Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Automotive News Tracks Greenage in OEMs, Supplers, and Dealer Networks

Automotive Digest is a good publication to read while covering the auto business, perhaps you can call it the car business bible. There are other pubs to follow, such as The Detroit Bureau, but AN goes more in depth with automaking and its supplier chain and dealer networks than anything else you can find. As for green machines, here's a few tidbits from the weekly edition:

In addition to electrifying half of its own fleet by 2015, General Electric plans to open two experience centers where fleet operators can learn about switching to electric vehicles. Deb Frodl, chief strategy officer at GE Capital Fleet Services, said educating fleet customers will help GE shape the future. 

At the experience centers, potential customers of commercial fleet vehicles will be able to test-drive electric vehicles, use GE equipment and meet with representatives from automakers and battery manufacturers. The first center will open in Eden Prairie, Minn., near the headquarters of GE Capital Fleet Services, by the end of March 2011. The other will open soon after that in suburban Detroit as part of a new technology center that GE announced last year. 

Entrepreneurs and established companies are using a range of resources to create a new industry: plug-in charging stations. They are selling the stations to go along with new plug-in EVs hitting the roads. Jim Blain, CEO of the suburban Detroit architectural firm James Blain & Associates Inc., saw opportunity last year when one of his tenants voiced an interest in buying a Chevrolet Volt. Blain created PEP Stations soon afterward to design a charging station ahead of the release of the plug-in hybrid Volt and electric Nissan Leaf sedans. 
Shocking Solutions, another suburban Detroit company, signed a deal to distribute charging stations in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio manufactured by Coulomb Technologies Inc., of Campbell, Calif. Another company jumping into the EV market is SPX Corp., traditionally a supplier of special tools and diagnostic gear. Its SPX Service Solutions unit has struck a deal with GM to supply and install 220-volt chargers for the Volt. For $490 and a home installation fee of about $1,400, Volt owners can charge their car at home in four hours. 
Wheego Electric Cars Inc. says it will begin selling its two-passenger LiFe across the United States in mid-December, although it doesn't have the EPA certification needed to begin. "We're confident that we'll have it in time," said Mike McQuary, CEO of the Atlanta startup. "The U.S. government is committed to encouraging EV use." 
EPA emission certification is largely a formality since battery-powered vehicles have no emissions. But the agency's formal approval has kept other would-be U.S. automakers waiting in the past. 

McQuary said Wheego has 22 dealers standing by. And he said Wheego will sell and deliver cars in any U.S. market that is not represented by a dealer once sales begin. McQuary said the company plans to offer a five-passenger car in the fourth quarter of 2011 and a compact pickup based on that car in early 2012.


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