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From the Editor

  • UK political farce will hit production

    June 26, 2017

    In early May, UK prime minister Theresa May called a snap general election believing she could both pummel the opposition Labour Party and gain a stronger hand in the upcoming negotiations with the EU over Brexit. In the end, neither “objective” was achieved and the country has a hung parliament and may well face another election in a few months’ time…

  • Travel blog: Getting hands on in Japan

    June 9, 2017

    Are traffic lights in public toilets strictly necessary? I would suggest they are a little redundant when the possession of at least one functioning eye can alert you to an available cubicle just as easily. Japan, however, is a nation so fussy about functionality that it takes automation to extremes, as I discovered during my research trip for our upcoming Asia-Pacific supplement. But how much automation is truly ideal?

  • EVs: The end of the beginning?

    June 7, 2017

    For some years, mainstream vehicle companies have largely toyed with producing electric vehicles (EVs); Ford, with its now-ended Focus Electric, and Volkswagen, with its Golf Electric, tested the market using existing vehicles fitted with first-generation electric powertrains. Nissan and Renault co-developed a purpose-built urban runaround (the Leaf and the Zoe), but sales of both models have been well below expectations, especially in Europe, and certainly not in the volumes required to generate a return on the investment in both product development and new production lines. However, during 2016 and especially since the start of 2017, things have begun to change…

  • Travel blog: Pressing business in Skodaville

    May 5, 2017

    I got lost in Mladá Boleslav. There are worse places to wander than this northern Czech city; the crumbling old buildings are characterful, the Bohemian castle is picturesque and the mountain air is, well, a breath of fresh air to a visitor from London still trailing noxious fumes. But I was in town to see Skoda’s shiny new press line and in a rush to get to the factory…

  • Do national brands matter any more?

    April 26, 2017

    While most of the trade press at the recent Geneva Motor Show was focused on PSA’s takeover of GM Europe, some interesting comments by Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne went almost unreported: he confirmed that the next Fiat Panda will be made in Poland and that the company’s Italian factories will focus mainly on high-margin Alfa Romeos and Maseratis. Over three-quarters of Fiat vehicles sold in Europe will soon be made outside Italy…

  • After PSA and Opel, who’s next?

    March 23, 2017

    The acquisition of Opel/Vauxhall by PSA, which should be complete by the end of this year, took the industry by surprise. With Opel/Vauxhall still losing money in Q3 2016, most observers assumed that GM would simply close one or more plants, as on previous occasions, so the idea of the company actually withdrawing from European vehicle manufacturing after 90 years was a shock. As the industry absorbed the news and assessed its implications, it was not long before discussion turned to what might be the next move in terms of industry consolidation…

  • It’s time to get personal

    March 14, 2017

    The advent of 3D printing has set the industry’s imagination racing with regard to how far this innovative technology could actually push technological boundaries, particularly concerning personalisation. We all love choosing the colour scheme, upholstery, wheels and trims for our new cars, so how great would it be if your local dealership could offer customised spoilers, consoles or dashboards? You won’t need to imagine for much longer, it seems…

  • PSA and Opel? Why, Carlos… why?

    February 15, 2017

    Periodically, the car industry goes through a burst of rationalisation, with companies closing plants and merging or creating alliances. This is typically accompanied by a flood of headlines and stories about the need for structural change, realignment in the industry and so forth. It has happened before and will happen again…

  • The Trump factor

    January 12, 2017

    Donald Trump has arguably had more impact on manufacturing strategy than any US president in a very long time; and that is even before he has taken office. During his election campaign he lambasted US vehicle-makers, especially Ford, for building cars in Mexico, threatening to rip up the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and to impose “a big border tax” on Mexican-made vehicles being sold in the US. At the time, he was dismissed as not understanding the industry and the car companies continued expanding in Mexico. Although there was parallel investment in the US, this did not detract from the Trump narrative that American jobs were being lost to Mexico…

  • Reality check for tech

    January 5, 2017

    In 2015, Samsung Electronics set up a team specifically to look at ways of penetrating the automotive industry. The South Korean tech giant was seeking to gain a firm foothold in an automotive electronics market that it predicted would grow to more than $100 billion in the next decade. Towards the end of last year, Samsung began to act on those ambitions. The group announced a deal to buy the US car infotainment and audio company Harman, valued at about $8 billion. According to the Financial Times, this is Samsung’s biggest acquisition to date…