Newsflash: vroegtijdige facelift voor BMW X7 én introductie PHEV variant

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+++ Increased efficiency through consistent electrification, optimised emissions and innovations in the areas of driver assistance and digital services are the focus of the model revision measures for numerous BMW model series that will take effect in autumn 2020. From November, all models of the premium brand will meet the requirements of the currently strictest exhaust emission standard Euro 6d. In the 5 Series, the range of plug-in hybrid models has been extended by 3 new variants. New inline 6-cylinder diesel engines and 48 volt mild hybrid technology lower fuel consumption and emissions of selected models in the 3 Series and 8 Series. In addition, further engines will supplement the drive portfolio of the 1 Series and the 2 Series Gran Coupé. The new Urban Cruise Control function, which will be part of the Driving Assistant Professional option in many current models from November, provides added comfort and safety. The latest digital services for models equipped with BMW Operating System 7 increase driving pleasure further. BMW News provides the driver with personalised audio news. New options when creating the driver profile make it easier to personalise the vehicle. The range of functions of the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant will also be expanded further. New body finishes and optional extras will be available for numerous models from November. The range of BMW models with electrified drive systems will also be consistently expanded in the autumn: the 545e xDrive Sedan (fuel consumption combined: 2.3 – 2.2 l/100 km; combined combined CO2 emissions: 53 – 49 g/km; electric range: 47 – 57 km), 530e Touring (combined fuel consumption: 2.0 – 1.8 l/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 46 – 42 g/km; electric range: 52 – 57 km and 530e xDrive Touring (combined fuel consumption: 2.4 – 2.2 l/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 54 – 50 g/km; electric range: 48 – 53 km. The 5 Series model range now already includes 5 plug-in hybrid variants. In the upper mid-size class, BMW offers the largest selection of models with electrified drive. In the new 545e xDrive Sedan, an inline 6-cylinder petrol engine and an electric drive integrated into the 8-speed Steptronic transmission deliver impressive driving dynamics in a particularly efficient manner. The power of the 2 drive units adds up to a maximum system output of 394 hp and is distributed between the front and rear wheels as required by the intelligent xDrive all-wheel drive. The brand’s hallmark combination of energy efficiency and sportiness also characterises the new Touring models, whose plug-in hybrid system consists of a 4-cylinder petrol engine and an electric drive system also integrated into the 8-speed Steptronic transmission. Together they generate a system output of up to 292 hp in the XtraBoost mode when load requirements are particularly high. With the introduction of 48 volt mild hybrid technology in additional models, BMW continues to consistently reduce fuel consumption and emissions in its current vehicle fleet. This is linked to the introduction of a new generation of inline 6-cylinder diesel engines. As of the autumn, 4 mid-size models of the 3 Series and three luxury sports cars of the 8 Series will offer noticeably more dynamic performance and increased efficiency. This 2-fold and BMW typical progress is achieved through further advanced TwinPower Turbo technology and additionally with the aid of a particularly powerful starter generator and an additional battery. The dynamic power delivery when starting off and accelerating is enhanced by the additional power of 11 hp spontaneously provided by the 48 volt starter generator. In other load ranges the electric drive can relieve the combustion engine and thus increase its efficiency. The power required for this is generated by intensive recuperation in braking and thrust phases and stored in a 48 volt battery, which also supplies the vehicle’s electrical system. The 48 volt mild hybrid technology will be used in the 330d Sedan (combined fuel consumption: 4.7 – 4.4 l/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 125 – 116 g/km), the 330d Xdrive Sedan (combined fuel consumption: 5.0 – 4.7 l/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 132 – 123 g/km), the 330d Touring (combined fuel consumption: 4.8 – 4.5 l/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 128 – 119 g/km) and the 330d Xdrive Touring (combined fuel consumption: 5.2 – 4.8 l/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 136 – 127 g/km). It supports the new inline 6-cylinder diesel engine, which already provides additional driving pleasure with its maximum output increased by 21 hp to 286 hp. Thanks to a 2-stage turbocharging system and an advanced common rail injection system whose piezo injectors now inject the fuel with up to ten injections per working cycle and a maximum pressure of 2.700 bar into the combustion chambers, engine response and efficiency of the 3.0 litre engine are optimised. The new diesel engine generates its maximum torque, which has been increased by 30 Nm to 650 Nm, between 1.500 and 2.500 rpm. The increased power of the combustion engine and the additional electrical power noticeably improve the car’s sprint capacity. For example, the new 330d Sedan improves its acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h by 0.2 seconds to now 5.3 seconds. In the 8 Series, 48 volt mild hybrid technology is combined with an equally new and even more powerful 3.0-litre diesel engine. The 840d xDrive Coupé models (fuel consumption combined: 5.8 – 5.6 l/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 154 – 146 g/km), 840d xDrive Convertible (fuel consumption combined: 6.0 – 5.7 l/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 159 – 151 g/km) and 840d xDrive Gran Coupé (combined fuel consumption: 5.9 – 5.6 l/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 155 – 148 g/km) will be powered by a 340 hp inline 6-cylinder engine in the future. The 20 hp increase in top-level output also results from further advanced TwinPower Turbo technology. It now includes a multi-stage turbocharger with variable turbine geometry for the high-pressure and low-pressure stages. The maximum torque of 700 Nm is generated already between 1.750 and 2.250 rpm. In the luxury sports car model range, the new drive technology enables the 840d xDrive Coupé, for example, to improve its acceleration figure from a standing start to 100 km/h by 0.1 seconds to 4.8 seconds. The optimised performance characteristics of the diesel engine are accompanied by precisely adapted fine tuning of the chassis and its control systems. The new diesel engines for the 3 Series and the 8 Series also represent the latest state of the art with regard to emissions. They feature exhaust gas treatment technology, whose engine-proximate components consist of a diesel oxidation catalytic converter and an SCR coating on the diesel particulate filter. In order to optimally reduce nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions, a second metering unit is additionally integrated at the outlet of the engine-proximate SCR system. New engines will be available from November for the 1 Series and the 2 Series Gran Coupé. The new 116i (combined fuel consumption: 5.8 – 5.4 l/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 133 – 124 g/km) is powered by a 3-cylinder petrol engine with an output of 109 hp and a maximum torque of 190 Nm. It is equipped as standard with a manual 6-speed transmission and accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 10.6 seconds. A 7-speed Steptronic transmission with double clutch is optionally available. In addition, the model range will be expanded to include the new 120i (fuel consumption combined: 5.8 – 5.5 l/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 134 – 126 g/km). Its 4-cylinder petrol engine generates an of 178 hp and a maximum torque of 280 Nm and is combined as standard with a 7-speed Steptronic transmission with double clutch. The 120i accelerates from a standing start to 100 km/h in 7.0 seconds. Outstanding economy is the hallmark of the new entry-level diesel engine for the 2 Series Gran Coupé. The 3-cylinder diesel engine of the new 216d Gran Coupé (fuel consumption combined: 4.1 – 3.8 l/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 108 – 99 g/km) provides an output of 116 hp and a maximum torque of 270 Nm. It transmits its power to a 7-speed Steptronic transmission with double clutch as standard and enables acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 10.3 seconds. The range of optional equipment for the 1 Series and the 2 Series Gran Coupé is supplemented by the BMW Individual Shadow Line lights. With the black inserts at the upper edge of the headlamps they make the front view even more powerfully expressive. The increased level of comfort and safety achieved through combined speed and distance control will also be available in numerous current BMW models when driving in city traffic from autumn 2020 onwards. In conjunction with the optional Driving Assistant Professional, the Urban Cruise Control function is available in the 3 Series, 5 Series, 6 Series Gran Turismo, 8 Series, X5, X6, X7, M5, M8, X5 M and X6 M. It extends the range of functions of the Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function by a traffic light recognition function. In addition to vehicles and traffic signs ahead, traffic lights registered by the stereo camera are also taken into account. In the case of traffic light signals that are clearly related to the lane you are travelling, these are automatically registered by the speed and distance control system. If the traffic light is red, the system decelerates the vehicle to a standstill. A green light signals the continuation of the journey. In a more complex intersection situation where, for example, different light signals apply to different lanes, a traffic light symbol is displayed in the instrument cluster. The driver can then confirm the light signal shown there and continue to use the automatic speed and distance control or control the speed himself. For additional comfort in city traffic there is a drive reminder function. While stationary at a traffic light, the current traffic light phase is displayed in the instrument cluster; at the beginning of the green phase, the driver also receives a signal to start driving. The Urban Cruise Control function can also be integrated into the car at a later date by means of a Remote Software Upgrade. With the exception of the 8 Series models, this option is available for vehicles of all the above-mentioned series produced from July onwards and which are equipped with the Driving Assistant Professional. The latest generation of the display and control system makes it possible to use new digital services in numerous current BMW models. The Operating System 7, which is available in conjunction with Live Cockpit, Live Cockpit Plus or Live Cockpit Professional, allows the driver to customise what is displayed to a very high degree. From November 2020, audio content will also be tailored to the driver’s wishes and needs with BMW News. Based on the driver’s individual interests, current online news is selected from publisher offerings and broadcast in the form of naturally spoken language via the vehicle’s audio system. The BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant is one of the particularly innovative services that features in current models with Operating System 7. The digital companion, which enables intuitive operation of numerous vehicle functions via voice control (“Hey, BMW”), is constantly gaining new capabilities. From the autumn, the operating modes Max eDrive and Auto eDrive or Electric and Hybrid can also be activated in the appropriately equipped plug-in hybrid models by means of a naturally spoken instruction. In addition, the Intelligent Personal Assistant will be able to play back the drive sounds of other BMW models via the audio system when asked a corresponding question such as (“What does a M3 sound like?”) in cars delivered to the German market. From November, the driver can no longer only login by entering the BMW ID manually, but also via the My BMW App as well, making the process very convenient. A QR code generated for this purpose can be displayed on the Control Display, which can be scanned using a smartphone. The personal driver profile data can then be transferred to the vehicle. Also new: The driver can add a photo of his choice to his individual profile. Adaptive LED headlights will be available for the X2 from November. They optimise visibility when driving at night, among other things by means of a high beam matrix function. This feature is able to increase the range of vision while at the same time avoiding any dazzle effect on other road users. To achieve this, the high beam is divided into several LED segments that can be activated and deactivated independently of each other to adapt how the road is illuminated to the respective traffic situation. In addition, the striking BMW Individual Shadow Line lights are available as a new option for the X2 and X1. The sporty appearance of the X2 can be further enhanced by the Individual High Gloss Shadow Line with extended features. In addition to the high-gloss black side window surrounds, this option includes a black frame for the kidney grille and tailpipe trims in chrome black. New additions to the range of paint finishes for numerous models will be introduced in the autumn allowing for even greater levels of individualisation. The new San Remo Green metallic paint finish will also be available for the new BMW 4 Series Coupé in future. For the BMW X5, BMW X6 and BMW X7, the colours Dravit Grey metallic and Sparkling Brown metallic have been added to the range. In addition, the BMW Individual special paintwork finishes Grigio Telesto metallic, Urban Green metallic, Frozen Black metallic, Petrol Mica metallic, Ruby Red metallic, Avus Blue metallic and British Racing Green metallic are also available for the large BMW X models. For the i3 new paint finishes will also be available from November. The purely electrically driven models will be available with paint finishes in Cashmere Silver with accents in BMW i Blue and Galvanic Gold with accents in Frozen Grey metallic and Fluid Black with accents in Frozen Grey metallic. +++ 

+++ Already development work has begun on the updated version of the BMW X7 , launched just 2 years ago, ahead of an anticipated launch in 2022. The facelifted X7 will retain the current car’s striking front grille, in line with the company’s commitment to its radical but controversial new styling direction. Following the initial unveiling of the X7 and the updated 7 Series with which it shares its front end design, BMW design director Adrian van Hooydonk argued that the SUV’s prominent air intakes were in proportion to the rest of the car, and in fact smaller than those of its main rivals. He said: “Yes, the X7’s grille is bigger than other BMWs’, but so is the X7 bigger than any BMW before it. That one is in proportion. Don’t worry, I don’t want the brand to turn into an oversized kidney grille brand, but I believe we understand the reasons for what we have done with the 7 Series and that the issue will solve itself thanks to evolving tastes in the markets for which the grille was introduced”. It looks like the restyling will instead focus on the headlights, which have moved lower down the front end and adopted a more rectangular shape, similar to those worn by a recently spotted prototype for BMW’s upcoming electric luxury saloon: the i7. There is also a reshaped lower bumper that appears to do away with the current car’s prominent side air intakes. It’s not clear if BMW’s move to visually link the 2 models suggests the X7 will gain an electrified variant. Previously, BMW has stated that any hybrid version of the X7 would need to offer an electric-only range of more than 80 km to comply with market regulations in China, a key market for the model. The plug-in X5 xDrive45e is officially capable of travelling 86 km on electric power, but its powertrain would need to be uprated to provide a similar range in the heavier X7. +++ 

+++ A recent online post by He Xiaopeng, founder of Xpeng Motors, a Chinese electronic car startup, became a talking point among netizens in general and auto buffs in particular in CHINA . On “Moments”, an interactive feature on communication app WeChat, He wrote that 2020 is to smart cars what 2010 was to smartphones: the takeoff year. “Whether from the perspective of sales volume or the capital market’s interest, 2020 marks the first year of smart cars”. His view pretty much reflects the auto industry’s take on future trends: Personal vehicles will get increasingly smart and electric this year onward. Rising sales of new energy vehicles suggest the tipping point may be nigh. In the second quarter of this year, Tesla delivered more than 90.000 cars to customers globally. Nio, a Chinese electric car startup, sold over 10.000 units from April to June. Li Auto, another Chinese player, also delivered more than 10.000 electric cars to consumers over a 6 month period. On August 25, Tesla’s China unit started taking bookings for its made-in-China Model Y. Production of 2 versions of the Model Y will start next year at the earliest. Nio said it expects to sell 11.000 to 11.500 vehicles in the third quarter of this year. If the estimate pans out, it will mark an increase of 6.5 % to 11.3 % from the second quarter. WM Motor, another Chinese electric car startup, sold 2.036 vehicles in July, almost double the figure in the same month last year. The company saw its sales grow for 5 months in a row to July-end. The capital market also showed strong interest in new energy carmakers. Xpeng made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange in late August. Xpeng’s move came shortly after Li Auto made its debut on the Nasdaq Stock Market in July, raising $1.1 billion from its IPO. Investors’ enthusiasm for new energy vehicle makers correlates to the automobile sector’s gradual and significant transformation in recent times. Ultra-modern car production lines, deepening traction of electric cars, expanding EV-related infrastructure like charging piles, unconventional sales channels and firsthand smart interactive experiences of the latest automobile models that prospective consumers enjoy these days thanks to digital technologies; all these factors have made the auto sector a darling of investors, experts said. Chinese electric car brands may be lagging their foreign counterparts such as Tesla at present, but they will likely sizzle and sparkle over the next decade in the global auto market, just as Chinese smartphone labels such as Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus and Realme have grown rapidly globally to give the Apples and the Samsungs a run for their money. Chinese consumers’ growing enthusiasm for new, tech-enabled automobile experiences, coupled with auto companies’ constant push to integrate cutting-edge technologies into cars, and favorable government policies are all creating the perfect ecosystem for the electric vehicle industry in the country, they said. Fu Bingfeng, secretary-general of the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, said three factors can fuel the transformation of the automobile sector: technological advancements, government policies and consumption. “When it comes to the trend of cars getting increasingly intelligent, consumption has played a big part. But consumers’ enthusiasm is not directly related to the automobile sector. It is driven by the popularity of smartphones”, Fu said. According to him, smartphones have shaped modern consumer habits like using internet-enabled smart services. Such consumer preferences are informing car-buyers’ decisions these days, particularly in China, given the booming mobile internet industry in a nation that boasts the world’s largest number of netizens. China’s pioneering role in the rollout of 5G infrastructure could help even domestic car companies. The latter can use latest telecom technologies to test their smart cars, thus intensifying car-buyers’ desire for new experiences, said Xiang Ligang, director-general of the Information Consumption Alliance, a telecom industry association. According to a research report from McKinsey& Co, a global management consulting firm, Chinese consumers it surveyed showed a willingness to pay as much as an extra $4.600 as premium in order to be among the first buyers of driverless vehicles. For perspective: their counterparts in the United States and Germany were willing to pay an extra $3.900 and $2.900, respectively. China will become the world’s largest market for autonomous vehicles, with revenue from sales of such new cars and mobility services expected to exceed $500 billion by 2030, McKinsey & Co has forecast. Thomas Fang, a partner in the China office of Roland Berger, a global consulting firm, also said that from now on, Chinese consumers are more likely to choose electric cars as their first cars than those in other markets. China’s favorable government policies have also contributed to electric vehicles being seen as the future of the domestic auto market, displacing traditional cars powered by carbon-based fuels. For instance, the central government has recently extended subsidies to eligible new energy vehicles, both foreign and domestic ones, until 2022. As well, such vehicles will remain exempt from purchase taxes for another two years. Xin Guobin, vice-minister of industry and information technology, said in July that China is speeding up the promulgation of the sector’s development plan, which will span the period from 2021 to 2035. Xin said the plan has been submitted to the State Council, China’s Cabinet, for approval. According to a draft plan released in 2019, China aims to be a globally leading country in terms of new energy vehicle-related technologies. New energy vehicles are expected to account for 25 % of vehicle sales by 2025. The lack of long history in making combustion engines, once considered a big obstacle to the development of the domestic automobile industry, could well prove a blessing in disguise as China seeks to wrest lead in the global electric vehicle industry. Kurt Sievers, CEO of NXP Semiconductors, the world’s top chip manufacturer for the auto industry, said in an earlier interview that “without a legacy of combustion engines, China will be at the forefront of electrification of the car. The number of electronics per car, for instance, the use of radar technologies, is growing rapidly. China is going to see strong growth (in this aspect) in the next few years. Chinese companies have a head start in electric cars. Automakers with high-value brands and Chinese flavors will conquer the world”. Chinese electric car brands are also constantly experimenting with new technological solutions to boost the development of electric vehicles. One example is the battery swap mode, which was promoted by Chinese carmakers including BJEV and Nio. Data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology showed that China had 449 battery swap stations by the end of June. Battery swapping will help extend the life of batteries, enhance safety and lower costs for electric car buyers, the companies said. At BJEV’s battery swap stations, vehicles can get their empty batteries replaced by fully-charged ones within 90 seconds. As this year marks a watershed for the country’s electric car startups established in the past 5 years, some Chinese electric car players stand out from a crowd of competitors. Some have managed to mass-produce electric cars; others, despite much hype, have been squeezed out of the fiercely competitive market. For instance, Nio, established in 2014, saw its first-ever positive cash flow from operations in the second quarter this year, said William Li, its founder and CEO. According to Nio’s financial statements, its gross margin was 8.4 % in the quarter, and gross profit was $44.3 million. In the same period last year, Nio recorded a loss of $72.5 million. “The opportunity for China to grow from a big car market into an automotive power lies in the new energy vehicle segment”, said Freeman Shen, founder and CEO of WM Motor. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS is set to announce plans to put into production an interchangeable “family” of electric vehicle (EV) drive systems and motors, boosting manufacturing efficiencies as it transitions to a fully electric lineup. The move, which follows earlier GM initiatives on next-generation batteries, comes as the Detroit automaker looks to build a vertically integrated electric car business, comparable to Tesla, inside its ongoing operations. According to a GM media release, the automaker is set to announce that it has designed, and plans to produce on its own, 5 interchangeable drive units and 3 motors, which it calls the “Ultium Drive” system. GM said its new electric drive systems, sometimes referred to as e-axles in the industry, will have a versatile enough power output to allow them to be used with vehicles ranging from beefy pickup trucks to performance vehicles. GM already has some EV partnerships, such as with truck startup Nikola, but has chosen here to design its own e-drive technology, rather than buy from suppliers that might be able to offer greater scale and lower cost. Adam Kwiatkowski, GM’s executive chief engineer for global electrical propulsion, said that by designing its own e-axles, GM could better integrate them with an EV’s battery and the rest of the car. E-axles combine gear, motor and power electronics into a single system and help convert the electricity from batteries efficiently to propel the vehicle. GM “designed these drive units simultaneously with a full gambit of electric vehicles that fill out our portfolio”, Kwiatkowski told in an interview. “They become synergistic and make them a really efficient package that’s good for the performance of the vehicle, good for driving customer enthusiasm, and most importantly it’s good for cost efficiency”, he said. The new self-designed technology means “more of the battery energy now goes to the road”, which helps make GM’s EVs more economical, Kwiatkowski said. That in turn meant GM could give its EVs greater driving range, or vehicles could have less batteries, he added. Other benefits include size, leading to a smaller drive train and more room for passengers, and also a more spontaneous motor response, Kwiatkowski said. “There is very very little, totally imperceptible motor lag, so as soon as you touch the accelerator pedal the vehicle responds in a very smooth fashion”. The new technology highlights GM’s effort to transform itself and catch up with Tesla, whose share price has jumped over 400 % this year as it has reported improved profitability. GM will still consider purchasing drive units and components from suppliers in some cases, said Detroit-based company spokesman, Phil Lienert. However, it will continue to lead the design, development and manufacturing of Ultium Drive units, he said. +++ 

+++ HYDROGEN fuel cell vehicles, one pillar of the troika of new energy vehicles in China, are gaining traction to catch up with the more popular options of electric cars and plug-in hybrids. Statistics show that China has 4.17 million electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids but fuel cell vehicles number merely around 7.200; most of which are trucks and buses. But that is going to change. The country should strive to build a fleet of 1 million hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by 2035, said Ouyang Minggao, a Tsinghua University professor, at a forum. He said the segment has made remarkable progress and as long as it reaches a certain number, it is expected to achieve what electric cars have done over the past decade. Local authorities in some cities have released plans to promote the segment. Shanghai is scheduled to have 10.000 fuel cell vehicles and around 100 hydrogen stations by 2023. Beijing has the same sales goal but with a deadline of 2025. Other regions, including Shandong and Guangdong provinces and Tianjin city, are working on their plans. Carmakers, meanwhile, are coming up with new products. Statistics show that 92 carmakers have joined the list of eligible producers compiled by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Around 220 fuel cell vehicle models are on offer. Last week, SAIC Motor president Wang Xiaoqiu said the carmaker is to offer 10 fuel cell vehicles in 5 years and aims to secure a 10 % share of the country’s growing segment by 2025. Wang announced the goal last week in Shanghai when the company unveiled its first fuel cell MPV, which is also the first of its kind in the world. The model, called Euniq 7, features SAIC’s third-generation fuel cell system. It has a driving range of 605 km and can be refilled with hydrogen in 3 to 5 minutes. Electric cars can have a similar range, but take hours to be fully charged. SAIC said it is building a team of more than 1.000 people for fuel cell system research, development and operation by 2025. Its annual vehicle sales are expected to reach 10.000 around that time. Sales of SAIC’s fuel cell systems are expected to exceed 30.000 by 2025 and this would make the carmaker a leading company in the field. SAIC aspires to become a globally competitive fuel cell vehicle maker in 10 years from now. SAIC is one of the first Chinese carmakers to develop fuel cell vehicles, with its first project started in 2001. The company has spent more than 3 billion yuan ($438.95 million) in the segment over the past 2 decades. SAIC said its latest third-generation fuel cell system is comparable to those of Toyota and Hyundai in many aspects. Great Wall Motors, China’s largest SUV maker, revealed a plan to roll out the first fuel cell SUV in 2021 featuring the carmaker’s own engine. However, there remain hurdles for fuel cell vehicles to reach the popularity of electric vehicles, let alone gasoline ones. They include the number of hydrogen stations and the cost of fuel cell systems. Ouyang, the Tsinghua professor, said they stand a chance against electric vehicles if they can halve the cost of fuel cell systems by 2030. International carmakers are joining the effort. Japan’s Toyota has established a Beijing research facility dedicated to fuel cell vehicles in partnership with State-owned carmakers FAW, Dongfeng, GAC and BAIC as well as Beijing SinoHytec Co, a Chinese fuel cell engine maker. In a statement, Toyota’s operating officer Shigeki Terashi said: “There is no other automobile market with such a sense of speed. I believe we will be able to establish the foundation for the widespread use of fuel cell vehicles in China”. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI and affiliate Kia’s sales in Europe rose 3.3 % in August even though overall car sales plummeted 18 % on-year there. Their cumulative sales from January to August plunged 27.5 % to some 519.000 cars on-year, but that was less precipitous than the overall 32.9 % fall for the entire European market. As a result their combined market share reached a record 7.1 % in the first 8 months, up from 6.6 % during the same period last year, ranking fourth after Volkswagen (25.9 %), Groupe PSA (14.5 %) and Groupe Renault (10.3 %). The 2 Korean carmakers attributed the result to rising sales of green cars such as the Kona Electric and e-Niro. They sold 103.066 electric, hybrid and hydrogen-powered cars in the January-August period; up 34 % on-year. They now plan to boost marketing for EVs in Europe, where tougher environmental regulations have increased demand for eco-friendly cars. One industry insider said, “Hyundai could become as prominent as Volkswagen and Tesla in the market for electric cars”. Hyundai and its South Korean union reached a tentative deal to freeze wages for the first time in 11 years this year, an internal message distributed to union members showed. The deal is subject to a vote by union members on September 25. South Korea’s Hyundai, which together with sister company Kia is the world’s fifth-largest automaker, said its global retail sales fell 33 % in the second quarter, and flagged that the pace of recovery will be slow due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. +++ 

+++ The JEEP Wagoneer is coming back; a legendary name from the brand’s back catalog, previously used on the ancestors of today’s mainstream SUVs. It will complement the more luxurious Grand Wagoneer to create a family of 3-row, truck-based SUVs for the Jeep brand, both of which target domestic and import stalwarts. We’ve already seen the Grand Wagoneer concept and I expect the regular Wagoneer to emerge as a slightly more mainstream take on the concept’s broad strokes. That’s the big question among observers, and a key clue is hiding in plain sight right on the Grand Wagoneer concept: a lack of Jeep badging. Like the new Ford Bronco “family”, Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer will serve as a subbrand under the broader Jeep umbrella. Both will sit atop the Grand Cherokee in the lineup, and both will use the same Ram 1500-based platform and 3-row layout. Since we haven’t seen the production version of either the Grand Wagoneer or the regular Wagoneer, and only a concept version of the former, I don’t know for sure. But we can certainly fill in the blanks based on what Jeep has inferred. I’ve referred to the Wagoneer as the “mainstream” version of the two, oriented at the non-luxury versions of large 3-row domestic SUVs such as the Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Expedition and the GMC Yukon. Think of the Grand Wagoneer as more of a “Denali” version, aimed at the more premium derivatives of those aforementioned vehicles: the Cadillac Escalade, Yukon Denali, and Lincoln Navigator. Pricing, equipment, and materials should reflect this market positioning, but it’s not clear yet how the differences will be communicated in terms of interior and exterior styling. Interestingly enough, size doesn’t have anything to do with it. Both the Grand Wagoneer and the regular Wagoneer will be offered in short- and long-wheelbase forms. It’s our understanding that the short-wheelbase versions will be offered first. I expect the wheelbase differences to be similar to the Ford Expedition and its larger Max variant: the Jeep’s longer wheelbase won’t affect seating capacity but will provide some more cargo room behind the third row. There are no mechanical differences between the Wagoneer and the Grand Wagoneer. Both will be based on the Ram 1500’s frame, meaning body-on-frame construction, although the Jeep’s will adopt an independent rear suspension. I also expect both to dip heavily into the 1500’s powertrain options, which includes a 3.6-liter V6 and a 5.7-liter V8. I expect Jeep to offer its “eTorque” mild-hybrid kit as an option on the latter engine. A turbodiesel and a plug-in hybrid powertrain are certainly possible and Jeep may even decide to build a Trailhawk version packing a supercharged V-8 making north of 700 hp. How Jeep divides up these possibilities between the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer remains to be seen. I expect the Jeep Wagoneer to arrive in mid-2021 as a 2022 model. +++ 

+++ MAINSTREAM EV ADOPTION will occur when a typical EV costs €36.500 in The Netherlands, can achieve a real-world range of around 450 km and can be fully recharged in just 30 minutes, according to a new global survey by Castrol and its parent company, BP. The tipping point for the mass adoption of electric vehicles globally has long hung on significant improvements to charging times and range, as well as reducing the showroom cost of long-range EVs. Castrol says it commissioned a market research company to interview 10/000 consumers and fleet managers in 8 countries (China, India, US, UK, France, Germany, Norway and Japan). The survey found it will be 2024 before the average global car buyer will start to consider buying an EV, with German, UK and US buyers estimating that their personal interest will not be engaged until 2025. Although it’s rather more speculative, the car buyers surveyed have an even less encouraging view of when EVs will become the mainstream choice. The average estimated date across the 8 countries was 2030, but British and Japanese motorists estimated that it would be 2033. It is probably the huge government support and centralised planning for EVs that has convinced Chinese buyers that EVs will become mainstream in 2027. Globally, 71% of fleet managers expect most of their purchases to be electric by 2030. The survey categorised five aspects of buying an EV (price, charge time, range, infrastructure and vehicle size/ type) and asked consumers and fleet managers to rank them in order of importance. For consumers, price emerged as the biggest concern (38 %) followed by charging time (28 %) and range (20 %). Although this may seem contradictory, if fast charging is easily accessed, ultimate range is not such an overriding issue. As for concerns over pricing, all of the consumers globally saw the price of an EV as the number one concern, but it was UK motorists who took the hardest line on costs. Generations of drivers have got used to filling up a fossil-fuelled car in minutes and, thanks to the rise of diesel engines, getting 800 and 1.000 km ranges from those few minutes. In light of that universal experience, the motorists surveyed by Castrol seem to be relatively accommodating when its comes to refuelling an EV. The global average desired recharging time was 31 minutes. Indian and Chinese buyers were the most patient (35 and 34 minutes) and French (27 minutes) the least patient. UK buyers thought 30 minutes reasonable. Even so, the survey revealed that the people interviewed thought EVs would go mainstream only when they could be recharged as quickly as conventional combustion-engined cars, something rarely mooted by electric car makers. On the issue of range, fleet managers were more demanding than consumers. UK fleet managers expected 700 km of range from future EVs, whereas UK consumers expected 450 km from a charge. US buyers wanted 500 kms and German buyers 470 km of range. However, this survey seems to have put its finger on the EV dilemma. These 3 requirements (price, range and charging time) are currently in mutual conflict with each other. Building an electric car with the range and charging speed desired by ordinary drivers cannot be sold for the retail prices highlighted in the survey. Today, Kia’s e-Niro perhaps gets closest to the specification outline by the Castrol survey, thanks to its 400 km real-world range and the ability to recharge in 54 minutes from flat to 80 % via a 100 kW DC fast charger. However, its on-the-road price of €44.310 is still far in excess of what the average motorist would pay for an EV. Its charging time is also much longer than the 30 minutes desired. It should be noted, too, that the 54-minute charge will take the battery to 80 % capacity only, dropping the potential range of a fast charge below 380 km. The idea, suggested in this survey, that EVs should eventually refuel as fast as a petrol or diesel car must be eye-opening for car makers. That’s because it is generally held that EV charging will struggle to speed up beyond today’s 150 kWh chargers, which should achieve 160 km of range in 10 minutes, although this is usually limited to 80 % of the battery capacity. More rapid charging would require more complex in-car electrical systems and more complex cooling management for battery packs, and that’s without the strain such hyper-charging might put on the Grid. Which brings the debate back to the seemingly intractable issue of making EVs more affordable but capable of a decent range and very rapid charging. Getting the price of batteries down to well below $100 per kWh is clearly the main roadblock for mass EV adoption. +++ 

+++ Shares in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) rose sharply in Milan after the car maker and French partner PSA revised the terms of their MERGER deal, with FCA’s shareholders getting a smaller cash payout but a stake in another business. FCA and PSA, which last year agreed to merge to give birth to Stellantis, the world’s 4th largest car manufacturer, said they had amended the accord to conserve cash and better face the Covid-19 challenge to the auto sector. Milan-listed shares in Fiat Chrysler rose almost 8 %, while PSA gained 1.5%. Under the revised terms, FCA will cut from €5.5 billion to €2.9 billion the cash portion of a special dividend its shareholders are set to receive on conclusion of the merger. However, PSA will for its part delay the planned spinoff of its 46 % stake in car parts maker Faurecia until after the deal is finalized. That means all Stellantis shareholders (and not just the current PSA investors) will get shares in a company which has a market value of €5.8 billion. Based on Stellantis’ 50-50 ownership structure, FCA and PSA respective shareholders will each receive a 23 % stake in Faurecia. Analysts welcomed the €2.6 billion in additional liquidity for Stellantis’ balance sheet as well as the increase in projected synergies to more than €5 billion from €3.7 billion. There was also further reassurance as the 2 companies confirmed they expected the deal to close by the end of the first quarter of 2021. “All told, the 2 players emerge as winners”, a broker said in a note. “Of the two, FCA might be a bit more of a winner in the short term given the structure of the deal and the numerous payouts to shareholders to come in the quarters ahead (potentially close to €5 billion versus the current capitalization of around €16 billion)”. The special dividend for FCA shareholders had proved contentious after Italy offered state guarantees for a €6.3 billion loan to the company’s Italian business. “These announcements should, at last, end the debate over the financial terms of the merger, which had become a big topic and was still penalizing the 2 groups’ share performances”, the broker said. PSA and FCA said they would consider paying out €500 million to shareholders in each firm before closing or else a €1 billion payout to Stellantis shareholders afterwards, depending on market conditions and company performance and outlook. Both companies have this year scrapped dividend payments on 2019 results, each worth €1.1 billion, as the sector grapples with the pandemic which has sent car sales plunging. FCA boss Mike Manley had said last week he and PSA boss Carlos Tavares were aware of the need for the 2 firms to get to the merger with the strongest balance sheet possible. “It was a courageous and realistic move by management given the need to hang on to liquidity”, Roberto Lottici, fund manager at Banca Ifigest in Milan, said. +++ 

+++ Just like its sports car brother, the next-generation NISSAN Z sports car had been a long time coming. But thankfully that statement is now a past perfect tense (sort of) with the introduction of the Nissan Z Proto. Finally, we’ve had a glimpse of what’s in store for the next Z car, which is rumoured to be called 400Z. But then again, Nissan’s boss Makoto Uchida said that the Z Proto is “close to final”, so we’re basically looking at the production version, whether you like it or not. Now, the question is, why did Nissan take its time in making the next Z car? Of note, the 370Z hit the showrooms back in 2008, effectively marking a 12-year gap between Z generations. Still not as old as the current Nissan GT-R, though, but I digress. It was a case of timing and what the market wants, according to Z, GT-R and Nismo product specialist Hiroshi Tamura, speaking to the media during the Z Proto reveal. It seems so that timing is very important for the automaker, and for them, now’s the right time. But if you think that Nissan took those 12 long years to develop an all-new, built-from-the-ground-up Z car, there’s a point of contention based on reports. Allegedly, it will still be underpinned by the FM architecture, albeit revamped, plus the power plant will be the existing 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 from the Infiniti Q50 and Q60. Then again, Nissan’s proud of its heritage and repurposing saves the marque a lot in development costs. If there’s any silver lining, Tamura-san said that the next Z car will be a standalone model, unlike its competitors. “Our Z is Z, Z is standalone”, Tamura said. What a way to throw shade on the Z car’s nearest competitor, the Toyota Supra (which is a BMW Z4 under the skin). +++ 

+++ Nissan has recently gotten back into the spotlight with its revamp of the Z. While that is all well and good, details on the next-generation NISSAN GT-R remain rumours. Regardless, the Japanese automaker is committed to keeping the same wow factor associated with its high-tech supercar. “The goal of the next GT-R is to again be a very credible performance machine, the way the current GT-R is even after some years on the market, said Ivan Espinosa, senior vice president of global product planning at Nissan. “It’s still a very credible, super fast, super great car to drive and we will remain true to that”. Rumours hint that the next Godzilla (estimated to be released in 2023) will feature a petrol-electric drivetrain with a kinetic energy recovery system inspired by the automaker‘s previous endurance racing challengers. Thankfully, this vehicle has more of a chance of materialising than the fateful GT-R LM Nismo race car and its performance at the 2015 24 Hours of LeMans: only 1 car finished and they were off the pace from the gun. While the push for overall glory at the Circuit de la Sarthe was one to forget, the company has found great motorsport success in building engines with Gibson. I can’t say how much of this panache will rub off on the R36, but it will likely have a spicier version of the existing twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre V6 producing a rumoured 720 hp and 780 Nm. “The GT-R, together with the Z and Patrol, are perhaps the 3 most iconic and brand representative nameplates that we have as a company, that have a deep history within the company”, said Espinosa. Semantics aside, it’s clear that Nissan wants to bide its time getting the latest GT-R to the production line. The extra weight from the hybrid systems seemed to strike a chord with Espinosa but the numbers don’t lie, so let’s wait and see. +++ 

+++ To include a fleet of all-electric PORSCHE Taycan in its customer driving programs (like Track Experiences, shown on the video down below, or the Ice Experience in Finland) around the world, Porsche faced the challenge of how to recharge the cars where the local infrastructure isn’t capable of handling the job. The solution turned out to be mobile charging trailers, equipped with massive battery energy storage (2.1 MWh), and DC fast chargers (ten 320 kW for a total output of up to 3.2 MW). Those are produced by German company ADS-TEC. The amount of electricity allows not only to recharge multiple Taycans at once very quickly, but in total to recharge 30 cars (assuming 60-70 kWh each). A truck can take the trailer for a recharge, or it will recharge slowly from the local electric grid or on-site solar system. “For example, during a 3-week customer event in the Portuguese city of Portimao in November 2019, the power came directly from the nearby photovoltaic systems. The trailers can be recharged very quickly under good conditions, they are fully charged again within four hours”. In the images, we can see a fleet of Taycans at the Hungaroring in Budapest, where customers were able to check the performance of the electric Porsche. In total, Porsche is using 7 charging trucks. The mobile charging solution is a key not only if there is no power, but also if there are no chargers. Ragnar Schulte, Director Experiential Marketing at Porsche. said: “We have now used the trucks at numerous events all over Europe and have carried out around 5.000 charging operations; sometimes at extreme temperatures down to minus 40 degrees. Their performance has therefore been tried and tested”. +++ 

+++ RENAULT SAMSUNG MOTORS ’ sport utility vehicles have been gaining popularity in South Korea as more consumers choose SUVs for city driving and commuting with the vehicle’s improved fuel efficiency and ride quality. Sales of SUVs in Korea this year were tallied at 315.534 so far; a 25 % from the same period of last year. In line with the upward trend, Renault Samsung Motors’ SUV sales have been on the rise too, the automaker said. Its bestselling model is the QM6 (Koleos), which sold 24.946 units in the first half alone; up 48 % from a year earlier. The surge in sales was driven by QM6 LPe, which is the only liquefied petroleum gas SUV model in Korea, and gasoline SUV QM6 GDe, both of which enjoy a steady popularity in the local vehicle market, Renault Samsung Motors said. The LPG version is popular among city commuters who enjoy the superior economy and space utilization. The average price per liter of LPG fuel is around 700 won ($0.6) here, far lower than the price of gasoline, which stands at 1.300 won. The gasoline model QM6 GDe is also a good choice for urban driving due to its smooth driving performance. The QM6 GDe comes with a soft, quiet 2.0 GDe gasoline engine to minimize noise and vibration, according to the company. Renault Samsung said its compact XM3 (Arkana), launched in March this year, also stably settled in the market with 22.252 units sold. +++ 

+++ ROLLS-ROYCE is remaining steadfast in its position to prioritize luxury over new technologies. Following the recent launch of the second-generation Ghost, complete with a familiar Rolls-Royce interior that features many physical buttons and switches, it’s clear the British car manufacturer is taking a different approach to what Mercedes-Benz is doing with the new S-Class. The head designer of automaker’s Coachbuild arm, Alex Innes, said it is very important for Rolls-Royce to carefully considering the new technologies that it introduces. “We’re not always the first adopters, and for good reason. For us, technology is about furthering the experience of what is expected of a Rolls-Royce”, Innes said. “Digitalization presents a phenomenal opportunity and will enhance our ability to personalize a machine in the customer’s image. We’d never do anything just for the sake of using technology, but we can develop it to fit the marque and what it represents. It’s important not to ask a client to do more than necessary. A Rolls-Royce should be a sanctuary from life’s distractions. It’s our responsibility to apply technology without overstepping the mark”. Innes added that the reason why vehicles like the Phantom and Ghost use analog controls rather than touchscreens with haptic feedback is simply because they are nicer to use. As for the new Ghost, just because it doesn’t have a cabin loaded in high-resolution touchscreens doesn’t mean it eschews the latest technologies. In fact, it has the automaker’s most technologically advanced suspension ever that uses cameras to read the road ahead and prepares the suspension for changes in the road surface. +++ 

+++ If you think a carmaker aims to sell as many cars as possible, think again. SAIC VOLKSWAGEN , which produced and sold more than 2 million Volkswagen and Skoda-branded vehicles last year, said its biggest concern is to strike a balance between sales volume and operational efficiency. Jia Mingdi, the Sino-German joint venture’s executive vice-president of sales and marketing, said the company’s primary goal in 3 to 5 years is not a larger market share but better brand positioning and good operational quality. He made the remarks when it gave a preview of the Tiguan X earlier this month in Chengdu, Sichuan province. “The number of visitors a dealership and a salesperson can receive is certain. If we overstretch ourselves in terms of sales, we cannot ensure service quality and thus compromise customer satisfaction”, said Jia. He said the goal is to be demonstrated in the carmaker’s product plan. SAIC Volkswagen is planning to launch at least 10 models in the next 18 months, from the electric ID series to the Teramont SUV, most of which are mid-and high-end products in its portfolio. The carmaker is also working to change the stereotype that Volkswagen cars are not for the young, starting with the Tiguan X. Jia said this model’s primary mission is to appeal to younger customers with its coupe-like styling design and connectivity system. “Most of our SUVs in the future will adopt a coupe-style design, including our electric ID series that will start to hit the market in early 2021”, he said. He said other models, including the new Lamando compact sedan which is expected to launch next year, and the new Lavida, another compact sedan, will feature sportier body styling and tech-savvy interiors to attract younger buyers. SAIC Volkswagen said it is also promoting models in ways that young people respond to. It is asking young staff to suggest how to better communicate with the young and what public figure should be chosen to endorse the cars. Affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the carmaker saw its sales slump in the first several months of this year. But deliveries have started to rebound from June onwards. Jia said the company’s goal is to ensure year-on-year sales growth in the second half of this year, although it is likely that the overall sales for 2020 will be lower than in 2019. “It is a year of adjustment for us. We’re focusing our efforts to cut inventories, improve dealers’ profitability and enhance customer satisfaction. If we get these done, hopefully, we can return to normal in 2021”, he said. +++ 

+++ TESLA has a chance to deliver a record number of vehicles in the third quarter, the U.S. electric carmaker’s chief executive officer Elon Musk said in an internal email, urging employees to work hard to achieve that goal. “We have a shot at a record quarter for vehicle deliveries, but will have to rally hard to achieve it. This is the most number of vehicles per day that we’ve ever had to deliver”, Musk said in the email. “It’s also extremely important that we keep factory output as high as possible over the remaining 10 days. This is vital for the California market”. The quarter-end rallying cry has become a familiar theme in recent quarters at Tesla, with Musk calling on employees to quickly build and deliver vehicles at the end of the quarter to achieve specific targets. Tesla’s U.S. production, which was suspended from the end of March to early May due to the Covid-19 lockdown, has recovered in the current quarter. Former Wall Street analyst and Tesla bull Gary Black forecasts 144.000 deliveries for the July to September quarter. Tesla’s previous quarterly sales record was set in the fourth quarter of last year, when it delivered 112.000 vehicles. In the second quarter this year, Tesla delivered 90.650 vehicles, beating analysts’ estimates and shrugging off a factory shutdown that hurt its output. +++ 

+++ Elon Musk has stated that the long-awaited TESLA ROADSTER will hit the Nurburgring for testing next year. It has been almost 3 years since the second-generation Roadster was unveiled as a working prototype. At the time, Musk said it would hit the market in 2020. Evidently, that hasn’t happened and it probably won’t be until 2022 that the first customer deliveries actually commence. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the electric carmaker is thinking about the vehicle’s development and will put it through its paces on the world’s toughest racetrack. Tesla famously brought a handful of Model S Plaid prototypes to the Nurburgring 12 months ago with the intention of snatching the electric sedan lap record away from the Porsche Taycan. While the prototypes appeared to be very fast, the company has never released any official times. This could be due to the simple fact that it was unable to beat the Porsche’s time. Technical specifications about the Roadster have likely changed since its unveiling in November 2017 but even still, it should be capable of hitting 60 mph (96 km/h) in less than 2 seconds and according to Tesla, hit at least 250 mph (400 km/h). Tesla will also sell the Roadster with an available ‘SpaceX package’ that will include cold air thrusters across the exterior to improve performance. While these thrusters may improve acceleration, the added weight of the system will likely make the SpaceX models slower around a racetrack. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA , whose vehicles are seen as reliable but also uniform, is changing its image as it released its new sports car, the GR Yaris, earlier in September. The GR Yaris is Toyota’s first attempt at making a production vehicle based on a rally car. Toyota president Akio Toyoda expressed his confidence in its performance at an online event to celebrate its launch. “It has crossed the boundaries between production, development, sales and motorsports”, he said. “I have no doubt it will have a huge impact on Toyota’s manufacturing going forward”. The GR Yaris is a sports car that was developed by collecting information about the cars in the World Rally Championship. The newly developed engine is compact and lightweight, yet delivers a powerful driving performance. The last time Toyota sold a sports car with 4-wheel drive was about 20 years ago when it stopped production on the Celica GT-Four. In recent years, Toyota has been working to revive its line of sports cars. As the cars demand higher performance compared to the average vehicle, it enhances technology standards, which then raises the comfort and drive performance of a regular car. In 2017, the company launched the GR model, which is its line of sports cars. Toyota’s recent sports cars were the GT86, which was released in 2012 and was jointly developed with Subaru, and the Supra, which was released in 2019 and was jointly developed with BMW. The GR Yaris was solely developed by Toyota. “We had always wanted a sports car that we built ourselves”, Toyoda said. Toyoda test drove the vehicle himself to make the final checks on the car before sending it to the market. The president garnered a lot of attention after winning the 24-hour endurance race at the Fuji International Speedway earlier this month. The GR Yaris is assembled at the Motomachi Plant in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, where a new dedicated assembly line has been created, bringing in skilled workers from all over the company. Performance is an important factor, so the company has deliberately increased the amount of work that is done by hand compared to other mass-produced vehicles, according to a senior official. In motorsports, profitability is often neglected, but Toyoda said he had told the plant managers “to make sure we stay in the black”. The plant managers had also made sure that the Toyota Production System (TPS) was thoroughly implemented in the production line, aiming to improve efficiency. Thus, the GR Yaris was sold as a production vehicle. The price for the GR Yaris ranges from ¥2.65 million to ¥4.56 million. It’s more expensive than the standard Yaris, which starts at around ¥1.4 million, but as of Aug. 31, even before the car was released, there were about 5.000 preorders for the GR Yaris against a monthly sales target of 1.100. “If this unique style of manufacturing spreads to other production vehicles, it will help create an entirely new image for Toyota”, an analyst said. “Up until now, our vehicles under the Toyota and Lexus brands have been very standard”, Toyoda said. “From now on, I believe it is my mission to create cars that will surprise and delight people, and make them think, ‘Is this the same company?’ ” +++ 

+++ Utah-based VANDERHALL announced its first four-wheeled model will be an electric off-roader that looks like a cross between a Jeep Wrangler and a dune buggy. Called Navarro, it’s scheduled to go on sale in 2022. The SUV is recognizable as a member of the Vanderhall range because its headlights are mounted directly behind the grille, but the similarities end there. It’s tall, rides on massive tires, and doesn’t have overhangs on either end; it looks like it could climb up a wall. Its wheels are exposed, a styling cue that will undoubtedly summon a dark cloud of disapproval from regulators, and it’s fitted with some kind of removable top. One of the coolest features, at least judging by the short video Vanderhall posted on YouTube, are see-through doors. Stylists didn’t add them for adventurers who want to go groundhog spotting. Punching out the sheet metal allows off-roaders to see the obstacles that could potentially cause expensive damage to the rocker panels and the underbody. The born-again Ford Bronco offers them, too, though they’re found on the list of options. Specifications remain under wraps, so all we know is that the Navarro is 100% electric. It’s not absurd to presume 4-wheel drive will come standard. How else will users take advantage of the long-travel suspension and the foot-plus of ground clearance? Vanderhall is doubling the size of its factory in Provo, a town about 45 minutes south of Salt Lake City, to build additional models, including the Navarro. When construction work is completed, the one-million-square-foot facility will have an annual capacity of approximately 10.000 cars thanks in part to 900 employees. Although it’s not a household name, Vanderhall earned a small but loyal following with 3-wheelers like the Carmel, which is powered by a General Motors-sourced turbo-4, and the Edison, which is electric. Pricing starts at $25,950 for gasoline-powered models and $34,950 for the battery-powered variant. Pricing information for the Navarro hasn’t been announced yet, but there is no reason to believe Vanderhall will charge less for more. +++ 

+++ Canada launched a fund to invest in community-based projects to curb emissions, with bulk of the money coming from a fine that VOLKSWAGEN paid for breaking the country’s diesel emissions rules. The $157 million fund is part of the government’s new Climate Action and Awareness Fund which seeks to boost climate science research by empowering youth and communities. “The new Climate Action and Awareness Fund will create jobs for Canadians in science and technology, academia, and at the grassroots community level”, Johnathan Wilkinson, minister of environment and climate change, said in statement. In January, a judge in Canada approved a $160 million fine against Volkswagen after the company pleaded guilty to dozens of counts of diesel emissions violations. The fine was by far the largest environmental penalty in Canadian history, prosecutors said. The minister also announced a $70 million investment over 3 years towards a number of priorities such as supporting additional research to bring down the country’s emission to net-zero. +++ 

+++ Baidu-backed WM MOTOR announced that it has raised 10 billion yuan ($1.47 billion) in round-D financing, more than any other Chinese electric car startup has raised in a single financing round. Investors in this financing round include SAIC Motor, China’s largest carmaker, Baidu as well as more than a dozen government-backed funds. WM said the money will be spent on research and development, brand building, digital marketing and expanding its dealership network. Freeman Shen, the startup’s founder and CEO, said the completion of the financing round shows investor confidence in the smart electric vehicle industry as well as WM’s long-term strategy and leading technology. Earlier this month, WM unveiled its smart vehicle plan. Shen said the startup will invest 20 billion yuan in 3 to 5 years to build vehicles that better meet the demand of Chinese customers. At the same event, it announced partnerships with companies including Baidu and chipmaker Qualcomm. It also showcased a highly autonomous vehicle that WM developed in collaboration with Baidu. The vehicle is expected to hit the market in 2021. Established in 2015, WM is one of the first electric startups to launch production models. It currently has three SUV models available in the market. It delivered 11.779 vehicles in the first eight months this year. WM now has 94 dealerships across the country now. Electric cars are gaining momentum in China and around the globe. Chinese startups Li Auto and Xpeng went public in the United States earlier this year. International carmakers including Nissan, Toyota and Ford are to showcase their electric models at the Beijing auto show starting on Saturday. Jim Farley, Ford’s incoming CEO, said Chinese customers have the most advanced experience in terms of electric vehicles’ digitalized functions, and international carmakers like Ford can take their experience in China to other parts of the world including the United States. +++

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