RIP Ferdinand Piëch, Former Volkswagen Group Chairman,1937-2019

The former head of the Volkswagen Group has died suddenly at the age of 82, four years after resigning from the company he led to greatness, according to a statement by his wife, Ursula.

Ferdinand Karl Piëch was born on 17 April 1937, in Vienna. His father, Anton, was a lawyer, and his mother, Louise, was the daughter of Ferdinand Porsche. The third of four children, Ferdinand Piëch had two brothers and a sister.

As a young engineer, he made Porsche a brand in racing through legendary vehicles such as the 917 and the Le Mans victory. Since 1972, he brought Audi up to the next technological level with innovations such as quattro four wheel drive and the TDI turbo diesel engine, shaping Audi into a premium brand.

Heading the Volkswagen Group, Ferdinand Piëch advanced its pedigree by integrating Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti into the Group, while also leading the volume brands to international competitiveness through a consistent platform strategy. He also integrated the trucking businesses of Scania and MAN into the Group, laying the foundation for a globally competitive commercial vehicle supplier.

Technologically, he and his development teams have repeatedly gone beyond the limits of the feasible – from the first one-litre car in the world to the Bugatti Veyron with 1001 horsepower.

His biggest triumph was the acquisition of the Porsche brand in 2012. The takeover came with a personal twist – Piëch was able to turn the tables on his cousin, Wolfgang Porsche, who had pushed the sports-car producer to bid for VW four years earlier. Piëch sided with the state of Lower Saxony, which owns a blocking stake in VW, to rebuff Porsche’s offer just as the suitor’s debt was surging from the takeover effort.

Bob Lutz, former Vice-Chairman of GM and veteran of Chrysler, Ford and BMW, summed up Piëch in this way:

“While his stubborn sense of infallibility led to one or two colossal blunders, such as the beautiful but failed VW Phaeton, a $100,000 luxury car that was doomed by its VW badge, Piëch’s strong direction and insistence on excellence made the VW Group, including Audi, SEAT, Škoda, Lamborghini, Porsche, Bentley and others, into a global automotive powerhouse.”

Lyon To Host The 47th WorldSkills Competition In 2023

The city of Lyon in the southeast of France will host the 47th WorldSkills Competition in 2023. WorldSkills members voted two to one for the French city at its 2019 General Assembly in Kazan.

Lyon’s bid was backed by the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, who appeared in a recorded video to promise his full support for Lyon 2023.

“I want to say I … fully support Lyon for French candidacy for the WorldSkills Competition for 2023,” said President Macron. The president continued to say that the aims of WorldSkills were “fully in line” with France’s policy on vocational training and education.

“Thank you for trusting us,” said Michel Guisembert, Official Delegate and President of WorldSkills France. “I can assure you that you will not be disappointed.”

France will be hosting a WorldSkills Competition for the second time, with Lyon also having been the venue for the 33rd Competition in 1996.

“Congratulations to Lyon on their presentation,” said Simon Bartley, President of WorldSkills. “France is a strong member of WorldSkills. We wish them well with their work over the next few years and I know they will do a great job.”

The city is the second largest metropolitan area in France and is the capital of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. It is a major industrial centre and has a global reputation for gastronomy.

The competition, which is proposed for September 2023, will also coincide with the 70th anniversary of France first competing at a WorldSkills Competition in 1953.

IIHS Researchers Find Little Benefit From Knee Airbags

While airbags are essential, lifesaving devices that have prevented tens of thousands of deaths, a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in the United States has found that knee airbags have a negligible effect on injury risk and, in fact, may even increase it in some cases.

Knee airbags usually deploy from the lower dashboard and are intended to distribute impact forces to reduce leg injuries. They may also help reduce forces on an occupant’s chest and abdomen by controlling lower body movement.

To find out if knee airbags improve safety, IIHS researchers examined both crash test data and information from real-world crash reports.

For the first part, they looked at injury measures from more than 400 frontal crash tests conducted as part of the IIHS vehicle ratings programme to see if injuries were less likely when vehicles were equipped with knee airbags.

To look at real-world outcomes, they compiled crash reports from 14 states and compared injury risk in vehicles with knee airbags to risk in vehicles without them.

According to the IIHS, knee airbags had only a small effect on injury measures recorded by dummies in IIHS driver-side small overlap front and moderate overlap front crash tests. In the small overlap test, knee airbags were associated with increased injury risk for lower leg injuries and right femur injuries, though head injury risk was slightly reduced. The airbags had no effect on injury measures in the moderate overlap test.

In the analysis of real-world crashes, knee airbags reduced overall injury risk by half a percentage point, from 7.9 percent to 7.4 percent, but this result wasn’t statistically significant.

“There are many different design strategies for protecting against the kind of leg and foot injuries that knee airbags are meant to address,” said Becky Mueller, an IIHS senior research engineer and co-author of the paper. “Other options may be just as, if not more, effective.”

The IIHS says one reason some manufacturers have been installing knee airbags is to help vehicles pass USA federally mandated tests with unbelted dummies. It’s possible that knee airbags would help unbelted occupants in real-world crashes. The IIHS study didn’t look specifically at crashes in which people weren’t using seat belts, and dummies are always belted in IIHS vehicle ratings tests.

Tesla Model 3 And Audi A6 Achieve High ANCAP Safety Scores

Tesla’s Model 3 has achieved strong results in the areas of occupant protection and active collision avoidance, scoring a five-star ANCAP safety rating. The Audi A6 sedan also performed well, achieving five stars.

A score of 96 per cent was achieved by the Model 3 for adult occupant protection with full points achieved for the driver in three of four destructive crash tests. Full points were also scored by the front passenger in the frontal offset test which simulates a head-on crash. The vehicle scored maximum points for child occupants in the side impact test and 94 per cent in the safety assist category, the highest score achieved against current protocols.

The Model 3 is equipped with a range of driver assistance systems, including an advanced lane support system capable of emergency lane-keeping which actively intervenes to avoid steering into the path of an oncoming or adjacent vehicle.

“This is an impressive result, and great to see electric vehicles continuing to prioritise safety,” said ANCAP Chief Executive Officer, James Goodwin.

“It is encouraging to see Tesla give equal attention to the active safety systems and technologies on board as well as the safety fundamentals through the structure and restraints.”

ANCAP said the Audi A6 is well equipped with a range of safety features and technologies. It performed well across the range of assessments and is equipped with an active bonnet to reduce injury to pedestrians.

“The Audi A6 offers a good mix of safety systems for adults, children and other road users,” said Goodwin.

Five-star ANCAP safety ratings apply to all Australian and New Zealand variants of the Tesla Model 3 and Audi A6 variants.

CIECA Webinar To Examine Artificial Intelligence Black Box Impact On Claims

CIECA has announced its next CIECAst webinar titled Inside the AI Black Box: Understanding How Algorithms Appraise Auto Damage in Seconds.

The webinar will be held on 8 August at 10am CST and will feature two people from UK artificial intelligence (AI) software company, Tractable: Julie Kheyfets, head of North America, and estimating research lead Marcel Horstmann.

During the one-hour live broadcast, Kheyfets and Horstmann will explain how AI generates repair estimates from photos. They will walk through the fundamentals of computer vision, share a live demo, and highlight key considerations for organisations pioneering AI.

Kheyfets leads the North America business for Tractable, where she works closely with collision industry players who are adopting Tractable’s technology. Horstmann leads the Machine Learning and Product Development teams for Tractable’s AI estimating product. Since its start in 2014, Tractable says it has deployed its AI solutions across North America, Europe and Asia, and processed hundreds of thousands of claims.

Following the CIECAst webinar, attendees will have the opportunity to take a short quiz to earn credit toward a professional designation from the Automotive Management Institute (AMi).

To register for the CIECAst, visit this link.

CIECA Connex Conference Agenda Includes Crash Test At IIHS

The Collision Industry Electronic Commerce Association (CIECA) has announced that its annual symposium this year will include viewing a crash test at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The CIECA’s 11th annual conference – CIECA Connex 2019 – will take place in Charlottesville, Virginia during 16-18 September. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear information about blockchain, cybersecurity, legislation regarding autonomous vehicles, calibration, technical sessions such as Swagger and GraphQL, and other topical industry issues.

Speakers include:

  • Darryl Amberson, LaMettry’s
  • Mark Allen, Audi
  • Greg Brown, NABC first responder programme
  • Jon Delgado, APU Solutions
  • Sheryl Driggers, Universal Collision
  • Dan Gluck, Enterprise Holdings
  • Sean Guthrie, Car Crafters Collision Centers
  • Kim Hazelbaker, IIHS
  • Bob Jacobs, Microsoft
  • Patrick McGuire
  • Michael Ortega & Chris Poulos, IAA
  • Bob Redding
  • John Shoemaker, BASF
  • Eric Shultz, ALLDATA

In addition, there will be a 25th anniversary celebration, a tour of the IIHS, networking opportunities among industry segments and a vehicle gifting by the National Auto Body Council (NABC) as part of its Recycled Rides programme. The full agenda can be found by visiting: https://www.cieca.com/editor_upload/File/2019%20CIECA%20Connex/2019-CIECA-Connex-Agenda-07-18.pdf.

“We encourage all industry stakeholders to attend CIECA Connex 2019,” said Steve Betley, chairman of CIECA. “This year, we are highlighting the technological changes ahead and how to best prepare. By having all stakeholders gather and work together, the goal is to help our industry be as efficient, profitable and successful as possible.”

Discounted room rates at the Omni Charlottesville Hotel will be available until 15 August and early-bird conference registration fees are being offered until 23 August.

All industry stakeholders (members, non-CIECA members, OEMs, shop owners, insurers, information providers, recyclers, property restoration providers, etc.) are invited.

During the event, attendees will:

  • Hear about current and future industry challenges and opportunities
  • Gain timely, relevant business and technical knowledge
  • Network with other members and industry colleagues
  • Take part in learning opportunities for all industry segments.

This year’s event sponsors include AkzoNobel, Allstate, Audatex-Solera, Axalta, Caliber Collision, Car-PartPro.com, CCC, comsearch, Enterprise, Hertz, IAA, LKQ, Mobile Tech RX, NuGen IT, Precision Body & Paint, SafeLite Solutions and URG.

For more information about sponsorship opportunities, visit www.CIECAConnex.com.

Register for the IIHS tour and CIECA CONNEX Conference, and book a room by visiting: https://www.cieca.com/info.php?pnum=95bd34b6c447f0

IAG Acquires Majority Stake In Digital Car Subscription Platform

Insurance Australia Group Limited (IAG) has acquired a majority stake in trading platform and digital car subscription service, Carbar.

Carbar was established in 2016 in Melbourne, expanded to Sydney in June 2019, and is Australia’s first car subscription platform. It caters to customers looking for alternative forms of vehicle ownership and now has plans to expand across Australia in 2020.

Carbar offers a car subscription starting at $109 per week which includes registration, insurance, roadside assistance and maintenance. IAG hopes to better understand the changing mobility trends while providing new sources of value to customers through Carbar.

Carbar plans to expand its vehicle subscription model while supporting the growth of its online car trading platform that removes the uncertainty often associated with buying a new or second-hand car.

“We are thrilled to partner with Carbar which will play a central role in our approach to the future of insurance and the changing mobility needs of our customers,” said James Orchard, IAG Executive General Manager of Innovation.

“Carbar has pioneered the car subscription model in Australia. We look forward to combining its world-class digital capabilities with IAG’s assets and scale to provide new mobility experiences for customers today and in the future.”

 “IAG’s support will be instrumental in growing and developing our business,” said Desmond Hang, Carbar CEO and co-founder. “We look forward to working closely with its team to further expand Carbar and grow our car subscription capabilities.”

CAPA Reaffirms Its Ongoing Commitment To The Collision Repair Industry

In response to NSF International’s withdrawal from certification in the collision repair industry, the Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) is reassuring the industry it will continue its mission to ensure that high-quality, certified aftermarket parts remain an option for insurers, repairers, and consumers.

“CAPA’s commitment to the aftermarket industry spans more than 30 years,” said Clark Plucinski, Chairman, CAPA Board of Directors. “We understand that the recent developments in the aftermarket parts certification industry have caused concern amongst stakeholders, but CAPA is fully committed to servicing the industry with the same diligence and passion we have since our founding.

“Over the past several years CAPA has maintained double digit growth year over year, in certified part applications available to the industry. CAPA intends to accelerate this trend over the coming years through the development of additional standards across a wider variety of replacement parts.”

To date, CAPA has certified over 105 million parts.

“CAPA will work individually with various stakeholders to minimise the impact of recent changes in the automotive parts certification business,” said Plucinski. “We will reach out to determine areas CAPA can develop solutions or programmes to support the industry, and we look forward to industry feedback.”

Charlie Shaver Resigns As Chairman Of Axalta

Axalta Coating Systems announced that Charlie Shaver has resigned as Chairman of its Board of Directors, effective 30 June 2019, to focus on other professional commitments. The Board of Directors has appointed current Independent Presiding Director Mark Garrett as its new Chairman. Garrett also serves as Chairman of Axalta’s Strategic Review Committee.

Axalta is looking into a potential sale, after it announced last week that it would conduct a “comprehensive review of strategic alternatives to maximise shareholder value”. Garrett is leading that review as head of the Strategic Review Committee.

“I am honoured to have served as Axalta’s Chairman over the past six years and proud of all the company has accomplished,” said Shaver. “Axalta’s tremendous progress in recent years has enabled the company to review a range of strategic alternatives from a position of strength, which I strongly believe is the best course of action for Axalta and its shareholders, customers and employees. With the review underway, now is the right time to make this important transition at the board level. I look forward to watching the next great chapter in Axalta’s journey under the exemplary leadership of Mark Garrett and Robert Bryant.”

“On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank Charlie for the many contributions he has made to Axalta over the past six years, both in the boardroom and as CEO,” said Garrett. “Charlie has played an instrumental role in positioning Axalta for the future by solidifying its market leadership and building a strong foundation for growth. I am honoured by the opportunity to build on Axalta’s rich history and oversee a comprehensive review of strategic alternatives to maximise value for shareholders.”

“I have enjoyed working with Charlie and wish him all the best in the future,” said Robert W. Bryant, Axalta’s Chief Executive Officer. “I look forward to working closely with Mark and the rest of the Board through the strategic review process and beyond to maximise value for Axalta shareholders.”

Frank Kirmis Appointed Director Of Pro Spot Germany

Pro Spot International announced the appointment of Frank Kirmis as its new Director of Sales and OEM Relationships for Europe and Asia.

In his new role, Frank will help Pro Spot continue to build relationships with European vehicle manufacturers, develop its European sales strategy and build up distribution service networks. Kirmis will help oversee expanding locations in Europe and Asia including the company’s new location in Germany.

Pro Spot said Kirmis joins the company with 30 years of experience in the industry, giving him a great understanding of the market and those in it.

“The technology is here, the knowledge is here, the spirit is here; I am excited to continue to grow the brand globally,” Kirmis said.

In addition to offices in Sweden and Italy, Pro Spot said the new location in Germany will help to establish its brand presence with local support for sales, service and product training in a more meaningful way.

“I say this truthfully – I feel like we haven’t started yet and 33 years have gone by, but there are so many opportunities to do so much more,” said Ron Olsson, President of Pro Spot. “With our passion, our products, our engineering and technology, we will continue to keep inventing and developing new ideas to help this industry continue to thrive.”