February 2021

The past couple of months have been very interesting for the automotive industry.

Amongst a host of eye-catching announcements (think Hyundai’s acquisition of robot-maker Boston Dynamics and where that may lead!) two of the bigger stories were that of the formation of Stellantis, a new company established by the merger of FCA and PSA Group, and the continued evolution of General Motors (GM).

GM made a host of announcements that can be placed under the ‘innovation’ banner at January’s online-only Consumer Electronics Show. Its Cadillac brand announced two adventurous electric and autonomous concept vehicles. One was a box-shaped Personal Autonomous Vehicle (PAV), while the other was a very futuristic single-passenger flying drone concept. The company also teased a bunch of future EVs.

Perhaps most notable though for those who look beyond the individual products was GM’s announcement of BrightDrop, a new business unit established to offer ‘an ecosystem of electric first-to-last-mile products, software and services to empower delivery and logistics companies to move goods more efficiently’.

Two products were unveiled that plug directly into the BrightDrop concept – the EP1 electric-powered pallet that is designed to help operators move up to 90kg from the delivery vehicle to the customer’s home, and the EV600 – an electric light commercial delivery truck with a range of up to 400km.

The company also announced a BrightDrop cloud-based software platform offering customers the ability to track items and for business users to have visibility and control over their fleet, and also revealed potential new vehicles in the form of a medium-distance vehicle and a rapid-load delivery vehicle.

BrightDrop looks to offer an efficient, all-electric, end-to-end solution for transport and delivery services, and that is quite a statement of intent from GM. The company clearly believes that the logistics market is going to be a monster and that urban last-mile delivery is a sector into which it must dive. It may well prove to be a winner.

If all that wasn’t enough, a few days after CES, GM made a whopper of a statement about its future, saying it had plans to be carbon neutral in its global products and operations by 2040 and that to achieve that, it will ‘eliminate tailpipe emission from new light-duty vehicles by 2035’.

The company has been talking up its electrification strength for some time – its Ultium battery technology will underpin its foray into the sector – and it said that it will offer 30 all-electric models globally by the middle of this decade, and that 40 per cent of the company’s U.S. models will be battery electric by the end of 2025.

GM was the first carmaker of recent times to take on the all-electric vehicle challenge when it designed and built the excellent EV1 in the mid-90s. While it abandoned that direction for a time, it has fully embraced it now and it is amazing to think that in less than 15 years from today, all new cars from this manufacturing behemoth will be electrified. The transformation of the company to being a champion of the clean mobility era is well underway.

Meanwhile the merger of FCA and PSA Group to form Stellantis has created the world’s fourth-largest carmaker – the company has more than 400,000 employees and sales are somewhere near 8 million vehicles a year.

Stellantis will be the new home for some great automotive names – Maserati, Dodge, Alfa Romeo among them – and if the statement released after the merger is to be believed, the company will push hard to be a player in the EV space.

The company statement read that Stellantis is ‘uniquely positioned to capture the exciting opportunities of a global industry undergoing rapid and profound change’ and that its ‘portfolio is uniquely suited to offer distinctive, sustainable mobility solutions to meet its customers’ evolving needs, as they embrace electrification, connectivity, autonomous driving and shared ownership. As the electrified market continues to grow, Stellantis is well positioned today with 29 electrified models available and plans to introduce ten additional vehicles by the end of this year.’

Stellantis said it will also work towards carbon neutrality across all products, assembly plants and other facilities. Its CEO, Carlos Tavares, would go on to say at a press conference that for each new model launched between now and 2025 there would be an electrified version.

Like the other majors, Stellantis clearly sees a future that will be, in large part, electric. Its a difficult position to argue against – electrified vehicle sales are growing, the technology is improving, all the big players are getting on board, and let’s not forget that the world’s most valuable car company, Tesla, makes only battery-electric vehicles.

Stellantis does have work to do and some hurdles to clamber over – most notably its presence in China, the world’s largest car market. Tavares acknowledged that results in China had been ‘disappointing, to say the least’ and that he had set up a team tasked with creating a new strategy for its business there. We’ll have to wait and see what that strategy may be, but let’s hope it is a successful one.

TRAINING INNOVATION

A quick note on automotive training.

One aspect of the evolution of the automotive industry has been the incredible rise of the Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS). Just about every new model of car is packed with clever features as Forward Collision-Avoidance, Lane Keeping Assist, Smart Cruise Control, and Speed Limit Assist – to name just a few.

All these features rely on a system of sensors and cameras to work properly and their maintenance and calibration is vital to ensure the safety of the vehicle, its driver and passengers.

It’s new technology and an area that must be embraced by workshops and servicing businesses. In March, MTA Queensland– whose brief is, in part, to assist automotive businesses to prepare and adapt to change – will launch a range of courses to deliver ADAS training to Queensland’s servicing and repair sector.

You can find out more about these exciting training opportunities in the pages of this edition of Motor Trader, and at our website by clicking HERE.

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