FCA Italy and Groupe PSA are building together commercial vehicles since four decades, and will continue!

In this Sevel Sud factory, Fiat Ducato, Citroën Jumper and Peugeot Boxer are built on the same assembly line…

Did you know that in the Light Commercial Vehicle segment, Fiat and Peugeot/Citroën are long lasting friends? Did you know that the Citroën Jumper and the Peugeot Boxer are rolling shoulder to shoulder with the Fiat Ducato from the same production lines since decades in the Sevel plant, inaugurated in 1981 in Val di Sangro (Atessa Italy)?

FCA Italy and Groupe PSA have signed an agreement to extend until 2023 their successful LCV cooperation, which started not less than 40 years ago.

This new agreement also includes continued manufacture by the JV of Fiat Ducato, Peugeot Boxer and Citroën Jumper large vans as well as additional versions to cover the needs of Opel and Vauxhall brands.    

The agreement also foresees the complementary use of Groupe PSA manufacturing capacity to assemble certain versions of the large vans for the Peugeot, Citroën, Opel and Vauxhall brands in the medium-term.

The Sevel Sud factory…

To soon to tell what will happen with the larger LCV Opel model range now. The Opel Movano was actually a version of the Renault Master, but now has to find a new (Ducato/Boxer/Jumper?) platform, as the cooperation with Renault has been ended on amicable terms.

The Sevel (from Società Europea Veicoli Leggeri) plant, was inaugurated in 1981 in Val di Sangro ( in Atessa Italy), and has now a surface area of more than 1.2 million square meters and employs around 6,200 employees. It is now the biggest and most flexible light commercial vehicle plant in Europe.  

It started production of the Ducato in ‘81, together with the Peugeot J5 and the Citroën C25. In also included in those days the Talbot Express and the Alfa Romeo AR6 on the same technical platform basis. This first generation lasted until 1993, followed then by further generations of Ducato, Jumper and Boxer until today.   

The plant also houses an on-site Academy, a center of excellence where employees have the opportunity to receive training and improve their skills, as well as to undertake simulations and create innovation.

Astonishing all this, and we show you here some photos of the plant. We are keen to know more about the further electrification of LCV family built in Sevel Sud, and whether besides the E-Ducato, where FCA now focuses on, there will be other larger LCVs which will also be electrified on this basis.

For the moment, too soon to tell, according to the dynamic PR people of FCA Belgium. We keep you posted on further synergies and further steps in adopting E-power to their LCV’s!  

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The visit to the Centro Stile of the FCA Group in Turin proved immensely interesting…

We had long and in depth conversations with FCA Group Chief Designer Klaus Busse and his team…

What we saw and heard on our visit to the Torino based Centro Stile was nothing short of absolutely stunning. We had long and in depth conversations with FCA Group head of design Klaus Busse and his team, both from Alfa Romeo and Fiat styling.

The beautiful instrumentation and interior of the Tonale, with Klaus Busse watching in the background…

Needless to say that we are the coming days eager to report on all this extensively, and indeed you can expect to read our findings in several reports…

Alfa DNA styling revived on the drawing boards provides the mould for the new Tonale design…

The next few photos just lift a tip of the veil of the vast material we collected and photographed…

Rewriting democratic mobility and opening many new doors in design: the Centoventi Fiat

We just want to thank here the magnificent efforts of the dynamic PR team of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Belgium, notably Dominique Fontignies, PR & Communication Director and Wim Willems, Press Officer, for sharing the knowledge of these experts and their creations with us.  

Full of revolutionary, practical solutions: the interior of the Centoventi…

Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Toyota grants free licenses on its 24,000 patents for electrified vehicle technologies

Toyota/Lexus hybrid technology is state of the art. Others can now also make use of it…

Toyota surprised us all this week with a very responsable and admirable move. It announced this week that it will grant royalty-free licenses on nearly 24,000 patents it holds (including some pending applications) for vehicle electrification-related technologies. Considering the amount of time, money and resources needed to develop sustainable mobility to help combat rising emissions and continuing to utilize currently available technology, Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota) announced this measure related to its patents and technical knowledge to further promote the widespread use of electrified vehicles.

A power control unit… the result of Toyota/Lexus expertise

But that is not all. Toyota will as a second, also most important measure provide fee-based technical support to other manufacturers developing and selling electrified vehicles when they use Toyota’s motors, batteries, PCUs, control ECUs, and other vehicle electrification system technologies as part of their powertrain systems.

Ultimately, by granting royalty-free patents and providing technical support on its vehicle electrification systems, Toyota aims to help further promote the widespread use of electrified vehicles, and in so doing, help governments, automakers, and society at large accomplish goals related to climate change.

Patents include electric motors…

More specifically, the patents included are for parts and systems, such as electric motors, power control units (PCUs), and system controls. These are core technologies that can be applied to the development of various types of electrified vehicles including HEVs, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV). Together, Toyota will offer approximately 23,740 patents awarded over more than 20 years of electrified vehicle technology development. The grant period will start immediately and last through the end of 2030. Contracts for the grants may be issued by contacting Toyota and discussing specific licensing terms and conditions.

Brave new world, and Toyota is setting (also) the pace… The company will continue the development and diversification of electrified vehicles as it now turns its sights to include the mass production of battery electric vehicles from 2020, starting in China and India, followed by Japan, the United States and Europe.

The efforts to improve and increase the diversity of electrified power train options is tied directly to Toyota’s ‘Environmental Challenge 2050’, wherein the company aims to achieve annual electrified vehicle sales of 5.5 million units by 2030, as announced in December 2017. To achieve its goal, Toyota unveiled plans to have 10 BEV models available worldwide by the early 2020s, and from around 2025, the company aims to have an electrified version available for all vehicle models across its global lineup. Granting royalty-free patents and providing technical support is an important additional step…which can only be applauded.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Volker Germann is new Managing Director of Audi Brussels…

Audi Brussels has undergone a total transformation over the last three years in becoming the production site for the Audi e-tron 55 Quattro, and you can read more about this plant in our columns here.

The front e-engine of the Audi e-tron is put in place on the front axle on the Audi Brussels production line…

At the helm of this rebirth stood Patrick Danau, and with his team he made the factory in the heart of Europe into a leading plant for electric mobility. This was his final challenge and crown on his long and successful career, as he celebrated his retirement last week.

On this photo, from left to right: Christoph Herzig, General Director Finance, Volker Germann, new Managing Director, Patrick Danau, former Managing Director, Eric Prieels, General Director HR.

The graduate engineer had known the Brussels plant since 1978, when he began his career in the assembly section of the former VW plant in Brussels. After numerous positions in Group companies around the world, Danau found his way back to Brussels in 2014, where he worked for the past five years as General Director for Production, Technology and Logistics and Spokesperson of the Management. “For me, my professional life has come full circle: I am now ending my career where everything started for me more than 40 years ago. I could not have imagined a better conclusion at the end of my career than the production of the Audi e-tron.”

A new director with a vast international experience, spanning from Brazil to China…

Volker Germann is now the new managing director at Audi Brussels. Within the executive board of Audi Brussels, Volker Germann will hold the positions of General Director for Production, Technology and Logistics and Spokesperson of the Management.

“With Volker Germann, a proven production expert with great international experience has come to the Brussels site. We are delighted that we have been able to gain him for this task,” says Peter Kössler, Chairman of the Administrative Board of Audi Brussels and Member of the Board of Management for Production and Logistics at AUDI AG.

Germann has been working successfully for the Volkswagen Group and Audi for many years. He has a acquired a vast international experience. He graduated in engineering at the College of Technology in Mannheim and began his career in 1986 as an employee in central planning for painting and assembly at VW. But in 2009 already, the distant horizons called, and he became managing director at VW do Brasil in Curitiba. In 2016, Volker Germann became managing director of the FAW-Volkswagen joint venture in Changchun, China. The Audi A4 L, Audi A6 L, Audi A6 L e-tron, Audi Q3 and Audi Q5 L model series are built for the Chinese market in that city, which has a population of approximately seven million.

Germann is now looking forward to the new professional challenge in the European capital: “The Brussels plant is currently carrying out one of the most important ramp-ups at Audi. Under the leadership of Patrick Danau, the factory has prepared itself optimally for this task. I am happy to be able to help shape the dawn of the age of e-mobility and the production of vehicles with completely new drive technology. I am now part of the team that is putting the Audi e-tron on the road with great passion and skill.”

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Audi Brussels: where the Audi e-tron is built…

Audi Brussels, assembly: The Audi e-tron at the finish line (checkpoint 8)

Your servant will soon be your regular guide at the Brussels Audi site where the formidable Audi e-tron 55 quattro rolls of the production line. I will explain you in four languages, English, German, French and Dutch in a 2,5 hour factory tour all you want to know about the production of this formidable all-electric car. Soon you can start booking me (and my colleagues) on this tour, I will keep you posted when registration starts.

The entrance of the Audi Brussels site…

But in the meantime, in these columns I tell you already somewhat more about the Brussels factory; In further reports I tell you somewhat more about the Audi production techniques building the big Audi e-tron.

Of course, this series about the ins and outs of Audi e-tron production is also an occasion to start with a regular column about car factories of different brands and the way they build their cars. So stay posted!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Audi Brussels, battery assembly: Running highvoltage cable

In Brussels, the e-future has begun…

Since fall 2018, Audi Brussels has been producing the first fully electric SUV from the brand with the four rings exclusively for the world market. Actually, volume production of the Audi e-tron began on September 3, 2018. Designing and producing the e-tron led Audi to establish numerous in house competencies and it indeed has developed both the battery technology and the drive by itself.

Also the Brussels factory was on a learning curve. The employees in Brussels received a total of over 200,000 hours of training to build the first fully electric Audi. Employees have replanned and implemented many production steps in production. Since summer 2016, the plant has comprehensively remodeled the body shop, paint shop and assembly shop step by step and has established its own battery manufacturing facility. With the intention of developing the Brussels plant further into a key component of the Audi production network, Audi has optimized the plant’s processes in accordance with the Audi Production System (APS).

Audi Brussels, paint shop: Applying waterbased filler, which is here dryed for 30 minutes at 160 degrees…

Major features of the APS are group work and continuous improvement processes. To improve the process chains, Audi has closely integrated the external suppliers and service providers into the production process. Short throughput times in production, low inventories and a high proportion of added value are the objectives on which Audi Brussels focuses.

In addition to a body shop, assembly shop and paint shop, Audi Brussels also has a modern Analysis and Pre-Series Center. This links the areas of Production and Technical Development, ensuring the high quality of the Audi e-tron.

Audi Brussels, body shop: Fabrication of battery housing with deep-drawn battery tray.

The Brussels site also has its own battery manufacturing facility to support production of the battery-electric SUV. This makes it the key plant for electric mobility within the Audi Group

Carbon neutral…

The Brussels plant is the first in the world with certified carbon-neutral volume production in the premium segment. Audi Brussels compensates for all emissions that occur during production and at the location. This takes place predominantly through renewable energy but also through environmental projects. At Audi, environmental protection is part of the corporate strategy. This applies to technology as well as to the production processes.

Audi Brussels: aerial view of the CO2-neutral site. Push Ctrl + to enlarge and read the captions…

The most stringent of environmental standards are applied at the Audi Brussels site. In 2013, the Brussels region recognized the plant as an “eco-dynamic company” – a regional environmental certification that is awarded every three years. Audi Brussels was awarded the highest rating of three stars. Since 2001, the Brussels site has also been certified according to the environmental audit of the European Commission (EMAS: Eco-Management and Audit Scheme). Audi Brussels installed a photovoltaic system with a total area of 37,000 square meters at the site. As a result, Audi Brussels operates the largest photovoltaic system in Brussels and generates more than 3,000 megawatt hours of electricity per year and saves around 700 metric tons of CO2.

In late 2016, the plant received the Business Award from the weekly magazine Trends. Audi Brussels was chosen as Belgium’s most ecological company. The production of the first electric car of the Audi brand will be carbon-neutral from the start of production in the Brussels plant. To achieve this, Audi Brussels will procure green electricity and purchase biogas certificates to make its heat-generation activities carbon neutral. There are also compensation projects for emissions produced in part by the company’s own fleet. Independent experts have certified the carbon-neutrality.

…and a bit of history

On August 1, 2018, the last Audi A1 of the first generation rolled off production line in Brussels. Since May 2010, a total of just under 910,000 units of the Audi A1 have been produced in Brussels. The successor model to the Audi A1 is now built in Martorell, Spain.

From 2010 to 2018 Audi has produced the Audi A1 family exclusively in the European capital. In 2017, approximately 95,284 automobiles drove off the production line there. Audi transferred production of the new Audi A1 to Martorell in Spain.

The plant in Brussels will turn 70 this year. On April 7, 1949, the first vehicle rolled off the production line there. The Audi A1 was the first model in the plant’s 70-year history to be produced exclusively in the European capital. Before the plant was taken over by AUDI AG in 2007, it had belonged to Volkswagen AG since 1970, producing various models of the Volkswagen Group. Since belonging to AUDI AG, the Brussels facility has assumed an important role in the Audi Group, and it now employs around 3,000 people. The start of production of the Audi A1 in 2010 marked the beginning of a new era. Audi Brussels expanded its production in 2011 with the addition of the Audi A1 Sportback and in 2014 with the Audi S1 and Audi S1 Sportback. In 2012, Audi Brussels produced the Audi A1 quattro as a special limited edition model.

Dual learning and focus on employees…

Audi Brussels cooperates closely with the trade unions. In a letter of intent from 2007, management and the trade unions jointly defined the framework conditions for good cooperation. One important component is the working time account system used at Audi Brussels since 2010. It offers the company and its employees much more flexibility. Audi Brussels awarded with the title of “Top Employer” for the fourth time in a row.

Audi also invests in education and training. Dual education allows the students of the two partner schools to complete part of their training on location at the company. Here, Audi Brussels cooperates with the Flemish school “GO! TA Halle” and the francophone school “Don Bosco Woluwé Saint-Pierre.” The project gives students the opportunity to gain more practical experience during their training. Another goal is to convince more young people in Belgium to choose an attractive technical apprenticeship.

Peter Kössler, Board of Management Member for Production and Logistics at AUDI AG and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Audi Brussels (on the right), peers the first Audi e-tron models from series production. He is accompanied by Patrick Danau, Managing Director of Audi Brussels.

Audi Brussels currently employs 2,756 employees (as of December 31, 2018), Of these employees, 940 work in production-related areas, while 1,816 employees work directly in production. With an average age of 44.7 years, the employees have worked an average of 18.6 years at Audi Brussels. The three working languages are French, Dutch and German. In December, Audi Brussels was awarded the “Diversity Label 2018” of the Brussels-Capital Region. The award, which was started in 2008 by the Brussels employment office supports companies in the fight against discrimination. To obtain the Label, Audi Brussels developed a “diversity plan” and implemented it.

Audi Brussels focuses on the employees, which the plant’s own health center shows. It offers a prevention program for the entire workforce: the Audi Check-Up. Experienced nurses and doctors work to maintain and improve the employees’ health and help to recognize any risk factors at an early stage and to counteract them.

Excellent logistiscs are the key to success…

Audi Brussels: Driverless transport systems bring the components to the point of installation

Automotive Park logistics and supplier center Automotive Park, the state-of-the-art logistics and supplier center, is connected with the assembly shops by a 450 meter long bridge. It provides the infrastructure for efficient processes in the supply of materials to the Brussels plant. Every day, trucks and trains deliver 5,000 parts and components from 457 suppliers. Due to the close integration of external suppliers with the plant’s internal logistics processes, productivity is further boosted on a sustained basis.

As said, in the next reports I will tell you more about the actual production techniques and processes of the Audi e-tron. Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

BMW and Daimler cooperate on automated driving…

 

(Premium) car manufacturers, unite: recently, BMW and Daimler announced in Berlin that they are launching five joint ventures that will offer mobility services such as solutions for car sharing, the search for parking spaces, and many more.

On February 28, the two manufacturers announced their intention to enter into a second new partnership. Daimler is planning to work together with BMW in the future on the next technology generation for driving assistance systems and on systems that enable conditionally automated driving on highways and automated parking functions. Why does this alliance make sense? The answer is simple: Because automated driving is a future-oriented technology that will radically transform our industry — and because in the long run we will be not only stronger but also more successful as partners than we would be alone.

What is already possible today: partial automation

The vision of autonomous driving is not only as old as the automobile itself — it’s also a central component of the strategy at Daimler. The vehicles you can see at your Mercedes-Benz dealer today can already do a great deal. Thanks to the Daimler active distance assistant DISTRONIC, the active steering assistant, the active lane-change assistant, and many other innovations, Daimler has already come very close to our goal of automated driving.

By means of currently available systems, a Mercedes-Benz can, for example, maintain the correct distance to vehicles ahead and drive partially automated on highways and country roads, as well as in cities. These systems also assist the driver with lane changes, evasive manoeuvres, and braking. And many models can be driven in and out of parking spaces via remote control from a smartphone — with the Remote Parking Assist.

At Mercedes-Benz, these features are called Intelligent Drive. With this, they have reached the level that engineers call SAE Level 2 or “partial automation.” This means that the car can already react automatically in many predefined situations — however, a human driver must always monitor traffic as well as the vehicle’s surroundings and be ready to react if necessary.

But above all, they have learned that the development of these systems is a bit like climbing a mountain. Taking the first few meters from the base station to the summit seems easy. But the closer you come to the goal, the thinner the air around you becomes, the more strength is required for each further step, and the more complex become the challenges you have to resolve in order to make progress.

From Level 3 to the summit

Further progress can be made more successfully and efficiently if the manufacturers are not alone. Daimler also believes that BMW is the perfect partner. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that Daimler has now signed, deals with the development of several automation stages up to Level 4. Level 4 means “high automation”: The driver does not even need to be ready to take over control of the vehicle — he or she could even be sleeping. The aim of our partnership is to develop systems that make automated driving scalable and take it to the next level in a variety of contexts — in China and in the USA as well as on the German Autobahn A8, which connects the BMW Tower in Munich with the Mercedes headquarters in Stuttgart.

A shared platform instead of isolated solutions

One thing is clear: BMW and Mercedes-Benz are competitors. The partnership will not become a new joint venture. Instead, we are planning to work together with BMW to develop a scalable and reliable platform that will bring optimal benefits to the customers of both brands. As part of this cooperative venture, we are also open to further partnerships that can contribute to the success of this platform.

It makes sense to distribute the technological and financial challenges of automated driving across a number of shoulders. It’s also clear that other existing partnerships and ongoing projects are not affected by intended cooperation between BMW and Daimler. For example, as Daimler has planned and already announced within the framework of our cooperation with Bosch, this year we will launch the first pilot for testing self-driving vehicles (Level 4/5) in urban surroundings in San José in Silicon Valley.

A long tradition of development at both manufacturers…

In spite of all the differences between BMW and Mercedes-Benz, they are also similar in many areas. For example, the men and women from Munich also have many years of experience in the areas of driving assistance and automated driving. BMW has worked on highly automated driving for a long time, and opened its Autonomous Driving Campus in Unterschleißheim – a suburb of Munich – in 2017, where BMW is consolidating all of its areas of expertise related to automated driving. The automation technology that the experts there are now working on will go into series production for the first time in the BMW iNEXT model in 2021.

At Daimler, long a leader in active safety systems, it programmed its systems largely in-house right from the very beginning. 2019 will see the launch in San José, Silicon Valley, of its first pilot programme, with Bosch, on self-driving vehicles (Levels 4/5) in urban environments. This will be the next milestone within the existing cooperation between both partners and the cooperation will continue as planned. Early next decade, Daimler will bring to the market not only highly automated (Level 3) vehicles but also fully automated (Level 4/5) vehicles. It is the only to the OEM in the world to be so well-positioned to apply autonomous driving in every relevant context, from passenger cars and vans to buses and trucks, and is therefore relying on scalable solutions to deliver automated driving.

The Memorandum of Understanding ensures that BMW and Daimler will pass the next milestone on the road to automated driving together. Their goal is to make the new technology generation available to our customers as early as the mid-2020s. It is all only logical: the suppliers who develop and produce elements of this automated driving architecture are for both manufacturers roughly the same… and it is crucial for these supplier/manufacturers to develop a broad (home) basis for their global ambitions…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

Magnetti Marelli: the breathtaking story of automotive genius…

At the presentation of the latest Jeep Wrangler in Austria, we had an elegant and interesting conversation with Cristina Calasso, Marketing Communication Product Marketing at Magneti Marelli, who lifted for us a veil of the magnificent activities and interesting history of Magneti Marelli, a company which stood at the cradle of the automobile.

A Marelli Magneto built in the ’20s. 

She brought us also into contact with her colleague, press contact Maurizio Scrignari, and we subsequently asked him more about the history and growth of the company. So watch out in our column for more about all this soon…

Magneti Marelli is now an important producer with headquarters in Reutlingen, Germany, dedicated to the development, production and sale of automotive exterior lighting products for all major OEMs worldwide. 

All this fits into a new and interesting path we want to walk with you dear reader, into the world of the supplier’s industry. We all know that supplier firms co-engineer and make (up) more than 50 % of our modern cars, yet we pay only scant attention to them. All the more reason to open for you these new horizons on our coveted site.

In this column we start with telling you somewhat more about the actual involvement of Magneti Marelli in the engineering and production of the latest generation Jeep Wrangler…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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