Newsflash: Cadillac Lyriq wordt goedkoper dan Tesla Model X

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+++ Last month, rumors suggested BMW was going to drop the M8 Coupe and Convertible in the United States. That has now come to pass as the automaker has officially confirmed the models are going away. BMW was coy on specifics, but said the “M8 Coupe and Convertible will not be imported for MY21, only the M8 Gran Coupe”. When reached for comment, the company told me this only applies to 2021 models so they’ll be back in 2022. BMW didn’t say why the cars are going on hiatus, but reports have suggested the company is sitting on a stockpile of unsold M8s. A quick search reveals over 500 models at dealerships, but at least a few of them are miscategorized M8 Gran Coupes. This seems to suggest the M8 Coupe and Convertible haven’t been warmly received by buyers. The pandemic likely plays a role in this, but we wouldn’t be surprised if their hefty price tags are also a factor. +++

+++ The CADILLAC Lyriq will spearhead the brand’s electric vehicle push and GM’s North American president, Steve Carlisle, has revealed the production model will cost less than $60,000. That undercuts a number of other electric crossovers including the Audi e-Tron, Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X. Carlisle made the announcement during the J.P. Morgan Auto Conference and Autonews reports he said “This car will need to be priced similar to how the industry prices midsize lux SUVs today, maybe a slight premium at the outset”. While he wouldn’t give a specific starting price, Carlisle hinted the Lyriq “won’t be high 5 digits” and “won’t start with a 7” or a 6. The Lyriq will ride on GM’s new electric vehicle platform and go into production in late 2022. The model will be offered with rear- and all-wheel drive, and the latter versions will feature 2 electric motors. Power will be provided by an Ultium battery pack which has a capacity of approximately 100 kWh. It will enable the Lyriq to have a range in excess of 480 km on a single charge. Owners can also expect fast recharging times as the crossover will support Level 2 charging rates up to 19 kW and DC fast charging rates in excess of 150 kW. The Lyriq promises to be high-tech as well as it will feature Super Cruise as well as a 33 inch LED display. Other highlights will include an advanced noise cancellation system and a 19 speaker AKG Studio audio system that promises to deliver “exceptionally crisp and precise sound reproduction”. +++ 

+++ China’s CATL , a Tesla supplier, said it is working on a new technology that will allow battery cells to be integrated with an electric car’s chassis, shedding traditional casings that make battery systems bulky. Integrating cells directly into an electric vehicle’s (EV) frame will allow more cells to be loaded into a car and extend its range; a key concern for customers. With the new technology, EVs could have a driving range of over 800 kms, CATL chairman Zeng Yuqun said at an industry conference in Wuhan. The Ningde-based company aims to launch the technology before 2030. Zeng did not say whether CATL was already working with any automaker to implement this new design. China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd supplies lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries to Tesla and recently signed a partnership with Japan’s Honda. It also supplies Volkswagen and Daimler. A technology such as this will allow EV battery makers to participate in vehicle design from an earlier stage. Automakers currently tend to source battery modules from battery makers and equip them to fit a car’s mechanical design. Zeng, who expects Europe’s EV market to surpass China’s this year because China cut subsidies, said CATL is exploring new businesses including the recycling of batteries and energy storage. CATL said in a filing that it plans to invest around 19 billion yuan ($2.73 billion) to secure key resources and accelerate global expansion. It did not disclose details of the investments. +++ 

+++ There’s a legend prowling the streets of northern Italy, in and around a town called Maranello. You may have heard about the place: it’s where a car company called FERRARI makes its home. In recent months, a sinister black car has been spotted on occasion, sometimes followed by whispers of 3 notable letters – GTO. Now, it’s been spotted again. Admittedly, I’m getting a little dramatic here. Yes, the fabled black Ferrari 812 Superfast was cahght once again, rolling through the streets of Maranello in broad daylight, still as big a mystery as it ever was. We have these excellent visuals thanks to high-definition video, but to Ferrari’s credit, the rumour mill is dead silent in terms of leaked information. Is this a prelude to a new version of the fearsome 812? Is it merely a test mule for powertrain or aerodynamic developments? Is it a new GTO? At this point, those who know aren’t even dropping hints, never mind talking. Here’s what I do know. Multiple cars are spotted in the clip, as I can see different registration numbers on the back. They also appear identical to prototypes spotted previously. Compared to the standard 812, the rear diffuser is much larger and in fact, both the front and rear fascias are different. There are clearly some aerodynamic alterations, but the car also belts out a slightly lower exhaust note. That suggests there’s something different with the big V12 up front, or at least, something different with the piping running to the back. These changes are the fuel for speculation on the return of the GTO moniker. It’s obviously a very special nameplate in Ferrari’s history, having been used just 3 times. The last machine to wear a GTO badge was the 599 over a decade ago and at the time Ferrari said it was the company’s fastest road car ever built. The 812 Superfast already boasts 800 hp from its fantastic 6.5-litre V12, so it’s not hard to image aero updates and a bit more power for a proper GTO. Of course, this is strictly speculation. Ferrari could have something else in mind with the 812 Superfast that’s not GTO-related. Ultimately, we’ll just have to wait for Ferrari to come clean and that could happen next week, next year, or if these are merely technology test mules, not at all. +++ 

+++ Electric commercial truck maker Nikola of Phoenix, Arizona, tried unsuccessfully to raise $1 billion in the private markets and only turned to a merger with a so-called blank-check company to go public as a way to raise the needed FUNDS , its chief financial officer said. Nikola quickly raised a $250 million commitment from lead investor CNH International last summer, but market concerns about inflated valuations for some companies led the startup to consider an initial public offering before VectoIQ Acquisition Corp approached in late November, Kim Brady told this week. A deal with the special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, became a reality when it was able to arrange an additional $525 million from institutional investors like Fidelity Management & Research Company upon the closing of the $240 million acquisition, allowing Nikola to achieve its fundraising goal, he said in a telephone interview. Nikola’s SPAC merger has been a catalyst for the industry as electric carmakers and other auto technology startups scramble to lock in the necessary funds to survive and develop their vehicles even as global demand for EVs slowly grows, according to interviews with 20 industry officials. “When we embarked on our Series D (fundraising round) we didn’t think a year later we’d be a public company, but based on the market conditions we pivoted”, Brady said. “It worked out perfectly for us. We ended up at exactly the same place”. Nikola previously had eyed an IPO in late 2021 or even 2022, and if not for the SPAC deal it would likely still be private and slowing product development plans to conserve cash given the freeze in the capital markets caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Brady said. Nikola’s success (shares are up more than 320 % since the deal was announced) has emboldened other startups to consider a SPAC merger to raise much-needed cash as public market investors chase Tesla-like returns. However, the trend also worries industry executives that some of these deals could fail, casting a pall over the sector. A SPAC is a shell company that raises money through an IPO to buy an operating company, typically within 2 years. “Some of those companies have struggled for many years and now they’re looking at SPACs as a kind of savior”, Nikola’s Brady said. EV startups Fisker and Lordstown Motors ran into similar problems raising funds privately before cutting SPAC deals to go public, industry officials said. Lordstown turned to a SPAC when efforts to raise $500 million privately froze as Covid-19 spread across America, chief executive Steve Burns said. “We thought we’d do the private financing and then the more conventional IPO, but Covid kind of messed that up”, Burns told. “It went from super-high interest to everybody pushed the pause button”. Without his SPAC, Burns would have had to delay plans, which include launching the electric Endurance pickup next year at Lordstown’s Ohio plant and following that with other trucks and SUVs. Fisker CEO Henrik Fisker said private fundraising in the capital-intensive auto sector was not enough. “Ultimately, when you’re talking about billions of dollars, you have to go to the public markets”, he told last month. Other EV companies approached by SPACs include electric delivery van startup Arrival, Lucid Motors, EV charging network ChargePoint Inc, Bollinger Motors, Canoo, Karma Automotive and VIA Motors International. Lucid, which raised $1 billion from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in 2018 and is planning to start production of its first EV in early 2021, intends to go public eventually and doing it with a SPAC is an option, CEO Peter Rawlinson told. Karma’s acting chief financial officer, Leo Lin, said the company’s plan has always been to go public and SPACs are one option as it seeks to raise at least $300 million. ChargePoint CEO Pasquale Romano said the company plans ultimately to go public but its fundraising allows time to weigh all options. Another major factor is private investors get quicker access to their investments through the ability to cash out quickly with a SPAC, in some cases as fast as 2 or 3 months later, industry officials said. Investors are also riding the momentum of the EV market, industry officials said. While EVs still make up a small percentage of auto sales globally, many are betting that will change as they enviously eye how the stock of the EV industry’s leader, Tesla has soared more than 500% over the past year. “People are looking for the next Tesla”, said Tony Posawatz, a former GM executive who led the development of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid car and headed the former Fisker Automotive. He is now a Lucid board member. EV companies, including Chinese newcomers Nio and Li Auto are so popular with investors that some analysts are pushing No. 1 U.S. automaker General Motors to spin off its growing EV assets; an idea CEO Mary Barra has not dismissed. Others with SPAC deals include Velodyne Lidar, online used-car marketplace Shift Technologies and electric truck powertrain maker Hyliion. SPACs are giving these firms access to capital faster than a typical initial public offering, especially in a sector where building a vehicle costs billions of dollars, industry officials said. But companies better move quickly to take advantage, one SPAC executive said. “It would behoove companies to try and strike while the iron’s hot”, said the executive, who asked not to be identified. “When you have access to capital, take it”. The private market is not totally closed for those with strong partners. Last month, EV startup Rivian, backed by Amazon.com and Ford, raised another $2.5 billion. Some industry officials worry easy money for less-developed startups will lead to trouble when those companies cannot deliver on their promises fast enough. Shares of Fisker’s SPAC took a hit recently when the EV startup disclosed it would not close a deal by the end of July, as it had hoped, to use Volkswagen MEB platform for its vehicles. “We’re sitting on what I think is a massive bubble. There’s going to be a bubble pop”, said one EV executive who has not taken the SPAC approach to fund raising and asked not to be identified. “It’s going to put a cloud over the space”. +++ 

+++ China’s FAW Group is considering setting a higher sales target for chairman Mao Zedong’s carmaker of choice, HONGQI , or Red Flag, in coming years as its sales surge, its chairman said. FAW chairman Xu Liuping told an industry conference in Wuhan that thanks to new models, FAW sold 70.000 Hongqi cars in the first 6 months this year; up 111 % from a year earlier, even as overall market sank by 17 % between January and June. FAW will stick to its sales target for Hongqi this year and is considering setting a more aggressive target for the following years, Xu said. Xu in January said Hongqi aims to sell 200.000 units this year, 400.000 units in 2022 and 600.000 units in 2025, and grow them further to 1 million cars in the next decade. For next year, FAW hopes to at least double its sales, Xu said. A presentation slide showed FAW was considering lifting its sales target for 2022 to 500.000-600.000 cars and 700.000-800.000 cars in 2025. “Targets have not yet been finalised and we are still researching the market”, Xu added. Hongqi, based in the northeastern city of Changchun, has undergone several revamps over the decades, falling out of favour for a period in the 1980s. But the automaker has seen a recent revival amid a national push to promote Chinese brands and has been President Xi Jinping’s ride of choice during recent military parades. Regarded as a cultural symbol of China’s ruling Communist Party, Hongqi in 2018 hired former Rolls-Royce designer Giles Taylor, whose works include Rolls-Royce’s Phantom VIII limousine and the brand’s first sport-utility vehicle model Cullinan, to head its design team in Munich. +++ 

+++ BMW will expand its line-up of M performance cars with the first ever M3 TOURING . The first test prototypes of the hot estate will shortly begin on-road development ahead of a likely launch in 2022. The new M3 Touring will give BMW a direct rival for the long-established Audi RS4 Avant for the first time. In a release, the Munich firm described the hot version of the 3 Series Touring as a “dream come true” that will add to the “unparalleled model diversity” of its expanded M range. The M3 Touring will sit alongside the new M3 saloon and M4 Coupé, both of which are set to be unveiled in September, and next year’s M4 Convertible. In 2018, it was reported that an M3 Touring was being strongly considered by BMW. The firm has now confirmed the model shortly before it begins development work at its Garching facility near Munich. Track tests on the Nürburgring Nordschleife are set to follow. BMW has yet to reveal many technical details of the M3 estate but has confirmed it will use its turbocharged six-cylinder petrol M engine. The M3 Touring is expecred to share its mechanicals and powertrain with the new M3 saloon and M4, in which the S58 twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line engine is set to deliver 480 hp and 600 Nm in standard form. BMW said that “further speculation on engine and performance is quite welcome” and confirmed that the machine will offer the M division’s signature wide axles, large front air intakes and quad exhaust pipes. BMW hasn’t released any images of the M3 Touring yet, although it will likely follow the M3 saloon in adopting a distinctive large grille that borrows heavily from the divisive new 4 Series, rather than adopting similar styling to the regular 3 Series Touring. The estate will, according to BMW, also offer the full space and capacity of the regular 3 Series Touring. It added that it will fulfil “the hopes of all those who wish to take the M-specific interplay of racing-orientated performance and everyday suitability to the extreme”. A release date for the M3 Touring has yet to be confirmed, although BMW said that it’s in the early stages of a 2-year development process, suggesting an arrival in late 2022. While BMW has never previously offered an M3 Touring in the 34-year history of the M3, it did produce a feasibility study prototype based on the third-generation model in 2000. Although it was driven by a number of journalists, it didn’t reach production. The firm has also twice offered a Touring version of the larger M5, with the second-generation model between 1992 and 1995 and from 2006-2010 as part of the fourth-generation line-up. +++ 

+++ POLESTAR , the premium electric vehicle maker owned China’s Geely and Volvo, would like to eventually be publicly listed, but the immediate focus is on successfully launching the new 2 electric sedan, the startup’s chief executive said. “The mid- and long-term perspective indeed is to be open for the stock market and an IPO”, CEO Thomas Ingenlath told reporters on a conference call. “This is indeed one track that is absolutely still on and has not changed”, since Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson said in January 2019 that Polestar could eventually be listed publicly, Ingenlath added. Polestar’s top executive said the focus now is on a successful launch of Polestar 2, dismissing a point made that other EV makers like Nikola and Fisker have gone public or announced plans to do so without having launched a vehicle. “It’s not about the short term thinking. We have a long-term ambition”, Ingenlath said. “Let’s see where we are in a year’s time”. Polestar will sell the 2 in China, Europe and the United States and the company is targeting annual sales of more than 50.000 within 2 to 3 years, he said. The car will compete with Tesla’s Model, but will be targeted at owners of the gasoline-powered luxury sedans from Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi, Ingenlath said. Polestar, which was launched in 2017, already has the low-volume halo Polestar 1 hybrid performance car. Deliveries of the company’s first high-volume car, the Polestar 2, have begun in Europe and will start in North America next month, officials said. Both cars are built in China and there are no immediate plans to build a Polestar car in the United States, as the company needs to build sales in that market first, Ingenlath said. The Polestar 2 will be sold through standalone retail locations called “Polestar spaces” that are set up in high-traffic pedestrian areas, officials said. Those showrooms will be owned and operated by Volvo dealers, which will also serve as the service locations for the cars. +++ 

+++ In SOUTH KOREA , Japanese car sales have plunged here due to a continued boycott by consumers here and the coronavirus epidemic. According to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association, Japanese automakers’ sales from January to July plummeted 55.4 % on-year. Over the same period, total sales of imported cars rose 14.9 %. In other words, while Toyota, Honda and Nissan’s sales plunged, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi and Volkswagen’s rose markedly. The share of Japanese carmakers in Korea’s import market in the first 7 months fell from 20.3 % last year to 7.9 % this year, while German automakers’ rose from 52.1 % to 62 %. Industry watchers blame the ongoing boycott against Japanese products in protest against Tokyo’s trade curbs. But they also say that Toyota, Honda and Nissan are falling behind their rivals in terms of product competitiveness. Genesis’ high-end G80 and GV80 sedans have been huge successes here since their release earlier this year, while Tesla’s cheapest electric car, the Model 3, also achieved strong sales when it finally became available here. Japanese automakers by contrast lacked eye-catching new products. Unable to tolerate further losses, Nissan announced in May that it will pull out of the Korean market altogether. It offered up to W15 million discounts and succeeded in emptying its entire inventory of 824 cars excluding the high-end Infiniti brand. Toyota and Honda are also offering hefty discounts, but there are no signs of sales improvements. Toyota (including Lexus) saw sales plummet 24.4 % in July compared to the previous month, while Honda’s sales dropped 0.8 % to just 129 cars despite the introduction of a new model. Neither intends to pull out. Rather, Toyota continues to invest in its operations in South Korea, rolling out 6 new models in the first half of this year and refurbishing showrooms and service centers in Bundang, Suwon and Wonju. They are also appealing to Korean customers in other ways. Honda gave W100 million to the Korean Red Cross to help flood victims, while Toyota donated W100 million to the Korea Disaster Relief Association. +++ 

+++ SSANGYONG is facing increased pressure to find new investors as it struggles to stay financially afloat as one of its local creditors withdrew their loans. Industry sources said KB Kookmin Bank has recently recovered all loans from SsangYong, the balance of which stood at 8.75 billion won ($7.39 million) as of the end of the first quarter. The move puts the automaker under more pressure to repay other borrowings in time, with 389.9 billion won worth of loans coming due over the next year, although local banks have given the company more time to pay. Woori Bank‘s 15 billion won in loans were extended until the end of the year. The state-run Korea Development Bank also extended the maturity of 90 billion won in loans SsangYong had to pay back in July to the end of the year. SsangYong’s bigger concern is loans borrowed from foreign financial institutions, with 166.8 billion won coming from banks such as JP Morgan (89.9 billion won), BNP Paribas (47 billion won) and Bank of America (29.9 billion won). SsangYong’s priority is to find a new investor to replace its major shareholder, India’s Mahindra Group. Mahindra recently said it would lower its stake from the current 75 % to less than 50 %, giving up its status as majority shareholder if it finds a new investor in the automaker. Currently, Chinese companies such as Geely and BYD, and California-based HAAH Automotive Holdings are reported to be interested in purchasing SsangYong. Some local news outlets reported creditors had pressed for court receivership if SsangYong fails to find a new investor within this month. However, SsangYong dismissed the speculation, saying “It has not received any notice for court receivership from creditors and is currently in the process of seeking new investors”. +++ 

+++ TESLA has announced a 5-for-1 stock split that will go into effect on August 28. Tesla shares have been soaring since late 2019 and the split will make it easier for smaller investors to afford the stock. The 5-for-1 stock split means that Tesla shareholders as of August 21 will have each individual share split into 5 smaller shares. At the company’s current share price of $1.374.39, that means one share will become five shares valued at roughly $275 each. On the back of this news, shares in Tesla soared after hours to as high as $1.485. The stock split could see the company’s share price soar even higher this year. News of Tesla’s stock split comes just a couple of weeks after Apple announced a four-for-one stock split. Forbes notes that Tesla shares have more than tripled in value from $413.13 at the end of 2019 to $1.374.39. This comes despite the coronavirus pandemic impacting the automaker’s production facilities, in particular its Fremont factory in California. Chief executive Elon Musk has benefited profoundly from the automaker’s surging share price. In fact, the second tranche of Musk’s pay package was recently met, meaning he will receive additional Tesla stock worth $2.1 billion. What’s more, Tesla’s recorded its fourth consecutive profitable quarter in Q2, meaning it has fulfilled the requirements to be included in the S&P500. This could result in a big payday for investors if the company is added to the market’s biggest mutual funds and exchange traded funds (ETFs). +++

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