Newsflash: Mahindra verliest geduld met SsangYong

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+++ Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll is emerging as the front-runner to buy a stake in luxury carmaker ASTON MARTIN as interest from a rival Chinese investor wanes, people with knowledge of the matter said. Chinese tycoon Li Shufu’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group is cooling on the idea of a deal with Aston Martin, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. Aston Martin could decide on its plan of action as early as this month, according to the people. Stroll has been discussing a potential investment of about $260 million in the British automobile manufacturer. Aston Martin spoke to several investors about a potential capital increase as it makes a final effort to bring in fresh funding, people with knowledge of the matter said at the time. No final agreements have been reached, and the carmaker could fail to reach an agreement or decide against bringing in new investors, the people said. Representatives for Aston Martin and Geely declined to comment, while a representative for Stroll couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. +++ 

+++ During an interview at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, new AUDI sales chief Hildegard Wortmann said that her company is ready to go on the offensive in order to win back the ground they lost to rivals Mercedes and BMW. She explained the plan is to focus on a young product lineup and a far-reaching restructuring program, the latter meant to trim the German workforce by about 15 % through 2025, in turn lifting earnings by $6.7 billion. “We want to attack again”, stated Wortmann, who joined Audi last year from BMW. “Deep changes are needed, but I see great willingness across the organization to turn things around, and that makes me optimistic. Everyone kept talking for years about industry disruption. Now it’s here”. Going forward, Audi also wants to raise back profit margins to about 10 % from the 7 % to 8.5 % forecast for 2019. Other plans also include ceasing production of the TT and replacing it with a battery-powered successor, while the possibility of a fully electric next-generation A8 flagship still exists. “It’s a sign of courage to stop making icons like the TT that have shaped the brand and create new ones like the e-tron GT for a new era”. Audi wants to add roughly 10 plug-in hybrids and 20 battery-electric cars by 2025 to its lineup, which in total would give them a higher number of electrified models than Mercedes and BMW. Audi is said to be readying the launch of yet another SUV this time in the form of a Q9 that will act as a rival to the BMW X7 and Mercedes-Benz GLS. Talk about such a model has swirled online for years and now the Audi is said to be launched by the end of this year. For quite some time it was understood that the Q9 would feature a coupe-inspired shape and be even larger and more luxurious than the existing Q8. However, if the SUV is indeed positioned as a rival to the X7 and GLS, I expect it to feature a more traditional shape while offering seating for 7 and plenty of headroom. Audi first filed to trademark the Q9 name back in 2013. At the same time, it also applied to trademark the name ‘SQ2’ which has gone on to actually be used in production. It also trademark ‘SQ4’ at the time but such a performance version of the Q4 has yet to arrive. Limited details about the rumored Q9 are known but if it does come to fruition, it will inevitably be sold in a multitude of guises. A potent RS badged Q9 model with in excess of 600 hp from the VW Group’s flagship twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 engine is thought to be one of the variants that could launch. +++ 

+++ With the new Flying Spur, BENTLEY is fighting back against the popularity of Maybach and AMG versions of the Mercedes-Benz S-class upper-premium sedan. Bentley says the Flying Spur provides more luxury than the Maybach and offers more sporting prowess than the AMG in one car. The 12-cylinder Flying Spur launch model has a maximum output of 635 hp. It can accelerate from 0 to 100 kph in 3.8 seconds and has a top speed of 333 kph. Bentley claims it’s the world’s fastest sedan. The UK-based, Volkswagen Group subsidiary also plans to add V8 and plug-in hybrid variants of the car but no timetable has been given. Bentley said the Flying Spur will undercut prices of the V12 powered Mercedes-Maybach S650 and the V12 Mercedes-AMG S65. The close relationship between the Flying Spur and the betterselling Continental GT has existed since the sedan’s nameplate was revived in 2005. For the new generation, however, Bentley has tried to make the sedan stand out more from its sportier sibling. “The predecessor was a bigger brother of the GT with 4 doors. With the new car, we wanted more differentiation”, Bentley head of design Stefan Sielaff told. For example, the car has a much more prominent grille with upright vanes. The Flying Spur is also the first Bentley to get 4-wheelsteering, giving it a tighter turning radius at low speeds and more poise at high speeds. It comes with a retractable version of the Flying B hood ornament, which can be lowered via the touchscreen. Most of the technology is shared with the Continental GT, including the optional rotating display in the dashboard with 3 possibilities: a 12.3 inch touchscreen, a trio of analogue dials, or the so-called “digital detox” face of pure wood veneer. About 90 % of Continental GT customers have paid extra for the feature, Bentley said. The Flying Spur’s blend of traditional leather-and-wood luxury, crushing performance and up-to-date VW Group technology gives the brand hope the car will become as popular as its 2 biggest sellers: the Continental GT and the Bentayga. “The upper premium sedan sector is in decline, but is still huge”, said Peter Guest, product line director for Continental and Flying Spur. “We only need a tiny proportion of that to be successful”. +++ 

+++ Democratic U.S. presidential hopeful Michael BLOOMBERG unveiled a plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions from transportation by making electric vehicles accessible to even low-income families and improving access to public transit. Bloomberg, a media billionaire and former mayor of New York City, has long fought to curb emissions, serving recently as a special envoy to the United Nations on climate action. Other Democratic candidates have included transportation in their climate plans. Bloomberg, who is putting out a suite of climate plans, is the first to issue a specific strategy on transportation, the top U.S. source of greenhouse gases. Bloomberg’s plan calls for all new U.S. cars to be electric by 2035, reductions of diesel pollution with electric trucks and buses, improved access to public transit, and the building of high-speed rail. He wants to offer low and moderate-income communities a “Clean Cars for All” program with rebates for trading in old cars for electric ones. “We’re looking to turn over the polluting stock faster”, a campaign aide said on condition of anonymity ahead of the plan’s unveiling. The aide said Bloomberg wants to help taxi and ride-share programs to electrify their fleets before 2035. His plan does not specify where rare earth minerals would come from for the new vehicles. Bloomberg aims to slash U.S. emissions linked to climate change by 50 % by 2030 if he wins the November vote. Cutting emissions from the power sector and buildings are the other major planks of his clean economy plan. This week, Bloomberg (a late entrant into the race) introduced plans to prevent forest fires, directed in part at winning over voters in California, the most populous state, and one of 14 states holding primaries on Super Tuesday, March 3. While California has struggled to build high-speed rail, another aide said an initial advanced rail project could be less ambitious than the state’s plan, yet still show Americans what many travelers have in other countries. “It might actually be a shorter course”, than current plans in California, he said. Bloomberg, like other candidates, wants to reverse the policies of Republican President Donald Trump who is slashing rules on environment regulation while boosting output of fossil fuels. But he is not putting a dollar figure on his climate plans because of the complexity of the issues, a difference from most of the other candidates. +++ 

+++ BMW research and development boss Klaus Fröhlich has revealed that the German car manufacturer will eventually sell hydrogen fuel-cell versions of the popular X6 and X7. He said that the latest fuel-cell technologies BMW is developing with Toyota will make the business case for such powertrains much stronger. According to Fröhlich, a fuel cell powertrain costs roughly 10 times more than the system of a battery electric vehicle (BEV). “We plan to have those costs equalized by 2025 with the third generation of our scalable fuel cell system, which could result in volumes in the hundreds of thousands”, he said. BMW’s more immediate plans will call for “pilot production” of the marque’s second-generation fuel cell vehicles, including the aforementioned X6 and X7, to commence soon. It remains to be seen how far off these vehicles could be from production. Fröhlich believes the current timeline of fuel cell development means they “could make the most suitable solution for passenger cars by 2025”. The company also believes fuel cells will be very important for light and heavy duty trucks. “We foresee fuel cells as a viable solution for trucks, which are facing very tough CO2 reduction targets and already use very efficient diesels, so the next step could only be electrification. But you cannot electrify a heavy truck with batteries, because reducing the payload from 6 tons to 7 tons is absolute nonsense”, he said. “With a single recharging station, you can refuel a fleet of 100 hydrogen-powered light trucks overnight”. +++ 

+++ Police detained 185 protesters in central BRUSSELS after the environmental protest group Extinction Rebellion staged demonstrations at a car show in protest at the auto industry’s role in CO2 emissions that cause climate change. The protest came only days after the European Commission unveiled ideas on how to finance its flagship Green Deal project that aims to make the European Union a CO2 emissions-neutral area by 2050, in part through the transformation of the car industry. A member and former spokesman for the group, Christophe Meierhans, said Extinction Rebellion targeted the car industry because it told “a lot of lies in order to sell more cars”. One protester, his face covered with black paint, chanted “Shell kills” referring to the oil company Royal Dutch Shell before lying down in front of the company’s stall, while other protesters gathered around wearing face masks with the company’s logo. The protesters were quickly taken away by police and the show’s security personnel briefly blocked access to the area. Later, demonstrators carried out a “die-in” outside the show’s entrance and were also removed by police without resisting arrest. The show’s organizers said in a statement they expected 500.000 visitors to visit the 10-day car show, the largest of its kind in the country. +++ 

+++ 6 of the latest ELECTRIC CARS available in the market today were gathered to find out just how many kilometres can they squeeze out of their batteries. One of the biggest topics surrounding electric cars is of course their driving range, which can differ quite a lot from the official figure we’re getting either from the WLTP or the EPA, depending on which side of the Atlantic you’re on. Ambient temperature is one of the most crucial factors for an EV’s battery pack, with the general rule of thumb saying the colder the environment the bigger the impact on the vehicle’s driving range. And since this is the winterperiod, it’s safe to expect that no car in this comparison to reach near its official driving range figure. The participating models were the Nissan Leaf, Kia e-Niro, Audi e-Tron, Jaguar I-Pace, Mercedes EQ C and of course a Tesla Model 3 in its Long Range variant. All cars were driven on the motorway with their cruise control activated at the speed limit and their climate systems set at the same temperature to replicate the conditions as much as possible. Last place went to the Mercedes EQ C, which managed 312 km out of a full charge or 75 % of its claimed range. Next was the Jaguar I-Pace, which ran out of juice after 359 km at 76 % of its official range. Third from the bottom is the Tesla Model 3, which despite travelling the furthest on a full battery at 434 km, it achieved just 78 % of its claimed range. The Audi e-Tron stopped at 331 km, or 81 % of its official range, followed by the Nissan Leaf which covered 334 km or 87 % of its official figure.That leaves the Kia e-Niro at the top spot of this comparison, managing a very honest 90 % of its claimed range after travelling an impressive 410 km on a full charge. +++ 

+++ The European New Car Assessment Program ( EURO NCAP ) tested out 55 models from different automakers in 2019, out of which 41 were awarded the top safety rating. But which are the best of the best? This is what we’ll cover in this story, so let’s take a deep breath and go through all of them. In the supermini segment, the safety specialists listed the Renault Clio and Audi A1 as the top performers, with the silver medal going to the Ford Puma. In the small family car class, the Mercedes-Benz CLA was declared the top dog, followed by the Mazda 3, while the large family car award was shared by the Tesla Model 3 and BMW 3-Series. The 2 luxury models ended up with identical overall scores, with the BMW scoring better in pedestrian protection and the Tesla edging it in Safety Assist features. The Skoda Octavia finished third. An electric vehicle nabbed the trophy in the large off-road category, the Tesla Model X, followed by Seat’s Tarraco. The small off-road / MPV award went to the Subaru Forester with the silver medal split between the Mazda CX-30 and Volkswagen T-Cross. Last, but not least, the hybrid and electric category saw 2 Teslas fighting for supremacy, with the Model 3 winning first place and the Model X bagging the second spot. So, how did they come up with the winners? According to Euro NCAP, “a calculation is made of the weighted sum of the scores in each of the four areas of assessment: Adult Occupant, Child Occupant, Pedestrian and Safety Assist. This sum is used as the basis for comparison of the vehicles. Cars qualify for ‘Best in Class’ based only on their rating with standard safety equipment. Additional ratings based on optional equipment are excluded”. +++ 

+++ An analyst believes a merger between Nissan and HONDA is not beyond the realms of possibility. According to LightStream Research analyst Mio Kato, the reported ‘fractured’ relationship between Nissan and Renault (even if the 2 companies claim otherwise publicly) could encourage the Japanese automaker to seek out a new partnership that would allow it to rival Toyota. It could make that happen if it were to join forces with Honda. “Honda has never been one to engage in aggressive acquisitions and a merger between Honda and Nissan should also be unthinkable, but with Toyota’s increasing competitiveness we feel that if Nissan desired an alliance partner to replace Renault, Honda may not be entirely against the idea”, Kato said. Kato believes that as car manufacturers look to establish strong partnerships in the coming years, the Japanese car industry could be split into 2 giant groups, one of which would be Toyota which already has stakes in Mazda, Suzuki, and Subaru. If Nissan were to ditch Renault in favor of Honda, the new group’s annual sales could rise from just under 11 million units a year to roughly 12 million units annually. “Nissan does have attractive possibilities to dangle in front of potential suitors and Toyota’s relentless march forward could necessitate drastic change for those on the outside in Japan”, he wrote. +++ 

+++ In line with HYUNDAI Motor Group’s push to expand its portfolio of fuel-cell electric vehicles, the corporation’s chief envisions a future in which hydrogen powers both personal vehicles and public infrastructure. Executive vice chairman Euisun Chung said the launch of multiple test beds for hydrogen-based facilities could propel the world towards a society based on the renewable fuel. “As part of this development, we need to have discussions with international governments to jointly establish hydrogen-powered territories”, said Chung, who also serves as co-chair of the advisory body of the Hydrogen Council. Established in early 2017 at the World Economic Forum, the Hydrogen Council is a global CEO-level advisory body advocating the adoption of hydrogen energy. It has 81 member companies, including BMW, Toyota and the Korea Gas Corporation. Hyundai is one of few car manufacturers globally to bet big on fuel-cell vehicles and the concept of the hydrogen economy; an initiative also pursued by the Moon Jae-in South Korean government. Korea’s top automaker announced in 2018 it would commit 7.6 trillion won ($6.6 billion) to the technology. “Under the ‘Hydrogen Vision 2030’, Hyundai will boost annual fuel-cell systems’ production capacity to 700.000 units by 2030 and explore new business opportunities to supply the group’s world-class fuel-cell systems to other transportation manufacturers of automobiles, drones, vessels, rolling stocks and forklifts”, Chung noted. Hyundai is aiming for a fuel-cell vehicle production capacity of 500.000 units per year by 2030, Chung said. He expects global demand to expand to around 2 million units per year within that timeframe. The carmaker launched the Nexo 2 years ago, which became the world’s first fuel-cell-based SUV. The Nexo could travel significantly farther than its predecessor ix35 FCEV and displayed some level of autonomous driving technology. Hyundai said it aims to sell 10.100 units of the Nexo in Korea this year, with the goal of cementing its dominance in the eco-friendly vehicle market here. The Nexo sold 727 units in 2018, the year it was launched, but the number skyrocketed to 4.194 units last year. +++ 

+++ LAMBORGHINI is continuing to develop the Urus and is hard at work on 2 key projects : the Urus ST-X racer and a plug-in road-going hybrid version of its SUV. It was back in November 2018 when Lamborghini unveiled the ST-X as a concept car. Roughly 12 months later, it provided a sneak peek of an updated iteration. Now, the car manufacturer’s head of research and development, Maurizio Reggiani, has revealed that Lamborghini’s Squadra Corsa department continues to develop the racer. While Reggiani failed to specify which parts of the car are still being worked on, he did say that it will compete in a demo race during the 2020 Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Final in Misano, Italy from October 31 to November 1 this year. The racing series will combine on and off-road sections to showcase the wide array of abilities enjoyed by the Urus. At the same time, while the racer is coming together, Lamborghini continues to develop a plug-in hybrid version of the street-legal Urus. Other VW Group models use the same platform and are already available as plug-in hybrids, such as the Porsche Cayenne and Bentley Bentayga. Eager to differentiate its plug-in hybrid super SUV from its VW Group siblings, Lamborghini will develop bespoke driving modes for the Urus that will alter how the electric power is dispensed. “The most important part will be to define in what way a Lamborghini must use this electric energy, and in what way we can be different from the other users of this platform”, Reggiani said. “We have 7 different driving modes in the Urus and what will be important is that every driving mode use electric power in a different way”. Among the modes set to be offered will be a “boost-oriented” mode that maximizes performance and an efficiency-focused one that aims to provide the best possible fuel economy. +++ 

+++ A senior executive from India’s MAHINDRA , which owns Ssangyong, met the head of the state-run Korea Development Bank to ask for more soft loans for the ailing automaker. KDB already bailed out Ssangyong to the tune of a $116 million loan last year, but that failed to turn the company’s fortunes around. Mahindra managing director Pawan Goenka spent an hour with KDB chief Lee Dong-gull at the bank’s Seoul headquarters. Industry watchers say the Indian automaker is seeking more loans because the Korean government intervened to reinstate assembly-line workers who had been laid off. President Moon Jae-in met with Mahindra chairman Anand Gopal Mahindra during his visit to India in 2018 and talked about the reinstatement of 119 workers who had been protesting for about 10 years since their layoff back in 2009. Ssangyong agreed to take them back gradually even though it could not afford because the government promised to aid the carmaker. This has raised fears that Mahindra will turn to the Korean government for financial support every time Ssangyong runs into difficulties. Lee Hang-koo at the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade said, “There is a risk of the government pouring money into a bottomless pit”. Ssangyong has failed to make any profits since 2007 except in 2016. Last year, it posted an estimated loss of $464 million amid a lack of new models resulting from delays in investment that had been pledged by Mahindra. +++ 

+++ NISSAN is recalling nearly 346.000 vehicles worldwide to replace dangerous Takata airbag inflators that can explode and hurl shrapnel. The Nissan front passenger inflators are among 10 million from 14 different automakers that Takata is recalling. It’s the last recall that the bankrupt Takata agreed to in a 2015 settlement with U.S. safety regulators. The Nissan recall covers certain 2002 through 2004 Pathfinders. Also included are the Infiniti models FX and M35. Owners will be notified and dealers will replace the inflators starting around February 10, at no cost to owners. Most of the recalled vehicles are in North America, but some are in Europe, the Middle East and Latin America, Nissan said in a statement. The Nissan inflators are part of a recall that Takata announced earlier this month. They were sold to 14 different automakers, who will conduct their own recalls. Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Honda, Subaru, Ferrari and Mazda already have made recall announcements. The recalled inflators were used to replace dangerous ones made by Takata until a permanent remedy could be developed. The 10 million inflators are part of the approximately 70 million in the U.S. that Takata was to recall as part of the agreement with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Takata recall could bring to a close the largest series of automotive recalls in U.S. history. Takata used ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion to inflate air bags. The chemical can deteriorate over time when exposed to high heat and humidity and burn too fast, blowing apart a metal canister and hurling shrapnel. Permanent replacements don’t use ammonium nitrate. At least 25 people have been killed worldwide and hundreds injured by Takata inflators. About 100 million inflators are being recalled across the globe. All of the Takata recalls are being phased in by the age of the vehicle and location. Vehicles registered farther south, where conditions are hot and humid, get first priority. +++ 

+++ Croatian entrepreneur Mate RIMAC is often compared to Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk. The Rimac Automobili boss admires Musk, but becoming a large-scale electric automaker is not his plan, despite proving his expertise with his debut vehicle, the 1224 hp Concept One electric hypercar. He will stay out of the mass market because he believes the automotive industry will change drastically in the future and because he does not want to compete with his growing list of global customers, which includes Rimac investors Porsche and Hyundai. Instead, he told he wants to help them build faster, better electric cars: “We started collaborating out of necessity to keep the company alive. But now I enjoy playing a role in shaping the future of the car industry. I was born a car guy. When I walked through the Geneva auto show before setting up Rimac, I had no idea what was going on behind the curtain. Now I know. It’s cool to build your own car, but we can have a bigger impact by collaborating with these big companies and helping them make electric and hybrid cars. When it comes to automotive entrepreneurs, I only have affinity with Elon Musk. I looked up to electric supply pioneer Nikola Tesla when I started. I’m from Croatia, like he was. When I started, I also looked up to supercar company founders Christian von Koenigsegg and Horacio Pagani. They were my big heroes. Today we are friends and we do things together, but what we at Rimac are trying to do now is something that goes beyond building a supercar company”. When asked why Rimac has so far succeeded where others have failed, Mate Rimac says: “We have been on the brink constantly. Our odds of survival were probably in the single-digit zone most of the time. For the first 6 years I never had enough money to pay our guys their next salaries. I was late paying suppliers and the electricity company. The electricity company came to shut off the power. It’s incredible we are still here. But we have succeeded because I didn’t do anything else. I was 19 when I started. If you ask a guy from BMW he will tell you it takes €50 million to develop a light. I went to Hella and asked if they could make a light for my car and they laughed at me. So, we had to do things in a different way, because I knew I couldn’t pay anybody to do it for us. As a result, we created the value ourselves so we could sell the components and know-how to other car companies. We don’t have more electrification expertise than the global automakers. We are just focused on a specific area, which is high-performance powertrains. They have to worry about other things. They have to worry about unions and giving their staff work. These are different problems than the ones we have. We are not smarter. We don’t want to go to a higher volume with our cars for several reasons. One of them is that we don’t want to compete with our customers. As long as we are below 100 cars a year, they don’t care. Second, I truly believe mobility will change completely. It doesn’t make sense today to start a company to sell mass-produced vehicles because I’m convinced people will not own cars and people will not drive cars in the future. Yes, we are developing batteries and powertrains for higher volumes, and allowing automakers to make their own electric and hybrid cars. But we are thinking of ways to go beyond that. Porsche now has a 15.5 % stake in Rimac. It has a lot of experience of its own in high-performance batteries from its LMP1 racing program, but we can offer different things because we are a small, young company that doesn’t have all of the processes of a big car company. We are not necessarily better than them, we are different. We are helping each other. It is such a huge challenge to transition from combustion to hybrid and electric because there is so much to do. They can’t do it on their own. They will take any help they can get. Also, we are focused on pushing the limits of performance. They are a premium brand, but they are still more focused on cost effectiveness and other areas like that. In return, we hope Porsche will help us go from being this little company specializing in technology, prototyping and small-volume manufacturing to a serious manufacturer of components. A Tier 1 supplier, basically. I don’t think there is another company that started in a garage and within 10 years became a supplier to the big car companies of one of the most important components. We are not talking about a plastic cover or something. We are talking about the safety critical things such as batteries and powertrains, which have the highest value in the car, which give the car its DNA. Companies almost always built the engines on their own. Now, with EVs, it’s the motor, inverter, gearbox and the battery. And they give it away to a company that didn’t exist 10 years ago run by a guy who is 31 years old. That didn’t happen before. It’s a precedent. Porsche is at 15.5 %, Hyundai has 14 %, Camel Group, a battery company from China, has 19 %. I have 43 % and we have other smaller investors. I am open to selling more of my own stake. Maybe not to other car companies because we have a sufficient number of strategic relationships, so we are talking with some financial investors at the moment. We are quite good in terms of money right now, but we have big plans for a big new factory and for stuff we want to do”. When asked when we will see the first of the 2 cars from Hyundai which Rimac is working on, Mate Rimac says: “Definitely in 2020. We are in the prototype phase. The great thing with Hyundai is that they have a leader, Chung Mong-koo, who makes a decision and that is it. So, the process is super short. We are developing and producing prototypes to show different stakeholders. If the feedback is positive, then we go into production. Hyundai will make the vehicle: the body, chassis, the traditional stuff. We will make the components. Hyundai will make the fuel cell for the fuel cell car. We will make the battery and powertrain for that fuel cell car and the full-electric car. It will be priced close to €250,000. I don’t know it myself because we are trying to get our expensive components down to a really acceptable level. But, I don’t know how far we will get. You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to answer that question, even for us internally”. When asked what makes the Rimac fuel cell vehicle high performance, Mate Rimac says: “When you drive a fuel cell car, there’s a small energy buffer, a battery or capacitor. As you accelerate, the fuel cell needs to produce more energy, and when you let off the throttle, it has to stop producing energy. By using a bigger battery, you can have the fuel cell topping up the battery all the time. It becomes a high-performance fuel cell just by using it in a different way. It will be a sports car”. When asked what Rimac thinks of solid-state batteries, Mate Rimac says: “I have my little booklet that I used to write down everything when I started, when I did my initial calculations 12 years ago. I printed out the battery-cell technologies at a time: the chemistry, the power densities, the energy densities and the new technology that’s about to come. For the cell (the energy density and power density) from 2007-08 until now nothing has changed. Just the prices went down. I have received hundreds of emails from my friends saying, “Have you seen this article about the lithium air battery; about the solid state battery; about this or that battery? Wow this battery recharges in 1 minute!” I telling them the same thing: “It’s not going to happen”. I have been reading about the same thing for 12 years. There is always a new battery. Again, what has really changed is the price, which has fallen a lot, but the fundamental technology behind it is the same. The battery pack has improved a lot, but the cell itself hasn’t. We are at a moment in time when cells don’t need to change. You can make a viable electric car with decent performance and range, meaning it’s not compromised and the vehicle package is at a decent price. The tipping point where it makes sense to build an electric car has happened. What I think needs to happen now is to determine how you use these cars, which are on the road just 3 % of the time. That’s going to be the intelligence”. When asked if he thinks the world will move to a car-sharing model, Mate Rimac says: “You are talking to a guy who lives for and has built a company based on electrification. But I don’t think that’s a big deal. And I’m telling this to the car executives. They think they are in this huge transformation toward electrification. Fundamentally, I don’t think much has changed. A hundred years ago you had suppliers building parts for the Model T. Ford assembled those pieces into a car and sold the car to a dealer and the dealer sold it to the end customer. Today you have suppliers building batteries instead of carburetor or whatever and the automaker builds the car from those parts. Nothing has changed. Nothing. The real change is going to be when the players are the AI (artificial intelligence) providers. Automakers will be like Foxconn, just white goods manufacturers. You will have the ride-hailing provider and you will have the user, not the owner or driver. But having ideas is easy. Every year in Geneva a new company appears and then you never hear about them again. It’s a marathon to survive in the auto industry. It’s about having a strategy and executing it. Execution is everything. Startups excel at having good ideas, but executing is another thing. Big car companies are good at executing, but they have too much on their plate. They have a history. They have a legacy. So in the end it’s legislation, customer acceptance: lots of things have to align. We make sports cars because 10 years ago, we wanted to show that electric cars could be exciting and fun. And, since we needed to make a living, we looked at where we could be competitive. That is why we went into the high-performance segment. We produce vehicles in small volumes but the components we are working on for the bigger brands will be higher volumes, in the thousands, tens of thousands even the hundreds of thousands, but not in the millions. That’s our niche. That is where we want to live. For high-performance electric cars we want to make cells, batteries, electronics, electric motors, inverters, transmissions, torque vectoring systems, ECUs and infotainment systems. We also want to do this for hybrids. We already supply the hybrid battery pack for the Aston Martin Valkyrie hypercar. In the long-term, we want to be the leader in high-performance electrical components. That means the manufacturers producing premium high-performance vehicles (the Porsches, Mercedes AMGs, Audis, Aston Martins, Lamborghinis and Ferraris of this world) would have our components in their cars. Currently, we are working with Porsche, Hyundai, Aston Martin, Koenigsegg, Renault and Pininfarina. But frankly, we work with pretty much everybody. We work with all cell supplies, depending on which project. It could be A132, Sony, Murata, LG, Samsung. Sometimes there are commercially available cells that are good enough. Sometimes we have to develop a cell together with a supplier. We are considering partnering up with a cell manufacturer to have joint manufacturing in Europe. Our requirements are going beyond what cell manufacturers can manage, especially for performance. We are pushing cells well beyond their design limits. Sometimes it’s difficult to convince the cell manufacturers that it’s possible to do what we’re doing with the cells in a safe manner”. When asked who needs more than 1.900 hp in Rimac’s new car, the C_Two, Mate Rimac says: “Nobody needs that. Who needs an SUV? If it was about what people needed, everybody would drive a Skoda Octavia. But drivers will be able to control all that power. It’s easy to drive. And even if you can’t, it has autonomous features. The C_Two will be at Geneva in March. It’s limited to 150 units. We will start shipping the car at the end of 2020. The production rate will be 40 to 50 cars a year, so 1 a week. The Pininfarina Battista is based on the same platform and is built in the same factory. So, it’s basically 2 cars a week. 1 for us, 1 for them”. When asked what he thinks of Formula E, Mate Rimac says: “It is not the pinnacle of electric performance. I was involved in Formula E from the beginning. Our car was the race director’s car. I was trying to push them all the time, saying, “Let’s do something more: battery swaps, torque vectoring, two motors in the rear. Let’s make this exciting. Let’s make it technologically challenging”. But they probably made the right choice to make it simpler, reliable and safe. I was not expecting it to be so reliable. In terms in technology, however, they could have been a lot bolder. I’m not involved any more. I have to build a business and racing is not so great for business”. +++ 

+++ Around 250 Germans protested in the outskirts of Berlin where electric car startup TESLA is planning to build a gigafactory, saying its construction will endanger water supply and wildlife in the area. The U.S. carmaker announced plans last November to build its first European car factory in Grünheide, in the eastern state of Brandenburg. Politicians, unions and industry groups have welcomed the move, saying it will bring jobs to the region, but environmental concerns drove hundreds of locals to the streets. “We are here, we are loud, because Tesla is stealing our water”, protesters called. The protest came after a Brandenburg water association warned against “extensive and serious problems with the drinking water supply and wastewater disposal” for the proposed factory. Anne Bach, a 27 year old environmental activist, said Tesla’s plans published earlier this month showed it would need more than 300 cubic meters of water per hour which would drain the area’s declining reserves. “I am not against Tesla but it’s about the site: in a forest area that is a protected wildlife zone. Is this necessary?”, Bach said. “In such an ecological system like the one here and with the background that climate is changing, I cannot understand why another location was not selected from the beginning”, said Frank Gersdorf, a member of “Citizens’ Initiative Gruenheide against Gigafactory”, a local group that organized the protest. Environmentalist protests in Germany have previously halted and delayed major companies’ plans such RWE’s lignite mining at the Hambach forest, near Cologne, which has become a symbol of the anti-coal protests. The protest, which Gersdorf and Bach said developed spontaneously from a 50-people forest walk demonstration, highlighted the deforestation of around 300 hectares to build the factory and its impact on wildlife, including birds, insects and bats. People were also protesting against an expected “enormous” increase in traffic on a nearby highway and through the villages. Next to the protest, on the other side of the street, around 20 people carried banners welcoming Tesla in their village, with children chanting, “We are here, we are loud, because Tesla is building our future”. Bernd Kutz, a Grünheide local, said Tesla would bring improvement to the area, create jobs and give chances to young people. “I am here because I don’t understand those demonstrators who shout and show us the finger”, Kutz said. “Why has it always to be negative?” +++ 

+++ TOYOTA said on Friday it will move production of its mid-size Tacoma pick-up from the United States to Mexico as it adjusts production around North America. The largest Japanese automaker also said it will end production of the Sequoia in Indiana by 2022 as that facility focuses on mid-size SUVs and minivans. Toyota will shift production of the Sequoia in 2022 to Texas and that plant will end production of the Tacoma by late 2021. Toyota has been building the Tacoma at its Baja California plant in Mexico since 2004. Last month, Toyota’s Guanajuato plant began assembly. Toyota said its production capacity for the Tacoma in Mexico will be about 266.000 per year. Last year, the automaker sold nearly 249.000 Tacoma pickups in the United States; up 1.3 %. Toyota said the product moves were to “improve the operational speed, competitiveness and transformation at its North American vehicle assembly plants based on platforms and common architectures”. The new North American trade agreement approved by the U.S. Senate ensures that automakers will still be able to build pickups in Mexico without facing new punitive tariffs. In February, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said it was reversing plans to shift production of heavy-duty pickups from Mexico to Michigan in 2020, freeing a Michigan facility to produce Jeeps. Toyota said it completed a $1.3 billion modernization investment in its Indiana operations to add 550 jobs. It will help meet strong demand for the Highlander, its new mid-size SUV. Toyota said there would be no reduction to direct jobs at any of Toyota’s facilities across North America as a result of the vehicle moves. Toyota said it had invested an additional $700 million and added 150 new jobs to complete a modernization program at its Princeton, Indiana factory. The investment is part of a broader commitment from Japan’s biggest automaker to invest $13 billion in its U.S. operations over 5 years through 2021. Including the $1.3 billion investment at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana (TMMI) plant, the company has so far spent about $7.1 billion of the total amount. The Indiana plant has over 7.000 employees and has the capacity to assemble more than 420.000 vehicles annually, the company said. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN engineered its latest Golf to be its most technologically advanced model to date. The exterior is familiar but inside the compact hatchback has a fully digital instrument cluster that can be configured by using the multifunction steering wheel. “The real revolution is in the interior. With the Innovision Cockpit, analog dials are history”, said Nicole Hempe, who is the Golf’s product marketing manager. The 8th generation Golf is the first VW brand car to date to have Car2X technology. This allows the vehicle to communicate with other cars up to 800 meters away, for example to warn of an emergency vehicle approaching from behind. Like all new VWs, the base version has emergency braking assistance with pedestrian recognition to prevent accidents and collisions. It also now has active lane keeping designed to correct the car’s path if road markings are clear enough for the vehicle to detect. All Golfs whatever their specification have an embedded cellular modem with access to VW’s digital We user platform, which serves as a central hub for services connected to the vehicle. This can be used to purchase upgrades such as automatic cruise control or a wireless hotspot for connecting to the Internet. Settings for everything from the dashboard layout to ambient lighting and seating preferences can be stored in the cloud via a user profile. That profile migrates with the driver to other vehicles equipped with the third-generation of VW’s MIB infotainment system, which first debuted in September with the refreshed Passat. “We have worked hard to incorporate as many features in the standard version as possible”, Hempe said. Options include head-up display and a 10 inch middle console that replaces dials for controlling the heating, cooling and the volume of the radio with touch sliders. The infotainment system responds to gestures or voice commands. The Golf is underpinned by an updated MQB architecture. Its electrical wiring was overhauled to add the latest CAN FD standard to boost the volume of data transfer. This allowed elements such as the 48 volt battery and digital cockpit to be incorporated into the vehicle. +++

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