucks that Freightliner and other Daimler truck brands have been rolling out over the last couple years. A number of major freight and delivery companies, ranging from UPS to PepsiCo, have expressed interest in the clean, fuel-efficient technology. That has drawn a number of vehicle manufacturers into the emerging field, including Volvo AB and Volkswagen AG, as well as Freightliner and Tesla.

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Daimler also plans to set up a new Automated Research and Development Center near Freightliner’s headquarters in Portland, as well as a new E-Mobility Group to help share technologies among its various truck brands.

“We are the undisputed global leader of the trucking industry and we intend to remain in that position with electric trucks and buses,” Daimler Trucks chief Martin Daum said in a statement.

That was echoed in a comment by Roger Nielsen, the president of Daimler Trucks North America, that took a clear shot at Tesla, a company that has not only never built a truck before but which has had major trouble meeting production targets and quality goals for its passenger vehicles. But it also underscored the fact that Daimler is taking Tesla’s imminent arrival in the truck market as seriously is it is the California company’s electric passenger car line-up.

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Hamburg, Germany Becomes 1st European City to Ban Older Diesels

Critics contend the limited restrictions may just move pollution.

by on Jun.01, 2018

Mercedes diesels were wildly popular in the 1970s and '80s, and they are welcome in Hamburg, Germany.

While a number of European cities have been considering ways to limit diesel pollution, Hamburg, Germany, this week becomes the first city to ban some older diesel-powered vehicles.

The move, in part triggered by revelations that Volkswagen and other manufacturers have cheated on emissions tests, could soon be followed by other cities in Germany and other parts of Europe. Meanwhile, VW and a number of other automakers are taking steps that signal decreasing dependence on diesel power, a technology once favored across Europe because of its energy efficiency.

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Hamburg’s initial move has disappointed some diesel critics, however, as it focuses only on some older, diesel-powered trucks traveling on two main sections of road in the northern German city. Some environmentalists contend the city is only moving pollution from one place to another by forcing those trucks to take alternative routes. (more…)

More Products, More Volume, Bigger Margins: FCA Lays Out Aggressive, 5-Year Growth Plan

Morning presentation outlines plans for Jeep, Ram, Maserati and Alfa Romeo brands.

by on Jun.01, 2018

The Ram TRX will be among the new models FCA will bring out over the coming five years.

(This story has been revised to update plans for Jeep’s pickup and a midsize pickup from Ram that, CEO Marchionne now says will come to the U.S. market.)

In a sweeping presentation designed to give analysts, investors, media and potential buyers a good look at its future, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles executives are spending a day detailing their plans for the company and its various brands.

At the midway mark, as they break for lunch, they’ve already lifted the kimono far enough to show what’s coming for the Jeep, Ram, Maserati and Alfa Romeo brands and, in a nutshell, it can be summed up as more products targeting lots more volume and much bigger margins.

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The new five-year plan will be the last crafted under the guidance of Sergio Marchionne, the 65-year-old executive who helped pull off the pairing of two struggling manufacturers to form Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. His third five-year plan, Marchionne stressed that “The true finish line is the one always yet to come.”

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