JATCO ships volume ATs to AvtoVaz
JATCO, the Japan-based automotive joint venture between Nissan, Mitsubishi and Suzuki that makes automatic and continuously variable transmissions, has started volume shipments of automatic transmissions (ATs) to AvtoVaz at its plant in Togliatti–the first time the Japanese company has supplied a Russian carmaker.

The contract also marks a first in that it is the first time AvtoVaz, the largest carmaker in Russia, has produced an automatic transmission vehicle.

The first shipments of 4-speed ATs were sent at the end of May from JATCO’s Fuji Area No.4 plant.

The ATs are being installed on AvtoVaz’s Lada Granta model (pictured), due to be launched in August this year. Around 80,000 units could be supplied annually to the Togliatti plant in line with eventual output of the automatic model but the company is aiming at initial assembly of 10,000 vehicles this year.

JATCO also held an opening ceremony for its Togliatti representative office on 15 June. The company said that the office will enable it to respond promptly to the needs of AvtoVAZ and will provide a foothold for expanding its business in the Russian automotive market. Depending on the success of the venture with AvtoVaz, JATCO will consider the production of transmissions in Russia.

At the opening of Togliatti office, JATCO’s CEO Takashi Hata said: "The 4-speed ATs supplied by JATCO will be the first two-pedal car for many customers in Russia. JATCO will spare no efforts in attracting even more customers in the Russian market to accept two-pedal vehicles, and hopes to bring much excitement and inspiration in driving to the people of Russia."

JATCO, based in Shizuoka, is 75% owned by Nissan, 15% by Mitsubishi Motors and 10% by Suzuki. It has manufacturing plants in Japan, Mexico and China, as well as under construction in Thailand, and claims to be the biggest CVT supplier in the world.

Workers strike over pay and pensions at Ford UK
Workers at Ford’s distribution centre in Daventry, UK affiliated with the Unite and GMB unions went on strike this week as part of a wider protest over pensions and pay.

According to the Union, Ford is aiming to close its final salary pension scheme and lower rates of pay for employees coming into the company, establishing what it called “a two-tier workforce”.

The 24-hour strike, which took place on Monday this week following a postponement from the 22 May, involved a total of 2,500 union members at manufacturing sites around the country, as well as the parts distribution centre which employs almost 500 staff and ships some 8.7m part lines to dealers each year.

"We fiercely oppose the closure of Ford's final salary scheme to new entrants because we believe ultimately Ford will try to close the entire scheme,” said Unite’s national officer Roger Maddison ahead of the action. “To date Ford has failed to make any genuine attempts to resolve this dispute. Unless there is a last minute Ford must prove that it is committed to the UK by investing in its UK workforce. The UK has the best sales in Europe, there's no excuse to attack the terms and conditions of a new generation of Ford staff.

As well as the Daventry centre protests affected the Dagenham plants engine and stamping lines, as well as its diesel design centre. It also affected manufacturing at the engine plant in Brigend, the Halewood transmission plant, Transit assembly in Southampton and Ford of Britain’s headquarters in Warley. Action was also taken at the design and technical centre in Basildon.

Ford would not comment on the impact on production and distribution. In an official statement the company said:

“The issue giving rise to the industrial action [on Monday] relates to a disagreement between the Company and a particular group of its employees in relation to their on-going pay and benefit negotiations. Ford remains willing and available to continue discussions with the Union representing these workers.  The vast majority of the Company's employees are not involved in this disagreement, or the decision to take industrial action.”

GM distribution centre is 100th landfill-free facility
General Motors has announced that its parts distribution facility in Lansing, Michigan has helped it reach a milestone in being the 100th of the carmaker’s facilities that contribute no waste to landfill sites.

The Lansing facility is a 2.3m-square foot facility that ships more than 193,000 parts lines a month .

In 2011, the carmaker said it recycled or reused 2.6m metric tons at its facilities worldwide, equivalent to more than 38m bags of rubbish and maintains that it recycles more waste from its worldwide facilities than any other automaker.

“One of GM’s secrets to success is its cultivation of a strong network of suppliers committed to recycling materials and keeping them in use,” said Steve Hellem, executive director of Suppliers Partnership for the Environment, a forum for automakers, suppliers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Their team regularly facilitates conversations, connects companies and even showcases creative recycling examples for others.”

Arkansas Best to boost revenue with Panther
US-based freight transport provider Arkansas Best is buying logistics firm Panther Expedited Services from the private equity firm Fenway Partners for $180m. Arkansas provides shipping services to customers in a range of industries, including automotive through its less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier operation, ABF Freight System. Panther is one of the North America’s leading providers of premium transport services to the automotive and heavy truck industries through ground, air and ocean shipping.

The deal, once completed, will mean Panther operates as a subsidiary of ABF and together the companies are expected to generate revenues of more than $2.1 billion.

Panther’s management team is expected to stay in place, with Andrew Clarke remaining as president and CEO, reporting directly to Judy McReynolds, Arkansas Best president and CEO.

McReynolds said the combined service with Panther would enhance ABF’s core LTL business and make it a premier one-source logistics partner to its customers. The company expects to expand its customer base with the addition of more than 11,000 Panther customers.

Arkansas Best will fund the acquisition with $80m in cash and a five-year $100m loan.