Monday, February 8, 2016

24 Things You Didn’t Expect Were Made By Car Companies

In January, Honda made the first U.S. deliveries of its latest product: The HondaJet, a light business aircraft meant to compete with the Cessna Citation and Embraer Phenom. Honda is not the first car company to make an airplane, of course, and delivery is just the culmination of a slow-building news story. Still, the event put us in mind of all the non-car things that automakers have produced. By "produced," we mean the company built the object itself—for our purposes, slapping your logo on a briefcase and offering it in the dealer-accessory catalog isn't enough. So the VW Jetta bicycle built by Trek isn't on the list. Nor is that nifty Bentley watch by Breitling.---Beyond excluding projects that are more cooperative branding than in-house endeavors (i.e. AMG’s Cigarette speedboat) and one-offs (yes, Ettore Bugatti built an airplane—it’s at the EAA Museum in Oshkosh—but there was only one until a replica flew last year), defining “car company” and “unexpected” turned out to be a bit of a trip down a rabbit hole. Many of the world’s car companies are just subsidiaries of massive global industrial concerns. And many companies that started out making cars have tried, with varying degrees of success and for varying periods of time, to expand into other businesses, as Honda has done with its jet, or by acquiring other companies.---The automobile business is notoriously cyclical, which makes it tempting to smooth out the extremes by diversifying. Remember when Roger Smith’s General Motors went on a buying spree snapping up Hughes Aerospace and H. Ross Perot’s Electronic Data Systems (EDS), among other non-car businesses? Or when Lee Iacocca’s Chrysler snapped up Gulfstream? This pattern also is cyclical, with management later deciding that it’s better to focus on the “core business,” and spinning off their new ventures or acquisitions to free up much-needed cash. That’s because car-making is also notoriously capital-intensive, not only initially but continuously. So companies that already had other revenue streams, like Hyundai Heavy Industries, have a better track record of launching new car brands than do cars-only start-ups like, say, DeLorean.-- -We also decided that heavy trucks, construction equipment, buses, motorcycles, and even generators are not unexpected side projects for companies that make engines and motors. All that said, our parameters ended up being pretty loose and we don’t pretend this list is comprehensive. It’s more a representative sampling of car companies making non-car products that we thought were interesting. Feel free to load the comments with your own favorites!Honda has never been “just a carmaker.” It entered the U.S. market as a motorcycle company and today its generators, lawnmowers, and powersports equipment cater to Apple-like brand loyalists who’d buy anything Honda offered. A small business jet, though, was not what anyone expected. The project began in the ’90s and the design was set by 2003, with a composite fuselage and twin engines set atop the wings. It can seat four to six occupants, depending on cabin configuration, plus two crew. ---The regulatory hoops you have to jump through to put nearly 10,000 pounds of machine 30,000 feet above the populace are far more stringent than even those carmakers are accustomed to dealing with, involving a series of tests and certifications. There were other delays, including the big economic downturn, that contributed to Honda missing its 2010 target delivery date. It broke ground on the new factory in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 2007 but the facility wasn’t complete until 2011. The FAA finally issued the airworthiness certificate that permits delivery to customers on December 8, 2015, after Honda had built at least 20 examples.---The HA-420's two engines (developed with GE) propel it to a 435-mph cruising speed (top speed is 483). With a 43,000-foot operational ceiling, the HondaJet boasts that it is the fastest, highest-flying, quietest, and most fuel-efficient plane in its segment. Like Honda’s lawnmowers, it commands a price premium that’s supposedly offset by lower operating and maintenance costs in the long term.Many car companies have (or formerly had) divisions that made engines for industrial and marine purposes. Few though, have built entire boats for the consumer market. Chrysler did, though, from 1965 until divestiture was required under terms of the 1980 government loan agreement.---In the early ’60s, Chrysler acquired West Bend Outboard and Elgin, giving it one-third of the outboard-motor market. Adding Lonestar Boat of Plano, Texas, to its holdings, it now had in-house factories and patents on a hull-manufacturing concern. The new Chrysler Boats division used Lonestar’s foam-core fiberglass methods. Adding a line of sailboats (the ones in the photo are the 15-foot Privateer sloop and 17-foot Mutineer catamaran) and developing its own hull designs (the first was the Hydro-Vee, the outboard boat in this image) Chrysler became a major force in the consumer boat market, with 43 different sailing and power models in 1970 according to the historians at AllPar.com.---Sold off to Texas Marine, Inc (TMI) in 1980, the former Chrysler Boats subsequently folded during the early ’80s recession.This story could, and has, filled books. In short form, it begins in the late 1920s when legendary GM Research chieftain Charles F. Kettering went shopping for a diesel engine to use in his personal yacht (the Olive K., named for the missus), and GM wound up buying companies he'd found. These included Winton Engines from Ohio and Electro-Motive Corp., which already had begun efforts to compete with steam engines for the railroad business. The Burlington Zephyr of 1933 used an early GM-designed diesel-electric powertrain.---By the late 1930s, GM Research had pushed these efforts forward and an 11-month test using demonstrators (like the one in this photo) proved they needed less labor and maintenance and operated at half the cost of steam engines. ---During the war years, GM offered these demonstrators to railroads free of charge and continued testing, even as EMD production turned to diesel marine engines for warships and boats. The top steam competitors, Baldwin and Alco, had to set aside their own nascent diesel projects for other war work. It maybe helped that GM’s Charles Wilson was in charge of deciding which companies would do what work for the War Department.---After WWII, then, GM’s Electro-Motive Division (EMD) had a competitive advantage and got a huge share of the market when railroads made the switch to diesel power. By 1954, it had sold 15,000 diesel locomotives and steam was all but dead.---GM sold EMD to private-equity investors in 2005. Today it’s a division of Caterpillar.In the post-WWI era, Henry Ford saw opportunity in the air-travel business and the company bought the Stout Metal Airplane Company in 1925. Influenced by a German Fokker design Ford had seen at an air show, his company developed the Trimotor (or Tri-Motor, if you prefer). There were 199 built between 1926 and 1933, with seating for two crew and eight passengers in the early 4-AT and 13 in the later 5-AT version. The three motors were meant to reassure the public that these airliners were safer than mere two-engine craft. They were sold to airlines all over the world. Its “All-Clad” aluminum bodywork resulted in the nickname “Tin Goose.”Long before Peugeot made cars, the family business founded in 1810 had begun manufacturing coffee grinders and pepper mills. That became their main business after 1840 and many consider these the world’s standard. The founding Peugeot brothers had a difference of opinion about cars and the company was split between them, one arm continuing in the original business while the new one went bicycling and motoring. Later, their heirs brought the two businesses back together.---When the carmaker merged with Citroën, a concern in which the Peugeot family maintained controlling interest until a couple of years ago, the food-grinding operation again became separate. Now, the family has sold off part of the car business so that it’s no longer in control of PSA (but still owns a lot of shares) and reinvested the funds in its pepper-mill company. You can’t get a Peugeot car in America anymore, but you can buy these Peugeot products at places like Target, still wearing the familiar lion trademark.Not “by” the sports-car company that Donald Healey had pretty much turned over to Austin by the mid-1950s, the Healey Ski-Master is nonetheless the product of the same sporting mind. Reportedly, Healey and his pal Stirling Moss enjoyed waterskiing in the Bahamas, and Donald decided he could make a better boat for the purpose. Early ones, starting in 1956 and as seen here, were plywood-hull outboards, but later ones went inboard with much more power and fiberglass hulls. Healey Marine built about 1750 boats over six years. They’re often seen at Healey car shows. (For much more, visit this site.)BMW makes this wicked-fast Olympic bobsled for Team USA. This one replaced the 20-year-old design used previously. All of BMW's technical acumen is poured into this carbon-fiber wonder that has no wheels, no engine, and is produced in tiny numbers.President Harry Truman named Chrysler president K.T. Keller his "missile chief" in 1950, initiating a long association between the Pentastar company and the government's military and space-exploration efforts. Chrysler-built Redstone missiles carried the early Mercury astronauts into orbit and the company was the lead contractor on the later Saturn rockets that sent Apollo astronauts to the moon. Besides overseeing the whole thing, Chrysler's own contribution was to build Stage One (seen here) of the three-stage Saturn V. All of Detroit's Big Three played significant roles in the space program, but Chrysler's part was a lot larger than most people realize.The Hyundai Motors we know is but a tiny part of the massive industrial concern that is South Korea's Hyundai, which makes construction equipment, consumer electronics, and owns department stores, among many other ventures. The Hyundai Heavy Industries portion includes the world's largest shipbuilding operation in the world's largest shipyard. The vessel in this image is the world's largest container ship, delivered by Hyundai to CSCL (China Shipping Container Lines) in 2014 and named Globe. Hyundai is building four more this size for CSCL. It can carry more than 19,000 containers and operates with a crew of 31. Its 56-foot-tall engine is rated at 69,720 kW (93,496 horsepower) at 84 rpm and can push the Globe to 22 knots.We couldn't ignore the role automakers played in World War II. This was a global thing, of course, but historians agree that America's manufacturing productivity was a major influence in the outcome. We'll touch on only a tiny portion of the things automakers made, but chose this illustration to highlight one of the more rarely mentioned contributions: those of car stylists. GM designer Art Ross penned this imaginative concept of what he called the M-1 Hellcat tank destroyer in 1941. A giant rendering hung on a wall inside the building, adjacent to GM headquarters in Detroit, that housed the company's Research and Styling offices. That was where GM Styling staff under Harley Earl meticulously studied and created camouflage patterns for use by the military. These patterns disguised ships, planes, tanks and soldiers from the enemy. GM personnel also wrote and illustrated instruction manuals that helped Iowa farm boys and Brooklyn bagel bakers learn to operate the machinery of war.This is the real Hellcat, built by Buick. Lightly armored to keep weight down and powered by a nine-cylinder Continental radial engine originally designed for aircraft, the Hellcat was what you might expect from a car company's tank: fast (55 mph) and nimble. It was remarkably effective in its mission attacking Axis tanks in Europe and in the Pacific with its 76-mm gun. Buick built more than 2500 of these, and a few served in the Korean War, too.Ford's contribution to the WWII effort was enormous and included building more than 200,000 Jeeps (to a Willys design), but those are "cars" for our purposes here. The company also built nearly 9000 of these B-24 Liberator bombers, cranking them off the Willow Run assembly line at a peak pace of one per hour.Between 1968 and 1986, Subaru's parent company, Fuji Heavy Industries, produced this four-seat light-aircraft, the FA-200, marketed under the name Aero Subaru. Its Lycoming O-360 engine, commonplace in many light aircraft, isn't made by Subaru but it is an air-cooled flat-four.In Japan, Toyota manufactures houses on robotic assembly lines, much as it builds cars all over the world. Ranging from a 1000-square-foot unit selling for about $200,000 up to a 2600-square-foot unit at about $800,000, according to the Wall Street Journal, these prefab dwellings are just a tiny portion of the company's business operations. There's a special "green" model designed for energy efficiency that must be the best place to park a Prius.In 1961, Ford bought Philco, already a venerated brand name with a history of innovation going back to its founding as the Philadelphia Storage Battery Company in 1906.---Through the 1960s and to 1974, the Philco-Ford logo appeared on radios, TVs, refrigerators, and even an early video-game console (it played Pong), plus computer systems and defense projects. Philips got the consumer products portion in 1974, but Ford integrated some of the other electronics businesses including the aerospace unit that built Intelsat V communications satellites that are still in use.We couldn't leave Philco without noting Ford's big contribution to the NASA moon landing program: Mission Control in Houston, built by the company's Philco electronics arm and finished in 1965. This photo was taken July 16, 1969, the day the Apollo 11 mission ended with safe return of the astronauts.-- -Both Chrysler and Ford contributed electronic systems to this effort, and both have noted in subsequent years how the experiences influenced and continue to influence other parts of their business.The "Built from Jets" ad campaign was true to the Swedish carmaker's heritage but it came long after the reality had changed. Saab started before WWII as an aircraft maker before it went into the car business. This single-engine turbojet fighter was what Saab was building for the Swedish air force when it started building its first car, the Saab 92, in 1949. Its production volume and top speed are about the same, numerically: 661 units, 660 mph.--The later Viggen fighter featured in corporate ads made after the car-making division had been sold to General Motors was not, technically speaking, made by the same company at all. The aircraft arm still operates as a military contractor (its civil aircraft are no longer made). Assets of the former GM automotive division belong to a Chinese company. They'll probably put jets in their ads, too.The magnificent Type 41 Royale may have been Ettore Bugatti's ultimate statement of art and engineering, but it was a financial sinkhole when only six of the planned 25 cars were built and only three found buyers initially. With hopes for the model fading with The Great Depression and 23 engines just sitting there, the company turned the bad news into profit by installing four Royale 12.7-liter straight-eight engines into a streamlined railcar, dubbed AutoRail, in 1932. Downrated to 200 horsepower (from 275 to 300 in the cars), the four engines were smooth and strong enough to propel the machine to 122 mph.---The AutoRail also guzzled fuel, so it was expensive to operate and tickets for the speedy train were accordingly pricey. The wagons rapide were built in two- and three-car versions and could accommodate 48 to 73 passengers. Consider it a precursor of today's TGV trains. ---In all, 79 of these units served the nationalized railroad into the late 1950s (some were a lighter version using only two engines, but Bugatti did have to make a lot more engines after using up the Royale stock). The sole survivor as seen in this photo resides at the Cite du Train museum in Mulhouse. Remnants of a couple more have surfaced in recent years and eventually may be restored.In 1918, General Motors founder William Crapo (Billy) Durant bought the Guardian Refrigerator Company of Detroit, a pioneering maker of electric refrigerators, with his own funds. GM repaid his $56,000 investment in 1919 and renamed it the Frigidaire Division. In 1931, GM invented Freon coolant, which was safer for consumers than the sulfur-dioxide or ammonia gases used previously (but not so earth-friendly, it turned out). In 1936, one of the dozen Parade of Progress Futurliners featured an exhibit on "Miracles of Heat and Cold" touting the company's research and developments. In 1938, Frigidaire came up with home air-conditioning. After WWII, the appliance business was expanded with dishwashers, stoves, ovens, ranges, trash compactors, laundry machines, and more. In 1979, GM sold the unit to White Consolidated, which subsequently sold it to Electrolux where the brand name resides today.A big part of Chrysler's work for the War Department in WWII was in engineering and building tanks including the Sherman, Pershing, and M-3. Unlike many Arsenal of Democracy projects, Chrysler's armored-vehicle operations continued after the war and the modern M-1 was the last of its tanks. The project started in 1970 and Chrysler won a competition with GM largely on the strength of its decision to use a turbine engine and electronic testing systems Chrysler had created for NASA. Engineers who'd worked on Chrysler's Turbine Car contributed knowledge and a little technology to the development of the Abrams's 1500-hp gas turbine running on aviation fuel (it can also burn gasoline or diesel if need be). Chrysler started production in 1978 and although the tank division was sold off to General Dynamics in 1986, it's still in production after 10,000 units. Put in service in 1980 and widely seen in Cold War maneuvers supporting NATO, the Abrams didn't see action until the Gulf War in 1991 and has since been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.Working with surgeon Dr. Forest Dodrill at Harper Hospital in Detroit, General Motors Research designed and built the first mechanical heart used in open-heart surgery in 1952. Looking a bit like it had drawn inspiration from a Cadillac V-12, the device replaced the heart's circulatory function while Dr. Dodrill opened the patient's left atrium to repair the mitral valve. Here we've violated our rule against one-off productions—the machine had been developed with funding from the American Heart Association and while it proved successful, other designs quickly arose and GM didn't push to compete in the market. The one machine was donated to The Smithsonian Institution in 1954, where it resides today.Yes, we expect tractors from automakers like Ford, Fiat, Mitsubishi, Volvo, and more. But these? At left is a Lamborghini, top right is a Porsche, and bottom right is a David Brown tractor—the David Brown who also ran Aston Martin and whose name lives on in the model designations starting "DB."---Most car enthusiasts know the story of how tractor-maker Ferruccio Lamborghini was unhappy with a Ferrari he bought and with Enzo Ferrari's dismissive attitude, so she tarted his own exotic-car company. The tractor company he'd started in 1948 was a big deal by the early 1960s when he launched the car company (that's a 1960 tractor in the photo). He sold half the tractor business in 1972, and the rest a few years later when bankruptcy loomed. Lamborghini-brand tractors are still made under the umbrella of the SAME Group, an Italian holding company, and we recently assaulted the Stelvio Pass in one. Slowly.---The Porsche tractor (that's the Junior diesel model in the photo) isn't quite a car-company product. It predates the first Porsche cars with design work in the 1930s by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche. In the postwar era, he couldn't go into production himself but licensed the design to Allgaier. That tractor, and the Porsche name, were in turn licensed to Mannemann AG, which formed a subsidiary, Porsche-Diesel Motorenbau GmbH. It built the tractors in a former Zeppelin factory from 1956 to 1963. So, we're cheating . . . . the car company didn't make it. But it's a Porsche-brand tractor! (There's also a Ferrari-brand tractor, but that Ferrari is completely unrelated to Enzo and his business ventures).---Finally, David Brown and Aston Martin. The firm was founded in 1860 and made patterns, then gears and transmissions. David Brown II, grandson of the founder, took over in 1931. In 1936, he joined a venture with Ferguson (of later 4WD fame) to make Ferguson-Brown tractors. It came apart when Ferguson heard a bigger name calling: Henry Ford. David Brown started making its own tractors, many of which were put to use on British airfields during WWII. Brown bought the sports-car company Aston Martin in 1947 (and Lagonda in 1948) and ran it as a subsidiary of David Brown Limited. That's when the series of DB1, 2, etc., started. There was a spot of bother in the early 1970s and the car companies were sold off even as the parent firm went public and the family got out of management. In 1978, the tractor biz got sold to J.I.Case which put it under the same umbrella with International Harvester. The gear-making side of David Brown is now part of Textron.As a carmaker, Mitsubishi may be on the fringes of the U.S. market, but making cars is only a tiny part of this global industrial behemoth's business. Mitsu is into packaged foods and solar cells and microchips and all kinds of consumer and industrial products.---We've chosen to illustrate three: Air-conditioning systems (from room-size to industrial plants); large-scale video displays under the name Diamond Vision for stadiums and arenas (the one in the image is from the arena that hosts the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins); and, perhaps least expected, elevators and escalators, including some really impressive spiral-shaped ones like that seen here. So even if Mitsubishi automobiles were to go the way of Isuzu and Daihatsu, you'll still see the three-diamond logo around town.Fiat is one of those industrial giants that has its fingers in many pies, especially within the Italian consumer market, but did you know it made newspapers? La Stampa ("The Press") is a daily newspaper in Turin that was founded in 1867 and which Fiat S.p.A. has owned since 1925. More recently, it has spun off the fashion/lifestyle magazine Specchio+, originally a supplement to the newspaper but a standalone publication since 2006. And Fiat's publishing arm also runs the news-gathering website Vatican Insider, available free in six languages.
from Car and Driver Blog http://www.caranddriver.com/flipbook/24-things-you-didnt-expect-were-made-by-car-companies


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