Bank of England urged to share Brexit plan details

Nicky Morgan

The Bank of England has been urged to share details of how prepared banks and insurance firms are for Brexit.

Newly-appointed Treasury select committee chairwoman Nicky Morgan demanded the information, in one of her first moves since taking on the role.

In a letter to the bank’s Prudential Regulatory Authority, she asked for the key risks of a “no deal” scenario.

Sam Woods, the head of the body, which regulates banks and insurers, has been asked to reply by 2 August.

“The cliff edge facing businesses in April 2019 is a cause for concern, particularly in the financial services sector,” Ms Morgan said, commenting on the letter.

In April, the PRA asked all the firms it regulated for a summary of their contingency plans for the UK’s exit from the EU.

The firms had until 14 July to respond.

Ms Morgan wrote in the letter that she “would be grateful for some details on the outcome of this exercise”.

She said there was no need to disclose “any firm-specific information”, but asked whether all firms had responded to the request.

Ms Morgan also asked for the PRA’s assessment of how prepared the firms it regulated were for a no deal scenario.

Commenting on her letter, Ms Morgan added: “I have also asked Mr Woods for his views on the desirability and design of a transitional arrangement with the EU, to provide more time to negotiate and prepare for a new UK-EU economic relationship.

“Getting these arrangements right will be crucial for ensuring that the City retains its pre-eminence as a global financial centre, and to protect the economy and jobs as the UK leaves the EU.”

Many businesses have expressed fears over a sudden change in rules once the UK leaves the EU.

Business lobby groups, including the CBI and the British Chambers of Commerce, have pushed for an interim deal to let them trade in the same way post-Brexit.

Former education secretary Ms Morgan replaced long-running Treasury select committee chairman Andrew Tyrie earlier this month.

Continental, Magna flaunt their autonomous stuff

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — U.S. autonomous vehicle testing has gone international.

A Cadillac ATS and a Chrysler 300 on Monday rolled into the parking lot of the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa for the CAR Management Briefing Seminars after a 300-mile trip across U.S. and Canadian roads, including a ride through the Detroit-Windsor tunnel and over the Blue Water Bridge. Much of the trip was undertaken without a driver touching the steering wheel, accelerator or brake pedal.

The vehicles were outfitted with Level 3 autonomous vehicle technology from Magna International and Continental.

Once the vehicles arrived at their destination, representatives from the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation signed a memorandum of understanding to “promote and foster growth of connected and autonomous technology testing and deployment” between the U.S. and Canada.

The cross-border autonomous vehicle drive is believed to be the first of its kind.

“This is really a significant day and it cements the fact that this is where innovation happens,” Kirk Steudle, director of MDOT, said.

Navdeep Bains, Canada’s minister of innovation, science and economic development, said: “Today’s demonstration is an important example of how our ongoing cross-border cooperation is advancing connected and autonomous vehicle technologies. Our government is committed to creating new good middle-class jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. By continuing to work with the United States, we will equip our citizens with the skills they need to design and build the cars of the future on both sides of the border.”

Monday’s autonomous demonstration faced challenges along the drive, including navigating through an international underwater tunnel with limited GPS service. The Blue Water Bridge near Port Huron, Mich., was also an adventure.

“It’s a big chunk of steel,” Steudle said. “All of those lidar and radar sensors get interference from all that steel. It’s very challenging from a technology perspective.”

Representatives from the two automotive suppliers said the drive helped validate technology they have been working on for years. It also helped them learn what types of technology they’ll need in the future to navigate unique situations, like international border stops.

During Monday’s border crossings, the drivers were in control of the cars. But it was a virtually hands-free trip along the state’s highways.

Jeff Klei, president of Continental North America, said his company has been testing robot cars on public roads for more than five years across the globe.

“The engineering teams are spread across locations in the U.S., Europe, China and Japan to ensure driving and safety functions can be easily adapted to the individual regions as one comprehensive team effort,” he said in a statement.

Tom Toma, global product manager at Magna Electronics, praised the multinational collaboration.

“With our commitment to innovation and ongoing work in helping define the future mobility landscape, our involvement is a natural fit and we are pleased to join with our partners in this hands-free road trip.”

Michigan and Ontario have taken steps to ensure the Great Lakes region remains competitive as the automotive landscape evolves. In 2016, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a package of bills enabling automated vehicles to operate on roads across the state. That year, Ontario became the first province to set a regulatory framework to permit testing of automated vehicles, making it the only province to have an automated vehicle pilot program in Canada.

Toyota says carbon fiber goes beyond lightweighting

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Toyota Motor Corp. has added more in-house carbon fiber production capacity — and it’s not just for supercars and not just about cutting weight.

While the industry is wondering whether lightweight carbon fiber can become plentiful and affordable enough for automotive mass production, Toyota has begun producing a carbon fiber sheet molded compound in Japan for the liftgate on its Prius Prime plug-in hybrid.

The material is also being used for the doors and deck lid of the Lexus LC.

It is not only about weight reduction, a company executive told Plastics News, an affiliate of Automotive News, Monday at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars. Using carbon fiber sheet molded compound — referred to in the industry as SMC — means designers can improve package space in the Prius, even with additional room needed for batteries, said JP Flaharty, executive program manager for technical strategy at Toyota North America R&D.

The composite also enables Toyota to make narrower rear pillars, so drivers have an improved sight line.

“We’re looking for ways to benefit the customer that go beyond weight reduction,” Flaharty said. “It’s also about the structure and the way we’ve executed the car: better sight lines, better usability, better utility space.”

The parts represent a 40 to 50 percent weight reduction.

SMC represents a new manufacturing process for Toyota, even though the automaker has used similar materials for the Lexus LFA supercar.

But they are specialty uses for limited-volume panels, Flaharty clarified.

Working with material supplier Mitsubishi Chemicals, the SMC process, which uses chopped fibers rather than long fibers, is faster and has proved far easier for Toyota to undertake in house for a mass market vehicle.

“The material we’re using is more similar in design and manufacturing conceptually to sheet metal forming,” Flaharty said. “You’re making a mold, you’re making a shape, it’s got this 3-D characteristic to it. So we’ve got a lot of know-how and a lot of understanding in how that works.

“We can align our capabilities to do this internally.”

Toyota is making its SMC parts at its headquarters assembly plant in Toyota City, Japan.

Monica Morgan pleads not guilty to charges in UAW-FCA conspiracy

DETROIT — Monica Morgan, one of the figures at the center of a suspected multimillion-dollar conspiracy between officials at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the UAW, pleaded not guilty and was released on a $10,000 bond Monday following her arraignment.

Morgan was accused in a federal indictment last week of illegal dealings involving former FCA labor relations chief Alphons Iacobelli, and her deceased husband, UAW Vice President General Holiefield.

The 42-page indictment claims FCA executives partnered with UAW leaders to siphon union and company funds earmarked for employee training for lavish personal expenses.

Federal investigators claim Morgan, Iacobelli and Holiefield were at the center of the conspiracy from 2009 through 2014.

Iacobelli has been charged with taking $1 million for personal benefit and helping funnel $1.2 million from the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center to Holiefield, Morgan and other high-ranking members of the union.

The indictment says Morgan and Holiefield used union funds to pay off the $262,219.71 mortgage on their Harrison Township, Mich., home, and credit card charges of $200,000 for jewelry, designer clothes and furniture.

Morgan, a prominent Detroit photographer, was ordered by U.S. Magistrate Judge David R. Grand to relinquish her passport, along with her firearm and concealed carry license to pretrial services.

Morgan’s attorney, Steven Fishman, declined to comment after Grand entered a not guilty plea.

In 2015, a year before his death, Holiefield shot Morgan in their home, when he was cleaning his gun at the kitchen table. According to the report, the gun accidentally discharged around 8:30 p.m. A month after, a warrant was issued for his arrest, but he ultimately was not charged.

“A single round was fired, which struck his wife in the abdomen,” said Lt. John Michalke with the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office at the time.

Iacobelli will be arraigned Tuesday.

Tesla workers ask for employee safety plan, clarity on pay #8203;

A group of Tesla Inc. workers on Monday asked the electric car maker’s board to provide a plan to address employee safety and information on pay and promotion.

The worker group, part of the UAW, said Tesla had a safety record worse than that of “sawmills and slaughter houses”.

“We’re tired of suffering preventable injury after preventable injury,” Michael Catura, a Tesla production associate, said in a statement.

The group also asked for clarity around Tesla’s compensation practices.

Starting pay at Tesla’s Fremont, Calif., auto factory was $18 per hour, far below the national average for auto workers, the worker group said.

Tesla was not immediately available for comment.

CEO Elon Musk said last week that the company is going to go through at least six months of “manufacturing hell” as it ramps up its efforts to produce 500,000 cars per year, close to six times its 2016 output.

Tesla launched its much-awaited Model 3 sedan on Friday as it plans to become a profitable mass electric car maker.

Toyota invests $400 million in W.Va engine plant

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia has already proven itself as the “little engine plant that could.” Now, it is taking a $400 million investment from the automaker to do more with less.

The plant is renovating its production lines and dedicating nearly 500,000 hours to retrain employees to streamline processes without sacrificing quality. Leah Curry, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia, said at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars here on Monday that to achieve this level of efficiency, the team has been analyzing all instances of waste and taking advantage of every minute of free time.

“As we look at the wasted motion of the team members, we chart those things out,” Curry said in an interview with Automotive News. “We can understand every movement.”

The renewed effort in efficiency is a reflection of Toyota’s larger initiative to simplify its production process. The program, known as Toyota New Generation Architecture, began in Japan and is now moving to the North America plants. Following the investment in the West Virginia plant, which Toyota announced in September, the automaker said in April that its Georgetown, Ky. plant, which manufactures the 2018 Toyota Camry, will receive a $1.3 billion investment for TNGA renovations.

Since Toyota opened its West Virginia plant 20 years ago, the plant has achieved production rates of 650,000 engines and 740,000 transmissions a year. Curry said a new transmission runs off the line every 25 seconds, and a completed four-cylinder engine comes every 30 seconds — the fastest production times among Toyota’s global operations.

“We do all this with a workforce of about 1,650 team members,” she said. “You might say we’re the little engine plant that could.”

Under TNGA, the West Virginia plant has renovated its production line to allow workers to move with the engine, rather than stop the line every time they need to perform a task. The program also requires workers learn 50 percent more processes. Curry said the factory has been taking the time in between production lines going on and offline to train workers. The key to the whole operation, she said, is constant reflection.

“You visualize every hour, every moment, and figure out what those problems are,” Curry said.

Toyota becomes first sponsor of autonomous proving grounds on former GM site

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Toyota Motor Corp. will be the first automaker sponsor of a new nonprofit autonomous vehicle testing ground in southeast Michigan.

Toyota will put $5 million toward the American Center for Mobility, the automaker announced at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars on Monday. Toyota’s mobility r&d arm, the Toyota Research Institute, has operations in Palo Alto, Calif.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Cambridge, Mass. The testing ground was launched at General Motors’ old Willow Run assembly plant between Ann Arbor and Detroit.

The American Center for Mobility is a test center for self-driving and connected vehicles, where automakers, suppliers, tech companies and startups can run vehicles on a closed course and collaborate on technology. Construction on the 311-acre site began in November, and administrators plan to open a 2.5-mile testing loop by December.

In January, the U.S. Department of Transportation designated the site as a national automated vehicle proving ground, along with nine other centers across the country, and AT&T pledged to provide the cellular network for the site.

The center has received $20 million from the state’s Michigan Strategic Fund, but planners estimate the project will cost $80 million. The rest of the funds are expected to be raised from the federal government and corporate sponsorships such as Toyota’s.

The Toyota Research Institute in Ann Arbor has focused on public road and closed-course testing of autonomous vehicles.

“The road to creating a car as safe, or safer, than a human driver will require billions of test miles including simulation, real-world driving on public roads, and closed-course testing where we can expose our systems to extreme circumstances and conditions,” Toyota Research Institute CEO Gill Pratt said in a statement.

Though Toyota is the first automaker to sponsor the site, GM, Ford Motor Co. and Robert Bosch have expressed verbal support for the joint-development center.

Google opens its Nearby Connections tech to Android developers to enable smarter offline apps

Google announced today the public availability of a developer tool that will allow Android apps to better communicate with nearby devices, even while offline. The company touts a number of potential use cases for this technology – like hotel rooms that sense your entry then set the temperature accordingly and turn on your favorite music, or phones that can merge their address books while in proximity, among other things.

However, the initial implementations of the technology aren’t perhaps quite as magical. Instead, forthcoming apps will use the Nearby Connections API, as the technology is called, for things like offline media sharing or the distribution of urgent weather warnings in low-bandwidth areas, for example.

Google has been developing its Nearby Connections API for some time. The API was first announced in 2015 as a way for mobile devices to be used as second screen controllers for games that are running on your TV.

At this year’s Google I/O developer conference in May, the company announced the API was being refreshed.

(Nearby Connections API discussed above at 24:15 mark)

The technology itself leverages Wi-Fi, Bluetooth LE and Classic Bluetooth under the hood to establish connections with nearby devices, Google explains. Apps using the API can switch between these various radios when it makes sense, or even take advantage of new radios when they become available – without requiring developers write new code to do so.

Apps can take advantage of this technology in a couple of ways.

In one scenario, a centralized device – like the host of an offline game or a teacher’s device in a classroom quiz app – could be connected to other nearby devices. Another implementation could create “mesh networks” for things like offline chat or ad-hoc project groups for real-time collaboration.

Google also today announced some of the apps that will be using the new API.

This includes The Weather Channel, which is using the technology to create on-demand mesh networks in data-deficient areas to spread urgent weather warnings; Hotstar is working on offline media sharing for those times connectivity isn’t available, like on airplanes or subways; and GameInsight will use the API to find nearby players and to run entire games offline.

In addition, Android TV will get a new remote control app that will use Nearby Connections to make the initial setup process easier on end users, as well to enable new second screen experiences.

The API was previously available to early partners, but is now open to all Android developers, and works across all Android devices running Google Play services 11.0 and up.

Faurecia invests in digital manufacturing

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — The Internet of Things has arrived at the factory.

French supplier Faurecia has invested $64 million to install a digital manufacturing system in a new factory in Columbus, Ind., said David DeGraaf, president of Faurecia Clean Mobility North America.

The 400,000-square-foot factory produces up to 880 emissions control systems per day for commercial trucks, said DeGraaf, who spoke Monday at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars here.

The factory, which opened last year, is the most digitally advanced facility in Faurecia’s global network, DeGraaf said.

It is not an automated factory — but it is getting closer to it.

One hundred robots weld, move and scan components, while 30 autonomous vehicles move materials around the building. But perhaps the most important upgrade was the installation of 1.3 miles of fiber-optic cables.

The plant, which DeGraaf dubbed Industry 4.0, allows machinery to upload a stream of production data to the “lake” — a data storage system like the cloud, but controlled by Faurecia.

Faurecia monitors the data to control quality, schedule maintenance and spot potential problems before a breakdown occurs.

The plant, which has 450 employees, requires fewer unskilled workers, but more skilled people to monitor the machinery.

“We require a different skill set to operate a plant,” DeGraaf said. “We have less direct labor, but more indirect labor. We are shifting from unskilled workers in manufacturing to the service industry.”

Does Lynk and CO sound like Lincoln? Ford thinks so

Ford Motor Co. is challenging Geely Holding Group’s U.S. trademark application for its new Lynk & CO brand, alleging the name sounds too similar to its Lincoln Motor Co. luxury brand.

The automaker was granted an extension this month by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to formally oppose the trademark. It has until Nov. 15 to file its opposition.

“The Lincoln brand has a rich 100-year history and we intend to protect its reputation,” a Lincoln spokesman wrote Automotive News in an email. “Lynk & CO is infringing on the Lincoln … trademark and we are taking legal actions to prevent them from using their infringing mark. Their name as it stands will confuse customers.”

A Lynk & CO spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Zhejiang Geely will control 50 percent of Lynk & CO. The remaining 50 percent will be divided between the Geely Automobile and Volvo brands.

Lynk & CO is planning to produce a number of vehicles, including a 01 crossover and 03 sedan. Initially, Lynk & CO models will be made in Luqiao, China, which is the same plant Volvo will use to make the XC40 for the local market.

Alain Visser, the brand’s boss, referred to Lynk & CO’s models as being premium cars “with Volvo technology.”

Ford sold the Volvo brand to Geely in 2010.

Richard Truett contributed to this report.