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GM recalling nearly 800,000 pickup trucks worldwide

Reuters  /  August 4, 2017

WASHINGTON -- General Motors is recalling nearly 800,000 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 pickup trucks worldwide that could lose power steering, according to documents made public Friday.

The largest U.S. automaker said the 2014 model year trucks could suffer a temporary loss of electric power steering, especially during low-speed turning maneuvers, according to documents disclosed Friday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The recall includes about 690,000 vehicles in the U.S., 80,000 in Canada and around 25,000 in other markets. GM dealers will reflash the vehicle's software to address the defect.

GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson did not have any details on whether crashes or injuries are connected to the recall.

GM told regulators that before the 2015 model year it made a series of changes to address potential sources of temporary low voltage conditions that disable the power steering. GM has not said when dealers will begin repairing vehicles. 

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Chevrolet celebrates 100 years of making pickups with special edition Silverado and Colorado

Automotive News  /  September 28, 2017

DALLAS -- Chevrolet is adding two special edition trucks to its lineup this fall to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first Chevy pickup.

The Centennial Edition of the full-size Silverado arrives in October. It will be joined in November by the Centennial Edition of the Colorado midsize pickup. Both are premium trucks. The Silverado Centennial Edition is available only on crew cab trucks ordered with the LTZ Z71 trim package. The Colorado Centennial Edition is available on extended cab or crew cab pickups ordered with the Z71 trim package.

Both trucks, shown for the first time Thursday at a media preview at the State Fair of Texas, sport retro-themed Chevrolet "bow tie" badges, larger wheels, spray-in bedliners, special chrome trim, a custom Centennial Blue paint job and several other cosmetic tweaks.

Chevrolet's first pickups weren't generally available to the public. They were cobbled together from car parts and used to lug heavy equipment and parts around plants, but by 1918, Chevrolet realized there was a market for such a vehicle and launched the 490 Light Delivery -- which looked like a car with the rear half of the body removed.

Since 1918, Chevrolet has sold more than 85 million pickups.

The Centennial Edition Silverado is likely the last special edition of the current-generation pickup, which went on sale in 2013 as a 2014 model. A lighter-weight Silverado, to be built using General Motors' mixed-material manufacturing system that mixes steel, aluminum and magnesium, is expected to debut next year as a 2019 model.

GM gave its new manufacturing system a test run on the Cadillac CT6 sedan, which, when it debuted, was not only the lightest car in the full-size sedan class but also in the midsize class.

Ford whacked as much as 600 pounds off the F-150 when it switched to an aluminum body in late 2014. Since then, Ford has increased its aluminum-bodied offerings to include the Super Duty pickups and the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs.

The debut of the Centennial Edition pickups kicks off a celebration of Chevy trucks that is scheduled to conclude Dec. 16 at the Texas Motor Speedway.

"Both vehicles offer our most enthusiastic fans a way to demonstrate their love for Chevy Trucks and celebrate the Chevy Trucks Centennial with us," said Chevrolet Trucks director of exterior design Rich Scheer.

Photo gallery - http://www.autonews.com/article/20170928/RETAIL03/170929788/chevy-silverado-centennial-variant-texas


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Chevy Celebrates 100 Years of Iconic Truck Design

General Motors Press Release  /  September 28, 2017

DALLAS — One hundred years ago, Chevrolet introduced the 1918 One-Ton, setting the stage for a century of iconic trucks. To commemorate this milestone, the brand is looking back on 10 of the most iconic designs in Chevy truck history.

While Chevrolet truck design has changed radically over the past 100 years, one thing has always been true: Form has followed function as the trucks evolved to meet the customers’ changing needs.

“Today, the Chevrolet truck design studio is focused on purposeful design that creates personality and customization options for a wide breadth of truck customers,” said Rich Scheer, director of Exterior Design for Chevy Trucks. “Looking back on the past century of truck design, I realized that Chevrolet designers have been focused on the same goals since the very beginning.” 

Here are 10 of the most iconic Chevy trucks in the past 100 years, along with a design perspective for each from Scheer:

  • 1918 One-Ton: The first production truck from Chevrolet was inspired by vehicles used in plants to move parts and pieces from place to place. In the simplest terms, this is an example of form follows function. It was a rolling chassis featuring an open cab, an inline four-cylinder engine and an open frame allowing customers to install the body that fit their unique needs. One striking design element is the beautiful badge, which was clearly a designed element of this truck. The font, the proportions and the dark blue, almost black color make a very sophisticated bowtie, even by today’s standards.
  • 1929 International Series LD: The 1929 was the first Chevrolet truck to feature a closed cab, which created the potential for what we know as interior design today. As with all designs, once the functional elements were defined, more comfort- and style-focused features started to become important for truck buyers. It’s amazing how fast they went from the purpose-built 1918 truck to a more styled, closed-cab truck. This is also the time when we started to introduce color. The color combinations on Chevrolet cars and trucks from this period are something I still love today.
  • 1938 Half-Ton: This was the first truck designed in the newly formed Art and Colour department, which was later to be known as Design Center, by Harley Earl and his team. (Earl became GM’s first design chief.) This year also saw the designs of cars and trucks deviate, as Design realized the need for trucks to have their own identity. As such, it is arguably the first example of Design’s influence on trucks. The proportions really evolved from the earlier designs, creating a lower and longer truck with a styled grille and elegant, swept fenders.
  • 1947 3100 Series: This is one of the most iconic designs in automotive history. If you mention a vintage Chevy truck, I think almost everyone will picture this model in their mind. It was such a departure, advertisers coined the phrase “Advance Design,” because it was bigger, stronger and sleeker than ever before. The five-bar horizontal grille is a departure from vertical grilles of the past and was the very beginning of what became a signature of Chevrolet truck design. You can see that the fenders are more integrated and the lamps are on the wide part of the vehicle instead of inboard, giving it a wider, stronger presence. The result is very handsome design with great proportions.
  • 1955 3124 Series Cameo Carrier: Known as the Task Force truck, the Cameo Carrier is Chevy’s first Fleetside design. The bed surface is flush with the cab and fender, making for one complete, elegant shape from front to back. It was also Chevrolet’s first bumper-to-bumper styled truck, as styling didn’t stop at the back of the cab. During this time, styling became a selling point for cars, inspiring more focus on design for trucks as well. This was definitely the heyday of American automotive styling and ornamentation.
  • 1967 C10 Fleetside: This is the first truck that I really fell in love with. It’s a beautiful, sleek design with a hint of wheel flare. I also really appreciate the line that flows away from the top of the bed line and the beautiful balance with the front of the vehicle. This is a feature that can easily go wrong, but the designers of the time did it so right. The body side has a strong shoulder that tapers toward the rear. The Chevrolet bar on the front fascia connects the headlamp center with the bowtie — a design element that is still consistent today. This time period is also when metallic paint was introduced, which highlighted the subtleties and body lines that weren’t as obvious before.
  • 1973 C30 One-Ton Dually: This third-generation C/K square-body truck was the first crew cab dually to market, and many consider it to be the first modern Heavy Duty Truck. The design reflects a dramatic increase in capability for customers who used their trucks for both work and recreation. It is simple, tough and purposeful, similar to the earliest Chevrolet trucks.
  • 1988 C/K1500: The C/K1500 was the first truck design influenced by aerodynamics. This generation had great design reach, meaning it looked very advanced for its time. That is especially true for the new interior design, with a low instrument panel, pod-like setup and even buttons that looked futuristic. This truck still looks modern and sophisticated 40 years later.
  • 1999 Silverado 1500 LT Z71: This was the first generation that used the Silverado nameplate. It also introduced many of the modern design elements that customers associate with current Chevy truck design, especially the iconic Chevrolet front end.  
  • 2007 Silverado 1500: The 2007 Silverado is simple, modern and powerful, featuring exaggerated wheel flares and a clean body side. It’s another evolution for Chevrolet trucks in creating their own identity on the road, with distinctive front and rear ends. This truck brought back the “tough truck” look and feel, even though it was still heavily influenced by aerodynamics.


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General Motors believes in an all-electric future

Automotive News  /  October 2, 2017

DETROIT -- General Motors said it plans to launch a mix of at least 20 new all-electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles globally by 2023, including two in the next 18 months.

The all-electric and fuel cell vehicles represent a "two-pronged" approach to the automaker's vision of an autonomous, zero-emission future that was recently announced by GM CEO Mary Barra.

At least the first two new vehicles will be based off the current Chevrolet Bolt EV architecture, while future ones will feature an "all-new battery system" and architecture that GM briefly previewed Monday at its TechnicalCenter in Warren, Mich., near Detroit.

GM declined to provide specific details about the next-generation propulsion system or what vehicles will become electrified.

The new vehicles announced Monday were built "from the ground up," according to Pam Fletcher, GM executive chief engineer of autonomous & electrified vehicles and new technology.

"This is just a taste of what's to come over the next months and years," she said. "The story is more than just what you can see; it's also about what's under the skin."

GM’s electrified “future will be profitable,” according to Mark Reuss, GM executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain. He did not elaborate on a time frame for that profitability or when the automaker could exclusively offer zero emissions vehicles.

“General Motors believes the future is all-electric. A world free of automotive emissions,” Reuss said. “These aren’t just words in a war of press releases. We are far along in our plan to lead the way to that future world.”

On Wall Street, GM shares gained 4.4 percent to close at $42.15 -- GM's all-time high closing price since the reorganized company started trading its stock in November 2010. 

Click here for the General Motors press release

New vehicles

Three clay models of vehicles designed for the next-generation propulsion system that were previewed Monday included a Buick crossover, Cadillac wagon and a pod-looking vehicle with "Bolt EV" badging. They were designed for the next-generation EV architecture, which includes two different heights of cells for the battery pack.

"These three vehicles demonstrate why that height difference is important," Reuss said. "You can do different H-points, you can do different roof lines and you can do different range capabilities and different performance."

Another six vehicles were kept under sheets at the automaker's Design Dome in Warren. All -- except one that appeared to have the silhouette of a Chevrolet Corvette -- looked to be crossovers or SUVs.

Fletcher said GM is planning to introduce the new vehicles in key, hot-selling segments such as crossovers and SUVs.

She also added that GM will help with “accelerating” the deployment of rapid-charging stations for its customers. There are currently more than 1,100 available publicly to GM customers in the U.S. She declined to provide further details, citing more details “to come soon.”

“We’re serious about battery electric vehicles,” she said. “It’s a critical cornerstone of how we, General Motors, are going to lead the way to a world of zero emissions.”

Fuel cells

GM’s Brownstown Battery Assembly plant south of Detroit is to begin producing a fuel cell system through a previously announced joint venture with Honda Motor Co. in 2020.

The automaker also introduced SURUS (Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure), a fuel cell powered, four-wheel concept based on a heavy-duty truck frame that's driven by two electric motors. It features autonomous capabilities, according to the automaker.

Charles Freese, GM executive director of global fuel cell business, said SURUS is designed for a “wide range of applications,” including freight and emergency rescue vehicles such as ambulances and military vehicles for disaster relief efforts.

“This is our commercial fuel cell solution that we think will solve real-world, near-term problems,” he said, later adding it can “reduce human exposure to harm.”

The platform is powered by GM’s newest fuel cell system. It features instantaneous high-torque, exportable power and can even produce its own water, according to Freese.

Meanwhile, Ford CEO Jim Hackett is expected to offer at some initial solutions for Ford's plans for autonomous vehicles and electrification when he briefs analysts and investors Tuesday in New York. Ford said earlier Monday it expects to go beyond the 13 EVs it has already planned for the next five years.


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I would like any of the manufacturers post an emissions/ environmental impact statement on the difference in manufacturing, recharge power generation and storage system recycling of a "green" vehicle as opposed to a conventional ICP vehicle.    Paul

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 “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘Holy shit, what a ride!’


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GM to combine Asian, Latin American operations as it ramps up electric

Automotive News  /  October 3, 2017

BEIJING -- General Motors said on Tuesday it will combine operations outside of China and North America into a new organization based in Detroit, further scaling back its presence in money-losing markets as it ramps up spending on electric vehicles.

GM said the Detroit automaker will combine the leadership of its International region, which includes Southeast Asia, India and Oceania, with its South America region, effective Jan. 1, 2018. The new company will be led by Barry Engle, currently GM executive vice president and president of GM South America.

Engle will be based in Detroit and report to GM President Dan Ammann. Engle joined GM in September 2015.

GM's Latin American and Asia/Pacific operations both lost money in 2016, excluding profits from GM's operations in China.

“Our strategy (is) to refocus our traditional business operations to free up the resources and financial power needed to really step into the next chapter of the automotive industry,” Stefan Jacoby, executive vice president of GM's International Operations told Reuters. Jacoby will retire at the end of this year.

On Monday GM outlined plans to add 20 new battery electric and fuel cell vehicles to its global lineup by 2023, financed by robust profits from sales of gasoline-fueled trucks and sport utility vehicles in the United States and China.

Under CEO Mary Barra, GM has shrunk its international operations over the past five years, ceasing manufacturing in Australia and Indonesia, and significantly restructuring its Thai operations. The automaker is winding down efforts to sell cars in India and turning its manufacturing facilities there into an export hub.

GM also exited Europe by selling those operations, essentially its German unit Opel, to French automaker Peugeot SA. 

Barra's strategy is starting to win over investors. On Monday GM shares closed at $42.15, their highest since the company's 2010, post-bankruptcy initial public offering. GM shares continued to rise on Tuesday, closing the day up 3 percent to $43.45. 

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A look back: 100 years of Chevy trucks

Aaron Marsh, Fleet Owner  /  October 3, 2017

Next year marks the 100th anniversary of Chevrolet's first production truck, the 1918 One-Ton. It'd be a shame to let such a milestone go by uncelebrated, and of course, Chevy isn't.

Not only are there 2018 Centennial Edition Silverado and Colorado pickups heading to dealerships before the end of the year, the automaker has also launched a 100-day event showcasing customers' pickups and loyalty. 

Chevy also released a crop of photos, illustrations and vintage advertisements showcasing the generations of its pickup trucks as they evolved over the years. Check out our slideshow of them with some more info from the OEM.

Through the decades, it also seems Chevy became something of a broken record when it comes to its trucks, repeating a lot of the same things like "reliable," "strong," "work" and "dependable."

Photo gallery - http://fleetowner.com/hd-pickup-van/look-back-100-years-chevy-trucks#slide-0-field_images-227881

Edited by kscarbel2
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General Motors establishing new military defense division

Automotive News  /  October 9, 2017

Automaker in talks about adopting platform for use by Army

DETROIT — General Motors plans to establish a new defense industry unit as it seeks to grow its business with the U.S. military, Automotive News has learned.

The company said last week it is holding talks with the U.S. Army about adopting the company's new hydrogen fuel cell platform for military use, and has other defense projects in the works.

GM Defense LLC is expected to become part of the company's Global Product Development organization, marking a major return to defense work after selling a previous defense unit to General Dynamics Corp. for $1.1 billion in 2003. Anticipating needs

The operations, according to officials, will be focused on "helping GM better anticipate and react to the diverse needs of global aerospace and defense customers."

"This new business structure will enhance GM's productivity, agility and affordability in a very dynamic customer environment," said Charlie Freese, executive director of GM Global Fuel Cell Business, in an emailed statement to Automotive News. "Our goal is to make it simpler and more seamless to do business with General Motors."

Freese will oversee GM Defense as part of Global Product Development, which is led by Mark Reuss, GM vice president of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain. The company has not determined where the defense unit will be based, said GM spokeswoman Elizabeth Winter.

GM currently provides powertrain components such as engines and transmissions to the military, but of late it has expanded its potential military offerings. The automaker has at least three hydrogen fuel cell products under evaluation by U.S. military divisions, including the new commercial platform with autonomous capabilities.

GM said last week that it is in discussions with the Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and EngineeringCenter about the Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure (SURUS) platform. The company said SURUS could be "a next step of the broader collaboration to evaluate fuel cell technology for future military applications."

Winter declined to disclose details of the discussions.

"The platform is still in development," she wrote in an email. "We do not confirm timings or details of future product."

In addition to the fuel cell-powered, four-wheel concept, the Army has been testing a fuel cell-powered Chevrolet Colorado known as the ZH2 on U.S. bases since April. The U.S. Navy last year also unveiled a GM fuel cell-powered unmanned undersea vehicle for testing.

GM officials say SURUS, based on a heavy-duty truck frame, was designed as a "foundation" for a new generation of commercial vehicles that leverages a single propulsion system integrated into a common chassis. They say it was not specifically designed for military use.

"This is our commercial fuel cell solution that we think will solve real-world, near-term problems," Freese told reporters last week during a preview of SURUS in Warren, Mich.

The platform will be at the meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army this week in Washington, D.C.

Outside of military use, GM is evaluating SURUS for applications such as freight; mobile and emergency backup power generation; light- and medium-duty trucks; and emergency rescue vehicles such as ambulances and others used in disaster-relief efforts.

GM says SURUS leverages the company's newest Hydrotec fuel cell system, which is capable of more than 400 miles of range, as well as autonomous capability and truck chassis components. It's driven by two electric motors. Benefits include quiet and odor-free operation, off-road mobility, field configuration, instantaneous high torque, exportable power generation, water generation and fast refueling.

Related reading - https://www.bigmacktrucks.com/topic/51304-gm-to-show-hydrogen-powered-truck-chassis-to-military-buyers/?tab=comments#comment-381863


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GM SURUS is basically an autonomous, zero-emission, off-road skateboard

Autoblog  /  October 6, 2017

In what's something of a throwback to the GM Autonomy concept of 2002, GM has revealed another hydrogen fuel cell platform that's effectively flat and can accept just about any body. It's called SURUS, which stands for Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure. But unlike the Autonomy, General Motors sees the SURUS as being capable of much more than just transportation.

This is because of a couple of key features. First, the SURUS uses strong, durable truck components sitting on big knobby truck tires, so it can handle heavy loads, and it can go almost anywhere. Second, the SURUS is capable of autonomy, which permits a few interesting possibilities. It wouldn't have to have someone capable of driving it, meaning anyone could use or request one. It also wouldn't have to have a compartment for a driver and controls, opening up more space for other uses.

As such, General Motors envisions the SURUS as being able to handle construction and military transport and hauling duties. But, as illustrated in the photos above, there's also the possibility that it could be used as a self-driving transport for cargo on Interstates or in shipping yards. It could become a mobile medical unit, using all of its space for treating patients and carrying supplies. GM also suggests it could be used as a mobile power generator, bringing electricity to remote or disaster-ravaged regions.

As an aid or relief vehicle, the SURUS has other advantages. Its fuel-cell powertrain, which has storage for 400 miles worth of hydrogen, is quiet and could be used as a generator. It could even be used inside because it doesn't release any dangerous fumes. It also generates water as a by-product of operation, which could possibly be handy in areas in need of water.

Coming back to heavy-duty needs and military possibilities, the SURUS's design and powertrain have other advantages. Its two electric motors provide plenty of torque for heavy loads and off-roading. It should be very maneuverable thanks to four-wheel steering. And specifically for military purposes, the quiet operation and power generation would be a major benefit for running missions in remote areas and when stealth is necessary, advantages pointed out when the Colorado ZH2 military concept was revealed.

It may still be a while before we start seeing these wheeled platforms roving roads and non-roads, though. General Motors hasn't given a tentative launch date for such a vehicle.

Photo gallery – https://www.autoblog.com/2017/10/06/gm-surus-autonomous-zero-emission-off-road-electric/#slide-7115472


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GM donates $5 million to Henry Ford museum

Automotive News  /  October 17, 2017

DETROIT -- General Motors is donating $5 million to a nonprofit organization founded by the patriarch of its largest American rival.

Mark Reuss, GM's head of global product development, purchasing and supply chain, announced the donation Tuesday as part of a new partnership between the automaker and the Henry Ford, a National Historic Landmark in Dearborn, Mich., established by Ford Motor Co. founder Henry Ford in 1929 to display his personal collections and other innovations.

"The Henry Ford is a national treasure," Reuss said at the HenryFordMuseum, one of the organization's five attractions. "One that all of us who grew up around here feel a lifelong very personal connection with."

With the gift, GM will sponsor the museum's rotating exhibit that will now be known as the Gallery by General Motors. Reuss said the mission is to offer exhibits that help promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.

Reuss did not shy away from the irony: GM now supports an educational effort that includes the Ford name, but the gift is meant to ensure GM is part of the museum's innovations for future generations.

"We know that Henry Ford and Ford Motor Co. have always been and will always be inextricably linked. There's no getting around that," Reuss said. "But the museum is a celebration of American innovation, particularly in the transportation space, and you can't tell that story without General Motors and Ford together."

The collaboration has been years in the making, according to officials. Nearly four years ago, Reuss and Edsel Ford II, a trustee of the organization and great-grandson of Henry Ford, had lunch to first discuss GM playing a bigger role in the Henry Ford.

Patricia Mooradian, president of the organization, said the lunch spawned a tour of the GM Heritage Center, where the automaker preserves and displays its collection of historic vehicles. She said Edsel Ford II asked Reuss "to imagine a world where two companies that are intense rivals in the marketplace can come together to support our nation's museum of innovation."

Reuss answered by joining the Henry Ford Board of Trustees last year and bringing GM into the partnership.

Mooradian called the collaboration with GM one of the most "historic and game-changing" in the organization's 90-year history.

Reuss said the sponsorship is just the beginning of "many other special programs" that the organizations will introduce.

The first exhibit in the GM-sponsored space is "The Science Behind Pixar," a Walt Disney computer animation film studio.

The Henry Ford is an independent nonprofit that's not affiliated with Ford Motor Co. or the Ford Foundation. Ford family members have been major supporters and board members of the organization.

The museum features a plethora of historic exhibits, including the chair in which President Abraham Lincoln was sitting when he was assassinated, the bus on which civil rights activist Rosa Parks refused to move to make room for a white passenger and the presidential limousine in which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

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GM: We'll make money on autonomous — and win

Michael Wayland, Automotive News  /  December 4, 2017

In an industry caught in a storm of disruptive forces, General Motors has said for years that it wants to be the one doing the disrupting.

It's now becoming clearer what that means.

In a presentation to the investment community last week, GM said its business operations are slated to fundamentally change within two years with the launch of commercial, all-electric, autonomous vehicles at scale in 2019.

At first, the fleet-based services would complement GM's core business. But over time, CEO Mary Barra and other executives see them possibly eclipsing its century-old business of building and selling vehicles.

And even that's not the full extent of the disruption GM envisions.

Kyle Vogt, CEO of GM's Cruise Automation self-driving vehicle unit, outlined a future in which GM not only builds a viable business around today's buzzwords of autonomy and mobility, but has such a "strong competitive advantage" that it forces some competitors out of the market.

"This is a differentiated product," Vogt said during a rare appearance with GM's executive leadership team in San Francisco. "A company is developing it, and if you are sufficiently more advanced than others in the industry, they may not be able to compete."

Vogt's comments echoed the message that team has articulated since it was formed nearly four years ago: It's no longer enough for GM to be merely competitive. It must be good enough to win.

Last week's presentations by Barra and other GM executives marked the industry's most comprehensive plans to date for commercializing autonomous vehicles, and follow a similar presentation to investors on the company's strategy to turn electric vehicles into a profitable segment.

President Dan Ammann said GM expects to deploy fleets of autonomous ride-sharing vehicles in "dense urban areas" by 2019. Revenue from the fleets, he said, is forecast to be in the billions soon after launch.

The comments were the first public confirmations that GM plans to enter the transportation services market against the likes of Uber and even Lyft, which got a $500 million investment from GM last year and has Ammann on its board.

CFO Chuck Stevens said GM's mobility services could be "potentially bigger" than its current core business, with better margins.

GM didn't specify where the fleets will launch. The company is testing a third generation of self-driving vehicles based on the Chevrolet Bolt EV in San Francisco; Scottsdale, Ariz.; and Warren, Mich. It plans to begin testing in New York City next year.

Ammann said GM expects to bring the cost of operating autonomous ride-sharing vehicles to less than $1 per mile by 2025 — a key to achieving profitable scale, he said. The current operating cost per mile in a city such as San Francisco is more than $3, Amman said, including paying the driver.

"We see a pretty clear path on how we can do that," he told the investors, citing GM's plans for "Rideshare 2.0" with autonomous vehicles that eliminate the driver cost.

Boosting GM's confidence with launching the fleets are advancements in its self-driving technologies and reductions in expenses, including a next-generation lidar that will cost about $10,000 — roughly half of the $20,000 or so the automaker is paying now, according to Vogt. That cost will be reduced to about $300 in the future, according to GM.

GM plans to expand its work force developing autonomous vehicles to about 2,100 by 2018, up from 1,200 today and fewer than 100 in 2016, according to Vogt's presentation.

GM must still persuade the investment community that it can back up its big talk. GM's shares closed down 0.7 percent to $42.79 on Friday, Dec. 1.

In a report to investors Friday, Barclays analyst Brian Johnson noted some mumbling that GM was taking a play from Tesla Inc. by announcing broadly ambitious goals, even as others believe GM is well-positioned to deliver on its plans.

"While we didn't receive 'hard' guidance for what the mobility business could be worth," Johnson wrote, "GM provided solid dimensions around the opportunity."

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You what I think?  Navistar has a good thing with their current relationship with VW's truck group, no question.  But long term, if I was Navistar I would think about growing their relationship with GM to get access to this technology.  It's equally applicable to commercial vehicles.

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GM to use carbon fiber in redesigned pickup beds

Michael Wayland, Automotive News  /  December 7, 2017

DETROIT -- General Motors plans to use carbon fiber for the beds of its redesigned full-size pickups to improve performance and reduce weight, Automotive News has learned.

Two sources familiar with the company's plans confirmed the use of the high-strength material, which has primarily been reserved for luxury vehicles and sports cars because it costs significantly more than steel and aluminum.

Carbon fiber, according to one source, is expected to be used as part of a mix of materials for the box of the pickups, including aluminum. The truck beds could mark GM's first use of carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic, a product the automaker announced it was co-developing with Japan-based Teijin Limited in 2011.

Carbon fiber is considerably stronger and lighter than steel and aluminum, but it's more expensive, mostly because of a long, labor-intensive production process. As a result, the composite is used only for select parts in low-volume vehicles.

The carbon fiber bed is expected to be among a significant number of changes in materials for the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups to meet progressively stricter fuel economy regulations and better position them against crosstown rival and truck leader, Ford Motor Co.

Ford shifted its F-series pickups, including the full-size F-150, to lightweight aluminum alloy bodies starting in 2014.

GM, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal, is anticipated to begin offering the carbon fiber beds within the next two years. The Journal reported that the carbon fiber beds would go in premium versions of the pickups, but more efficient production processes could help the automaker eventually offer carbon fiber beds in lower trims.

A GM spokesman declined to comment on the next-generation pickups. He reiterated the company's strategy on new and redesigned products using "the right materials in the right place" to reduce weight "without any sacrifice of safety, ride dynamics or utility."

The redesigned Silverado and Sierra pickups are expected to be unveiled soon and go on sale next year without the carbon fiber beds.

It was unclear how much the carbon fiber would add to the price of the trucks.


GM's vehicle lineup has been on a massive diet since the current-generation pickups were unveiled in 2012.

GM has significantly cut weight of its redesigned vehicles -- from more than 200 pounds off sedans such as the Chevrolet Volt and Cruze to a 700-pound decline for the downsized GMC Acadia.

The workout regimen started when GM CEO Mary Barra was head of the company's product development in 2013.

Then-GM CEO Dan Akerson vowed to cut the weight of new vehicle models 15 percent by the 2016 model year.

Many analysts were surprised GM did little to actually lower the weight of the pickups, which hadn't been redesigned in six years.

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How GM can gain from carbon fiber in trucks

Richard Truett, Automotive News  /  December 8, 2017

We've known for a long time that General Motors was going to respond in a big way to Ford Motor Co.'s lightweight aluminum F-150, and now some details of the next-generation Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups are starting to ooze out ahead of next year's introduction.

Automotive News, citing two sources, reported that the trucks will be available with a bed made of carbon fiber. The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, first reported the plans on Wednesday.

Such a move -- if the publications' sources are correct -- would likely shave hundreds of pounds from the trucks' curb weight. It would also probably add significant cost to the truck, which would mean higher sticker prices or lower margins or some combination of the two.

Combine the lightweight bed with GM's mixed-materials strategy of using high-strength steel, aluminum, magnesium and cast parts in the body in white, and GM -- on paper -- looks to be able to deliver a truck that will weigh significantly less than competitors such as the Ford F-150.

GM has been giving its mixed-materials manufacturing system a dry run on the low-volume Cadillac CT6 sedan, which when launched in 2016 was the lightest car in its class and the class below. By using different metals for the body structure, GM can save money on materials while producing a stronger, stiffer body. But using different metals greatly complicates manufacturing.

Not only do the right parts have to be delivered to the right place at the right time, but the number and type of fasteners also varies. Last May, GM let reporters peek behind its manufacturing r&d curtain, showing us how it was taking weight out of its vehicles. GM took issue with Ford's approach of using aluminum for the F-150's entire body in white.

"No single material is the right answer for every part of the body," Charlie Klein, executive director of GM's global CO2 strategy and energy center engineering, told me at the time. "Each material has its own properties. We use the best material for each component, the right material in the right place and the right amount of material."

Lowering weight, of course, brings many benefits, such as improved fuel economy, better performance and shorter stopping distances.

So, let's assume GM's new trucks -- it's possible they will debut next month at the Detroit auto show -- will be the lightest on the market.

The next question is: How is GM going to leverage that advantage?

The F-150's fuel economy didn't improve much initially when the truck switched from steel to aluminum. Instead, Ford decided to increase the amount of work the truck could do by raising the vehicle's towing and hauling ratings. That was a smart move.

If there is one thing that gets the attention of truck buyers, it's how hard a truck can work. Since Ford launched the aluminum F-150 in 2015, it has rolled out powertrain upgrades -- such as a new 2.7-liter V-6, and a 10-speed automatic transmission -- that have boosted fuel economy to a class-leading 20 mpg city, 26 highway and 22 combined. (Ram's 2018 1500 diesel is not yet listed in the EPA fuel economy guide.)

GM could mimic Ford and translate the weight savings into a bigger workload. It could also go for outright fuel economy leadership -- or a combination of the two. Even though gasoline is relatively cheap, fuel economy really matters to truck drivers. They don't like stopping at filling stations.

The stakes are high

Ford has consistently outfoxed GM for decades with the F-150, continually adding industry-first safety, convenience and luxury features and introducing the company's newest powertrains. Most importantly, Ford really gets into truck customers' heads by figuring out what buyers want.

The new Silverado and Sierra will be the biggest test for GM's product development chief Mark Reuss. With such vehicles as the Cadillac CT6, Chevrolet Volt and Bolt, and the Cadillac V-series high-performance cars, Reuss has engineered a remarkable turnaround at GM.

But the work of his team has been undermined in my view by ineffective marketing -- when was the last time you saw an ad for the Bolt EV, the Colorado diesel, the first truck to get an EPA 30 mpg highway rating, or the Cruze diesel, which has a 52 mpg highway rating?

There isn't a weak vehicle in any of GM's four surviving brands.

What to expect

For GM's new trucks, here's what I expect:

  • Outright fuel economy leadership in city, highway and combined ratings.

  • Outright fuel economy leadership while a truck is towing and hauling -- perhaps the F-150's only weak point.

  • Lowest curb weight, all models.

  • A robust repair program at launch that removes doubt about dealers and body shops being able to quickly and correctly repair accident damage.

  • Industry best stopping distances.

  • At least one new, exclusive technology, such as Dynamic Skip Fire, the next-generation digital cylinder cut-off system GM and Delphi Technologies is developing with Tula Technology Inc., a Silicon Valley startup.

  • An optional V-6 diesel to compete with the one coming in the F-150 and with the Ram 1500 diesel.

GM's full-size pickups have to make a big statement. These are GM's cash cows. They must be successful for GM to pay the bills to develop autonomous cars and to pay for the next generation of its electric vehicles and fuel cell technology.

Getting it right

And this time, all of GM's cylinders -- engineering, manufacturing, marketing, etc. -- have to get it right. Ford, under the same pressure, is not going to ease off the throttle on F-series upgrades. Competition is getting stronger, too.

Ram outsold Silverado three times this year in monthly sales, and the big pickups from Toyota and Nissan have seen major upgrades resulting stronger sales, especially for the Nissan Titan.

With the new Silverado and Sierra, we're about to see what GM is really made of.


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GM executives defend NAFTA, Mexican truck plant

David Shepardson, Reuters  /  January 13, 2018

DETROIT -- General Motors CEO Mary Barra expressed optimism on Saturday that the North American Free Trade Agreement would survive, and other senior GM executives stood by the company's plans to continue building trucks in Mexico.

At an event to introduce GM's 2019 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck ahead of the Detroit auto show, Barra twice did not answer directly when asked if the automaker is reconsidering current production in Mexico in light of potential changes or the collapse of the trade deal between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Company executives did not rule out future changes to its North American production plans depending on the outcome of ongoing NAFTA renegotiation talks, even though it would be costly to shift production of trucks.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV said on Thursday it will move production of its next-generation heavy-duty pickup trucks to Michigan from a plant in Mexico, a move that reduces the risk that those trucks would be hit with a 25 percent tariff if NAFTA unravels.

Barra sidestepped a question about GM's Mexican truck factory, saying, "When I look at our footprint, there is so much more work and negotiations to be done on NAFTA."

Mark Reuss, GM's product development chief, said the company is using its existing truck plants in North America, but would not elaborate when asked if GM could stop building trucks in Mexico.

"I'm not sure that we would tell anybody that," Reuss said. "I don't think we'd be talking about our footprint in the future."

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Where's Chevy's mid-engine Corvette?

Richard Truett, Automotive News  /  January 16, 2018

One of the most talked-about cars leading up to press days at the North American International Auto Show this week isn't even at the show. In fact, it has not even been confirmed by its manufacturer, General Motors.

We're talking about the next-generation Chevrolet Corvette, widely expected to have its engine placed behind the seats for the first time in its 65-year history. Enthusiast car magazines and websites have been breathlessly reporting that the eighth-generation Corvette would make its long-awaited debut this week in Detroit.

Turns out it was premature speculation.

Although the car has been caught testing numerous times by spy photographers, and appears nearly fully baked, apparently no one outside GM knows when it will debut. The next major global auto show happens in early March in Geneva and nearly all the world's supercar manufacturers are on this year's list of exhibitors. GM and Chevrolet are not scheduled to attend -- but that may be a ruse to tamp down speculation.

If you are going to launch a bona fide American supercar, why not take it to the Europeans and introduce it in their backyard? Also, even though GM no longer owns Opel and Vauxhall, Chevrolet maintains a small presence in Europe, offering Camaro and Corvette in several countries. So a European launch for the Corvette is plausible.

Last week, I thought there was a decent chance Chevrolet would roll out the next-gen Corvette at the Detroit show. The redesigned Silverado pickup had its coming-out party at a weekend press event, clearing the way, I thought, for the next-gen Corvette to suck the oxygen out of Cobo Center just like the Ford GT did in 2015.

It didn't happen.

Several people I know who claim to have good sources in GM say the car will be shown next year at the Detroit show. I hope not. With more and better spy shots coming almost weekly, there won't be much mystery left to the new car.

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2019 GMC Sierra will be unveiled next month with more differentiation from Silverado

Michael Wayland, Automotive News  /  February 1, 2018

DETROIT -- General Motors will unveil the 2019 GMC Sierra on March 1 in Detroit amid expectations that it will be more differentiated from its Chevrolet Silverado sibling than ever before.

The Sierra unveiling, which also will include the high-end Sierra Denali, will come less than two months after the automaker officially introduced the 2019 Silverado on the eve of the Detroit auto show in January.

Despite expected exterior and interior differentiation with the two pickups, the Sierra's specs and powertrains are expected to be similar, if not the same, as the Silverado's.

GM has said the redesigned Silverado is larger than current models yet as much as 450 pounds lighter. It features a longer wheelbase, more interior space and a new high-strength steel bed with increased cargo volume and an available power up-down tailgate that can be operated from the key fob, an interior button or by hand.

GM will offer six powertrain combinations, including a 3.0-liter inline-six diesel and 5.3- and 6.2-liter V-8s with a technology called Dynamic Fuel Management that can shut off cylinders, in a variety of combinations, to optimize performance and fuel economy.

The diesel engine -- the first in a full-size Chevy pickup since the late 1990s -- and 6.2-liter V-8 will be mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. GM didn't provide details of other transmission pairings or engines.

GM on Thursday reported Sierra sales started 2018 down 18 percent, to 11,224 vehicles, compared with January 2017, while Silverado sales increased 15 percent to 40,716.

In 2017, Sierra sales slipped 1.7 percent to 217,943 vehicles; Silverado gained 1.9 percent to nearly 585,900 deliveries.

Production of the pickups is expected to start at GM's plant in Fort Wayne, Ind., in the fall. GM also builds the trucks in Mexico, but it has not announced production details.


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GM posts record Q4 operating profit, $4.9B loss on tax charge

Michael Wayland, Automotive News  /  February 6, 2018

DETROIT -- U.S. tax reform caused General Motors to report a loss of $4.9 billion for the fourth quarter, while the company achieved record operating profit for the period.

Despite a $7.3 billion noncash charge, GM narrowed its fourth-quarter losses by $1.9 billion compared with the same period in 2016. Without the charge, GM would have earned $2.4 million for the quarter.

Wall Street liked the results. GM shares rose 5.8 percent to close at $41.86 during a volatile day of trading. 

The results are based on continuing operations, which do not include those such as its former Opel/Vauxhall business, sold by GM to PSA Group in 2017. Overall, the net loss was $5.15 billion, with a larger tax-related charge of $7.9 billion.

"The important aspect is to look at the operating results," GM CFO Chuck Stevens said on Tuesday with the release of the quarterly and full-year reports

In the fourth quarter, GM's adjusted earnings, before interest and taxes, increased 19 percent to $3.09 billion, and its global margin increased 1.7 percentage points to 8.2 percent. Revenue declined 5.5 percent to $37.7 billion due to lower volumes in North America.

For the year, the automaker's adjusted earnings, before interest and taxes, equaled its $12.8 billion record from 2016, while income plummeted 96 percent to $300 million largely due to the tax changes and a largely noncash charge of $6.2 billion from the sale of its European operations.

“We couldn’t’ be more pleased about our results and the execution, the disciplined execution, across all of our business units in 2017,” Stevens said.

GM last month advised its financial results in 2018 to be in line with earnings in 2017, followed by an "even better" performance in 2019.  

  • Regions: North American earnings increased 7.3 percent to $2.9 billion in the fourth quarter. GM on Feb. 23 expects to pay up to $11,750 in profit sharing payments to UAW members. The company's international operations earned $416 million, up from $223 million in 2016.

  • Finance: GM Financial reported earnings of $301 million, up 85 percent from $163 million a year earlier. Forty percent of GM’s sales in the U.S. last year were financed through GM Financial, according to Stevens.

  • Operating profit margin: The North American margin for the year was 10.7 percent -- the third straight year above 10 percent.

  • Risk factors: Stevens said GM is "not overly concerned at this point" about the prospect of hyperinflation and the economy overheating, which has sent stocks tumbling in recent days.

  • Expectations: GM's results beat Wall Street estimates, as it reported a record earnings per share of $6.62 for the year, including $1.65 in the fourth quarter -- a key metric for how Wall Street judges the company.

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2019 GMC Sierra uses luxury to differentiate from Silverado, competitors

Michael Wayland, Automotive News  /  March 1, 2018

DETROIT -- General Motors is aiming to differentiate the 2019 GMC Sierra from the competition -- and from its Chevy Silverado sibling -- through design, additional luxury amenities and technologies that the automaker calls segment-leading. It all starts with the tailgate.

As the more premium offering from General Motors, the GMC will make its stand against increasingly luxurious versions of the Ford F-150 and Fiat Chrysler's redesigned Ram 1500, which launches this year with major fuel-saving technology upgrades, safety improvements and premium touches. One big weapon for GMC will be the coming forthcoming option of a carbon fiber bed in high-end models.

For the vehicle’s arrival in the fall, improvements to the redesigned Sierra, aside from a bolder styling and weight reduction of up to 360 pounds, begin in the rear with a new standard, industry-first tailgate for its SLT and Denali trims -- both of which were being unveiled Thursday in Detroit.

“The 2019 GMC Sierra is full of innovative engineering and smart technology that represent a giant leap forward for the segment and, for some cases, the entire industry,” said GM product boss Mark Reuss during the unveiling.

The “MultiPro Tailgate” offers features and multiple positions that allow it to be used as a standing workstation, a step for climbing into and out of the bed or as a seat. An “inner” tailgate is part of the “primary” gate and can fold vertically down for easier loading or turn into a step, among other uses.

The inner gate also features a load-stop feature to help keep cargo in the bed when the tailgate is down. It also can be used as an exterior table, while keeping the main tailgate up. Both of the gates are released by two buttons in the tailgate handle.

“Being premium, it’s not just about technology in terms of information and electric technology. It’s about usability and real innovation,” Duncan Aldred, vice president of Global GMC, told Automotive News. “Anybody who uses a pickup truck bed, it’s going to make their lives much easier.”

In the box, the next-gen pickup appears to have all of the additional features of the Silverado, including a roll-formed, high-strength steel bed; more tie-downs; and an optional 110-volt power outlet. It’s also nearly 7 inches wider than the current model. The short box offers 63 cubic feet of volume, GM said.

Later in the model year, the 2019 Sierra Denali will be available with an industry-first carbon fiber composite box that GM is calling the "CarbonPro." It replaces the standard steel inner panels and floor with a lightweight carbon fiber composite that is 62 pounds lighter that the steel version. 

The box, Reuss said, “adds unprecedented strength and durability.” He noted it’s dent, scratch and corrosion resistant.

“We can basically throw anything we can find at this and it just doesn’t leave a mark,” Aldred said. The company showed several items, including cinder blocks, being thrown into the bed during the pickup’s unveiling.

Without the composite box, the pickup is up to 360 pounds lighter than the current model, according to GMC. That's 90 pounds less than the difference between the current and next-gen Silverado models, likely because of additional features in the GMC models.

Other additions to the high-end Sierra models include a new trailering system that includes an app for remote monitoring and testing; customizable head-up display; and rear camera mirror.

The Sierra SLT and Denali trims will come standard with a 5.3-liter V-8 and eight-speed automatic transmission. As with the Silverado, available 6.2-liter V-8 and 3.0-liter inline-six turbodiesel engines will be paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

Both of the V-8 engines, as in the Silverado, will feature technology called Dynamic Fuel Management that can shut off cylinders, in a variety of combinations, to optimize performance and fuel economy.

GM previously said the Silverado will offer six powertrain combinations, including the three announced Thursday for the Sierra. The company declined to comment on other engine offerings for the pickups.

GMC didn't provide engine performance details. It also declined to provide information about trims other than the SLT and Denali, which make up 87 percent of the brand's crew cab sales.

The current Sierra also is available in entry-level Sierra and SLE trims with a standard 4.3-liter V-6 engine.

Reuss and other GM executives have promised a greater differentiation than ever before between the Sierra and Silverado -- starting with separate unveilings for the first time since 1998. The company declined to say what percentage of parts would be shared between the two vehicles.

“The more they divert from one another the better,” Aldred said. “I think with the new Sierra, we’ve done that. Not only visually but with the technology we put in there.”

Both are expected to begin production in the third quarter in Fort Wayne, Ind. GM also builds the pickups in Mexico.

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Here are all six things the 2019 GMS Sierra’s Wild MultiPro tailgate can do

Tony Markovich, Car & Driver  /  March 2, 2018

The major news from GMC’s unveiling of the new 2019 Sierra pickup truck included the announcement of a turbo-diesel 3.0-liter inline-six and a bed that incorporates carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic paneling. But the flashiest, coolest, and most fun part of the new Sierra is the MultiPro tailgate, which smartly incorporates various built-in hinges to help with ingress and egress, load stopping, second-tier loading, and access to the bed. Allow us to explain how it all works.

GMC touts the MultiPro’s six different functions, but that includes the normal up-and-down movement of the whole tailgate, so, um, okay. It’s damped for slow opening, which can be done by hand or by two clicks on the remote.

Within the full tailgate is a secondary cutout that extends to within a few inches of either side and stops at the space just below the large GMC logo. On the inside of this cutout is another flap that can hinge up and out toward the rear of the truck. With the tailgate folded down, that inside flap can be deployed in various ways, including as a stopper for an extended load.

Technically, there is no physical tailgate handle. The operations are controlled by two buttons that are stacked in between two camera lenses, where you would expect a conventional release. Press only the top button, and the main tailgate remains closed, while the small cutout (which GMC calls the inner gate) hinges down via two swing arms and stops parallel to the ground to make a tablelike standing workspace. In this configuration, the back flap can be unfolded to act as a load stopper for extended second-tier loading above the wheel wells. As an example, GMC cited large sheets of plywood above other cargo.

The inner gate serves other functions as well. Press the bottom button to let the tailgate down, then press the top button to let the cutout down. This allows people to step into the space where the tailgate normally is, and it gives users easier access to the bed for loading or unloading cargo.

Taking it one step further, the aforementioned flap can be unfolded while both the tailgate and the cutout are let down, creating a stairway into the bed (it can take up to 375 pounds of human weight). In this position, the main part of the tailgate can be used as a place to sit with a footrest, and the sides of the main gate even have “cupholder” indents.

The final piece of this do-everything package is not part of the tailgate itself. GMC attached a black handle bar to the driver’s side of the inner bed, which stows in a vertical position. Unlock the bar from the bottom, and it hinges at the top, eventually locking in a diagonal position (not pictured). This provides a convenient handhold to aid those stepping up into the bed of the truck.

The whole thing is pretty cool, seems extremely well thought out, and should be quite useful. The MultiPro tailgate is standard on both SLT and Denali models, the only trim levels GMC has revealed so far. We’re guessing it could be offered as an option on less pricey models, but the company won’t talk about those yet. Those who are still skeptical can try it out in person when the 2019 GMC Sierra hits dealerships in the fall.



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GM Exec Calls For Premium Gas To Be The New Regular

Forbes  /  March 12, 2018

During an address to the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, General Motors' vice president of global propulsion systems called for premium gasoline to become the new baseline going forward to enable more efficient engines. This is hardly a new idea, but it comes as a bit of a surprise right now as GM wages a battle on two fronts with announced plans for 20 new zero-emissions vehicles in the next five years while also consulting with the Trump administration on changes to fuel economy standards.

In his talk, Nicholson reiterated his company’s electrification plans but also suggested that this is the right time to make a move toward making 95 RON gasoline the new minimum standard as it generally is in Europe. Fuel octane ratings are an indicator of the fuel’s resistance to self-ignition or knocking. The are two generally accepted methods of testing this, motor octane (MON) and research octane (MON). The pump octane number (PON) that appears on gas pumps in North America is the average of the two with regular typically being labeled as 87 PON and mid-grade as 91 PON. A fuel with a rating of 95 RON will typically have a PON of 91, the standard for premium fuel.

Fuel retailers have long marketed the idea that using premium fuel can help improve fuel economy and this is true up to a point. Engines will only see a benefit if they are optimized for this fuel with either a higher compression ratio or more turbocharger boost. This enables a higher expansion ratio in the engine so each cylinder firing extracts more work from the fuel. Unfortunately, putting higher octane fuel in a lower compression engine will probably have little or no impact in most cases.

According to Nicholson, relatively simple changes including new pistons to enable higher compression and revised calibrations can yield about a 3% improvement in efficiency with no significant added component costs. Aggregated over millions of engines a year, that adds up to some fairly substantial fuel consumption reductions.

But is is worth it for the consumer?

The consumer side of this equation is where things get a little muddier. While a 3% savings in fuel use is not insignificant for manufacturers that at least for now need to continue improving their efficiency across their fleets, consumers might not see the full benefit. The upfront cost for a vehicle optimized to run on 95 RON gasoline may be essentially the same as one that runs on regular, and there would be no added infrastructure costs, but the consumer may be paying more every time they go to the pump.

For the week of March 5, 2018, the Energy Information Agency reported national average retail gasoline prices of $2.56/gallon while premium was $3.08, a difference of $0.52. The projected average fuel economy for 2017 model year vehicles was 25.2 mpg. Over 100,000 miles, that would amount to about 3,968 gallons of gasoline. A 3% bump  would take that to 26 mpg and 3,852 gallons a savings of just 116 gallons. At $3.08 per gallon that would save $357 while the the premium fuel would cost more than $2,000 more than regular.

As usual, things are never quite that simple however. According to Chet Thompson, president of AFPM, premium fuel currently only accounts for about 10% of retail gasoline sales. That relatively low volume combined with the realities of refining partly lead to that significant retail cost differential. If 95 RON gasoline were to become the new baseline standard, accounting for the majority of gasoline sales, refineries would shift their production mix, significantly bringing down the cost of this higher octane fuel. It’s too early for specifics on the new cost premium but for consumers, the change would come much closer to being cost neutral.

There has been discussion in recent years of moving to even higher octane fuels with 98-100 RON ratings. Engines optimized to run on these fuels could generate bigger savings at a still modest upfront cost. However, while a 95 RON engine can generally run safely on regular, albeit at reduced performance and efficiency, a 100 RON engine would likely need some protections against misfueling. This may mean unique nozzles and pumps for this higher octane fuel much as we have for diesel fuel already.

That would add cost to both the vehicle and infrastructure. One exception would be the upcoming spark controlled compression ignition SkyActiv-X engine coming from Mazda in 2019. This engine’s unique properties enable it to easily adapt on the fly to different fuel grades so misfueling isn’t really an issue.

Nicholson explained that GM and other members of research consortium USCAR have done a lot of modeling of the various costs associated with higher octane fuels. Going to 98-100 RON cost effectively would require much higher concentrations of ethanol, as much as 25%. However, some states such as California don’t allow ethanol concentrations of 15% or greater.

Instead Thompson, Nicholson and others are proposing an extensive revamp of the current renewable fuels standard (RFS) which mandates arbitrary annual volumes of ethanol use. They propose a performance based fuel standard that requires 95 RON with flexibility to let the market determine the best way to reach that. Blending in ethanol is still the cheapest and easiest way to boost octane and they expect that overall ethanol use would remain similar to what it is under the current RFS. However, in areas where increasing ethanol isn’t a viable option other methods could be used.

If this moves forward, new engines optimized for 95 RON would begin to arrive in about the 2022-2023 time frame and they would require this higher octane fuel. Nicholson explains that “engineers from the auto and fuels industry are working together on smart solutions to protect against accidental misfueling that could cause engine damage.”

Even after the proposed introduction of 95 RON gasoline as the new baseline, existing regular fuels would continue to be available for many years in transition similar to the one from leaded to unleaded gasoline in the 1970s.

An alternative approach is the one now being adopted by Fiat Chrysler on the 2018 Jeep Wrangler and 2019 RAM 1500. FCA is putting 48V mild hybrid systems on these vehicles. The gasoline V6 RAM will get this mild hybrid system as standard equipment from this summer. The mild hybrid will be an option on the 5.7-liter V8 priced at just $800 with an expected bump in fuel economy of at least 10% and it will continue to run on current 87 PON regular gas.

Regardless of what the administration in Washington opts to do with fuel economy regulations, automakers are pressing ahead with a range of options that include improved fuels, varying degrees of electrification and the development of shared, automated vehicles. They recognize that any regulatory changes that are implemented now will probably at best provide a brief respite. At some point in the future, they will need to continue raising the bar on efficiency.


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