Newsflash: Ford Bronco trekt voor meer dan 30 procent Jeep klanten


+++ A mere 24 hours after Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess announced that his company’s “center of gravity for software development” will move from Wolfsburg to Ingolstadt, AUDI boss Markus Duesmann took charge and immediately found a replacement for software development boss Christian Senger. Senger, formerly in charge of the VW Group’s Car Software unit, will now make way for one Dirk Hilgenberg, who is a former senior vice president of manufacturing engineering at BMW. The first order of business is to take the full range of functions of the Volkswagen OS (Operating System) and use it for the first time in a lighthouse model from Audi that will apparently be developed in record time at Artemis; a new agile unit tasked with facilitating the acceleration of the development process. “The close cooperation with all brands and teams will be decisive for the success of the Car.Software organization. With my team at Audi, we are assuming a special responsibility as a premium brand. Because for many of our customers, premium is already defined today primarily through digital technologies that are perfectly tailored to their users. Our aim is for all brands in the Volkswagen Group to benefit from this pioneering role”, said Duesmann. Before the end of this year, VW’s Car Software organization will have some 5.000 specialists tasked with developing a common software for all VW Group brands: Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Skoda, Seat. Duesmann did thank Senger in the official press release for his “pioneering work”, while adding that Hilgenberg brings “extensive international experience in the integration of software products and technologies”. +++ 

+++ Earlier this week, a German court ruled that Tesla misled customers regarding the abilities of its semi-autonomous driving system, the now notorious AUTOPILOT . The Munich court then banned Tesla from using certain messages in its adverts in Germany. As it turns out, a leading car safety expert in the UK arrived at a similar conclusion, agreeing that Tesla’s Autopilot technology has been marketed in a “misleading” way. Matthew Avery of Thatcham Research, who is also an Euro NCAP board member, said that he and the organizations for which he works have long “warned of the pitfalls to the Autopilot system”, which “is not a self-driving system. It is there to provide driver assistance, not to become an invisible chauffeur”. While Tesla claims that all of their new models are already equipped with the necessary hardware needed in the future for full self-driving, the system currently utilizes an array of features that merely walk the line between Level 2 and Level 3 autonomy (such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and automated emergency braking). Sure, add them all together and Tesla’s tech might be more cohesively integrated than that of some of its rivals, but that doesn’t mean it’s fully self-reliant. Furthermore, Thatcham Research says that certain British Tesla owners recently received an email that read: “Our records indicate that you haven’t upgraded your Model S to Full Self-Driving Capability. You can upgrade now at a reduced price of £2,200”. If true, this is troubling on multiple levels. Ultimately, Avery believes that when marketed appropriately, systems like Autopilot can be very effective and that they will “benefit road safety”. +++ 

+++ BENTLEY is shedding more light on the 4-seat version of the facelifted Bentayga, which is marketed as the most luxurious variant of the British luxury SUV. The new model builds on the success of the previous Bentayga 4-seater, which represented 20 % of the SUV’s total sales. Rear legroom has been improved by up to 100 mm as the rear seats can now recline further, from 32 degrees to 40 degrees, and the fore and aft travel has been increased by 35 mm. Bentley has completely redesigned the seats in the facelifted Bentayga, giving them a more sculptured shape, especially around the shoulder area for greater comfort. The ‘Four Seat Comfort Specification’, as Bentley calls it, adds rear seat ventilation, 6 different massage programs and a Comfort headrest. Customers of the facelifted Bentayga 4-seater can also choose a rear console bottle cooler from Mulliner, which can fit a 750 ml bottle and comes with 2 handcrafted Cumbria Crystal flutes. The rear center console provides additional storage and 2 USB charging sockets. The backboard is leather-trimmed and features a diamond-quilted ski hatch. The rear passengers of the facelifted Bentayga 4-seater can control their seat functions via a new larger touchscreen remote control tablet with a 5 inch display. The tablet can control a number of functions, apart from seat operation, including seat heating and massage, the media system and mood lighting, as well as the power windows and the sunroof blind. The Bentayga has been redesigned inside and outside, featuring not only the latest tech features but also a much sharper look. The cabin of the new Bentayga also features a new infotainment system with a 10.9 inch touchscreen display and wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. The 4-seat variant of the facelifted Bentayga is available from launch, along with the standard 5-seat model and the optional 7-seat configuration, covering pretty much every need. +++ 

+++ BMW has signed a deal with Northvolt to order €2 billion worth of electric vehicle battery cells from the Swedish supplier. In a time when the battery industry appears to be dominated by Asian suppliers, BMW’s deal with Northvolt signals a shift in the supply chain for European automakers, with an emphasis on sustainability and battery life cycle. Northvolt will produce BMW’s battery cells at a new gigafactory being built in northern Sweden, where it plans to source 100 % of its energy from renewable sources, specifically wind and hydro electric. The company plans to begin producing cells at the new plant in 2024, concerning itself not just with the production of batteries, but also in their end-of-life recycling. Through its Revolt program, Northvolt plans to recycle 25.000 tons of battery cells annually by 2022, with recycled material making up 50 % of new batteries by 2030. In addition to recycled materials, BMW says it and Northvolt are committed to responsible sourcing of raw materials (like cobalt and lithium) for their battery cells. BMW plans to eliminate the use of rare earth metals in its fifth-generation electric powertrains beginning next year. It’s hard to disentangle any part of the EV industry from Tesla these days. Northvolt is headed by Peter Carlsson, a former supply chain vice president at Tesla from 2011-2015. Another Tesla supply chain alumnus among the leadership team at Northvolt is Paolo Cerruti. In addition to Northvolt, BMW sources battery cells from Samsung SDI and Chinese manufacturer CATL. BMW plans to source cells from CATL’s new European plant being constructed in Erfurt. BMW builds the batteries for its vehicles near where its vehicles are built, in Germany, China and in the U.S. The deal between BMW and Northvolt is part of a larger movement of building batteries and their components closer to the source. As detailed in a report from Chemical & Engineering News, more companies are building battery factories in Europe to be closer to their customer base. Many of these are from Asia or U.S., like CATL, Samsung, LG Chem and Tesla, but European companies like Northvolt and Saft hope to compete with these giants on their home turf. +++ 

+++ BUGATTI ‘s handling-focused Chiron Pur Sport should have been one of the stars of the Geneva auto show, but the event was canceled at the last minute due to the ongoing corona virus pandemic. Although customers weren’t able to see the firm’s newest model in person, demand has nonetheless been exceptionally high. Geneva is a major event for brands like Bugatti because it’s one of the last shows where customers go to spend money, not just to sit in cars and play around with the infotainment system. Members of the company’s sales and marketing team consequently had to find other ways to present the model; some potential buyers were shown the Pur Sport online, while a handful have seen it in person as it tours Europe. All have given it a warm welcome. “Feedback from customers that have seen the car, online or in person, has been positive. It’s exceeding expectations”, a spokesperson for the company told. Bugatti will continue showing the car to loyal customers in Europe and it will soon set sail across the Atlantic to make its debut on American soil. 60 units of the Pur Sport will be built by hand in Bugatti’s Atelier in Molsheim. It’s the latest member of the Chiron family, which also includes the standard model introduced at the 2016 edition of the Geneva show and the record-breaking Super Sport 300+ unveiled in 2019. Frank Heyl, the company’s deputy design director, told that customer requests play a big role in shaping the different directions his team takes the Chiron in. “We have customers who really demanded a more reactive, more emotional car. This was, of course, one idea. We said, ‘OK, let’s do it,’ and we started developing this car”. Heyl stopped short of telling me what’s next, but his team won’t run out of ideas (and customers won’t run out of requests) anytime soon. In the meantime, Bugatti’s team of intrepid road testers is fine-tuning the Chiron Pur Sport by putting it through its paces on various tracks, including the Nürburgring. Production is scheduled to start in the second half of 2020. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen said it expects its CHINA sales to fall a single-digit percent this year as new SUVs and premium models help it recover from a sales slide in the world’s biggest auto market. The German automaker sold 1.59 million vehicles in China in the first 6 months of 2020; down 17 % from 1.92 million units in the same period last year. For all of 2019, VW sold around 4.23 million vehicles in the country. Volkswagen is China’s biggest foreign auto maker, followed by General Motors. The country’s overall auto sales, which include cars and commercial vehicles, dropped 17 % in January-June. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers has forecast full-year sales to fall 10 % to 20 %. Volkswagen China chief Stephan Wöllenstein said the automaker’s sales in the second half this year will likely be level with same period last year, though a possible second wave of the novel coronavirus outbreak lends uncertainty. The firm expects the market’s sales of new energy vehicles, which include all-battery vehicles as well as plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, will reach 1 million units this year, Wöllenstein said at a briefing. The Wolfsburg-based company has local joint ventures with SAIC Motor, the FAW Group and JAC, and is building plants based on its MEB platform which it has said enables the efficient production of various electric vehicle models. Volkswagen said it would invest €2.1 billion in partner JAC and battery maker Guoxuan High-tech. Wöllenstein said by 2025 Volkswagen plans to have 15 MEB-based electric models of different brands in China. It is building its own electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Chinese cities. Volkswagen, which also sells premium Audi cars in China, expects slight growth in China’s premium car segment this year. +++ 

+++ General Motors confirmed 1 of the 20 electric cars it plans to release by 2023 will be a full-size CHEVROLET pickup. It quietly announced the model in the sustainability report it published this month. Chevrolet pledged its yet-unnamed pickup will offer over 640 km of driving range on a charge, but it chose not to disclose additional details about the truck. It could be marketed as a greener alternative to the Silverado, or it could arrive as a standalone model. Similarly, I don’t know precisely when it will make its global debut. General Motors has other pickups and SUVs in the pipeline, and I’m betting they will all share at least some components under the sheetmetal. GM’s much-hyped Hummer will be offered as a pickup and as an SUV. In the same report, Cadillac sketched out plans for a full-size, 3-row luxury SUV that builds on the Escalade’s DNA. All of these models will have roughly the same footprint, so some structural components will be likely shared in the same way that the Sierra, the Silverado, and the Escalade are built on the same basic architecture. Moving beyond trucks, Chevrolet also confirmed it will release a midsize electric crossover and the smaller, Bolt-based model it announced several months ago. GM will initially settle for the 2 variants of the Hummer as its only electric options, while Cadillac’s Escalade-like model will be joined by the Lyriq, what it described as a “globally-sized 3-row SUV”, an XT4-sized model and the Celestiq. As I’ve previously reported, the latter is an ultra-luxurious flagship model that will be assembled by hand in extremely limited numbers. Cadillac predicts it will manufacture 1.2 vehicles daily. Insiders have hinted the sedan may carry a base price of over $200,000; a figure which would make it the most expensive regular-production car manufactured in the United States. Finally, Buick will release 2 electric models. One is described as an SUV with more conventional crossover proportions, while the other is a crossover with “expressive styling”. Most of the aforementioned electric vehicles will be powered by the Ultium battery technology General Motors is busily developing. All told, the company is allocating about $20 billion of its capital and engineering resources to bringing the 20-plus electric cars it promised to the market in a timely manner. This massive push partially explains why the guillotine is falling on some of its less popular models, like the Impala and the Sonic. The success of this costly shift towards battery-powered cars will depend largely on whether demand for electric technology increases in the United States. In 2019, the only electric car in the General Motors portfolio was the Bolt, which logged 16.418 sales. It was outsold by the Chevrolet Corvette. +++ 

+++ As 1 of the 2 organizers for this year’s CONCORSO D’ELEGANZA VILLA D’ESTE , the BMW Group Classic just sent out a press release letting the world know that the event, previously planned for October, has been postponed until 28th-30th of May 2021. The showrunners looked at everything going on right now, including travel restrictions still in place worldwide, and decided that current circumstances would not allow them to “do the world’s oldest Concorso d’Eleganza justice in 2020”. The good news is that all of the highlights planned for 2020 will carry over to 2021 and people looking to attend the storied event will receive plenty of notice concerning the new deadline for having to confirm their registrations. “Whilst we deeply regret having to share this news with you today, we are already in advanced planning for May 2021 with an unrivalled level of anticipation. All of us look forward to welcoming you once more to the shores of Lake Como, together with the dazzling selection of automobiles and motorcycles that had already been confirmed in their relevant classes”, said the German brand. “In particular, we would like to extend our most sincere thanks for the loyalty of our participants and guests who had expressed their wish to join us for a unique autumn edition. We will be delighted to welcome you properly next May under more favourable conditions”. Now, whether or not the May date itself will be kept, that remains to be seen, considering how volatile of a business event planning has become with this ongoing pandemic circling the globe. +++ 

+++ A few weeks ago, it was discovered that Volkswagen trademarked the name “e-Samba” with the European Union Intellectual Property office. That same forum has now found a few other names based on classic Volkswagens. Each of the names follow the same pattern as e-Samba, adding a lowercase “e” prefix to a classic car name. Most intriguing is that one of the trademarked names is “e-Beetle”. It would be easy to jump to conclusions that Volkswagen is planning a line of vintage vehicle revivals that are ELECTRIC , but there are many reasons automakers trademark names. Sometimes it’s just to reserve a name in the off chance it decides to use one. It could be to prevent another company from obtaining it for their own product or to sell it back to Volkswagen for a profit. Obviously it could also be for a new car altogether, one that could be a nice complement to the upcoming ID.Buzz, possibly called e-Samba. Though another possibility is that VW is planning a line of electric powertrains to be sold for conversions to vintage cars. After all, the company previously showed an electric Beetle conversion called e-Beetle or “e-Kafer” for the German name. Then there’s the names themselves, which also seem to support the idea that this could be for a line of conversion powertrains. One of them is the “e-Golf Classic” and it would seem strange to highlight “classic” in a modern electric Golf. The “e-Karmann” is another one that would be cool to see as a reimagined electric car, but probably doesn’t have the broad appeal of a Beetle or Bus to merit a modern car. I’ve also separated the 4th name because it seems like a bad idea to even trademark: “e-Kübel”. While “kubel” has other uses in German, when used in reference to a Volkswagen, it’s intrinsically tied to the Kübelwagen military truck built by VW for the Nazi armed forces in World War II. Even as a possible name for a historic EV conversion, this seems like a name VW shouldn’t worry about maintaining a trademark for. I’d suggest trademarking something like “e-Kurier” to reference the German name of the Thing, or even “e-Thing” for some sort of Jeep-like EV. No, wait, “Thing-e!”. Whether or not the trademarks will be used for new models, revamped old cars or nothing at all, it is an interesting look into VW’s ideas for its electric future. It certainly seems the company has an eye on unique EVs, which we’re glad to see. +++ 

+++ The coronavirus has cancelled business plans all over the world but EUROPE ‘s push into electric cars isn’t one of them. Sales of battery-powered and hybrid cars have held up better than the overall market amid a deeply painful recession, mainly thanks to the action of governments. The 27-country European Union is moving ahead with a major shift in transportation as part of the bloc’s efforts against climate change. Under regulatory pressure carmakers are rolling out a slew of new electric models so they can meet tougher limits on greenhouse gases that come into full force next year. Battery-only models are becoming more affordable, especially as sales are supported by substantial government subsidies. As sales of internal combustion cars have fallen, demand for battery-only cars and hybrids that combine electric motors with conventional engines has been stable or even increased, recent statistics show. By contrast, electric car adoption is moving more slowly in the U.S. due to regulatory uncertainty. The market share of battery and hybrid vehicles rose sharply across European markets during the first half of the year, even as the outbreak closed showrooms in March and April. Germany saw an increase to 8.4 % from 3.4 % a year earlier as overall sales of all car types slumped 35 %. France saw the plug-in share jump to 9 % from 2.5 %. Sweden saw a surge to 25 %, from 10 %. One of the pandemic car buyers was Frank Schendel, a dentist from a small town outside the Bavarian city of Augsburg. In May he bought a Hyundai Kona Electric. He had rented a Tesla on vacation for a couple of days. “My son is getting his driver’s license at the moment, and a Tesla is bit too expensive and too fast, so I was glad to discover the Hyundai Kona”, he said. He hasn’t driven his 10-year-old Mercedes E-Class stationwagon since. “It’s fun, fast and quiet, technologically up to date”, said Schendel, 52. “We drive the Kona everywhere: 500 kilometers to visit grandma, grocery shopping. We do every trip with the Hyundai”. The 64 kWh battery has a range of up to 480 kilometres, enough to reach grandma with just 1 stop at a highway charging station. Electric car buyers are attracted by large government incentives. Under the German government’s latest stimulus package, for example, an electric car with a price tag under €40.000 is eligible for a €9.000 incentive; €3.000 of that to be paid by the manufacturer. Car buyers now have 70 different battery and hybrid models to choose from, with prices starting below €20.000 including those local subsidies in the case of the Seat Mii, the Renault Twingo ZE, and the Skoda Citigo IV. Volkswagen says it will start delivering its ID.3 by year end, starting under €30.000. “The demand is growing fast, very fast”, said Jürgen Sangl, an auto dealer in the town of Landsberg am Lech who sold Schendel his Kona. Sangl decided in 2016 to anticipate the trend and focus on electrics, which are 90 % of his business. “It has gone the way I suspected it would: first a trickle, now a flood”, he said. Beyond the incentives, customers find electrics more attractive once range exceeds 300 kilometers on a charge. The pandemic has nonetheless caused huge pain for carmakers. Daimler, maker of Mercedes-Benz, says it will intensify cost-cutting efforts. “Our previous efficiency goals covered the upcoming transformation, but not a global recession”, said CEO Ola Källenius. Automakers in the EU need to reduce the average emissions of their fleets to 95 grams of CO2 per kilometer driven starting next year. To achieve that, manufacturers will have to lift electric sales from 7 % to 12 % of the market, according to advocacy group Transport & Environment. The new limit is part of the EU effort to comply with the 2015 Paris climate accord to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, blamed by scientists for global warming and accompanying climate change. The U.S., with cheap gasoline and a federal government that wants to roll back fuel economy requirements, is lagging the rest of the world in electric vehicle sales and launches. But since automakers have to develop vehicles to sell globally, and some companies see electric cars as the future, the U.S. is starting to get more models. General Motors CEO Mary Barra has promised an “all-electric future”, with the company developing 20 electric models to sell globally by 2023. President Donald Trump wants to roll back automotive fuel economy requirements enacted when Barack Obama was president. But the rollback has been challenged in court and it’s uncertain which standards automakers will have to meet. If Trump loses the election in November, it’s possible that Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate, could reimpose the Obama-era standards. Last year, automakers sold 236.000 fully electric vehicles in the U.S.; only 1.3 % of the 17.3 million new vehicles that were purchased. In China, a reduction in subsidies led to a slowdown in electric sales late last year, but the government is moving ahead with its requirement for more low-emission vehicles over the long term. Electrics were 4.9% of the market. Saul Lopez, e-mobility manager at Transport & Environment, said that European automakers appear on track to meet the CO2 goals. He noted, however, that carmakers often seem eager to sell enough cars to meet the requirement, but not much more. Some electrics have sold out. The reason: “The carmakers make poor margins on electric vehicles and good margins on SUVs”, he said: “At the end of the day, it’s a compliance-driven market”. +++ 

+++ You know you’ve got a popular product when people are having trouble giving you their money. When the new Bronco was revealed, people noticed that FORD ‘s reservation site was apparently struggling to handle the volume. They often couldn’t get in. But in spite of that, the frenzy was so intense that people kept at it until they got their $100 in, and this morning Ford has a notice on the site saying of the limited First Edition: “Reservations full”. Ford couldn’t yet give me numbers on how many reservations it took or the kind of site traffic it got. Said spokesperson Jiyan Cadiz: “We were stampeded for sure, though!” Only the First Edition is fully reserved for its limited run. But Americans can still reserve the 6 other trims to their heart’s content. And the reservation site seems to be running much better now, though I’m betting some Ford website devs had a late night and early morning. The way it works: People place a reservation now with a $100 refundable deposit and choose their preferred dealer; in late 2020, he will reach out to them and help them place their order and configure the Bronco; and in spring 2021 they’ll hit the trail. The First Edition was never intended to last long, not beyond the 2021 model year. Only 3.500 will be built, Ford says, unless the starting event persuades Ford to extend the run. And given that the First Edition, with all of the possible off-road performance and all of the possible luxury combined into one model, has a price starting at $60,800 for a 2-Door and $64,995 for a 4-Door, building a few more might not be a bad idea. But for now, they’ve been claimed. If you snagged one, you know that the First Edition gets Badlands mechanicals (heavy duty suspension), Outer Banks interior and Wildtrak exterior. There are no optional packages, because everything comes standard. This lineup includes the Mid, High and Lux packages and Sasquatch Package. It also adds a First Edition hood, body side graphics, Shadow Black-painted hardtop, Safari bar, carpeted floor, leather seats (power driver seat) and a unique interior spec. Here is a tracking list of what Americans have been ordering: 2-Door 39 % / 4-Door 61 %; First Edition 31.3 % / Badlands 24.9 % / Wildtrak 13.2 % / Outer Banks 8.7 % / Black Diamond / 10.8 % / Base 5.9 % / Big Bend 5.2 %; 12.9 % first time Ford owners / 30.3 % previous or current Jeep owners (shows much interest this has drawn from Jeep owners/buyers). +++ 

+++ Automotive sustainability reports are usually pretty dull, but GENERAL MOTORS has used theirs to reveal details about an assortment of upcoming electric vehicles. In the document, GM says they are “well on its way to an all-electric future, with a commitment to 20 new electric vehicles by 2023 and plans for additional models taking us beyond that”. Cadillac is front and center for the EV push as they will offer four electric crossovers / SUVs and one “statement vehicle”. The latter is the previously announced Celestiq. It confirmed the Cadillac Lyriq will go into production in 2022 and hit the heart of the crossover market. It will be previewed by a concept on August 6th and is expected to be about the same size as the XT5. The Lyriq will eventually be joined by a small electric crossover that is about the size of the XT4. GM says it will offer attainable luxury and compete in a key global growth segment. Cadillac is also planning 2 large models including a “globally sized” 3-row crossover that “emphasizes interior space and cargo capability for the modern family”. The company didn’t elaborate, but it sounds similar to the XT6. Last but not least, there will be a “full-size, 3-row luxury SUV that builds on the DNA of the brand’s highly successful Escalade”. That sounds pretty promising as the most recent Escalade is a huge improvement over its predecessor. Moving on, the Hummer subbrand will consist of 2 different models including the previously announced pickup which boasts 1.014 hp and a 0-100 km/h) time of 3 seconds. The second vehicle will be an “off-road-capable SUV” which is based on the truck. While the pandemic has delayed the debuts of the Cadillac Lyric and Hummer EV, GM said all their upcoming Ultium-based EVs remain on schedule. +++ 

+++ Autopilot, ProPilot, CoPilot: Automakers have many names for new systems that allow for HANDSFREE DRIVING , but no safety or performance standards to follow as they roll out the most significant changes to vehicle technology in a generation. Spurred by Tesla’s success and eager to start profiting from billions spent on autonomous driving research, automakers are accelerating plans to automate routine driving tasks such as cruising on a highway and make them widely available within 5 years, industry executives said. Most traditional automakers until recently had resisted allowing drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel for extended periods, concerned about product liability claims. Now, hands-free driving systems offer a new and sorely needed source of profit for automakers and suppliers such as Aptiv, especially when this technology is packaged with other extra-cost options. “Consumers are willing to pay extra, sometimes a lot of money, for advanced technology and features that are convenience-oriented rather than strictly focused on safety”, IHS principal analyst Jeremy Carlson said. To address concerns about liability, some automakers are installing cameras inside vehicles, along with warning systems, to ensure drivers remain attentive and ready to take over manual control when necessary. Critics charge that the technology to automate highway driving, parking and navigation in stop-and-go traffic is being deployed in a regulatory vacuum where an absence of industry-wide standards and common terminology creates confusion about what the systems can safely do. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it is still conducting research and gathering data on hands-free technologies, which it said are “not sufficiently mature” to require formal federal standards. Former NHTSA chief Mark Rosekind said the industry may need to further develop the technology before federal mandates are needed, but agreed things are confusing for consumers. “If people don’t know what they’ve got and how it actually operates, that’s a safety issue”, added Rosekind, who is chief safety innovation officer at self-driving startup Zoox, which is being acquired by Jason Levine, head of the Center for Auto Safety advocacy group, said NHTSA should develop minimum performance standards. “Even if consumers know what the feature is supposed to do, there’s no standard to be sure it’s even performing as advertised”, he said. Tesla’s Autopilot, one of the industry’s first semi-automated driving systems, has been criticized by the National Transportation Safety Board for allowing drivers to turn their attention from the road, leading to deadly accidents. NHTSA has investigated 15 crashes since 2016 involving Tesla vehicles equipped with Autopilot. Autopilot was promoted initially as “hands free”, but Tesla quickly shifted that position and now insists that drivers must keep their hands on the steering wheel when Autopilot is deployed. A German court banned Tesla from repeating misleading claims in advertising about its driver assistance systems, including that its vehicles were capable of autonomous driving. In the absence of regulations or standards, a group including J.D. Power, Consumer Reports and AAA is trying to convince automakers to agree on standard terminology and definitions; an initiative that has been endorsed by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Society of Automotive Engineers. But even top industry research groups do not agree on labels. Rather than “hands free”, J.D. Power uses the term “active driving assistance” while IHS Markit prefers “extended hands-off driving”. Detroit automakers have been less aggressive than Tesla in labeling their semi-automated driving systems. Increasing numbers of consumers are buying or leasing new vehicles with Advanced Driving Assistance Systems, according to J.D. Power’s Kristin Kolodge, including such features as automated lane keeping (70 % of new vehicles) and adaptive cruise control (77 %); 2 key components of most hands-free driving systems. Automakers say wider deployment of automated driving technology will lead to fewer crashes and lower auto insurance rates for consumers. So far, insurance providers have been wary, saying they need more data to show that the technology reduces costs related to accidents. “We’re looking at it from a safety standpoint. Do these technologies improve the safety of those that are on the roadway?”, said David Harkey, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a research arm of the insurance industry. +++ 

+++ INDIA ’s auto sales volume will not return to the peak levels seen in 2018 for another 3 to 4 years, an industry body executive said, as the Covid-19 pandemic has aggravated disruption in a sector already hit by weak demand. In the fiscal year that began on April 1, sales of cars, SUVs, motorbikes and trucks have already fallen 75 % from a year ago to about 1.5 million vehicles, data released by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) showed. That compares with a peak of more than 26 million units in the fiscal year 2018-19 before a slowdown in consumer demand last year pushed auto sales 18 % lower to 21.5 million. “The impact of Covid-19 is going to be very harsh on the auto industry. As of now, we are staring into a very deep slowdown”, Rajan Wadhera, president of SIAM, told. “We don’t see the situation becoming normal (reaching 2018 volumes) for another 3-4 years”, he said. India went into lockdown in late March to prevent the spread of the novel corona virus, forcing automakers to suspend manufacturing. While production has resumed, with restrictions, plant utilisation levels are low at 20 % to 30 %. They are expected to rise to 40 % this month, Wadhera said, but supply chains are still disrupted and some cities are facing fresh lockdown restrictions as cases of the novel coronavirus continue to rise. The southern state of Karnataka, home to Toyota’s car plant, went into a week-long lockdown, forcing the Japanese automaker to temporarily halt production. Wadhera said there was some pent up demand for cars, but momentum could be lost unless the government acts to boost demand. SIAM is lobbying for a tax cut on auto sales and a scheme to incentivise the scrapping of old vehicles, he said. +++ 

+++ JEEP is desperately trying to divert attention away from the new Ford Bronco and their latest effort involves a new teaser video for upcoming Wrangler 4xe. In the clip, the plug-in hybrid can be seen quietly navigating an off-road trail while the tagline suggests it will be “so quiet, it won’t disturb naptime”. While the video doesn’t provide a good view of the model, the SUV was shown at CES earlier this year. Styling changes were minor, but included a charging port that was integrated into the base of the windshield. The model also had blue tow hooks and blue badging, but it remains unclear if those will carryover to the production model. We can also expect some minor interior changes which could include hybrid-specific instrumentation and a navigation system that shows nearby charging spots. Despite showing the model in January, Jeep said virtually nothing about it. The company had planned to reveal more details about their plug-in hybrids at the Beijing, Geneva and New York auto shows, but those events were canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Little is known about the Wrangler 4xe, but Jeep has previously said their plug-in hybrids will be more capable and more fun to drive, thanks to their greater torque and immediate engine response. That isn’t much to go on, but it’s believed the model will borrow some of its technology from the Pacifica Hybrid. If that’s the case, the Wrangler may have a 3.6-liter V6 engine, a lithium-ion battery pack and a gearbox with an integrated electric motor (or motors). While a lot of questions remain, Jeep says the Wrangler 4xe is “coming soon”. +++ 

+++ Daimler has revealed it will stop production of MERCEDES-BENZ sedans in the United States and Mexico as it looks to cut costs and streamline production. The German automaker made the announcement when revealing that it is shaping up to post an operating loss of €1.68 billion in the second quarter. In addition it revealed that a decline in demand triggered by dealership closures and lockdowns have seen Daimler report a second-quarter loss of €708 million, before interest and taxes. Daimler stopping U.S. and Mexican production of Mercedes-Benz sedans means the A-Class Limousine currently built at its factory in Aguascalientes, Mexico will no longer be built. This facility will instead concentrate on building the GLB. Furthermore, production of the C-Class at the carmaker’s factory in Tuscaloosa, Alabama will cease, with the site to focus solely on SUVs. Reports have been swirling since at least 2017 that the C-Class’s future at the site has been under threat. No announcement was made about when production of the A-Class and C-Class will end in Mexico and U.S., respectively. In what proved to be a difficult quarter, the Mercedes-Benz Cars & Vans unit posted an operating loss of €1.13 billion and an adjusted operating loss of €284 million. Daimler has added that it spent €129 million on restricting efforts throughout the quarter, including staff buyouts at Mercedes-Benz. Daimler also incurred €687 million in restricting costs to retool its global production network of factories producing Mercedes-Benz passenger cars. +++ 

+++ NISSAN is planning a 30 % year-on-year cut in global vehicle production through December as falling demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic complicates its turnaround efforts, 2 sources with knowledge of the matter told. Japan’s No. 2 automaker plans to produce around 2.6 million vehicles between April and December; down from 3.7 million during the same period last year, the sources said. Nissan made 4.6 million cars in the financial year ended March. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity as the information is not public. Nissan, which has yet to announce a sales forecast for this financial year, declined to comment on its production plans. Global automakers are struggling after factories were shuttered earlier this year to stem the spread of the pandemic. Car dealerships were also closed in many countries, pummelling vehicle sales in March through May, although the fall in sales slowed in June as economies started to reopen. The pandemic has been particularly difficult for Nissan, which was already grappling with falling sales and a deteriorating cash position. In May, it unveiled a far-reaching restructuring plan after posting its first annual loss in 11 years. In the first 2 months of this financial year, the maker of the Qashqai and the Leaf made around 307.000 vehicles globally; down 62 % from last year, according to monthly production figures. It will announce June output figures next month. Nissan is planning for production to increase from 510.000 vehicles in the first quarter to around 930.000 in July-September, the sources said. Second quarter output will be about 25 % lower from a year ago, according to calculations. Production is expected to increase to around 1.1 million vehicles in October-December, roughly 8 % lower on the year. In July-September, Nissan’s output will be hit hardest at home, falling around 47 % from last year, after the automaker said it would cut more shifts at its Japanese assembly plants. Domestic output will recover slightly through December. +++ 

+++ While the coronavirus crisis and the resulting closures of PORSCHE dealerships globally over a period of several weeks did result in a 12 % sales decline compared to last year, the German carmaker actually managed to sell more 911 models in the first half of this year, compared to the first 6 months of 2019. In total, Porsche has thus far sold 116.964 cars globally, with the Cayenne proving to be their most popular model. No fewer than 39.245 customers bought this SUV this year, while another 34.430 opted for the Macan. Meanwhile, Porsche 911 buyers accounted for 16.919 deliveries, with the Taycan finding 4.480 homes worldwide. From that total of 116.964 units, 55.550 were supplied to markets in the Asia-Pacific, Africa and Middle East regions, with China remaining the carmaker’s largest single market in terms of volume. European buyers accounted for 32.312 new vehicles sold between January and June, while the U.S. market got 24.186 units to cross its borders. “We see positive tendencies, although we continued to feel the effects of the coronavirus crisis in the second quarter, especially in the US and Europe. A crucial factor here was the month of April when almost all Porsche Centres in these markets were still closed”, said Porsche’s marketing exec Detlev von Platen. “In addition, this was a very strong second quarter in 2019 as the comparative period. We remain confident, however, and are full of energy as we tackle the challenges in the second half of the year. The continuing positive development in China and other Asian markets will help us here, too”. According to Von Platen, Porsche’s situation in Europe has improved since May, although things are still not back to normal. +++ 

+++ Audi Sport made the rear-wheeldrive R8 a regular-production model in 2018, but the company stressed its mid-engined halo car will remain the lone exception to the QUATTRO rule. It’s not planning to build rear-wheel drive variants of any of the other cars in its lineup. “We have used rear-wheel drive in the latest R8. But, normally, Quattro is part of our heritage. It means safe, agile and competitive driving”, Rolf Michl, Audi Sport’s sales and marketing boss, told. His comments seemingly rule out tail-happy variants of the RS 6 Avant (which is finally available in the United States) and the RS 7 Sportback, among others. It also closes the door to front-wheeldrive models. Looking ahead, Audi Sport is working on its first series-produced electric car. It will be closely related to the e-Tron GT concept introduced at the 2018 edition of the Los Angeles Auto Show, and it will share its architecture with the Porsche Taycan. It likely won’t remain the company’s only battery-powered model for long, but Michl stressed his team decided that even upcoming electric cars will need to offer Quattro all-wheel drive. “I don’t hear any different views from people on this, even with electrified versions in the future. We’ll stay with our approach: Quattro is a major part of RS models”, he clarified. Like the regular e-Tron, the GT will receive a through-the-road all-wheel drive system, meaning there won’t be a mechanical connection between the front and rear axles. Looking at the Taycan’s specifications sheet suggests Audi will assign an electric motor to each set of wheels and stuff a lithium-ion battery pack directly under the passenger compartment. It will tune the drivetrain in-house instead of copying and pasting it directly from its sister company. And, it told Autoblog the production model will look a lot like the concept that previewed it. +++ 

+++ I took Thursday off. I came in late in the evening and Fiat Chrysler plus PSA were renamed STELLANTIS . Aside from lighting Twitter on fire and drawing a lot of snarky responses from car journalists, the name is actually decent. Let’s look at it from a few angles. For starters, Chrysler, the 95-year-old automaker founded in Detroit by Walter P. Chrysler (his name still adorns everything from a major freeway in Michigan to an iconic art deco skyscraper in New York), isn’t actually Chrysler. It’s FCA, which stands for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The name change actually happened in 2014, which you might have easily missed. The American unit, formerly Chrysler, is known as FCA US in some legal matters, but does not operate independently. The Stellantis name takes effect in 2021. Here’s why it’s needed: Fiat Chrysler is merging with PSA to form a transatlantic alliance that will be larger than even General Motors. Stellantis sounds a lot better than FCA-PSA. Or PSA-FCA. You might poke fun at it, but it beats the alternatives. Or at least it could be worse. Stellantis is the name for the corporate entity that will house Chrysler, Fiat, Peugeot, Citroen, and oh by the way, Opel and Vauxhall, which PSA bought in 2017 when GM unloaded its European arm. Your Jeep will not say Stellantis on the fender. Your Panda won’t say “powered by Stellantis” under the hood. Your Citroën or Peugeot will not have a script “Stellantis” crest. Speaking of that: here’s all of the brands that will be housed under the Stellantis umbrella: Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Fiat, Fiat Professional, Mopar, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Abarth, Ram, Lancia, Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Opel and Vauxhall. There’s also a couple of lesser-known subsidiaries, Comau and Teksid, that sell parts. That’s 18 brands. They have origins in Detroit, Paris, Turin, Chalton (England), Rüsselsheim (Germany) and several other places. All of these carmakers have deep histories. No one was going to agree on using someone else’s name. You might notice Chrysler is still in there. Chrysler as the brandname for the 300 sedan and Pacifica lives on. Stellantis replaces FCA, which replaced Chrysler, as the name of the parent company. Yes, it’s a little confusing. Here’s more perspective. Chrysler was once owned by Cerberus, a three-headed dog that guards the gates of hell, according to mythology. Stellantis which is “rooted in the word ‘stello’, means “to brighten with stars”, according to a press release. At least the Stellantis backstory sounds more optimistic, and ownership by Stellantis has got to turn out better than Cerberus’ stewardship, which led to bankruptcy. I would argue keeping Chrysler as the corporate name for the U.S. operations is a better move. But taking a broader view (which was part of the strategy behind the change from Chrysler to FCA) acknowledges that this global company will act as one. There’s several major, formerly independent automakers all baked into one entity. By keeping separate names, there would always be silos and division. Say what you want about the name, but now it’s clear that Fiat, Chrysler, Peugeot (and all those other brands) will move forward under one banner: Stellantis. +++ 

+++ TESLA ’s vehicle registrations nearly halved in the U.S. state of California during the second quarter. Most parts of the United States were under government-imposed stay-at-home orders between April and June to combat the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, which impacted production and caused a plunge in auto sales. Tesla’s only U.S. vehicle factory in California was shut for some 6 weeks of the quarter. Registrations in California, a bellwether market for the electric-car maker, plummeted almost 48 % from a year earlier to 9.774 units in the months April, May and June. Model 3 registrations in the state, which accounted for more than half of the total sales, fell 63.6 % to 5.951 vehicles. Total vehicle registrations in the 23 states from where the data was collected fell nearly 49 % to 18.702 vehicles. The automaker had earlier this month outpaced analysts’ estimates for vehicle deliveries in the second quarter, defying a trend of plummeting sales in the auto industry as Covid-19-related lockdown orders kept people at home. Registration figures might not accurately reflect the number of vehicle deliveries during the quarter as registrations in the United States typically take about 30 days from the time of sale. +++ 

+++ A county in central TEXAS has approved a plan to provide Tesla will millions in tax subsidies if it builds its upcoming Cybertruck factory there. Commissioners in Travis County voted in favor of providing Tesla with a tax rebate of at least $14.7 million as the county, which includes Austin, looks to prove itself as more appealing than Tulsa, Oklahoma which was the second of 2 finalists Tesla will decide between as the location of the new factory. Crucially, these latest tax rebates aren’t the only incentives being offered in Texas. The Del Valle school district that includes the proposed factory site approved a $50 million incentive package for Tesla. In meeting with Travis County officials, Tesla has asked for an 80 % rebate on its property taxes for 10 years in a move worth $14.7 million and a 65 % rebate for the 10 years after that. Tesla added the factory will create 5.000 jobs and that the average annual salary would be approximately $47,000. While this latest Tesla factory was initially promoted as being exclusively for the Cybertruck, the electric car manufacturer has since confirmed it will also serve as a second U.S. site for the Model Y, which is also built at its Fremont, California site, while also being produced in China for the local market. Tesla is in the midst of drastically increasing its footprint of factories. Not only is it planning a site for the Cybertruck and Model Y in the U.S,. but it is also building a Gigafactory in Germany and according to Elon Musk, is considering a new site in Asia. +++ 

+++ The Covid-19 pandemic is accelerating the remaking of THAILAND ’s auto industry, the backbone of Southeast Asia’s sector, as factory shutdowns compound a shift toward electric vehicles. Thailand’s auto-related businesses, which employ 900.000, are reopening after months of coronavirus shutdowns, promising relief for many laid-off workers. But there’s a catch: Thailand’s shift toward electric vehicles (EVs) could pummel the local auto industry because it is dominated by hundreds of parts makers, while EVs require just 10 % to 20 % as many of parts as internal-combustion vehicles. With an estimated one-third of a million jobs at risk, Thai auto-parts makers are scrambling into industries like medical equipment, a trend likely to keep reshaping Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy after the pandemic passes. “We are all worried. This is a sunset industry”, said Kasem Tiankanon, manager at Siam Filter Products. The Bangkok-based company has avoided laying off any of its hundreds of workers by offsetting the drop in orders from automakers with an increase in replacement parts. The company is looking to branch out into making filters for industrial and medical use and is developing a new kind of protective mask. “We cannot just stay in the auto business”, Kasem said. “If you don’t adjust, you’ll die”. Others moved to packaging and aviation. “It’s a pivot to industries that use the same processes because there is already expertise in machining”, said Sompol Tanadumrongsak, head of the Thai Auto-Parts Manufacturers Association. The coronavirus damage to car demand will crush Thailand’s output by almost half to 1.14 million vehicles this year, research firm IHS Markit forecasts.
Parts makers, which account for some 80 % of the country’s auto-industry workers, have laid off 20.000; a number that could hit 100.000 by year end, said Manit Promkareekul, president of the Automobile Labour Congress of Thailand. EV prospects are brighter. Global sales will rise 6 % this year to 2.3 million vehicles before exploding to 45 million by 2030, forecasters say. Even before the new coronavirus struck, Thailand’s parts makers were starting to shift gears as the global car industry moves toward EVs, spurred by the likes of Tesla. The government in March targeted EVs at 30 % of production, or 750.000 vehicles, by 2030, initially for domestic use in a bid to curb pollution. Truck-chassis maker Sammitr Group last month received approval for a $170 million project to make 30.000 battery-power vehicles a year in a joint venture with a Chinese company. In 2018, Honda and Nissan received approval for investments worth a combined $888 million to produce hybrid electric vehicles and batteries. To be sure, Thailand faces competition from other countries in gaining factories for the expected EV boom. Toyota last year announced a $2 billion EV investment in Indonesia. But even if Thailand attracts more EV production, 800 autoparts companies and more than 325.000 jobs could be at risk because an EV uses 1.500 to 3.000 parts, versus 30.000 in a traditional gasoline vehicle, said Kiriya Kulkolkarn at Thammasat University. Great Wall Motor, China’s top pickup maker, took over 2 General Motors plants in Thailand in February to make SUVs and pickups, but held back from EV production. Great Wall would need more support from the government to produce EVs, vice president Steven Wang told. EV incentives from Thailand’s Board of Investment have expired and now it is exploring new measures to attract investors, said secretary-general Duangjai Asawachintachit. What is needed to ensure Thailand’s competitiveness are steps to provide clarity to investors and customers, said Kiranee Tammapiban-udom of Maverick Consulting Group. “The industry is approaching an inflection point”, she said. “It will be left behind if policies do not accommodate EV manufacturing, its ecosystem and consumption”. +++

+++ In a recent study of 900 top companies, it was determined that, with $192 billion in debt, VOLKSWAGEN ranks first among the world’s most indebted companies. That means it has more debt than countries like South Africa ($180.1 billion) and Hungary ($101.9 billion). Much of VW’s debt is tied to its large financing division. Volkswagen is not alone in its position as an automaker with mountains of debt. In fact, another German automaker, Daimler, is the world’s third most indebted company with $151 billion in debt. Not far behind is Toyota with $138 billion in debt, Ford with $122 billion and BMW with $114 billion. Out of the 10 most indebted companies in the world, 5 are automakers. By comparison, there are plenty of large companies out there that don’t have troves of debt and are actually sitting on vast reserves of cash. Leading the pack is Alphabet with $104 billion in cash, beating out the likes of Samsung with $78 billion, Microsoft with $47 billion, Facebook with $44 billion, Song with $14 billion and Alibaba Group with $13 billion. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, global corporate debt has jumped around 12 % to $9.3 trillion. “Covid has changed everything”, portfolio manager at Janus Henderson, Seth Meyer, told. “Now it is about conserving capital and building a fortified balance sheet”. Volkswagen has stopped hiring new staff at its core brand until year end, VW’s brand’s chief said. Despite a slight recovery in demand, car sales remain below levels seen before the coronavirus crisis, Ralf Brandstätter said in an interview. “We remain under substantial cost pressure. Deliveries and therefore revenue have dropped sharply. At the same time a large amount of costs remain. This is why we have decided not to add new people”. Volkswagen’s job guarantee for German employees until 2029 remains in place, he said. The company’s works council chief Bernd Osterloh said that without external hiring, VW needs to do more to retrain existing staff. Osterloh said he expected production at the plant in Wolfsburg this year to drop to around 500.000 cars instead of 700.000 which had been planned.Osterloh furthermore told he would stand for re-election as head of the company’s powerful works council, if labor representatives and workers supported the move. Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg plant is currently unable to produce 3.000 cars a day, because it has cut down to a 2 shift system, Osterloh told. +++

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