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+++ Automakers are gearing up for tough new vehicle emissions rules and policies favoring electric vehicles if Democratic presidential candidate Joe BIDEN wins the White House. Biden and U.S. president Donald Trump both need the votes of auto workers in Midwestern swing states such as Michigan and Ohio, and both say they want automakers to create more auto jobs in the United States, rather than Mexico or China. From there, Trump’s and Biden’s policies for autos and transportation diverge, presenting automakers with very different sets of risks and rewards. If elected, Biden is expected to quickly reinstate the legal basis for California’s zero-emission vehicle rules and begin the process of reversing the Trump administration’s decision to ease fuel efficiency and carbon emission requirements through 2025. Automakers could also face sharply higher penalties for failing to meet fuel-efficiency requirements. The Trump administration rolled back those penalties, which the industry said saved at least $1 billion in annual compliance costs, but a federal appeals court in August reversed the administration action. However, Biden’s positions offer the auto industry some offsetting gains. Under Trump, the White House rejected new tax credits for electric vehicles while making it easier to sell gas-guzzling SUVs. Biden promises new tax incentives including rebates to buy EVs and a dramatic expansion of charging stations for electric vehicles – policy measures automakers have long advocated. Days after Trump won the 2016 election, the trade group representing major automakers in Washington called on him to reconsider fuel-efficiency standards proposed by the outgoing Obama administration, and backed by California and other coastal states. Now, the industry is divided. Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and others struck a compromise deal with California on emissions requirements, while General Motors, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sided with Trump in an effort to freeze out California and roll back emissions requirements. One question will be whether automakers who backed the Trump rollback continue their legal fight in the courts should he lose his re-election bid. John Bozzella, who heads an auto industry trade group, said in a statement automakers are “committed to a cleaner, safer, smarter future and we understand the importance of working with all parties to achieve these goals”. Who constitutes “all parties” could change if Biden wins. Environmental groups and unions want more prominent roles in determining auto policy. The automotive industry traditionally donates more to U.S. Republican lawmakers. And while 60 % of automotive campaign contributions have flowed to Republican candidates in 2020, the gap has narrowed from 2018, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. GM in 2019 drew the ire of Trump for its decision to close an Ohio car assembly plant as part of a larger plan to shut down 4 North American factories and cut 15.000 jobs. Trump eventually took credit for GM selling the plant to an electric pickup truck company and promising to invest $700 million in the battleground state. Earlier this week, GM said it is investing $2 billion in six U.S. facilities and would build its new Cadillac electric SUV at its Spring Hill (Tennessee) assembly plant. U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who represents thousands of auto workers, said Biden is committed to bringing various groups together to reach agreement on emissions rules. Dingell added if automakers made an emissions proposal it would be seen as a “floor” for negotiations, “so I think it’s got to come out from the environmentalist community and the unions working together”. The United Auto Workers (UAW) union, representing more than 400.000 active members, in April reliably endorsed the presidential Democratic candidate. But nearly a third of UAW members defied their union’s recommendation in the 2016 election by voting for Trump. UAW members are skeptical of open trade deals, and are concerned a shift to electric vehicles, combined with tougher emissions standards for the trucks and SUVs many of them build, will mean fewer jobs. The UAW told that what is needed is “a transition to EV production that takes full advantage of economic opportunities and ensures that there are quality manufacturing jobs for tens of thousands of American workers that currently work on gas and diesel powered engines”. California wants to ban all gasoline-powered passenger vehicles by 2035 and a New Jersey state environmental agency recommended the state ensure all passenger vehicles sold by 2035 are electric to meet emissions goals. Some lawmakers are considering tax credits to help convert some engine and other auto facilities into building electric vehicle components. “Climate-friendly policies and a good economy are not at loggerheads”, said U.S. Representative Andy Levin, a Michigan Democrat whose district just north of Detroit is a presidential campaign battleground. Trump has sought to capitalize on fears about electric vehicles. He has falsely said Biden backed a ban on gasoline-powered vehicles. Trump told Fox Business News in an interview that Democrats would “like to go one car per family and make it all electric”. Democrats have not called for any limit on cars per family. +++ 

+++ CHINA ‘s automobile industry is continuing its recovery and new energy vehicles continue to contribute growth. Statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers indicate the production and sales of automobiles both exceeded 2.5 million units in September, a record high for the year. China’s automobile sales witnessed 12.8 % year-on-year growth to reach 2.57 million units last month despite the Covid-19 pandemic coming under control, the report said. The production of automobiles in the country grew 14.1 % year-on-year to reach 2.52 million units in the same period. By the end of September, automobile production and sales had been growing for six months in a row, with the growth rate of sales remaining above 10 % for 5 consecutive months. China’s automobile industry has recovered to relative normalcy and the trend will remain in the future. It is expected that the growth rate of the 4th quarter will be similar to that of the third, said Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of the China Passenger Car Association. China’s whole car market will gain continuous confidence in the short term, especially with the support of policies, and new energy vehicles will have huge growth space, said Zhang Jing, an autojournalist. The production and sales of new energy automobiles both surpassed 130.000 units in September, reaching 136.000 and 138.000 units with growth of 48 and 67.7 % respectively, according to statistics from China Association of Automobile Manufactures. China’s automobile sales totaled 17.12 million units in the first 3 quarters of this year as the country’s automobile market warmed alongside government polices to spur consumption. +++ 

+++ Self-driving car maker CRUISE said it and majority shareholder General Motors would seek U.S. regulatory approval in coming months to deploy a limited number of Cruise Origin vehicles without steering wheels or pedals. At the same time, it will withdraw an exemption petition filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in January 2018 seeking approval to deploy a limited number of similar autonomous vehicles based on the Chevrolet Bolt platform. The NHTSA, which spent 15 months reviewing the GM petition before seeking public comment, said it “will review the new petition when it is received”. Cruise unveiled the Origin, which only has 2 long seats facing each other that can comfortably fit 4 passengers, in January. GM plans to begin building the Origin in Detroit in late 2021 or early 2022. Robert Grant, Cruise’s vice president of global government affairs, made the announcement after Cruise received a permit from California’s Department of Motor Vehicles last week to be the first to test cars without any riders on San Francisco streets. 4 other companies have permits to drive empty in Silicon Valley cities that are easier to navigate. Under current law, companies can seek an exemption from motor vehicle safety standards for up to 2.500 vehicles for up to 2 years that do not meet existing federal rules. The exemptions are for U.S. vehicle safety rules largely written decades ago that assumed human drivers would be in control of a vehicle. GM sought in 2018 a temporary waiver on features like mirrors, dashboard warning lights and turn signals designed for a human driver. GM initially hoped to win approval to deploy the vehicles without human controls by the end of 2019. The NHTSA has been considering revising auto safety rules to remove “unnecessary regulatory barriers to the safe introduction of automated driving systems”. +++ 

+++ General Motors is blunt about it. The GMC Hummer EV, a full-size ELECTRIC PICK-UP , raced from computer screens to production at mach speed to compete with plans by Tesla, Rivian and others to build an electric trucks of their own. GMC Hummer EV chief engineer Al Oppenheiser, who spent most of his career developing Camaros, said 20 months ago he was asked by GM leadership to bring Camaro charisma to the electric vehicle program to give it an adrenaline shot to better combat the Tesla Cybertruck and Rivian R1T, both of which had created a lot of buzz (not to be outdone, Ford is developing an electric F-150). Oppenheiser’s work began in April 2019 on a full-size truck GM wanted in production in the fall of 2021. In other words, lop about 2 years off GM’s normal development time. It became known as Project O for “obtainium”, a play on “unobtainium”, an internal phrase/excuse used by teams at GM when presented with seemingly impossible tasks. The fast-track electric truck project called for unconventional means, at least for GM. Oppenheiser tapped members of the Camaro and Corvette teams: They knew how to make a vehicle go fast, but also how to create a lower-volume halo vehicle quickly. They even used the Camaro and Corvette performance studio. The development team also had truck and off-road experts. As intended, it was unconventional from the start. The team worked from the production date backward and relied on computerized tools and simulations to create, engineer, and test the emerging truck. There was no time for a series of physical prototypes. The digital approach helped, because ultimately the team wanted to do an all-new platform. Of course, the easiest way to save time would have been to recycle the existing truck architecture used by the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickups and replace the powertrain with batteries and electric motors. But the body-on-frame architecture would not accommodate the battery packs needed for the range desired (about 600 km on a single charge) let alone power a truck with more than 1.000 horsepower, giving it the capability to go 0-100 kph in 3,0 seconds. Engineers didn’t want to build a battery stack high on top of the frame rails, Oppenheiser says. The team took “Project O” to General Motors’ advanced technology group, hat in hand, looking for a new structure for the full-size pickup and subsequent GMC Hummer SUV that would give them chops both on- and off-road. The answer was GM’s new electric vehicle architecture that uses Ultium batteries developed with LG Chem and to be built in Ohio. The architecture provides a structural steel sandwich with batteries protected between steel plates that allow an independent front and rear suspension and provides the suspension travel and underbelly armoring needed for off-roading. The Hummer is an electric off-roader with a range of about 600 km on a single charge. The team wanted to make a splash worthy of the fresh architecture, and the trucks it would produce on it. The halo of the electric truck program therefore deserved a standout name. The emphasis on capability conjured up the Hummer name, which dates back to 1992 and descended from the military Humvee. GM bought the Hummer brand from AM General in 1999 and sold a family of tough, boxy SUVs (and their H2T and H3T pickup offspring) before GM discontinued the brand in 2010 as part of its downsizing after filing for bankruptcy. Hummer was a polarizing brand. Some loved its go-anywhere ruggedness and military roots; others saw the 8-mpg gas-guzzlers as the poster children for harming the environment just as consumers were hugging Prius hybrids during recession-era gas-price spikes. “We decided to take the name and make a believer out of everybody”, Oppenheiser said. The Hummer brand is still gone, but the decision was made to give the GMC brand some models sporting the Hummer name. The first vehicles from GM’s new electric truck architecture will be the GMC Hummer EV SUT (the Sport Utility Truck discussed here), followed eventually by the GMC Hummer SUV. The architecture will also produce a full-size electric pickup truck for Chevrolet. And there will be full-size SUVs for the Cadillac brand. In the first year, GM will offer a single variant of the GMC Hummer, the Edition 1. With a starting price of $112.595, the limited-run first-model-year rig is the top performance version with 3 electric motors: 2 opposed motors in the back and 1 motor in the front. It is in the subsequent years that GMC will add more affordable Hummers with 2 or 3 motors and fewer goodies. GM is accepting reservations now for all the models, including the Hummer EV3X coming in fall 2022 with 3 motors, torque vectoring and a performance launch mode with a starting price of $99,995. In the spring of 2023, GMC will add the 2-motor Hummer EV2X starting at $89,995. The base Hummer EV2 goes on sale in spring 2024 with a starting price of $79,995. All Edition 1 models come the same way: White on the bottom, black from the beltline up. It is part of the go-fast strategy to get the truck to market quickly by reducing complexity. You want color? Wait for the 2023 model year. But, it will be part of the signature look that all trucks will have black-painted uppers, no matter what the body color is. Edition 1 comes with pretty much everything standard including 18 inch wheels and 35 inch Goodyear Wrangler tires, rock sliders, independent and adaptive suspension, active dampers, four-wheel steering, short overhangs, and special badging on the dash and startup screen. It also has the latest version of GM’s Super Cruise feature which provides hands-free semi-autonomous highway driving. The roof panels come off and there is a power rear drop glass and power tonneau cover. The GMC Hummer will be built at a retooled plant in Detroit-Hamtramck that has been renamed Factory Zero and will only build electric vehicles, including the Hummer SUT and SUV, the Cruise Origin (which is a self-driving, ride-sharing, van-pod that carries 6 passengers) and likely the Chevrolet full-size electric pickup plus the Cadillac full-size electric SUV. The first body-in-white Hummer prototypes will roll off the line this week. When the unpainted body structures make it through the paint shop, final trim, and roll off the line as finished vehicles, the first Hummer will be sent for winter testing and the next few will be sent south for testing as desert runners, Oppenheiser says. GM thinks it will be the first mainstream electric pickup to hit the market. The importance of the project kept it on the ultra-tight schedule despite a 46-day work stoppage during a strike in 2019 and then the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 that forced engineers to work from home. Tesla said it would release the single-motor Cybertruck in late 2021 with the dual-motor all-wheel-drive model and the tri-motor version to follow in late 2022. But Tesla has a history of not meeting its deadlines. Rivian initially hoped to have the R1T electric pickup in production in December 2021 but that was pushed back to June 2022. Rivian bought the former Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Illinois, and has drivable prototypes coming off the line for testing. Ford has a new plant under construction in the Rouge complex to deliver the Ford F-150 electric pickup in June 2022. The battery-electric F-150 is in addition to the Ford F-150 hybrid being added to the lineup as part of its latest redesign. If all that holds, the Hummer’s aggressive development schedule will have paid off. +++ 

+++ Missed out on the Tesla rally but still want to surf the ELECTRIC VEHICLE WAVE ? A stream of EV-related startups backed by blank-check firms are lining up to go public so there’s plenty of choice. But like Tesla in the early days, few have products ready to sell or any likelihood of generating significant revenue anytime soon. Instead, investors will be relying on rosy production, sales and revenue forecasts for new cars, trucks and batteries, all set to be jostling for a slice of markets that will be far more crowded than when Tesla’s cars first hit the road. Take Fisker, for example. It was launched in 2016, just 3 years after the bankruptcy of its predecessor and early Tesla rival Fisker Automobile. In July, Fisker announced a $2.9 billion reverse merger deal with Spartan Energy Acquisition, a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC), and is planning to go public later this year. It has no revenue and its Fisker Ocean electric SUV (photo) is at least 2 years away from production in a project heavily dependent on nailing down deals with partners who will build the car and provide key components. That’s not particularly unique for young companies in the sector looking to use SPACs to go public and bypass the scrutiny of a traditional IPO process, according to company presentations and interviews with executives and investors. That also didn’t seem to be an issue earlier this year when U.S. electric truck maker Nikola Motors used a SPAC to go public. Shares in the company that hopes to generate revenue next year almost trebled after listing on the Nasdaq exchange. But they slumped when a short-seller questioned whether founder Trevor Milton had made false claims about Nikola’s technology, forcing the 38-year-old entrepreneur to step down as executive chairman, and making some investors more cautious. Nikola and Milton have publicly rejected the accusations and have threatened to take legal action against the short-seller, Hindenberg Research. “Good storytelling is an important component of being a good founder and entrepreneur, but it better not be the only component”, says Evangelos Simoudis, managing partner and founder of startup investor Synapse Partners. Fisker’s founder Henrik Fisker is well known in the industry, for designing sports cars such as Aston Martin’s Vantage, and for his failed EV firm Fisker Automobile that went bust in 2013 after burning through more than $1 billion. Fisker Automotive missed targets on revenue, pricing, production and sales before the collapse of its battery supplier forced it to suspend production of its Fisker Karma, which first reached customers about 2 years later than planned and sold for a much higher price than originally announced. This time around, he is confident he has learned from his mistakes and won’t be one of the startups planning to go public that fails to meet investors’ expectations. “A lot of them will not succeed in launching a successful product on time. That’s just a fact”, he told. “The question then is how much are investors willing to forgive?” He also said Nikola’s woes should make potential investors look closer at what they were buying into. “It probably was a bit of a wake-up call for investors to really dig a little deeper into these deals and maybe think about what are the real costs and effort to take to get a vehicle to market and maybe understand a little more about how difficult and complicated this industry is”, Fisker said. Investors say Fisker shares some characteristics with other young automotive startups, such as a difficulty in raising funds from private investors and optimistic projections for revenue and profits, as well as production. Its Ocean prototype is a stylish mid-size SUV with a base price target of $37,500 and production set to start in late 2022. It will enter a market that is soon to be crowded by Tesla’s Model Y, Ford’s Mustang Mach E, VW’s ID.4 and at least half a dozen other brands. The Ocean’s price target is $2,500 below the ID.4, which goes on sale later this year at just under $40,000. In its presentation to investors in July, Fisker said it expected to produce 175.000 cars in 2024, earning revenue of $10.6 billion and pretax profit of $2 billion that year. “This is not only based on the Fisker Ocean. We are planning other vehicles as well”, said Fisker. “It’s a reasonable, good forecast and at the end of the day it’s a forecast. It’s not something anybody can guarantee”. “When you’re a new car company and specifically when you make electric vehicles, it’s almost impossible to really forecast what your sales will be”, he told. Bill Rinna, director of Americas vehicle forecasts at LMC Automotive, projects total U.S. EV sales in 2024 will just top 1 million. Tesla could account for half that volume, with GM, Ford and VW taking significant shares as well, analysts say. Trade publication Automotive News predicts nearly 100 new pure electric and hybrid electric vehicles will go on sale in the United States by 2024. Fisker boasts an “asset light” business model that is heavily dependent on using partners both for a vehicle platform and a manufacturing plant; neither of which were locked in before it announced its SPAC deal in July. Fisker also said then it was negotiating with VW to use its MEB electric car platform and related components for the Ocean. On October 15, Fisker announced a preliminary deal with Canadian auto parts supplier Magna International, which has agreed to assemble the Ocean at one of its European plants and to provide the mechanical platform for the vehicle. In an SEC filing the same day, Spartan Energy warned investors that Fisker and Magna “have not entered into a binding definitive agreement” to build the Ocean. The filing also noted that Fisker does not have a deal with VW to use its platform and is still negotiating a parts supply deal. Asked whether the Ocean’s production timetable was still on track, Fisker said: “All I can tell you is we are on the time schedule”. In the wake of Nikola’s setbacks, investor concerns about potential red flags for other auto startups backed by SPACs have started to hit the shares of the blank-check companies. “When you have no product and zero revenue, it comes down to the story that you’re telling”, said Marc Weiser, co-founder of investor RPM Ventures. “In the case of companies with unproven potential, it’s pure speculation and huge risk”. Nikola shares slumped from June high of $93.99 to just $16.15 on Septemner 24, but since have recovered slightly to $22.24. Shares in Fisker’s backer Spartan Energy are at $12.27, down from a July peak of $21.58. Shares in DiamondPeak Holdings, which is backing Lordstown Motors, are down 33 % from their September peak and Kensington Capital Acquisition Corp, which is behind battery maker QuantumScape, are down 45 %. 2 year old Lordstown Motors hopes to pit its $52,500 Endurance electric pickup late next year against rivals from Tesla, Ford, General Motors, Rivian, Nikola and others. Lordstown and DiamondPeak told investors in September the truckmaker projects revenue of $3.5 billion and pretax profit of $300 million in 2023. 10 year old battery startup QuantumScape has a promising new solid-state battery cell and financial backing from Volkswagen, but has said it is years away from commercial production and meaningful revenue. Whether fund managers dangling blank-check deals will pursue a more cautious approach in the post-Nikola environment, despite the potential red flags, remains an open question. But with Nikola as a cautionary tale, and Fisker sparking additional concerns, some investors have become more choosy. “We will spend much more of our time and our focus on companies that are already in revenue or are soon to be in revenue”, Barry Engle, former president of General Motors North America and head of Qell Acquisition Corp, which is evaluating EV-related startups. +++ 

+++ FIAT ‘s new electric 500 will have an entry price of €19,900, including a €6,000 incentive offered by Italy’s government, a senior executive from the Italian-American automaker said. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) will start selling a full range of the battery electric version (BEV) of its popular city car this weekend, after officially unveiling it and offering it in 2 premium configurations earlier this year. Olivier Francois, head of the Fiat brand and FCA’s chief marketing officer, said that the group would also offer 2 more expensive versions of the 500 BEV at €23.700 and €25.200 euros, including the incentive. The cheapest version will have a range of 185 km, while for others the range will be 320 km. As well as the baseline incentive, buyers of electric cars in Italy are offered a further €4.000 discount if they scrap an old car. “If you have an old car to scrap, the new 500 BEV could be even cheaper than its petrol-engined sister, whose most popular version costs around €17.000”, Francois said. The 500 BEV, which is part of a plan announced in 2018 to invest 5 billion euros in Italy up to 2021, is FCA’s first major step into electric-powered driving. Competing electric cars include the Mini Cooper SE, which has a starting price of €33.900 euros in Italy excluding incentives, and Peugeot’s e-208, starting at €33.750. +++ 

+++ Tesla chief executive Elon Musk tweeted that the electric car maker will be rolling out a new version of its FULL SELF DRIVING SOFTWARE , the latest attempt by the California-based company to tout autonomous driving. Tesla’s Full Self Driving software would be an important source of revenue, once it is fully deployed. Tesla owners have paid $8,000 up front in hopes of eventually receiving the upgrade. In the second quarter alone, Tesla recognized $48 million of deferred revenue. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and most automakers define five levels of automation here Levels 0 to 2 include features such as automated braking systems (ABS) and lane departure warnings that need to be supervised by a driver. Liability for vehicle behaviour rests with the vehicle owner rather than the manufacturer. Several automakers say they are ready to deploy Level 3 systems that automate highway driving, but require drivers to remain ready to take control. Tesla has said its system is only capable of functioning on highways. Tesla’s Autopilot has been criticized by the National Transportation Safety Board for allowing drivers to turn their attention from the road, leading to deadly accidents. European crash test officials at European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) gave Tesla’s Model 3 a “moderate” rating here and said the name Autopilot is inappropriate since it suggests full automation. German courts have banned Tesla from repeating misleading claims about the car’s self-driving capabilities. The United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which awarded Tesla the highest safety score for occupant safety, has investigated 15 crashes since 2016 involving Tesla vehicles equipped with Autopilot. In April 2019, Musk said fleets of self-driving robotaxis would be on roads by 2020. On September 22, during the company’s Battery Day presentation, Musk admitted that Autopilot software was undergoing a “fundamental rewrite”. Tesla uses 8 cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors to enable its vehicles to navigate streets. It opted against using Lidar, a sensor that Audi and Mercedes say is vital to corroborate information gathered by cameras. “Anyone who is relying on Lidar is doomed. Doomed”, Musk said last year. Technology to automate highway driving, parking and navigation in stop-and-go traffic is being deployed in an absence of industry-wide standards. Article 8 of the 1968 Convention on Road Traffic states: “Every driver shall at all times be able to control his vehicle or to guide his animals”. Lawmakers across the globe have worked to incorporate a little-noticed amendment to the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic agreed in 2014, into national rules. This would let drivers take their hands off the wheel of self-driving cars. The U.S. states of Nevada and Arizona passed laws to allow test drives of autonomous vehicles there. Alphabet’s Google tested a car in Nevada in 2012 and in October said it will start offering rides to the public in robotaxi minivans in Phoenix. California also allows limited testing of driverless autonomous vehicles. Mercedes-Benz is now getting ready to launch a Level 3 system in Germany next year, once German law allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel for extended periods of time. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS deemed it a “moonshot”, and those working on the newest GMC model dubbed it Project Obtainium. We know it as the GMC Hummer EV and the freshly debuted pickup includes several interesting tech highlights beyond its wild claim of 15.000 Nm of torque that’s been much ballyhooed. There’s a lot to dig into on this EV off-roader, but let’s start by dissecting that torque number before we check out the truck’s trick Extract mode, neat CrabWalk feature, and more. Let’s start off with that marquee number: 15.000 Nm of torque. That is the combined total torque being applied to the wheels, not at the output shafts of the Hummer EV’s 3 permanent-magnet motors (initially, all Hummer EVs will have 1 front and 2 rear motors). GMC is still being coy about the exact power and torque numbers of the individual motors, but chief engineer Al Oppenheiser pegged the individual motor torque outputs at “between 550 and 600 Nm” adding that after multiplying the motor torque by the 13.4:1 front and 10.1:1 rear single-speed transfer-gear ratios, the number actually comes out to well over 15.000 Nm (front output, however, must be limited to prevent wheel spin). The Hummer EV’s torquiest combustion sibling is the Sierra 4×4 Duramax pickup, which includes a 10-speed automatic transmission. With its 4.70:1 first gear, 3.24:1 axle ratio, and a torque converter multiplication factor conservatively estimated at 1.85:1 when “stalled” at 0 mph, the Duramax diesel’s 600 Nm of peak torque (available from 1.500-3.000 rpm) pencils out to almost 16.000 Nm. Of course, that torque-converter multiplication disappears when the converter locks up, trimming total wheel torque to just under 9.000 Nm. By contrast, Oppenheiser shared that the Hummer EV sustains peak wheel torque from 0 to 40 mph. Presuming you equip your Sierra Duramax with the X31 Off-Road package to get the 2-speed transfer case, you could engage low-range and gain a further 2.72:1 multiplication. That would give you nearly 25.000 Nm at the wheels, all along the Duramax’s broad peak-torque plateau. That said, using low-range would rev the bejeebers out of the Sierra’s diesel engine at 40 mph where the Hummer EV’s torque starts to drop off. Here again, GMC is only talking in round numbers: 1.000 hp total, measured at the three motor shafts. With more multiplication in the front and a desire to be able to do more torque vectoring at the rear, I’m guessing power and torque ratings will be slightly lower for the front motor than for the 2 rear motors. Figure somewhere between 330/335/335 and 300/350/350. However the power gets divided among the 3 motors, GMC notes the Hummer EV accelerates to 100 kph in about 4 seconds in its default start-up driving mode. But you can shave a second off that number by engaging WTF mode (that’s Watts To Freedom—this is a family truck!). Selecting this mode initiates a procedure of conditioning the battery and power control electronics, lowering the suspension to near access mode, and building excitement in the cabin with sound effects, graphics, and rumbling from the haptic seat to simulate the excitement that builds as a roller coaster prepares for its first death-defying drop. Once conditioned, press the accelerator and brake simultaneously, release the brake, and enjoy the g-forces. The Hummer EV’s fully independent suspension consists of “short/long-arm” geometry, which is good for 35 cm of wheel travel at the front and rear, plus air springs and continuously adjustable adaptive dampers at all four corners (none of the suspension bits wear branding from any of the independent off-road shock or suspension suppliers). The Extreme Off-Road package, standard on all Hummer EV Edition 1 models, includes 18 inch wheels wearing 35 inch diameter (305/70R18) Goodyear Wrangler All Territory MT tires. Sufficient clearance is provided to upgrade to 37 inch tires, though. The package also includes steel underbody armor, rock rails and an 18 camera Virtual Spotter package that includes 4 underbody cameras (2 front and 2 rear, with self-cleaning capability) to monitor what the tires are encountering. Extract mode helps the Hummer EV clear an obstacle if it becomes high centered by extending the wheels an extra four inches above Terrain mode (to full droop). This feature will become standard in 2023 and will be retrofittable to 2022 models via a software update at no charge. On its 35 inch tires with the suspension set to Terrain mode, the Hummer EV’s approach and departure angles are 44 and 34 degrees, respectively, and the truck can ford 32 inches of water. Extract mode increases the approach angle to almost 50 degrees, but speeds are extremely limited in this setting because there is no available rebound travel. Another segment exclusive is four-wheel steering that permits up to 10 degrees of rear-wheel steering; well up from the 3-4 degrees most such systems allow. At low speeds, 10 degrees of steering in the opposite direction of the front wheels tightens the truck’s turning circle to a sedan-like 11 meters. Smaller rear-steering angles in the same direction as the front tires provide smoother lane changes at highway speeds. Steering up to the full 10 degrees in the same direction at very low speeds (a feature GMC calls CrabWalk) permits a diagonal driving direction and can help the Hummer EV clear off-road obstacles. +++ 

+++ Hyundai ‘s luxury brand GENESIS launched its revamped G70 sports sedan this week. The model’s first modification in 3 years sees a drastic change to its exterior, giving it a family look adopting the brand’s new signature designs seen in the latest lineup, like the flagship G80 midsize sedan and GV80 SUV. The G70 features quad headlights and taillights along with a pentagonal grille. The car is equipped with advanced safety and convenience features including wireless updates to the navigation system and a digital key that allows the driver to lock and unlock the vehicle using a smartphone app. It also comes with smart cruise control, which automatically maintains a safe distance from the car ahead, and collision-avoidance assist systems. Like its predecessor, the new G70 comes in three versions: 2-liter and 3.3-liter gasoline turbo models and a 2.2-liter diesel option. +++ 

+++ The reaction to the GMC HUMMER EV has been overwhelmingly positive and that has resulted in huge demand. During a press briefing earlier today, GMC officials revealed the Hummer EV Edition 1 sold out in approximately 10 minutes despite its starting price of $112,595. That’s an impressive accomplishment, but the company declined to mention how many they intend to produce. However, even if a number of buyers back out, GMC has a wait list that already includes “thousands” of other potential customers. Officials said the response exceeded their expectations and noted the Hummer EV was one of the most searched for things on Google. That was undoubtedly helped by a marketing push that saw the truck promoted during the World Series and The Voice. While all Edition 1s are currently spoken for, GMC has already announced the Hummer EV 3X will arrive in the fall of 2022. It will be slightly more affordable than the Edition 1, but have a reduced output of approximately 811. The truck’s range will also be cut roughly 80 km to 483+ km. When the Hummer EV arrives in dealerships late next year, it will push the brand into new territory and attract new customers. However, officials noted Hummer builds on their previous efforts with the AT4 and Denali trims. While Hummers will be more capable than AT4 models, they’ll also be positioned in a more premium segment than the brand’s popular Denali variants. Given that Hummer combines both premium and off-road, GMC boss Duncan Aldred said it’s a “perfect fit” for the brand. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that GMC has previously described AT4 and Denali as “powerhouse” sub-brands which have helped to increase transaction prices. This means the Hummer EV’s premium price tag isn’t necessarily a huge leap for the brand and its customers. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER (JLR) has announced it will launch a “pioneering” research trial to test new lightweight materials for use in future models. The 2-year project, said to use sensor technology developed for the aerospace industry, will look at how innovative metals and composite materials respond to harsh or corrosive environments. The materials will be tested in “some of the world’s most extreme physical conditions” in a 400.000 km regime across various parts of North America. The data gathered from the testing will be shared with the United Kingdom product development team to allow them to accurately forecast the future behaviour of these materials. That means any innovation in that field can meet “the company’s stringent standards” for longevity and quality. Lead engineer Matt Walters said the research project is an example of the brand’s “commitment to developing lightweight, durable and robust materials for our future vehicles”. The research, said to include “world-class partners”, forms part of a consortium of aluminium manufacturers and other car makers with similar objectives. It builds on research projects such as JLR’s 2019 testing of printed structural electronics for interiors, said to reduce the weight of in-car electronics by up to 60 %. +++ 

+++ Electric vehicle battery maker LG CHEM plans to triple production capacity for cylindrical batteries used by Tesla and others, and is considering expansion in Europe and North America to meet surging demand. The South Korean firm forecasts a further rise in its battery sales and profit in the 4th quarter after posting record quarterly earnings thanks to growing demand for electric vehicle (EV) batteries. “Sales are continuously expected to grow thanks to greater shipments of automotive batteries and cylindrical batteries for EVs”, said LG Chem, which also counts General Motors, Volkswagen and Hyundai as customers. It did not provide figures or a timeframe for its plans to triple cylindrical battery capacity. LG Chem, along with CATL, supplies batteries for Tesla’s made-in China models, while Panasonic makes batteries for Tesla’s U.S-made cars. LG Chem also said it was developing “new form-factor” cylindrical batteries which will boost energy density 5-fold and power by 6-fold, without elaborating. These are similar to targets that Tesla announced last month for its new batteries to be made in-house, called 4680 cells, to enable a 16 % increase in range for Tesla vehicles. The CEO of LG Chem, which has production facilities in Poland, the United States, South Korea and China, shared a plan to build another site in Europe in an interview last week. LG Chem said it had formed a task force with Hyundai to find the root cause of battery fires affecting some 14 Kona EVs in South Korea and abroad, as Hyundai plans to recall Kona Electric cars. LG, which makes everything from batteries to petrochemicals, reported a 159 % jump in total operating profit to a record 902 billion won ($797 million) in the third quarter from a year earlier, in line with estimates. Its battery division, which also includes small batteries used in Apple’s iPhones, saw operating profit more than double from a year earlier to 169 billion won ($149 million), thanks to rising cylindrical battery sales, new EV launches by European automakers and higher sales of new mobile devices. Operating profit at the mainstay petrochemical business also more than doubled to 722 billion won ($637 million), as the coronavirus crisis lifted demand for home appliances and hygiene products like surgical gloves. +++ 

+++ MASERATI ’s grand 5-year product plan was revealed at brain-scrambling speed in a dizzying series of slides. There were new products and bold promises, headlined by a 320 kph sports car, a sub-brand for electric motors and a D segment SUV. It was all hugely ambitious, with bosses vowing to boost sales, add prestige and generally return the brand to greatness. Skip forward to today and little of that product plan, announced at the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Capital Markets Day event in 2018, survives. Neither the sports car, the Alfieri, nor the EV powertrain line, Maserati Blue, ever materialised. In the intervening 24 months, new management has swept in at both FCA and Maserati. A new 5-year product plan has been developed for Maserati and that plan was recently revealed to the world at the brand’s Modena headquarters. After a grand evening event featuring lights, music, drummers and a choir to showcase its new halo model, the MC20, the big news came the following day. The grand 5-year product plan was revealed at brain-scrambling speed in a dizzying series of slides. There were new products and bold promises, headlined by a 320 kph sports car, a sub-brand for EV motors and a D segment SUV (as one of 13 new models due in the next 5 years). It was all hugely ambitious, with bosses vowing to boost sales, add prestige and generally return the brand to greatness. Why should we believe it this time? After all, even FCA boss Mike Manley acknowledges that Maserati’s long history of undelivered promises, stretching back long before 2018, makes it easy to be sceptical. “The world is absolutely full of sceptics, particularly if they’ve been proven right through mis-step or mis-actions in the past, because then they become prophets”, he says. “I’ll tell you what we’ve done wrong in the past: Maserati does well when it launches new radical products, but in the luxury arena, if you launch and leave, the decay of that product is pretty quick. You have to have a well thought through plan that’s funded and includes proper lifecycle management of vehicles. “The plan we have shown now is full of focus. Absolutely no part of Maserati has been left untouched. We’ve got a clear plan of launching vehicles basically every year”. Manley became head of FCA after Sergio Marchionne died in 2018 and last July appointed Davide Grasso to head up Maserati. Although Grasso was born in Turin, the heart of Italy’s car industry, he was an intriguing outside hire, having spent the previous 12 years working for Nike, serving as the sports gear firm’s chief marketing officer and, more recently, as head of the Converse shoe brand. While Grasso lacks car industry experience, he knows the value of a brand and how to deliver on a promise. And, in his view, the difference in Maserati’s 2020 product plan is that it wasn’t delivered as promises alone. It was accompanied by a major restructuring of senior staff and there was evidence of the models and technology that will underpin Maserati’s future. The company’s ‘Time to be Audacious’ event included the launch of the MC20 supercar and the new V6 Nettuno engine that powers it, along with a showcase of the Maserati Innovation Lab, where the new Folgore line of 800 Volt tri-motor electric powertrains, the Grecale D segment SUV and the forthcoming Granturismo EV are all being honed. “These are tangible elements”, says Grasso. “Things you can touch and feel and see will bring Maserati back to where it belongs, which is a symbol of Italian excellence in the world, through consistency and sustained efforts. There’s more to come, but we have the team and you’ve heard the investment and the commitment and seen the long-range plan. We’re putting in place all the steps required to deliver on our promises because, at the end of the day, a brand is a promise”. As car brands go, Maserati promises more than most, with a heritage built on both road and track stretching back more than a century. But in recent years, that heritage and the promises embedded within it have been unfulfilled by middling products. Grasso’s challenge is to convince people that Maserati isn’t just a historic car brand but one that can thrive in the current age and in the forthcoming electric era. Grasso says his strategy “all starts with the consumer and requires sustained and consistent effort in establishing us at the heart of what the consumer wants”. He adds: “The ingredients are the same for everybody who wants to play in this space: luxury, performance, innovation and quality. It’s more about the how: the way you combine them. How do we create and shape the brand to be different? It’s about being powered by passion, which was a key element in our founding, by 5 brothers with passion. There’s a space for us to uniquely combine culture, technology and performance and translate that in an understandable language that’s also captivating”. When you delve into the details, much of Maserati’s 2018 product plan has survived in the 2020 version. The EV powertrain may be called Folgore instead of Maserati Blue (a definite upgrade in my view), but it maintains the 800 Volt tri-motor design laid out 2 years ago. There’s a major difference on the combustion engine side, however: back then, Maserati’s strategy was based on continued use of Ferrari powerplants, but since the Maranello firm was divested by FCA, the plan includes Modena building its own engines again. That will start with the Nettuno V6, which will first appear in the MC20 and eventually be offered in every Maserati model. The split with Maranello has aided Maserati in another way, too. Whereas it was once awkwardly sandwiched between Alfa Romeo and Ferrari, it now undisputedly sits atop the hierarchy of FCA brands. While Manley insists the change in Ferrari’s status “hasn’t changed my belief in what Maserati should be and is more than capable of becoming”, he adds: “It went obviously from the secondary sister brand of Ferrari to our primary luxury brand. But I always knew Maserati would be very special if it were given the right resources and assets”. Exhibit A of that is the MC20, a supercar that puts Maserati firmly back into Ferrari’s territory. And it’s the machine that Grasso believes will make people believe in the promise of Maserati again. “You need to have something that pulls up the tempo”, he says. “You need the crown jewel, the shiny object. But it can’t be something just to be noticed, because then it becomes crass and not on-brand. This car goes back to the roots of the brand, which was born on the circuit to go to the road, so it’s absolutely aligned with the DNA of the brand. “Not everyone will want this car, but you can also have the Maserati experience driving an SUV, because there are elements of the brand that will be absolutely consistent”. Finding a way to credibly link supercar and SUV is key because, while the MC20 is the halo car, it’s the Grecale that will be at the heart of Maserati’s revival. It will sit underneath the existing Levante, and the firm believes the 2 SUVs will account for the bulk of its sales. The Grecale will be based on the Alfa Romeo Stelvio and built on the same production line, but Maserati is adamant that there will be key differences in their styling, how they behave dynamically and their technical make-up. The Nettuno will be offered in the Grecale but won’t reach Alfa Romeo for several years. Even so, it exemplifies the delicate balancing act Maserati faces. The Grecale will be key to it achieving the targets set by Manley: reaching 75.000 annual sales within 5 years (2019 sales were 26.500). But is growing sales volume at odds with the goal of restoring the brand’s exclusive, luxury aura? “All the successful luxury brands have a similar balancing act”, says Manley. “When you talk about volume, you saw the emergence of the D-SUV segment and Porsche and so on moving into that. So that’s a natural evolution for Maserati and opens up the largest segment for the brand”. Grasso adds: “That question is extremely critical when you manage a luxury brand. There’s a fine line, and we ask ourselves that question every day. What is the right balance? The right balance is the response of the consumer approach to the brand. The starting point for us is to know the consumer, the new luxury consumer, because the world is changing really fast. It’s our job to understand the DNA of the brand: what the fine line is, what the Maserati experience is and how that translates in a super-sports car, an SUV and a saloon”. Grasso adds that creating cars that fit the brand isn’t enough: the whole experience is key, covering aspects such as dealerships and servicing. For example, steps have been taken to improve perceived quality: the whole quality control team and process have been overhauled. The idea is to ensure that Maserati isn’t just known for its proud past but also as a premium brand that’s fit for the modern age and can finally deliver on the promises it has made. “Maserati is like a diamond in the rough”, concludes Grasso. “You don’t find a brand like this easily, with such clear, distinct DNA, such passion and so much knowledge. You can polish this diamond and make it shine”. +++ 

+++ The facelifted OPEL Insignia lineup has gained 2 new petrol and diesel drivetrain combinations in Europe. The main addition is a new 2.0-liter turbocharged petrol unit, available on both the Grand Sport lifback and Sports Tourer wagon. The engine delivers 170 hp and 350 Nm from as low 1.500 rpm. Offered in combination with a 9-speed automatic transmission, the new 2.0-liter engine enables the Insignia to sprint to 100 km/h in 8.7 seconds and hit a top speed of 228 km/h. Equipped with this engine, the Grand Sport is said to average 6.0-6.4 l/100 km, with corresponding CO2 emissions of 150-145 g/km. Also new is the combination of a 2.0-liter diesel, an 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive for the Insignia. With 174 PS and 380 Nm of torque on tap, the Insignia 2.0 CDTI needs 8.9 seconds to sprint to 100 km/h and can reach a top speed of 223 km/h. This powertrain combination is more economical, with the Insignia Grand Sport officially rated at 5.1 l/100 km and 135 g/km CO2. Both new powertrain options comply with the strict Euro 6d emissions standard. “The new Insignia has been in production at our Rüsselsheim plant since September”, says Andreas Marx, Head of Opel Germany. “We are especially proud of our flagship and its dynamic yet elegant design. With the 2 new additions to our powertrain portfolio, every customer can choose the ideal Insignia for their very own needs”. +++ 

+++ PININFARINA has entered a partnership with global EV charging network ChargePoint to provide buyers of the upcoming Battista electric hypercar with 5 years of unlimited complimentary public charging at more 115.000 locations across Europe and North America. Buyers will also get a bespoke domestic wallbox charger, designed by Pininfarina and made from recycled materials, which promises to supply up to 7.2kW of power; enough to fully recharge the hypercar’s 120 kWh battery pack in around 6 hours. The Pininfarina Battista is powered by 4 electric motors (1 for each wheel) which produce a combined output of 1.900 hp and 2.300 Nm. The Italian brand says the system will provide a 0–100 kph time of less than 2 seconds and a top speed of 350 kph. When the first examples reach customers later this year, the Battista will be one of the most powerful road-legal cars ever produced, with almost 400 hp more than the Bugatti Chiron. The only car the Battista currently trails is the Lotus Evija, which has an extra 100 hp over Pininfarina’s effort. The Battista’s electric motors are powered by a 120 kWh liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery, which is mounted low in the car’s chassis and laid out in a T-shape configuration to aid the car’s weight distribution. The powertrain was developed in tandem with Rimac and Pininfarina is targeting a maximum range of around 500 km. It’s designed around a carbon fibre monocoque with a carbon fibre and aluminium rear subframe. The Battista also features a set of carbon-ceramic brakes with six-pot calipers, a torque vectoring system, adjustable dampers, an active rear wing and a range of passive aerodynamic vanes. Production of the pure-electric hypercar is strictly limited to just 150 units, with the USA, Europe and Middle East getting 50 examples each. Every model will be hand-built at the firm’s facility in Turin, and prices are expected to range between €2 million and €2.5 million in The Netherlands. Pininfarina also says it will offer “almost endless” opportunities for interior customisation and, given the model’s exclusivity, it’s likely each will be tailored towards the buyer’s preferences, with the upholstery, stereo and trim all being interchangeable. Features expected to persist across each car will be the dual-screen infotainment system and ambient LED lighting. In 2015, Pininfarina was acquired by Indian firm Mahindra. Shortly after the acquisition, Pininfarina announced it would start producing its own vehicles as Automobili Pininfarina (alongside its existing consultancy business), borrowing the all-electric expertise gained by the Mahindra’s participation in the inaugural 2014–15 Formula E season. The Battista’s design was carried out under the direction of Automobili Pininfarina’s recently-appointed design director, Luca Borgogno, who moved across from the firm’s existing consultancy division. Towards the end of 2018, Pininfarina named its new hypercar, dedicating it to the company’s founder, Battista Farina. When the announcement was made, the company’s chairman Paolo Pininfarina, grandson to Battista Farina, said: “This is genuinely a dream come true. My grandfather always had the vision that one day there would be a stand-alone range of Pininfarina-branded cars. For me, we simply had to call it Battista”. +++ 

+++ I’m a big fan of RENAULT ’s smaller cars (Clio, Captur and Zoé). But I’ve been increasingly puzzled about what the firm plans to do with its larger models; vehicles like the Mégane, increasingly marginalised against the likes of the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus, and the Kadjar, which looks ever-more-anonymous in the packed family SUV class. But now I can tell the first part of the new story, as Renault’s designers, led by Laurens van den Acker, have turned the Mégane into a funky all-electric crossover. This reveal is a hugely significant one and not just because it shows the future of a badge with huge equity. The Mégane eVision was also the showstopper in the initial presentation (online only, naturally) from Renault’s new boss, former Seat chief Luca de Meo, who has been tasked with bringing the French company up to the levels of success (and profit) currently being enjoyed by its local rival, Groupe PSA. This will not be an easy task, not least because the French government itself has a share in Renault, making key decisions on factories and production sites potentially tricky. But de Meo is a former sales and marketing guy, and as such, he brings a strong understanding of brand strengths and what customers really want. That’s obvious from the Mégane eVision (a clear evolution of the current 5-door hatchback, but now in pure-electric SUV form) and the Dacia Spring, which was also revealed last week. Renault’s budget sub-brand traditionally has a razor-sharp focus on customer needs, and this baby electric SUV has enormous potential to shake up the EV market. There’s no doubt de Meo and Renault still have plenty of challenges ahead of them. But this news is an encouraging sign of how they plan to overcome them. +++ 

+++ Kumho Tire will start supplying tires for SKODA ’s new compact SUVs starting January, the company announced. Kumho Tire, the second-largest tiremaker globally by market share, has been supplying tires to Skoda’s Octavia manufacturing plant in the Czech Republic since May. Octavia is Skoda’s flagship product in its home market. An average of 400.000 Octavia cars are sold in the Czech Republic every year. Kumho will also supply tires for the Kamiq introduced in 2018. Selling cars directly to manufactures for use in new vehicles is not as profitable as selling replacement tires, but it can be good for marketing purposes and may lead to replacement sales later. In January, Kumho supplied tires to Audi for use in its Q5. In 2018, it inked a deal to supply new tires for BMW’s X3. Around 65 % of its business is overseas, a spokesperson for the company said. The tiremaker hopes the recent deal with Skoda can help it return to profit. It has lost money for 2 consecutive quarters, as 2 of its key markets (Europe and the United States) were hit hard by the pandemic. Kumho’s sales dropped by 24.2 % on year in the April–July period, while reporting a net loss of 51.7 billion won ($45.6 million). The tiremaker also suffered from deteriorating brand image, according to analysts, after the Chinese state-owned tire company Double Star bought 45 % of Kumho Tire in March 2018. Amid difficulties, Kumho Tire expects its performance to turn around in the third half. “The partnership is meaningful because we are supplying equipment for 2 cars with high sales prospects”, said Kim In-su, a sales representative for Kumho Tire. “The Octavia is one of the bestselling models in Europe and then Kamiq is a compact SUV which Skoda has high hopes for. We hope to continue building strong partnerships with Skoda. Second quarter was tough as car factories in both Europe and the United States shut down”, said a spokesperson from Kumho Tire. “The markets for new cars are opening both domestically and abroad. We expect better third-quarter results”. +++ 

+++ SUV cars registered in France will face a new weight tax, designed to get manufacturers to cut down on CO2 emissions. Announced by the country’s environment minister Barbara Pompili, the scheme will see cars weighing more than 1.800 kg taxed at a rate of €10 for every additional kilogram. Pompili tweeted: “The weight tax that we’re creating sends a strong and necessary message to take into account the environmental impact of the heaviest vehicles. The heavier cars get, the more materials and energy they consume, with more pollution”. The new tax will be introduced in the 2021 French budget and will not apply to electric cars. The bestselling SUVs from French brands such as Peugeot and Renault weigh less than 1.800 kg, but larger luxury models from German brands like Mercedes and Audi will be affected. The cars with the highest CO2 emissions already face levies of up to €20.000 in France. Despite this, the country has seen a slowdown in its reduction of CO2 emissions, with large SUVs taking the blame. The WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature) claims SUVs were the second-largest source of greenhouse gas increases in France between 2008 and 2018, with the airline industry the biggest. It’s also true, however, that sales of SUVs in Europe have increased dramatically over that time, mostly at the expense of other types of car. The WWF said: “The 4.3 million sold in France in that decade have the same carbon footprint as 25 million electric compact cars”. A French Government source told that the weight tax “is meant to encourage people to avoid very large and heavy models, but also to encourage the industry to take its entire ecological footprint into account and not just emissions”. +++ 

+++ What’s new at TESLA ? Difficult to say, since the fast-growing electric carmaker appears to have taken the unusual step of disbanding its media relations department which responds to journalists. Calls and emails to Tesla’s California headquarters from media were unanswered days ahead of the company’s quarterly financial update. The reason: Tesla has dissolved its media relations department, becoming the first automaker to cut off the press. It is still communicating with investors and the public directly from its website, regulatory filings and the Twitter account of chief executive Elon Musk. But media outlets covering the company express frustration on dealing with Tesla. “I have not gotten a response out of Tesla in months”, said Steve LeVine, a journalist who follows the electric car sector. “I can’t say how many months. But I do not recall a response recently”. Inquiries to Tesla’s China and European offices were also unanswered. While many large firms are tight-lipped with media, Tesla’s move of cutting off the press entirely would be unprecedented for a company of its stature. In recent podcast interview, Musk expressed frustration over media coverage of Tesla’s Battery Day in September, where the firm unveiled its latest technology. “The press coverage of this event was sad”, he said. “Most of the press coverage was a sad reflection of their understanding, really”. Breaking with tradition is not new for Tesla, which is the only major automaker selling cars directly to customers, and avoiding independent dealers in the United States despite restrictions in some states. Musk also landed in hot water in 2018, settling a fine with regulators after tweeting an unfounded claim that he had secured funding to take the company private. The flamboyant CEO has also negotiated a rare contract which could net him more than $50 billion in compensation if Tesla’s share price hits certain levels, but leave him dry if the company falters. At least one analyst said Tesla’s approach in communications is reasonable and reflects its ability to get its message across without news media. “Tesla does not need a PR department at all”, said Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry. Chowdhry said Tesla’s customers are “advocates” for the company and Musk communicates directly with 39 million Twitter followers. “If a company has a great product and a rabid customer following, a PR department is a completely obsolete concept”, he said. +++ 

+++ The TESLA MODEL 3 produced at its Gigafactory in Shanghai will be exported to Europe later this month, which the US electric carmaker said is a recognition of China-made vehicles’ quality in western countries. In a statement, Tesla said the vehicles will be shipped to a dozen European countries including Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland. The carmaker did not disclose the exact export quantity, but Chinese media in Shanghai reported that thousands of vehicles are ready for shipment at a local port, and the first consignment is expected to reach Zeebrugge in Belgium in November. Tesla said China’s vast market and leading supply chain have enabled it to raise the vehicles’ competitive edge to a new level and helped them earn recognition and respect in the European markets. The Shanghai plant, which started production in December 2019 and has a designed capacity of 150.000 vehicles a year, is Tesla’s first overseas manufacturing facility, and the first wholly-owned foreign car-making factory in China. As the plant has revved up its capacity, it can now produce vehicles for other parts of the world after meeting the demand of Chinese buyers, said Tesla. “We hope to contribute our effort to the dual-circulation development pattern China has proposed”, it said. The electric vehicle maker, which sold more than 11.000 Model 3 cars last month in China, the world’s biggest auto market, is also building new car manufacturing capacity in Shanghai to make its Model Y cross-over. “We will continue to increase investment in China, and play our role in stabilizing foreign investment and foreign trade”, said the carmaker. It said support from the Chinese government for the industry, innovative local companies and customers embracing new technologies have made China the best market for smart electric vehicles. The carmaker said it has also partnered with a number of top-level Chinese suppliers, which it said has ensured the quality of China-made Model 3s. Tesla sourced roughly 30 % of spare parts locally when the Shanghai plant kicked off production late last year and it expects the figure to reach 100 % by the end of the year. Tesla said as it is growing the local team, the Shanghai factory will undertake more work in terms of design as well as research and development. Tesla is not the only international carmaker that is making China a shipping hub in the age of electric mobility. BMW is producing its iX3 in China only, and shipping them around the world. Jochen Goller, president and CEO of BMW Group Region China, said the first shipment will hit the overseas market in March. Goller said the electric Mini-branded vehicles it will produce with Chinese carmaker Great Wall Motors will be also sold globally. Daimler, parent of Mercedes-Benz, is shifting production of its Smart-branded minicars to China as well. +++

 

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