Newsflash: Jeep werkt aan 7-persoons versie van de Compass


+++ APPLE is moving forward with self-driving car technology and is targeting 2024 to produce a passenger vehicle that could include its own breakthrough battery technology, people familiar with the matter told. The iPhone maker’s automotive efforts, known as Project Titan, have proceeded unevenly since 2014 when it first started to design its own vehicle from scratch. At one point, Apple drew back the effort to focus on software and reassessed its goals. Doug Field, an Apple veteran who had worked at Tesla, returned to oversee the project in 2018 and laid off 190 people from the team in 2019. Since then, Apple has progressed enough that it now aims to build a vehicle for consumers, 2 people familiar with the effort said, asking not to be named because Apple’s plans are not public. Apple’s goal of building a personal vehicle for the mass market contrasts with rivals such as Alphabet’s Waymo, which has built robo-taxis to carry passengers for a driverless ride-hailing service. Central to Apple’s strategy is a new battery design that could “radically” reduce the cost of batteries and increase the vehicle’s range, according to a third person who has seen Apple’s battery design. Making a vehicle represents a supply chain challenge even for Apple, a company with deep pockets that makes hundreds of millions of electronics products each year with parts from around the world, but has never made a car. It took Elon Musk’s Tesla 17 years before it finally turned a sustained profit making cars. “If there is one company on the planet that has the resources to do that, it’s probably Apple. But at the same time, it’s not a cellphone”, said a person who worked on Project Titan. It remains unclear who would assemble an Apple-branded car, but sources have said they expect the company to rely on a manufacturing partner to build vehicles. And there is still a chance Apple will decide to reduce the scope of its efforts to an autonomous driving system that would be integrated with a car made by a traditional automaker, rather than the iPhone maker selling an Apple-branded car, one of the people added. 2 people with knowledge of Apple’s plans warned pandemic-related delays could push the start of production into 2025 or beyond. Apple has decided to tap outside partners for elements of the system, including lidar sensors, which help self-driving cars get a three-dimensional view of the road, two people familiar with the company’s plans said. Apple’s car might feature multiple lidar sensors for scanning different distances, another person said. Some sensors could be derived from Apple’s internally developed lidar units, that person said. Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro models released this year both feature lidar sensors. Apple haS held talks with potential lidar suppliers, but it was also examining building its own sensor. As for the car’s battery, Apple plans to use a unique “monocell” design that bulks up the individual cells in the battery and frees up space inside the battery pack by eliminating pouches and modules that hold battery materials, one of the people said. Apple’s design means that more active material can be packed inside the battery, giving the car a potentially longer range. Apple is also examining a chemistry for the battery called LFP, or lithium iron phosphate, the person said, which is inherently less likely to overheat and is thus safer than other types of lithium-ion batteries. ”It’s next level”, the person said of Apple’s battery technology. “Like the first time you saw the iPhone”. Apple had previously engaged Magna International in talks about manufacturing a car, but the talks petered out as Apple’s plans became unclear, a person familiar with those previous efforts said. To turn a profit, automotive contract manufacturers often ask for volumes that could pose a challenge even to Apple, which would be a newcomer to the automotive market. “In order to have a viable assembly plant, you need 100.000 vehicles annually, with more volume to come”, the person said. Some Apple investors reacted on the company’s plans with caution. Trip Miller, managing partner at Apple investor Gullane Capital Partners, said it could be tough for Apple to produce large volumes of cars out of the gate. “It would seem to me that if Apple develops some advanced operating system or battery technology, it would be best utilized in a partnership with an existing manufacturer under license”, Miller said. “As we see with Tesla and the legacy auto companies, having a very complex manufacturing network around the globe doesn’t happen overnight”. Hal Eddins, chief economist at Apple shareholder Capital Investment Counsel, said Apple has a history of higher margins than most automakers. “My initial reaction as a shareholder is, huh?” Eddins said. “Still don’t really see the appeal of the car business, but Apple may be eyeing another angle than what I’m seeing”. +++ 

+++ ASTON MARTIN ’s boss Tobias Moers has confirmed that the British brand will launch 10 new derivatives of existing models within the next 2 years. In an interview, Moers said that the priority list is the new SUV, the DBX, which is due for 2 offshoots. Lagonda was being lined up as Aston’s electric brand, but the recent management upheaval has meant that plan has been parked. It’s conceivable that the DBX could be offered in an electrified version. The technology to do so will come from Mercedes-Benz, which now owns a fifth of Aston Martin. Other future engines from Mercedes-AMG will be more bespoke to Aston Martin, rather than off-the-shelf as they currently are. Moers says he’s focused on developing more in-house engineering at Aston Martin. There is also a plan to boost the British brand’s German engineering outfit, which is based at the Nürburgring. Moers also reported that Aston Martin’s ever-tightening emissions regulations mean the V12, the brand’s halo engine, faces a fight for survival. All car manufacturers face tough new rules in the form of Euro 7 regulations and making the Aston V12 comply with those is proving difficult. However, in a possible lifeline for the engine, Moers hinted that “aficionados for a V12” around the world might be a cause to save it. Aston Martin’s chairman Lawrence Stroll is looking at cost cutting because the brand currently has 2 factories. The DBX is built at the new facility in St Athan, Wales, while all other cars are built at Gaydon. Stroll is said to be unhappy with the situation and is looking to make efficiencies, such as moving all the paint work to Wales. However, he told that there were no plans to close any factories. +++ 

+++ The AUDI RS3 has entered the final stages of development ahead of its unveiling this September 2021, with the sales and marketing boss of Audi Sport revealing that fans can “rely” on the firm’s engineers to deliver with this third-generation version of the car. In an interview, Audi Sport’s Sales and Marketing chief, Frank Michl, called the new RS3 “one of the success stories of the brand”. He attributed the car’s popularity to its 5-cylinder powertrain, hinting that Audi would not look to downsize with the new model. Michl said: “I think the RS 3 is one of the most emotional Audi Sport cars and is a major part of the brand’s DNA, even going back to the original Quattro. You can be sure that for every future RS model we will always take forward the good aspects and characteristics”. However, Michl refused to disclose any specific details on the RS3’s specs, stating only that it would be “some months” until the new car makes its debut. While Audi bosses are now beginning to speak in earnest about the project, the new RS3 has been spied numerous times in the hands of engineers at the Nurburgring, indicating that the new 421 hp super-hatch is in the final stages of assessment. +++ 

+++ BENTLEY is pushing for its forthcoming electric sedan to be assembled at its headquarters in Crewe. The car manufacturer’s new model is tipped to be based on the VW Group’s new Project Artemis architecture whose development is being led by Audi. Details about Bentley’s Project Artemis-based EV are limited but company chief executive Adrian Hallmark told in a recent interview that the company wants to have the EV assembled and finished in the United Kingdom. “We are part of a group so we must prove we are the best option, but from a brand point of view, it is our mission to ensure everything can be built here”, Hallmark said. “Yes, it is feasible that we may get coated, unpainted bodies and then do the rest of the work; all the way through to the bespoke trim and interiors, but we have a proud record of adding value on the site that is exceptional. Today, I can say that the mission for this car is to have it in Crewe”. Speaking about the new Project Artemis project more broadly, Hallmark said the fact that the automaker has been involved in the development of the architecture from day one will help it moving forward. “Artemis is a derivative of a new electrical architecture. It will be the basis for multiple products in different segments. With our current cars, we had to get into engineering largely after the architecture had been done. We had to add bits as well as engineer the architecture for Bentley. With this new Artemis, we’re right in at the beginning defining what it needs to achieve for us. We’re a benefactor of it and paying a contribution, so we can give detailed engineering requirements from day one so it makes industrialization much easier for the company”. +++ 

+++ Donald Trump may not like it, but Joe BIDEN is set to be inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States of America on 20 January. The change in occupant at the White House will lead to a major shift in the country’s environmental policies, and is already having an impact in accelerating the car industry’s shift to electrification. General Motors (GM) recently made a series of announcements outlining aggressive plans to become a market leader in electric vehicles, with a target for 40 % of its US sales to be electrified by 2025. It recently revived the Hummer brand with an electric off-roader, while Chevrolet offers the long-running Bolt hatchback. All this has coincided with another shift that highlights how the US car industry is likely to shift once Democrat Biden is in power, with GM also recently saying it will switch sides in an ongoing legal battle over fuel economy standards, signalling that it will now support policies to promote zero-emissions vehicles. While governments in Europe and China have been aggressively pushing towards EVs to reduce carbon emissions, recent US policy (influenced in part by the country’s influential oil industry) has moved in the other direction. During his presidency, Trump and his Republican party have been active in rolling back regulations on the fuel efficiency of vehicles and in promoting the continued use of petrol engines. In March this year, Trump scrapped rules introduced by his Democrat predecessor, Barack Obama, that required car makers to reach a 33 % better fleet average fuel economy. The Trump administration’s policy prompted the state of California, a Democratic Party stronghold, to introduce its own fuel economy standards, which it was allowed to do under a waiver previously agreed with the US government. California (which has separately announced a plan to ban the sales of combustion engined-vehicles by 2035) agreed with BMW, Ford, Honda and Volkswagen to reach a 30 % better fleet average. With other states set to follow California’s lead, the Trump administration rolled back the state’s waiver, and several groups launched federal court cases to introduce a single national average fuel economy. One of those lawsuits was backed by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, General Motors, Nissan and Toyota. Those manufacturers argued that it was about achieving a single standard, rather than specifically supporting the laxer fuel economy targets. However, GM has now shifted its position, with company boss Mary Barra confirming in a letter to environmental groups that it would withdraw from the Trump administration litigation. She wrote: “We are confident that the Biden Administration, California and the US auto industry, which supports 10.3 million jobs, can collaboratively find the pathway that will deliver an all-electric future. To better foster the necessary dialogue, we are immediately withdrawing from the pre-emption litigation and inviting other auto makers to join us”. Ford wasn’t part of the original litigation and has welcomed Barra’s move. The other involved firms have yet to follow suit, although Toyota said in a statement that it was “assessing the situation,” while emphasising its support for a single national standard. Biden has signalled that he will make tackling climate change a key mission of his presidency. He has already said that he will recommit the US to the Paris Agreement on climate change (from which it was officially withdrawn by Trump only last month) and wants to set a national target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Biden’s transition website includes a commitment to create 1 million new jobs in the US car industry and related supply chain and infrastructure firms, “from parts to materials to electric vehicle charging stations, positioning American auto workers and manufacturers to win the 21st century”. Specific plans set out include increasing demand for American EVs, support for car buyers to switch to EVs, a commitment to build 500.000 charging stations and accelerating battery research and development. That will be welcomed by both long-established US firms such as Ford and GM, which are already committing heavily to electric technology, and EV start-ups like Lucid and Rivian. Around 17 million new cars were sold in the US last year, but the vast majority were combustion engine-only. Just 326.644 plug-in hybrids and EVs were sold; a figure that was down on the 2018 total. That number was hugely boosted by the Tesla Model 3, which took 154.840 sales. While Biden’s policies will likely be focused on helping to create jobs, encouraging the growth of EVs in the US will be welcomed by global car firms that are active in that market. These include the likes of BMW, Volkswagen and Volvo, which are invested heavily in EVs and are gearing up to launch them in the US in the coming years. Energy industry analysts estimate that the commitment to develop 500.000 charging stations (up from only around 90.000 at present) would cover around 57 % of the US public’s charging needs by 2030 and could spark the sale of 25 million EVs by then; an average of 2.5 million per year. That might seem ambitious in such a vast nation, especially as its market is dominated by pick-up trucks and large SUVs, but the bulk of those EV sales would likely be concentrated in urban areas, where the public charging network would be most developed. Whatever follows, it seems certain that Biden’s tenure is poised to set the US on a path towards electrification that won’t be reversed. +++ 

+++ BMW is building a 50-million-yuan ($7.64 million) joint venture with Chinese tech company ArcherMind Technology to focus on car-related software development, as vehicles gradually become digital devices. ArcherMind, headquartered in Nanjing, East China’s Jiangsu province, specializes in embedded software development and cloud application and has in-depth know-how in automobile-related software development. Jochen Goller, president and CEO of BMW Group Region China, said he expects the joint venture to become a new cornerstone of its digitalization strategy in the country, with the focus on providing in-car digital features. “We consider China to be the worldwide frontrunner in digital innovations and this new initiative underscores once again our strong commitment to further invest in China and to expand our local footprint leveraging China’s strength in innovation”, Goller said. The partnership with ArcherMind is the latest move in BMW’s digitalization strategy in China. In October, it joined hands with Alibaba to help drive digital transformations across its businesses in the world’s largest auto market. In the same month, BMW launched an app for its customers and fans in China, and unveiled its newly-expanded research and development center in Munich, Germany, that will develop hardware and software for future vehicles. Last year, BMW established a digital business company, which is engaged in areas including digital marketing solutions, big data analytics, customer relationship management and e-commerce. +++ 

+++ Less than a year ago, the future of BOWLER MOTORS , the small Derbyshire firm that produced Land Rover Defender-bodied rally raid machines and off-roaders, was uncertain. Now, under the ownership of Britain’s biggest car firm, the only uncertainty for boss Calum McKechnie and his team is deciding what to do next. “Calum has a list of ideas as long as both his arms”, laughs Michael van der Sande, head of Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations division. “It’s many times bigger than the size of the business. So who knows what they’ll do in the future”. That said, don’t expect Bowler to undergo a radical reinvention after Jaguar Land Rover bought it out of administration last December: the firm has built a reputation far beyond its size due to brilliantly engineered rally raid cars and off-roaders, and McKechnie promises that motorsport will remain “at the heart of Bowler” in the future. But the expanded JLR links will create new opportunities, as reflected in the first project under new ownership: a new Defender 110-bodied road car, enabled by an official licence for the famed bodystyle from Land Rover. Not that Bowler has gone soft: the new machine, codenamed CSP 575, may be more practical and spacious than a Defender 90-style Bulldog rally machine, but it’s still a low-volume, €300.000 weapon built on Bowler’s hugely versatile, competition-honed CSP platform and powered by JLR’s range-topping 576 hp supercharged V8 engine. “It’s an ongoing evolution of what we’ve produced for the rally raid vehicles, and it really was what customers were asking for: a rally raid vehicle with increased capacity in the iconic shape of the Defender”, says McKechnie. Essentially, the CSP 575 represents Jaguar Land Rover’s plans for Bowler, which is to let it keep doing what it’s good at, but now with the backing to eventually take that to a new level. “Bowler is a famous name for what it does and what it does so well, and that requires a level of independence”, says Van der Sande. “Calum’s brief is very much to run Bowler as its own business, but with the support of Land Rover when that’s appropriate. That’s what we’re exercising here”. The Derbyshire firm’s roots go back to 1984 when Drew Bowler switched from competing on off-road bikes to four wheels. The engineering expert began competing in a Series 1 Defender, and pioneered a ‘hybrid’ building technique, fusing the front suspension from a Range Rover onto the back of a Land Rover. His success on hill rallies and off-road safaris prompted plenty of demand from other competitors for his vehicles and the establishment of his eponymous firm. Early Land Rover-based cars such as the Cobra had success in trials, leading to the 88 Tomcat, which Drew used to win the ARC National Comp Safari. As Bowler grew, so too did not only the performance of its vehicles, from the Wildcat to the Nemesis and the EXR-S, but also the ambitions, with success across European rally raids leading to a Dakar Rally project in 2000. In 2012, Bowler agreed a partnership with Land Rover that grew to involve the Defender Challenge, a feeder series to prepare competitors for the Dakar, and the development of a range of aftermarket Defender parts. By 2016, the firm’s ambitions extended further with the development of the Cross Sector Platform (CSP), a lightweight new vehicle architecture developed in-house that was designed to merge the strength of monocoque construction with the simplicity of a ladder-frame design and the flexibility of a spaceframe. The first vehicle to be built on it was the Bulldog, the ultimate iteration of the firm’s Defender 90-based rally vehicles. Drew Bowler died suddenly in November 2016, although the company carried on with his quest to dominate the rally raid scene afterwards. And when it hit financial trouble, Jaguar Land Rover saw the chance not only to secure Bowler’s future but also to grow its own Special Vehicle Operations division. “Bowler and Land Rover have been formally and informally working together for many, many years”, says Van der Sande. “When we heard the company was struggling, it was an obvious thing for us to step in and incorporate Bowler into the Land Rover organisation and umbrella, but very much as its own independent business”. “We will not integrate Bowler into JLR or SVO”, he continues. “We have a number of specialised businesses at Jaguar Land Rover, but I’m adamant the strengths for which Bowler has become known over these past 35 years need to be exercised as an independent entity, and if we were to try to integrate that fully into the big ship that is Special Vehicle Operations or Land Rover, it wouldn’t work. To me, it’s much more like a support relationship: Bowler comes up with the cool stuff that customers love and we help Bowler with our resources, expertise and technology. We want to scale the business within Bowler’s capabilities. We don’t want to sign Bowler up to mass production principles that would break Bowler’s character, which has always been about agility, small size and doing great stuff that people get very excited about. That doesn’t scale in 3 months, it will take multiple years. Of course we’d like it to grow and be successful and contribute profit to the group, but this is a long game for us. It’s still an independent entity with its own offices and staff, its own rules, its own balance sheet, and we very much intend to run it that way”. McKechnie has been in charge of Bowler since March, moving over from Jaguar Land Rover Classic, and he says his job is, in effect, to let Bowler be Bowler. “We’re an independent company but what we do have access to is all the support, technology, experience and investment that Jaguar Land Rover, and particularly SVO, has brought to us”, he says. “That’s the difference: we’re still operating in Belper, we’ve still got the same staff, the same organisation (although we’re growing) so we’re still doing what we used to at Bowler. We’ve got JLR’s knowledge behind us and access to information we wouldn’t have had access to as an organisation that didn’t have a formal relationship with JLR. That will allow us to be far more efficient in the way we develop, engineer and produce projects going forward”. Bowler becomes the fourth strand in JLR’s SVO division, alongside the SV tuning programme, Vehicle Personalisation custom arm and Classic restoration business. And while Bowler won’t be integrated into them, Van der Sande insists there’s still the potential for beneficial crossover in both directions. “Bowler brings a pure, agile rally-bred race shop attitude that Land Rover itself and SVO do not have, so it’s a real string to our bow”, says Van der Sande. “We have a lot of skills across the group in terms of making high-end, low-volume cars, so there’s a useful knowledge exchange going on. But how the exact interface between the 2 works, we don’t know yet. Interestingly, we do find a lot of commonality between customers from SV or Jaguar Land Rover Classic and Bowler. If people have a Bowler, they often have a Range Rover. There’s quite a bit of customer synergy, but Bowler has a specific target: customers that either want to go racing, or want to apply a bit of racing spirit on the road”. Van der Sande won’t rule out selling Bowler parts through SVO, offering them on future SVO vehicles or using the Bowler name as a performance badge on future high-performance versions of Land Rover models. But those are all on the future possibilities list. That Bowler’s focus should remain on customers who want to go racing is key to the future. The Bowler name has been built through successes in the wet forest of Wales, the mountains of France and the vast deserts of Africa. So the new CSP 575 may offer more practicality and road focus, but it will just be one part of the business. “The motorsport element will still be at the heart of Bowler, and the key direction will be to do what Bowler has always been good at as a small agile company”, says McKechnie. “We’re still rallying, we’re still supporting rally teams and still building rally vehicles and parts. We can help customers grow through different projects. Customers who joined us for the original Defender Challenge series have worked their way up into rally raid projects”. The prospects for the future are intriguing, as shown by the potential of the CSP 575, and McKechnie’s virtually limitless list of ideas. “We will take opportunities such as the CSP 575 when they come around and where there is demand and an opportunity”, he says. “But we’ve got to keep it within the constraints of the scale Bowler can manage and not burst that capability bubble”. +++ 

+++ Bentley is “ready” for a hard BREXIT if the UK and EU cannot reach a trade deal by the end of this month, boss Adrian Hallmark has confirmed. Hallmark said a hard Brexit would wipe out a quarter of the Crewe firm’s global profits if it absorbed the tariff costs of a no-deal Brexit and it would still lose 20 % of its profits even if it passed them on to its customers as its volumes would be reduced. Modelling of the best volume/profit scenario for Bentley has been done and the result is “hard Brexit wouldn’t kill us but it hurts profitability and slows us down with components”. To that last point, Bentley normally holds 2 days of stock for components at its factory, but that’s now at 14 days and will rise to 20 days by mid-January to stay ahead of an expected slowdown in the speed of imports in the event of a no-deal Brexit. “We have safety mechanisms in place but hope we get a deal and don’t need them”, said Hallmark. Speaking more broadly about the chances of a deal, Hallmark put it at less than 50/50, but understood that automotive was not one of the sticking points on either side. “The government understands what hard Brexit means to us”, he said. “They agree, they’re fighting, but have told us to get ready for no deal. They’re not scaremongering but it’s real. The gaps aren’t huge and there is goodwill from both sides. As automotive disagreements haven’t come up, it makes me feel that they’re aligned on automotive, so sort the fish out!” The increase in the cost of imported components would rise by between 2.5 % and 4.5 % in the event of a no-deal Brexit and the cost of exported cars to the EU would increase by 10 %. Bentley heads into 2021 in as good a shape as is possible in the current market, Hallmark believes. “The first quarter of this year was a sales and profit record. Then Covid hit. What followed was the biggest loss in a quarter ever in April, May and June, which more than wiped out the profit of the first 3 months of the year. But we’re now in a much better place than we dare imagine. At one point, we were on for a three-digit-million loss. Our order bank is 50 % higher than it was in January pre-crisis, and that in itself was the highest since 2004 with the launch of GT. We’re in relatively good shape”. Bentley will launch 9 new products in 2021, including 2 new cars in the shape of the Bacalar and reborn Blower, 4 engine launches, including hybrid versions of the Bentayga and Flying Spur, and 3 derivatives, including Mulliner versions of its models. +++

+++ The story is part of an ongoing series on the development of CHINA ’s automobile industry during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20).It focuses on the development of Chinese automakers in that time. Chinese automakers experienced rapid growth among global industrial competition during the 13th Five-Year Plan period, which were represented by private companies including Geely, Great Wall Motors and BYD, as well as State-owned enterprises like FAW, Dongfeng and Changan. Driven by a new development strategy, FAW’s Hongqi increased sales recently. It sold more than 178.100 vehicles in the first 11 months this year. The automaker has had monthly sales exceeding 20.000 vehicles for 4 consecutive months, indicating rising demand. In July this year, Dongfeng launched its new brand Voyah in Wuhan, focusing on producing high-end new energy passenger vehicles. Its first production model, an electric SUV based on its iFree concept, is expected to hit the market in 2021. Based on the automaker’s plan, starting in 2021, Voyah will launch at least 1 model a year and have offerings in segments including sedans, SUVs and MPVs in 5 years. In a more open environment of investment and competition in China, the country’s top-tier automobile companies have been deeply involved in the layout and cooperation of the global industry chain, and have even become an active driver in the reform of the sector worldwide. In the past 5 years, Geely became Daimler’s largest shareholder; Great Wall Motors established a joint venture with BMW; and BYD launched technical cooperation with Toyota in the field of new energy vehicles. Meanwhile, with the introduction of high-end products from Chinese automakers’ new brands, including Lynk & Co by Geely and WEY by Great Wall Motors, Chinese automaker’s capability to compete with Sino-foreign joint-venture brands has improved. Although the SUV market has seen a decline in production and sales since 2018, Chinese auto brands have secured a favorable market share. Among the top 10 SUV brands in terms of sales, Great Wall Motors’ Haval and SAIC’s Roewe are regulars on the list. +++ 

+++ Back in 2013, DAIMLER announced plans for building a new facility tasked with the manufacturing of passenger cars for the Brazilian market. It would be located in Iracemapolis, in the state of Sao Paulo. 3 years later the factory was finished and was churning out the C-Class and GLA. Unfortunately, this year’s coronavirus pandemic has forced Daimler to make a tough decision regarding this facility. The German brand will wind down car production to the point of shutting down the entire factory (annual capacity of 20.000 units), which will cost approximately 370 people their jobs. Daimler has acknowledged that the pandemic has caused a drop in demand for premium models in Brazil, which in turn made keeping the factory open an unsustainable task. However, passenger cars aside, Mercedes will continue to do business in Brazil at its Sao Bernardo do Campo plant, which is even undergoing modernization. This facility builds trucks. This is also the location of the Technological Development Center, the largest in South America. This year, pretty much all carmakers have had to temporarily close down production at factories around the world. However, closing down for good is a completely different thing and it just goes to show how devastating the effects of this pandemic can be, both from a healthcare and a financial standpoint. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI said it will suspend 1 of its domestic plants for 2 weeks to control inventories amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The Asan plant, which produces the Sonata and Grandeur, will close through January 6 due mainly to weak sales of the Sonata model, a company spokesman said. The sale of the Sonata sedan plunged 31 % to 63.078 units from January to November compared with the same period of last year. In the first 11 months, Hyundai’s overall sales fell 16 % to 3.369.055 vehicles from 4.026.075 a year earlier as the pandemic continued to affect production and sales. Hyundai has 7 domestic plants and 10 overseas. Their combined capacity reaches 5.5 million vehicles. +++ 

+++ The president of INDONESIA , Joko Widodo, presided over the soft launching and initial operation of the Japanese-funded Patimban deep sea port in Subang, West Java. Widodo said that with the completion of the first phase of the Patimban International Port (designated as a national strategic project) Indonesia’s exports, including autos, to the global market are expected to increase. Funded by a Japanese official development assistance loan amounting to 14.2 trillion rupiah ($968.5 million) for the first phase, the port is expected to facilitate the country’s exports by boosting time efficiency and lowering logistics costs. The port has a current capacity for 3.75 million 20-foot-long cargo containers or their equivalent, and its car terminal can accommodate 218.000 completely built-up units, or CBUs. Its capacity is expected to increase to 7 million containers and 600.000 CBUs upon the completion of the third phase in 2027. Through a virtual online ceremony, the president witnessed the first shipment of 140 Toyota, Daihatsu and Suzuki cars to Brunei from the new port. The port is located near Karawang industrial estate, where many Japanese companies operate. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR is applying the finishing touches to a new all-electric SUV, which will sit above the I-Pace in the brand’s line-up. It’ll be called the J-Pace and serve as a direct competitor to the all-electric Tesla Model X. Jaguar’s recent management shake-up saw Ralf Speth hand over the company reins to the former head of Renault, Theirry Bolloré. One of Bolloré’s first acts as chairman will see the company evolve into a fully electric brand, moving to compete directly with the likes of Tesla and Polestar. Official details on the J-Pace project are still under wraps, but it’s understood that the electric SUV will be based on the same MLA architecture that will underpin the next-generation Jaguar XJ and Range Rover. The platform has been engineered to support petrol and diesel, plug-in hybrid and fully electric power, but the J-Pace will be an electric-only model. Production of the J-Pace will take place at Jaguar’s Castle Bromwich facility, which was part of JLR’s €1.15 billion investment into the development of electric vehicle. The site has been transformed to support production of all of the British brand’s pure-electric models. In order to be competitive with the range-topping Tesla Model X, the J-Pace will need to achieve a maximum WLTP range of around 480 km. 4-wheeldrive is expected, while the MLA platform is said to be capable of supporting batteries as large as 100 kWh. However, smaller battery options are also likely to be offered in order to lower the price point of the J-Pace. It will adopt styling cues form the smaller I-Pace but bear a similar profile to that of the larger F-Pace. A blanked off front grille and slender LED headlamps will be its defining features. Although the J-Pace will sit at the top end of the British firm’s line-up, Jaguar’s design boss Julian Thompson is also keen to explore smaller cars. “I would love to do smaller Jaguars”, Thompson told. “I think reflecting on what’s happening around the world, I would love to do cars which are smaller, more efficient and have all the inherent values of a Jaguar, which are a beautiful thing to look at, with a fantastic interior, and are just great to drive”. +++ 

+++ JEEP appears to be readying a new 7-seat SUV for the European market. It will be based on the Compass model. The wheelbase will be substantially longer than that of the standard Compass and it will also feature a further elongated rear overhang. A 7-seat Compass would give Jeep a vital competitor to a number of 3-row models, including the Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace and, looking more upmarket, models such as the Land Rover Discovery Sport and Mercedes-Benz GLB. Jeep hasn’t offered a true 7-seater since the Commander, which sold in limited numbers between 2006 and 2010 before being axed. Late former Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne famously called that car “unfit for human consumption” shortly after production ended. The brand recently revealed the Grand Wagoneer concept, a flagship SUV with the option of 7 seats taking aim at the Range Rover Sport and BMW X5. However, that car is not confirmed for Europe, although bosses previously told the model is still under consideration for other markets. +++ 

+++ KIA and its unionized workers tentatively agreed on a wage deal after a monthlong partial walkout. The management and unionized workers agreed on a base wage freeze and a one-off bonus payment worth 150 % of monthly salary, as well as a 1.2-million-won ($1,100) special allowance in relation to Covid-19. This is the first time since 2009 that Kia has agreed to a base wage freeze. “The latest tentative deal derives from an understanding that the management and the union need to settle in order to be prepared for the future mobility business and lead the change in the automotive industry amid the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic”, the company said in a statement. The 2 sides have been at odds over reintroducing paid overtime. The union has strongly insisted that workers should be allowed 30 minutes of paid overtime a day, for which they get paid time-and-a-half. The company removed the 30 minutes overtime in 2017. The latest tentative agreement includes 25 minutes of paid overtime. “Bringing back the paid overtime system has been agreed upon under the condition that workers enhance their productivity”, the company said. Kia’s unionized workers have also been demanding a pay raise, including a 120.000 won increase in their monthly base wage and incentive payments worth 30 % of the previous year’s operating profit. The management didn’t accept the request, citing deteriorating sales amid the pandemic. Kia has sold 2.39 million vehicles this year as of November; 6.1 % less than the same period last year. The union has been staging a partial walkout since November 25, disrupting production of some 47.000 units. +++ 

+++ Just as the MERCEDES-BENZ S-Class is a showcase of the latest and greatest technology for the German automaker’s internal-combustion cars, the upcoming EQS will be the same for electric cars. This is evidenced by a teaser from Mercedes about the flagship electric sedan’s optional infotainment called MBUX Hyperscreen, and it’s going to be big, literally. While the company hasn’t actually shown the screen, it described Hyperscreen as spanning the full width of the car’s interior. It will be a curved screen, too, and will display items for both the driver and the front passenger. Presumably, it will include the instruments as well as all variety of infotainment including music, navigation and more. The infotainment system will be revealed on January 7. I’m not expecting a reveal of the whole car, though. That reveal will probably come a few months later. +++


+++ PORSCHE has expanded its online sales offering to a further 8 European countries. Germany has had the facility since October 2019, and now Estonia, France, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland have joined the scheme. Pre-launch analysis has revealed how lucrative online sales could be. In Italy, 40 % of online customers are new to Porsche, with a particular focus on used cars. Some 90 % of the cars sold on the platform so far were pre-owned. Other markets are also looking into the strategy. China offers used car searches via WeChat and lifestyle products through Tmall, a large online marketplace. In the long term, the aim is to create an area where customers can buy everything to do with Porsche, from new and used cars to more specialist and rare derivatives. Porsche joins a growing list of manufacturers looking to the internet to bolster car sales. Polestar recently opened its first Space, where you can view but not actually buy a car, while sibling brand Volvo now offers a subscription service. Not that any of this means Porsche is scaling back bricks-and-mortar dealers. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen it faced a shortage in the supply of SEMICONDUCTORS and would adjust production at facilities in China, North America and Europe. Semiconductor manufacturers earlier in the coronavirus crisis shifted their output away from the hard-hit auto sector to serve other areas, like consumer electronics, Volkswagen said. But a recovery in the auto industry now means that Volkswagen is facing a bottleneck in supply. Models affected include Volkswagen-branded autos and commercial vehicles, as well as Skoda, Seat and Audi. “We are now feeling the effects of the global semiconductor bottleneck”, said Murat Aksel, a designated board member overseeing purchasing. +++ 

+++ SMART is known for its microcars, but a senior executive said that the marque’s first China-made vehicle will be an electric SUV, which will roll off the assembly line in 2022. “It may come as a surprise to some, others will already have guessed it: Smart will enter the market with a fully electric SUV: spacious yet compact”, said Daniel Lescow, vice-president of global sales, marketing and after-sales. Smart is now a $825 million joint venture between Mercedes-Benz and Geely. Established in early 2020, it is headquartered in Ningbo, Zhejiang province. Lescow said that for smart vehicles built in China, Daimler is responsible for design, while Geely will do the engineering. Among other things, the electric SUV will be built on Geely’s latest electric vehicle platform, SEA, which will be shared by other brands of the Chinese carmaker, including its high-end arm Lynk & Co. Lescow did not reveal details about Smart’s Chinese manufacturing facility, such as its location or production capacity. Daimler is currently producing Smart-branded vehicles in a plant in Hambach, France. Lescow said the joint venture will remain focused on urban mobility, which he said has great potential both in China and Europe. The vehicles made in China will be exported to European markets as well. “Our new SUV won’t just be for China: we’ll be bringing it to Europe too, where I’m certain it will be a huge success”, said Lescow. The joint venture is one of the partnerships between Geely and Daimler, after Geely acquired a 9.69 percent share in the German giant and became its largest shareholder in early 2018. Last month, the 2 announced a plan to co-develop hybrid engines, which could be used by Mercedes-Benz and Geely’s brands, including Volvo. +++ 

+++ In the race to produce the first electric car with a SOLID STATE BATTERIES , Toyota is in the lead. The Japanese giant plans to debut its first working prototype in 2021, with a production car going on sale sometime in the early 2020s. The technology would usher in a new era of EVs, as solid-state batteries are more compact, charge faster, safer and possess more energy density than the traditional lithium-ion batteries that are in current widespread use. They use a solid electrolyte rather than a liquid or gel polymer electrolytes found in in Li-ion units. That means they require less physical space to produce the same amount of energy, and are less prone to fire when damaged. It’s estimated that a solid-state car could have a range of 1.000  kilometers and take 10 minutes to charge. Solid-state batteries deteriorate less over time, and Toyota aims to retain 90 % of the battery’s performance over a 30-year lifespan. Toyota leads the solid-state battery patent count, owning over 1.000 related to the technology. There are still difficulties in manufacturing solid-state batteries, however. They require extremely dry conditions during production, and the raw lithium required is a scarce resource. To help accelerate development of the technology, the Japanese government is considering spending part of a new $19.2 billion decarbonization fund in building a solid-state battery production infrastructure in the country. Industrial firms such as Mitsui Kinzoku, petrol company Idemitsu Kosan, and Sumitomo Chemical are all gearing up to make the solid electrolytes. Volkswagen says it will produce its own solid-state batteries by 2025, and Nissan expects a solid-state battery prototype vehicle in 2028. Toyota is jointly developing the battery with Panasonic, a leader in battery technology, and had planned to reveal something during the Tokyo Olympics this summer. Though the games were canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Toyota was slow to say when the battery prototypes would make their first public showing. Now, it appears that it’ll be sometime in 2021. +++ 

+++ With vehicles starting to resemble smart devices rather than simply equipped machines, TECH COMPANIES are capitalizing on the dramatic changes in the auto industry. China’s search-engine leader Baidu is considering making its own electric vehicles. Baidu has held preliminary talks with automakers including Geely, GAC and FAW’s Hongqi, on a possible venture, without reaching any decisions. Yale Zhang, managing director of Shanghai-based consulting firm Automotive Foresight, said: “The move is unlikely targeted at selling vehicles to individual customers, and the ultimate goal may be promoting its autonomous driving technology”. Baidu established its autonomous driving unit Apollo in 2017.The unit mainly supplies technology powered by artificial intelligence and it has attracted automakers such as Geely, Volkswagen, Toyota and Ford. But nowadays, many leading carmakers are developing their own systems instead of installing those developed by tech companies such as Baidu. “That is because nobody wants to let others serve as their brains”, Zhang said. A person with knowledge of Baidu’s Apollo partnerships said the deals are exclusive, which means if a carmaker decides to work with Baidu, it rules out the possibility of working with others. Zhang said Baidu’s move is likely to tailor-make fleets of robotaxis with its own autonomous driving system, enhance its popularity with individual customers, and then convince carmakers to use its system. If it does not work out, it can further grow its robotaxi fleets, because offering mobility services will replace selling cars as the most profitable thing in the auto industry, Zhang said. One example is Chinese car-hailing company Didi, that is working with BYD to customize models. Baidu operates the autonomous taxi service Go Robotaxi in cities including Beijing, and plans to expand to 30 cities in 3 years. Despite a lack of material details, the capital market has already bought the story. Building cars would represent a dramatic development in Baidu’s push to diversify its income streams as growth plateaus in its core search business. Its revenue grew just 2 percent last year. Alibaba, another influential tech company in China, has a joint venture with the country’s largest carmaker by sales SAIC Motor to develop the new brand Zhiji. Zhiji said SAIC’s expertise in car production and Alibaba’s advantage in big data and artificial intelligence will make its models more competitive in the market. It said staff engaged in smart driving and data account for 75 % of its research and development team. Zhiji, with an investment of over 10 billion yuan ($1.53 billion), said it will unveil 2 models in January, with another 1 to join them at the Shanghai auto show in April. The first mass-produced model is expected to roll off the assembly line in late 2021. Zhiji said the vehicles will be capable of wireless charging at speeds similar to wired charging, and autonomous valet parking functions will be available in Shanghai in 2021. The carmaker is also developing batteries in partnership with China’s CATL that it says will enable vehicles to run for 1.000 kilometers on a single charge. It did not give a clear schedule when the batteries will become available, but Chinese reports say that they will be produced in 5 years. Zhiji is also partnering with globally well-known artists including Thomas Heatherwick and Toshiyuki Inoko. Among other things, they will design charging facilities and images to be displayed exclusively on Zhiji models’ dashboards and screens. China has been the world’s largest market for new energy vehicles since 2015. Sales of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids are estimated to reach 1.3 million this year; up 8 % from 2019, despite the Covid-19 pandemic. +++ 

+++ A German court ruled TESLA could partially proceed with clearing a forest to build a manufacturing site near Berlin. Environmentalists had gone to court in the eastern city of Frankfurt an der Oder in an attempt to stop Tesla from clearing the forest, arguing that cutting down more trees could endanger hibernating reptiles. A temporary halt in clearing had been in force while a regional court studied the matter. In the ruling, the Berlin-Brandenburg Higher Administrative Court said it would ban clearing by Tesla in peripheral areas of the site, ruling in favor of environmentalists. But the court said the stoppage for the rest of the area could not be justified. +++ 

+++ The rapid spread of a mutated strain of coronavirus is to blame for harsher restrictions in the United Kingdom, with several other countries implementing new travel restrictions and closing up borders. These actions have caused inevitable transport delays, which is why TOYOTA has chosen to shut down production in the UK and France. The border closures have “disrupted the transportation of parts”, said Toyota spokeswoman Shino Yamada in an emailed statement. France moved quickly to close its borders as soon as word got out about the fast-spreading new strain. The French government suspended travel, including freight in and out of the UK, with faraway nations such as Canada and India doing the same. Toyota initially wanted to idle its UK and France plants starting with December 24, however, the decision was made to speed things up and shut down effective immediately. Operations will resume (if all goes well) on January 5 for the UK, and December 29 for France, according to the spokeswoman. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for rival Japanese carmaker Honda stated that her company won’t speed up its scheduled winter closures for UK factories, which will idle starting December 23, through January 3. As for the new coronavirus strain, health officials have confirmed that it is rapidly replacing other versions of the virus and is thought to spread more quickly, based on preliminary lab work. However, there is currently no evidence to suggest that the new strain actually makes the virus more deadly and all 3 leading vaccines should still prove effective. +++ 

+++ A major automotive trade association last week urged policymakers in the UNITED STATES to back sweeping support for electric vehicles, including new incentives for research and development and consumer purchases. President-elect Joe Biden has made boosting electric vehicles a top priority and pledged to build 550.000 new EV charging stations. He also supports new tax credits for consumer purchases and retrofitting factories for EV production. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the auto trade group representing General Motors, Volkswagen, Toyota, Ford and nearly all major automakers, called in a report released last week for a series of steps to boost the EV market and to revamp regulatory oversight of self-driving vehicles. John Bozzella, the group’s chief executive, in an interview argued “the future of the industry” is at stake as it spends heavily on electric and self-driving vehicles. The technologies “will redefine motor vehicle transportation for decades”, the alliance said in its report. Congress has debated legislation to speed up adoption of self-driving cars and new incentives for EVs but has not approved either. Automakers face significantly tougher emissions rules under Biden and the industry is split over whether to continue backing president Donald Trump’s efforts to bar California from setting vehicle emissions rules. California Governor Gavin Newsom said in September he wants the state to bar the sale of new gasoline-powered passenger vehicles by 2035. Automakers invest about $26 billion annually in R&D in the United States. The alliance backs “enhancing R&D incentives over the next 3-5 years” and “facilitating and expanding access to capital to support” the industry’s transformation over that period, it said in the report. Automakers also back new incentives to transition factories to building cleaner vehicle technologies. The group said China “has already established EV battery supply chain and manufacturing dominance” and noted China is also moving aggressively to develop automated vehicles. During his election campaign, Biden said China was on pace to dramatically outpace the United States in EV production. “We can own the electric vehicle market, building 550.000 charging stations, and creating over a million good jobs here at home, with the federal government investing more in clean energy research”, Biden said. Last month, a group of major American utilities, Tesla, Uber and others, launched a group to lobby for EV-friendly policies. The alliance noted the auto industry is spending $250 billion by 2023 on EVs. Bozzella said additional incentives are needed to boost EVs’ current 2 % US market share. It called for revising building codes to make EV charging easier and boosting government EV fleet purchases. +++ 

+++ The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) said it is opening in investigation into whether VOLKSWAGEN infringed on patents held by Jaguar Land Rover for a system used for off-road driving. In November, Jaguar Land Rover, a unit of Tata Motors, filed a complaint with the ITC seeking to prevent the import of some Porsche, Lamborghini and Audi models with “certain vehicle control systems” that allegedly infringe on its patents. The models include the Urus, Cayenne, Q8 / Q7 / Q5 / A6 Allroad / e-Tron and Tiguan. The ITC said it has made no decision on the merits. Volkswagen said in a statement it was examining the action and determining its next steps. “We will of course cooperate with investigating authorities. While we cannot comment on any details of the proceedings, we strongly believe that the claims have no merit and will robustly defend our position”, VW said. Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) said the vehicles “have used JLR’s patented inventions without payment or permission” notably a patent for an “improved system for driving a vehicle on different driving surfaces, in particular off-road”. JLR says its Terrain Response technology uses the patented technology to maximize performance on off-road driving surfaces, including grass, snow, mud, sand and rocks. +++

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