US Army, GM Collaborate To Improve Automotive Cybersecurity

The US Army CCDC Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC) and General Motors have announced a new Cooperative Research And Development Agreement (CRADA). The objective of the CRADA is bolstering the US Army’s and GM’s vehicle cybersecurity expertise over the next two years.

Cybersecurity experts from both parties will share best practices, methodologies, tools and approaches focused on conducting penetration testing and cybersecurity risk analysis. Both organisations hope to share key learnings with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) for the development of common standards in addition to improving cybersecurity methods.

Two US Army engineers will embed with their counterparts at GM, while a GM expert is scheduled to co-locate with the US Army’s Ground Vehicle Cybersecurity Team.

“Cybersecurity is an area of growing concern to the auto industry and one GM takes very seriously, which is why a partnership with the US Army is crucially important,” said Kevin Tierney, GM Chief Product Cybersecurity Officer.

Henkel, Carbon Revolution Join Forces

Henkel has reached a supply agreement with Carbon Revolution, a privately-owned Australian manufacturer of one-piece automotive carbon composite wheels. The collaboration includes dedicated manufacturing facilities, which Henkel will invest in, to be established at the company’s existing plant near Melbourne.

“Based on a number of years of close collaboration with Carbon Revolution, we have extended our proven portfolio of composite material technologies to create proprietary solutions that meet the demanding performance specifications of the global car makers,” said Konrad Brimo Hayek, Senior Business Development Manager for automotive components at Henkel. “The collaboration with Carbon Revolution is targeted at providing various global OEM carbon wheel programmes with the best solutions available and includes active support from Henkel via dual production capacities in the EU and locally in Australia.”

Carbon Revolution says its carbon fibre composite wheels are now used on some of the world’s most prestigious sports cars. The reductions in unsprung rotational mass translate into vehicle handling benefits, from better steering feel and traction to improved accelerating and braking response.

“As light-weighting components, carbon wheels can make a significant contribution to minimising the energy consumed when spinning the wheels up and dragging them back down every time the car is accelerated or slowed,” said Brett Gass, Chief Technology Officer at Carbon Revolution. “This saves fuel on combustion engine vehicles and battery power on hybrid and fully electric vehicles, maximising their range. Henkel’s advanced material technology also adds to the overall reduction of our carbon wheels in noise, vibration and harshness when compared to steel or aluminium wheels, which means automakers can save weight on additional sound insulation.”

Tradiebot Joins Government Skills Conference In Vietnam

Tradiebot will take part in a joint Australian and Vietnam government skills conference held in Vietnam later this month. Tradiebot will be one of a handful of companies from across the world who will take part in planning sessions on skills and training.

The programme, organised by the Australian Government, AusCham Vietnam, Austrade and WorldSkills Australia, is designed to tackle the need for new programmes and technologies used in early training and skill development of the current workforce.

The event will be hosted across two cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, featuring government representatives, education providers and an array of workshops, conferences, expert panels and demonstrations of new technologies in areas such as virtual reality (VR) platforms, where Tradiebot will showcase its SprayVIS product.

Tradiebot says that SprayVIS is the most technologically advanced, cost effective and compact virtual reality spray painting simulator on the market and provides a new perspective in developing training using virtual environments. The solution comes with three user modes – Expo, Training as the main feature, and Leaner which is a light version of the software offered to schools as a platform to provide a direct connection to industry and stimulate interest in trades.

Tradiebot is in the final stages of packaging its ReadyTradeGO programme, which the company thinks could reach every school and home of students that have an interest in a career path such as spray painting or vehicle repair. The company also feels it could be used with new smart devices such as VR headsets.

Tradiebot said its CEO, Mario Dimovski, will also be presenting and taking part in talks with officials from both governments and training providers about the need to introduce new digital solutions for training and information delivery to the vehicle industry, and how to better connect with the future workforce via the education network.

“We look forward to contributing in this programme with the Australian and Vietnam governments and the delegates from the training and education sectors,” said Dimovski. “Our software solutions offer a new perspective in generating interest for the younger generation using these new digital tools that they can relate to, be it either via a mobile phone, smart tablet or a VR gaming headset. These are everyday devices that the younger generation are now growing up around.

“We aim to promote trades as a pathway to a secure and prospective career choice as the need to repair vehicles increases, though the flow of new apprentices is at a record low around the world. With technology in cars and repair methods becoming more complex, it is just as crucial to ensure that the technicians of today are equipped with the knowledge and understanding on how to carry out safer repairs and continually be upskilled on the ever-changing repair industry.”

FCAI Announces September 2019 New Vehicle Sales Figures

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) has released new vehicle sales figures for September 2019.

According to Tony Weber, Chief Executive of the FCAI, new vehicles have now seen the 18th consecutive month of decreasing sales in the Australian market.

“It is clear the slower sales rate the market is experiencing is in line with the broader economic environment in Australia,” said Weber. “Of particular concern to the industry is the restrictive regulatory lending conditions currently facing consumers. The question has to be asked – are these results telling us we have made it too difficult for people to finance basic purchases in today’s Australia?”

Total sales for the month numbered 88,181 vehicles, a decrease of 6530 vehicles, or 6.9 per cent, on September 2018. On a year-to-date basis, a total of 811,464 new vehicles were sold, a decrease of 69,541 vehicles, or 7.9 per cent, on the same period in 2018.

During the month, the Sports Utility market (41,861 units) lifted by 1.1 per cent, while the Passenger Vehicle market (24,893 units) was down 18.3 per cent, and the Light Commercial market (18,257) decreased by 5.4 per cent.

Of the top 10 best-selling vehicles, the top three were light commercial vehicles – the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi Triton. Four were sports utility vehicles – the Mitsubishi ASX, Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail and the Mitsubishi Outlander. Only three were passenger vehicles – the Hyundai i30, Toyota Corolla and Kia Cerato.

Toyota remained the top selling marque for the month with 15,166 sales for 17.2 per cent market share, followed by Mitsubishi (8990 sales for 10.2 per cent market share), Mazda (8168 sales for 9.3 per cent market share) Hyundai (7245 sales for 8.2 per cent market share) and Kia (5128 for 5.8 per cent market share).

UPDATED: Volkswagen Settles Australian ‘Dieselgate’ Class Actions, ACCC Civil Suit

UPDATE (23 September 2019): Volkswagen issued a press release saying that it has now resolved, “in-principle”, the civil suit by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) against the company. Volkswagen says the terms of settlement must receive judicial confirmation at a hearing to be held in the near future, with the company not issuing any further details until that hearing. The German marque expects the proceedings to be concluded by the end of 2019.
ORIGINAL STORY (16 September 2019): Volkswagen Group says it has reached a comprehensive, in-principle settlement with plaintiffs of five class action lawsuits, subject to approval by the Federal Court of Australia. Volkswagen views the in-principle settlements as a significant step towards fully resolving the diesel lawsuits in Australia, as well as a further step towards overcoming the issue itself.

The class action lawsuits filed on behalf of Australian customers relate to approximately 100,000 Australian vehicles equipped with EA189 diesel engines. If all affected vehicles participate, each customer can expect a payment per vehicle of approximately $1400 on average.

The settlement – on a no-admissions basis – concerns five class-action lawsuits launched by law firms Maurice Blackburn and Bannister Law covering all affected vehicles in Australia. The settlement has to be confirmed by the Federal Court of Australia and a timetable has been set by the court for the necessary steps to occur. Volkswagen expects the proceedings will be concluded in 2020.

In the meantime, Volkswagen says discussions regarding an in-principle settlement of the civil suit against the company by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) are close to finalisation, with a resolution between the parties expected shortly. The details are currently confidential.

AFR: Suncorp Collecting Capital SMART, ACM Bids

According to a story in the Australian Financial Review’s Street Talk column, banking and insurance company Suncorp was expected to today collect bids for Capital SMART and ACM Parts.

The AFR says that neither sale is likely to be material to Suncorp’s balance sheet or profit & loss statement, but is important as part of its simplification strategy.

At Capital SMART, Suncorp has several private equity funds and offshore trade types seeking to buy the business, which is being offered with a long-term supply arrangement with Suncorp’s insurance arm, while ACM Parts is tied to Capital SMART. The newspaper says ACM Parts is considered to be one of the largest alternative parts suppliers in Australia and the largest recycler of collision and mechanical parts, with its customers including Capital SMART and the Gemini/AMA Group.

PPG May Bid For Axalta, Faces Competition

According to Reuters, PPG Industries has partnered with private equity investor Clayton, Dubilier & Rice to consider acquiring Axalta Coating Systems.

Citing people with knowledge of the matter, Reuters said joining forces with the buyout firm would enable PPG to get around any regulatory concerns which could be raised by an acquisition. The sources said the parties are considering establishing a consortium which could also include the likes of Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC, along with US investment management firm BlackRock, to carry out the deal. However, should the parties go ahead with the planned approach, they could have some competition from Platinum Equity and Koch Industries, with the sources telling Reuters the pair have held talks about partnering on a bid.

A sale of Axalta was first reported back in June, when the company began a review of strategic alternatives in an attempt to “generate value for shareholders”. However, the sources cautioned that there is no guarantee of a sale of Axalta taking place. Axalta rebuffed acquisition approaches in 2017 from Akzo Nobel and Nippon Paint Holdings.

Axalta, which describes itself as a leading global coatings provider active in the development, manufacturing, delivery and service of liquid and power coatings, employs around 14,000 people and has a customer base numbering in excess of 100,000 and spanning 130 countries.

None of the parties involved have commented on the report.

Symach Names Stephen Healer UK Sales Manager

Symach has promoted Stephen Healer to UK Sales Manager as part of a larger plan to open a Symach UK subsidiary within next year. The company hopes that the new UK office will “reinforce commercial structure in the UK” to give effective on-site support to customers and provide timely responses to their needs.

“With Stephen’s extensive experience in the coatings industry, he will be instrumental in helping Symach showcase its complete body shop solution,” said Osvaldo Bergaglio, Symach CEO. “He will work closely with body shops across the UK to demonstrate how they can shift from using the conventional repair process to Symach’s unique FixLine process, which drastically reduces the cost of repairs.”

Healer joined the industry in a temporary role as a van sales representative for a regional coatings distributor over 25 years ago. He worked at Nitrotherm Spray as National Sales Manager in the UK prior to joining Symach.

“I quickly developed a passion for the refinish industry and greatly value the relationships I have formed over the years,” said Healer. “I’m excited to join Symach’s international team and help collision repair facilities across the UK learn more about Symach’s unique approach repairing vehicles based on the FixLine process.

“Over the last decade, the accident repair industry in the UK has declined by around 20 per cent to just over 3000 body shops, leading to a shortage in repair capacity. We also see a shortage in skilled staff, specifically painters, contributing to increased staffing costs.”

This will lead to an increase in overall repair costs, according to Healer.

“As repair volumes decrease and costs increase, this is applying pressure on body shops to reduce their costs and increase productivity,” he said. “I look forward to building new relationships with these groups and demonstrating how Symach equipment and technology is perfectly aligned to help them be successful now and, in the future.”

Canadian Body Shop Uses Symach In New Location

Symach has announced that CARSTAR Fredericton in New Brunswick, Canada has opened a new location utilising Symach’s complete body shop solution.

“When you make a deal with Symach, you’re not just buying body shop equipment,” said Steve Knox, General Manager of CARSTAR Fredericton. “You are buying an entirely different business model.”

“Symach equipment is designed to drastically reduce the cost of repairs and increase efficiency,” said Osvaldo Bergaglio, CEO of Symach. “We helped CARSTAR Fredericton set up a new body shop using the FixLine repair process, which will help the business increase throughput and reduce labour cost per repair.”

CARSTAR Fredericton operates two locations and is owned by Roy Kennedy. Since installing the Symach equipment at the new location in July, Knox said they’ve already experienced more efficiency at the repair facility.

“One of the biggest benefits is time,” said Knox. “A conventional shop might schedule two-and-a-half to three days to complete a 10- to 11-hour job. With Symach equipment, that same vehicle can now be repaired by lunchtime the day it’s dropped off.

“It’s not through harder work or more labour-intensive ways of doing things, but through the smart use of their equipment. It’s incredible.”

Knox said that cars built today are not the same as the ones built 20 or 30 years ago. Because they are so much more sophisticated, he said it’s important to set up a repair facility that can meet those needs, and Symach equipment has helped them do that.

The CARSTAR Fredericton team said that they are impressed with Symach’s SprayTron paint booth as it helps pull everything through the paint booth instead of having everything pushed toward the booth.

“The SprayTron is one of the industry’s newest generations of spray booths on the market,” said Bergaglio. “It is high-performing, automated and it is built with the best burner, the best fans and the best material available. It can work as a conventional spray booth using hot air from the burner or with radiant waves using a robot and will typically produce 8-10 paint cycles per day.”

“When you deal with Symach, they build a shop that is so visually beautiful that you want every customer to come in through the back door, rather than the front,” said Knox. “It’s gorgeous; it looks like a showroom of their equipment but at the same time, it’s our actually functioning shop!”

Every stall has its own hoist that is flush with the floor. When it is raised, the car is at chest-level, so technicians no longer have to kneel during a repair.

“Many of the older guys in this industry have problems with their knees and backs,” said Knox. “The Symach equipment allows technicians to work at a comfortable level so this is no longer an issue.”

Over the last month, the team has been in training mode and becoming more comfortable with the equipment and the business flow.

“I can see now why those shops we talked to have that outlook,” said Knox. “It’s true. Everything Symach’s marketing says it can do, it can.”

Honda Announces New Passenger Front Airbag

Honda has announced the development of a new passenger front airbag designed to better protect occupants in several frontal collision scenarios. Honda plans to begin applying the airbag design to new products in the United States in 2020.

Honda and Autoliv, one of the company’s safety systems suppliers, partnered to develop and test the new airbag. The USA’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that in 2017, upwards of 37,000 people lost their lives on US roads as a result of motor vehicle crashes.

Honda’s next-generation airbag is designed to reduce potential injuries that can occur in a wider variety of frontal impacts. Honda believes that it’s particularly beneficial in angled frontal impacts, where lateral collision forces can cause an occupant’s head to rotate severely or slide off the airbag, increasing the chance of serious injury.

The new system utilises four major components – three inflated compartments, a centre chamber, and two outward-projecting side chambers that create a wide base across the dash. The fourth component is a sail panel, which stretches between the two side chambers at the outer edge, catching and slowing the occupant’s head while also engaging the side chambers. This pulls the head inward to cradle and protect it, mitigating the potential for injury.