News Briefs for the Week of July 12, 2007

Jan. 1, 2020
Bosch Opens Technical Center in Michigan ... GM Sells Allison Transmission for $5.6 Billion ... J.D. Powers 2007 APEAL Study Released ... GM Ready to Produce Hydrogen Fuel Cells ... e-Cataloging Made Easy ... Small Business Chugs Along: No Signs of R
News Briefs for the Week of July 12, 2007 Bosch Opens Technical Center in Michigan PLYMOUTH TOWNSHIP, MI (June 28, 2007) - Robert Bosch LLC opened its brand-new, $37.5 million, 225,000-sq.-ft. technical center last month. The facility sits on 76 acres, and will be home to more than 400 associates. Now in its 97th year in Michigan, Bosch began construction of its Plymouth Township Technical Center in 2005 to allow for expansion of its automotive capabilities. The technical center will house research and development, as well as engineering space, for its automotive electronics, starter motors and generators, and electrical drives divisions. The facility is supported by more than 60 engineering and technical lab specialists working on development studies, design verification and production validation test plans in the facility's 70,000-sq.-ft. test laboratory. Projects currently underway at the Bosch Plymouth Township Technical Center include predictive safety systems and driver assistance technologies. Facility testing capabilities include environmental chambers, center of competence vibration testing, noise vibration harshness chambers, an electromagnetic chamber and a metallurgy and wiper lab. Additionally, the technical center houses a machine shop, quality lab, equipment crib, small motor dynamometers, vehicle hoist, and powder coat and paint booths. Currently, Bosch engineers a variety of innovative driver assistance technologies at the Plymouth Township Technical Center, including: * Intelligent Bolt (iBolt) airbag releasing sensor technology uses sensors in the four anchor points of the seat frame to calculate weight and distribution on the passenger seat. The vehicle occupant protection system uses this data to determine optimal passenger airbag deployment, differentiating between a full release for large adults, a weaker release for small adults and children, and a suppression release for children in safety seats and unoccupied seats. * Adaptive cruise control (ACC) detects vehicles traveling in front, computes their speed and maintains the safe distance by automatically controlling braking and engine speed. Bosch's new generation ACC plus relies on a radar sensor to identify and maintain an appropriate distance from a vehicle that precedes the ACC-equipped vehicle. Driver comfort is improved as the system operates at stop-and-go traffic speeds and can slow the vehicle down to a standstill.
* Predictive safety systems (PSS) employ the sensors and electronic control unit from ACC to recognize emergency braking situations. PSS function in three key stages. First, the brake system prepares for emergency braking by placing the braking pads on the brake discs as a matter of precaution, and setting the hydraulic brake assistant into a state of "alert." In the second stage, the driver receives a warning through a noticeable brake jerk that an emergency situation is imminent. In the last stage, when a collision is unavoidable, automatic braking occurs with maximum deceleration to reduce the severity of the accident. "The new Plymouth Township Technical Center will enable Bosch to enhance our research and development capabilities in automotive electronics," says Martin Boos, Bosch director of engineering, product validation and testing. "Bosch's investment in research and development is critical to achieving our goals and attaining market leadership in our automotive operations."(Source: Robert Bosch LLC)J.D. Powers 2007 APEAL Study Released WESTLAKE VILLAGE, CA (June 28, 2007) - J.D. Power and Associates has released the results of its 2007 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study (APEAL). The study, now in its 12th year, measures owners' satisfaction after 90 days of ownership, with the design, content, layout and performance of their new vehicles.  The 2007 APEAL study identifies the features that people find most appealing about their new vehicles, measuring satisfaction with 100 vehicle attributes in categories such as ride and handling, engine and transmission, and comfort and convenience.  This year's APEAL study results are based upon approximately 92,000 responses from verified purchasers and lessees of new 2007 model year cars and trucks. Top Three Models per Segment

Car Segments

First Place

Second Place

Third Place

Sub-Compact Car

(Tie) Honda Fit,

Toyota Yaris


Nissan Versa

Compact Car

VW Jetta

VW Rabbit

Honda Civic

Compact Sports Car


Scion tC

VW Eos

Compact Premium Sporty Car

Porsche Cayman

Porsche Boxster

MB CLK-Class

Entry Premium Car

BMW 3 Series

Lexus IS 350

(Tie) Acura TL,

Audi A4

Midsize Premium Car

MB E-Class

Lexus GS430/GS 450h

BMW 5 Series

Large Premium Car

MB S-Class

BMW 7 Series

Lexus LS 460

Premium Sporty Car

BMW 6 Series

MB SL-Class

Chevrolet Corvette

Midsize Sporty Car

Ford Mustang

Mitsubishi Eclipse

Chevrolet Monte Carlo

Midsize Car

Nissan Altima Sedan

VW Passat

Saturn AURA

Large Car

Hyundai Azera

Toyota Avalon

Dodge Charger

Compact Multi-Activity Vehicle (MAV)

Honda CR-V

Mazda CX-7

Toyota FJ Cruiser

Midsize MAV

Ford Edge

Saturn Outlook

GMC Acadia

Large MAV

Nissan Armada

Chevrolet Tahoe

Chevrolet Suburban

Midsize Premium MAV


(Tie) Audi Q7,

MB M-Class


Large Premium MAV

(Tie) MB GL-Class, Cadillac Escalade EXT, Lincoln Navigator



Large Pickup

GMC Sierra LD

Chevrolet Avalanche

Chevrolet Silverado LD

Midsize Pickup

Honda Ridgeline

Ford Explorer Sport Trac

Toyota Tacoma


Honda Odyssey

Kia Sedona

Hyundai Entourage

Key findings of the 2007 APEAL study include:
* New and redesigned models satisfy consumers more when it comes to performance and design. Just over half of the study segment awardees are new or redesigned for 2007. 
* Consumers say that German-branded vehicles are the most satisfying when it comes to performance and design. Porsche narrowly eclipsed BMW in the overall brand rankings, while Mercedes-Benz saw a 12-point gain over 2006 to rank No. 3. 
* Honda received four awards in the 2007 study, the most of any manufacturer. BMW and Mercedes-Benz each received three awards, while Volkswagen and Nissan each received two awards.
* Saturn, which is enjoying a rejuvenation of its product line-up, saw the biggest jump in brand rankings of any non-premium manufacturer in 2007. 
* Premium brands typically score higher than non-premium brands in the study. The only domestic brands to rank above industry average were Cadillac, Lincoln and Hummer.
* The study provides a guideline for vehicle manufacturers and dealers in setting incentive levels for new-vehicle buyers. On average, owners of vehicles with APEAL scores lower than 800, based on a 1,000-point scale, report receiving dealer incentives of approximately $2,000. For purchasers of models with average APEAL scores higher than 800, the incentive amount can decline by up to 10 percent.

"Vehicle models with strong customer appeal tend to be in higher demand, which diminishes the need for dealers to incentivize to boost sales," says Neal Oddes, director of product research and analysis at J.D. Power and Associates. "Offering larger incentives decreases the profitability of vehicles, so it's important for manufacturers to incorporate those 'must-have' features and design elements that will entice buyers, which also reduces the need for large customer cash rebates."

(Source: J.D. Powers and Associates)GM Ready to Produce Hydrogen Fuel Cells DETROIT (July 5,2007) - General Motors Corp. is moving more than 500 fuel cell experts from its advanced development laboratories to core engineering functions to prepare this technology for future production of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The transition is aimed at expediting the company's efforts to produce fuel cell vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Sequel and Equinox, that will help displace petroleum through energy diversity.  "Eight years ago, we said that hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle technology could make a major contribution to solving the energy and environmental challenges facing the automobile industry," notes Larry Burns, GM's vice president, Research and Development. "Today's announcement signals another important milestone as we move fuel cell vehicles closer to future production." More than 400 fuel cell engineers will report to GM's Powertrain Group to begin production engineering of fuel cell systems. Another 100 will transfer to GM's Global Product Development organization to start integrating fuel cells into future company vehicles. In addition, more than 150 fuel cell scientists and program support will remain as part of GM's Research and Development Center to continue advanced research in hydrogen storage, fuel cells and program commercialization.(Source: GM)e-Cataloging Made Easy DOWNERS GROVE, IL (July 6, 2007) - One of the major challenges facing aftermarket suppliers, especially companies without automated e-catalog (e-cat) systems, is getting properly formatted electronic files into e-cat systems. For suppliers like G&B Distribution, Vertical Development Inc.'s (VDI's) e-Publisher catalog management system is one solution - enabling the company to not only overcome that challenge, but also gain additional business in the process.
Vertical Development's e-Publisher program is ideally suited to all types of companies, including companies automating their systems for the first time. By consolidating part numbers from multiple spreadsheets into a single user interface, they enable companies to map to AAIA standards, generate catalogs in print and on CD, and offer online lookup systemsranging from small 32-page catalogs to 3,000-page megacatalogs.
Founded more than 25 years ago, G&B has grown to become a global supplier of genuine OE automotive parts, including hub bearing assemblies, window lift motors, window regulator assemblies, wiper motors, door lock actuators, fuel sending units and regulators, engine cooling motors, idle speed actuators and more. A major part of the company's growth has occurred over the past five years, as G&B expanded coverage in its popular line of hub bearing units.  "Late last year, we recognized that our most immediate need was to get into the electronic side of cataloging," says Ken Lark, G&B's vice president of Sales and Marketing. Using e-Publisher software, G&B completed VDI input spreadsheets for its hub data, consolidating and linking the data to create a single relational database with 170-plus part numbers. The system's unique mapping process enabled the company to export files meeting AAIA ACES, Activant Solutions, WHI (Wrenchead) and other e-cat formats. In addition, VDI's on-site training allows G&B to do future updates to its system, as well as publish print and electronic catalogs in-house. "With VDI's help, we've already submitted data in ACES format to Activant and Wrenchead," explains Lark. "That's incredible, especially considering that we made the decision to automate our system less than four months ago." (Source: VDI) GM Sells Allison Transmission for $5.6 Billion NEW YORK (June 28, 2007) - General Motors Corp. (GM) announced that it has reached a definitive agreement for the company to sell its Allison Transmission business unit to Onex Corp. and private equity firm The Carlyle Group for approximately $5.6 billion.  The transaction is structured to preserve GM's and Allison's competitive strengths in their respective product lines. It is expected to close as early as the third quarter of this year, pending union and regulatory approval. The sale covers substantially all of Allison Transmission, including seven manufacturing facilities in Indianapolis, and its worldwide distribution network and sales offices. Excluded from the sale is the Allison production facility in Baltimore, which is dedicated to the production of conventional and hybrid 2MODE transmissions used in GM's retail pick-up trucks and sports utility vehicles (SUVs). It will remain with GM.  "This is another important step to strengthen our liquidity and provide resources to support our heavy investments in new products and technology," says Rick Wagoner, GM chairman and CEO. "At the same time, this sale will position Allison for growth with strong partners in Carlyle and Onex, which have well-established track records of working effectively with their management teams, unions and employees."  Seth Mersky, managing director of Canada-based Onex says his team believes that "Allison is poised for excellent growth in its sector, with the increasing rate of adoption of automatic transmissions in commercial vehicles, both in North America and abroad. Allison's exceptional reputation for product quality and reliability, its strong brand and talented management team, provide it with a competitive advantage that will allow the company to capture that growth."  (Source: Allison Transmission) Small Business Chugs Along: No Signs of Recession WASHINGTON (June 12, 2007) - According to the National Federation of Independent Business' (NFIB's) "Small-Business Economic Trends," a monthly survey of small-business owners' plans and opinions, small businesses held their own during May, showing neither excitement nor anxiety over the state of the economy. Their outlook, as measured by the NFIB's Small-Business Optimism Index (SBOI), edged up four-tenths of a point from April to 97.2 (compared to the index's 1986 baseline of 100).  In general, most small-business owners expect to see improvement in sales, employment, capital spending and expansion opportunities. In addition, the SBOI suggests that a recession is not in the offing. According to NFIB, the SBOI has been consistent in anticipating the approach of recessions throughout its 34-year history. NFIB Chief Economist William Dunkelberg says that the survey "has anticipated solid gains all year."  Small-Business Optimism IndexOptimism ComponentsNet %ChangeChangeApril 07 To May 07Plan to increase employment130Plan to increase capital outlays*290Plan to increase inventories0 -3Expect economy to improve-3+5Expect higher real sales16+2Current inventory-6-3Current job openings*24-2Expected credit conditions-6+1Now a good time to expand*120Earnings trends-15+4*Note: These components are measured as actual percentages of all respondents and are not net percentages. A net percentage is the percent positive minus percent negative. (Source: NFIB)Chery, Chrysler Finalize Agreement BEIJING (July 3, 2007) - Chrysler Group President and CEO Tom LaSorda and Chery Automobile Co. Chairman and President Yin Tongyue have finalized a cooperative agreement between the two automakers. Under the agreement, Chrysler and Chery (based in Wuhu, Anhui Province, China) will work together to develop, manufacture and distribute Chery-made small and sub-compact cars in North America, Europe and other major automotive markets under the Chrysler Group brands. Chrysler will identify several small-car models, now being developed by Chery in China, and work collaboratively to make any necessary branding and regulatory modifications prior to their entry into other markets. Both companies also will jointly develop new globally competitive products based on future Chery small-car platforms. The DaimlerChrysler supervisory board approved the framework for the agreement earlier this year. Chinese governmental authorities from the State Development and Reform Commission officially approved the agreement, and marked the occasion by hosting a first-of-its-kind signing event. Strategic growth in international markets - while defending market share in North America - is an important part of Chrysler Group's recovery and transformation plan, according to LaSorda. "This is the start of a very long relationship between Chrysler and Chery," he adds. "Chery's participation in this agreement and their focus on small and sub-compact cars will have a nearly immediate effect on Chrysler Group's offerings in the small-vehicle segments. This strategic partnership is part of a new business model that is allowing us to introduce all-new products more quickly, with less capital spending." (Source: DaimlerChrysler)

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