Newsflash: Lexus en Nissan sceptisch over stekker hybride modellen

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+++ AUDI is taking the next step towards the production of the 5G. Together with the Swedish network provider Ericsson, Audi is presenting a new pilot project in human-robot interaction. One of the first case to be shown will be an automation application connected via 5G with a focus on personal safety. Using 5G in production offers many opportunities: seamless communication in real time is a pre-requisite in allowing wireless production robots and employees to work together smoothly in the future. Unlike other wireless technologies, 5G is more reliable, reacts more robustly to high usage levels and is therefore particularly suitable for connecting sensors, machines and devices operated by human beings. Together with Audi, Ericsson is now presenting a further example of how to use 5G in automobile production: An industrial robot installs an airbag module into the steering wheel of an Audi. The robot cell is protected by safety sensors. As soon as a human hand breaks through the cell’s light curtain, the robot stops automatically. The high-frequency (fieldbus) communication required for this is facilitated by the very low latency time, i.e. an end-to-end delay of roughly one millisecond. Thanks to 5G technology, interaction between humans and machine is now possible wirelessly as well. “5G combines all points in our production environment and this leads to enormous improvements in flexibility and connectivity and shows how humans and robots can work together safely”, says Arjen Kreis, Head of Planning Body Shop Automation Technology at Audi. “As part of our project with Ericsson, which we announced in 2018, we are testing the possibility of 5G technology for industrial applications in the smart factory in the Audi Production Lab. These projects will teach us more about how wireless networks can be used optimally in a smart factory”, says Henning Löser, Head of the Audi Production Lab, in which industrial application scenarios for automobile production are tested and developed further using 5G. Together with Ericsson, Audi places a central focus here on particularly latency-critical use, such as interaction with an industrial robot. Since 2018, Audi and the Swedish telecommunications corporation Ericsson have been testing the use of 5G wireless and network technology for the production of vehicles. The partnership between the automobile manufacturer and the 5G innovation leader makes it possible to recognize the potential of wireless communication in production at an early stage. “5G offers the extremely low latency that meets the performance requirements of industrial automation”, declares Marie Hogan, Head of Mobile Broadband & IoT at Ericsson. “Highly developed applications and system-critical IoT networking combined with the advantages of greater flexibility, mobility and efficiency for the purpose of production automation are thus becoming possible for the very first time. ‘Cutting the cables’ is the actual turning point in the Industry 4.0 era”. +++ 

+++ CADILLAC is set to unveil an all-electric midsize crossover in April. Cadillac president Steve Carlisle told company dealerships about the vehicle’s debut. This isn’t the first I’ve heard about Cadillac’s electric crossover as the vehicle was teased through a rendering when the XT6 launched at the Detroit Auto Show in January 2019. The vehicle previewed some 13 months ago had a sharp, aggressive, and low-slung design. It remains what changes will be made to the appearance of the production model. Underpinning Cadillac’s electric crossover will be a newly-developed modular platform to be used by many EVs from General Motors. This platform will support front, rear and allwheel drive configurations, with the latter being the most likely option for the crossover in question. Speaking about the vehicle last year, Carlisle said it will be the “foundation for an entirely new kind of Cadillac, targeted at the heart of the global luxury market. While I can’t divulge all of our secrets, I can tell you it will be sold globally and will arrive as the vanguard of the product wave that follows our current three-year product assault”. An official date for the reveal hasn’t been publicized although the New York Auto Show runs from April 10-19 and will likely host of the unveiling. If not, Cadillac may decide to reveal the vehicle at a dedicated event coinciding with the show. “We enter this decade as an internal combustion engine brand. We want to position ourselves to exit as a battery-electric brand, so we have to manage both at the same time”, Carlisle added. +++ 

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES has confirmed timing for an assortment of upcoming models. First and foremost, the automaker revealed the Maserati Ghibli Hybrid is already in production. The company didn’t say much about the car, but previous reports have suggested it will be a plug-in hybrid that will be introduced at the Beijing Motor Show on April 21st. Sticking with the Maserati theme, the company is working on facelifted versions of the Levante and Quattroporte. They’ll go into production in July and this means we can expect them to be unveiled shortly. Little is known about the vehicles, but they’ll likely feature a host of minor styling changes. This will help to keep the models fresh until redesigns versions are introduced in 2022 and 2023.  The Quattroporte will arrive first and both models will be avaliable with an electric powertrain. Besides talking about Maserati, FCA said pre-production versions of the Fiat 500 BEV are “already undergoing product and process testing in preparation for the production launch in June”. The 500 BEV has been spotted on numerous occasions and could be unveiled next month. Little is known about the vehicle at this point, but previous spy photos have suggested it will follow in the footsteps of the Centoventi concept. In other eco-friendly news, FCA announced the Mirafiori complex will be equipped with approximately 150.000 square meters of solar panels. They’ll be capable of generating up to 15 MW of electricity and the company said this will “contribute to a more than 5 kt reduction in CO2 emissions and supply sustainable energy to charge the electric models manufactured on site”. +++ 

+++ FORD is going to reveal the new Bronco next month, followed by its smaller SUV sibling that will be called the Bronco Sport (previously referred to as ‘baby Bronco’) in April, most likely at the New York Auto Show. The car maker shared that information with dealers at Ford’s annual meeting at the NADA Show. Ford executives told dealers that they estimate at least 200.000 units sold in 2021 from the entire Bronco family, that will initially include both 2- and 4-door bodystyles, aiming to challenge Jeep. The smaller Bronco Sport will be the first to reach the market as it’ll go on sale late this year, with the normal Bronco not becoming available until early 2021. Ford is also going to offer “hundreds of Bronco accessories”, which will be available at launch, in a bid to help the company boost its profitability. The new Ford Bronco is expected to be a classic body-on-frame SUV, designed to be a “no-compromise midsize 4×4 utility for thrill seekers who want to venture way beyond the city”, at least according to the car maker. The chassis will be shared with the Ranger pickup truck while available engines will include both 4 and 6 cylinder EcoBoost units. The upcoming Bronco Sport will retain the square looks of its bigger sibling but will instead be based on a unibody design, sharing the same platform with the Kuga. In addition to all-wheel drive, the Ford Bronco Sport is expected to become available with 4 cylinder EcoBoost engines but unlike the Kuga, it’s not going to be offered with any hybrid powertrains. Ford also told the dealers that the new Bronco is designed with customization in mind, featuring a removable hard top, as well as removable doors which can be stored in the luggage compartment. “Now that everyone knows the Bronco is coming, we know that’s going to transform our business. For a lot of dealers, just hearing this isn’t a one-vehicle play, it’s a family of vehicles, people are walking out of here very positive”, said John Crane, Ford’s national dealer council chairman. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI is halting production at one of its factories again due to a shortage of parts supplied from China due to the coronavirus outbreak. Hyundai said that production at one of its Ulsan plants will stop until Thursday. The plant makes the Veloster and Kona. The Ulsan plant earlier halted production from February 5-12 due to a stoppage in supplies from China of cable harnesses, a bundle of wires that connect various circuits in a car. “We resumed production but have not been getting enough supplies of the cable harnesses”, a Hyundai spokesman said. “That has led to the operation rate falling to below 50 %, so we decided to halt it again”. The automaker is considering idling its second Ulsan plant on Friday, which manufactures the GV80 and Palisade SUVs. Other automakers here have also been forced to idle many assembly lines since parts supplies from China have been disrupted due to the coronavirus outbreak there. GM Korea temporarily halted production at its plant in Incheon that manufactures the Trailblazer SUV. +++ 

+++ It’s official: 17.355 units of the JAGUAR I-Pace were sold by the manufacturer. Will more be sold in 2020? The official Jaguar global sales report for the month of December 2019 revealed also the final numbers for last year. The British brand delivered in December 1.911 units of the I-Pace; down 14.3 % year-over-year, although from a record level of 2.230 and at a near-record share of 14.3 % out of its overall sales volume. The result for the year 2019 is 17.355 units of the I-Pace sold (up 252 % compared to several months of 2018). On average, the I-Pace had a 10.7 % share out of total Jaguar sales, which is really strong. Since the introduction, sales has exceeded 24.000 units. The problem that Jaguar has is a general decrease in sales globally because basically all the petrol / diesel models are losing ground. Additionally, the company reportedly has trouble with battery constraints (from LG Chem), which is “throttling” production of cars. In the near future, Jaguar should introduce more plug-ins, including an all-electric XJ successor. +++ 

+++ KIA offered a preview of its 4th generation Sorento Monday, ahead of its official debut at the Geneva International Motor Show next month. The mid-sized SUV has been fully redesigned since the third generation launched in 2014. The 2021 version adopts the company’s new design concept (“Borderless Gesture”) that combines the heritage of its SUV predecessors with the more refined, delicate style of sedans, Kia announced in a statement. The updated SUV also has a Tiger Nose grille, a hallmark design feature that Kia has applied to some of its recently released models. The interior is designed with a “Functional Emotions” concept, containing a 12.3-inch display cluster and a 10.25-inch display infotainment system. It will contain a dial-type gear shift with dual air vents that can be independently shifted in 4 directions. The car will come with hybrid variants to follow up with its eco-friendly initiative. Its sibling company Hyundai similarly will introduce hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the Santa Fe and Tucson SUVs in the near future. The Hyundai Motor Group announced earlier this year that it will invest more than 100 trillion won ($84.6 billion) in the next 5 years to launch eco-friendly vehicles, commercialize an autonomous driving platform and introduce new mobility services to the world by 2025. The latest Sorento is also in line with Kia’s initiative to strengthen its SUV line-ups as global demand continues to rise for those vehicles. Kia currently sells the Telluride, Mohave, Sorento, Sportage and Stonic, while also offering the Soul boxcar and Niro crossover models to consumers. Kia hopes the launch of the new Sorento will provide a boost to its 2020 goal of selling 2.96 million vehicles around the world, which would be a 4.9 % increase from its total sales of 2.77 million units last year. +++ 

+++ Koji Sato became head of LEXUSin January after spending the last 4 years as the Toyota premium brand’s chief engineer; a title he retains. Sato starts the decade facing the same mega-challenge as other automaker CEOs: How to prepare for the rise of electrified, autonomous, connected cars on a global level. Lexus’s strength in hybrids puts it in a good position to meet current emissions standards, but regulators are demanding more. Sato outlined how he will steer the brand through these obstacles in an interview. When asked how will Lexus will look in 2030, given that addressing technology trends will be a huge challenge, Sato says: “All the DNA of Lexus was in our debut model, the first-generation LS from 1989 which was quiet, comfortable and well crafted. These 3 elements are our core. As we enhance our brand in the next 10 years, we want to always provide a better experience for our customers. In the past, people talked about the car based on its specifications: This car has this fuel economy, or this acceleration time. Today the customer really wants to have a better experience. That means we need to provide more emotional value and that can’t be measured. Our engineers are working hard on this. On one hand CASE [Connected, Autonomous, Shared, Electric] will have a big impact on the entire automotive industry, not just Lexus. But we still want to be unique and never lose sight of our brand direction to make sure we are not making a commodity. People have said that automated driving will make a car less enjoyable, but I don’t think so. For example, later this year we will introduce our first-generation automated drive (based on Toyota’s Automated Highway Teammate). This development is always trying to determine how the customer feels about it. It’s OK that everything is controlled by computers. I don’t want to say it’s easy to manufacture, but anyone can do it. But, if the car enters a corner at high speed, how do you feel? We want to create a unique driving behavior, even if it’s in automated mode. That helps us create our uniqueness. Electrified technology is the same. The current questions about electrified vehicles include: What is the range? What is the battery? This is common sense. But if you think about the future, we need to create additional value. Enjoyment is one. One example is the advanced traction control in the LF30 concept revealed at the 2019 Tokyo auto show. That is one of the key areas where we can create this unique vehicle behavior. We should never forget the fun-to-drive aspect. Some people will say the car will be a commodity, but we don’t think so”. When asked if we will see a car by the end of the decade with an electric motor in each wheel like the RF30 concept, Sato said: “This concept hints at our direction by the end of 2030. We want to realize this car, but we know some elements present some technical difficulties. This is the challenge. We believe if we set the bar high, all the engineers will work to fill the gap.Lexus is launching its first autonomous-capable car this autumn. It will start from Level 2 but it will have over the air (OTA) updates so that in the future we will update the level. Regulation as well as social concerns may affect what level we can produce in the real world, so we need to consider customers’ expectations and how society will adapt. It will use lidar. Automated drive technology is not just focusing on the super high level. Our target is to expand it to a wide range of vehicles. It will be applied next year for the first-generation automated drive vehicle and after that we will roll out the technology to other vehicles. The autonomous technology won’t be offered this year, but sometime in the future. The car that debuts this autumn will be OTA-ready, but OTA itself will not happen this year. One example, and this is just an idea, the customer could upgrade the driving character, the suspension settings or aerodynamics that are linked to performance and make them fit their own tastes. They could download this. Technology improvement never stops. At launch the technology is at the perfect level, but, of course, we will never stop so we will find new solutions”. When asked if Lexus will launch a hydrogen car by the end of the decade, Sato says: “We are investigating the technology. Hydrogen is one of the solutions for the future. It can be stored, and the charging speed is the same as filling up with gasoline”. When asked what share of Lexus sales are SUVs and if that share will continue to grow, Sato says: “Globally, SUVs account for about 65 % of our sales. Our highest volume is in the U.S., where they represent 60 % to 70 % of our sales. Europe is 80 % and China is about 50 %. We think this trend will continue for another 5 years or so but after that, maybe SUVs will be on the ropes and people will want something new. We need to prepare for something other than the SUV over the next 10 years. The LF30 concept is one proposal for that. We will not expand our vehicle lineup with a range of SUV coupes”. When asked when Lexus will add its first plug-in hybrid to the lineup, Sato says: “By 2025. We are thinking globally. We believe the hybrid will need additional work if you are thinking long term. It’s easy to just put in a big battery, but our priority is to fundamentally improve the entire hybrid system. That will help us apply the technology to battery-electric vehicles and fuel-cell vehicles. That’s the main reason why we are taking our time. It’s about priorities. Compared with other brands we already have low CO2”. When asked if Lexus would like to add production in Europe in the future, possibly using a Toyota plant, Sato says: “To produce vehicles in Europe, we would need to reach a certain volume. That being said, we continue to believe that our main Lexus factories should be in Japan, because one of our identities is Takumi craftsmanship (an artisan philosophy of applying a human touch to all aspects of Lexus design and development). We are really proud of that. We need to investigate whether there is any opportunity in the B-segment. We are not sure right now. Many car manufacturers go into this segment but sometimes disappear so it’s complicated. It’s a very difficult part of the market because the business is fractured globally. It’s mainly Europe and some Asian countries, including Japan, but the U.S.? No chance. It could work as electric only. Many manufacturers are developing short-range EVs for this segment”. +++ 

+++ NISSAN ’s new chief executive said he would accept being fired if he fails to turn around Japan’s second biggest automaker which is grappling with plunging sales in the aftermath of the scandal surrounding ex-chairman Carlos Ghosn. Makoto Uchida, who took over the top job in December, put his job on the line at a raucous shareholders’ meeting, where he faced demands ranging from cutting executive pay to offering a bounty to bring Ghosn back to Japan after he fled to Lebanon. Nissan’s worsening performance has heaped pressure on the 53-year-old Uchida, formerly Nissan’s China chief who became its third CEO since September, to come up with aggressive steps to revive the company. Uchida, who faced repeated heckling by shareholders, said he was ready to face dismissal if he failed to improve profitability at the company, which is on course to post its worst annual operating profit in 11 years. “We will make sure that we steer the company in an effective way so that it is visible in the eyes of viewers. I will commit to this: if the circumstances remain uncertain you can fire me immediately”, he said. Uchida did not give a timeframe for improving Nissan’s performance. The new boss must prove to the board he can accelerate cost-cutting and rebuild profits at the 86 year old Japanese giant and that he has the right strategy to repair its partnership with Renault, sources have told. Uchida pleaded for patience while he compiles a plan by May to recover from crumbling profits and a corporate shake-up following Ghosn’s arrest in Japan in late 2018 over financial misconduct charges. “If you can be patient a little bit longer, on a day-to-day basis you will be able to sense we are changing”, he said. Angry shareholders questioned the ability of Uchida and other executives to lead Nissan’s recovery, and aired misgivings about issues including ex-CEO Hiroto Saikawa’s resignation, transparency into the company’s probe into Ghosn and the use of Toyota vehicles to transport board members. Attendance at the meeting to vote in new directors, including Uchida and chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta, stood at 666 and was the lowest on records dating back to 2005. Before it began, some shareholders demanded more clarity about Uchida’s plan. “I just want to know what the plan for recovery is. At the moment, the share price has dropped again and the value of the company has plummeted”, said a 70-year-old former employee who owns shares in the company. “If this is the situation, part of me thinks that we would be better off with Ghosn. If we don’t get a clearer vision of the path the company is taking, it will be a worry”. Nissan’s shares are trading around their lowest level in more than a decade following its latest earnings. Last week, it cut its dividend outlook to its lowest since the 2011 financial year, after dwindling car sales drove the company to post its first quarterly net loss in nearly a decade. +++ 

+++ OPEL will continue its international sales push by re-entering the Japanese market with 3 models exported from Europe: the Corsa, Grandland X and Combo Life. The Corsa, Opel’s best-selling car in 2019 with 229,911 worldwide sales, will be available in a full-electric version and the Grandland X as a plug-in hybrid. Opel said that the Corsa could be given a different model name in Japan. Opel said it would start sales in 2021 in Japan, where its owner, PSA Group, sold more than 15.600 cars in 2019 under the Citroen, DS and Peugeot brands. The brand will build a dealer network in major Japanese cities, with the goal of covering 80 % of the country by 2023. “Our return to Japan is a very important step to significantly increase our profitable exports”, Opel CEO Michael Lohscheller said in a news release. A total of 2.8 million passenger cars were sold in 2019 in Japan; a decline of 2.5 % from 2018. The country also has a robust market for vehicles with engine displacement under 660cc, with more than 1.9 million sold in 2019. The top imported brands last year were Mercedes-Benz, with more than 66.500 sales and a 19 % import market share, followed by BMW and Volkswagen. As part of its PACE turnaround plan, Opel is aiming for more than 10 % of sales outside of Europe by 2025. It will enter (or re-enter) at least 20 new markets by 2022 under the plan. Opel was largely confined to Europe under its former owner, General Motors, to avoid cannibalizing sales from the automaker’s other brands. It exited the Japanese market in 2006, after annual sales there fell from a high of more than 30.000 in 1996 to less than 2.000. Last year, all but 4 % of Opel/Vauxhall’s global sales of 973.400 were in Europe. Opel re-entered the Russian market in 2019, with local production of the midsize Zafira Life passenger van and Vivaro Transporter commercial van at PSA’s factory in Kaluga. It is also exporting the Grandland X from Europe. Earlier this month the brand announced it would begin exporting models to Ecuador and Colombia this summer. Other markets that Opel has entered or has revamped its distribution network since it was sold to PSA in 2017 include South Africa, Tunisia, Morocco, Ukraine and Israel. +++ 

+++ Nissan’s third-generation QASHQAI will go on sale this year, sporting a pair of new hybrid powertrains, an updated version of the current car’s CMF underpinnings and a sleek design makeover. Nissan is also considering ditching the Qashqai’s diesel engine. Nissan has also confirmed that there won’t be a pure-electric version of the new Qashqai. Full electric power will be reserved for a seperate SUV model based on an all-new platform, which is likely to underpin a whole family of electric cars spanning the B, C and D segments for Nissan and its Alliance partners Renault and Mitsubishi. The next-generation Qashqai will be based on an updated version of the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s CMF platform, which offers support for electrification. There won’t be EV variant of the Qashqai with that niche instead being filled by the Japanese brand’s forthcoming all-electric SUV, which was previewed by the Ariya concept at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show. Ponz Pandikuthira, Nissan’s Europen Vice President of Product Planning, said: “a new platform is what’s best to accommodate electrified technologies. It probably won’t include full electrification, because that’s a complete tear-up and the investment required for that would be considerably higher”. As such, the new Qashqai will be offered with 2 hybrid powertrains: 1 featuring Nissan’s innovative ePower system and 1 sporting Mitsubishi’s plug-in hybrid powertrain. The former system is currently found in the Japanese-delivered Nissan Note, where it’s proven popular. It’s a series hybrid system featuring a petrol engine that works as a generator to charge the battery, which then powers an electric motor. Plug-in hybrid technology will come from Mitsubishi, who is widely accepted as a market leader in the field. Unlike rivals, Mitsubishi has already managed to tweak its Outlander PHEV to produce figures below 50 g/km CO2 under the tougher WLTP testing regime, and it’s expected that the new Qashqai will offer similar figures. “We’re investigating the ePower technology for Europe”, explained Pandikuthira. “The biggest difference when you do these onboard generator vehicles is highway driving. In Japan, they typically don’t go above 80-110 kph. Here in Europe, you do 130-140 kph on a regular basis. At those speeds, you end up depleting the battery very quickly, so the range extender has to work really hard to keep the energy going and then it goes out of its range of efficiency”. However, Pandikuthira wasn’t convinced about the benefits of plug-in hybrids. He told: “We’re not pursuing a big plug-in hybrid strategy. On some car lines we’ll try it out, but the business case for plug-in hybrids is not very good. For us, it’s a bridge technology for the next two to four years until battery costs drop to the point where the variable costs of making full EVs prevail”. With 2 hybrid models planned for the next Qashqai, insiders have hinted that it’s likely to spell the end of diesel power in Nissan’s SUV. Sales of new diesel cars dropped by almost 32 % in 2018, and this trend continued into 2019, with new diesel vehicles declining in popularity by a further 28 %. The next-generation Qashqai will feature more technology, with updates to Nissan’s ProPilot autonomous driving systems and added connectivity features. Styling-wise, the SUV will adopt a revolutionary new design. However, it won’t get any larger, with Pandikuthira saying: “You’ll notice with the last Qashqai, we left it at 4.4 metres. We didn’t grow it into a big, bloated vehicle”. +++ 

+++ Unless you’re a Land Rover fan boy, you probably cannot tell that the outgoing RANGE ROVER SPORT has been around since 2013, but it is, and in today’s market, this makes it pretty old. Luckily, the British company is already working on its successor. The design is understood to be an evolution of the current model with plenty of styling cues borrowed from the Velar. It will retain, however, the series’ characteristic square profile and prominent front end. The prototype seen playing on a snowy road in northern Europe had a quad exhaust pipe layout. On top of that, our spies said that the engine sounded very nice, hinting at a possible V8 engine. While there’s no way of debugging the rumor, Land Rover is tipped to be working on a comprehensive engine deal with BMW, which will see the latter lend its 4-cylinder and V8 turbo units to the next-generation Range Rover flagship, and they could do the same to the Sport model. JLR’s new straight-6 turbo in both mild and full-hybrid variants will also be on offer. As for the platform, the third generation Range Rover Sport is believed to be based on JLR’s new MLA  (Modular Longitudinal Architecture) which has been designed to accommodate an assortment of different powertrains including internal combustion engines, mild hybrid systems, plug-in hybrid systems and fully electric powertrains. It will be shared among others with the upcoming Jaguar XJ electric flagship sedan. The all-new Range Rover Sport is believed to be introduced at the end of 2021 or early 2022. +++ 

+++ French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire warned RENAULT against shutting factories in France and cutting jobs there after the carmaker announced “no taboos” cost cuts last week. Renault reported its first loss in a decade which triggered a commitment to cut costs by €2 billion over the next 3 years, in a plan that could also hit plants in France, its interim chief said. “The state will play its role as shareholder in Renault to make sure that the choices which will be made will not go against jobs and factories in France”, Le Maire told journalists, adding the government would talk with the carmaker and remain “very vigilant” on its cost cuts strategy. He said he had discussed Renault’s industrial plan in a telephone call with Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard. That dialogue will continue, Le Maire added, acknowledging Renault’s needs to adapt to face new challenges. But he said changes should take into account the long-term interests of Renault in France. +++ 

+++ SINGAPORE aims to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, making a bigger bet on electric cars as part of its efforts to cut greenhouse gases and fight climate change, the finance minister said. The wealthy city-state of 5.7 million, which is hiking investment in flood defences, joins Norway, Britain and others in setting a target to cut the use of vehicles with combustion engines. “Our vision is to phase out ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles and have all vehicles run on cleaner energy by 2040”, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in his budget speech. Singapore, which has been criticised by Tesla CEO Elon Musk as not being supportive of electric vehicles, is one of the most expensive places in the world to buy a car and there are few electric vehicles on the roads. Heng said measures to encourage electric vehicle adoption included a registration fee rebate on purchases of fully electric car and taxis. The country, an oil-refining hub, will also expand public charging infrastructure to 28.000 points by 2030 from 1.600 now. “As a low-lying island nation, rising sea levels threatens our very existence”, Heng said, adding that he was setting aside a coastal and flood protection fund with an initial injection of $3.6 billion. Last year, the prime minister said protecting Singapore against rising sea levels could cost $72 billion or more over 100 years. +++ 

+++ SSANGYONG ’s flagship Rexton Sports has sold more than 40.000 units annually for the second year in a row, the carmaker announced. This is the first time Ssangyong has sold over 40.000 units of an SUV brand 2 years in a row, the company said. SsangYong said 41.717 Rexton Sports vehicles were sold in 2018, accounting for 99.2 % of the total number of pickup trucks sold in Korea that year. In 2019, a total of 41.328 Rexton Sports vehicles were sold. Launched in 2018 January, Rexton Sports has led domestic sales of SsangYong since its launch. Following the popularity here, the automaker launched a long-body model, the Rexton Sports Khan, last year. The automaker said the competitive price of Rexton Sports compared to other open type-SUVs in Korea has boosted its popularity. In January, Rexton Sports was also chosen as the pickup of 2020 by global automotive magazines such as 4X4 and What Car, according to SsangYong. +++  

+++ TESLA is in advanced stages of talks to use batteries from CATL that contain no cobalt (one of the most expensive metals in electric vehicle batteries) in cars made at its China plant, people familiar with the matter said. Adoption would mark the first time for the U.S. automaker to include so-called lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries in its lineup, as it seeks to lower production costs amid faltering overall EV sales in China. Tesla has been talking to the Chinese manufacturer for more than a year to supply LFP batteries that will be cheaper than its existing batteries by a “double-digit percent”, said a person directly involved in the matter, who was not authorized to speak with media and so declined to be identified. Tesla and Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd (CATL) declined to comment. Electric vehicle manufacturers usually use nickel-cobalt-aluminum (NCA) or nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) batteries on passenger vehicles because of their higher energy density, which is critical in determining how far an EV can drive on single charge. To boost the density and safety of its LFP batteries, CATL has been working on its so-called cell-to-pack technology, the people told. It was not clear to what extent Tesla intends to use LFP batteries but the automaker has no plans to stop using its current NCA batteries, said one of the people. Tesla has been ramping up production of its Model 3 cars at its newly built $2 billion Shanghai plant and cutting prices to win market share from conventional premium automakers such as BMW and Daimler. Tesla started to deliver cars from the factory in December, helping it save on shipping costs and tariffs for imported models. It is currently seeking regulatory approval to make longer-range Model 3 cars at the plant. Sales in China of new energy vehicles (referring to battery-only, plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles) likely sank 54.4 % in January, industry data showed, due in part to the Lunar New Year holiday starting earlier than last year as well as the impact of the outbreak in China of a new coronavirus. The use of LFP batteries will also help Chief Executive Elon Musk meet a 2018 promise that Tesla would cut the use of cobalt (which costs some $33,500 a tonne) to “almost nothing”. Tesla plans to host a battery event, probably in April, to share its future battery strategy and technology, Musk said at an earnings conference in January. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA will launch a Yaris-based small SUV for Europe, featuring all-wheel-drive and a hybrid powertrain, at this year’s Geneva motor show. The Japanese firm says that the as-yet-unnamed new model blends its “extensive small car experience with its strong SUV heritage”. The model was first announced at a company showcase event in January. It will use the same TNGA-B platform and the same 1.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid powertrain as the new Yaris. Despite sharing many parts with the Yaris, Toyota claimed the SUV is an entirely new design. Toyota’s European vice-president, Matthew Harrison, promised that the car won’t be “just a Yaris with body cladding and raised suspension”. Instead, it will be “an entirely new and distinctive B-SUV model” with a “compact, dynamic design and a personality of its own”. Sitting directly below the C-HR, it will be longer, wider and taller than the Yaris, with a longer wheelbase, and offer ‘intelligent’ four-wheel drive system and proper off-road suspension, according to Toyota representatives. Toyota hopes the model will help capitalise on the ongoing popularity of compact high-riding models and predicts the model to make up almost 30 % of European sales volume, along with the Yaris, by 2025. It will face stiff competition from the all-new Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Ford Puma. Toyota said the name of the SUV, volume plans and the timing of its introduction will be announced at a future date. It will be built alongside the Yaris at Toyota’s plant in Onnaing, France. Toyota’s stand at Geneva will also feature the new RAV4 PHEV and second-generation Mirai fuel cell car, alongside the prototype GR Yaris hot hatch. +++ 

+++ VOLVO ’s subscription-based alternative to vehicle ownership, Care by Volvo, is poised to gain ground in Germany this year after making key changes in 2019. “If you want, you can return your car after three months, or just do a 30-day trial, without any sort of hassle. That is how much we trust the program”, said Lex Kerssemakers, a longtime top Volvo executive who was named the automaker’s first head of direct consumer business last March. One of Kerssemakers’ main responsibilities is making the Care by Volvo scheme, which debuted in late 2017, a success after a bumpy start. The idea behind the program is that a person subscribes to a car rather than buys it. There is no down payment to start the subscription, which includes insurance and maintenance. Along with adjusting downward the subscription length, which started out at one year, Volvo expanded the Care by Volvo portfolio, which debuted with just the XC40, to include the XC90, XC60, V60 and S60. Kerssemakers said the flexibility that was built into Care by Volvo in Germany meant that the program exceeded his expectations last year by topping 2.000 subscriptions. Volvo estimates the subscriptions represent more than 5 % of the automaker’s total registrations in Germany. The aim for 2020 is to boost that number to between 10 % and 15 %, he told. Along with Germany, Care by Volvo is operational in the Netherlands and about to launch in Norway. The UK, Sweden and 2 additional European countries will join this year, Volvo said. Meanwhile, the take rate is below 1 % in the United States, where Care by Volvo has been considered a threat by dealers. The California New Car Dealers Association, which represents nearly 2 dozen Volvo dealers, filed a petition last year with the state’s motor vehicle board, arguing that the Care by Volvo subscription program violates state law meant to prohibit manufacturers from competing with their franchisees. Speaking last week at the J.D. Power Auto Summit, Volvo Car USA boss Anders Gustafsson said he expects a revamped version of the subscription program to be successful because it’s more integrated with the dealer network. The changes in the U.S. also include an expanded lineup and Volvo now allows retailers there to offer vehicles on their lots to subscription customers. Under the original program, subscription customers would have to order the car. Kerssemakers said that Volvo’s figures show Care by Volvo has the potential to help its car retailers. “The cars we have subscribed in Germany were all done online and very few via the dealer”, he said, “so the likelihood we would have seen them at the dealer is relatively low”. Kerssemakers emphasized, however, that Volvo still needs its dealers, which will continue to deliver the vehicles to customers and oversee maintenance. “This is not us against dealers”, he said. “This is to secure that we, Volvo, and our dealers have an answer as the world changes and people buy and own things differently. If we want to avoid becoming a commodity supplier, we need to secure that we keep control our own value chain”. Kerssemakers said another key piece of information for dealers about Care by Volvo is that so far the scheme has achieved a conquest rate of more than 90 %. “That could be because of the newness of the program, but normally when you launch a car you are very happy with a 40 % to 50 % conquest rate”, Kerssemakers said. “That tells me there is a need for such a car-ownership model. Otherwise we wouldn’t have had such a high conquest rate”. When asked whether Care by Volvo is already profitable, Kerssemakers said the scheme is starting to make money in Europe but that is not the case in the United States. “In 1 to 2 years from now, I can tell you whether it works. I’m convinced it will work because it applies to a need that is there in the market”, Kerssemakers said. “How do we know? Because there are a lot of people who do not have a lot of cash, but they have cash flow. They are prepared to spend that cash flow. And a subscription is the most normal thing in the world”. +++

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