Newsflash: eerste details Nissan Ariya bekend

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+++ In South Korea, German carmaker AUDI Volkswagen Group’s 2 flagship brands have made a full-fledged comeback in the local imported car market, making a 4-fold sales jump in the first half this year, industry data showed. The feat comes 4 years after the emission-fraud scandal dubbed “dieselgate” severely hurt sales of its dominant brands there. In 2015, Audi and Volkswagen cars were found to have used software to cheat on diesel emissions tests on some 11 million cars of 15 diesel models. Along with a penalty, this led to a sales suspension of 2 years, significantly harming the automaker’s sales. In 2017, the sales figure halved: zero Volkswagen cars and only 962 Audi vehicles were sold there. But in the January-June period this year, Audi and Volkswagen sold a total of 10.071 units and 7.405 units of cars, respectively, according to Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association data. They each made 293.4 % and 317.2 % jump in their sales on-year. This has led their combined market share to record 13.62 %; very close to No. 2 BMW’s market share of 19.83 % in the first half of this year. Topping the market share was Mercedes-Benz with 30.29 %. Trailing Audi Volkswagen was GM Korea’s Chevrolet (5.76 %) and Volvo (5.09 %). Early last year, Audi began sales of its A5 Sportback and Q7. Since then, it has been aggressively launching new models, including the A3, A4, A6 and A8 L, satisfying the Korean customers. The automaker’s introduction of new cars continued this year, starting with bringing A7 Sportback and its first electric vehicle, the e-Tron 55 Quattro to the local market, to name a few. Following the Korean government’s exemption of consumption tax for vehicles by 70 % in June, Audi has also conducted a special promotion for A6 TDI. In the first half this year, a total of 1.600 units of the model have been sold, more than half of the total units of 2.846 sold in the first half. Back on track now, Audi is expected to hit annual sales of 20.000 this year, according to industry insiders. Meanwhile, Volkswagen also made a comeback with its flagship Arteon and the SUV model Tiguan. Company officials said that the second-generation Tiguan has especially appealed to Korean customers with a 7-seater, front-wheel drive model Allspace, which has been upgraded compared to the 5-seater, four-wheel drive first-generation model. In the first half this year, the Tiguan was ranked as the No. 2 bestselling car in terms of an accumulated sales at 4.831 units. The No. 1 was the Mercedes-Benz E 300 4Matic with 5.517 units. Market experts said that resurgence of Audi Volkswagen in the local market is based on the Korean customer’s widespread, firm preference for German car brands as well as their taste for the superior driving performance and low maintenance costs. “Consumers are not environmentalists, and sales of German carmakers prove that customers’ preference is not really influenced by social issues or eco-friendly factors. Compared to 5 years ago, the luxury sedan market is still led by imported car brands dominated by German carmakers”, said professor Kim Pil-soo of automotive engineering from Daelim University. +++ 

+++ Tesla’s much-discussed AUTOPILOT feature will be the subject of a lawsuit in a German court that’s scheduled to rule next week. The Californian carmaker was sued by the Center for Protection Against Unfair Competition, a German non-profit organization funded by companies and industry groups, about the way the automaker is promoting their partially automated driver-assistance feature. According to the lawsuit, Tesla is promising customers more than its Autopilot feature actually delivers, with a court in Munich indicating during a hearing last month that it might side with the non-profit organization. “A legal framework for autonomous inner-city driving doesn’t even exist yet in Germany”, Andreas Ottofülling, a lawyer for the group, said. “And other functions aren’t working yet as advertised”. The Palo Alto-based automaker has been making bold claims on the capabilities of Autopilot for some years now and even started charging customers for an optional ‘Full Self Driving’ feature, starting in 2016. It’s 2020 and Tesla is still requiring drivers making use of the Autopilot system in its cars to be fully attentive and ready to take over the control of the vehicle at any time. If the court sides with the fair-competition organization, Tesla will have to remove all the Autopilot-related claims from its website. That would add one more obstacle to the many Tesla has faced in Europe, where regulations have forced them to limit how the Autopilot feature can be used. Meanwhile, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk said recently that they are “very close” to achieve Level 5 autonomy this year with their technology. “I remain confident that we will have the basic functionality for Level 5 autonomy complete this year”, Musk said. +++ 

+++ BMW delivered 212.617 vehicles over the second quarter in its largest market China; a 17.1 % growth year-on-year, said the German premium carmaker. The company said it has seen a positive trend since March. In the first 6 months of 2020, its total sales hit 329.069 in the country despite the coronavirus pandemic. “The comprehensive recovery shows the measures our BMW partners and we have taken since March are indeed bearing fruit”, said Jochen Goller, president and CEO of BMW Group Region China. “This is the latest example to show that BMW has the ability to turn challenges into progress”, he said. New energy vehicles are a highlight in the carmaker’s product plan this year, with some launched already boosting its sales performance. In the first half of 2020, sales of electrified models were up 49.1 % compared to the same period last year. The company said 10.650 plug-in hybrid 5 Series were sold in the past 6 months, taking a lead role in the segment. BMW said it will speed up electrification and digitalization, introducing new models such as the all-new 4 Series and the all-new iX3, which is the first China-made electric BMW model, as well as more localized digital services. “We stand firmly with BMW’s long-term strategy in China, are committed to our large-scale investments and will continue introducing new products and technologies into BMW’s largest single market, especially on e-mobility and digitalization”, said Goller. +++

+++ China’s leading new-energy vehicle (NEV) manufacturer BYD saw its NEV sales tumble in the first half of 2020, company data showed. The firm sold 60.677 NEVs in the January-June period; down 58.34 % from the same period last year, BYD said. In June alone, it sold 14.165 NEVs; sharply down from 26.571 units in the same month a year ago. Despite the sales slump in the NEV sector, BYD reported a sales rebound for gasoline-powered vehicles. During the 6 months, the carmaker sold 97.951 gasoline-powered vehicles; up by 18.9 % year-on-year. +++ 

+++ The DODGE brand is a bit of a conundrum and it doesn’t help that for 2021, it has been reduced to 3 vehicles: 2 aging muscle cars and a large 3-row SUV. As Fiat Chrysler Automobiles heads into a merger with PSA Group, creating the 4th largest automaker in the world, the chances of the new entity culling brands from its extensive portfolio seem rather high. It ultimately begs the question: Will Dodge survive in the long-term? Or even the medium-term? I talked to Tim Kuniskis, who oversees Dodge as part of his role as head of passenger cars for FCA North America, about the future of the American mark. While Dodge is adding ever more trims and high-output variations to its Challenger, Charger and Durango model lines, it’s also sending 2 of its nameplates to the great scrap heap in the sky. Here, we’ve gathered what Kuniskis cites as Dodge’s redeeming qualities and business state moving forward: Gone for the 2021 model year are the Journey crossover and the Grand Caravan minivan. Kuniskis stated the models don’t fit Dodge’s DNA, but sales remained strong and the 2 people movers managed to avoid the chopping block. Until now, that is. “We’re at the point where we drew a line in the sand and said, ‘this is it, this is the last year, we’re not going to do them anymore’ “, Kuniskis shared, adding that neither the pandemic nor the merger pushed the decision. Still, Kuniskis sees a role for Dodge after the merger of FCA and PSA is complete, and he noted the beauty of a “house of brands” is that it affords each to have its own unique and separate identity in the marketplace. In short, no individual brand needs to try to be all things to all customers. The brand chief also knows his muscle cars are subject to criticism for being old and for having what some see as ridiculous power. We’re not sure who thinks there is a such thing as too much horsepower, especially democratized at relatively affordable price points, but hey. Dodge adding a Hellcat engine to its Durango is more red meat for the critics. But Kuniskis knows Dodge customers appreciate the brand’s one-upmanship mentality. The brand, and FCA, practically lives and breathes on the saying “Hellcat all of the things”, which circulates in some enthusiast circles, leading even designer Ralph Gilles to sketch a Hellcatted Chrysler Pacifica minivan in what wasn’t clearly a joke. Even if it is only temporary, as is the case with the Durango Hellcat, which will be offered only for the 2021 model year due to the engine being unable to meet tougher regulations coming for the 2022 model year, power is integral to Dodge’s image. Luckily, it isn’t the Hellcat engine per se, that can’t meet regulations but the combination of the powerplant and the Durango’s platform. In other words, the supercharged Hemi is still good to go in the Challenger and Charger for the 2022 model year (and the foreseeable future). Whew! 5 years after its introduction in the Challenger Hellcat, the high horsepower engine is showing no signs of slowing down. It has in that time found its way into a total of almost 40.000 Dodge vehicles. In fact, the engine assembly plant can barely keep up with demand. “There’s no way we could have called that. We have scrambled many times to increase capacity”, Kuniskis said. “At some point, something will have to change, there’s no question”, Kuniskis confessed. “I’m not going quietly into that new reality. The requirements get more stringent every single year and, at some point, we gotta do something”. Still, the brand’s head wouldn’t share if a next-generation Charger or Challenger, both of which currently ride on a platform that dates back to 2005, are in the works. Nor would Kuniskis elaborate when asked if there are additional future models planned for Dodge. Nevertheless, the brand will, in time, embrace electrification and the performance potential that electric motors can provide. Dodge does not need to fully shift to battery electric vehicles, Kuniskis said, as gasoline-electric hybrids provide the torque, power, and visceral driving experience befitting the brand’s DNA. Good thing, too, because clearly, Dodge is relying on that high-octane DNA to justify its existence. +++ 

+++ FAW VOLKSWAGEN sold 874.174 vehicles in the first half of 2020, leading the domestic passenger car market, the company said. From January to June, sales under the company’s brands Volkswagen, Audi and Jetta reached 504.793 units, 301.817 units and 67.564 units respectively, the company said in its latest statement. The total output of the carmaker during the 6-month period reached 893.158 units. In June alone, the company churned out 215.800 vehicles, exceeding 200.000 for the first time since the Covid-19 outbreak. FAW-Volkswagen is a passenger car making joint venture between the China FAW Group and Volkswagen. As one of the bestselling passenger vehicle manufacturers in the world’s largest auto market, it has set a sales target of 2.33 million units for 2020. FAW-Volkswagen, established in 1991, has 5 production bases across China. Its sales have exceeded 20 million units since its establishment. +++

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES said it would recall about 925.239 of its older model vehicles to replace air bag covers on their steering wheels after 14 potentially related injuries. The recall is limited to 2007-2011 Dodge Nitro (photo), 2008-2010 Chrysler Voyager and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans, the Italian-American automaker said. The move follows an FCA investigation that found these vehicles were equipped with certain clips that may loosen and disengage over time and in case of a driver-side air bag deployment the clips could act as projectiles. Fiat Chrysler said none of the potential injuries involved occupants of front-passenger or rear seats and that the air bags were not supplied by Takata. +++

+++ Electric vehicle maker FISKER is in talks to go public through a sale to a so-called blank-check acquisition company, modeled after a successful deal earlier this year by peer Nikola, people familiar with the matter said. Nikola shares are up more than 60 % since it went public last month through such a deal, as investors place bets on which startup will be the next Tesla. Earlier this month, autonomous vehicle technology company Velodyne Lidar agreed to be bought by blank-check company Graf Industrial for $1.6 billion, fuelling a rally in the latter’s shares. Spartan Energy Acquisition Corp, which is backed by private equity firm Apollo Global Management, is leading a bidding war among blank-check companies for Fisker and could clinch a deal for close to $2 billion as early as next week, the sources said. Henrik Fisker, a one-time Aston-Martin designer, launched the eponymous Los Angeles-based company in 2016 and plans to begin selling the Ocean luxury electric SUV in 2022 at a starting price of $37,500. His previous automotive venture, Fisker Automotive, filed for bankruptcy in 2013 after burning through $1.4 billion in private investments and taxpayer-funded loans. Once billed as a rival to Tesla, it ended up making fewer than 2.000 cars. Fisker Automotive was bought out of bankruptcy in 2014 by a Chinese auto parts maker and renamed Karma Automotive. Spartan raised $552 million in a initial public offering in 2018, saying it would focus on an acquisition in the North American energy industry. It would use these funds and borrowed money to fund the deal with Fisker. Tesla’s shares have risen 500% over the past year, as the company increased sales of its Model 3 and Model Y, pushing the company’s market capitalization past Toyota as the world’s most valuable automaker. +++

+++ FORD said new staffing restrictions imposed on plants producing car parts in the Mexican state of Chihuahua were “not sustainable”; the latest sign U.S. automakers are still reeling from coronavirus lockdowns in Mexico. Mexico is a key part of a wider international supply chain crucial to U.S. carmakers, many of which operate factories across the border in Mexico due to lower labor costs. Chihuahua, where the state government has limited employee attendance to 50 % in plants, is home to a Ford engine plant and many auto parts producers. U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Christopher Landau, said the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker may have to shut some U.S. car plants as early as next week if they fail to receive Mexico-produced engines. Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford’s Americas and International Markets Group, said the company had “several suppliers” operating under restrictions imposed by Chihuahua state. “With our U.S. plants running at 100 %, that is not sustainable”, Galhotra said in an emailed statement. “While we do not expect any impact to production next week, we are continuing to work with government officials on ways to safely and constructively resume remaining production”, he said. Mexico’s federal government has given automakers, mining firms and builders, with activities deemed essential, the green light to restart work, though some states have implemented their own restrictions as the coronavirus pandemic rages on. Landau said a senior Ford executive told him about the company’s concern over parts produced in Chihuahua state. “They’re saying that they’re going to start shutting down factories in the United States as of next week if they don’t get that rolling”, Landau said, in a talk organized by the Atlantic Council. Alejandra de la Vega, Chihuahua’s minister of innovation and economic development, said she was in “constant contact” with Ford and spoke with a company executive morning, but did not specify what was discussed. De la Vega said Chihuahua had created a traffic light system to allow different sectors to gradually reopen from lockdowns, but added it was a “balancing act” to protect both public health and the economy. In May, when Mexico signaled it would delay the reopening of its factories, Mexican officials said their U.S. counterparts pushed for a speedy return, arguing that U.S. plants on American soil could not operate without them. +++

+++ GEELY sold 110.129 vehicles in June; up 21 % year-on-year, as the Chinese auto market rebounds from the pandemic. The carmaker said that its sales in the first half of 2020 totaled 530.446 vehicles, ranking first among Chinese carmakers and accounting for 38 % of its goal of delivering 1.41 million cars this year. An Conghui, Geely president and CEO, said the company will make every effort to move forward and realize its annual sales goal. Geely has registered positive growth for 3 months since April. Its market share by the end of May grew to 6.88 % in China; up 0.53 percentage points from the same period in 2019. Its high-end brand, Lynk & Co, gained popularity as well. In June, its deliveries reached 13.214; up 53 % year-on-year. It marked the third consecutive month in which Lynk & Co had seen double-digit growth. The accumulated sales of the brand, which is a joint venture between Geely and Volvo, have exceeded 300.000 units. Geely said Lynk & Co will start selling a plug-in hybrid model in Europe in the second half of 2020. Lynk & Co is also the first Chinese carmaker to partner with Waymo, as part of the deal Volvo struck with Alphabet’s autonomous driving unit in June. +++

+++ GREAT WALL MOTORS (GWM), China’s largest SUV and pickup manufacturer, saw vehicle sales rise 29.6 % year-on-year to 82.036 units in June. The automaker sold 395.097 units in total during the first half of 2020, achieving month-on-month growths for 4 consecutive months. Haval, GWM’s leading SUV brand, drove the overall sales growth of the company with 46.998 units sold in June. The total sales volume of Haval SUVs reached 262.216 units in the first 6 months of this year. Sales of the Haval H6 model reached 23.258, remaining the bestselling SUV in China for 85 months, the company said. So far, Haval’s global sales volume has totaled 6 million. Great Wall pickups continued to lead the domestic market with a nearly 50 % market share and sales of new vehicles hitting 26.680 in June, soaring 272.3 % year-on-year. With its global layout accelerating, GWM exported 3.592 vehicles in June; up 134.3 % month-on-month. The company exported a total of 20.536 cars in the first half of 2020. Headquartered in Baoding, North China’s Hebei province, GWM owns several SUV and car brands including Haval, Great Wall, WEY and ORA. +++

+++ HONDA will buy a 1 % stake in Chinese electric vehicle battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL), and the 2 will jointly develop EV batteries, the companies said. The move comes at a time when auto manufacturers and EV battery makers are joining forces in pursuit of an electric future. CATL, based in Ningde, said last year it would develop batteries with Honda and also supply batteries to Tesla, Toyota and Volkswagen. Honda and CATL said in a statement they would develop battery technologies and research a battery recycling business. Honda will launch its first EV with CATL’s battery in China in 2022 and will expand the partnership with stable EV battery supply globally in the future. Honda has struck a number of partnerships to make electric cars, including a joint venture with China’s GAC under which the Japanese automaker began selling its first all-battery EV, the Everus VE-1 SUV crossover, in China last year. It has also tied up with Hitachi’s auto parts subsidiary to develop, produce and sell motors to be used in gasoline hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery electric cars. For the North American market, Honda has partnered with General Motors to develop 2 new EVs. The 2 are also working to develop hydrogen fuel cell vehicle technology. CATL is building a battery plant in Germany and is considering expanding to North America. It has an office in Yokohama near Tokyo. +++

+++ HYUNDAI chief Chung Eui-sun met with SK chairman Chey Tae-won at SK Innovation’s factory in Seosan, South Chungcheong Province to discuss cooperation in batteries for electric cars. Chung said that the meeting was an important chance to discuss the future direction of EV batteries and other new technologies the 2 firms are developing. Chey said as Hyundai and affiliate Kia are leading players in the future mobility field, cooperation would not only be helpful for both companies but for the Korean economy as a whole. This is Chung’s series of meetings with executives of local conglomerates that make batteries following LG chairman Koo Kwang-mo last month and Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong in May. +++

+++ The LAMBORGHINI Sian Coupe and Sian Roadster are 2 of the company’s rarest hypercars to date. Lamborghini plans to build 19 examples of the roadster and 63 examples of the coupe. Of course, well-to-do customers have already claimed each and every one of them. But you’re probably wondering: why those numbers specifically? Lamborghini fans should know the answer to that question right away. Ferruccio Lamborghini founded Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini S.p.A. in 1963 and the 19 examples of the Sian Roadster and 63 examples of the Sian Coupe are not-so-subtle nods to that historic year for the company. It’s just another facet of what makes this car so special. Another wink to the company’s history is in the full name of the car itself, bearing the designation Sian FKP 37. The “FKP” initialism honours late Volkswagen Group chairman Ferdinand Piech who died late last year and the number “37” represents the year Piech was born, 1937. As for numbers under the hood, both the Sian Coupe and Roadster pair a 6.5-litre V12 from the Aventador SVJ to a 48 volt mild-hybrid system. That setup gives them a combined output of 820 hp. The coupe can get to 100 kph in 2.8 seconds, while the roadster gets there in 2.9 seconds, and both top out at 350 kph. And arguably the most impressive number of all: price. Lamborghini doesn’t list an official price for either model since they’re already sold out, anyway, but the Sian Coupe and Roadster cost around €4.5 million according to sources. That puts the Sian in rich company as one of the most expensive new cars ever built. +++

+++ NISSAN has teased an all-new electric SUV called the Ariya in an online video ahead of the crossover’s official debut on 15 July. Previewed as a concept car at last year’s Tokyo motor show, the Ariya will sit above the Leaf in Nissan’s electric car line-up as a battery powered alternative for the Qashqai and X-Trail. This latest teaser clip gives us an official glimpse of what to expect when the covers come off. It’s clear that this family crossover will usher in a brand new design language for Nissan, and glimpses in the short video clip posted by Nissan confirm that patent renderings leaked earlier in the year were accurate. The renderings show us that while some features are carried over from the Ariya concept other details have inevitably been tweaked for production. The headlight and grille treatment remains faithful to the concept, but design details around the bumper have been altered. Likewise, the overall profile looks fairly similar, though details such as the charging port in the front wing have been integrated in a more simple way. Expect LED lighting tech to feature, and the concept’s full-width rear light bar is likely to make it onto showroom models. At 4.600 mm long, the Ariya concept is just 40 mm shorter than the current X-Trail, but its 2.775 mm wheelbase is 75 mm longer. That should enable the production model to have a huge amount of interior space, made all the more possible thanks to a completely flat cabin floor granted by the packaging benefits of an electric platform. The move to electrification has also allowed Nissan engineers to move items like the air conditioning unit (usually stored behind the dashboard in a combustion car) under the bonnet instead, enabling a more open space for front seat passengers. The final version of the Ariya is set to ride on the CMF-EV platform developed within the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance; the same underpinnings set to be used by 2 all-new Renault electric SUV models. Details of the production models drivetrain are still to be confirmed, but the concept used a twin-motor layout (one motor for each axle to give 4-wheeldrive). Nissan’s previous all-electric IMx concept was claimed to offer 435 hp and a range of 600 kilometres. It’s likely that multiple battery sizes and powertrain options will be offered, however, in order to keep the starting price competitive with rivals like the Volkswagen ID.4 and beneath the €50.000 mark in The Netherlands. Meanwhile, semi-autonomous tech is also likely to feature heavily. Nissan’s ProPilot 2.0 system allows for hands-off single-lane driving, the ability to perform overtaking manoeuvres, and negotiate motorway exit ramps. Official prices and release dates are still to be confirmed, but like its Renault stablemate, the Ariya is likely to go on sale mid-to-late 2021. +++

+++ PORSCHE ‘s annual American sales grew by 213 % between 2009 and 2019, and the company was on track to set another sales record in 2020 until the ongoing coronavirus pandemic made a chaotic mess of the world we live in. Sales plummeted by 45.8 % in April 2020 as lockdowns swept the nation, but Klaus Zellmer, the head of Porsche’s North American division, told the company is already on its way to recovery. “We are rebounding, we are open for business”, Zellmer said proudly. Porsche sales fell by 3.1 % in June 2020, which is a sign that interest in the brand hasn’t waned. What’s even more impressive is that 911 sales grew by 30 % during the second quarter of 2020. It’s worth pointing out the last-generation model was on its way out in the second quarter of 2019, but a 30 % increase is immense considering the 911 is a relatively expensive car enthusiasts buy with their heart, not with their brain. No one needs a 911. Porsche went to significant lengths to prevent its sales from collapsing completely in the spring, and to make life easier for owners affected by the pandemic and its economic ramifications. It extended warranties, it worked with its dealers to facilitate home delivery, and it allowed buyers to defer payments. It reaped the rewards in June when it sold nearly 3.000 certified pre-owned (CPO) cars; an all-time record and an 8 % increase over June 2019. Of course, the pandemic will have a lasting effect on Porsche’s operations in the United States and abroad. “Losing half of the market in April and more than 40 % in March is something that we will most certainly not catch up with by the end of the year. That’s lost”, Zellmer admitted. Setting a sales record in 2020 looks highly unlikely. One of the pandemic’s more unexpected side effects was that the price of oil collapsed, sending gasoline prices on a downward spiral. Zellmer opined cheap fuel is going to dent the electric car take rate, but he’s not worried about Taycan sales taking a hit because its target audience is far less concerned about saving money than buyers in the market for cheaper electric cars like the Nissan Leaf, the Chevrolet Bolt and the Hyundai Kona. “I think that overall, generally speaking, the reasoning that it’s cheaper to fill up your EV with electricity than filling it up with gas has been put on pause. But, there have to be other reasons why people buy an electric car. Price-driven customers will pause with electric, unfortunately, because that one driver is missing. For Porsche, this is not the main driver and actually you get 3 years of free charging at any Electrify America station in the United States if you buy a Taycan. It’s not going to affect Taycan sales, but the overall demand for electric cars (with that missing driver of being cheaper than filling up a gas car) is going to be affected”, Zellmer told. Porsche has a different hurdle to clear, however. Like most automakers, it closed its factories for several weeks in the spring of 2020; its Zuffenhausen, Germany, plant went offline for about six weeks. It reopened on May 4, but it’s having a difficult time keeping up with high demand for the Taycan. Porsche added “a couple of extra shifts” in a bid to catch up over the coming months, but Zellmer admitted Taycan volume is inevitably “nowhere near what we had originally anticipated”. On a positive note, the supply issues should boost the model’s resale value. +++

+++ Electric vehicle startup RIVIAN , which is backed by Amazon and Ford and aims to put an electric pickup and SUV into production in 2021, boosted its fortunes further with a $2.5 billion investment round led by T. Rowe Price, Rivian said. The deal comes on the heels of electric car maker Tesla’s meteoric rise in stock valuation and the recent public offering of Nikola. Both Tesla and Nikola are planning electric pickups to rival Rivian. The new round takes total investment in Rivian to at least $6 billion, including a $1.3 billion round in December led by T. Rowe Price and including Amazon, Ford and BlackRock. Rivian’s latest fundraising was joined by Soros Management, Coatue Management, Fidelity Management and Research Company, and the Baron Capital Group. Amazon and BlackRock also participated. +++

+++ A SOLAR POWER SYSTEM to allow an electric vehicle to run without having to charge its battery has been developed by Sharp and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), the entities announced. In theory, the solar-powered vehicle can travel up to 50 kilometers in 1 day. Sharp and NEDO are also collaborating with Nissan to examine issues involved and aim to put a solar-powered EV into practical use by 2030. Solar panels are attached to the roof and hood of Nissan’s e-NV200. The panels are 1.5 times more efficient in generating electricity than those for residential use and can be attached conforming to the shape of the vehicle. Sharp has provided the same solar panels to Toyota’s plug-in hybrid vehicle, Prius PHEV and has been testing its driving range and fuel efficiency since 2019. “Within 10 years, we want to reduce the production cost of the panels to a hundredth of what it now costs”, said a person in charge of the solar panel project. +++

+++ TESLA stock has been on the up for some time now, though it seemed to hover under $1,000 for a time. As soon as investors may have thought it couldn’t go any higher, it passed the $1,000 milestone and has continued to soar to over $1,400 per share. Tesla beat the odds with is second quarter deliveries far surpassing Wall Street projections. Tesla delivered over 90.000 vehicles during the last quarter, despite its factory being shut down due to the Covid-19 plandemic. It also broke records in the first quarter with an impressive 88.500 vehicles delivered across the globe. Added to all of this, the company has shown a profit for multiple consecutive quarters, however, it has yet to report on its Q2 financial situation. Tesla plans to deliver some 500.000 units in 2020. According to an estimate by JMP Securities analyst Joe Osha, the company should be able to deliver 750.000 cars in 2021. He argues that if Tesla can deliver 90.000 vehicles in these tough times, there’s no reason it can’t deliver many more under typical circumstances. He wrote in an update to investors: “If the company can manage 90.000 units during an extraordinarily challenging quarter, there is no reason that Tesla cannot be shipping 130.000 to 140.000 units a quarter by the end of the year in our opinion. That puts Tesla on a trajectory to ship 757.000 units in 2021”. If you follow the articles above, you can see that Tesla’s second quarter deliveries were down marginally year-over-year. It delivered about 95.000 cars in the same period of 2019. However, that’s an epic feat since the expectation was for the company to take a major plunge due to the coronavirus lockdown. Compared to other automakers, Tesla’s ability to nearly match last year’s Q2 numbers is a victory, especially when considering how much first quarter deliveries were up compared to 2019. +++

+++ European consumers should be able to sue VOLKSWAGEN in their national courts if they have bought cars with Emission Cheat Devices installed, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled. The verdict by the EU’s top court raises the possibility that the German carmaker could face masses of legal complaints from consumers across the bloc. The case came to the EU court after an Austrian court handling a claim by the Austrian consumer association VKI on behalf of 574 owners of manipulated vehicles had sought to establish if it had jurisdiction on the matter. The Court of Justice said that under EU law court applicants should, in principle, sue where the defendant is domiciled. However, in cases of tort there was also the possibility of taking action in the place where damage had occurred. The EU court said that the damage occurred only at the time when the vehicles were purchased as they were acquired at a price higher than their actual value. The VKI wants compensation for the difference between the price consumers paid for vehicles, and the value of a manipulated vehicle. Volkswagen said the judgment changed little for plaintiffs, defendants and courts in the dieselgate proceedings. “Outside of Austria, the question of jurisdiction has hardly arisen”, it said. Austria’s minister for consumer protection, Rudolf Anschober, said the ruling was encouraging for a large number of affected Austrians. “Consumers must not be treated differently according to their nationality”, he said in a statement. Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to using illegal software to cheat U.S. diesel engine tests, a scandal that has cost it more than $30 billion in vehicle refits, fines and provisions. Nearly all U.S. owners of affected cars agreed to take part in a $25 billion settlement in 2016 in the United States. The carmaker is in talks in Germany to settle a class action lawsuit there. +++

+++ WE RIDE , a Chinese autonomous vehicle startup, said it has become the first autonomous company to start fully driverless vehicle testing in China, as the world’s biggest auto market accelerates development of autonomous technologies. 3 year old WeRide, backed by Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi, said in a statement that it started tests on open roads in a designated area of Guangzhou after the southern Chinese city granted permission. In China, companies such as Toyota-backed Pony.ai, Baidu and Didi Chuxing are also testing autonomous cars, but all with 1 or 2 safety staff onboard. The people onboard take control in unexpected situations. WeRide said it will use a remote centre to take control of their vehicles if needed. In the United States, Waymo is testing passenger vehicles without a safety driver. Nuro, another startup, is allowed to test driverless delivery vehicles on a small scale in California. WeRide is pursuing a level 4 autonomous standard, in which the car can handle all aspects of driving in most circumstances with no human intervention. It said its driverless testing fleet comprises 10 Lincoln MKZ sedans. The company, led by former Baidu executive Tony Han, also operates a fleet of more than 40 autonomous taxis and 60 test cars. Carmakers and tech companies including Waymo, Tesla and Uber Technologies are investing billions in the autonomous driving industry. But industry insiders have said it would take years for the technology to mature and for the public to trust autonomous vehicles. +++ 

+++ Amazon.com plans to create at least $100 million in stock awards to retain the 900-plus employees of ZOOX , the self-driving car startup it offered to buy last month and can walk away from the deal if large numbers of them turn down job offers from the technology giant. Amazon, which is aggressively expanding into self-driving technology, announced June 26 it had agreed to acquire the Silicon Valley company, which was founded on an ambitious effort to design a fully autonomous vehicle from scratch rather than retrofitting existing cars for self-driving. Amazon will pay $1.3 billion in cash for the takeover, which the parties hope to close by September. Zoox had been valued at $3.2 billion in 2018. The Amazon deal documents show Zoox was burning more than $30 million each month in early 2020 and projected it would run out of cash by July. Amazon had the option to lend Zoox $30 million on signing the agreement in June, with the option for further loans before the deal closes. Attempts to wrest Zoox or its talent away from Amazon started before the 2 even reached a definitive agreement. After Zoox signed an exclusive agreement to negotiate with Amazon but before they reached a deal, a third party stepped in to offer $1.05 billion, according to the deal documents. The offer came from Cruise, the self-driving company backed in part by General Motors, Honda and the SoftBank Group. Reuters reported June 4 that the founder of Cruise approached Zoox engineers with job offers. Technology news publication The Information reported June 30 that 2 senior Zoox engineers, James Philbin and Marc Wimmershoff, joined Waymo. The Amazon-Zoox deal documents describe 2 lists of “key employees”. All on the first list must take Amazon jobs for the deal to close and at least 19 from the second list must stay. Amazon plans to offer jobs to 3 schedules of other Zoox employees, requiring that 90 % of the first 2 and 88 % of the third accept jobs to close the deal. Zoox co-founder Jesse Levinson will receive 40 % of his deal compensation over 3 years rather than at the closing. Levinson owns 49 million of the 131.4 million common shares of Zoox; a roughly 37 % stake. Zoox chief executive Aicha Evans got a $3.4 million cash bonus, according to the documents. The deal rewards Zoox “company service providers” who had joined by May 18 with a $125 million cash “transaction bonus pool” paid out in proportion to their shares. Amazon provided 30 % of the funding for the pool, on top of the $100 million pool of Amazon restricted stock units it will create for Zoox employees who stay with Amazon after the deal, the documents show. The rewards for current Zoox employees who stay on (even those who joined recently) far outstrip those of longtime former employees with only common shares or those employees who leave before the close. Common shares are expected to be valued between 69 cents and 76 cents each after the deal closes, according to the documents. +++

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