Will German Manufacturers And Suppliers Ally Over Autonomous Cars?

Leading German car manufacturers could join forces to advance together in the race for autonomous cars, according to German media reports.

Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler, as well as suppliers Bosch and Continental are “evaluating” the possibility of an alliance to develop autonomous mobility, according to the German weekly Manager Magazin.

Earlier, the daily Handelsblatt had already held discussions between Daimler and BMW, while Bloomberg had reported preliminary talks between these two manufacturers in late 2018.

BMW, which already cooperates with Fiat and Intel, told AFP that “other companies are interested in a collaboration” around its “non-exclusive” platform for autonomous driving.

“Strategic partnerships and a large network of research and development are key success factors” because of the “substantial investment” necessary for the development of the autonomous car, explained a Volkswagen spokesman. Thus, the group “considers several projects in common with other companies in all regions of the world,” he added, refusing – like his counterpart at BMW – to specifically comment on the different press information.

Daimler, Continental and Bosch had no comment.

Last week, Volkswagen and Ford announced an alliance on vans and pickups to significantly reduce their production costs, while looking ahead to continuing discussions on a partnership in the field of electric and autonomous vehicles and mobility services.

According to Manager Magazin, the discussions between Volkswagen and Ford have not resulted in a wider agreement because the boss of VW, Herbert Diess, would prefer an alliance between German companies.

These discussions come at a time when the automotive industry is racing to develop these expensive technologies that are supposed to define the modes of transport of tomorrow.

The uncertainty and the sums involved encourage alliances: for example, Honda has recently invested in General Motors’ “Cruise” subsidiary, which is focused on autonomous technologies.

Volkswagen And Ford Launch Global Alliance

Volkswagen AG and Ford Motor Company announced their first formal agreements in a broad alliance that positions the companies to boost competitiveness and better serve customers in an era of rapid change in the industry.

Volkswagen CEO Dr. Herbert Diess and Ford CEO Jim Hackett confirmed that the companies intend to develop commercial vans and medium-sized pickups for global markets beginning as early as 2022. The alliance will drive significant scale and efficiencies and enable both companies to share investments in vehicle architectures that deliver distinct capabilities and technologies.

The companies estimate the commercial van and pickup cooperation will yield improved annual pre-tax operating results, starting in 2023.

In addition, Volkswagen and Ford have signed a memorandum of understanding to investigate collaboration on autonomous vehicles, mobility services and electric vehicles. Both companies have started to explore opportunities, and they have also said they were open to considering additional vehicle programmes in the future. The teams will continue working through details in the coming months.

“Over time, this alliance will help both companies create value and meet the needs of our customers and society,” said Hackett. “It will not only drive significant efficiencies and help both companies improve their fitness, but also gives us the opportunity to collaborate on shaping the next era of mobility.”

Diess added: “Volkswagen and Ford will harness our collective resources, innovation capabilities and complementary market positions to even better serve millions of customers around the world. At the same time, the alliance will be a cornerstone for our drive to improve competitiveness.”

The alliance, which does not entail cross-ownership between the two companies, will be governed by a joint committee. This committee will be led by Hackett and Diess along with including senior executives from both companies.

Ford and Volkswagen both have strong commercial van and pickup businesses around the globe, with popular nameplates such as the Ford Transit family and Ranger as well as the Volkswagen Transporter, Caddy and Amarok.

The companies’ collective light commercial vehicle volumes from 2018 totalled approximately 1.2 million units globally, which could represent the industry’s highest-volume collaboration as production scales.

Demand for both medium pickups and commercial vans is expected to grow globally in the next five years. The alliance will enable the companies to share development costs, leverage their respective manufacturing capacity, boost the capability and competitiveness of their vehicles and deliver cost efficiencies, while maintaining distinct brand characteristics.

Through the alliance, Ford will engineer and build medium-sized pickups for both companies which are expected to go to market as early as 2022. For both parties, Ford intends to engineer and build larger commercial vans for European customers, and Volkswagen intends to develop and build a city van.

PPG To Acquire Hemmelrath

PPG said it has reached a “definitive agreement” to acquire automotive coatings manufacturer Hemmelrath, a German manufacturer of coatings for automotive original equipment manufacturers.

“We are excited to add Hemmelrath to our robust and diversified automotive coatings offering,” said Michael McGarry, PPG Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “This acquisition is another step forward in our strategic growth plan that will provide further value to our customers and shareholders.”

Headquartered in Klingenberg, Germany, Hemmelrath is a family-owned manufacturer of OEMs. With more than 450 employees, the company operates manufacturing facilities in Klingenberg and Erlenbach in Germany, as well as Jilin in China, Duncan in South Carolina, USA and Indaiatuba in Brazil.

Hemmelrath supplies automotive plants worldwide and more than seven million vehicles are coated with its products each year.

“The fit between Hemmelrath and PPG is complementary,” said Rebecca Liebert, PPG Senior Vice President, Automotive Coatings. “The acquisition will enhance PPG’s automotive coatings offering and add formulating and manufacturing solutions.”

Volkswagen Toolmaking Opens 3D Printing Centre

The Volkswagen brand’s Toolmaking unit says it is adding a “highly advanced” 3D printing centre to its facilities in Wolfsburg, bringing the “most highly advanced generation of 3D printers” to the Volkswagen Group to enable the production of complex vehicle parts in the future.

“The 3D printing centre takes Volkswagen’s additive manufacturing activities to a new level,” said Dr. Andreas Tostmann, board member for production of the Volkswagen brand. “In two to three years’ time, three-dimensional printing will also become interesting for the first production parts. In the future, we may be able to use 3D printers directly on the production line for vehicle production,” Tostmann added.

VW says the new generation of 3D printers developed in cooperation with US manufacturer HP is the most modern within the Volkswagen Group and is based on the binder jetting process, which supplements the previous selective laser melting (SLM) process. Binder jetting not only makes metallic 3D printing considerably easier but also faster, while in future, it will be possible to manufacture production parts in addition to prototypes, according to Volkswagen.

At the opening ceremony, Oliver Pohl, Head of Additive Manufacturing, underlined the performance of the team which was said to have recorded outstanding achievements for the future since the start of conversion work a year ago. “Here, we have created an innovative centre which will be of tremendous strategic importance for Volkswagen in the future.”

“The inauguration of the 3D printing centre underlines the importance of Innovation Fund II, which makes investments like this possible,” said Works Council member Susanne Preuk. “The Works Council welcomes the fact that the company is opening up to new technologies and shaping them in a future-oriented way in the interest of the employees.”

To date, the Volkswagen Group says it has mainly used the SLM process for 3D printing with metals. In this process, the material used, such as steel, is applied to a base plate in a thin layer. A laser beam then melts the powder at the points where the component is to be created. The molten powder hardens, forming a solid material layer. The new printers at the centre will now allow the use of other 3D printing processes such as binder jetting. In this additive process, components are manufactured using a metal powder and a binder applied in layers. The metal part which has been printed is then “baked” in a sintering process. Volkswagen say in future, the various processes, which each have specific applications, will supplement each other in an ideal way.

Caliber And Abra Merge To Create The Largest Collision Repair Network

Caliber Collision and Abra Auto Body Repair of America have announced a definitive merger agreement, with the combined collision repair facility operator to have more than 1000 locations.

“This combination will allow us to offer even greater satisfaction for our valued customers and insurance clients while creating new opportunities for the talented teammates of both companies,” said Steve Grimshaw, Caliber Chief Executive Officer. “With more than 1000 stores in 37 states and the District of Columbia, we look forward to providing customers and insurance clients with the flexibility and convenience that come with the broadest geographic coverage in the United States and a full suite of services. We’re confident the technological and operational investments will create unparalleled customer service, enhanced repair quality and industry-leading metrics, all of which advance our purpose of restoring the rhythm of our customers’ lives.

“We plan to maintain all existing centres from both companies as we develop and execute a plan to work smarter, generate growth, offer expanded services, drive operational excellence and reward talent across the organisation. Recognising the critical importance of top talent to our success, we will be retaining all teammates in the field at both Caliber and Abra centres, and we look forward to creating a culture that supports our teammates as they expand their careers across a larger organisation, accelerated by industry-leading development programmes,” said Grimshaw.

“Our industry becomes more complex every year,” said Abra CEO Ann Fandozzi. “The combined company will invest in the equipment, training and technologies that will allow our teammates to build their careers while continuing to meet and exceed our customers’ needs for years to come. Abra’s leadership team is excited by the opportunities this combination with Caliber creates for customers, insurance clients and teammates. We look forward to seeing our traditions of stellar customer service, unparalleled operational excellence and team development taken to the next level across the United States.”

The transaction is expected to close in early 2019 with Caliber CEO Steve Grimshaw to lead the combined company.

Ann-Fandozzi-ABRA
Abra CEO Ann Fandozzi.
Caliber CEO Steve Grimshaw.

AkzoNobel And McLaren Celebrate 10-Year Partnership

AkzoNobel and McLaren celebrated 10 years of collaboration at the SEMA automotive show in Las Vegas, Nevada, last month.

The partnership began in 2008 when AkzoNobel became the official supplier of paint solutions for McLaren Racing. McLaren has used the company’s premium Sikkens brand for its Formula 1 cars ever since.

AkzoNobel has also been a technology partner to McLaren Automotive since 2012, with all McLaren road cars being fully painted in the company’s products.

“Working with partners like McLaren is a perfect example of our commitment to delivering cutting-edge innovation,” said Keith Malik, Key Account Director of AkzoNobel’s Automotive and Specialty Coatings business. “We’re proud to have partnered with them for 10 years and demonstrate our shared passion for high performance technologies and performance.”

Simon Roberts, Chief Operating Officer of McLaren Racing, said: “Our decade-long relationship with AkzoNobel has led us to new innovations, scientific and sustainable advancements and quality finishes. Their longevity in the marketplace, coupled with the technology we’ve developed together, has helped us in our ongoing pursuit of high performance, and we’re thrilled to call AkzoNobel our partner.”

The livery for this season’s MCL33 F1 car has made an impact, with the Papaya Spark colour scheme winning a BBC poll for best-looking car.

AMA Group Announces Executive Management Team, Board Changes

AMA Group has announced several management changes that will take effect at the conclusion of the 2018 Annual General Meeting to be held on 22 November.

Andy Hopkins will become Group Chief Executive Officer while Anthony Day will join the board as an independent Non-Executive Director. Ray Malone will continue as Chairman.

AMA described Day as one of Australia’s leading insurance industry executives who has more than 30 years of industry experience. Day was recently the Chief Executive Officer of Suncorp Group’s Insurance Operations, one of Australia’s largest insurance businesses. In that role, he had responsibility for both the Group’s General and Life Insurance operations within Australia which incorporate AAMI, GIO, Vero, Shannons and Asteron.

Hopkins said AMA is very fortunate to have Day join its Board of Directors.

“His level of understanding of our key insurance company customers’ service needs is without peer.  We look forward to being able to utilise his knowledge in our business to deliver better outcomes for our customers”.

The company has also appointed Steven Becker as Group Chief Financial Officer following the resignation of Ashley Killick. Becker has spent the past two years as the Chief Financial Officer of Affinity Education Group. Prior to that, he was the Chief Financial Officer of the formerly ASX-listed Mantra Group for eight years.

AMA Group says Becker has extensive experience in high growth organisations providing financial and strategic leadership. He will be based in South-East Queensland with the finance teams and commence with the company in early February 2019.

In the interim, the Chief Financial Officer role will be performed by AMA Company Secretary and financial accountant, Terri Bakos, and the General Managers of Finance in the Panel Repair and ACAD businesses.

Malone said the changes mark an important milestone in the development of AMA Group.

“In a little over six years, the business has grown from a small troubled aggregation of automobile related businesses to Australia’s leading automobile panel repair and aftermarket parts operator. It has been my pleasure to lead the business through this stage of its development.

“The business has now reached a size that it requires a more traditional governance structure and the addition of new talent to the executive management team and Board of Directors to ensure that the next six years are equally as successful. Mr Hopkins has been my partner in growing the panel repair business over the last three years and he is ideally suited to succeed me as Group Chief Executive Officer. In this role, he will rely heavily, as I have for the last six years, on Mr [Ray] Smith-Roberts to continue his exceptional leadership of the ACAD business. Together, they will ensure AMA Group realises the significant market opportunities before it.”

Hopkins responded by saying: “Mr Malone has done an amazing job leading the creation of a truly market leading business over the last six years. It has been my pleasure to work closely with him for the last three years and over that time I have never ceased to be amazed by his entrepreneurial skills and innovative approaches to problem solving which have added very significant value to the business. I look forward to continuing to work closely with him as Chairman and head of the procurement business. The procurement business of AMA is an area of significant potential growth for AMA and I look forward to working with Mr Malone in growing that business.”

According to AMA’s latest annual report, revenue grew by 33 per cent to more than A$509 million, up from A$382 million in the previous year. The group completed 26 acquisitions, integrated 30 new facilities, and opened four new greenfield sites, taking the total number of facilities to 114.

AMA Group has also corrected an article in “The Australian” which asserted that AMA is “teaming up with Blackstone to form an offer for Suncorp’s Smash Repairs Group, Capital SMART”.

In a statement, AMA said the suggestion is incorrect. “AMA is not teaming up with Blackstone to make any offer for the Capital SMART business,” the statement read.

“Further, AMA’s announcement that Mr Anthony Day will be joining the board of AMA after the AGM has no connection with Suncorp selling the Capital SMART business. Mr Day will be joining the board due to his excellent credentials and experience in the insurance industry in Australia, AMA’s core customer group. The board of AMA believes that Mr Day will make a valuable contribution to the board.”

Robert Bryant Named Interim CEO at Axalta

Axalta Coating Systems has announced that its board of directors has appointed Robert Bryant, Axalta’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, to the additional role of interim Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately. Bryant succeeds Terrence Hahn, who has resigned by mutual agreement with the board, following an investigation by outside counsel into conduct by Hahn unrelated to financial matters that Axalta believes was inconsistent with company policies. Hahn has also vacated his position on the board.

“We are pleased that Robert Bryant has agreed to step into the role of interim CEO,” said Charlie Shaver, Chairman, Axalta Coating Systems. “Having worked closely with Robert for over five years, I know he has the leadership skills and financial acumen, as well as the respect of the management team and employees, to be an effective leader for Axalta. The company remains well positioned to build on its success, with strong end-market demand and an unrelenting focus on customer service and innovation.”

“I deeply appreciate the vote of confidence from Charlie and the board,” said Bryant. “The management team at Axalta is resilient — we will work tirelessly to put this distraction behind us and focus on delivering outstanding products and customer service.”

“I wish the best to Axalta’s employees and its leadership,” said Hahn.

Axalta also announced that its preliminary results for the third quarter are in line with the company’s guidance communicated during its second quarter earnings update, which specified third quarter adjusted EBITDA of approximately 24 per cent of the midpoint of its full-year range.

Robert Bryant has served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Axalta since 2013. He was previously Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President of Roll Global LLC. Before joining Roll Global in 2007, he was Executive Vice President of Strategy, New Business Development, and Information Technology at Grupo Industrial Saltillo, S.A.B. de C.V.

Elite Body Shop Solutions Webinar On Scheduling Coming Soon

Elite Body Shop Solutions has announced the next instalment for its free Elite Webinar Series, “Simple, Effective Scheduling”, will feature Dave Luehr, Founder of Elite Body Shop Solutions, and Ron Kuehn, President of Collision Business Solutions, on Thursday, 25th October, at 1pm CST (6pm UTC).

Dave Luehr and Ron Kuehn say that they have learned most savvy shop owners understand that that they can no longer attempt to bring a majority of their week’s repair jobs in on Monday and then hope to get them all delivered by Friday, and scheduling based on estimated work hours doesn’t always work out either.

“Many collision repairers are either fed‐up with complicated and ineffective solutions or discovering that their scheduling ‘system’ isn’t really a system at all – they are essentially still ‘winging it’ when it comes to scheduling repair jobs into their shops,” Luehr said. “Modern, successful shops need to let go of old thinking in order to regain control of their business.”

Luehr and Kuehn says that they will guide the webinar attendees through the process of designing their own simple, effective scheduling system based on sound principles of managing work‐in‐process while ensuring maximum profitability.

By executing the information learned in this webinar, collision repairers can expect to increase profitability, eliminate unnecessary expenses caused by excess inventory, “massively” improve the customer experience, improve shop morale, “reduce the chaos, and get back control of your collision repair business”.

Every month, Elite highlights a topic to keep collision repairers and those that serve them abreast of the latest information required to be successful in today’s challenging business environment. This month, Elite says that attendees will discover new ways to become more successful and expand their horizons.

To register, visit events.genndi.com/channel/EliteWebinarOct2018. Those who are unable to attend the live event can watch the recorded webinar by joining the Elite Body Shop Academy at www.elitebodyshopsolutions.com/academy.

New Global Refinish Report Highlights Changes And Major Players

A new report on the global automotive refinish coatings market has found that the sector is highly consolidated, with five companies holding 65 per cent market share in recent years.

Transparency Market Research found that two major companies, Axalta Coatings Systems and PPG Industries alone hold 40 per cent share in the global market.

The report also finds that with stringent rules and regulation pertaining to VOC emissions, particularly in Europe and North America, the consumption of solvent-based coatings has seen a massive reduction.

The global automotive refinish coatings market is currently segregated into clear coat, primer, base coat, filler, activator, and others. Of these, base coat holds the top position in the market and is also expected to hold a 31 per cent share of the global market by the end of the assessed period. On the other hand, the activators segment is predicted to display high growth during the same period, ensuing in a minimal rise in its share by 2024 with North America anticipated to hold the dominating position in the market.

TMR analysts say the ongoing trend has forced many manufacturers to concentrate more on development of effective waterborne varieties of automotive refinish coatings, a trend that is likely to have a significant impact on the market’s dynamics in future. It is expected that the global automotive refinish coatings market is likely to display a 5.7 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) during the forecast period 2016-2024. The market, which was valued at US$6.6 billion in 2015, is likely to touch US$10.8 billion by the end of the assessed period.

According to the researchers, developing countries across the world are likely to witness a surge in their automotive market over the years. Countries such as China, South Africa, India, and Brazil are expected to remain at the forefront of this surge, due to rising populations and increases in disposable income. The rise in these developing countries is likely to, in turn, act as catalysts in the growth of the automotive refinish coatings market.

Another finding of the report is the numerous strict rules and regulations regarding emissions and how these have been levied for declining usage of certain elements and chemicals in automotive refinish coatings. This has seen the sales of solvent-based products dwindle, including higher levels of organic compounds in comparison to water-based products. Several efforts made by government and environment sustenance bodies are likely to increase knowledge amongst consumers, and this has seen a steep decline of sales in solvent-based coatings in recent years.