• Senate to vote on auto-industry whistleblower incentives

    February 28, 2015
    Legislation that outlines incentives for whistleblowers in the automotive industry has received unanimous support from a US Senate panel.
    The bill would make employees and contractors eligible for 30 percent of federal fines if they share information regarding undisclosed product defects or reporting violations.

    The measure has reportedly received support from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which sees a benefit in encouraging employees to internally report problems.

    “That is a good outcome for vehicle owners,” spokesman Wade Newton told Reuters.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last week called for more enforcement leverage to use against companies that do not comply with federal safety regulations. The agency wants fine caps to be raised from $35 million to at least $300 million.

    Both the NHTSA’s fine proposal and the whistleblower bill coincide with the ongoing investigation into Japanese supplier Takata. Former employees claim to have been aware of airbag inflator problems more than a decade ago, but were allegedly told to destroy test records. The company is currently being fined $14,000/day — the maximum allowed by law — until it complies with government document requests.

  • Cadillac to detail new V6 engine next month

    February 28, 2015
    Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen has revealed that the luxury brand will unveil a new range of V6 engines next month. The new line of V6s will debut in Cadillac’s upcoming CT6 flagship sedan.
    De Nysschen dropped the news during a Q&A session with Jalopnik earlier this week. Cadillac’s leading man didn’t give any more details on the new engine program, but promised more information in the coming days.

    “We have an entirely new family of V6 engines coming soon, premiering in CT6,” said de Nysschen. “We will release technical details of this next month.”

    Although we’ll have to wait on official specs, it’s believed that the CT6′s new bent-six will displace 3.0L and make use of twin-turbochargers. Power figures remain unknown, but the V6 should easily clear 300 horsepower.

    Following its debut in the CT6, the new V6 is expected to spread to other Cadillac models, replacing the brand’s current 3.6L V6.

    In addition to the new engine program, de Nysschen also revealed that Cadillac’s CUE infotainment system will get an overhaul for the 2016 model year, with an all-new version set to launch in a few years.

  • Chevrolet reflects on five Camaro generations

    February 28, 2015
    General Motors has reflected on five generations of the Chevrolet Camaro, with commentary from five designers who have contributed to the car’s design.
    GM global design VP Ed Welburn suggests the first-generation car “should not have been a design success,” as it was hurried to market and based on existing architecture, however it is now regarded as one of the best-looking cars of the era — particularly, for him, the 1969 model.

    “It was very lean and muscular, with comparatively minor embellishments for high-performance models,” he adds. “That was in contrast to some of the brasher competitors during the muscle car era, and it has helped the first-generation Camaro maintain timeless good looks.”

    Chevy trucks design director Ken Parkinson owns a ’68 Camaro, but he is partial to the second-generation model that lasted from 1970-1981.

    “For the first time, it was built on its own dedicated architecture, which gave the design team the freedom to create a pure expression,” Parkinson says. “What that team created was a powerful expression of American muscle, influenced by a European grand-touring aesthetic. There was simply nothing else like it.”

    Chevrolet car design director John Cafaro owns a Camaro of the third generation, described as a “cultural symbol of the 1980s” that marked the transition to a period of high-tech cultural trends.

    “This was a uniquely American design with a form developed for function – and its aggressive front-end styling was deemed almost too aggressive by some in the company,” he adds.

    Camaro exterior design manager Kirk Bennion still owns a fourth-generation Z28 that “still looks as sleek as anything on showroom floors today,” thank to its sculptural form.

    “Having a low front end was important to the design,” Bennion observes. “It really worked with the high deck lid rear spoiler to enhance the appearance of motion.”

    Camaro exterior design director Tom Peters suggests “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” as exemplified by enthusiasm for the fifth and current generation that arrived for the 2010 model year after an eight-year absence.

    “Distilling the timeless essence of the design and translating into a fresh, contemporary Camaro was a challenge,” he says. “The final design perfectly straddled that razor-sharp line between heritage and retro – and with five straight years at the top of the segment, clearly the fifth-generation Camaro connected with a whole new group of enthusiasts.”

    The world now awaits the sixth-generation Camaro, which may have been teased at the Detroit auto show. An evolutionary design transition is expected, keeping the same general form as the current model, but full details are not expected to be revealed until later this year.

  • GM to shutter Indonesia plant, restructure Thailand operations

    February 28, 2015
    General Motors is reportedly in the early stages of restructuring its Southeast Asia operations.
    The company plans to shutter a factory in Indonesia, after less than two years of production. The Bekasi plant near Jakarta had been staffed by 500 workers, tasked with building the Chevrolet Spin.

    A much larger factory is located in Thailand, where GM will significantly scale back production. The pullout is part of a broader effort to refocus on the Chevy Colorado, Trailblazer and Captiva SUVs in the region, rather than the Sonic and Spin.

    “We must accelerate the transformation of our operations in Southeast Asia, particularly Thailand given the sluggish domestic market demand, by implementing changes to increase customer satisfaction and our competitiveness, speed up all processes, and put us in a better position to achieve future growth,” said GM Southeast Asia president Tim Zimmerman.

    The company last year announced plans to cease Australia production operations, with a complete pullout by 2017. The global restructuring plans are expected to cost at least $700 million this year.

  • Japan’s automakers join forces to develop self-driving technology

    February 28, 2015
    Japan’s automakers have reportedly joined forces to develop self-driving technology.
    The government-led collaborative effort is said to include Honda, Nissan and Toyota, along local universities and suppliers such as Panasonic and Hitachi, according to a Nikkei report.

    The initiative is aimed at giving Japan an edge in the race to bring fully autonomous vehicles to the market by the end of the decade.

    Companies are expected to begin by standardizing software and sensors that will be central to all self-driving vehicles, potentially allowing the Japanese suppliers to catch up with German rival Bosch.

    The team approach will also likely include common test courses where all three automakers can put prototype vehicles through trials to refine the technology for production.

    The latest report claims Japanese officials are worried that the country could be put at a disadvantage if German or American automakers lead in developing industry standards for self-driving vehicles.

    Alongside Japan’s self-serving collaboration, the automakers are likely looking beyond their home country to develop autonomous cars. Nissan recently signed a five-year research-and-development agreement with NASA, and all of the companies will likely be using a global supply chain for the necessary sensors and other components.