Newsflash: Volkswagen komt in 2024 met ID.3 R

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+++ We’re only a couple of weeks away from seeing the ARIYAelectric crossover in production guise, as Nissan has announced July 15 as the official premiere date. Set to take on the likes of the Tesla Model Y, it will launch in Japan at first but will eventually become available in other global markets, including China, Europe and the United States. The Ariya will be produced at the Tochigi plant in Japan that is being converted to produce electric vehicles. As Nissan has already confirmed last week when it teased the zero-emission crossover, it will pack the ProPilot 2.0 semi-autonomous driving system. The automaker did not say whether the tech will be introduced to other markets or will remain exclusive the Land of the Rising Sun. ProPilot 2.0 allows the car to take care of the acceleration, braking and steering on its own on motorways, without forcing drivers to keep their hands on the wheel at all times. The system will make its way to over 20 models in 20 markets all over the globe as part of the company’s mid-term business plan that ends on March 31, 2024. This also includes 8 new EVs that will go on sale worldwide within the next 18 months, and 12 completely new models. “The highlight of the new Ariya is the fusion of electrification and advanced driver-assist technologies that is expected to develop into self-driving cars in the future”, explained CEO Makoto Uchida. “We expect the all-new Ariya to play a key role as brand driver and face of Nissan for the new era”. +++ 

+++ China’s tech giant Tencent has released TAD Sim 2.0, the new generation of its AUTONOMOUS DRIVING simulation platform, to improve the development and testing efficiency of autonomous driving. Simulation has been widely used in self-driving technology development and urban smart-transportation management. Tencent’s new platform, driven by both real data and gaming technology, has a built-in centimeter-level digital map, as well as dynamic and static environments for autonomous driving testing. Compared with the previous generation, TAD Sim 2.0 fills the gap between road test data and virtual scenarios. With higher resolution in 3D scenario reconstruction and sensor simulation, the platform can make the simulation closer to reality. A huge variety of environments, weather conditions and even extreme traffic conditions can be generated by combining road test data and virtual scenarios to fulfill the needs of autonomous driving testing in TAD Sim 2.0. According to Tencent, TAD Sim 2.0’s cloud version is able to run more than 10 million kilometers per day. +++ 

+++ BUGATTI is allegedly building a one-off Chiron roadster. Details about the exclusive model are scarce, though the new Chiron model will have a price tag of €10 million before taxes. The arrival of such a model, a Chiron with an open-top, makes sense because we’ve yet to see one from the bespoke French automaker. I’ve reached out to Bugatti for confirmation that it’s developing the model, and I’ll update the story if I hear back. Automakers aren’t eager to comment on future products. However, this wouldn’t be the first open-top Bugatti. Back when the automaker produced the Veyron, it offered the Grand Sport. That wasn’t a one-off model, though, like this Chiron is reported to be. The high price tag hints that it will also be exclusive. The open-top Chiron could be something special, with a speedster-like wraparound windshield (think Veyron Barchetta). The automaker has had few qualms about expanding the Chiron lineup with new mainstream and exclusive models. Well, as mainstream as Bugatti gets. The open-top Chiron would join an already brimming field of other Bugatti models. Since the introduction of the Chiron for 2016, Bugatti has introduced several new models like the Chiron Pur Sport and Super Sport 300+. Then there are the exclusives like the Divo and Centodieci. An open-top version, whether it follows the Grand Sport route or Veyron Barchetta, would fit right in. I doubt Bugatti would struggle to find a customer interested in it. +++ 

+++ CHINA is planning to raise the ratio of electric cars and plug-in hybrids in carmakers’ lineups in coming years, which officials and analysts say will help foster the growth of the burgeoning new energy vehicle industry in the world’s largest auto market. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said last week that carmakers in the country will garner credits accounting for 14 % of their deliveries in 2021, and the figure will grow to 16 % in 2022 and 18 % in 2023. This is part of the amendment of the dual credit policy China promulgated in 2017, which assesses carmakers according to their efforts to cut fuel consumption and to produce new energy vehicles. Carmakers can amass credits by producing gasoline vehicles with less emissions than the country’s standards or by producing electric cars, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles. The companies are allowed to offset deficits in gasoline vehicle credits with those accumulated by their sister companies, those from producing new energy vehicles or those bought from others. When promulgated in 2017, the requirements were 8 % of a carmaker’s vehicle deliveries for 2018, 10 % for 2019 and 12 % for 2020. Back then, a carmaker could earn up to five points for producing an electric vehicle and 2 points for producing a plug-in hybrid. Now they can fetch 3.4 points and 1.6 points, according to the amendment. Officials at the ministry said the new requirements can basically ensure that by 2025 passenger vehicles’ average fuel consumption will fall to 4.0 liters per 100 km and new energy vehicles will account for 20 % of total vehicles in the year. They said since the adoption of the dual credit policy, carmakers have increased their investment in research and development, rolled out more new energy vehicles and improved passenger vehicle fuel efficiency. Statistics show that average fuel consumption stood at 5.5 liters per 100 km in 2019; down 10 % from 2016. New energy vehicle sales in the year totaled 1.06 million, ranking first globally for 5 years in a row. Thomas Fang, a partner in the China office of global consulting firm Roland Berger, said the ratio increase is gradual, which is a good continuation of the current policy, and its emphasis on efforts to cut power consumption will help support competent carmakers. The revisions have allowed vehicles with lower power consumption to earn more points than before, he said. Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of the China Passenger Car Association, said China’s new energy vehicle sector, which has seen sales fall since the second half of 2019, will see a rise in 2021 thanks to the amendment. Analysts say international carmakers may have to work harder to meet the requirements than Chinese brands, which have a few years’ head start producing electric cars. Volkswagen, the most popular international carmaker in China, said it will promote the development of the new energy vehicle market together with its Chinese partners. The German carmaker sells more than 4 million vehicles a year in China, which means it must garner 560.000 points by selling at least 160.000 electric cars a year in 2021. It will be a difficult task to finish because it will take at least months this year to roll out its first locally made electric model, the ID 3, at its joint venture SAIC Volkswagen. Stephan Wollenstein, CEO of Volkswagen Group China, said the carmaker is expecting to sell 1.5 million new energy vehicles a year in the country by 2025. Volkswagen is acquiring 26 % of electric vehicle battery maker Gotion High-Tech for around €1 billion, to become its largest shareholder. General Motors, another bestselling carmaker in China, did not comment on the new credit requirements by press time. But in an interview earlier this year, GM China CEO Julian Blissett said the automaker would introduce its new electric vehicle platform into China and work with more local suppliers in the production of electric vehicle parts. The US automaker aims to have 20 new energy vehicle models available to Chinese consumers by 2023. According to statistics released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology last year, 75 out of 141 passenger carmakers operating in China did not meet the country’s standards in 2018. Most of those who failed were international carmakers or their joint ventures in the country, including SAIC GM, Beijing Hyundai, Changan Ford and FAW Toyota. +++ 

+++ EMISSIONS from new cars registered in the European Union, United Kingdom, Iceland and Norway rose for the third consecutive year in 2019, with the European Environment Agency (EEA) calling on manufacturers to rapidly increase the roll-out of zero- and low-emission vehicles. According to provisional data produced by the EEA, average emissions from new passenger cars in 2019 reached 122.4 g/km CO2; up 1.6 g/km from 2018; well above the EU fleet target of 95 g/km being introduced this year. It is the third straight year that new car CO2 emissions have risen in the EU, following a steady decline from 2010 until 2016. Under the tough new EU rules being introduced for 2020, manufacturers face steep fines for exceeding their fleet targets, which for this year are based around cutting average fleet emissions to 95 g/km. The EEA calculated the data from the near-15.5 million cars registered in the EU, UK, Iceland and Norway. It attributed the increase to several factors, including the continued increase in sales of SUVs and heavier cars, and relatively low sales of electrified cars. Of that total, 59 % were petrol engines, with diesel accounting for 31 %; a decline of 23 % since 2011. Hybrids accounted for around 4 %, while electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles combined totalled 3.5 %; up from 2 % in 2018. Around half of all EV sales were registered in Norway, Germany and the Netherlands. According to the EEA, around 38 % of new car registrations in 2019 were SUVs, which, it said, have increased fuel consumption because they “are typically heavier and have more powerful engines and larger frontal areas”. According to the EEA data, the majority of SUVs were petrol powered, with average emissions of 134 g/km CO2; around 13 g/km higher than the average emissions of other new petrol cars. While SUVs accounted for some of the increase in average vehicle weight, the EEA noted that the average mass of all new cars across all segments rose by 30 kg from 2018 to 2019. The EEA also noted that the 127.0 g/km CO2 average emissions of diesel cars is now just 0.6 g/km lower than the average for petrol cars (127.6g/km); the smallest gap since it began recording data. Although the increase in average new car emissions for 2019 is a concern, manufacturers are pushing hard to cut their 2020 fleet averages to meet the new EU targets. Most firms have greatly increased both their range and availability of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric cars, and some have also halted production or limited availability of some higher-emission vehicles. While the EU has required all vehicles to be tested under the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) since 2017, for compliance the fleet average data is still recorded using the old New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) measurement. +++ 

+++ Automakers from JAPAN are suffering an extended slump in South Korea amid a protracted trade row between the two Asian neighbors and the coronavirus pandemic, industry sources said. Honda Korea reported an operating profit to 1.98 billion won ($1.64 million) in the 2019 fiscal year that ended in March, plunging 90 percent from 19.6 billion won a year earlier, according to its audit report. Its sales also plunged 23 % to 363.2 billion won from 467.4 billion won over the cited period. Its vehicle sales here also sank by 73 % in the first 5 months of the year from a year earlier to 1.323. Nissan also decided to pull out from South Korea 16 years after its landing here amid an extended slump with weak sales caused by lingering anti-Japan sentiment and the new coronavirus outbreak. Nissan and its premium brand Infiniti logged 38 % and 71 % drops in sales, respectively, to 1.041 and 222 vehicles in the January-May period. Toyota and its luxury brand Lexus were also stung by protracted slumps, with their vehicle sales dropping 57 % and 64 % respectively in the first 5 months compared to a year earlier, industry data showed. 5 Japanese brands are available in the Korean passenger vehicle market: Toyota, Lexus, Honda, Nissan and Infiniti. The 5 brands saw their sales plunge 62 % to 1.672 units in the 5-month period from 4.415 a year ago, as the 2 countries are still at odds over Japan’s export curbs against South Korea. Last July, Japan tightened regulations on exports to South Korea of 3 high-tech materials critical for the production of semiconductors and displays. In August, Japan also removed South Korea from its list of countries given preferential treatment in trade procedures. South Korea views the moves as retaliation against 2018 Supreme Court rulings here ordering Japanese firms to compensate South Korean victims of forced labor during Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. +++ 

+++ The first 5 months of this year saw several sightings of the MERCEDES-AMG GT Black Series; the future range-topper of the AMG GT lineup. While the frequency of prototype testing means an imminent debut, a new report came out saying that it will debut as early as next month. The AMG GT Black Series will be released for sale in July 2020, which supports the previous report back in November last year. To recall, AMG’s global head of product management and sales, Michael Knöller, has confirmed that the track-focused GT will debut this year, with production to commence towards the end of 2020. I didn’t expect, however, that it will debut as early as July. China would be the launch pad of the ultimate AMG GT, specifically at the Chengdu Motor Show that’s set to happen on July 24. The upcoming AMG GT Black Series is reported to be powered by a twin-turbo V8 that makes 725 hp and 800 Nm. This makes it more powerful than the outgoing AMG GT R by 140 hp and 100 Nm. +++ 

+++ NISSAN chief executive Makoto Uchida told shareholders he is giving up half his pay after the Japanese automaker sank into the red amid plunging sales and plant closures in Spain and Indonesia. Uchida apologized for the poor results and promised a recovery by 2023, driven by cost cuts and new models showcasing electric-car and automated-driving technology. “We will tackle these challenges without compromise”, he said at a live-streamed meeting. “I promise to bring Nissan back on a growth track”. All the world’s automakers have been hurt by nose-diving sales caused by the coronavirus pandemic. But the problems are especially serious for Nissan, which already was fighting to salvage its reputation after the financial misconduct scandal of its former star executive Carlos Ghosn. Nissan, based in Yokohama, Japan, sank into its first annual loss in 11 years, reporting a 671.2 billion yen ($6.3 billion) loss for the fiscal year that ended in March. It has not given a projection for this fiscal year, citing uncertainties over the virus outbreak. One angry shareholder got up and said executives should give up more of their pay since investors were getting zero dividends. Another said Nissan needed to do more to strengthen its governance, arguing things have been getting worse, not better, since the departure of Ghosn, who was arrested in late 2018. One stock owner appeared to speak up for Ghosn, stressing Nissan had lost people’s trust after ousting him without giving him a chance to defend himself over problems that might have been solved internally, instead appearing to collude with prosecutors and government officials. Nissan officials denied any collusion and said the company has sued in civil court, seeking compensation for the damages it says it suffered because of Ghosn. Ghosn was set to face trial in Tokyo on charges of under-reporting future compensation and breach of trust when he fled to Lebanon in late 2019. He says he is innocent. Uchida again outlined Nissan’s strategy to focus on three major global markets, Japan, China and North America, including Mexico, and relying on alliance partners for the other markets. The company also plans to reduce the number of models it offers. But one investor noted Nissan sales weren’t picking up in the U.S. or China, and Nissan stock prices were continuing to slip. Uchida reiterated Nissan wants to close the Barcelona plant, but said negotiations were ongoing. Auto union workers have protested the move, which will lead to the loss of 3.000 jobs in the region. One shareholder got applause from the crowd when he said Nissan lacks an attractive vision compared to Japanese rivals Toyota, which is aggressively developing ecological technology, and Honda, boasting robots and jets in its lineup. After a nearly 2-hour shareholders’ meeting, the reappointment of all 12 board Nissan members were approved, shown by applause, and including votes taken ahead of time. The board members include Jean-Dominique Senard, chairman of Nissan’s alliance partner Renault, who took part online from France but said nothing. 2 men suspected of helping Ghosn’s escape were arrested last month in the U.S. Japanese prosecutors are seeking their extradition. Japan is also trying to get Ghosn extradited, but Japan has no extradition treaty with Lebanon. +++

+++ The new PORSCHE 911 Turbo S is an enticing piece of kit, and one example just happened to do a couple of tests including the mandatory hot lap, on the Sachsenring in this case. The brand-new, range-topping 911 put its skills to good use, completing the course in a staggering 1:30.48. So, what does this mean compared to other big names? Well, for one, that’s roughly one second slower than the McLaren 720S, yet a few tenths of a second quicker than the Lamborghini Huracan Evo and Ferrari 488 GTB. Its predecessor, the 991.2 Turbo S, did a 1:32.30, whereas the modern 911 Carrera S lapped the track in 1:32.36. Prior to being set loose on the track, the modern-day 911 Turbo S was driven up to 314 km/h. During the acceleration test, which likely took place on the Autobahn, its 0-100 km/h was recorded at 2.5 seconds, or 2 tenths less than the official number, while in the 0-200 / 0-300 km/h sprints, it needed 8.5 and 26.6 seconds respectively. The official spec sheet claims that the 911 Turbo S needs 8.9 seconds to get to 193 km/h from a standstill and has a 330 km/h top speed. This is made possible by the advanced aerodynamics and powerful 3.8-liter twin-turbo flat-6, which pumps out 650 hp and 800 Nm. The Turbo S also features limited-slip differentials at the center and rear, standard active suspension, rear-wheel steering and all-wheel drive. With a very stiff price, the 911 Turbo S is a car reserved for the elite, although it can evidently keep up with much more exotic, and expensive, machinery. +++ 

+++ SKODA ’s latest infotainment tech is making its way into the Superb, Karoq and Kodiaq for the start of the 2021 model year. The systems are based on the VW Group’s third-generation infotainment matrix and allow for more custom vehicle settings than ever before. Novelties include the Laura digital voice assistant, Internet radio and wireless SmartLink tech, online personalization and more. You also get modern USB-C sockets instead of older USB-A ports, while a USB-C slot above the rear-view mirror can be had as an optional extra. Thanks to a built-in SIM card, all Skoda infotainment systems (aside from the entry-level 6.5 inch touchscreen one) are to feature a permanent Internet connection. The Laura digital assistant meanwhile can understand as many as 15 languages and can process “fluently spoken sentences in Czech, English, German, French, Italian and Spanish”. Apps include news and weather reports, while customers that opt for the top of the range Columbus navigation will get a 9.2 inch screen instead of an 8 inch one. Furthermore, your destination can now be transferred directly from the Skoda Connect app to the sat-nav system. With the online personalization option, you can transfer your Skoda Connect account settings to different Skoda models, so buying a new car doesn’t have to mean starting back over with setting everything up. A maximum of 14 owner profiles and one guest profile can be had per each car – so you can have your Virtual Cockpit layout, assistance systems, climate control and light settings just the way you want. As for the Scala and the Kamiq, they’ll be getting expanded infotainment features too, plus the optional USB-C port built into the roof above the rear-view mirror. +++ 

+++ The SOFTWARE issues that have hampered the build-up to the launches of Volkswagen’s new ID.3 and 8th generation Golf demonstrate how important such systems are to modern cars, and how complicated they have become. The software required for the previous Golf contained around 1 million lines of code, compared with 10 million for the ID.3. For companies traditionally focused purely on building the mechanical elements of cars, that increasing need for software presents a dilemma: do they buy in the new software that’s needed or make it themselves? The Volkswagen Group has bet heavily on the latter, creating the new Car.Software unit, which officially becomes fully operational this month. Headed by Christian Senger, who was previously in charge of the firm’s ID models, by the end of this year it will encompass 5000 staff gathered from various Volkswagen Group brands. By 2025, it plans to employ more than 10.000 staff worldwide: half of them in Europe, around a third in China and the rest in the US, Israel and India. The Volkswagen Group’s goal is to raise the proportion of its cars’ software produced in-house from less than 10% currently to 60 % by 2025. Senger said the easy path would be to focus on vehicle production and use the group’s scale to negotiate competitive supply deals with software providers, especially tech firms that are working on their own automotive operating systems, such as Apple and Google. But that was “out of the question” for 3 key reasons. The first is manufacturing experience, which Senger said differentiates the group from “competitors outside the industry”. The second is the firm’s desire to “retain control of the entire vehicle architecture”. Senger said this is “the only way to ensure longterm competitiveness”. The Volkswagen Group also believes that the huge number of vehicles it produces will give it a major edge. Senger said: “Scale is everything in software, in both cost and learnings from data. Software needs significant numbers of users to become powerful and efficient, and the number of cars we produce offers that”. The software that the group develops will extend far beyond visible systems such as infotainment and driver assistance systems. Key will be development of VW.OS, a standardised operating system for all group brands. This is essentially the software equivalent of a vehicle platform such as MEB, on which ID cars are built, and it’s described by Senger as “the new crankshaft the whole business is built on top of”. This will be twinned with the Volkswagen Automotive Cloud, which will contain data on every future Volkswagen Group car sold and underpin online services and updates. As with a vehicle platform, VW.OS will be highly adaptable, allowing it to function differently in different types of cars at different price points. Senger compares it to how a €60 smartphone uses the same operating system as a top-spec €2.000 one but offers a very different experience. Senger said that a key goal of VW.OS is that “customer experience will be influenced more and more by software, so it will become core for customer decisions on cars”. He added: “The car of the very near future needs to feel like a smartphone”. While the group is aiming to greatly reduce its dependence on external systems, the increase in the computing required means the total amount of external software in its cars will increase, even as the percentage declines. Senger said: “Partnerships will be even more important, but the key is that we will control the partnerships in specific technologies and areas. We will define the software standards and the road map”. At a surface level, for example, that means firms developing third-party software for infotainment systems will be required to build it to a set design and functionality template. Senger wants to take an ‘open-source’ approach to software development, potentially licensing the system to other car makers. VW.OS will support wireless updates, allowing the group to upgrade its cars far more regularly than in a traditional car product cycle. Senger said: “With an ageing car, you can’t do anything about its styling. But with updates, the software can stay up to date”. For a time, at least: Senger admits that, as with smartphones, ageing cars will eventually be unable to process the latest software. However, he pledged that they will be able to continue running after that point. In the future, such systems will also offer a potential revenue stream through the sale of digital services. Senger said: “Mobility services have a chance to be a huge revenue source, but at this time they’re far from being a core business”. The Volkswagen Group has lofty goals for Car.Software, but the ID 3’s issues show the challenges car makers face in becoming software firms. When asked about those issues, Senger responded: “We’re at the forefront and starting a forward, unique solution that software becomes its own product in the automotive industry”. He added that the adoption of VW.OS will remove the need to develop a separate architecture for each vehicle. The Volkswagen Group is some way behind tech-focused rivals such as Tesla in taking a software-centric approach, and it has a major challenge to catch the industry leaders. But as with its heavy investment in electric cars, it’s again betting that sheer scale will allow it to quickly make up lost ground. +++ 

+++ SOUTH KOREA ‘s finance ministry said it will extend a temporary cut in consumption tax on passenger cars by another 6 months to boost consumption and support the auto industry hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The cut in consumption tax on passenger cars had been set to end this week, but it was extended until Dec. 31 this year, the Ministry of Economy and Finance said. The 30 % cut in tax rate reduced consumption tax on passenger cars to 3.5 %. The ministry said the tax cut would help a consumer save as much as 1.43 million won ($1.143) when purchasing a passenger car. Vehicle sales in South Korea plunged 36 % last month from a year earlier as the new coronavirus outbreak continued to dent demand for cars. The nation’s 5 carmakers (Hyundai, Kia, GM Korea, Renault Samsung and SsangYong) sold a combined 423.416 vehicles in May, down from 665.136 units a year ago, according to data from the companies. Hyundai and Kia, the country’s two biggest carmakers, suspended operations of their major overseas plants until late May, and the 3 other carmakers reduced production to control inventories amid the pandemic. Meanwhile, the government will temporarily lower value-added tax paid by small merchants by the end of this year as their businesses are ravaged by the pandemic. If a small merchant reports sales of 40 million won or less between July and December this year, the merchant will be eligible for the tax benefit, the ministry said. South Korea’s economy contracted 1.3 % in the first quarter, marking the biggest on-quarter drop since a 3.3 % fall posted in the last 3 months of 2008. +++ 

+++ Chinese START UP Lixiang, also known as CHJ Automotive, finished its latest round of financing totaling $550 million last week, with $500 million from Meituan Dianping, China’s service-focused e-commerce giant. Chinese news website Jiemian said the round has seen the valuation of the 4-year old startup founded by entrepreneur Li Xiang exceed $4 billion, dwarfing many of its money-craving peers. It was not Meituan’s first investment in the carmaker. In August 2019, Meituan CEO Wang Xing invested almost $300 million in a round that raised $530 million. Lixiang was established in 2015, and its first model, a large SUV featuring a range extender, hit the market in April 2019. Deliveries so far have exceeding 10.000. The carmaker said it will launch hybrid models in the future. Reuters reported earlier this year that Lixiang confidentially filed in December for an initial public offering in the United States, aiming to raise at least $500 million. The report said the Beijing-based carmaker has been working on the IPO since last summer. It partnered with Goldman Sachs, the main bank leading the deal. If the IPO proceeds, Lixiang would become the second Chinese electric car startup to list in New York after Nio’s $1 billion IPO in 2018. Earlier this month, Tencent spent $10 million to increase its equity in Nio to 15.1 %. The report said besides shares held directly under its name, the Shenzhen-based internet giant is also the ultimate beneficial owner of another 16 % of Nio’s shares through three of its wholly-owned subsidiaries. Tencent is Nio’s second largest shareholder by voting rights after its founder Li Bin, who holds 13.8 % of the shares and 47 % of the voting rights as per the company’s March 2020 filing. Compared with other startups, Nio has basically solved its financial problems after it struck a 10 billion yuan deal with the Hefei government in Anhui province in February. After rapid growth in 2018, the company announced in last December that its cash balance was not adequate for continuing operations for 12 months. Thanks to strong sales since April, the company was able to offset the negative impact of its disappointing first quarter, selling 68 % more vehicles from January to May than the same period in 2019. Nio’s success stood out amid an industry downturn as China’s overall electric car market suffered from the subsidy cuts and the coronavirus pandemic, with sales declining more than a third compared to 2019. The carmaker said gross margin improvement is one of its top objectives in 2020. Last year, its gross margin was negative 15.3 %, with net loss standing at $1.62 billion. In an earnings call in March, Li said the gross margin will turn positive in the second quarter and reach a double-digit percentage by the end of the year. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN bosses are close to signing off plans for a hot, R-badged version of the forthcoming ID.3 electric hatchback and the performance machine is set to be launched in 2024. The electric hot hatch is the brainchild of the German firm’s R performance division. It’s intended to reinforce the links between the successful ID R record-breaking prototype and Volkswagen’s crucial new ID road car range. Volkswagen development chief Frank Welsch said the ID.3 R is “something we’re looking at”. He added: “I like the idea, but we have to decide if the market is ready to accept such a model”. Welsch said the proposed R model would sit at the top of the ID.3 line-up and could be the only pure performance variant. Volkswagen’s planned electric-specific performance badge, GTX, won’t be used on the ID 3, because it’s reserved for cars with the twin-motor, 4-wheeldrive powertrain. While that will fit in the larger ID.4 crossover, the ID.3 is being launched with a single-motor, rear-wheel-drive set-up only. “The ID.3 can accept 4-wheeldrive, although it’s unlikely to receive it during the first generation”, Welsch told. “There will not be a GTX variant, but we’re yet to decide on a rear-wheeldrive R variant.” Last year, Welsch had said such a car “would need a performance e-motor and 4-wheeldrive”. The most powerful of the ID.3 launch models offers 204 hp, although the planned R model is expected to have at least 306 hp. However, the performance necessary for an ID.3 R could be made possible by likely developments in EV technology by 2024. R chief Jost Capito recently told it was working with Volkswagen’s motorsport arm to see what technology from the performance batteries used in the ID.R could be applied to road cars. The late stages of the ID.3’s development have been badly hit by software issues, but new Volkswagen CEO Ralf Brandstätter confirmed that deliveries will begin in Europe and the UK in early September. However, the initial limited-edition First models will arrive without a number of software features. Following the ID.3 into showrooms will be the larger ID.4 crossover, whose external dimensions will mirror those of the soon-to-be-facelifted second-generation Tiguan, with seating for up to 5. Sources confirm development is already well progressed on production versions of the ID.Roomzz, ID.Buzz and ID.Vizzion concepts, with all 3 set to make their debuts by the end of 2022. The production version of the ID.Roomzz a large SUV, is conceived primarily for the Chinese and US markets and will retain the 7-seat layout of the concept. It shares the MEB platform with the short-wheelbase ID.Buzz MPV/ van and is likely to be sold exclusively with a twin-motor, 4-wheeldrive set-up. Also under development are commercial vehicle derivatives of the ID.Buzz, as previewed by the ID.Cargo concept. The production version will offer 2 wheelbases. Welsch has denied reports that the ID.Vizzion will replace the Passat. Similar to that combustion-engined model, it will be sold as both a saloon and an estate and with rear- and 4-wheeldrive. Work is also advanced on the ‘ID.Entry’ small car, set to be named the ID.1. Positioned as a successor to the Volkswagen e-Up, Seat Mii Electric and Skoda Citigo-e iV, it’s due to enter production by 2023. It was originally planned to have its own low-cost platform and electric drivetrain developed by Seat and the Volkswagen Group’s Chinese partner, JAC Automobile, but development has been taken in-house at Volkswagen now. Also under development, but yet to be confirmed, is a production version of the secretive ID.Ruggdzz. The Land Rover Defender-esque off-roader forms part of what sources call an ‘icon project’ to establish “a line of ID models with the same timeless and classless qualities as the original Beetle”. Conceived to rival the Mercedes-Benz EQ B, it’s said to feature rugged styling cues and a choice of 5 or 7 seats. Sources suggest the range-topping ID.Ruggdzz model will have a twin-motor, 4-wheeldrive powertrain. The ID.Ruggdzz is expected to enter production in 2023 as part of a 30-strong Volkswagen SUV line-up planned by 2025. Plans for an electric successor to the Phaeton have gone quiet, but sources in Wolfsburg suggest they haven’t been abandoned. “There remain ideas for a flagship model, although it’s not a priority. Our engineering resources are contracted on volume-selling ID models at the moment”, said one insider. Meanwhile, plans for German start-up e.Go Mobile to make a road-going version of the ID.Buggy have been ditched after the firm filed for bankruptcy. An alternative plan for the 2-seater to be made at Volkswagen-owned Karmann is being discussed. +++ 

+++ VOLVO announced an agreement with Plugsurfing to offer Europe-wide public charging service for its upcoming all-electric cars, following a similar announcement from Polestar. The Swedish brand intends to implement access to over 200.000 public charging points in 38 countries on the Plugsurfing platform in the onboard navigation, as well as sell BEVs with an included Plugsurfing account. Customers will be able to use the charging points of various networks using a single contactless card or smartphone app. The charging events and payments will be processed monthly. “The agreement with Plugsurfing, one of the largest and rapidly growing charging network aggregators in Europe, allows drivers to easily charge their electric Volvo, regardless of where they are on the continent, and does away with the need for countless national subscriptions”. The Android-based infotainment system will display location, real-time availability and charging speed (power) and pricing of the charging points. The first model with Plugsurfing access will be the XC40 Recharge P8 later this year. Interestingly, Volvo was silent about plug-in hybrids. I assume that it’s because the PHEVs are envisioned mostly for home charging. +++ 

+++ After 116 years of operation, the Volkswagen plant in ZWICKAU no longer produces internal combustion engine cars. It’s now all-electric. Yesterday, the last internal combustion engine rolled off the production line. During some 116 years of operation, the plant produced more than 9.5 million vehicles, including more than 6 million Volkswagens, which operated at the site since 1990. The last vehicle happened to be the 7th generation Golf R Variant with a 2.0-litre petrol engine in Oryx White Pearl Effect. Other vehicles with a combustion engine which were produced in Zwickau since 1904 were from the brands: Horch (33.500 units), Audi (11.168), DKW (256.941), IFA (26.908) and Trabant (3.096.099). The Golf R Estate is no longer on sale, while the plant is continuing its transformation from 100% ICE cars to 100% BEV cars. Reinhard de Vries, managing director of Technology and Logistics at Volkswagen Sachsen: “Today is a historic day for us. We are proud of what we have achieved so far, and at the same time are greatly looking forward to what the future holds for us”. Volkswagen intends to invest some €1.2 billion in the transformation of the plant to produce at total of 6 MEB-based electric models (Volkswagen, Audi and Seat brands) simultaneously. The total output will be some 330.000 cars annually, which is slightly more (by 30.000) than it was for the conventional cars in the past. The first model, Volkswagen ID.3, is already in production (but at very low volume) since November 2019. Before the lockdown, the ID.3 output rate was just about 150 units a day, and after the lockdown in April it restarted at 50/day (there is no info about the current output). “Work has already started in Hall 6 where the Golf Variant has been produced so far. After a conversion phase lasting several weeks during the summer, the first electric vehicles will be produced there at the end of the year, alongside the ID.4. A model from the sister brand Audi is also planned. Series production of the ID.3 1st Edition  already started at the site in west Saxony in November 2019, and the start of production of the ID.4 will follow this summer”. +++

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