Geographic Shift in Plant Locations of U.S.- Canadian Automotive Industry

In a recent paper circulated by leading Canadian automotive analyst Dennis DesRosiers, he pointed out that transportation costs and uncertainty about long delays at the Detroit/Windsor border crossing were pushing automotive manufacturers and suppliers away from the region – a drain that’s already clear in southwestern Ontario and southeastern Michigan. He added the following points and ideas:

Development follows infrastructure

Vehicle assembly plants and parts plants are making a geographic shift away from Detroit and Windsor and toward the Sarnia-to-Fort Erie corridor

This shift affects employment, population, tax revenue and economic vitality in southeast Michigan and southwest Ontario

The automotive sector in Michigan and Canada is now more aligned along an east-west corridor starting in Sarnia and ending in Forth Erie, rather than a north-south corridor starting in Windsor and ending in eastern Ontario

Commentary

As most everyone knows, the automotive industry makes manufacturing decisions multiple years in advance. As has been stated by the automotive industry (e.g. CAPC report), increasing transportation costs and uncertainty about the reliability of the Detroit/Windsor border crossing are great negatives for the region. The industry has mitigated these negatives by revising where products are produced and suppliers located. The risk here is that these changes may progress at an ever increasing rate given the current market loses and financial pressures the industry faces.

Automotive companies and their suppliers are moving along this corridor, bypassing Windsor and Detroit. The corridor gives them access to suppliers in New York and central Ontario as well as nearly direct access to Chicago via I-69. Also, the CN high-capacity rail tunnel in Port Huron makes shipping of parts and finished vehicles easier.

One example of this movement is Toyota’s recent announcement that places its new assembly plant for the RAV-4 mini SUV in Woodstock, Ontario, between London and Hamilton, right along this east/west corridor. This plant location hedges Toyota’s bets by allowing it to use the Windsor/Detroit if the border gets fixed

Automotive Warning Lights – Scrap a Useless System

Recent discussions in the automotive press have railed on the uselessness of the check engine light or called for an outright ban of the light.

They’re on to something. Lets face it. The check engine light without the associated fault code or codes says nothing. However, in point of fact, the entire warning and indicator light system suffers from the very same problem:

  • What is an oil light without a gauge?
  • What is a charging system light without a volt meter?
  • What is an ABS light without a fault code?
  • What is any of the dozens of other lights without more information?

Of course, fault codes, gauges and meters are only of use to those with the ability to interpret them, which is the source of the ‘idiot light’ system in the first place. But the plain fact is that today’s vehicles have the capability to display not only an indicator light and fault code, but also an explanation of what is actually wrong in plain language AND what needs to be done at that moment:

  • Can the car be driven under the condition?
  • Does the car need to be towed?
  • Is there a REAL danger of loss of control?
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Unfortunately, it is not likely that any manufacturer will step up and risk giving more detailed information to lay people out of liability fears. But the system as it exists now runs the real risk of needlessly frightening drivers with the circus of indicator and warning lights that can pop up at the drop of a gas cap. And sometimes two and three lights at a time.

Further, with 20, 30 and even more indicators on instrument panels today, is there not a risk of saturation? When is enough enough? Every new system added to a vehicle is met with a new indicator and or acronym that, despite the best industry efforts, remain a mystery to the average driver. Seriously, most drivers need to get the kids to school and get themselves to their jobs. They are not car people and simply have too much on their plate as it is.

Even experienced service personnel have to search their memory banks to correctly identify the meaning of some of the more obscure acronyms (AFS does NOT start with ‘Automatic’… ). Should the industry expect more from drivers?

Seriously, before someone freaks out behind the wheel let’s stop throwing new lights at every new vehicle add-on and consider some alternatives. At the very least, new and existing lights should be accompanied by real and useful information.

And since drivers should NOT be reading while driving, how about having the vehicle talk to the driver by voice? With all the discussion surrounding driver distraction and the integration of Siri and other voice command systems into infotainment systems, we are not so far from this ‘Eyes Free’ solution. It’s just a little to the left, in the instrument panel…

Additional Reading: Automotive News (Nick Bunkley) and Jalopnik (Jason Torchinsky).

An Insight on Steel Extrusion Process

Through the process of steel extrusion the profiles having fixed cross-sectional area are produced that are then used in number of applications. When any metallic profile is exposed to the steel extrusion process the resultant is steel extruded profile. The steel extrusion made are then used in automotive, rail and rail track, heavy machinery, and construction industry.

Process of Steel Extrusion
The process consists of four methods of productions, that are:

  1. Hot Rolling
  2. Hot Extruding
  3. Cold Drawing
  4. Laser Welding

Hot Rolling
In Hot Rolling method billet or slab of length up to 70 m are made by two cylindrical rolls that rotate in opposite directions. The extruded profiles created by this method are used in number of applications like rail tracks, automotive etc. With this process more focused and selective strength is given to the specific part of the steel profile.

Hot Extruding
During hot extrusion process, pre heating of round steel billet is done. Then product is then pushed through a forming die with the extrusion force of 2200 t. Complex profile shapes are made through the process of hot extruding process. Single profile with varied thickness can be produced by the hot extrusion method. The steel extruded profiles made through hot extruding process are used in very sensitive areas and the area that needs great hygienic environment.

Cold Drawing
Complex profile cross sections are made through the technology of cold drawing. The profile bars made are pre heated and then de-scaled. After de-scaling it is drawn through a forming die. This process is repeated 3-4 times. It helps in the improvement in surface quality as well as dimensional accuracy. These profiles also have sharp edges and uninterrupted grain orientation.

Laser Welding
In the process of laser welding, both- standard geometries as well as extruded or hot rolled pre-shapes are used. The steel extruded profiles with this process get the clean welding seams and because of this reason these are used in building industry to make fine architectures. These profiles have precision fit and produced in free form shapes.