Newsflash: Skoda komt met Enyaq iV Coupé

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+++ China’s leading new-energy vehicle (NEV) manufacturer BYD reported a strong rebound in its NEV sales in September, company data showed. In a filing to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, the Shenzhen-based company said it sold 19.881 NEVs last month, up 45.3 percent year-on-year and up 30.1 percent month-on-month. In the January-September period, BYD sold 110.941 NEVs, down 42.4 percent year-on-year. The slump, however, narrowed from 49.1 percent in the January-August period with the help of the rebound in September. Despite the sales slump in the NEV sector, BYD reported a sales rebound for gasoline-powered vehicles. During the 9 months, the carmaker sold 158.034 gasoline-powered vehicles, up 10.4 percent year-on-year. +++ 

+++ General Motors has shut the CHEVROLET CORVETTE assembly plant at Bowling Green for at least one week due to a parts shortage. Chevrolet started a second shift for the Corvette on August 31st, and while that was good news for those eagerly awaiting delivery of their mid-engined sports car, some suppliers haven’t been able to keep up. It remains unclear which exact parts Chevrolet is having difficulty sourcing, but the only alternative to the factory shutdown would have been for Chevrolet to remove the affected parts from C8 Corvette orders, as it had to do earlier in the year with the optional 5VM Aero Kits and the High Wing rear spoiler. Apparently, Chevrolet wasn’t willing to do this. “Due to a temporary parts supply issue, we can confirm that Bowling Green Assembly will not run production the week of October 12”, Chevrolet spokesman Kevin Kelly confirmed in a statement. “Our supply chain, manufacturing and engineering teams are working closely with our supply base to mitigate any further impact on production, and we expect the plant to resume normal operations on Monday, October 19”. Those with an order for a 2020 model year Corvette needn’t worry as they will still get their cars despite the delay. In fact, GM recently notified Chevrolet dealerships that production of the Corvette will be extended through December. Production of the 2020MY was scheduled to end in November to make way for the 2021MY, but that will no longer be the case, Corvette Action Center reports. It is understood that a total of 20.181 Corvettes will be produced for the 2020 model year. +++ 

+++ Vehicle sales in CHINA are estimated to soar 13.3 percent to 2.57 million in September, bringing the total over the first 3 quarters of this year to 17.12 million, according to the country’s auto industry association. The estimate was based on statistics from the country’s major carmakers who reported their sales every 10 days, said the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. The sales estimates show that the Chinese auto market, the largest in the world, is continuing its recovery. The fall over the first 3 quarters was estimated to stand at 6.8 percent year-on-year. Considering the havoc the pandemic has caused, the association predicted earlier this year that sales for 2020 would be 10-20 percent lower than 2019. Instead, both Chinese and international carmakers have achieved sales growth. China’s largest private carmaker Geely sold 126.365 vehicles in September, up 11 percent year-on-year and also up 11 percent from August. Over the first 3 quarters, the carmaker delivered over 875.000 vehicles, 66 percent of its sales target for the year. Geely’s premium arm, Lynk & Co, saw its September sales soar almost 40 percent to a record monthly high of 18.745 vehicles. The brand also unveiled its plan to enter Europe. The first brick-and-mortar European showroom is scheduled to open in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on October 20. Great Wall Motors, the country’s largest pickup and SUV maker, sold 117.812 vehicles in September, up 20 percent year-on-year. Its overseas sales rose in that month as well. The carmaker said it sold 7.773 vehicles in international markets, up 46 percent year-on-year. After an encouraging second quarter in China, BMW saw its recovery continue in the third quarter with a sales increase of 31.1 percent to 230.612 units. The German premium carmaker sold 559.681 vehicles for the first 9 months of the year, 6.4 percent higher than in the same period of 2019. BMW chief financial officer Nicolas Peter said that the company is on track to meet its full-year targets after a recovery in auto sales led by China. Chinese electric car startup Nio delivered 4.708 vehicles in September, marking a growth of 133 percent from the same month last year. Nio said September was the 7th straight month to see year-on-year sales growth. Its sales in the first 3 quarters of 2020 totaled 26.375, more than the whole of 2019. Another electric car startup, WM, sold 2.107 vehicles in September, up 39 percent from the same month last year. Its sales from January to September totaled 79.3 percent to 6.200. +++ 

+++ DAIMLER and Mercedes-Benz boss Ola Källenius has said that China (its single largest market where it has gained healthy year-on-year growth despite the Covid-19 pandemic) is a “central pillar” in its strategy for development. Källenius told in an interview that looking into its strategy in the next 10 years, he believes the importance of the Chinese market will continue to grow. “We view China as a central pillar in the strategy of developing Mercedes-Benz further, whatever our product strategy, brand strategy and our business performance. That is why we are growing in China”, he said. Källenius made the remarks after he revealed to investors the company’s new strategy that targets leadership in electric drive and car software, and pursues profitable growth in the luxury segment. Affected by the lasting pandemic, which shut down Mercedes-Benz production for about 2 months, the company sold 10.2 percent less passenger cars in the first 9 months worldwide. However, sales volume in China grow 8.3 percent against the global curve. The market’s potential is yet to be discovered for Mercedes. Citing figures from consulting firm BCG, Källenius believes the luxury segment is where growth is and the number of wealthy individuals (with private investable wealth above $250.000) in China will grow, surpassing that in Western Europe, from 7 million in 2019 to 20 million by 2030. His strategy therefore sets to enhance the brand’s luxury status by measures including a key acceleration development plan of sub-brands AMG, Maybach, G and EQ, all of which are top-end luxury or performance brands favored by Chinese customers. Källenius added China is more than just a market for Mercedes-Benz. It keeps investing in China as it has been building production networks and opening plants in Beijing that gives more growth potential. “We also have a significant R&D footprint in China, for China. But not just the R&D team in China interwoven teams we have in Germany and other parts of the world, it’s also a hub for innovation that leads to supply partnerships”. The company has signed 2 strategic partnerships this summer with leading Chinese battery company CATL and up-and-coming company Farasis for co-R&D, supply and to lower the cost of the battery cell technology. “In all dimensions as a market, as a production up, and also as a source for innovation, R&D and supply base, China is growing in importance for us”, he said. Källenius, a 51-year-old Swede, took over the helm of the German marque last year when he initiated his “Ambition 2039” plan, that features sustainable growth. The initiative will gradually phase out the internal combustion engines Mercedes-Benz pioneered over the past 130 years to become carbon-neural in the next 19 years. Meanwhile, the task requiring heavy investments in electric technology seems even more challenging with the Covid-19 pandemic this year overshadowing the company’s margins outlook. Its net profit fell to €2.7 billion for 2019, almost €5 billion less than the previous year in the wake of the legacy diesel issue and investments in electric technology. Yet Källenius is determined on the course of sustainability and presented his roadmap and how to finance the change on the strategy update. “This is a problem that humankind has to solve”, he said, adding most nations have signed up to Paris Agreement on climate, which sets binding emission reduction responsibility, and China has also announced late last month at the United Nations to target going carbon neutral by 2060. “We have decided to take an active position. Why shouldn’t we be the architect of the solution?” Källenius said this attitude and this mental switch are what Ambition 2039 stands for. “So, we are shifting our focus, shifting our R&D budgets and resources toward this. You will still have the great Mercedes experience regardless of which propulsion you will have”, Källenius said, adding it may be a high-tech combustion engine that is also being electrified for many years. According to the strategic plan, Mercedes-Benz will reduce the number of internal combustion engine variants by 40 percent by 2025 and 70 percent by 2030. The timeframe coincides with China’s plan to reach CO2 emission peak in 2030 and from then emit less. Mercedes-Benz has announced 4 all-new electric vehicles based on its upcoming large-car Electric Vehicle Architecture. Traditional performance cars like AMG and G will also go electric. And from 2025, more electric models will be added to the portfolio on the second electric platform designed for compact and medium-sized cars. Also, it will invest in technologies and concepts to accelerate electric range and efficiency, reduce charging time and cost. “It is not just about the product, but a holistic approach and we are turning our production CO2 neutral”, Källenius said, adding the company will inspire and motive its suppliers to follow suit. “We also think that it is the smartest business move. If you have a paradigm shift in society towards the new low CO2 and eventually CO2 neutral world, I don’t think it’s the best business move to wait. I think it’s also for our investors, the best bet to try to be somebody that shapes the future”. +++ 

+++ China is about to redefine ‘auto’ in automobile. Chen Zhiqiang, 53, a taxi driver in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, for over 20 years, knows all about it. He believed DRIVERLESS OR FULLY AUTOMATED VEHICLES were a myth until reality, in the form of an autonomous blue taxi, materialized in front of him recently. Chen was astounded to see a white sensor box on its roof, which guided the blue vehicle to stop bang in front of him. Upon entering the taxi, an automated female voice guided Chen to the iPad in the backseat and instructed him to key in his destination. Once he settled and fastened his seat belt, the taxi started moving automatically and wound its way steadily, without any human intervention. “I just couldn’t move my eyes off the steering wheel, which kept turning left and right by itself. I can’t believe that a cold, lifeless machine will replace us human drivers and is capable of negotiating even complicated road conditions”, he said. Chen recalled that during the 25-minute ride, the taxi, in a clinical fashion, made short work of complex scenarios such as crossing lanes, entering and exiting ramps, changing lanes, and overtaking trucks. Chen was among the many citizens in Guangzhou who were surprised by the precision of automated vehicles during the launch of self-driving taxis, or robotaxis, in late June, after the country’s autonomous driving startup WeRide announced that its self-driving taxi service will be available on Alibaba’s navigation platform Amap. Early September, internet search giant Baidu Inc launched Apollo Go Robotaxi, its self-driving taxi service, in Beijing. It became the first company to carry passengers in autonomous vehicles in the capital. With nearly 100 pickup and drop-off stations covering residential and business areas in Haidian, Yizhuang and Shunyi, the service encompasses the largest total area and longest road network of about 700 kilometers for manned autonomous driving test area in China. But WeRide was the first autonomous vehicle company to start driverless vehicle fleet test in China. It represents a group of Chinese startups that revved up autonomous driving commercialization recently to catch up with Silicon Valley, especially after the Covid-19 outbreak sped up driverless applications. “While players such as Waymo are halting their robotaxi pilots during the pandemic, over 30 companies are deploying autonomous delivery solutions in China”, said Bill Russo, founder of Shanghai-based consultancy Automobility. Russo said in a note that the pandemic has also led stakeholders to comprehend the innate benefits of autonomous and robotics technologies, which were previously understood only from a productivity standpoint. “A more dynamic system built upon autonomous and robotics technologies will allow economies and businesses to adapt to the rapidly transforming world and the new challenges it brings, such as more flexible and less centralized manufacturing”, he said. In June, ride-hailing market leader Didi Chuxing opened its on-demand robotaxi services in Shanghai. It followed tech giant Baidu Inc, known for its Apollo self-driving platform, which in April announced the opening of its self-driving taxi service in Changsha, Hunan province. Momenta, a Daimler-backed Chinese autonomous driving startup, said that some of its vehicles will be driverless by 2022 in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, where it received a test license, and its entire robotaxi fleet will operate without backup drivers from 2024. The sector has also witnessed a flurry of major deals in the past few months. For instance, the autonomous driving unit of Didi Chuxing received $300 million in investment from Japan’s SoftBank. Pony.ai, a self-driving vehicle startup based in both China and the United States, finished a new round of funding totaling $462 million. According to the latest report from global management consulting firm McKinsey, China will become the world’s largest market for autonomous vehicles, with revenue from sales of such new cars and mobility services expected to exceed $500 billion by 2030. It predicted that by 2030, the total sales value of autonomous vehicles is expected to hit $230 billion and autonomous vehicle-based services will generate a gross booking of around $260 billion. Wu Gansha, CEO of Chinese self-driving startup Uisee, believes the sector is now ready for a takeoff. “Investors are more confident about the commercialization of intelligent driving and hence willing to invest. From this year, we should start seeing large-scale commercialization of driverless vehicles”, Wu said. “We’ve been seeing a healthy pickup in orders”. His startup focuses on high-level autonomous driving and completed a new round of financing in February. On August 28, Uisee signed a strategic cooperation with China Automotive Innovation. The 2 companies will carry out in-depth cooperation in leading intelligent driving car technologies, products and services for a new intelligent travel ecosystem. Currently, the nation’s robotaxis are based on Level 4 autonomous driving, where a vehicle can run autonomously without human intervention in most cases. Autonomous driving is divided into 6 levels: 0 to 5. Level 3 refers to “eyes off” in which the vehicle will handle situations requiring an immediate response, but the driver must still be prepared to intervene within a limited time. Level 5 is the highest standard, which means no human intervention is required at all. For the time being, the country’s robotaxis are all equipped with abackup driver in the car to ensure safety in case of emergencies. Companies also rely on safety control centers to monitor self-driving vehicles and road conditions in real time and give timely assistance and instructions to vehicles in need. “Robotaxi can generate huge economic benefits in terms of profitability of labor cost savings. Replacing drivers with driverless technology will save 60 percent of total costs”, said Yang Zeyuan, an analyst from Citic Securities. For most robotaxi services, passengers pay the same fares as that of regular taxis. In Guangzhou, for instance, passengers pay a flagfall of 12 yuan ($1.7) and another 2.6 yuan every kilometer. “The advanced technology requires many inputs, which may lead to difficulties in the short-term profitability of operating robotaxis. But we are bullish on long-term profit prospects”, Yang said. “With people’s increasing demand for ride-hailing services, robotaxis will usher in broader development prospects in the country. It is also expected that the global market will reach hundreds of billion dollars in the near future”, Yang said. Earlier this year, China unveiled a blueprint to boost autonomous driving in the country. The country will realize “scale production of vehicles capable of conditional autonomous driving and commercialization of high-level autonomous vehicles in certain scenarios by 2025”. The document further stated: “Smart vehicles have become a global strategy and China has a strategic edge in developing smart cars with the complete automobile industry and evolving information technology”. In March, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology launched classification standards for autonomous driving in China, which has helped expedite the country’s autonomous driving industry. However, Mo Luyi, general manager of the Guangzhou branch of Pony.ai, holds a relatively cautious view on the commercialization and development of the autonomous travel sector in the country. “The entire technology of autonomous driving is still in an early stage of rapid development. It is still relatively early to talk about competition. Now the entire industry is constantly working hard and breaking through some technical difficulties in order to solve major problems”. Unmanned and scale development are two premises to achieve the commercialization of autonomous driving. Only after these two goals are reached, the entire autonomous driving technology can truly have very high profit application scenarios, she said. “To clarify, unmanned means that the technology has to advance to a point where the driver can be safely removed from the driving position to achieve a safe driving status. The scale development is not simply a few cars running in one or two cities, but from several to dozens to hundreds, even thousands, of cities”. +++ 

+++ Lawmakers in EUROPE should promote electric car charging infrastructure as aggressively as they seek to lower carbon dioxide emissions, Michael Brecht, works council chief at German carmaker Daimler, told. Carmakers have warned that European Commission proposals to cut average new car emissions in 2030 by 50 % below 2021 levels threaten manufacturing jobs, which are heavily dependent on assembling combustion engine cars. Overall demand for cars could suffer if ownership of electric vehicles was not made more attractive with more readily available charging networks, Brecht said. “The political establishment should not decide on a green deal to tighten carbon dioxide emission limits unconditionally”, Brecht told. “There has to be a master plan for ramping up charging infrastructure. There are lots of small initiatives but there is nobody bringing it all together”. Earlier this week, the European Parliament voted in favour of a legally binding target for the European Union to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 60 % by 2030. “Fundamentally its a good strategy, but ramping up electric mobility is problematic. We will not end up with the same number of employees”, Brecht warned. Brecht said the carmaker has reviewed its strategy to free up resources to retool its factories and retrain workers to build low emission cars. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS , the largest carmaker in the United States, saw its third quarter sales in China grow 12 percent year-on-year, as the Chinese market continues to recover from the impact of Covid-19. Statistics showed that GM and its 2 Chinese joint ventures delivered more than 771.400 vehicles from July to September; up 12 percent year-over-year.^GM said in a statement that its luxury vehicles, midsize and large SUVs and MPVs posted a strong performance in particular, spearheading the overall recovery. Buick deliveries in the third quarter grew 26 percent from a year earlier to over 250.000 vehicles. Sales of the GL8 family (a long-standing leader in China’s MPV segment) increased 17 percent year-on-year to more than 52.000. Chevrolet delivered more than 77.000 vehicles. It continued to enhance its product mix by introducing the refreshed Equinox SUV and adding a 5-seat variant to the Blazer SUV. GM’s premium brand Cadillac delivered 65.000 vehicles, an increase of 28 percent from a year earlier. Its SUV portfolio encompassing the XT4, XT5 and XT6 posted steady growth, with collective sales of more than 40.000. GM sold over 100.000 Baojun-branded vehicles in the third quarter. The indigenous brand is a pioneer for GM in driving electric vehicle usage and acceptance among consumers. It now has 4 electric models (the E100, E200, E300 and E300 Plus) which had combined sales of over 10.000 units in the third quarter. Another local brand, Wuling, saw its sales grow 26 % year-over-year to more than 270.000 units. Its first all-electric model, the Hong Guang Mini EV, has become the best-selling new energy vehicle model in China. Deliveries in the third quarter topped 28.000 units. GM now has more than 10 new energy vehicle models in China. Their sales more than doubled in the first 9 months from a year earlier. The carmaker said in the next 5 years, more than 40 percent of GM’s new model launches in China will be new energy vehicles. +++ 

+++ Around 18 percent of car owners in GERMANY plan to buy an electric or plug-in hybrid car as their next vehicle, according to a survey. In contrast, only 14.5 percent want to buy a car with a diesel engine, said the survey of 1.000 German car owners conducted by the market research institute Innofact. “There are still many reservations about buying electric cars, but these are of a technical nature”, Verivox noted. Car owners who did not want to buy an electric car cited low range, high purchase price and too few charging points as the main reasons. The purchase of an electric or plug-in hybrid car is subsidized at a higher rate until the end of 2021 through Germany’s economic stimulus package, which aims to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 crisis. Pure electric cars would be subsidized with up to €9.000, while the maximum subsidy for plug-in hybrids is €6.750. Nearly 20.000 applications for the purchase bonus were submitted in July, more than in any other month since the introduction of the subsidy in June 2016, the German Ministry for Economic Affairs said at the beginning of August. The Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority noted that registration numbers of new cars with alternative drive types showed a “triple-digit growth” in September compared to last year. Registration numbers of electric cars in Germany even rose by 260 percent to 21.188 in September, while monthly registrations of hybrids increased by 185 percent to 54.036. New registrations of gasoline vehicles in Germany fell by 17.6 %, but with 120.645 new vehicles and their share was still 45.5 percent in September. According to the Verivox survey, around 38 % of car owners said they intended to buy a gasoline engine as their next vehicle. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI is venturing into the used car market in South Korea, raising fears that conglomerates will monopolize even an area that has traditionally been left to smaller entrepreneurs. Hyundai executive vice president Kim Dong-wook said in a National Assembly audit last week, “There are many problems in the way the used car market has traditionally operated, such as quality control and price evaluation. For consumer protection purposes alone, car manufacturers must be able to do business in the used car market”. The second-hand car market is estimated to be worth W20 trillion but is regarded as a prime example of the “lemon theory”, where there is no trust between sellers and buyers due to asymmetry of information. Flooded with over 6.000 small businesses employing more than 55.000 people, it remains a byword for sharp practices. The market was reserved for SMEs in 2013, restricting the entry or expansion of big companies. But the protection expired last November and the National Commission for Corporate Partnership declined to renew it. Now only the Ministry of SMEs and Start-ups can hold Hyundai and other conglomerates back. Most car importers already run approved used-car sales schemes, and domestic car manufacturers argue that this puts them at an unfair disadvantage. Hyundai insists that by negotiating the scope of business with current used-car businesses they can coexist, but they fiercely oppose it. Kwak Tae-hun, a representative for an association of used-car dealers, said in the audit, “If car manufacturers enter the market, it will put the livelihood of 300.000 people at risk”, including their families of workers. +++

+++ Carmakers are racing to introduce facelifted and new models to meet customers’ evolving demands, but they are doing the JOB IN VAIN IN CHINA , according to a J.D. Power study. It measures owners’ emotional attachment to and level of excitement with their new vehicles in 10 aspects: exterior; setting up and starting; getting in and out; interior; performance; driving experience; safety; infotainment; driving comfort; and fuel economy. The year’s study, with 32.046 respondents surveyed in 70 major Chinese cities, shows the satisfaction score of redesigned and newly designed models reached 732 points on a 1.000-point scale, the same as owners of older models. Facelifts and newly designed models account for 16 percent of the 241 vehicles from 57 brands surveyed this year. Among the 10 aspects covered by the study, new models performed better only in terms of fuel economy. “Automakers are facing an increasingly differentiated market of consumer groups and products, which means they need to take the individualized needs of customers into consideration in the early phase of product design and development”, said Jeff Cai, general manager of auto product at J.D. Power China. “However, they are failing to make more appealing vehicles due to the homogeneity of materials, features and appearances, among other things. Designing and developing attractive new models to get better market performance poses a big challenge to automakers’ new product development”, said Cai. Yet the scores of models from different brands vary. Carmakers from the United States saw their score grow to 737 points in 2020 from 713 points in 2019. Japanese brands improved by 20 points to 737 points, while European brands grew 14 points to 736 points compared with 2019. Chinese carmakers made bigger progress by scoring an additional 35 points compared with 2019, to reach 718 points. South Korean brands saw their satisfaction score fall by 3 points to 734. Age plays a crucial factor. The study found that those born in the 1990s are more satisfied with new models’ features, including built-in navigation (744 points), than with older ones (738 points). But owners born before 1990 take the opposite view. +++

+++ Hyundai will voluntarily recall some 51.000 fire-prone KONA ELECTRIC vehicles sold in international markets, the company announced, following last week’s decision to recall the car in South Korea. This is 70 percent of Hyundai’s Kona EVs sold internationally, as of the first half of 2020. In total, 77.067 Kona EVs sold will be subject to the expanded recall, which applies only to those manufactured in Korea. Cars will be recalled in one region after another, beginning as early as next week. A total of 77.748 Kona Electric cars were sold outside of Korea, with Europe accounting for the largest regional share at 48 percent. Hyundai America has reportedly submitted plans to voluntarily recall all Kona EVs sold in the United States with the country’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The automaker plans to investigate any anomalies in the batteries after updating its battery management system, and says it will replace them if there are any signs of damage, including significant changes in battery temperature. Including the latest incident in which a Kona Electric burst into flames in a Daegu parking lot, there have been 12 reports worldwide of the vehicles catching fire, according to a report submitted to a Democratic Party (DP) lawmaker from the Korea Transportation Safety Authority. The Kona is the second bestselling EV in Korea after Tesla’s Model 3. More than 100.000 Kona EVs have been sold worldwide since 2018. Battery maker LG Chem and Hyundai are at odds regarding what has caused the vehicles to catch on fire. The Transport Ministry suspects a defect in the battery’s separator may have caused a short circuit, subsequently causing the battery to catch fire. LG Chem, which supplies the battery for Hyundai’s electric vehicles, has strongly protested against the blame being put on its product. LG Chem released a statement, immediately after Hyundai decided to recall all Kona Electric cars in Korea, arguing that the announcement was made without confirmed evidence that pinpoints a default in the batteries to be the cause of EVs catching fire. The battery maker said it will actively cooperate with Hyundai to investigate the cause. Hyundai may be rushing to recall all its EVs in a bid to tamp down growing consumer distrust surrounding the safety of its electric-powered vehicles, experts said. Hyundai chairman Eui-sun Chung proclaimed in July that 2021 will be a watershed year in the company’s push for EVs. Hyundai plans to sell 1 million electric vehicles with the goal of reaching 10 percent of the global market share by the year 2025. There are 23 models of EVs scheduled for launch over the next 5 years. But the automaker’s recent difficulties are unlikely to subside soon. Customers have called Hyundai’s recall measures insufficient for only updating the battery management system, and not the battery itself. More than 1.000 owners of a Kona Electric have reportedly signed a petition to take collective action against the company, according to an online community of EV drivers in Korea. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES-AMG will send a clear message that it is adapting to modern demands with the upcoming third-generation C 63 by forgoing its long-standing V8 power in favour of an advanced 4-cylinder hybrid drivetrain that develops more than 510 hp. The new C63 will be the first in a number of new AMG models earmarked to receive an electrified version of Mercedes’ new turbocharged 2.0-litre M139 engine when it goes on sale in early 2022. The 4Matic rival to the Audi RS4 and BMW M3 is already undergoing intensive development at AMG’s Affalterbach engineering headquarters. The first sighting of a camouflaged prototype shows off an evolutionary look in line with the recently facelifted E-Class, and suggests AMG will not tone down the saloon’s aggressive styling as it downsizes the engine. The potent 4-cylinder engine kicks out a maximum of 421 hp and 500 Nm in non-electrified form in the new A 45 and its related siblings. The unit has already been engineered for longitudinal mounting as well as mild-hybrid electric boosting. It’s destined to be used in not only the next C 63 but also, in a less heavily tuned form, in a follow-up to today’s turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 powered C 43. The new C63 will be offered in saloon, coupé and convertible bodystyles, with the next C 43 likely to be sold in those 3 guises as well as an estate version. Other AMG models set to run the new electrified driveline include successor models to today’s GLC 43 and GLC 63 SUVs, the GLC 43 Coupé and the GLC 63 Coupé. The M139 engine will adopt a 48 Volt integrated starter motor similar to that already used by the turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder M256 unit, which powers the CLS 53 4Matic+ and other recent new AMG models. In the CLS 53 4Matic+, the gearbox-mounted starter motor provides an additional 22 hp and 250 Nm of electric boosting. In the next C 63, however, it is set to be tuned to provide significantly more power in combination with a similar torque loading. The new EQ Boost hybrid drivetrain is also planned to run in combination with Mercedes’ 9-speed torque-converter MCT Speedshift gearbox. Nothing is official at this early stage, but Affalterbach insiders with knowledge of AMG’s new model plans suggest the new 4-cylinder hybrid drivetrain will match the existing second-generation C 63 4Matic’s V8 engine in outright power at a maximum 510 hp. This is despite a 50 % reduction in swept capacity and cylinder count. With the benefit of electric boosting, it has also been conceived to deliver up to 750 Nm; a 50 Nm ft increase on today’s C 63 S 4Matic. Details remain scarce, although the new driveline is thought to adopt a lithium ion battery of higher capacity than the 0.9 kWh unit used by the CLS 53 4Matic+. It is also expected to use a more advanced energy recuperation system that harvests kinetic energy at each wheel. One of the most significant advantages in the adoption of the new electrified driveline is a reduction in weight over the front axle of the new C63 4Matic. At 160.5 kg, the M139 4-cylinder unit weighs 48.5 kg less than the M177 V8 engine used by today’s C 63 4Matic. Even with the addition of the hybrid architecture, including a disc-shaped electric motor and power electronics, the overall weight of the new powerplant is claimed to undercut that of today’s unit. Additionally, the new powerplant’s weight is concentrated lower, which aids efforts to bring about a lower centre of gravity for the new model, theoretically improving its agility and body control. Further development plans for the next C 63 4Matic include a new 4-wheel drive system to provide a fully variable apportioning of power front to rear. This will allow AMG to engineer the new model with rear-wheel-drive properties in certain driving modes, much as with the larger E63 sibling. AMG boss Tobias Moers told earlier this year that all next-generation AMG models will adopt this system, moving away from pure reardriven models due to customer demand for all-wheel drive. The decision to provide the C 63 4Matic with 4-cylinder power was apparently driven by Mercedes-Benz as part of rapidly escalating efforts to reduce fleet CO2 emissions while harnessing the engineering lessons pursued during the development of the Mercedes-AMG One hypercar. +++

+++ China will give carmakers and the market a larger say in developing the NEW ENERGY VEHICLE sector as part of its efforts to improve the sector’s long-term competitive edge. The State Council, China’s Cabinet, made the remarks when it passed a 15-year development plan for the sector from 2020 to 2035, according to a statement on its official website. The State Council said the decisive role of the market will be brought into full play in resources allocation and companies will be the major decision-makers in technological paths. The authorities will instead focus more on formulating standards and regulations as well as quality and safety supervision, it said. In the statement, the State Council called for technological breakthroughs in vehicles’ operating systems and power batteries. It pledged support for infrastructure, including charging piles, battery-swap stations and hydrogen stations for fuel cell vehicles. It also expressed support for international cooperation in the sector, and made clear that it would continue to promote favorable policies for use of new energy vehicles in public sectors, including transportation and logistics. Analysts said the move shows China’s dedication to developing new energy vehicles and will allow more room for innovation in technology and business models, which will consolidate the country’s leading position in the sector. China has been the world’s largest market for new energy vehicles since 2015. However, sales in the market have suffered because of subsidy cuts and the coronavirus pandemic. In the first 8 months this year, sales of new energy vehicles totaled only 596.000 cars, down 26.4 percent year-on-year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Despite the short-term setback, carmakers are confident in the sector’s long-term potential in China. At the Beijing auto show that concluded on October 5, companies from around the globe showcased 785 models, of which more than 20 percent were new energy vehicles. Volvo unveiled its first electric model, the XC40 Recharge P8, at this year’s only top-level gathering for vehicle makers and car aficionados. Yuan Xiaolin, president and CEO of Volvo Asia Pacific, said the model’s onboard connectivity and infotainment functions are the results of Volvo’s partnership with Chinese companies including iFlytek, a voice-recognition product producer, and AutoNavi, China’s largest in-vehicle navigation app maker. The functions run on integrated Android auto operating system which is developed by Volvo and Google. “For a smart electric vehicle to succeed in China, its software, especially its apps and services, needs to meet Chinese customers’ demand”, Yuan said. 3 days before the auto show that started on Septemner 26, Volvo’s owner, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, unveiled a platform for electric vehicles. Li Shufu, Geely’s chairman and founder, said: “Our development of this transformative electric vehicle architecture marks the biggest leap forward at Geely in more than a decade”. The 18-billion-yuan ($2.64 billion) platform was the joint effort of the carmaker’s R&D centers in China, Sweden, the UK and Germany, according to Geely President An Conghui. He said the idea of developing such a platform started around five years ago, adding that “architectures are the core competitive edge in the automotive industry”. +++ 

+++ POLESTAR is a young automaker spun out of Volvo and Geely. Now, just 4 years old, it has 2 cars on the market with more launching soon. Like many startups, the company is weathering early storms coming from government regulators and early recalls. Earlier this week, the EPA released its findings on the Polestar 2’s electric range, certifying it as capable of traveling 370 km on a charge. That’s about 150 km less on a charge than the competing Tesla Model 3. Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath spoke at TechCrunch Sessions: Mobility shortly after the EPA released its range guidance. In short, he said Polestar knows drivers see real-world results that exceed the EPA’s range. “We know what the car does in reality”, Ingenlath said. “We know in reality, what might look like a very big difference, is not that much of a difference in real life. We think it’s definitely sufficient for day-to-day life as an EV. It’s one of our versions, and we will be adding different variants to the Polestar 2 that will have a higher EPA rating. I think the range is absolutely in the ballpark of competing EVs that is really good for you 365 days a year”. “Next year, in 2021, we have in our plans to come out with a single motor version”, Ingenlath said. “This will, of course, provide a better range with the same battery. And, of course, along the way, we’ll have software improvements that will give more efficiency with the same kilowatt-hours battery. We are on a journey”, he said. “That is where we start, and it will get better from month to month”. Ingenlath also addressed the Polestar 2’s recent full recall over vehicles that abruptly stopped while driving. “This happened in very, very rare cases”, he said, adding there are only 2.200 Polestar 2’s on the market, and none of the reported cases happened in the United States. None of the affected vehicles were involved in an accident. The issue is being fixed with a software update. “We have many things to learn, and as a company, improve,” Ingenlath said. “We are a startup that’s fresh out. And of course, you cannot expect everything to go smoothly. We have to improve, and our customers have to be with us on the way. And I think it’s a really great standard that the car industry, actually, does very early recalls to make sure no one gets into a problem”. He says he doesn’t see a big issue with the early recall. Instead, he says, he’s now focusing on ensuring the company excels at customer service when interacting with a Polestar 2 owner around the recall. +++ 

+++ Chinese startups in the field of SELF-DRIVING or fully automated vehicles are beefing up their presence in foreign markets. Their move comes in the wake of China’s imminent lead in both related technologies and their commercialization in the global market. For instance, Neolix, a Shanghai-based startup, has signed a preliminary agreement with Middle Eastern e-commerce platform Noon recently. The 2 parties will conduct autonomous vehicle trials in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. According to a Noon announcement, Neolix will build driverless vehicles customized for the region so they could withstand extreme temperatures of above 50 degrees in the summer. Neolix had already begun mass-production of its fully automated delivery vans in May. Technology giant Huawei Technologies and e-commerce behemoth JD are its customers. “Orders have surged after the epidemic, mainly because of shortage of human resources and virus infections. The current scenario is conducive to use of unmanned vehicles”, said Yu Enyuan, CEO of Neolix. Yu said Neolix has a “simple “development strategy for 2020: make both ends meet, and somehow continue to strive against all odds, to become the first self-sufficient company in the unmanned vehicle sector. Growth of the autonomous vehicle industry is accelerating as Covid-19 has increased market demand for driverless technology. During the epidemic, several hospitals and companies used autonomous vehicles to deliver necessities like masks and meals to patients and medical workers, thereby minimizing the spread of the contagion. “Investors have realized that autonomous vehicles will be rolled out on a large scale over the next 3 to 5 years. They have also realized that this field is no longer a high-risk investment area and that more capital is needed to expand business and boost technological stability”, said Han Xu, founder and CEO of WeRide, a Chinese smart mobility company. In overseas markets, commercialization of China’s autonomous vehicles is speeding up in the passenger car segment and gaining momentum in the truck segment. TuSimple, a startup that makes autonomous trucks and has offices in both China and the United States, said it has teamed up with leading logistics operators in the US to build what it claimed would be the world’s first autonomous freight vehicle network. By cooperating with leading firms including US truck operator US Xpress Enterprises and delivery giant United Parcel Service, TuSimple aims to run more than 100 deliveries a week, doubling its current number of freight hauls. Cheng Lu, TuSimple’s president, said the company aims to try out fully autonomous cargo vehicles next year on highways and at specially developed terminals, with trials to be expanded from Los Angeles to Jacksonville, Florida, between 2022 and 2023. TuSimple, founded in 2015, currently operates automated trucks out of Tucson, Arizona. It is one of a number of startups developing technology aimed at making long-haul trucking cheaper and more efficient. +++ 

+++ SKODA is planning a range of Enyaq iV electric models over the next few years as it looks to capitalise on the growing demand for EVs. The Enyaq, revealed last month, is Skoda’s first bespoke EV and is based on the Volkswagen Group’s MEB electric modular platform. A Kodiaq-sized large SUV, it will from launch offer 2 rear-wheeldrive models plus 2 four-wheeldrive variants, one of which is badged vRS. Now Skoda’s sales and marketing boss, Alain Favey, has told that more variants are due. He said: “We think the Enyaq is the perfect right step, and there will be a range of Enyaqs that will be expanded over the years”. Given the flexibility of the MEB platform, the cost-effectiveness of different bodystyles is easier to justify across all Volkswagen Group brands than for traditional cars. The upcoming Volkswagen ID 4 will receive both regular SUV and coupé versions, and spy shots of a prototype have shown that Skoda will follow the same route with the Enyaq. While it appears identical to the regular Enyaq from the front, things change from the B-pillar backwards, with a reduced glasshouse, a rising shoulder line and a roofline curving into a steeply raked rear screen and short, saloon-style tailgate. The Enyaq coupé, whose production name hasn’t been confirmed, will use the same underpinnings as the regular Enyaq. That should mean a range of rear and four-wheeldrive powertrains, kicking off with a rear-driven 180 hp model with a 62 kWh battery and rising to the vRS with 306 hp, four-wheeldrive and an 82 kWh battery. It remains to be seen if the redesigned rear end has a positive impact on range; sister brand Audi’s e-Tron Sportback achieves an extra 10 km over the regular E-tron, thanks to a lower drag coefficient. It’s likely the Enyaq’s altered roofline will have a similar effect. Every Enyaq can be charged at a rate of up to 50 kW as standard, with 100 kW charging optionally available for the 62 kWh battery and 125 kW charging offered at extra cost on the 82 kWh model. Don’t expect a radically altered interior, either, with the same digital instruments and infotainment display as the standard car. Whether or not the roofline will impact rear seat space remains to be seen, but it will almost certainly reduce the 585 litre boot capacity of the standard Enyaq. As is customary with coupé-styled models, a small price increase is likely over the base price of the standard SUV. Skoda may also consider models tailored for specific countries, such as China, which is by far its biggest market. Beyond the intention to grow the Enyaq line-up, Favey said Skoda has no solid plans for its next EV, but that the use of the MEB platform means it will be able to develop new electric cars quicker than traditional combustion-engined models. Favey added: “It depends how quickly the EV market grows. The planning for EVs is less rigid than we might have in other segments, for example the replacement cycle for the Octavia. We don’t know what demand will be in the EV market, but we think we’ve done our homework”. He said that the advent of EVs to the Skoda range should allow the brand to grow its market share in western European markets in which its performance is weaker. Skoda’s biggest markets after China are Germany, the Czech Republic, Russia and Poland. “I see EVs as big potential and not in our typical markets”, said Favey. “In Norway, we have 6 % market share, which is more than our European average in a country where everybody is buying an EV and we didn’t have one. Skoda in Norway is extremely excited to get the Enyaq. It gives us a lot of chance to conquer new markets”. +++ 

+++ TESLA is constantly revising its lineup, with an emphasis on technological features mostly, and the Model 3 appears to be in line for a few upgrades courtesy of the Palo Alto company. Expected to launch soon, as it’s already supposedly rolling off the line in Fremont, the 2021 modelyear Model 3 will look the same as the outgoing iteration, it yet it does have some enhancements. Claiming to have seen pictures of the updated electric sedan, but unable to reveal them as it would compromise their sources, a source reports that the vehicle won’t feature chrome trim on the outside anymore, and that the boot lid will become power-operated. Meanwhile, driving comfort is understood to have been refined through the introduction of new double-paned windows. The upholstery is said to have been revised as well and the central console appears to have been redesigned, with a matte finish, repositioned cup holders with deleted chrome trim and different-looking wireless charging pad for compatible mobile devices. On a different note, it seems that the rearview mirror-mounted camera, which Elon Musk claimed wasn’t operational and that it was there to be used by owners for autonomous Uber and Lyft services, can actually be used in a great deal of ways. It’s been reported that it can track the eye and head movements of the driver, and can tell when they are using their mobile phones. Logic tells us that the technology will be used to come up with a driver monitoring system, and you all know what that means: no more sleeping behind the wheel with the Autopilot engaged. +++ 

+++ Month-ends always throw up some interesting car sales and registrations statistics. Here are a few that caught my eye this time. Do we have a battle for the bestseller in the UNITED KINGDOM on our hands? Perennial leader the Ford Fiesta is ahead, with 39.436 units registered, but the new Vauxhall Corsa is making up lost ground. It topped the September chart and is now on 35.735 units for the year. Diesel, the dominant fuel until a few years ago, has a market share of 14.3 % so far in 2020, while the fastest-growing sector is electric cars, with 6.7 %. Electric and hybrid cars together topped 10 % of the market for the first time in September. One brand has officially grown its UK registrations in 2020: MG has 14.236 to its name so is up 52.2 %. I say ‘officially’ because Tesla is also believed to be up, thanks to the Model 3, but it states its figures separately. This growth puts MG in touching distance of Dacia (16.434), Jaguar (18.362) and Mazda (18.796), and ahead of Lexus (11.341) and Mitsubishi (7.457). DS (accountable for 474 British sales last month, 0.14 % of the market) has shifted more cars in Europe this year than Lexus and Alfa Romeo and is within a few hundred of Jaguar. A share of more than 10 % in the executive market in France boosts its total considerably. If you like to have sales staff attending to your every whim, try Subaru. Its British dealers registered a paltry 34 cars in August and a scarcely stronger 272 last month. That’s close to half a car per dealer per week. Alfa Romeo fared little better, registering 331 cars in September across its UK network of 48 dealers. Only Smart (320), Bentley (263), Polestar (218), Maserati (77) and Alpine (10) made fewer. Some 40 % of cars sold so far in Europe in 2020 were SUVs. Sales are down around 10% year on year in an overall market about 30 % down. The Peugeot 2008 and Renault Captur are vying for top spot, chased by the Volkswagen T-Roc. Plug-in hybrid and fully electric cars accounted for 81.6 % of Norwegian sales in September; a record. Fully electric cars accounted for 61.5% of the total. Europeans have bought more MPVs this year than executive cars (think the Audi A6, Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5 Series and above). Lithuania is so far the least affected EU nation year on year, with registrations running at about 10 % down. Croatia is the hardest hit, being almost 50 % down. +++

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