Friday, 22 June 2012

General Motors Enters New Era in Russia

Breaks ground for St. Petersburg plant expansion

General Motors broke ground today for the expansion of GM Auto, its wholly owned manufacturing facility in St. Petersburg, Russia. It will more than double GM Auto’s annual production capacity from the current 98,000 vehicles to 230,000 vehicles by 2015.

The project is the most significant development for GM’s Russian operations since GM Auto opened in 2008.

General Motors Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson greets workers at GM Auto in St. Petersburg, Russia
GM Auto’s expansion is part of an historic partnership formed last year with the Russian Federal Ministry of Economic Development that will lead to GM investing US $1 billion in its Russian operations over the next five years. The investment will also support the increase of production at the GM-AVTOVAZ joint venture in Togliatti, Russia, resulting in combined annual Russian production capacity for GM of 350,000 vehicles.

General Motors Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson (on left) greets former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul (on right)

GM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson, Russian Federal Deputy Minister Alexey Rakhmanov, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, and former U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger joined senior representatives from GM Russia and GM Auto employees at today’s celebration.

When the expansion is complete, employment at the facility will increase from 2,500 to 4,000 people. They will manufacture Chevrolet and Opel models for the Russian market. Among the additional vehicles that will be produced at GM Auto is the new Opel Astra sedan, which will make its worldwide debut at the Moscow International Motor Show in August.

“General Motors is embarking on a new era in Russia, one of the world’s fastest-growing vehicle markets, as part of our strategy to build where we sell,” said Akerson. “The global vehicles that we produce and the manufacturing systems that we are putting in place are creating long-term benefits for Russia’s automotive industry, its supply base and its economy.
General Motors Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson on Friday, June 22, 2012, before the groundbreaking for the expansion of GM Auto, its wholly owned manufacturing facility in St. Petersburg, Russia

“Our growing investment is the strongest possible endorsement by General Motors of our intent to make Russia a significant part of our international operations. Our vision in Russia, as in all of the other markets where we do business, is to design, build and sell the world’s best vehicles,” he said.

During his three-day visit to Russia, Akerson also addressed business leaders and media at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 22. He discussed the importance of investing first in products and technology, being well-positioned for profitable growth and building strong brands that connect with customers worldwide.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

New Opel Mokka - German engineered SUV

New Opel Mokka - German engineered SUV chassis for European needs
  • Intelligent AWD system adapts automatically to road conditions
  • Clever chassis system in Mokka SUV for urban use plus off-road capability
  • High comfort and safety with optimized wheel suspensions and 4 wheel disc brakes

    Opel engineers have completed the final validation drives of the all new Opel SUV, the Mokka. The drives were carried out in Germany before its sales launch towards the end of this year. The Mokka’s sophisticated and German engineered chassis which has been tailored to the needs of European customers was one of the focal points of its development. The chassis is perfect for urban lifestyles with all the advantages of off-road capability.

    Intelligent All Wheel Drive System for Excellent Traction

    Apart from Front Wheel Drive (FWD), the Mokka can be fitted with an All Wheel Drive (AWD) technology for better traction and handling. The AWD technology is efficient, clever and affordable for a wider segment of customers and is only activated on demand. The AWD system combines the advantages of improved vehicle handling, especially in bends and ensures that there is enough traction for example in the case of wheel slip. However, it also recognizes when AWD is no longer required. For example, when the vehicle is moving in a  straight line on a highway, it is driving in high grip conditions with all the torque on the front wheels. This is when the vehicle is in FWD mode and good fuel economy is provided. 

    In order to enhance the ride experience and handling, torque is seamlessly and automatically shifted from the front to the rear axle depending on traction or driving situations. The torque distribution can therefore be varied seamlessly from 100-0 to 50-50 when there are low grip conditions. Overall, the driver benefits from a system that adapts automatically to the prevalent road conditions. The entire AWD system including all its components only weighs 65 kilograms so that the Mokka provides environmentally friendly fuel efficiency.

    Sophisticated Chassis ensures Best Ride and Handling
    The chassis of the Mokka ensures maximum ride and handling performance even under difficult road conditions. On the front suspension, MacPherson struts which already have a successful track record in other Opel vehicles were further optimized by Opel engineers. They did this by adding side load compensation springs, dual path strut mounts and double bonded handling bushings to improve the ride and handling experience as well to enhance noise and vibration performance of the car. On the rear suspension, the Opel engineering team included a U section tubular shaped torsion beam ahead of the rear wheels. This compound crank axle is developed with two different designs to fit the AWD and FWD variants. That allows drivers to experience best possible handling and body control for every powertrain.

    Enhanced Safety Features now on Board
    Four wheel disc-brakes both on the front and rear axles provide high heat resistance and high performance braking capabilities. The ESP of the Mokka is state of the art and includes special features like Hill Start Assist (HSA) and  Hill Descent Control (HDC), which maintains a constant speed when the Mokka drives downhill and ensures that the vehicle speed does not exceed 20 km/h during a descent. 
    In addition, to get the most out of the vehicle chassis, the Opel engineers opted for Electric Power Steering (EPS) which provides more speed sensitive steering assist to the driver is standard across all Mokka SUVs.

    All new SUV Mokka combines the best of Opel design and engineering
    Opel’s all new SUV, the Mokka, expands the company’s product portfolio, making it the first German brand to enter the growing sub-compact sports utility vehicle segment. Despite its 4.28 meter measurement, the Mokka generously accommodates five people in a commanding position. It also delivers on Opel’s promise to combine attractive design with innovative technologies and upmarket functionalities, making them accessible to a wider segment of customers.

    Power is provided by three efficient engines. All manual transmissions are equipped with the fuel saving Opel Start/Stop system. The gasoline offer comprises an 85 kW/115 hp, 1.6 liter naturally aspirated engine with 155 Nm torque as well as a 103 kW/140 hp 1.4 l Turbo with 200 Nm of torque. On the diesel side, there is a 96 kw/130 hp 1.7 CDTI turbo diesel with 300 Nm of torque that offers high fuel economy and low emissions. The 1.7 CDTI is available either with six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions. The 1.4 Turbo will initially be available with the same manual transmission but later on also with an automatic transmission.

Friday, 15 June 2012

New Opel Astra J range: More Variety, Engines and High-Tech Features

·         New powerful engines: 195 hp 2.0 BiTurbo CDTI and 280 hp 2.0 SIDI Turbo unit
·         Full spectrum: From 99g/km CO2 ecoFLEX to high performance OPC version
·         New assistance systems extend broad offer of innovative technology
·         Sharper design underscores sporty style and high technical standards
·         New sedan completes Astra J line-up
With the new sedan, the five door variant, the Sports Tourer station wagon and the three door GTC coupé as well as its high performance OPC version, the diverse Astra line up is now complete.
New engines that as of now and during the next six months will expand the already diverse performance spectrum of the Astra powertrain offer. The new Astra OPC which can already be ordered with its 2.0 turbocharged direct injection gasoline engine promises lots of fun behind the wheel. With an output of 206 kW/280 hp and maximum torque of 400 Newtonmeters, the Astra OPC is not only the most powerful Astra ever but also the fastest: the top speed of this powerhouse coupé is 250 km/h and it can sprint from standstill to 100 km/h in just 6.0 seconds.

The fastest diesel Astra ever can be ordered starting in the fall: The new 2.0 BiTurbo CDTI with 143 kW/195 hp output and an impressive 400 Nm of torque is already known from the Insignia, but now for the first time introduces the sophisticated sequential BiTurbo engine technology to the mass production compact segment. Powered by two turbochargers that work together, this engine enables excellent performance combined with low fuel consumption in the Astra five door, the Sports Tourer and the GTC. These three different body styles provide a choice of a high performance diesel models that is unparalleled in the compact segment.
Opel can also announce enhancements to its already existing 1.4 liter turbocharged gasoline unit with 103 kW/140 hp. This engine is now equipped with an overboost function that temporarily gives the vehicle an extra 10 percent burst of torque from 200 to 220 Nm which is very useful when overtaking for example.

Full spectrum – from 99 g/km CO2 ecoFLEX to high performance OPC variant

On the powertrain side, the new Astra line-up is able to satisfy an extraordinary array of customer wishes, from the most fuel efficient Astra ever, the 1.7 CDTI ecoFLEX (81 kW/110 hp and 96 kW/130 hp) with only 99 g/km CO2 (3.7 l/100 km) to the strongest diesel-powered Astra with its new 195 hp BiTurbo CDTI engine and the most powerful Astra in history, the new Astra OPC with 280 hp. Not forgetting the recent launch of the 1.4 turbocharged LPG versions (103 kW/140 hp) at the start of 2012, the powertrain offer of the Astra line-up is one of the most diverse in the compact segment. Furthermore, early next year the range will benefit from the introduction of the new SIDI (Spark Ignition Direct Injection) ECOTEC gasoline engine generation with a 1.6 liter displacement and turbocharging, providing not just ultra-efficient fuel consumption but also a very comfortable drive in the upper output level of up to 200 hp.

New assistance systems expand broad offer of innovative technologies

Further highlights which help to elevate the technical standards to an even more advanced level are also to be found in the field of driver assistance systems. Many premium technologies that have had their debut in the Insignia and the Zafira Tourer are now also available for the new Astra line-up for even more safety and comfort. These include the second generation Opel Eye front camera with the enhanced Traffic Sign Assistant (TSA II), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Following Distance Indication (FDI) and Forward Collision Alert (FCA). These systems issue warnings to help prevent critical situations for example when the driver is distracted or loses concentration.
Other assistance systems include the Rear View Camera, Advanced Park Assist (APA) that identifies spaces and aids with parking, as well as a Side Blind Spot Alert (SBSA) and a Radar based Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with automatic Collision Imminent Braking (CIB) which works in the range of 50 km/h to 180 km/h. The ACC helps the driver maintain the selected speed by automatically accelerating or decelerating while keeping a pre set safety distance to the vehicle ahead.
The new systems complement the already existing broad Astra offer of innovative technologies, some of which are unique in the compact segment, while others are rarely found among competitors. These include the latest generation of intelligent Adaptive Forward Lighting (AFL+) with Bi-Xenon headlamps and a host of sophisticated lighting functions, including High Beam Assist, Dynamic Curve Light, Cornering Light, and variable light distribution that automatically adjusts according to prevailing conditions, including even the weather.

Fresh Astra design with more sporty and upmarket accents

The Astra five door and the Sports Tourer have been given a fresh face that is even more, sporty and upmarket than before. This also applies to the new four-door Astra sedan. The Opel design team concentrated on the front by giving it a more pronounced lower grille inspired by the design of the recently launched Astra GTC, featuring a grille mesh with a more technically precise design. The upper grill of the five door, Sports Tourer and the four door sedan has been given a more prominent wing like chrome bar with three-dimensional visual depth to it. The new chrome bar has turned up tips, is more centered and appears to be floating in the grille. By adding black inserts to the headlamps, the entry level “Essentia” and the “Enjoy” trim levels have been given a more sporty design execution of the lights. LED daytime running lights are now also available with standard halogen headlamps.

At the rear, the license plate pocket of the Astra five door has been sculpted in a new way creating more visual width. In both the five door and the Sports Tourer, there is a new chrome strip in the bumper just below the license plate pocket that also adds to the impression of width.

The new BiTurbo high performance diesel variants of the five door, Sports Tourer and GTC have been given an even sportier and sharper exterior appearance which varies from model to model. The front fascia of the BiTurbo Astra body versions (GTC, Sports Tourer and 5-door) underscore the cars’ high performance and more aggressive nature. The upper grille has a similar shape as the one used on the Astra GTC, however the front bar is always in body color and the five door sedan and Sports Tourer BiTurbo models feature the new wing-shaped bar across the grille. The lower air intake area has also been given a sporty design treatment: the area where the central grille merges into the outer grille has been sculpted in a shark fin like shape, making the car appear more aggressive than a conventional Astra. The side window surround has chrome inserts. At the rear, two exhaust tail pipes and a more prominent rear bumper shape, give the car an added muscular stance.

Inside the cabin, the Astra five door, the Sports Tourer and the four door sedan have been made sportier, more lively and varied by using new fabrics, colors, décor moldings with new glossy paint. In the case of the BiTurbo models, JetBlack colored fabrics or leather are combined with Magic Red in the edge of the seats. Magic Red stitching and seams in the seats, door inserts and the gear shifter boot add to the sporty atmosphere of the interior. A new flat bottom leather steering wheel and special floor mats with red surrounds are other sporty components of the BiTurbo cabin.
Astra customers can now also benefit from new wheel designs. New 17” alloy wheels come as standard in the Sport trim level and there are two new optional 18” and 19” alloy wheels, both with a 5 double spoke stylish design. In addition, a new sporty multi spoke wheel alloy style cover makes its debut in the Astra.

Astra continues Opel’s compact success story
With the greatly enhanced new Astra line up Opel is building on the success of its bestselling compact car that won numerous awards including the prestigious German Golden Steering Wheel (2009) and was recently recognized with the best rating in the 2012 DEKRA used car quality report.

The Astra model family is a key component of the brand. Around a third of all Opel cars sold are Astras. Opel is now into its tenth generation of vehicles in the compact segment and its fourth Astra generation which has gained more than 641,000 customers across Europe. Thanks to its five-door Astra launched in the fall of 2009, followed by the Sports Tourer a year later and the three door GTC Coupé (late 2011). This means that the Astra is the European number three (Germany: number two) in the sales ranking in the largest vehicle segment in Europe which makes up around a quarter of the entire marketplace.

Prices for the new Opel Astra line up start at 16,770 Euro (recommended retail price in Germany including VAT) for the five door, 1.4 liter gasoline 64 kW/87 hp Astra entry level “Essentia” version. The new four door Astra sedan with a 1.4 liter gasoline engine 74 kW/100 hp can be ordered from 18,270 Euro (same conditions as above).

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Best use: Opel Astra J wins test of ACE steering wheel

Auto Club Europe attests Opel´s Navi 900 Europe as slightest distraction danger in traffic 

Multimedia infotainment systems are now firmly in the compact class - and at Opel optimally integrated into the operational concept. ACE steering wheel, the magazine of the Auto Club Europa examined, now together with scientists from the University of Salzburg and 36 testers at the Opel Astra, Ford Focus and VW Golf, which distractions from the operation of their infotainment systems proceeds. Winner of the so called HMI-Test (Human Machine Interface), the Opel Astra J, which Navi infotainment system 900 Europe has the highest overall score for the slightest deviation in the received traffic. 

The Astra is particularly good at selecting a given contact from the phonebook. "The fact that the telephone problem can be solved much faster, the subjects proving to Astra. The average duration of 22 seconds, making the Opel system is not only half of the Golf term, but it remains well below even the duration of the visit, the subjects in the VW exclusively on the display," reads the judgment of the tester.

Opel Operating Units: Optimal placement and logical structure

The Opel display, with a diagonal size of seven inches (17.8 cm) is also the largest image representation of the three test candidates and is well visible near the top in the field of vision. The infotainment systems from Opel are characterized by the most logical organization of the control units. The most important direct selection buttons for Radio, CD, Navigation and Telephone are located - one below the other - left on the driver's side, the secondary functions on the right.

The study tested the subjects of the HMI-tests when entering a destination into the navigation system, the choice of a phone caller and a radio station and in the operation of the speaker distribution (fader). A scientist in the back seat and four cameras on the dashboard with infra-red LEDs for precise image of the viewing direction observed the subjects during the tasks.

Electric Opel Ampera and Chevrolet Volt wins Green Engine Award

  • First time ever a range extending powertrain wins an “International Engine Award”
  • Revolutionary propulsion concept wins green engine category amid fierce competition
  • Unique range extender enables go-anywhere–anytime mobility

The revolutionary Ampera and Volt electric vehicles have been given yet more global recognition by the automotive media. Their range extending 1.4 liter engine has won the “International Engine of the Year Award” for the best green engine in a tough field of 45 other “green” contenders. The Ampera and the Volt are the first electric vehicles in the market that can go anywhere anytime. It is also the first time in the 14 year history of the awards that a range extending powertrain has emerged as a winner. The awards ceremony was held in the German city of Stuttgart.

“Until the Volt and Ampera the short range of battery electric vehicles has limited their suitability for everyday use,” said Uwe Winter, Vehicle Line Director and Chief Engineer, who was handed the prize by the British organizers, the Engine Technology International magazine. “Our revolutionary propulsion system removes this obstacle by uniting the environmental friendliness of electric drive with the long range of a combustion engine. And the Best Green Engine Award is the highest recognition of this achievement.”
Seventy-six leading motoring journalists from 35 countries around the world sit on the panel of judges and award prizes in twelve different categories for excellence in powertrain engineering. They agree that this year was one of the toughest to judge so far with 39 all-new engines taking part in the contest.

One of the jury members, Bill McKinnon, explained why there had been strong support for the Ampera/Volt range extender: “Combining pure electric efficiency with petrol versatility and convenience means that this is a leading solution.”

The latest accolade comes against a backdrop of rising global fuel prices, where small, green and electric powertrains are playing an increasingly prominent role in the international automotive trade.

A 16 kWh lithium-ion battery powers the 111kW/150 hp electric motor of the Ampera/Volt. Depending on the style of driving and road conditions, distance of between 40 and 80 kilometers can be covered in the purely battery-operated mode, completely free of emissions. The wheels of the car are always powered electrically. In extended-range mode, which activates whenever the battery has reached its minimum state of charge, power is seamlessly inverted to the electric drive unit from a generator driven by the 1.4 liter, 63 kW/86 hp gasoline engine. Extended-range mode enables a total driving range of more than 500 kilometers without refueling.

The Ampera and Volt together have won numerous international awards including the “World Green Car of the Year 2011” and have just been named the European “Car of the Year 2012”. There have also been accolades for safety like the maximum 5-star Euro NCAP award. Last year, the propulsion system of the Volt was named one of the ten best engines for North America by Ward’s automotive magazine.

    Wednesday, 6 June 2012

    New Four door sporty sedan completes Opel Astra J line up

    • New notchback version is fourth body style of Opel´s compact top seller
    • Four door sedan with balanced proportions and typical Astra strengths
    • Advanced technologies, high quality and upscale mid size finish in compact class
    • Ultra efficient ecoFLEX models with only 99g/km CO2 and up to 96 kW/130 hp                                                

    Opel is expanding its successful Astra J model family with a new sporty and stylish sedan. Featuring typical Astra strengths, including advanced technologies and its widely recognized quality, the new upscale and elegant notchback is a more affordable alternative for customers who would usually opt for this type of car in the mid size segment. With this new four door sedan, the five door hatchback, the Sports Tourer station wagon and the racy GTC coupe, the line up of Opel´s top seller Astra is now complete.

    At the start of sales in June, customers can initially choose between seven engines for the new Astra sedan: four gasoline units (74 kW/100 hp to 132 kW/180 hp), of which three can be combined with a six-speed automatic and three diesel engines (70 kW/95 hp to 96 kW/130 hp). The two ultra-efficient Astra notchback 1.7 CDTI ecoFLEX models with Start/Stop system and further efficiency enhancing technologies combine powerful outputs of 81 kW/110 hp or 96 kW/130 hp with diesel consumption figures as low as 3.7 liters per 100 kilometers. This is equivalent to only 99g/km CO2 emissions. In addition to this broad powertrain offer, early next year the new Astra four-door will benefit from the launch of Opel’s new highly efficient, powerful and refined SIDI ECOTEC four cylinder gasoline engine generation with 1.6 liters displacement, turbocharging and spark ignition direct injection.

    The new Astra notchback sedan (Length/Width/Height: 4,658/1,814/1,476 mm) has a  wheel base of 2,685 mm and provides generous interior space. Its separate trunk offers 460 liters of volume - 90 liters more than the five-door model. By folding the 60:40 split rear bench flat the luggage volume can be increased up to a maximum of 1,010 liters.

    Sporty and stylish design combined with balanced proportions

    The Opel design team gave the new Astra notchback a very stylish and sleek silhouette. The roofline arcs gently over the passenger area, then descends in a seamless sweep through the steeply raked rear screen to the sculpted aerodynamic lip at the end of the short rear deck. And because the raked C-pillar stretches so far back into the rear deck area, it visually conceals the size of the trunk in an elegant fashion. The feature line running through the door handles becomes more defined towards the rear, creating a muscular “shoulder” effect below the base of the C pillar and the rear deck.

    The rear is characterized by the steeply raked rear screen, the integrated deck spoiler, and the broad sweep of the sculpted bumper. The design of the tail lights echoes those of other Astra models, and the subtle crease which links them adds width and avoids any impression of bulkiness. The lamps also have an inner wing shape for the taillight function that continues the Opel brand signature. There are more sculptural features within the bumper where the number plate indent reflects the shape of the deck lid cutout. Together, all these elements combine to create a particularly well balanced and harmonious automotive design.

    Top technology standards and typical Astra qualities in notchback segment
    With its sporty, elegant design, typical Astra qualities and a large array of technological highlights – some are unique, some are unusual for the segment - Opel´s new compact four door notchback targets customers with high expectations. The Advanced Forward Lighting (AFL+) with bi-xenon headlamps and a host of sophisticated lighting functions including variable light distribution, curve light, cornering light and high-beam assist greatly enhance active safety. The adaptive FlexRide chassis system automatically adjusts damping to the prevailing driving conditions and gives the driver the choice between three different modes – Standard, the comfort oriented Tour mode and the more responsive Sport mode. The highly ergonomic AGR (“Aktion Gesunder Rücken e.V”) approved seats that are easy on the back are available for the driver and the front passenger. Added to that are several infotainment systems which make travelling even more relaxing and safer. The Navi 900 top unit features the routes of more than 30 European countries and a digital travel guide stored on an SD card.

    Compact notchbacks offer growth opportunities
    The new four-door sedan is an important addition to the latest generation of the successful Astra model family. In Western Europe, especially in Germany and Spain, Opel marketing experts see growth opportunities for the new four door model as an elegant, more  affordable alternative to sedans from the upper segment. Moreover, there is strong demand for compact notchback variants in the high growth markets of Eastern and Central Europe, particularly Russia and Turkey. Russia currently has the second highest sales volume in Europe and is expected to become Europe´s main market with up to 3.4 million total vehicle sales in 2014. Across all segments, more than 60 percent of all sedans sold in Europe are sold in Russia. Last year, in the compact segment 51 percent of customers there opted for a notchback version. Russia is also the third biggest market for the Astra in Europe. Therefore, Opel has decided to celebrate the world premiere of the new member of the Astra model family at the Moscow Auto Salon 2012 (August 29 - September 9).