Newsflash: elektrische Cadillac komt in 2022

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+++ The cost of cars equipped with ultra-fast 5G WIRELESS TECHNOLOGY is likely to go up if microchip supplier Qualcomm’s patent licensing practices fail to change, a trade group representing major automakers and 2 leading automotive suppliers said in court filings. Qualcomm is seeking to overturn a sweeping antitrust decision requiring it to renegotiate its licensing agreements at reasonable prices. Appeal proceedings in the case brought by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission are expected to begin in January, but Qualcomm’s opponents are weighing in early to argue that the anti-trust decision should be allowed to stand. Trade groups representing the U.S. units of BMW, Ford, General Motors and Toyota among others, made various claims about adverse effects of Qualcomm’s licensing practices in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Also filing was a unit of supplier Continental and Denso, both makers of ‘infotainment’ and location-tracking car technology. Qualcomm has denied the FTC’s anti-trust accusations and the court agreed to pause the decision after some government officials asked it to do so. Continental said it gave up working with Qualcomm’s chip rivals Samsung Electronics and MediaTek because the licensing practices created too many legal risks. Continental and Denso said Qualcomm and other patent holders were refusing to license their technology to chipmakers that charge only a few dollars per chip, seeking instead to sign licenses only with carmakers whose vehicles cost tens of thousands of dollars and are “less motivated to fight for every dollar” in license fees. “The resulting inefficiency is ultimately borne by consumers in the form of higher prices”, the auto suppliers wrote in their complaint.
The trade groups representing automakers argued in a court filing that Qualcomm should negotiate directly with the suppliers, to avoid “unnecessary, costly, and inefficient licensing negotiations” with the carmakers themselves. “The suppliers that incorporate chips into their products likely are ready to negotiate with Qualcomm”, the groups wrote. Rival chipmakers also weighed in against Qualcomm with Intel saying it sold its smartphone modem chip business to Apple at “a multi-billion dollar loss” after Qualcomm forced it out of the market with what it described as illegal licensing practices. +++
 

+++ General Motors has lots to say about electric vehicles, but it’s starting feel like all talk and no action. That’s going to change sooner than most people think, as GM’s vice president of electric and autonomous vehicle programs, Rick Spina, has suggested CADILLAC ’s first electric vehicle will debut “a little more than a year from now”. spina didn’t say much about the model, but the electric crossover was previewed at the North American International Auto Show earlier this year. The company hasn’t divulged details, but the crossover will ride on a newly developed modular platform that was designed specifically for electric vehicles. Like Volkswagen’s MEB platform, the architecture will underpin an assortment of vehicles in varying shapes and sizes. It will also support front-, rear- and allwheel- drive setups. Much remains unknown, but Cadillac president Steve Carlisle has previously said the model will “hit the heart of the crossover market and meet the needs of customers around the world”. He also stated the vehicle will “represent the height of luxury and innovation, while positioning Cadillac as the pinnacle of mobility”. While Spina didn’t say much about the upcoming Cadillac, he suggested it will followed by an assortment of other EVs as a “fairly large chunk of our products in the next 3 to 7 years will be electric vehicles”. He went on to reveal the company is “on track” to introduce 20 EVs by 2023, and noted GM will “compete everywhere” and not just in the luxury segment. General Motors CEO Mary Barra recently confirmed an electric pickup will be launched in late 2021. It could be badged as a Hummer, and reports have suggested it could be followed by a Hummer SUV in 2023 as well as electric GMC pickup that same year. Back in 2017, GM revealed a road map which called for at least 11 new electric vehicles. It included small, compact and large crossovers as well as a “low roof car” and a “lux low roof” model that appeared to be a coupe. While some consumers remain skeptical about EVs, Spina mentioned an interesting benefit that isn’t often talked about. As he explained, it’s less expensive to go from a ‘base’ electric motor to a more powerful one than it is making a similar leap using internal combustion engines. This could mean drivers will get more bang for their buck in terms of performance. +++ 

+++ DAIMLER is testing robotaxis in the U.S. despite new CEO Ola Källenius saying that the automaker will “rightsize” its spending level on self-driving technologies. Daimler’s autonomous-driving technology will more likely be apply to commercial vehicles for freight companies on long haul routes than taxis, Källenius told. The company has started robotaxi tests in California to gather user feedback, sources familiar with the matter told. “We have not put the project on ice. We are looking at where we can improve efficiency and gain synergies so we don’t unnecessarily duplicate or triplicate our development work”, said one of the sources. “This pilot program is about capturing the user experience”. The fleet includes about 30 vehicles, mainly Mercedes-Benz S-class equipped with sensor arrays including long distance laser scanning LiDARs, the person said, saying the test could last for several months. Although the cars can pilot themselves, a safety driver is behind the steering wheel at all times. Although the number of users will initially be limited, the ultimate purpose of the pilot program is mainly to gain knowledge of what customers want or demand from a self-driving car. Daimler has already been testing Level 4 cars on public roads in Stuttgart, Germany. The California tests are the first time that occupants who are not employed by the 2 companies ride in the vehicles. Daimler Mobility, which has a captive finance unit, is assisting with its expertise in fleet management to better understand the difference in expectations from conventional taxis. The sources gave no details of the location nor extent of the tests. Daimler and Robert Bosch said in November 2018 that San Jose, California’s third-biggest city, would be the pilot city for trials of a highly automated driving ride-hailing service, targeted to begin during the second half of this year. With its population expected to grow 40 % in the next 2 decades, San Jose wants to prepare itself for a future in which autonomous cars hit the streets, the companies said. Daimler and Bosch are looking to expand beyond their pilot program in San Jose, California, Sajjad Khan, the management board member for future technologies including driverless cars at Mercedes, told. Even though it will continue with self-driving taxis, Daimler believes there is a greater chance of making money more quickly with autonomous driving applications for heavy trucks hauling goods than with passenger cars taxiing people. The company will shift spending on robotaxi fleets to autonmous cars for private use in less complex highway traffic rather than in a chaotic urban environment. Full scale deployment of the robotaxi business model would tie up a lot of capital with some uncertainties around the earnings potential, Kallenius said. “At this juncture to be the first one out to do something like that at scale does not make sense”, he said. “We are not stopping developing the robotaxis. We will go into the market when it’s right, and we do not think that is in the short to midterm”, Källenius added. +++ 

+++ In a steamy foundry behind a century-old Czech brewery, a mechanical arm pours molten aluminum into a 2-story robotic mold. Within seconds, gleaming pump covers for diesel engines roll out for inspection. The state-of-the-art production line at Motor Jikov Group in Ceske Budejovice, near the border with Germany and Austria, is running at full speed to deliver orders to Volkswagen Group’s Scania truck unit. But the upgrades that cost millions of dollars represent more than the success of a well-run midsize business. Executives see them as a matter of life and death in a cutthroat industry gripped by existential dread. More than a hundred companies like Motor Jikov are scattered across the Czech Republic, a stronghold of the European auto industry and a pillar of the national economy. They serve factories that build cars powered by combustion engines and are squeezed by the rise of ELECTRIC MOBILITY. “It’s a question of which companies are capable of surviving”, Motor Jikov general manager Miroslav Dvorak said. “For us, this means foremost a huge investment, in order to reach the level of a completely new type of products”. The Czech Republic and Slovakia, its former federation partner, make more cars per person than any other country in the world. The vast web of component-makers employs almost twice as many people as the car factories themselves. Attracted by a cheap skilled workforce and proximity to major European markets, foreign investment has built up an industry that churns out millions of cars carrying the Volkswagen, Skoda, Hyundai, Kia, Peugeot and Land Rover logos. The shakeup of an industry dominated by traditional cars for 120 years is pitting the suppliers against each other, in competition for a shrinking order book. Ultimately, this tectonic change will force them to replace about half of their total output, according to Dvorak. Sales of Czech car-parts makers were  460 billion koruna last year ($20 billion), of which 75 % were exports. Advancing innovations and tightening environmental norms are upending all corners of the automotive world. Just 2 weeks ago, Elon Musk announced that Tesla will build its new factory in Germany, the birthplace of the internal combustion engine. The trend risks creating economic and social ruptures in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, where automotive investments have been a dominant driver of transformation after the fall of Communism 30 years ago. “We are now in quite a dangerous period”, Petr Knap, an Ernst & Young’s partner in Prague, told a gathering of auto-industry executives on November 12. “For the next 2 or 3 years, things may be evolving. But then we may see big disruptions”. One of the drivers of the change is the European Union’s plan to cut carbon emissions by 40 % from 1990 levels within a decade. With the transportation sector the source of nearly a quarter of global greenhouse gases, the Clean Energy Ministerial, a global forum with members including the EU’s largest economies and the U.S., wants to raise the share of electric cars to 30 % of the total market by the same time. At the core of the problem is the fact that electric cars require a fraction of the estimated 2,000 parts needed for an internal combustion engine. That means more competition for fewer parts and a threat to producers specializing in powertrains. The Czech government estimates that about 40,000 jobs depend on the combustion engine, requiring programs to retrain at least some of those workers for electric platforms. “The supply chain can’t survive with many participants in their present shape and form”, Ernst & Young’s Knap warned. Even global automakers with more financial resources will face difficulties to adapt. Half of them are not in a strong position to handle the transition requiring a step-change in the production and sales of electric vehicles as well as the level of technological investment, according a report by Moody’s Investors Service. “Now they want us to change the whole industry”, said Robert Kiml, a senior manager at the Czech operation of Toyota Peugeot Citroen Automobile. “Of course, we’re scared. Our suppliers have no clarity whether their business and investments are going to pay off”. About half of Motor Jikov’s annual sales of 2 billion koruna come from products like the pump covers for Scania trucks or lube oil pump houses for Toyota. The company invests 5 % – 8 % of its revenue every year to diversify away from the combustion engine. Helping with transition is Radomir Hrouda, Motor Jikov’s manager for technical education. His point of pride is a “clean room”, where workers pour over documentation and computer readouts. They were testing a mini assembly line to create battery covers for electric cars. “Some things, we’ll have to toss out and start all over again”, he said. “As you can see, the future of electromobility is already here”. +++ 

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA) and the United Auto Workers union have reached a tentative deal on a new labor contract. The UAW Bargaining Committee agreed to a deal with FCA that will add $4.5 billion in investments, set to translate into 7,900 jobs over the course of the 4-year deal. This $4.5 billion comes on top of a previous $4.5 billion investment pledge from the car manufacturer. It is reported that a final agreement is likely at least a week or two away from being approved or rejected by rank-and-file union members. The UAW – FCA National Council is set to go over the finer details of the deal during a December 4 meeting. If the green light is given, the agreement will go to FCA’s hourly and salary workers for a ratification vote scheduled to begin on December 6. UAW acting president Rory Gamble thanked FCA for their cooperation: “FCA has been a great American success story thanks to the hard work of our members. We have achieved substantial gains and job security provisions for the fastest-growing auto company in the United States. During the previous 4-year agreement, FCA added over 6,400 new UAW members”. It is understood that the deal will share many of the same terms as the union’s recent contracts with Ford and General Motors that included 3 % raises or 4 % lump-sum bonuses each year of the contract, retention of roughly 3 % of out-of-pocket health care costs, and a path for temporary workers to become full-time employees. +++ 

+++ FRANCE has presented proposals which it said were aimed at helping its car industry adapt to growing environmental concerns and reducing CO2 emissions. The measures include raising financial sanctions on cars which emit relatively high levels of CO2 and creating 2 funds of €25 million each to help the sector deal with the required changes, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said. The French government will also soon announce a 3 year timetable to provide more visibility on financial incentives for buying electric vehicles, Le Maire told a news conference. +++ 

+++ Bertrand Piccard is a French aeronaut who managed to drive the hydrogen-powered HYUNDAI Nexo for 778 km across France without having to refuel, thus setting a world record. Yes, there are two C’s in his last name instead of one (shout out to Jean-Luc), but his achievement clearly stands as being very impressive, in turn promoting hydrogen technology as a solution for future mobility, which was the goal all along. The car initially left the FaHyence hydrogen station and arrived at the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace in Le Bourget the very next day without having to refuel. “With this adventure, we have proven that with clean technologies, we no longer need revolutionary experimental prototypes to break records. Everyone can now do it with standard zero-emission vehicles”, said Piccard. “A new era in performance is beginning, for the benefit of environmental protection”. After covering the previously-mentioned 778 km, the Nexo displayed a remaining range of 49 km. During the drive, several prominent passengers found themselves onboard the Nexo, such as Brono Le Maire (French Minister of Economy and Finance), Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, Price Albert II of Monaco and a few others. Hyundai is currently hard at work trying to demonstrate how efficient and clean hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can be. Recently, they even recruited an Olympic athlete and had her run on a treadmill while inside a huge bubble connected to the Nexo’s exhaust. +++ 

+++ The MERCEDES-BENZ Sindelfingen plant in Germany has built the 500,000th current-generation S-Class sedan since its introduction in 2013. This brings the all-time S-Class production number to around 4 million since the market launch of the 220 model in 1951. That’s quite a remarkable achievement since we’re talking about the brand’s flagship model. Its success makes the S-Class by far the best-selling luxury saloon worldwide. Interestingly, the number one market for the S-Class is China, which accounted for more than one-third of the total production of the W222 generation. The second-largest market remains the United States, followed by Germany. The current S-Class has been produced exclusively at the Sindelfingen site for the global market since 2013. The production milestone was celebrated at the plant by the S-Class teams from body-in-white, paint shop and assembly, together with Michael Bauer, Head of Production at the Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen plant and Site Manager, and the site’s Works Council chairman, Ergun Lümali. “Our Mercedes-Benz S-Class sets global standards, and this is also reflected in its production. The top quality of the S-Class, which rolls off the assembly line here in Sindelfingen, inspires our customers around the world”, said Jörg Burzer, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz for Production and Supply Chain Management. The Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen facility is the lead factory for the production of the S-Class and E-Class models. More than 25,000 people build the S-Class Saloon, Coupé and Cabriolet (including Mercedes-Maybach models), E-Class Saloon and Estate, CLS, Mercedes-AMG GT, and GLA at the site. In the future, the plant will also be the location for manufacturing electric vehicles of the new EQ product and technology sub-brand. +++ 

+++ MITSUBISHI and NISSAN have agreed to set up a new company to jointly develop advanced technologies with Renault for next-generation vehicles, according to sources familiar with the matter. The sources said the alliance wants to bolster cooperation after its leader, Carlos Ghosn, was ousted. Engineers from the 3 automakers will focus on studying artificial intelligence and other key technologies at the new company, and its operation scale and other details will be announced by the end of January, the sources said. Nissan and Renault are jointly working on developing platforms and engines, and purchasing of parts under the alliance at present. The 3 carmakers look to step up joint operations as the global auto industry faces a rapid shift in customer demand to connected, autonomous, shared and electric vehicles. The shift in the business environment is requiring automakers to boost investment in technology. The new company is aimed at helping the Franco-Japanese auto group to share hefty development costs and speed up development, as the 3 partners have launched few new projects since Ghosn was discharged following his arrest in November last year. Nissan launched a new management team led by newly appointed chief executive Makoto Uchida, who stepped in for Hiroto Saikawa after he admitted receiving overpayment of remuneration. Under the new leadership, Japan’s second-biggest carmaker by volume plans to scale back its low-cost Datsun brand for emerging markets, people close to the matter said. The Yokohama-based company will discontinue production of the inexpensive vehicles in Indonesia and Russia and halt their sales in some markets due to fierce price competition. Nissan resuscitated the Datsun brand in 2014 as a pillar of a strategy to tap into booming markets under Ghosn, who was the top executive at the time. A French-Lebanese engineer has been chosen as secretary general of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi auto alliance, part of a new business framework announced a year after former boss Carlos Ghosn was arrested. Hadi Zablit, 49, will oversee industrial cooperation projects to improve the efficiency and financial performance of the partnership, a source close to the matter told. The operational revamp aims to mark a new start for the trio as they battle to emerge from the shadow cast by the legal woes of Ghosn, detained last November over allegations of financial impropriety. Zablit is currently business development chief for the French-Japanese auto alliance, which sold 10.6 million vehicles worldwide in 2017. The dual citizen, born in Lebanon, first joined Renault as an engineer and product manager in 1994. He left to work for the Boston Consulting Group in 2000 and returned to the French car giant nearly 3 years ago. +++ 

+++ Many in the automotive industry are talking about the need to consolidate to overcome the challenges of emissions regulations and autonomous cars, but Carlos Tavares is doing something about it. In 2017, PSA acquired Opel/Vauxhall from General Motors and within 18 months the money-losing German/British brands were recording 5 % operating margins. This year, Tavares is dreaming bigger, hoping to engineer a merger with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) that would create the world’s fourth-largest car company. He thinks PSA and FCA are very complementary on technology and very complementary on geography. “They have the confidence that comes from the fact that they have turned themselves around, and the maturity to understand that it’s better to face the challenges ahead together rather than alone. All this is the foundation for synergies that could generate value for shareholders and stakeholders. I want to be very humble. I’m privileged to have the opportunity to bring this deal to a conclusion with all the teams involved. I want to underline that Mike Manley (FCA boss) and I have a longtime relationship and mutual respect and trust for what we hope to build together. The overall CEO would be there to make sure the new company is moving forward in terms of technology investment, profitability, work-life balance and everything. Success for all of us would be that in a few years nobody remembers who appointed the board members. The top executives at each company should be at ease. These are 2 great companies based on the public numbers published by both. Neither is currently in crisis. So, full respect to the current top executives of the 2 companies, chapeau bas (hats off), as we say in French. PSA-FCA would be such a big entity, with such a high level of things to be achieved, that we would need all of them. The second thing is that the only rule would be meritocracy: In the interests of everybody in the company, in each key position you should pick the best possible executive to deliver results for everybody to enjoy. Becoming a bigger carmaker would be very helpful, because if you don’t become larger to dilute your r&d costs and have a volume scale effect on the purchasing of components such as batteries you could be in trouble. It’s especially helpful with electrification, because you will have leverage to buy kilowatt hours at the most competitive price. Those two factors are real. That is where it helps. And specifically, for people working in regions where there are going to be significant breakthroughs on CO2 objectives, scale would be a real benefit. I am a strong believer in a matrix organization. At PSA we operate within 3 axes: the regions, the brands and the functions. Even within this 3-dimensional operation, we have business units that go through and try to boost the system. For example, we could have the CEO of Peugeot reporting on volumes and profit, then the European head report on total profits, volumes, market share, quality and customer satisfaction for all brands in the region. On the functional side, we would look at whether we are ready to launch a new car, are manufacturing costs being reduced? So we are constantly reviewing the business in three dimensions. It’s very important to let the matrix breathe. People are human. They have different characters, and they express them in a personal way. If you “lock” the matrix, it will break because you can’t force people to all act in the same way. In the end, I don’t care about the win for the brand, for the region or for the function. I want PSA to win as a whole. Adding Opel/Vauxhall to Peugeot, Citroen and DS was a good learning experience. What I’m trying to do is find the spirit in what we want to achieve as an efficient team. People come to me with a paper with, say, 10 bullet points. I will listen to what they are, then say, “OK, what is the spirit of what we want to do?” If people understand that then they won’t ask you every day what they should or should not do. They don’t have to ask me for validation. Therefore, you will have more time because people will have more autonomy. It is rewarding and they can unleash their potential in a way that is much more fulfilling for them, and it gives me much more time. I am making fewer decisions now, but there are still topics where people don’t feel comfortable enough to take a strong position, so they can use their monthly one-on-one, one-hour meetings with me to ask for guidance”. When asked how a merger with FCA would help PSA in China, where both companies are weak, Tavares answered: “At least for PSA, I can recognize that we haven’t achieved very much in China. But if we come together it could give us a lever to get things done there. The fact that we would be together would, perhaps, open other doors or different doors than the ones we could open alone”. When asked about the new European CO2 regulations that will start to take effect on January 1, Tavares answered: “We have a very precise process. I can’t say a lot about it because it’s highly competitive, but it involves our production, our order book, and making our dealers actors in what we are doing, not just followers. For us, it’s an ethical matter to meet CO2 targets, not just a financial matter. Our employees’ children might ask them someday, “What did you do to fix the global warming issue?” So, they want to say that despite working at a car company, they are contributing, and working really hard, to address global warming. We have secured enough battery supply for the next three years, but in the longer term Europe should have more battery factories. That is why we support the idea of a European battery champion project. We understand that strategically, on a long-term basis, we don’t want to be dependent on the Asian suppliers, despite the fact that we have excellent relations with them. But such a project cannot succeed if we don’t get the appropriate support as a strategic investment from the EU”. When asked abut how much of the costs for emissions compliance can be absorbed by PSA and how much will have to be passed to customers, Tavares answered: “We can be very disciplined on pricing, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. All we can do is be the most profitable, so you don’t get hit immediately by the costs of governments not investing in a charging network, not subsidizing sales of electric vehicles appropriately, or doing the wrong thing in terms of regulations. So either we digest these costs, or we are able to increase productivity. Or we can’t, and somebody will get hurt. Citizens should understand that the cost for reducing emissions will be paid by them, either through taxes or through reducing their freedom of mobility, from an affordability standpoint. People want better crashworthiness, they would like to have less or zero emissions, they would like to have more connectivity and more convenience, but nobody wants to pay for it. So somebody will have to make the hard choices”. When asked about autonomous driving, Tavares answered: “We have been very clear in saying that we don’t see value in driver assistance systems beyond Level 3 (when the driver has to be ready to take over control if needed) for affordability reasons, viewed from the private customer. Beyond that the cost skyrockets and value doesn’t increase proportionally. That means there’s no business case for retail sales beyond Level 3. Now, we continue to work on Level 4 or Level 5 (when the car has control in most or all situations) that will be interesting for shared mobility such as shuttles. That’s because these vehicles will be shared among many users, so they can be more expensive. They will be used in simplified environments with dedicated lanes with clear signage. That will also make the validation of the software easier, there will be fewer scenarios to test against”. +++ 

+++ The RANGE ROVER offers a compelling mix of luxury and ruggedness, and an all-new model is under development. The redesigned model will arrive in 2022 and ride on the company’s new MLA platform. The latter has been designed to accommodate internal combustion engines, mild and plug-in hybrids as well as fully electric powertrains. Unsurprisingly, the publication says we can expect a “smorgasbord” of powertrain choices. They didn’t go into specifics, but suggested the entire engine lineup will be electrified and include diesels, a straight-6 and a V8. We can also expect at least one plug-in hybrid variant and an electric model that could use a 90 kWh battery pack and electric motors that are being developed with BMW. A previous presentation by Jaguar Land Rover said future plug-in hybrids would use a 13.1 kWh battery pack that will enable them to have an all-electric range of up to 50 km. The same presentation revealed electric models will have a 90.2 kWh battery and a range of up to 470 km. On the styling front, we shouldn’t expect anything too radical, as Land Rover creative director Massimo Frascella said that “designing a new Range Rover comes with a certain pressure; it is clear how important Range Rover is to defining our brand”. Despite this, he noted it’s less stressful than designing the Defender “because you have more of a visual evolution; a path that’s more defined”. This suggests the 2022 Range Rover will have an evolutionary design and Frascella hinted it could take a few cues from the Velar, which won World Car Design of the Year in 2018. If this is true, the next-generation Range Rover could adopt sleeker styling, power retractable door handles and slender taillights which are mounted horizontally instead of vertically. +++ 

+++ RENAULT is close to finalizing the shortlist of names for the post of chief executive and could complete the shortlist before the end of the year, said chairman Jean-Dominique Senard. He told reporters on the sidelines of a French carmaker conference that the shortlist would be finished “in a very short space of time”. Renault ousted former chief executive Thierry Bollore in October, with Renault and its Japanese partner Nissan trying to rekindle their relationship after the arrest of the Renault-Nissan alliance’s former head Carlos Ghosn. +++ 

+++ For Hiroto SAIKAWA , 2019 was a tumultuous year, culminating in his resignation as CEO of Nissan in September. Internal investigators found that Saikawa had improperly received 47 million yen ($431,750) under an executive incentive program that also allotted inflated share-linked bonuses to ousted Chairman Carlos Ghosn, among others. Saikawa, 66, has agreed to pay the money back, and he will remain on Nissan’s board until a February 18 extraordinary shareholders meeting. At that gathering, shareholders will be asked to replace him on the board with Makoto Uchida, the man tapped to be Nissan’s new chief executive. Saikawa reflected on the upheaval of the past year and on the strained relations with Nissan’s global alliance partner Renault. He says he wasn’t a scapegoat. “But I would like what I did to be fairly assessed. I would say I did a lot for the current Nissan. There is nothing I’m ashamed of. I’m proud of it. I encountered a lot of unanticipated situations. The longtime wrongdoing was found, and I needed to take care of it by removing it and minimizing the turbulence of the company. And during this period, I encountered a bit of the hangover from Carlos Ghosn stretching too much for volume. So I knew it would not be easy. And as a company, we needed to restore corporate governance. And then restabilize the relationship with Renault and put the company onto a path to better performance. And hand it over to a new generation. So this was my homework. Especially in the last year, I did a lot for Nissan. When looking at Nissan’s next challenge, one of the most important points is to stabilize the alliance and create a formation for going forward: not fighting, but more the growth of each and the strength of the alliance. Currently, the trust between Renault and Nissan is not strong enough to talk about a strategic future. So this has made some sort of hesitation. This is a real pity. Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard and myself were talking and were ready to talk about how to stabilize the relationship for the future. This was disturbed. What was found last year has nothing to do with Renault and Nissan. It was a series of wrongdoings by specific leaders. I really wanted to work with Renault to stabilize things and eliminate any negative impact from that on our relationship or operations. However, a simple merger doesn’t work. But maybe from Renault’s viewpoint, it could be different. Mr. Senard’s viewpoint is that total asset management could be done better, more from the balance-sheet viewpoint. From a financial viewpoint, maybe it makes sense. But I told him, from an operational viewpoint, it may hurt the momentum of growth of Renault or Nissan. My view is that it is not very productive to go for a merger or holding company structure. But he understood that, given Nissan’s situation, Nissan wasn’t even ready to talk about it. It was better for us to focus on recovery, and so we didn’t go deeper in that discussion. I said, let us focus on recovery of performance first. We can talk about that later. This is what we concluded. After Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne passed away, we saw that FCA couldn’t survive by themselves. From my viewpoint, if they would come knocking on the door of Renault and Nissan, it could be challenging, but there is an opportunity for us to open the door and expand the alliance. I’m not talking about a merger, but as a partner. We have to be cautious. If you go from 2 partners to 3 partners, it makes things complicated. You have to count whether there is more synergy and opportunity, or more mess-ups with the operations. My position about expanding the alliance is that it is challenging but it might make sense. So I was open to the opportunity. I shared my view with Mr. Ghosn. But nothing happened, as far as I know. But when the FCA – Renault issue happened in May of this year, they were talking about a “merger.” This is a different story. As Nissan, we have a shareholder and contractual relationship with Renault. And that entity would be changing to a different size and configuration. Before talking about the opportunity, we need to be sure how Nissan would be treated and secured as an equal partner. That was our position: more information and how to secure Nissan’s position”. +++ 

+++ The head of the Australian New Car Assessment Program, the leading crash test authority in Australia, has expressed serious concerns about how the controversial design of the TESLA Cybertruck could pose unnecessary dangers to occupants and other road users. Australian New Car Assessment Program chief executive James Goodwin said the shape and stainless steel body of the Cybertruck could pose a risk to other road users. According to him, Tesla has a history of prioritizing occupant safety over the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. “Thinking about other road users there, it’s got a fairly harsh front and not a whole lot of areas that would provide some give if there was a strike with a pedestrian”, Goodwin said. “We do both head form and leg form impacts. The frontal rake would look like it’s not very forgiving in terms of legs”. Perhaps more worryingly, Goodwin suggested that the strong exoskeleton of the Cybertruck that was able to easily withstand the strike from a sledgehammer might have adverse effects on occupants in the event of a crash. “We would expect that a vehicle should be able to absorb some crash energy because if it doesn’t absorb some energy. It will be the people inside the vehicle who bear the brunt”, he said. Tesla hasn’t said what changes the Cybertruck will undergo before it reaches the production line, but a number of areas will need to be altered. First and foremost, the show car had no windscreen wipers, lacked turn signals, and had wheels and tires that will need to be changed for the finished item. Nevertheless, while criticism of the vehicle’s exterior has been widespread, we suspect that Tesla will only make minimal changes to the production model thanks to the extraordinary number of refundable pre-order deposits it has received for the Cybertruck. Unless, of course, they are mandated by the need to comply with safety standards, so it can get type approval. +++ 

+++ The TESLA MODEL S P85 you’re looking at is believed to be the highest-mileage Tesla on earth (excluding Musk’s Roadster currently floating around in space), with its odo having just ticked over to 1.000.000 km. Owner Hansjörg Gemmingen purchased his red Model S P85 back in 2014 to join his first-generation Tesla Roadster. To celebrate the 7-figure milestone, Gemmingen rolled through a neighborhood in Stuttgart, Germany where he was welcomed by a small party of Tesla enthusiasts and a representative from the Guinness Book of Records to verify the milestone. Gemmingen confirmed that his Tesla has had its fair share of repairs to remain fresh. Most notably, it required a battery change at 290,000 km and has gone through 3 different electric motors. Fortunately, all these major replacement parts were covered by the electric sedan’s warranty. To ensure the battery survives for as long as possible, Gemmingen never lets it completely drain nor does it fill it up to beyond 85 % capacity. This Tesla enthusiasts doesn’t plan on calling it a day and retiring his Model S. Gemmingen has an ambitious goal of raking up 1 million miles (1.609.344 km) in the EV, and would love to ship the car to the United States when he nears that mark. Gemmingen is no stranger to covering huge mileage in Teslas. In fact, his first-generation Roadster has more than 620.000 km on the odometer. +++ 

+++ The 2-year hiatus in South Korea where the VOLKSWAGEN Group held years of market leadership has been a lesson to reorganize its operational structure and restore strength for another leap forward, according to a top executive. Managing Director Rene Koneberg told that the company is “back on the track” to regain market leadership next year, armed with a wide range of lineups and customer services reinforced in line with restoration of public trust. The Korean arm of the German carmaker sells 4 key auto brands in South Korea: Audi, Volkswagen, Lamborghini and Bentley. The de facto holding company of the 4 brands has been taking the lead in restoring customer trust following the emissions-cheating scandal that led to sales suspension for 2 years. Backed by its revival campaign, this year, Audi returned to the market with five models: A3, A4, A5, A6 and Q7, quickly becoming the No. 3 importer in September and October. VW sold over 3,000 units of the Arteon since its launch in May, while relaunching its bestselling model Tiguan in October. Bentley also launched the V8 engine lineup with Bentayga, but it was Lamborghini that notched the highest annual growth of 1,200 %. Lamborghini is “flying,” he said, highlighting that the supercar brand received 130 orders as of October, exceeding the 100-mark of annual sales for the first time since its entry here. By the end of the year, it is targeting sales of over 160 units, he said. “I would say we are back on track, but for me it is important that we build a full product portfolio for the next few years. We want to be a leading importer here”, said Koneberg in the freshly renovated headquarters in Seoul. “I am very confident because, as I mentioned, our organization stabilized and collaboration with the government is very close. Because of the positive developments, that there will be growth. We are hoping to get market leadership again in the future”. Looking back on the efforts made for a fresh start, Koneberg said the hardest part was to keep its stakeholders (employees, investors and dealerships) motivated to revive its scandal-hit operations. While enhancing communication with the Korean government as well as the head office in Germany, Koneberg has turned his focus on planting a new work culture within the group. “We wanted to flatten the hierarchy in the company, talking more to each other, and also encouraging open communications”, he said. Fostering local talents was also an important task, to offer employees a chance to climb up to the middle and higher-level management positions. “Looking after our employees, meaning that we want to develop talent within the organization, especially young talent is important”, he said. “We give young people the chance to join management in my organization here”. Ensuring that the German carmaker’s future continues to grow here was also a major task. Through a list of corporate social responsibility projects, including the Tomoroad initiative, the company has been seeking to establish a cultural and educational platform for future mobility. Tomoroad, a combination of the words “tomorrow” and “road,” is part of the company’s “Mission 5” strategy, announced last year. It pledged to pursue five strategies over the next five years with the aim of improving customer satisfaction, social responsibility and internal efficiency, while acting with integrity and recovering market leadership. Asked on a possible change in its product portfolio by bringing more green cars, Koneberg said the company’s plan will be in line with the government’s initiative in zero emission cars, as well as changing customer perception toward the future technology. “In 2030, we are also looking at EVs taking at least 25 % (of all new vehicles sold in the market). A major push (by VW Group) at the moment is electric cars”, he said, adding that Audi is working with Korean carmaker Hyundai for the development of fuel cell technology. The Volkswagen Group plans to become CO2 neutral completely by 2050. The infrastructure for EVs in Korea is relatively strong compared to other markets and the Volkswagen Group will bring its advanced charging system to the country to make the process shorter, he added. When asked of the possibility of launching its own mobility service, Koneberg said a pilot testing of a ride pooling service of VW Group called MOIA is underway. And he feels “positive” about the new service while declining to give further details. Koneberg came to Korea in 2017 and took over as head of the Volkswagen South Korea Group when the emissions-cheating scandal swept the car market here, sparking heated criticism from thousands of customers. Before the scandal, the group was among the top foreign car brands here in terms of sales. The German executive joined the company in 2000 and has held management posts in the Middle East, China and Hong Kong. +++ 

+++ VOLVO is probably the most interesting car company in the world right now. Yes, Volvo: that safe, dependable producer of safe, dependable cars. No more: the Swedish firm has morphed into a dynamic, disruptive force, producing stylish machines while challenging car industry conventions. Some recent examples. Instead of joining the arms race to make cars faster, Volvo is limiting the top speed of its vehicles, and considered putting sensors in its cars to stop unsafe drivers. And while rivals are struggling to meet tough new emissions targets, Volvo is planning to make its entire operations free of carbon emissions a decade faster than regulators demand. It has turned its little-known performance arm into a stand-alone premium electric brand, and is spinning off its combustion-engine operations into a separate firm so it can focus on EVs. It has expanded production into the US and offered test drives through Amazon. It believes car subscriptions could replace car buying in the near future, wants the public to decide the future of autonomous cars and appeared at a major car show without any cars on its stand. Volvo has also moved upmarket, reinventing itself as an SUV-led brand that rivals the premium German firms, and nearly doubled its sales to more than 600,000 cars. And, as a next step, Volvo wants half of the cars it sells to be fully battery-electric by the end of 2025, despite the fact that its first electric car won’t reach showrooms (real or online) for another year. That’s all happened since 2010, when car giant Ford finalised a deal to sell the then distressed, struggling brand to Geely, at the time an unheralded Chinese firm known best in Europe for producing copycat cars. Ford bought Volvo for around $6.5 billion in 1999 to add to what was then a growing line of ‘prestige’ brands. It significantly expanded Volvo’s range, but did so through the use of shared Ford platforms, and the resulting cars lost much of the individuality Volvo had traditionally been known for. Volvo’s roadmap to revival was actually laid out late in the Ford era, when it began to push the brand further upmarket and launched the XC60. But when the 2008 economic crisis hit, Ford put Volvo up for sale. Numerous companies showed interest (reportedly including Volkswagen and BMW) but Geely ultimately won out, paying in the region of $1.15 billion. Given the reputation of Chinese car firms at that time, there were fears Geely’s ownership would lead to a further decline in Volvo’s standards. Instead, Geely was true to its words of hands-off ownership, giving Volvo the resources it needed, then stepping back and letting the firm get on with it. Essentially, Geely’s approach was to let Volvo be Volvo. A key moment in Volvo’s revival was the appointment of former MAN trucks boss Håkan Samuelsson as CEO in 2012. His polite Swedish calm belies his determined, decisive leadership. His focused strategy stems from Volvo’s size: even with Geely’s backing, it still can’t match the resources of the VW Group. “We have to prioritise”, says Samuelsson. “We cannot do everything so have to choose”. He adds: “We like to think we are very good at thinking in an open way. It’s not a disadvantage being small. If you are big, there are probably too many experts on board who will tell you everything is important. That means it’s not that easy to break out of the old way of thinking”. So far, Samuelsson has chosen right, and with conviction. Volvo worked with Geely to develop the Scalable Product Architecture platform to underpin a new generation of mid-size and larger models, starting with the XC90 in 2016. The first car developed entirely under Geely ownership showed that any fears of a decline in Volvo quality were misplaced. Volvo has subsequently led the development of the Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) for smaller vehicles, including the XC40. Crucially, it also future-proofed CMA by designing it to house both combustion-engined and electric powertrains. Henrik Green, Volvo’s tech boss, says this reflects the fact that Volvo couldn’t afford to develop separate platforms for combustion-engined and electric cars, as the VW Group has done with the MEB architecture. So it applied the lessons it learned surviving with far more limited resources. “You get very creative having no money and no time”, laughs Green, reflecting on the firm’s pre-Geely days. Volvo is following the same trends (electrification, autonomy, shifting sales patterns) as most major car firms, but is setting itself apart through the decisiveness and speed of its actions. Volvo has turned its relatively small size (traditionally a huge disadvantage in the car industry) into a major strength by acting with the agility and responsiveness of a tech start-up. Lex Kerssemakers, who has served as Volvo’s commercial boss and now heads its new Direct Consumer Business division, says: “We need to act very quickly if we want to play a role in the future and not just become a commodity player, with third parties taking over our business. That sounds a little bit reactive but it’s not, it’s proactive. We see trends and we want to be part of those trends”. The biggest trend, of course, is electrification. Tough new emissions requirements and greater environmental awareness are pushing every car firm to electrify their range, but Volvo is aiming to do it faster. Every model it launches from now on will feature an electrified powertrain (a hybrid or full EV) with the aim that every Volvo sold by 2025 will be electrified in some form: 50 % of those being an EV. By 2040, and preferably sooner, Volvo wants to be an EV-only firm. There’s no hedging here: no concurrent development on hydrogen, no further work on combustion engines, no insistence that diesel still has a role to play. Kerssemakers insists that “the conviction we have as a brand going wholeheartedly into electrification is not because of legislation, but because we believe it’s the right type of vehicle for the consumer”. The launch of the XC40 Recharge, Volvo’s first EV, coincided with worldwide attention on global warming sparked by Greta Thunberg and other protesters. At the launch event, Samuelsson spoke of how the global community had failed to address the issue, but how he felt the business community could. For him, that means putting sustainability at the core of Volvo’s thinking, “not as some add-on, because it’s good or expected from us, but because we think it’s really good for our business. It’s about concrete actions more than symbolic pledges”. Coming from the leader of a company that has long produced polluting machines, it’s provocative stuff. But Samuelsson’s conviction was such that you believed he was speaking with honesty. He did so when announcing Volvo would limit all its cars to 112mph from 2021 onwards (“We know speed kills, and there is no reason to go beyond 112mph”) and when looking at how it could use autonomous technology to aid safety by, for example, limiting speeds outside schools (“Some people could see that as intrusion, so we need to ask how far we should go in limiting choice and freedom”). It’s the same with Volvo’s approach to sustainability and the environment. Samuelsson is honest: he believes Volvo can help save the environment by going electric, but also thinks it can make money. “If you introduce new technology in the first years, it will probably lower your margins, but after some years, you introduce new technology because you believe it will improve your profit”, he says. “That’s experience from the past. If you stay with outdated technology, that’s not a smart way to improve your profits because the margins start to disappear, and you’ll eventually close down”. Samuelsson likens it to Volvo’s long quest for safety: “I imagine when we introduced airbags in our cars, there were some bean counters who said this is not good for profitability.”It’s the same with Volvo’s approach to sustainability and the environment. Samuelsson is honest: he believes Volvo can help save the environment by going electric, but also thinks it can make money. “If you introduce new technology in the first years, it will probably lower your margins, but after some years, you introduce new technology because you believe it will improve your profit”, he says. “That’s experience from the past. If you stay with outdated technology, that’s not a smart way to improve your profits because the margins start to disappear, and you’ll eventually close down”. Samuelsson likens it to Volvo’s long quest for safety: “I imagine when we introduced airbags in our cars, there were some bean counters who said this is not good for profitability”. That comparison highlights how Volvo’s current disruptive, dynamic approach is actually consistent with its safety-focused history. At its best, the firm has always showed the courage of its convictions, rather than chasing trends. Geely, to its credit, has recognised that, and given Volvo the space and resources to do so. “In the past, we were also potentially a little bit disruptive”, says Kerssemakers. “But now, with our increased size and importance on the market, people start to look at us a little bit more”. The timing has been fortuitous, too: the disruptive force of electrification has rewarded the quick thinkers. Samuelsson highlights the appearance of traditional-style engine grilles on EVs being launched by some rival firms as an example of how larger companies can become “trapped in a mindset”. He adds: “We encourage people to think outside the box, and with new technologies the field is levelled. It’s a chance for smaller companies to make a difference. We realised early on that we have the chance of a lifetime to do something with new technologies coming in – and we are eager to be pioneers”. Volvo’s influence within the Geely empire now extends across multiple brands: it has turned its motorsport arm, Polestar, into a stand-alone electric performance car brand, and also shares platforms and technologies with Geely’s upmarket new Lynk&Co marque. Splitting out Polestar (a firm with little name recognition beyond the Swedish Touring Car Championship) seems a bold move, but a deliberately slow and careful brand-building exercise seems to be paying off, with strong early pre-sales for the Polestar 2 on the same CMA platform as the XC40. Doing so also enables Volvo to focus on its core values of safety and sustainability. The 2 brands will remain closely linked, however, with future Polestar hot EVs set to be followed by similar-size Volvos on the same platform. Volvo isn’t just changing the way it makes cars, it’s out to reinvent the way it sells them. It is developing a no-commitment subscription-based model that it hopes can distribute a fifth of its cars within 5 years. “The world is changing”, says Lex Kerssemakers, who heads Volvo’s new Direct Consumer Business division. “In the past, you went to a dealer, selected a car and followed the process. Now online sales are rising rapidly and we need to do something”. Kerssemakers describes it as a “non-paced journey”, with Volvo still working out exactly how online sales and subscription services such as the recently launched Care by Volvo scheme might evolve. “We are literally talking about a start-up”, says Kerssemakers. “I’m totally convinced it will work, but if it doesn’t, we’ll find something else”. +++

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