Newsflash: Nissan Leaf toont veelbelovende e-4orce techniek


+++ AIWAYS is to present the Europe-ready U5 and a new U6ion concept in Geneva. The production version of the U5 can be test-driven by visitors of the show for 10-minutes. Sales of this new mid-size SUV in China are already underway, while in Europe it’s scheduled for April 2020. Volume production in China recently started. “Aiways will become the first Chinese startup to bring an electric vehicle to Europe when sales of the U5 commence in April 2020. Visitors to Geneva will be able to see and explore the production-ready, European version of the U5 for the first time. Visitors to the show can also drive the U5 for the first time, as part of the ‘Geneva Discovery’ experience. Participants will be given the opportunity to enjoy a 10-minute test drive of the U5 on an indoor circuit after they have visited the Aiways stand to register their interest”. Soon, we should also finally see the specification of the car and see whether it’s different from the Chinese version. The interesting part of the U5 is also how it will be sold or maybe rather just leased. ” Aiways will also reveal more details of its innovative European business model during its press conference at the Show. Together, Aiways and its partners will offer a unique means of owning a new electric vehicle that will provide users with an original customer experience”. Finally, the company will make a global premiere of its all-new all-electric U6ion concept. Nothing is known about this one yet. Alexander Klose, Executive vice president Overseas Operation at Aiways, commented: “The Geneva Motor Show is an important milestone for us as we will announce some very exciting news about our plans for Europe. We are set to compete with the best, by creating a revolutionary new user experience thanks to unprecedented collaboration with partners”. +++


+++ The upcoming, special high-performance version of the CADILLAC CT5-V, which has yet to be named, will be getting a V8, but not the one you were expecting. Insiders with knowledge of the matter say that it will obtain the same engine as its predecessor, instead of the rumored 550 hp and 868 Nm 4.2-liter twin-turbo V8, from the latest CT6-V, nicknamed the Blackwing. Not all is bad though, as the 6.2-liter supercharged lump powering the CTS-V developed 640 hp and 854 Nm of torque, which put the performance car at the top of the food chain. Thus, the top-spec CT5-V should be at least equally powerful and faster, a proper rival to range-topping variants of other executive cars from Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Why did they choose the supercharged instead of the twin-turbo power unit? The ‘Blackwing’ V8’s double-overhead-cam design makes it both taller and wider than the former, so it wouldn’t have fit inside the engine bay of the CT5-V without extensive (and costly) modifications. If you do not want to wait for the top-dog in the CT5 lineup, whose name remains unknown, then you will have to settle for the 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 found in the current CT5-V. It produces 360 hp and 548 Nm. Cadillac is also planning a higher-performance version of the CT4-V, which could get the ATS-V’s 3.6-liter twin-turbo V6 engine that pumped out 464 hp and 603 Nm in the retired model. +++


+++ The CRUISE ORIGIN robo-taxi was unveiled last week, but the company was coy on when the vehicle would go into production. It appears General Motors will announce a €2.0 billion investment into the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant which was originally slated to close last year. The funds will be used to build electric pickups, SUVs and autonomous vehicles. Production of an electric pickup will begin in late 2021 and the investment will create more than 2,200 jobs. The Cruise Origin robo-taxi will be built at the plant starting in late 2022. If liability issues related to autonomous vehicles can be solved in the coming 2 years, it would be a major milestone as the vehicle has the potential to disrupt the ride-hailing business as we know it. Since the vehicle doesn’t need a driver and is projected to have a lifespan of over 1.600.344 km, Cruise estimated the “average San Franciscan household driving themselves or using ridesharing, will, on average, see up to €4.533 back in their pocket every year”. The company believes these affordable fares and a consistent user experience will get riders hooked. Besides the Origin and a Hummer pickup, the Detroit-Hamtramck plant will reportedly build electric versions of the Cadillac Escalade and GMC Sierra. Both of these models are slated to go into production in 2023.The Origin’s platform is the same architecture that will be used to underpin an assortment of upcoming electric vehicles including Cadillac’s electric crossover which was teased at the 2019 North American International Auto Show. The fact that GM introduced the platform on the Cruise Origin is interesting as it’s not one of the architecture’s 2 “centroid entries”. However, it’s a big show of confidence in the autonomous vehicle company. Besides the Cadillac and Origin, the platform is slated to underpin a small SUV, a compact SUV, and compact crossovers for the mainstream and luxury segments. There will also be large 7-seat SUVs, an efficient “low roof car” and a “lux low roof” model that appears to be a coupe. GM has previously said the modular EV platform will offer flexible battery pack configurations, higher battery densities and improved DC fast charging. The batteries will also be significantly cheaper to produce as the company has estimated a cost savings of 30 %. While the platform debuted on the Origin, the first model to actually launch on the architecture will likely be Cadillac’s crossover.  GM has said the platform will launch in 2021 and this lines up with timing for the crossover. +++

+++ A new DELOREAN DMC-12 could start production next year. A lawsuit finally prodded the NHTSA to issue guidelines. I last checked in with the DeLorean Motor Company in Humble, Texas, in 2017. That was 2 years after American congress had passed the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act, and one year after the classic car parts and restoration firm thought it would be building the products it’s named for: new DeLorean DMC-12s. The problem was that the government bodies required to turn an act into enforceable administrative law never got around to doing their parts of the job. Thanks to a lawsuit from the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) and industry pressure, there’s a chance the paperwork will get finalized this year. James Espey, DMC’s vice president, said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has done its part, issuing a 120-page book of draft regulations to go along with the Environmental Protection Agency’s draft rules. If all goes well, Espey told Hagerty that DMC could begin production at a rate of about 1 or 2 cars per week sometime in 2021. Long before that happens, there’s a 30-day public comment period on the guidelines drawn up by NHTSA, then a review by the Office of Management and Budget that could take six months. Even if those matters run smoothly, NHTSA doesn’t have an administrator, and hasn’t had one since the current presidential administration took office. Part of the holdup with the LVMVMA delay was that acting administrator James C. Owens wouldn’t sign off. If a new administrator enters office before the OMB process concludes, or the process drags out past the election, or NHTSA ignores the matter to focus on autonomy issues and massive recalls again, these latest steps forward could turn into huge steps back. To forestall that, SEMA has asked the judge presiding over its lawsuit not to dismiss the case until NHTSA finalizes everything. Assuming all goes well, what are potential buyers looking at? A DMC-12 that’s come a long way from its last iteration. The 3.5-liter V6 DeLorean originally decided on is headed for retirement, so another, unidentified engine with about 350 horsepower is in the running. Mechanical features like power steering, cruise control, and 21st-century headlights, all unavailable on the original, are shoo-ins. Convenience features like navigation, Bluetooth, and climate-controlled seats seem destined to make the options list. ABS and traction control might make the cut. The last cost estimate we got in 2016 put the price at about $100,000; we won’t be surprised if that’s gone up some. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the $27,500 MSRP of an original DMC-12 in 1981 equates to $81,227 today, so the numbers aren’t outrageous considering the upgrades. Now DMC, and other small outfits like Icon, Revology, Superformance, and Checker, await the government’s next overdue moves. +++


+++ As more and more ELECTRIC VEHICLES hit the market, it would be reasonable to assume that sales of EVs would be rising consistently. However, according to new figures, that’s not the case. The Los Angeles Times reports that while 45 new all-electric and plug-in hybrids debuted in the U.S. last year, just 325,000 EVs and plug-in hybrids were sold across the nation in 2019; a fall of 6.8 % from the 349,000 of the year prior. Numbers regarding how many EVs were sold in California last year aren’t available quite yet. “The number of battery-electric models available more than doubled last year, but EV sales didn’t budge much. That’s troubling”, the head of the automotive practice at consulting firm AlixPartners, Mark Wakefield said. A number of factors could explain this. For starters, it seems as though range anxiety remains a serious cause for concern among consumers. In addition, electric vehicles remain more expensive than their ICE-powered rivals and with some of the government’s generous subsidies ending for many of the market’s best-selling EVs, buyers are feeling the pinch. What’s more, gas prices remain low and stable. Then there’s Tesla. The car manufacturer has created a lifestyle brand and its models are often considered as the quintessential electric car. Sales of the Model 3 jumped by 14 % in 2019 in the U.S. and more than doubled globally to 300,600. Many so-called ‘Tesla killers’ have hit the market recently but failed to sell. The Jaguar I-Pace, for example, shifted just 2.594 units in the U.S. last year while the Audi e-Tron registered just 5.369 sales. Cheaper alternatives like the Hyundai Kona and Kia Niro also aren’t selling particularly well either, shifting 3.600 and less than 1.000 units respectively. Will these trends change? Automakers would certainly hope so as they are investing billions of dollars into developing new electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. In the meantime, it seems as though Tesla will retain its stranglehold on the EV market. +++ 

+++ Details of a future electric FERRARI emerge from a patent submission. It’s about time we hear something from Ferrari about its future EV. 5 years: that’s the amount of time that we all have to wait before Ferrari finally reveals its first all-electric supercar. The future is electric, and it isn’t exclusively true with mass-produced vehicles anymore. Porsche has its Taycan, the brand’s first 4-door EV, and it sure has stirred the segment. Now, it’s Ferrari’s turn. As expected, the upcoming Ferrari EV will have 4 electric motors: one powering each wheel, if we’re to believe the patent’s details. As described in the patent, “an electrically powered road vehicle comprising 4 drive wheels and 4 reversible electric machines, each of which is mechanically entirely independent of the other electric machines and has a shaft directly connected to a corresponding drive wheel”. Considering that this “independent” operation of the motors means it will be capable of the most precise torque-vectoring, the future electric Ferrari should retain the handling prowess that current cars are known for. The battery pack will be housed in a clearance area housed by the rear wheels, as with most EVs of today. It’s notable, however, that the patent application applies to a hybrid application as well. In this case, the internal combustion engine will be housed in the clearance area instead of the battery pack. Other details of the patent submission can be found in the gallery above. This patent application isn’t a concrete reveal of what Ferrari has in store for its first EV, of course. It is, however, a good sign that the company is serious about introducing a green vehicle into its petrol-guzzling lineup. +++ 

+++ GENESIS , the fledgling luxury brand of Hyundai that was launched in 2015, will have a lineup of vehicles closer to what is trending in the automotive world, with plans to add 3 SUVs in the next 2 years; 1 of them a pure electric vehicle. That’s good news, because Genesis’s portfolio so far consists only of sedans: the G70, the G80 and the recently updated G90. A car-only lineup in an SUV-crazy world has hindered the brand’s growth. Genesis only just unveiled its first SUV in the midsize GV80; it’s the first vehicle on a new dedicated rear-wheel-drive platform known as M3 and which will soon also slot under the next-generation G80. The current G80 was launched in 2016. Will there be a sport model of the GV80 in the future? Albert Biermann, the R&D head brought to the Hyundai Group initially to focus on performance, says he would love to see one, but is not in a hurry for that. Biermann is also a proponent of fuel-cell vehicles (the GV80 concept had a fuel cell) and Genesis is expected to launch a FCV at some point. Also coming this year is the smaller GV70 compact SUV that shares a separate rear-drive platform with the G70 sport sedan; that model was introduced in 2017. Genesis has said it will have 3 SUVs and the third will be an electric vehicle, likely midsize, on a new electric platform. It is coming next year, said William Lee, the global head of the Genesis brand. Executives say they are also looking at whether the brand should get into the full-size SUV space with, say, a GV90 to take on the Mercedes GLS and BMW X7, but that decision has not yet been made. Lee said the GV80 is the current flagship for Genesis and will be used to gauge the market for a larger SUV. It went on sale this week in Korea, where 1.500 were sold in the first day, a number large enough to surprise even those at the company. It will go on sale in the U.S. in the second half of the year, so expect it likely in the fall. Luc Donckerwolke, Hyundai’s chief design officer, said while the 3 SUVs share DNA, they each have their own character and will not be clones; the better to court different consumers. So, the GV70 won’t be a scaled-down GV80, and will instead be completely different and feature its own form language, he told. It is a strategy Hyundai is now employing with all its brands: a conscious effort to better differentiate vehicles within the lineup but use signature design cues that make them instantly recognizable as a Hyundai, Kia, or Genesis. The larger-volume brands need more differentiation, Donckerwolke says, while the low-volume Genesis brand needs more consistency without creating repetition as it builds its identity in the marketplace. Genesis executives stated previously the lineup would have 6 vehicles by 2021. Initially the plan was for 3 sedans, 2 SUVs and a coupe. Since that plan was conceived, Genesis has seen leadership changes and market tastes evolve. The new lineup plan is an even split of traditional sedans and SUVs. That means the coupe is on the back burner for now. Genesis showed the Essentia electric 2-door concept with butterfly doors at the 2018 New York auto show and Donckerwolke was hopeful it would go into production. Donckerwolke was since promoted, with SangYup Lee taking over as head of Genesis design; he says work continues on the Essentia but the business case is tricky. William Lee also confirmed the coupe has not been approved for production as the automaker is still assessing if there is a market for it. Of course, volume sales of the new SUVs would generate capital that makes future niche and halo products like the Essentia more feasible. William Lee expects the GV80 to become the best seller until the smaller GV70 arrives to potentially dethrone its bigger brother. +++ 

+++ Lebanon and Japan will have to figure out in 40 days whether the fugitive former Nissan boss Carlos GHOSN will be extradited to Japan or stand trial in Lebanon. Citing a judicial source and a source close to Ghosn, Japan triggered the 40-day period when it asked Lebanon to clarify what documents they need to send as part of their official extradition request. “They came back and requested a clarification. Today, we sent that to the Japanese”, the judicial source said. Japan and Lebanon have no extradition agreement, with the latter typically not handing over its nationals. According to Lebanon’s rules, the 2 sides must reach an agreement within 40 days since the start of their communication. Japan’s choices are limited to either sending an official extradition request to Lebanon, or send Ghosn’s case to Lebanon and agree on a process for trying him there, according to the source close to Ghosn. Ghosn fled to Lebanon last month, escaping from Japan where he was awaiting trial accused of financial misconduct, a charge that he vocally denies. He was recently questioned by Lebanese prosecutors who confiscated his passport and imposed a travel ban on him. The former boss of Renault-Nissan could appeal to drop the travel ban and return his passport if Japan doesn’t respond within the 40 days. Japanese authorities have previously said that they will push for getting Ghosn back in Japan for his trial. +++ 

+++ HONDA has shared more information on the new European market Jazz, revealing more details on its design inside and out, as well as its engineering. The goal for the new generation Jazz was to create one of the friendliest daily drivers in the market, with Honda opting for a new design philosophy that honors the Japanese notion of ‘Yoo no bi’. This style aims at bringing out the beauty in everyday items, which have been further evolved over time to make them even more satisfying to use. That’s why the shape of the new Jazz is smooth, unlike its predecessor, and everything is blended together, as the goal here was to achieve a sophisticated visual balance. “I wanted to create a car which was a ‘kind companion’ for the owner, while maximizing its usability”, says Baek Jongkuk, designer of the new Jazz. “I did this by minimizing unnecessary features and simplifying exterior lines to deliver a car which features a friendly, fresh appearance, complete with a comfortable and practical interior”. The same philosophy continues in the cabin, where minimalist lines are combined with exceptional practicality and durable materials. The fabric here is water-repellent and the dashboard materials are soft to the touch, creating an inviting environment. The dashboard itself is uncluttered and features a 7 inch digital instrument panel with no cowl, enhancing the feeling of spaciousness together with the now thinner by 50 % A-pillars. The wide center console armrest is height-aligned with the door armrest while the front seats have a new frame for better comfort and greater lumbar support. The infotainment system gets a 9 inch touchscreen display. Rear passengers will continue enjoying class-leading space, with the bench seat getting thicker padding for extra comfort. The ingenious packaging of the cabin has been retained, featuring a fully flat floor together with the versatile ‘magic’ rear seats than can be folded flat or flip upright in order to accommodate loads of various shapes. The new Jazz will be available exclusively with a 2-motor hybrid powertrain in Europe, details of which will be revealed closer to market launch. Customers will also be offered the SUV-like Crosstar variant (photo) as well, featuring increased ride height along with a more rugged appearance that includes a unique front grille design and roof rails among other. Honda will launch the new Jazz in Europe during the summer of 2020 and will lead the company’s commitment of electrifying its entire portfolio in the region by 2022. +++


+++ HYUNDAI said it will produce hydrogen fuel-cell electric commercial vehicles in its Chinese plant to make inroads into the local electric vehicle market. In the China EV100 Forum held in Beijing from January 10-12, executive vice president Lee In-cheon, head of Hyundai‘s Commercial Vehicle Business Division, unveiled the plan. In August last year, the Hyundai executive said the hydrogen commercial car production plan will begin in 2023 if the company makes the decision. Sichuan Hyundai Motor, a 50:50 joint venture set up between Hyundai and the Sichuan Nanjun Automobile Group in 2012, is expected to be in charge of the hydrogen commercial car production. Hyundai produces 1.05 million vehicles, in China, the world’s biggest automobile market, out of its overall vehicle production of 3.74 million units. Meanwhile, Hyundai aims to sell 10.100 Nexo hydrogen passenger cars mainly to public organizations and companies this year, sharply up from 4.194 units it sold last year. To take the lead in the hydrogen vehicle market, Hyundai announced in late 2018 its plan to invest 7.6 trillion won for partnerships with auto parts companies, research and development activities and facility expansion by 2030. Hyundai aims to establish a production facility capable of rolling out 50.000 hydrogen-powered vehicles a year by 2030. It also targets selling 200.000 hydrogen fuel cell systems a year in global markets by the same year. The number of Nexo vehicles sold outside the country totaled 1.015 units in the past 2 years. In 2019, South Korea claimed a 52 % share of the global hydrogen fuel cell electric market, followed by the United States with a share of 29 %, Japan with 9.7 % and Europe with 6.5 %, the statement said. +++

+++ NISSAN ’s future dual-motor EVs will be dual threats. The e-4ORCE all-wheel drive system is superb in prototype form. Compromise used to be the unfortunate truth in auto manufacturing. The hardware needed to build an enthusiast-pleasing machine wasn’t necessarily compatible with producing a comfortable, safe vehicle. With the advent of modern electric vehicles, this situation is changing, and my recent drive of Nissan’s e-4ORCE prototype all-wheel drive system shows how. The vehicle in question is a regular Leaf E+ that’s been outfitted with 2 Leaf E+ motors (1 in front and 1 in back) and the e-4ORCE all-wheel drive system. A variety of tests were laid out for us at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway during CES last week to let me try out Nissan’s new dual-motor EV system. Turns out, e-4ORCE offers more than just increased traction. All the proof is in the driving. My first test was a straight-line acceleration run. 2 Leaf E+ motors combine for a system output of 306 hp and 700 Nm. To put it lightly, the e-4ORCE test car made the regular Leaf E+ feel as though it was hardly moving. The quick response from the go-pedal was just as impressive: Nissan claims its powertrain responds quicker than any other dual-motor EV system that it benchmarked. Next up, Nissan had us experience the benefit of rear motor regenerative braking. Instead of a swift nosedive when lifting off the accelerator pedal in the single front-motor Leaf E+, the e-4ORCE keeps its nose steady and close to level with where we started from after lifting off the accelerator. It’s able to accomplish this by using the rear motor instead of the front motor for regenerative braking, significantly reducing head-toss and squat. This will make a huge difference for folks who get carsick easily. They wouldn’t enjoy the slalom course, which gave us our first hint of how fun this all-wheel drive system could be. The Leaf is no performance car stock, but with the e-4ORCE powertrain and a bit of suspension work, it turns into a little hot hatch. There’s still plenty of body roll diving in and out of the cones, but squeezing the pedal on in corners doesn’t cause the e-4ORCE Leaf to understeer anymore. Instead, it tightens the line and hugs the cones even tighter. Allwheel-drive systems in normal consumer-minded vehicles can make it feel sportier than it actually is, but e-4ORCE actually delivers tangible performance benefits. Nissan says it has full control of the percentage of torque sent to the front or back wheels, and on top of that, this system is capable of independently braking each wheel at any time it pleases. This allows us to step deeper and deeper into the throttle as we scythe through the sharp corners autocross-style in a way that reminded us, of all things, of the Honda Civic Type R. That hot hatch can pull you through corners at speeds faster than you thought were possible at corner entry. This allwheel drive system gives us flashes of the same brilliance, showing us what might be possible if Nissan were to fit it to a pure sports car rather than a Leaf. My last test was meant to display what the e-4ORCE all-wheel drive system was capable of when pushed to the limit on a slick surface. After a truck wetted a large, constant-radius corner, I was told to barrel into it and give the Leaf everything it’s got while holding the wheel at a steady angle. The front-drive Leaf E+ just understeered and drifted out way beyond the cones. But then it was time for the e-4ORCE prototype. Same test, but this time the Leaf went around the corner so perfectly under full throttle that it was uncanny. In concert with a series of mechanical actuator noises coming from underneath, the Leaf miraculously held the line under full throttle with absolutely no effort on our end, steadily increasing its speed throughout the corner. It was so easy, a Geico caveman could do it. The ease at which the Leaf e-4ORCE accomplished this task is what boggles our minds. I was simply a passenger behind the wheel: Put your foot to the floor, turn the wheel and go. The computers calling the shots for the dual-motor AWD system will handle everything else. This will come in handy on a regular crossover in slick road conditions, but it’s also surprisingly capable on an autocross course. However, the flexibility and adjustability of this setup is the real story, as Nissan will be able to change the driving characteristics by changing a few lines of code. A tamer variant calibrated for poor weather traction could be fitted to a production version of the Ariya crossover concept, and a wilder one could slip underneath a high-performance Infiniti or even a Nismo product. The possibilities look endless so far as its application goes. Additionally, Nissan speaks highly of what it can do to a car’s driving characteristics through drive mode selection. Shifting torque around and changing the tuning on the all-wheel control tech Nissan has implemented here can bring about huge changes in the way this car handles when pushed. For example, switching a vehicle into “Sport mode” could offer up much sportier driving than most of the half-baked sport modes today that increase throttle sensitivity and increase the weight of the steering. In the future, your everyday commuter might be able to throw all of its power at the rear wheels when you want it to and offer up expert torque vectoring when the road gets twisty. Unfortunately, Nissan was not able to answer any questions about when the e-4ORCE all-wheel drive system would see the light of day in a production car. When it does come, expect it to be implemented on a crossover first, like the production version of the Ariya Concept, rather than the economy-oriented Leaf. 2 motors will bring a lot to the table for Nissan EVs that we only see on luxury automaker’s electrics right now, so let’s hope this all-wheel drive system arrives soon; even more so, let’s hope Nissan retains the fun-to-drive factor we experienced in the e-4ORCE prototype. +++


+++ RENAULT SAMSUNG Motors said it ended a two-week partial shutdown of its plant after agreeing to resume wage negotiations with the workers’ union next month. The move comes after workers suspended partial strikes at the company’s sole plant in Busan, following a series of partial walkouts for higher wages. “The company and the union will sit at a negotiating table from February 4 to February 7 for a breakthrough in wage talks”, a company spokesman said. To avoid further losses from the walkouts, the company partially shut down the plant for the overnight shift. The strikes caused production losses of about 10.400 vehicles worth about 200 billion won ($173 million). Over the past 2 weeks, 70 % of the 1.700 member union chose not to join the partial strikes. This appears to have led to the union stopping its actions this week. It was the second time for the company to partially shut down the plant after it took a similar step for one day during wage negotiations with the labor union in May 2018. Early last month, the union voted to stage a strike in protest against the company’s wage freeze proposal for the year 2019. The company also offered a voluntary retirement program, the first since 2012, to its 1,800 employees in September, but only a few dozen workers applied for the program. In June last year, the union sealed a wage deal with management for the year 2018 after staging 62 rounds of strikes that resulted in output losses of 14.300 vehicles. The company has said it will be difficult to maintain the current workforce as the output volume of Nissan’s X-Trail is expected to fall sharply this year from last year’s 60.000 units. Renault Samsung had produced about 100.000 X-Trails at the Busan plant, to be exported under a manufacturing contract with Nissan. But Nissan cut its output allocation to the plant to 60.000 last year, citing output losses caused by labor strikes. To offset the reduction in the X-Trail production, Renault Samsung badly needs to secure export volume for the XM3 compact SUV, but the company is still in talks with its parent company Renault, and no decision has been made yet. For the whole of 2019, Renault Samsung’s sales plunged 34 % to 90.591 vehicles from 137.208 one year earlier. The company’s current lineup includes the SM3 compact, the all-electric SM3 Z.E. sedan, the QM3 small SUV and the SM5, SM6 and SM7 sedans. Renault has an 80 % stake in Renault Samsung. +++ 

+++ RIVIAN and Tesla are both modern automakers dedicated to producing only electric vehicles. Both bought mothballed conventional assembly plants to build their new vehicles. Both have reconfigured those facilities as they grapple with how to disrupt manufacturing as their vehicles have aimed to disrupt the auto industry. One difference: While Tesla CEO Elon Musk spent nights in a sleeping bag at the end of the assembly line at the plant in Fremont, California, Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe has the good sense to sleep in his own bed while overseeing the developing manufacturing process at his company’s plant in Normal, Illinois. Rivian bought the Normal plant from Mitsubishi in 2017 for $16 million and is preparing it to make an interesting assortment of vehicles. So far, all Rivian prototypes have been built at the Plymouth Engineering and Design Center, but pilot-build vehicles will go down the plant line in the third quarter, with full production of the Rivan R1T 5-passenger electric pickup starting in December. About 3 months later, the Rivian R1S electric SUV, which has more content and a third row of seats, will roll off the same line. Scaringe says he wishes he could pull production forward but is mindful of the complexity. Also to be added to the factory’s mix: an electric luxury SUV for Ford and a fleet of large electric commercial delivery vans for Amazon, to be branded Prime. The factory will have one line dedicated to building a skateboard chassis that all 3 brands will share: skateboard EV chassis bundle the battery pack(s), suspension, electric motors, and other hardware in a vertically short package so that various bodies can be attached. There will be another line tasked with assembling the 3 different battery packs Rivian will offer, and it will feed those directly to the skateboard-chassis line. Ford is designing its own so-called “top hat” (an EV-specific term for the vehicle bodies that use the skateboard architecture) for its high-end electric SUV, but since it will ride on the common architecture, features such as the company’s unique infotainment system must be designed to run on Rivian’s electrical systems. Scaringe would not say when Ford production begins, but design and engineering are locked in and ready to roll. “It’s a very different product from our own SUV, but it’s still in the SUV space”, Scaringe says. While Rivian is going after the adventure market, Ford will pursue luxury buyers, which leads us to deduce it will be sold as a Lincoln. Scaringe would not confirm this supposition, as it’s Ford’s announcement to make, he said. He did say the Ford SUV is “an impressive product, to say the least”. The Amazon Prime vans will have access to the same three battery packs, and use the same electrical architecture and some drivetrains, as well as share some engine control units. To finish vehicles so wildly different in mission, there will be two separate final trim-assembly lines at the Normal plant. One will be a high-content line handling the Rivian and Ford products, while a second, low-content line will finish the Prime vans, which are essentially big, empty boxes to be filled with parcels. Musk has said he wants to revolutionize the way vehicles are manufactured. He raised eyebrows with experiments such as his self-admittedly ill-thought robot he called the “flufferbot”, which proved to be more of a hindrance than a leap of efficiency in its attempts to place fiberglass mats atop battery packs. His firm also started building the Model 3 in a tent in 2018 to increase production. But with those experiments behind Tesla, production has normalized, and the automaker delivered a record 112,000 vehicles in the 4th quarter of 2019. Scaringe is not necessarily trying to reinvent car building, but he says he has spent a lot of time thinking about how assembly should be done to meet the unique needs of the varied vehicles his company will build. Out of necessity, he’s mapping out the way the former Mitsubishi small-car plant should be laid out to handle its new disparate needs. The original Mitsubishi plant was 2.6 million square feet, and Rivian has added another 400.000 square feet. Some aspects of the plant are still usable, including some stamping presses, but they needed modifications to handle the steel and aluminum used in the bodies of the delivery vans and the mostly aluminum bodies of the R1T and R1S; the latter need to be picked up via suction cups, not magnets, for example. Presumably, the Ford SUV will feature an aluminum body, as well, given that the company has embraced that strategy with its pickups and large SUVs. The partnership with Ford has been helpful in this regard, Scaringe says. Ford spent billions revamping its plants to switch the current generation of F-Series pickups and large SUVs to aluminum construction, and the Dearborn-based company now makes about 1 million aluminum-intensive vehicles a year. Ford employees have been generous with their time and expertise in helping Rivian. The existing paint shop at the Rivian plant had to be scrapped; designed for littler cars, it was many sizes too small. Scaringe could probably sell tickets to watch the new e-coating process that dips vehicle bodies to prevent corrosion. Like BMW does at its Spartanburg, South Carolina, plant, Scaringe wants vehicles to enter the tank and flip, end over end, four times, to prevent air bubbles that could lead to rust: picture that body ballet with a 30-foot-long delivery van. The plant ceilings aren’t high enough for this, though, so to solve the problem Rivian lowered the floor, digging an eight-foot pit with giant moorings to house dip tanks that stand about 33 feet tall. Scaringe thinks this makes it the world’s largest dip-process setup. Rivian was founded in 2009 and has since grown to more than 1.800 employees. It could reach 2.500 or more by year’s end as hiring ramps up for the plant while the development team has continued to expand. The Plymouth headquarters is bursting at the seams. The cafeteria area is filled with desks until more office space on a mezzanine level is ready to house more workspace. At the Normal plant, assembly will be on a single shift initially, but some areas, such as battery lines, will run a second shift. The 2 Rivian models have 90 % shared content (they are identical from the B-pillar forward) and were designed to have an identical build process for ease of assembly. Normal has the capacity to make 264.000 vehicles a year. The Amazon contract is for 100.000, which Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said will be filled by 2024. The rest of the capacity is for Rivian and Ford vehicles. On the Rivian side, Scaringe thinks there will be greater demand for the pickup initially, but eventually, orders will be equal for the truck and SUV. And the Rivian lineup will expand. +++


+++ Ferrari is named the world’s STRONGEST BRAND for the second year in a row. That’s according to Brand Finance’s latest report. Are you looking for smart investment opportunities in 2020? Here’s a good idea: research making an investment in Ferrari as the Italian supercar manufacturer has just been crowned as the world’s strongest brand by Brand Finance, one of the leading independent brand valuation and strategy consultancy agencies. The organization’s latest annual report gives the Prancing Horse a result of 94.1 points out of 100 based on the Brand Strength Index (BSI). Only 12 brands in total from all industries get the highest AAA+ rank and Ferrari tops all of them. “The embodiment of luxury, Ferrari continues to be admired and desired around the world, and its outstanding brand strength reflects this”, David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance, comments. “It is no wonder that many consumers, who might never own a Ferrari car, want a bag or a watch emblazoned with the Prancing Horse, but it is also crucial that the company management remain at the steering wheel of the brand’s future and maintain its exclusive positioning by monitoring the licensing output closely”. Ferrari grabs the award for the second year in a row after earning 94.8 points out of 100 in 2019 and leaving behind 14 other brands, including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Lego, and Disney. In the last year, the supercar automaker’s brand value increased by 9 % to $9.1 billion boosted by positive sales and overall brand strength. Ferrari announced 5 new models in 2019, including the SF90 Stradale and Ferrari Roma, both aimed at new market segments, which should help the company grow even further in 2020. Meanwhile, the company also established a manufacturing agreement with the Giorgio Armani Group to help push Ferrari collections, which sells T-shirts, sunglasses, and teddy bears. +++ 

+++ President Donald Trump says Elon Musk will build a new factory in the United States but it’s unclear if that’s true or not. The interview started with Trump praising Musk, saying “He’s also doing the rockets, he likes rockets, and he does good at rockets too by the way”. The U.S. president then pointed out that TESLA ’s chief executive is one of the nation’s great geniuses and that these geniuses must be “protected”. Shortly after this, Trump added, “He’s going to be building a very big plant in the United States. He has to. Because we help him, so he has to help us”. The commander-in-chief is no stranger to making bold proclamations and this is one of them. For what it’s worth, Tesla already has three big plants in the U.S., namely its Fremont factory in California, the Gigafactory 1 in Nevada, and Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo, New York. The electric automaker has yet to state in public if it is indeed planning a new local factory. What I do know is that it will build a European Gigafactory near Berlin, Germany and recently started Model 3 production at its site in Shanghai, China. While it could be that Trump knows something the rest of us don’t about Tesla’s local plans, it’s also possible he made up the claim on the spot. He could have also been referencing a factory Musk could build for one of his other companies like SpaceX. +++ 

+++ Electrified cars will account for 90 % of TOYOTA sales in Europe in 2025. 70 % will be hybrids, 10 % plug-in hybrids, 10 % all-electric and hydrogen fuel cell and finally 10% conventional models. The Toyota Group (including Lexus) would like to increase sales in Europe by 30 %, from around 1.09 million and 5.2 % market share in 2019 to 1.4 million and 6.5 % market share by 2025. The expansion will be directly related to progressing electrification, from over 50 % hybrids to 90 % hybrids, plug-ins, and hydrogen fuel cell cars (70 % HEVs, 10 % PHEVs and 10 % BEVs/FCVs). The remaining 10 % for a conventional powertrain will be distributed between sports cars, off-road vehicles, and commercial vehicles. Over the coming years, the Toyota Group will launch 40 new or updated electrified models, including “at least one plug-in hybrid car a year” by 2025. The new models will be the Toyota RAV4 PHEV, the Lexus UX 300e Electric and the Toyota Mirai (2nd model evolution). 10 % of PHEVs would be 140.000 annually. Similarly, 140.000 will be BEVs / PHEVs some 6 years from now. Globally, Toyota aims for 500.000 EVs annually by 2025. +++ 

+++ The VOLKSWAGEN Group plans to sell 28 million BEVs by 2028. The plan is 3 million annually in 2025 and 28 million all-electric cars sold by 2028. Volkswagen Group’s electrification plans are very ambitious: by the end of 2028, the cumulative sales of all-electric cars, based on the MEB platform, are expected to reach 28 million. Previously, the plan was for 22 million (March 2019). The stake is now very high and with it so are high investments. There is not much margin for errors. Around 2025, one-fifth of all Volkswagen Group sales will be all-electric cars globally. The sales targets are: 2025: 1.5 million BEV sales annually by Volkswagen brand and roughly 3 million BEVs annually by Volkswagen Group (20% of total volume). 2028: 28 million BEVs sold cumulatively by Volkswagen Group. More than half in China. In 2019, the Volkswagen brand sold in total 80.000 BEV/PHEVs, while the cumulative number was 250.000. I don’t know exactly when, but at some point in the future, Volkswagen will introduce the second-wave of all-electric cars, which are expected to achieve the total-cost-of-ownership the same as conventional models (in the mainstream segment). The first all-electric model based on the MEB platform, Volkswagen ID.3, is scheduled for first customer deliveries in August 2020. +++ 

+++ The next-gen VOLVO XC90 is to get a electric version in 2022. Plug-in hybrid and mild-hybrid petrol versions are still to be offered. It’s been a while since Volvo has introduced the current XC90. Though it received a facelift last year, the midsize crossover is turning seven this year. Yes, a bit old but we have to remember that the first-generation model lasted for 12 years. However, the Swedish company isn’t letting its current biggest model reach that kind of maturity. The XC90 will get its third-generation model soon and it will have a full-electric version. This news has been confirmed by CEO Håkan Samuelsson. This is in line with the marque’s strategy to electrify its lineup rather than creating special models. The company has Polestar for that, making electric performance cars in the same Volvo flavour. The next XC90 will be the first model to be based on Volvo’s updated SPA architecture. With that in mind, expect the future 60-series and 90-series to be underpinned by the same platform. Apart from the full-electric version of the XC90, it will still be offered in both plug-in hybrid and mild-hybrid variations. And, as reported before, diesel won’t be an option, which is in line with the company’s aversion to diesel engines towards the end of the previous decade. Apart from electrifying its flagship model, Volvo has also announced that the next XC90 will get Level 4 autonomous driving technology before. This should allow hands-free and eyes-free driving, which of course will be an option for Volvo customers. It will also depend on future regulations, if and when this technology would become legal globally. Volvo is yet to confirm as to when exactly will it reveal the next-generation XC90, but expect it to be revealed in 2022. +++

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