Newsflash: Lexus komt met stekker hybride NX en RX

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+++ Tesla has agreed to acquire ATW Automation, a German supplier assembling battery modules and packs for the auto industry, a source familiar with the transaction said. ATW, a subsidiary of Canadian ATS Automation Tooling Systems, was on the brink of liquidation due to a slump in orders, German media reported in September. ATS on September 25 announced that certain assets and employees at one of its Germany-based units would be sold and transferred to a third party, without disclosing the name of the company. ATW, based in western Germany, has about 120 employees and has completed more than 20 battery production lines for international automakers. Tesla plans to ramp up battery production significantly in the coming years and during a recent event presented innovations that it said would sharply reduce the cost of battery packs within the next 3 years. The company is currently building its third vehicle manufacturing facility near Berlin, which will also include a battery plant, and aims to start construction on a new vehicle factory in Texas this year. Tesla’s planned future lineup includes the light duty Cybertruck and the Semi truck, which require higher battery capacities. +++ 

+++ While the automotive industry attempts to improve electric vehicle BATTERIES through new cell technology, one firm has instead focused on improving the humble electrode. French company NAWA Technologies is touting what it calls the Ultra Fast Carbon Electrode, an evolution of the electric conductor that acts as the terminal through which electric current passes between 2 mediums. It’s based on the same vertically aligned carbon nanotube technology used in the company’s ultracapacitors. NAWA claims the materials and design of current electrodes are “one of the major limitations of battery power, energy and lifecycle”, due to them being based on inefficient powders with low electrical, thermal and ionic conductivity. They can also suffer from early delimitation and degradation, it claims. The Ultra Fast Carbon Electrode uses 100 billion vertically aligned carbon nanotubes per square centimetre, dramatically boosting ionic, electrical and thermal conductivity. Claimed to boost battery power by a factor of 10, energy storage by a factor of three and substantially increase the battery’s usable life, it’s also said to reduce charging times “down to minutes instead of hours” and bring cost savings as a result. The dry electrode technology is claimed to be easily recyclable at the end of its longer lifecycle, too. NAWA estimates the battery CO2 footprint could be reduced by as much as 60 %, due to less active material being required. Although it’s still in development, NAWA claims the new electrode system will be ready for market in as little as 12 months. Production isn’t expected to begin until 2023, however. Multiple types of electrode can be produced depending on the relevant application, NAWA says, with the electrodes able to work with existing or more advanced battery chemistries. +++ 

+++ BMW has been spied testing the facelifted X3 in M40i guise and while it will only receive some minor modifications, they should be enough to keep shoppers interested in the SUV. The particular prototype features camouflage across both the front and rear fascias and despite BMW’s best attempts to hide some of the new design elements, the world was provided a relatively good look at the refreshed X3. The front of the facelifted X3 includes new headlights with tweaked LED daytime running lights. In addition, my eagle-eyed photographers note that the X3’s front kidney grille will go relatively unchanged and will continue to feature vertical slats. Minor modifications will be made to the rear of the X3 and can be expected to include new taillights with a distinctive lighting signature. As this is an M40i variant, it is rocking a set of sporty 2-tone alloy wheels and has red brake calipers. Few, if any, changes are likely to have been made to the X3 M40i’s powertrain. As such, it will remain a 3.0-liter turbocharged 6-cylinder that pumps out 390 hp between 5.800 and 6.500 rpm, while also churning out 495 Nm between 1.520 and 4.800 rpm. A plethora of other variants will be offered in facelifted X3 form. These should include the entry-level xDrive20i as well as the xDrive30i, sDrive30i, xDrive20d, xDrive30d, M40d, and of course, the flagship X3 M and X3 M Competition models. +++ 

+++ For the first time in history, the BMW M3 will be offered in a stationwagon version of the performance model under the ‘Touring’ moniker. However, we’ll will have to wait along with the rest of the world until late 2022 to see it in final production form. Sources at BMW report that it won’t offer a proper clutch pedal and push-it-yourself gearbox nor a rear-wheel drive version. Instead, it will be available exclusively with the 8-speed automatic transmission and M-tuned xDrive all-wheel drive system. That’s not the kind of news that traditional enthusiasts want to hear, but truth be told, this configuration is hardly a surprise, considering there isn’t much of a demand in wagons with rear-wheel drive and a stick shift. It’s very likely then that the first-ever M3 Touring will launch exclusively in Competition spec, which packs a tweaked version of the twin-turbo 3.0-liter 6-cylinder engine producing 510 hp and 650 Nm paired to a standard 8-speed automatic driving all-four wheels. This same setup allows the M3 Sedan Competition and M4 Coupe Competition to sprint to 100 km/h in just 3.9 seconds. However, due to the added weight, the long-roof variant might be a tad slower, adding perhaps 1 or 2 tenths of a second to the acceleration time. Top speed, on the other hand, should be identical, with a maximum 250 km/h achieved, or 290 km/h when ordering the new M3 Touring with the optional M Driver’s Pack. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen is trying to figure out what to do with BUGATTI , Lamborghini and Ducati, and options are said to include everything from a sale to a restructuring. While a decision isn’t expected until next month, it appears the strategic review is already having an impact on future models. Bugatti president Stephan Winkelmann said the brand has had “talks about a second model” but that has now been “blocked due to the coronavirus crisis”. He went on to say the company is no longer talking about what’s coming next. While Winkelmann put the blame on the pandemic, it’s part of a larger issue facing the Volkswagen Group. The resulting economic downturn has put pressure on companies to cut costs at the same time they’re facing the need to invest billions into the development of electric vehicles. Electric vehicle development is easy to justify for brands such as Audi and Volkswagen, but harder for niche automakers which only sell a handful of units annually. Of course, if they don’t go electric, they could potentially be banned from key markets such as California which is halting the sale of new internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035. Despite these pressures, Winkelmann said Bugatti is on track to post record revenues this year and has a robust sales book that is already 70 % – 80 % full for 2021. Given that, the company’s immediate future looks bright but there are clouds on the horizon. A decision on Bugatti’s future is expected in November, but reports have suggested Volkswagen is planning to sell the brand to Rimac. Winkelmann declined to comment on those rumors but, if the brand is set to be taken over by Rimac, halting development wouldn’t be a bad idea as the Croatian company would undoubtedly be eyeing an electric makeover for Bugatti. +++ 

+++ DAIMLER will cut fixed costs, capex and R&D spending at Mercedes-Benz by more than 20 % by 2025 as part of a strategy overhaul to take the brand further upmarket. The move will see Mercedes-Benz, currently the world’s top selling premium car brand, turn its back on a decades-old strategy of chasing sales volume to focus on the industry’s most profitable segments: premium sedans and SUVs. Chief executive Ola Källenius told investors that compact vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz A and B-Class had helped rejuvenate the brand, but this would not be where Daimler would prioritise resources going forward. “This is not where the main thrust should go, we should not become a competitor of the volume makers”, Källenius said during a virtual strategy presentation. “The premium luxury segment usually has above average growth”. Instead of chasing volume for its own sake, Mercedes-Benz will aim to double sales of high-end Maybach branded cars, which retail for €200.000 or more in the Netherlands, and ramp up sales of AMG and G-Class derivatives, including electric variants. Thanks to more efficient manufacturing techniques and lower fixed costs, Mercedes-Benz will aim for a double-digit return on sales margin by 2025 in good market conditions, or a mid to high single-digit margin when markets are weak, Daimler said. Cost cutting and efficiency measures include eliminating manual gearboxes, and slashing the variety of combustion engines on offer by 70 % by 2030. Around 5.000 staff have agreed to accept buyouts or early retirement, the company added. New vehicle platforms, including a second electric vehicle architecture known as MMA, will take less time to build, just like the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which takes 25 % less time to assemble than its predecessor. For its electric cars, Daimler is seeking to cut the cost of battery systems to below €100 per kWh by mid decade and an electric limousine, the EQS, is on track to hit showrooms next year. Daimler also aims to release a new software vehicle operating system, known as MB.OS, by 2024 and to use over-the-air updates to generate an operating profit of €1 billion by 2025 from digital services, including parking and charging. The Covid-19 pandemic led to a slump in sales, pushing the company to operating losses in the first and second quarters. To counter losses, Mercedes-Benz has stopped building sedans in the United States to focus on more profitable SUVs, combined its fuel cell development with Volvo Trucks, and halted an automated development alliance with BMW. +++ 

+++ After about a decade of ELECTRIC vehicle expansion, there is already multiple individual all-electric models with 6-digit cumulative sales results. The top-selling BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) without any doubt is the Tesla Model 3, estimated at 645.000. Tesla currently shares Model 3 delivery numbers combined with the Model Y (over 729.000 by the end of September 2020). The second-best and long-time leader is the Nissan Leaf with 490.000 according to the list, although I know that 500.000 were produced by early September, and a probably a similar number is now sold. The big difference between the Leaf and the Model 3 is that the first has been already nearly 10 years on the market, while the second for over 3 years. The third best is another Tesla: the Model S with 305.000 units, far ahead of the 4th Renault Zoé (231.000), but considering the sales of the French car in recent months, it might beat the Model S at some point in the future. Both cars were introduced at a similar time in 2012. There are also 2 Chinese models from BAIC, the EC-Series and EU-Series, which both had periods of outstanding sales results. Those times however are in the past and we don’t see such high performance from BAIC anymore. Further down we see the BMW i3 (191.000), Tesla Model X (177.000; the third Tesla in the top 8), Chery eQ (another China-only) and Volkswagen e-Golf (136.000; soon to be retired because of the introduction of the ID.3). Surprisingly, there is only 1 model from BYD in the 6-digit ranking: the e5 at numer 13 (105.000 sales)! The Chinese manufacturer for multiple years was the topselling electric car manufacturer globally, dethroned later by Tesla. +++ 

+++ Electric Vehicle startup FARADAY FUTURE is looking to go public through a reverse merger with a special-purchase acquisition company (SPAC), according to its CEO, Carsten Breitfeld. A SPAC acts as a shell company that raises money through an IPO (initial public offering) to buy an operating entity, usually within 2 years. This is a quick way for companies to enter the stock market, as SPACs can be particularly useful for tech startups. “We are working on such a deal and will be able to announce something hopefully quite soon”, said Breitfeld, who declined to say who Faraday is negotiating with or when exactly a deal would close. The FF CEO did add that his company would deliver its first electric luxury SUV, the FF 91; 9 months after securing funding, with production starting 12 months after completing such a deal. The EV startup aims to raise $800 to $850 million in order to launch the FF 91. The latter will be built initially at Faraday’s plant in Hanford, California, but ultimately production will shift to a contract manufacturer in Asia with which FF signed an agreement. Breitfeld declined to identify the contract manufacturer. The FF 91 boasts a multi-motor powertrain with up to 1.065 hp, allowing you to hit 60 mph (96 km/h) in less than 3 seconds. Inside, there are a maximum of 11 displays, including an ultra-wide 27-inch screen that descends from the roof if you go for the optional Rear Cinema Experience. +++

 

+++ South Korea’s transport ministry said HYUNDAI will voluntarily recall its Kona electric vehicles as a possible short circuit due to faulty manufacturing of its high-voltage battery cells could pose a fire risk. The voluntary recall starting October 16, which includes software updates and battery replacements after inspections, involves 25.564 Kona electric vehicles built between September 2017 and March 2020, the transport ministry said in a statement. A spokeswoman for Hyundai said she is checking the matter and did not have an immediate comment. Some 13 cases of fire involving the Kona Electric, including one each in Canada and Austria, were documented so far, according to a statement by ruling party lawmaker Jang Kyung-tae’s office. The Kona Electric used batteries made by LG Chem. It is the South Korean automaker’s first long-range subcompact electric SUV. In July, Hyundai Motor Group leader Euisun Chung said Hyundai and Kia aim to sell 1 million battery-driven electric vehicles in 2025, together targeting more than 10% of the global market share for such vehicles. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR has significantly reduced the price of its XE and XF, as it targets increased retail sales while creating a more “open approach” to pricing. The 2 saloons have long been the weakest links in Jaguar’s line-up as demand has turned to SUVs. However, the brand is committed to the models, at least for now, and this move is intended to help rejuvenate sales and better compete with rivals such as the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes E-Class. Jaguar sales director Scott Dicken said: “This is one of the more competitive segments of the automotive industry especially for premium. Taking on BMW and Mercedes in these segments is a really big challenge, which is why we’re looking at it more holistically in terms of strategy”. The starting price of the latest XF has been cut 18 %, while the updated XE will cost 16 % less. The price reductions have largely been achieved by streamlining the number of derivatives for both models. The XF’s options have decreased from 64 to 28, while the XE’s have dropped from 24 to 13. The move is intended to “reduce manufacturing complexity and retain the most popular features loved by customers”, said Jaguar. The new buying process for both saloons, described as a ‘browse, buy, drive away’, “harmonises online and offline pricing so that customers know they will get the equivalent price, however they choose to purchase”. Dicken commented: “The reason we’ve been able to achieve the drop in retail price is partly down to simplification of range, but also the advertised price doesn’t necessarily equate to price customers pay. “We’ve taken that and put it up front. The price the customer sees is ultimately much closer to what they will pay. It’s about assisting the customer’s journey and making it a much simpler proposition”. He added that Jaguar’s online buying process ultimately moved a customer into the retail network, saying: “We still have bricks and mortar at the heart of the sales process. But it does allow customer to be more qualified in understanding the car they want to buy. The relationship is between a customer and retailer, not as a direct sale”. Despite making the pricing of the cars more honest from the get-go, Dicken said that the new strategy doesn’t change the profit margins for the retail network. “They still have the ability to adjust price”, he said. “Fundamentally it’s the same from a profitability point of view. All we’re trying to do is to remove the guesswork”. Dicken added that the new pricing strategy will be exclusive to XE and XF, saying: “It’s relevant for the XE and XF because we’re targeting them at retail. For our other nameplates, particularly the Pace SUV family, we will be competing more consistently across many channels”. +++ 

+++ During the third quarter of 2020, the JAGUAR I-PACE noted 3.214 global sales (down 12 %), which unfortunately is the 4th quarter of decline year-over-year. When the I-Pace was introduced a few years ago, as one of the first long-range, high-performance models from Europe, we were hoping for more, but unlike Audi e-Tron, results are not improving over time. So far this year, some 8,650 I-Pace cars were sold globally (down 32 % year-over-year). It’s disappointing to be honest. I really expected that demand would be higher. The only positive thing is that for a small brand like Jaguar, I-Pace stands for 11.8 % of the total volume, which is not bad actually. On the other hand, the overall sales also went down in the third quarter by 27 % to 27.347 (41 % down YTD). Cumulatively, Jaguar sold almost 33.000 I-Pace cars since 2018. Will the I-Pace rebound and improve in the next couple of quarters? Or maybe it will require some major upgrades to attract more customers? For now, it’s the only BEV in the Jaguar Land Rover lineup, which consists also of several plug-in hybrids. Soon we should see 2 additional electric cars from the group: the Jaguar XJ and the Range Rover Road Rover. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER (JLR) has reported a sales spike of 53.3 % in the 3 months leading up to September, as dealerships and factories largely reopened following a pandemic-induced shutdown in the first quarter of 2020. The company sold 113.569 vehicles globally from 1 July to 30 September (27.347 from Jaguar and 86.222 from Land Rover) compared with 74.067 overall in the previous 3 months. The latest figures represent a marked improvement but remain down 11.9 % year on year. JLR’s global production centres are now largely operating at normal capacity, with its factories in Solihull, Halewood and Nitra (Slovakia) increased to a 2-shift pattern to meet increasing demand. JLR highlights strong sales in China as a driving factor in the recovery, with a quarterly spike of 14.6 % in that country alone (one of the manufacturer’s biggest markets) and a yearly boost of 3.7 %. In September, the brand reported a 28.5 % year-on-year sales increase in China. Sales in the UK surged by 231.6 %, while the European, North American and Overseas markets increased by 78.8 %, 21.3 % and 35.1 % respectively. JLR notes that each of these markets, however, is still down year-on-year as a result of the ongoing effects of the pandemic. The news comes ahead of the publication of JLR’s quarterly financial results later this month. As an early indication of its financial state, JLR said: “The company ended September with “about £3 billion of cash and short-term deposits, up £0.3 billion, primarily reflecting positive free cash flow as expected in the quarter. Total liquidity was about £5 billion, including the company’s £1.9 billion revolving credit facility, which remains undrawn”. Strong model performers include the new Land Rover Defender, which achieved 4.508 sales in September, and the electric Jaguar I-Pace, which recorded a 78 % year-on-year sales boost in the UK last quarter. Key models including the Range Rover Velar, Jaguar F-Pace, Jaguar XE and Jaguar XF are each shortly to go on sale in updated form for 2021. Jaguar has also drastically reduced prices and reduced customisation options for its 2 saloon models in a bid to increase sales. JLR’s chief commercial officer, Felix Bräutigam, was optimistic about the recovery continuing, saying: “Covid-19 and second lockdowns continue to impact the global auto industry, but we’re pleased to see sales recovering across our markets. In China, the first region to come out of lockdown, our performance has been particularly encouraging. But we’re also seeing strong improvement versus the preceding quarter in other key markets, with sales up more than 50 % worldwide. The recovery has been demand-led, and we’re delighted that we have been able to reduce stocks to achieve ideal levels in most markets, despite the ongoing pandemic, to support a healthier and more profitable business for Jaguar Land Rover and its retailers”. +++ 

+++ The automotive sector (and not only) has had a very difficult year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and even though every company has been affected by the lockdown and restrictions imposed, some have done better than others. LAMBORGHINI , for one, has announced new record sales for last month, with 738 cars delivered to customers in what was their best September ever. In the third quarter of 2020 alone, the Italian automaker managed to ship 2.083 units, but to break last year’s record, when they achieved a 43 % jump over 2018, they will have to shift more than 8,205 vehicles by year’s end. “I’m extremely proud of these results: they affirm the excellent work we have done over the years, maintaining our position as a highly aspirational, desirable and robust brand in the automotive world”, said CEO Stefano Domenicali. “Our team overcame a moment of significant uncertainty with great flexibility, foresight and readiness to react. We have experimented with new ways to connect with customers and enthusiasts, while continuing our drive to achieve new goals with a constant eye to the future: a distinguishing characteristic of Lamborghini”. One of the first companies to shut down its operations in the wake of the pandemic, Lamborghini went back to work after a 7-week break, with a modified medium-term business plan and reorganized car assembly. Shortly after restarting its operations, it launched 3 new products: the Huracan RWD Spyder, the Sian Roadster and the Essenza SCV12. During this time, it also achieved 2 production milestones, with 10.000 examples of the Urus and 10.000 of the Aventador put together at its facility. +++ 

+++ LEXUS entered the hybrid segment before a vast majority of its rivals, but it has timidly stayed away from the plug-in hybrid arena. Trademark documents filed in Europe suggest that’s going to change sooner rather than later. Toyota’s luxury division asked the European Union Intellectual Property Office to protect the RX450h+ nameplate, and it was granted the trademark in October 2020. It noted the name will be used on “automobiles and structural parts thereof”, meaning it’s likely going to be a nameplate. It’s a familiar one, but the plus makes a big difference. Lexus already sells a car named RX450h; it’s a hybrid version of the fourth-generation crossover, which is its bestselling model by a significant margin. Unverified reports claim the ‘plus’ after the ‘h’ will denote a plug-in hybrid model that will be powered by an evolution of the gasoline-electric powertrain found in the Toyota RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid. It will put at least 306 hp under the driver’s right foot, and it should be capable of driving on electricity alone for approximately 65 km; a figure which will put it near the top of its class. It’ll be reasonably quick, too. Rumors are a dime a dozen in the automotive industry, and a trademark filing should never be mistaken for a promise to release the model it details, but this report is more credible than most. Lexus has previously confirmed it will release its first plug-in hybrid model in the early 2020s after shunning the technology for years, and putting the powertrain in the RX makes sense. It sells well (about 111.000 units found a home in the United States in 2019), and it’s a relatively big model so it’s reasonably easy to equip with a battery pack. It’s worth mentioning that the smaller NX should receive the same powertrain and a similar name in the not-too-distant future, too. Lexus hasn’t commented on the trademark filing, and it hasn’t publicly announced plans to release a plug-in hybrid variant of the RX or of the NX. If the report is accurate, the crossover will likely make its public debut in the coming months. +++ 

+++ The MERCEDES-AMG GT has returned to the Nurburgring after the new Porsche Panamera Turbo S stole the 63’s crown as the fastest executive car, this time in the most powerful spec yet: the AMG GT 73. In development for the better part of the year, the plug-in hybrid model is probably warming up before attempting to break the lap record on the famous German racetrack. To do so, it will have to complete the full circuit length of 20.832 km in less than 7:29.81. It’s been rumored that the GT 73 might use AMG’s twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V8 engine with an electric motor mounted at the rear for a total output of over 800 hp. This would eclipse not only the twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 of the ‘Ring record holder, the Panamera Turbo S, that’s rated at 630 hp, but also the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid’s 680 hp, or rumored 750+ hp in the facelifted iteration. It would also give it a 170+ hp advantage over the GT 63 S 4Matic+. Considering that the current range-topper of the series, the GT 63, does the 0 to 100 km/h in just 3.2 seconds and has a 315 km/h top speed, the GT 73 will likely drop the sprint time to under 3.0 seconds. Not much has changed visually compared to the GT 63, as the 73 sports the big Panamericana grille up front, large air intakes, a rear spoiler and a camouflaged rear bumper that probably hides the charge port, said to have been positioned under the left taillight. Mercedes will probably unveil the new AMG GT 73 before the end of 2020. +++ 

+++ This week marks 20 years since BMW revealed the modern MINI Hatch at the Paris Motor Show, confirming the survival of the Mini name. The cute, retro-styled hatchback became a roaring success and built the foundations for a standalone brand that now produces four distinct models. But the original paved the way for all that, establishing the brand with an exciting-to-drive, premium-quality car that managed to advance the original’s design while still being recognisable. Today, the modern Mini is in its third generation, having been revamped and remodelled over the years. Yet development began long before the first cars rolled off the production line in Oxford. The project began in 1994, when BMW tasked its engineers and designers with ushering the classic Mini into the modern era. The car needed to be unique, efficient and fun to drive, while still offering room for 4 people and their luggage. 3 years later, Mini had a tentative design study ready to show the motoring press. The car was divisive, but when the national and international websites were launched in 2000, the company quickly racked up 100.000 prospective customers. Although the car was launched in 2000, sales didn’t begin until the summer of 2001. By then, Mini had introduced a weekend shift at the Oxford factory for the first time, in a bid to meet the expected demand. Japanese buyers, however, were still forced to wait for their cars, because Mini did not want to launch until March 2, 2002. The date was chosen because it is pronounced ‘Mi-Ni’ in Japanese. And American buyers waited even longer, with sales beginning on March 22, 2002. By that time, dealers on the other side of the pond had already taken orders for 20.000 cars. From the beginning, the car drew people in with a wide range of personalisation options, ranging from British flags on the roof to Cooper bonnet stripes. Other options arrived in the shape of a diesel engine and convertible, before the second-generation car launched in 2006. With that iteration came the Clubman, Coupe and Roadster variants, before a more practical 5-door version of the Hatch arrived. The Countryman turned up in 2010. Today, the Coupe and Roadster have left the line-up, but the Clubman, Countryman and Cabrio have remained in situ. Now, though, they’re joined by an all-electric Cooper SE version of the Hatch, which comes with a 32.6 kWh battery pack and a 184 hp electric motor. Together, the 2 offer 220 km of zero-emission motoring per charge, while 0-100 kph takes 7.3 seconds. With the Mini brand still just 2 decades old, Mini says this new “evolutionary” model sets the ball rolling for the future. +++ 

+++ Tesla chief executive Elon MUSK said the company will produce Model Y with a new structural battery design and technology at its Berlin factory next year and that could result in a “significant production risk”. The U.S. electric carmaker plans to manufacture a new version of its Model Y crossover, and possibly even battery cells at the site. Last month, Musk said that Tesla will use its Germany-based plant to demonstrate a radical overhaul of how its cars are built. The company plans to start the production of Model Y at Gigafactory Berlin during the second half of 2021. Tesla’s new battery cell (a larger cylindrical format called 4680 that can store more energy and is easier to make) is key to achieving the goal of cutting battery costs in half and ramping up battery production nearly 100-fold by 2030. The company’s new structural battery pack requires the new 4680 battery cells in order to work. Musk said that it will take about 2 years for Tesla factories in Fremont and Shanghai to embrace the new technology. “Fremont and Shanghai will transition in 2 years when new tech is proven”, Musk said in a tweet. The company said last week that it delivered 139.300 vehicles in the third quarter, a quarterly record for the electric carmaker. Tesla’s delivery push has been supported by its new Shanghai factory, the only plant currently producing vehicles outside California, as it is also building a new vehicle and battery manufacturing facility near Berlin. +++ 

+++ PAGANI is putting the final touches on the Huayra R, an extreme variant of its hypercar that will be officially presented on November 12. Confirmed by Horacio Pagani a couple of weeks ago, the Huayra R will use a “new aspirated engine” made specifically for it, according to the company’s founder, who chose to not disclose any more details. Nonetheless, the power unit will indeed be a naturally aspirated V12 built by Mercedes-AMG in ollaboration with HWA. The latter is partially responsible for the crazy Apollo IE, whose Ferrari-sourced, naturally aspirated 6.3-liter V8 puts out 780 hp and 760 Nm of torque. As for the naturally aspirated V12 powering the Huayra R, whose displacement is unknown, it is said that it kicks out in excess of 900 hp and can rev to over 9.500 rpm. Furthermore, this engine allegedly generates a “diabolic” soundtrack. Considering that it shares the same suffix, the Huayra R is believed to follow in the footsteps of the Zonda R, which came out in 2009 and was built in 15 units. The Zonda R was a track-only supercar with a Mercedes CLK-GTR-sourced 6.0-liter V12 that put out 740 hp and 710 Nm. The Huayra R might be limited to track use as well, featuring, in addition to the rumored V12, a bold aerodynamic body kit with a large diffuser, huge rear wing and lots of carbon fiber. +++ 

+++ The EPA has rated the POLESTAR 2 electric sedan at 233 miles of total range, falling shy of the basic Tesla Model 3 (250 miles) and slotting in on the lower end of EVs on the market today. At 181 inches long, the Polestar 2 is on the compact end of the electric car spectrum, especially for a European offering. In terms of interior space, some of the most comparable alternatives are the Chevrolet Bolt EV (259 miles), Hyundai Kona EV (258 miles) and Nissan Leaf (226 miles). Sister company Volvo’s new XC40 Recharge checks in with just 208 miles of total range, though it rides on the same fundamental platform as the Polestar 2. The Polestar 2’s real advantage over those competitors (notwithstanding the XC40) is all-wheel drive. Stepping up to the Model 3 Performance (299 miles) or Long Range (322 miles) will get you a second motor (and quite a bit more range, obviously), but at a not-insignificant price penalty. However, considering that every vehicle we’ve mentioned here is a good bit cheaper than the Polestar 2, griping about the cost of a Model 3 Long Range, which is still cheaper than the 2, seems silly. Fortunately, the Polestar 2 has quite a bit more going for it. Thanks to its Volvo roots, the sedan has quite the swanky interior, and its sporty chassis was engineered to be fun to drive. There’s even an optional performance package with Brembo four-piston brakes, 20-inch lightweight alloy wheels wrapped in Continental rubber, and manually adjustable Öhlins dampers. The number of all-electric sport sedans is quite limited for the time being, which may give the Volvo-derived Polestar a little extra push. For those who need the most practicality from their electrics, however, it may be worthwhile to look elsewhere. +++ 

+++ SHARP said it has signed a licensing agreement with Daimler as it settled a patent infringement lawsuit against the German automaker over in-vehicle mobile communications technology. The Japanese electronics firm won the patent dispute in a ruling last month by a German court that allowed Sharp to enforce a sales ban against Daimler under certain conditions. +++ 

+++ SKODA is gearing up to unveil the 4th generation of its big selling Fabia, due in showrooms in the first half of 202. The new car will move from its ageing platform to the Volkswagen Group’s latest standard. The current Fabia was introduced at the end of 2014, so a replacement wouldn’t normally be due until late 2021. However, Skoda has speeded up development of the Mk4 model slightly to hasten a switch of platforms, allowing it to both give the car a more striking look, plus upgrade the powertrains and cabin technology. While sister vehicles the Seat Ibiza, Audi A1 and Volkswagen Polo are all now based upon the VW Group’s MQB A0 platform, the existing Fabia sits on a mix of MQB parts and the relatively old PQ26 architecture. Skoda has been testing early prototypes of the car behind closed doors for a while. The company’s former boss Bernhard Maier revealed that he had driven the vehicle. When asked whether Skoda was going to speed up development of the next Fabia, Maier told: “Yes, of course, we’re trying to push a bit more quickly. If you talk about the cars that are linked to my personal motivation, it’s the Karoq, it’s the Scala, it’s the Kamiq, it’s the Octavia, the now-refreshed Superb, by all means the Enyaq iV and it will be the Fabia as well”. Then he added: “I just last week drove the first prototype of the Fabia, on MQB A0. I can tell you already that I can’t wait to bring that car to market”. The next Fabia will get a more distinctive look than the current model, which is seen as one of the more conservatively styled superminis. Expect a wider track, more pronounced blisters over the wheel arches, and more complex LED lights at the front and back, incorporating Skoda’s most recent crystal-inspired design language. The roofline will remain relatively tall at the rear, however; the Fabia is considered to be a small family car in several key markets, so it will still need to accommodate 2 adults in relative comfort in the back seats. In fact, we should expect similar cabin space to the current car’s, because Skoda has recently introduced the Scala and sees no reason to take the Fabia too close to that model on practicality. However, that will still be enough room for it to remain one of the more spacious cars in its class, and moving to MQB should bring gains in soundproofing and noise isolation, making the new Fabia’s cabin a more refined place on the move. There will be a major hike in technology, too. Skoda’s MIB 3.0 infotainment system (as introduced with the Kamiq) will be present at the heart of the range. It’s likely that some versions of the car will make do with a 6.5 inch infotainment display, but Dutch models will probably be offered with a choice of 8 and 9.2 inch configurations. Under the bonnet, the Fabia will probably be offered with an 1.0 MPI engine, along with a range of TSI units with a choice of 90 hp or 110 hp. A 150 hp 1.5-litre TSI with cylinder deactivation is also likely to feature and it’s equally conceivable that higher-end Fabias might get mild-hybrid tech from the VW Group as this filters down from family cars such as the Golf and new Octavia. Engineers across the different brands have been working on cheaper 12 Volt systems that could be offered alongside the forthcoming 48V configurations. There are no plans for a plug-in version of the car, though, because the complexity, cost and compromises involved in packaging batteries into such a small model remain prohibitive. Senior Skoda sources told me to expect the Fabia to make its public debut in early 2021. Sales starting by next summer are expected. Prices should rise slightly. +++ 

+++ TESLA has a chance at producing 500.000 cars this year, chief executive officer Elon Musk told employees, according to an internal email. Tesla said in January that 2020 vehicle deliveries should comfortably exceed 500.000 units; a forecast the company has left unchanged despite the Covid-19 pandemic. “This all comes down to the 4th quarter. Please take whatever steps you can think of to improve output (while increasing quality)”, Musk wrote to employees. Last week, Tesla said it delivered 139.300 vehicles in the third quarter, an all-time record for the electric-car maker. The company will have to increase deliveries to nearly 182.000 in the 4th quarter to reach its ambitious year-end target. Tesla’s delivery push has been supported by its new Shanghai factory, the only plant currently producing vehicles outside California. The company began delivering Model 3s from its Shanghai factory in December and has said it aims to produce 150,000 Model 3 sedans in the factory this year. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA and Panasonic will work together to produce prismatic lithium-ion batteries for electric cars at a plant in western Japan starting in 2022, the 2 companies have confirmed. The batteries will be manufactured by the Prime Planet Energy & Solutions joint venture that was established in April, of which Toyota owns 51 %, while Panasonic holds the remaining stake. According to the joint venture, Panasonic’s factory in the Tokushima prefecture of Japan will have enough capacity to build batteries for roughly 500.000 vehicles a year. “As electrification of automobiles is a must in tackling environmental issues such as global warming and air pollution, the global electric vehicle market is expected to continue growing rapidly”, the joint venture said in a statement. “This expansion in production capability is a step that allows Prime Planet Energy & Solutions to handle the growing demand of prismatic lithium-ion batteries for hybrid vehicles”. This isn’t the first time we have heard about Toyota and Panasonic working together via their Prime Planet Energy & Solutions joint venture that employs approximately 5.600 individuals. In February, the 2 companies first announced the creation of the joint venture stating it would begin production of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, but not hybrids as this latest announcement specifies. Unlike the cylindrical lithium-ion batteries used by many electric vehicles, including Teslas, prismatic batteries are square-shaped. Toyota and Panasonic first agreed to study the feasibility of a joint venture producing prismatic batteries in December 2017. +++ 

+++ In the UNITED KINGDOM , the new car market continues to suffer the effects of the pandemic, with new figures revealing September was the worst ‘plate change’ month for new car registrations on record. Data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reveals that a total of 328.041 cars were registered throughout the month; down 15.8 % on the 10-year average for September. This is the lowest figure recorded since the introduction in 1999 of the system by which the numberplate format changes every 6 months. Although the 328.041 total represents a modest 4.4 % decline year on year, last September was also hit hard, by delays in vehicle certification due to the introduction of the WLTP emissions testing regime. Business demand was harder hit than private registrations, down 5.8 % compared with 1.1 %. However, there is positive news when looking at registrations of battery electric vehicles (BEVs). Registrations for them have increased by 184.3 % year on year, with September accounting for a third of all BEV registrations in 2020. With 21.903 BEVs registered, this means that BEV and plug-in hybrid registrations combined took more than 10 % of total registrations last month. Since the lockdown restrictions were lifted in June, when many production lines also restarting, the market has gradually picked up. However, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes states emphatically that this is “not a recovery”, as registrations are well below where they should be for September. He said: “Despite the boost of a new registrations plate, new model introductions and attractive offers, this is still the poorest September since the two-plate system was introduced in 1999. Unless the pandemic is controlled and economy-wide consumer and business confidence rebuilt, the short-term future looks very challenging indeed”. Alongside the pandemic, the SMMT lists further industry challenges, including the continued uncertainty over Brexit and the threat of EU tariffs; the increased investment to meet the shift towards zero-emissions vehicles; and the end of the government’s furlough scheme this month. It’s believed that the latter will cause wider-scale unemployment across the automotive sector. The SMMT now predicts that there will be an overall market decline of 30.6 % at the end of 2020, equivalent to around £21.2 billion in lost sales. Around 615.000 registrations have been lost in 2020, it’s claimed. Further trends, including the shrinking demand for diesel cars, have continued. Diesel accounted for just 14.3 % of the market last month, with petrol accounting for 65 %. At a manufacturer level, the breakdown of figures also make interesting reading. The biggest winner over the month was MG, recording a huge 169 % boost in registrations over September 2019. Audi recorded a 71.8 % rise, while Volkswagen and Skoda were up 39.2 % and 18.3 % respectively. It’s thought that these strong Volkswagen Group figures are partly due to last year’s WLTP-related disruption, however. Tesla does not publish its sales figures by nation, though the SMMT’s data for ‘other imports’ show a 58.54 % increase here with 5.823 registrations, which may hint at some success for the Californian maker. Topping the list of poor performers was Alfa Romeo, down 33.8 % year on year in September. Vauxhall, typically a strong performer, dropped 28.4 %, while BMW was down 23.7 % and Citroën was down 20.2 %. Ford was down 13.13 %, while Mercedes figures were reduced by 22.62 %. One suggested reason for the dramatic drops is a reduction in pre-registrations; cars registered to dealers before being sold to customers. This tactic has often been used to shore up registrations by manufacturers when required. Registrations of bread-and-butter petrol and diesel models fell by 20.9 % and 38.4 % respectively. Conventional hybrids saw a 55.8 % rise in sales, while plug-in hybrid models enjoyed a 138.6 % increase in popularity over September 2019. Despite 46.711 fewer petrol cars being registered last month, unleaded remains the most popular fuel-type for UK drivers, with 176.532 registrations and a market share of 53.8 %. EVs, hybrids and PHEVs now make up 18.5 % of the market, though, dwarfing diesel’s 14.3 % share last month. Year-to-date UK registrations remain down 33.2 %. Hawes said that unless the pandemic is controlled and confidence rebuilt, the short-term future of the market “looks very challenging indeed”. He praised the “incredible resilience” of the industry in what he called a “torrid year”. The SMMT also revealed the top 10 best selling cars for September and the Vauxhall Corsa has taken top spot with 10.553 sales. Despite coming first last month, the Corsa remains second behind the best selling car of the year so far, the Ford Fiesta. Ford’s ever-popular hatchback managed 9.545 sales; an upturn from the 3.372 sales it made in August; partly thanks to the introduction of new 70-plate registrations. Coming in at third for September is the Mercedes A-Class. The premium hatchback totalled 8.085 for the month is a huge leap on its previous month where it was the 6th best selling car. +++ 

+++ In the UNITED STATES , the auto sector continued to show signs of a recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic as improving demand in the third quarter for new vehicles has General Motors and other major automakers scrambling to boost production to rebuild dealer inventories. While sales in the quarter were down, the trend was positive as demand increased each month, especially among retail consumers for high-profit SUVs and pickups, industry officials said. “While the economy has made a substantial rebound in the third quarter, retail auto sales have been even more resilient”, GM chief economist Elaine Buckberg said. “Super-low auto loan interest rates have boosted retail auto sales; yet more strength comes from pandemic-induced demand”. The third quarter is usually when the industry starts building new models and piling up inventory for the holiday season. That transition is way behind the normal schedule this year due to the earlier shutdown caused by the outbreak and the initial slow ramp-up in production. Industry inventories for full-size pickups, for example, stood at 500.000 vehicles heading into Labor Day this year; down from 900.000 last year, according to J.D. Power analyst Tyson Jominy. GM, which reported a 10 % decline in third-quarter sales but said results improved each month, said the seasonally adjusted sales pace for the quarter was expected to be 15.9 million vehicles; up about 4 million vehicles from the previous quarter. The U.S. auto sector has held up better than other industries, but automakers had a hand in that with aggressive incentives like zero-for-84 months financing, payment deferrals and job assurance programs, J.D. Power’s Jominy said. Automaker profits are also getting a boost. Vehicle prices rose 2.5 % in September from last year to an average of more than $38,700, Kelley Blue Book said. And incentive spending in the industry fell for the second straight month in September, the first time that has happened since April 2019, Jominy said. “Automakers are going to report some pretty monster financial quarters here to close a year”, he said. “They’re running the assembly plants flat-out right now and incentives are falling. There’s a lot of positive financial indicators right now in the market”. Toyota’s sales fell 11 % in the third quarter, but were up 16 % in September. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reported a 10 % fall in U.S. sales in the quarter, but they were 38 % higher than the prior quarter and the company cited strong consumer demand. “We are optimistic about the U.S. market and expect sales to remain strong as we close out 2020”, U.S. sales chief Jeff Kommor said. Nissan echoed the theme of improving retail sales despite a 32 % decline in the quarter. “From an industry perspective, consumer confidence in the market is rising”, said David Kershaw, Nissan’s North American sales chief. Ford continued to show signs of a recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic as demand for SUVs and pickups helped boost third-quarter sales in the United States. It posted a 5 % fall in U.S. auto sales for the third quarter but said a continuing recovery from pandemic-induced lockdowns helped it record better sales compared with the second quarter. The No.2 U.S. automaker, which announces its quarterly sales volumes a day later than the rest of the industry, said it sold 551.796 vehicles in the country in the quarter; down from 580.251 a year earlier. Its sales were, however, up 27.2 % when compared with the preceding quarter. “The seasonally adjusted sales pace for September demonstrated yet another sequential improvement for the industry, and a return to near pre-virus levels; a print 16.4 million is not far off the 17 million level we saw from 2015-19”, Credit Suisse analyst Dan Levy said. “It remains to be seen if this level of sales can be sustained near-term”. Sales for the Ford F-Series pickup rose 3.5% in the quarter when compared with a year ago, marking its best pickup sales since 2005. +++ 

+++ Electric cars will likely make up 90 % of VOLKSWAGEN sales in Norway next year and could completely replace diesel and petrol engines in the Nordic country by 2023, the German auto maker’s local importer said. With a 2025 goal of becoming the first country to end the sale of fossil-fueled cars, oil-producer Norway exempts battery-powered vehicles from taxes imposed on petrol and diesel engines. The policy has turned the country’s car market into a laboratory for global auto makers seeking a path to a future without internal combusion engines, vaulting new brands and models to the top of bestseller lists in recent years. A record 61.5 % of new cars sold in Norway last month were powered by fully electric engines, registration data showed, up from 42.4 % for 2019 as a whole. The debut last month of Volkswagen’s highly anticipated ID.3 model vaulted it to the top of the Norwegian sales ranking, outselling California-based Tesla’s Model 3 and Geely’s Polestar 2 from China, according to the Norwegian Road Federation. In its 2021 fiscal spending plan on Wednesday, the Norwegian government extended its policy of zero tax on fully electric cars, providing predictability for auto makers. “This allows us to be confident in saying we can hit 90 % electric car sales next year”, said Harald A. Möller, the Norwegian importer of Volkswagen cars, including the Audi, Skoda and Seat brands. “Customers will have access to an even greater selection of electric cars in most segments in 2021”, it added. At the start of 2020, Möller set a 60 % target for electric cars this year. +++

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