GM body structures director Antonio Vittorini recently stated that the megatrends of electrification and autonomy are affecting the technology of exterior features on which repairers work daily. Noting GM’s zero-zero-zero vision of no crashes; no congestion; no emissions; Vittorini told the 2019 Great Designs in Steel conference that zero crashes required additional sensing capabilities supporting autonomy.
Tesla boasts that its suite of sensors and cameras on newer vehicles are enough to enable full autonomy, but Vittorini described a need for additional cameras, lidar and short and long-range radar to power autonomy and even safety systems. Those sensors need to work with “conventional bodies” and conventional steel technology, and the steel industry needed to deliver solutions that allow for a lot of these autonomous technologies and sensing equipment to be put on to the vehicle. “With all the increasing technology that we want to put on the vehicle, we are sparing no expense on the vehicle exterior, which is predominantly steel,” said Vittorini.
GM’s commitment to zero emissions means electric vehicles, which Vittorini said would have “new faces” and more sensing capabilities, but “the sensing capability will be less visible”.
“We need crisper metal, we need the ability to see through metal or redirect sensing around metal, which is a huge challenge. GM also planned ‘thinner lights’ and ‘more technology, with illuminated emblems, logo lamps, and appearance packages,” said Vittorini.
This seems likely to add more complexity or at least severity to repairs; it also makes it vital that repairers follow GM repair procedures to return those substrates and sensors back to working order. He suggested a future where OEMs aggressively chase new technologies that consumers demand but need to rely on suppliers to innovate conventional structures such as the body and chassis. He also pointed out that prices on the crossovers which make up 40 percent of the auto industry volume have stayed ‘roughly flat’ for the past decade.
“Customers don’t want to pay more, but they want additional technologies and it was necessary to shift significant resources to features customers demanded.” He also noted GM President Mark Reuss’ plan to double the resources allotted to electrification and autonomy over the next two years, which in turn reduces resources devoted to conventional structures such as body and chassis.
Traditionally, GM spent overwhelmingly on conventional technologies, with new technology ‘kind of dwarfed’. Now, the same budget has been adjusted to where they are ‘on par’, To thrive in this environment, GM had to increase collaboration and indicated that they had become more open to working with other automakers. For example, General Motors started working with and ultimately bought autonomous car company Cruise because it had a technology they needed.
“Collaboration is critical,” Vittorini advised the steel industry. “The metal companies have to provide enough value with their new technology to offset the expense of GM changing its tooling and welding equipment to accommodate it. We need to generate value.”
This article courtesy of John Huetter of Repairer Driven Education (RDE). Check out their website at; Repairer Driven News for this and many other informative and educational articles on the collision repair industry.