+++ The German transport ministry has threatened to issue AUDI with further fines if it does not meet upcoming deadlines for the retrofitting of manipulated diesel models with new software. The car manufacturer has been issued with an ultimatum in relation to a demand originally made in 2017 to rid diesels of so-called “cheat software”. It is said to lay out conditions that could see the German car maker slapped with fines should it not meet a 26 September deadline for the retrofitting of V6 and V8 diesel models with EU6 certification. The retrofit measures are aimed at bringing various Audi models up to a legal state by adding software code that does not include manipulation measures that can lead to significantly higher emissions on the road than in test conditions. +++
+++ BMW ’s engine development and purchasing expert, Markus Düsmann, is set to become the CEO of Audi, after BMW dropped its opposition to his early departure. He will start on April 1. BMW’s board will discuss Düsmann’s planned departure to Audi in the near future. Wolfsburg-based Volkswagen is on the lookout for clean-engine expertise as it struggles to overcome an emissions scandal that originated in Audi’s engine development department. Audi’s former CEO Rupert Stadler was forced to step down temporarily after his arrest in June as part of an ongoing emissions investigation. Volkswagen is seeking to replenish its senior leadership while Stadler remains in custody. It had said in July that Düsmann will take up his new position as soon as he is able to do so. He will be the second high-profile defection from rival German carmaker BMW after the poaching of Herbert Diess in July 2015. Düsmann’s BMW contract runs until Sept. 30, 2019, and it would also have a non-compete clause that board members are required to sign. BMW had said that Düsmann had informed its chairman that he would not make himself available for an extension of his contract because of personal reasons. +++
+++ ELECTRIC CARS cars need to be constructed differently from combustion-engine cars. Ulf Sudowe, R&D director for chassis at Gestamp, gives the example of the time the Spanish auto supplier test-fitted an electric motor to the subframe of a Volkswagen Up. “Everything was destroyed”, he said. The ramp-up of torque for an electric motor happens so fast, Sudowe explained, that a standard subframe can’t cope. For the electric e-Up, Gestamp developed a unique subframe. The difference between the 2 means that new stamping dies were needed to create the new subframe, increasing the costs and complexity of producing the electric version. It’s this kind of complexity that Volkswagen Group has worked hard to avoid when creating its Modular Electric Toolkit, commonly known as MEB. The $7 billion investment is expected to allow then VW Group to build everything from compact cars to large SUVs using many of the same parts, providing the crucial economies of scale that the company says will enable it to make EVs profitably. Volkswagen will build MEB cars in 8 locations globally starting in 2022 and predicts it will sell 15 million vehicles on the platform in the next decade. But what if it doesn’t? “If the EV demand isn’t there, Wolfsburg is going to have a big, big problem”, Max Warburton, an analyst at Bernstein bank, wrote in a July report. Other manufacturers have the same fears. “If we predict the success of the 3 series, we are pretty much spot on”, Oliver Zipse, the new CEO of BMW Group, said just before his appointment in July. “Predicting electromobility is much more difficult”. BMW, along with manufacturers such as Jaguar Land Rover and PSA Group, have rejected VW’s solution of a stand-alone platform. Instead, they are creating flexible platforms that encompass both combustion and electric drivetrains. “In 2030, we might have a different approach,” Zipse said. “But we are not living in 2030, and we believe very firmly this is the right answer to keep the company afloat and profitable”. By keeping platforms flexible, BMW can raise or lower production of a particular drivetrain according to demand, Zipse said. Plants can be easily adapted. “To integrate different drivetrains in one plant without losing efficiency, that’s the secret”, he said. “Either you can do that or you cannot. And we can do it”. Customers won’t care, Zipse said. “You will not feel any difference between a single-purpose platform, a conversion platform or a flexible architecture, maybe 2 kilo here or there. But it’s not relevant for a buying decision”. Not everyone agrees. “In an ideal world, you would do everything on a bespoke platform”, said Tim Urquhart, principal automotive analyst at IHS Markit. “The whole point of an EV platform is that it doesn’t have to be too complex. You have the skateboard platform and have a blank canvas. It will afford you many more advantages”. Simplifications to an EV platform might include dropping the brake calipers and drums on the rear axle because brake regeneration means they’re no longer needed, said Patricio Barbale, senior chassis analyst at IHS. Or using the electric power to introduce more energy-hungry electric systems such as steer-by-wire, which then save space. With the MEB platform, VW has switched to rear-wheel drive on the simpler versions, whereas others will be four-wheel drive, which means the instant power delivered won’t corrupt the steering. VW also makes a big deal of the fact that the cabin will be larger because it can push it farther forward without the need to package an internal-combustion engine up front. “The length of a Golf, the room of a Passat” is how VW describes the first car on the MEB platform, the ID3, which goes on sale next year. An automaker that builds on a unique platform can market the car quite differently from a similar-size combustion-engine model. That will be important given that (for a few years yet, anyway) the expense of the battery pack will price the electric car higher. Volkswagen is already doing this. “The Modular Electric Toolkit jettisons all the ballast of the fossil age”, VW declared in its marketing, adding that MEB led to “fundamental” changes for everything from body design to interior packaging. Meanwhile, an electric car on a flexible platform could end any unfavorable comparisons to its cheaper combustion-engine version. Within the Volkswagen Group, Audi and Porsche are developing a larger platform for premium cars: PPE, or Premium Platform Electric. But VW isn’t the only one investing in pure electric platforms. Daimler is working on the Electric Vehicle Architecture (or EVA2) expected in 2021. Two sedans and two SUVs are expected to be the first to use it. Meanwhile, Renault Nissan is developing the CMA (an electric-only, flat-floor version of its broader Common Module Family architecture) expected in 2022. And in Japan, Toyota is working with Subaru on an EV platform it announced in June. No timing has been given. The EV-only platform design with the batteries sandwiched in the floor does present its own problems. In cars where the size of the battery box pushes it toward the edges, the car needs more crash protection. “In the side impact you have a very limited zone of deformation to the battery; about half”, said Niclas Brannberg, director of computer-aided engineering for the Chinese electric-car brand Nio. That means extra stiffness, meaning more expensive extruded aluminum beams for Nio. But Brannberg, who has previously worked for Volvo and Saab, estimates that the cost of developing a new electric-only platform is similar to that of a pure combustion-engine platform. VW is way ahead on cost with MEB, said Sudowe of Gestamp, which builds battery boxes and chassis parts for cars using that platform. “MEB will be the benchmark for everyone”, he said. “It’s very good on the price perspective”. For example, all MEB models except the SUV will use the same control arms, saving money on dies. Sudowe estimates that MEB is around half the cost of the EV-only platform Jaguar Land Rover developed for the Jaguar I-Pace. The I-Pace platform, designed as a halo car to beat Jaguar’s premium rivals to market, is not expected to be further developed. Instead JLR will migrate models to its new flexible Modular Longitudinal Architecture starting next year. The first model to use it will be an electric version of the next generation XJ. Suppliers are being asked to be more flexible with EV-specific parts, just in case the actual numbers needed are lower than quoted or higher. “Today, probably none of our customers are absolutely sure how fast the market is going to move to EVs”, Gestamp Chairman Francisco Riberas says. Volkswagen recently doubled its order of battery boxes for MEB cars from Gestamp to 570,000 a year. The order indicates greater confidence that customers will switch to EVs as European laws tighten on carbon dioxide emissions starting in 2020. VW’s confidence is partly because it has the scale; even more so now that Ford has agreed to use MEB for a range of European electric cars. For those without the brand reach to spread the investment, a flexible platform makes more sense. “They want to minimize the risk”, he said. “Even if maybe a platform is not the best for EVs, they adapt it so they have a bit more flexibility in terms of volumes. It might not be the best solution, but it will probably be the most intelligent”. +++
+++ FORD could build more than 1 model of electric car based on Volkswagen’s electric vehicle platform, Ford’s Europe Chief Stuart Rowley told. To make only one model made no sense financially, and a decision about whether to build a second model could happen soon, Rowley is quoted telling. “Yes, we are in talks about this”, Rowley told. +++
+++ Thousands of climate protesters marched past the FRANKFURT auto show, highlighting the simmering tensions between the German car industry and the country’s environmentalists as the country’s government prepares to take action to curb runaway carbon dioxide emissions. “Make love not CO2”, read one banner as activists from Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth joined scores of cyclists to demand that Germany take action to cut the number of cars on its roads, with some calling for an outright ban on SUVs and other large vehicles. Police in Frankfurt said some 15,000, including many cyclists, took part in the march. Organizers put the number at 25,000 and said that about 18,000 cyclists took part. “The automotive industry makes money by destroying the environment”, Marion Tiemann, a transport expert at Greenpeace and one of the event’s organizers, said at the protest. “We are in the midst of a climate crisis”. Germany has pledged to cut carbon emissions by 55 % by 2030, compared with 1990 levels. But by the end of this year, the country will have reduced CO2 output by only 30 percent, with transport emissions rising steadily. Record-breaking heatwaves, the dwindling of the Rhine river and a series of powerful storms have turbocharged the climate debate in Germany and lifted the environmentalist Green party to second place in election polls. The protest came as German chancellor Angela Merkel convenes a climate cabinet tasked with cutting emissions from Germany’s transport and heating sectors. “In the last 50 years, storms, hot spells and floods have increased threefold in Germany”, Merkel said in her weekly podcast. “We must act”. Merkel faces a balancing act when she chairs the first meeting of her high-level climate cabinet on Sept. 20. The chancellor is trying to thrash out a common position between squabbling ministers from her coalition’s conservative and social democrat parties. The outcome of the negotiations could have profound consequences for the country’s economy as signs of a looming recession mount. “Of course (and we can’t beat about the bush) climate protection comes at a price”, Merkel said. “But I’m convinced if we don’t put this money in the right place, the price that we will pay later will be much higher”. Cars are an obvious target for climate protesters who paraded effigies of Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler and Toyota executives with exhaust tailpipes in place of where their sexual organs would be. Other banners called for “Clean air for all” as a giant, black, inflatable upturned car drifted over those gathered around Hauptwache, a square that borders Frankfurt’s main shopping street. “Our message to the automakers is: Stop selling SUVs” said Jürgen Resch, executive director of Deutsche Umwelthilfe, an environmental group that has brought lawsuits against German cities where nitrogen oxide pollution has exceeded legal limts. “They are climate killers”. The conflict between German environmentalists and automakers sits uneasily with the fact that about 5 % of Germany’s economic output depends on car companies. About 820,000 people are employed in the production of cars or automotive parts, according to the VDA carmakers’ association. “We would do well as a society to not demonize one of Germany’s leading industries”, Axel Schmidt, head of automotive research at consulting firm Accenture, said in an interview. German automakers are under intense pressure to speed up a transition to electric and hydrogen vehicles, after the 2015 diesel scandal in which Volkswagen Group admitted to cheating emissions tests. Germany’s big three (Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler and BMW) assume that in 10 years about half of their cars will be emissions-free. Automakers are expected to invest some €40 billion on alternative drivetrains in the next 3 years, highlighting the urgency to fix the image of an industry tarnished by the diesel scandal and avoid bans on diesel cars in cities. Despite calls for calm, tensions have boiled over several times in recent week. Climate change activists met with representatives from Germany’s car lobby earlier this month in an unusually hostile debate in Berlin. A fatal accident, when a Porsche SUV crashed into a group of pedestrians in Berlin, prompting a local politician to call for a ban on “such tank-like vehicles”. Some protesters in Frankfurt called for the German government to go further and ban all cars from city centers. They would also like Germany to invest billions of euros in its rail network and plot an eventual exit from the internal combustion engine, similar to the country’s decision to quit coal-fired power generation by 2038. +++
+++ HONDA expects to sell about 10,000 units of the E small electric car annually in Europe. That is double the amount it predicted 2 years ago when the first concept version of the car was shown. Orders start now and deliveries will begin next summer. Honda says it has had 40,000 expressions of interest in the car. The Honda e has retro-styling with round LED lights, uncluttered exterior surfaces and multiple dashboard screens. It was one of the most anticipated electric car launches at Frankfurt auto show after the Volkswagen ID.3 and Porsche Taycan. The car is key to Honda achieving European CO2 targets next year and in 2021, therefore, the company may need to sell more than the predicted 10,000, said Dave Hodgetts, managing director of Honda UK. “It slightly depends on the performance of our other models”, Hodgetts told. “If we sell more CR-V petrol models than hybrids than we expected then we might have to sell more of the E”. Hodgetts said Honda has committed to achieving the EU’s fleet average for CO2 of 95 gram per kilometer instead of paying fines. He did not say how Honda would increase sales, but 2 routes could be to put more money behind marketing the car or lowering the price. The Honda E, which is built in Yori, Japan, takes the company back into Europe’s minicar segment for the first time since it drop the Logo in 2001. The price of the Honda e is more than double that of minicars with internal combustion engines, but Honda hopes that technology such as cameras in place of sideview mirrors and voice activated connectivity will lure wealthier customers away from premium brands. It describes the car as a halo model for the brand, despite its size. The small car was a much better option for the company’s first electric car in Europe than an SUV, Honda E project engineer Kohei Hitomi said. “We believe an electric vehicle makes more sense in an urban environment”, he told. He said the car’s relatively small 37.5 kWh battery was the right size for expected usage, as well being more environmentally friendly than a bigger battery, which consumes more resources and CO2 in its production. The battery has a range of “up to” 220 km, Honda said, quoting internal data rather than official EU testing data. The entry car has a power output of 136 hp, or customers can pay more for the e Advance with 154 hp. Honda said the most powerful model will accelerate to 100 kph in 8 seconds. Technology inside includes the Honda Personal Assistant, which is activated in the manner of Amazon’s Alexa by saying ‘OK, Honda’. It connects online to access “a range of online services”, Honda said in a statement without being specific. Users also get access to the My Honda+ smartphone app, which allows them to use their phone to check battery life, remotely activate the climate and unlock the doors. The standard model is well equipped with technology such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot recognition, traffic-sign recognition, side-mirror cameras, remote keyless entry, heated front seats, and the dual 12.3-inch information screens. As well as the extra power, e Advance adds a camera-fed screen in place of the windshield mounted rearview mirror, autonomous parking, heated steering wheel and heated windshield. The 5-door hatchback was revealed in production form at the Frankfurt auto show. The Honda E will compete with the electric versions of the Volkswagen Up, as well as the Smart ForTwo and Smart ForFour minicars, although the Honda’s premium price means it will draw customers from a range of vehicles.
+++ JAGUAR is expected to reveal an updated XF before the year is out. Following the recently updated XE and tipped to arrive before similar revisions to the F-Pace early next year, the executive car will benefit from design updates along with a raft of technological improvements aimed at restoring its competitive edge to the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class and Audi A6. Senior product planning manager Wayne Darley says the XF is “the next priority”. “If you look at when those 2 cars (XF and F-Pace) went on sale (late 2015 and early 2016) that gives you a good idea of the timings”. The changes will be as significant as the XE, with evolved exterior looks but significant cabin upgrades, focusing on a substantial boost in perceived quality and new technology features. Like the smaller saloon, the XF is set to adopt features from the I-Pace, including a new secondary central screen for the climate control functions and a new steering wheel. Both cars will also join the XE in receiving RDE2-compliant diesel engines, which Darley said required a “huge push” on the engineering side to ensure the XE was the first car in its class to market with the ultra-efficient engines ahead of an emissions regulation change in 2021. What remains unclear, however, is whether the XF S will return. The new XE will no longer be available with the supercharged V6 S variant for the rest of its lifecycle, while V6 petrol and diesel versions of the F-Pace and XF are no longer on sale. Jaguar Land Rover has just released a new inline 6-cylinder petrol engine in the Range Rover Sport, but with the XE S axed due to slow sales it remains to be seen whether that engine will return to the larger models. The prototype spied here sports a petrol powerplant, according to number plate data, but there is no indication it uses a mild hybrid system as such checks commonly reveal. It remains to be seen if the model will benefit from the same efficiency-boosting 48v electrified system as its Land Rover cousins, but given the XF’s older platform, it’s not likely. +++
+++ The VOLKSWAGEN Group is bundling its software operations with an investment plan of as much as €7 billion; another step in the electric and connected-car shift that’s heralding massive change across the entire industry. Unifying VW Group’s fragmented IT units will boost efficiency as the automaker steps up sharing of parts and key technology across 12 automotive brands including Porsche, Bentley, Audi and Skoda. The company employs some 650,000 workers globally, with the labor force steeling for cutbacks across the traditional carmaking business. The streamlined operations will have a workforce of as many as 10,000 developers, Christian Senger, head of digital car and services for the VW brand, said in a presentation at the Frankfurt auto show. VW had earlier outlined a plan to pool about 5,000 digital experts into a single unit that will develop “vw.os”; a uniform software operating system across all new models. Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess has mapped out a massive expansion in software and digital investments, and earlier this year started the rollout of the industry’s biggest automotive cloud with strategic partner Microsoft. With the creation of the Car.Software unit, VW Group’s in-house tech development will rise to at least 60 % by 2025 from less than 10 % now, the automaker said earlier this year. Accompanying the changes is a 2016 pact to cut 30,000 jobs worldwide at the VW brand through voluntary measures such as early retirement and attrition. Net headcount is down 6,900 people as of July this year while Volkswagen added about 3,400 new jobs in areas such as software development of car connectivity, according to an investor presentation. Volkswagen has achieved €2.5 billion in related cost savings to far, freeing up funds it can plow into future technologies. “There is a huge transformation going on”, Senger said during a discussion in Frankfurt with Microsoft’s executive vice president for cloud computing, Scott Guthrie. VW’s convoluted IT supplier structure with short-term contracts and a low re-usage of code will be turned into long-term partnerships that may last as long as a decade. The first vehicle based on vw.os is the electric ID3 that VW unveiled in Frankfurt. Production starts in November and the vehicles will hit showrooms next year. Starting in 2025, all new models will use the system. Currently, as many as 70 control units with operating software from 200 different suppliers need to be integrated into VW brand vehicles, rendered even more complex by using different systems for similar functions, such as for infotainment and navigation. Volkswagen embarked on a broad overhaul plan through 2025, including sweeping efforts to slash complexity and make the sprawling industrial giant more agile. Boosting software operations is a critical part of this shift. +++