Newsflash: Mitsubishi komt met sportieve elektrische cross-over

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+++ Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd ( CATL ), China’s largest producer of automobile battery packs, is investing 39 billion yuan ($5.9 billion) to build 3 battery factories to further expand its operations in the country, according to a company announcement. Industry experts said that its capacity expansion will enable other supply chain companies in the new energy vehicle sector to boost output and cash in on the rapid growth of the new energy vehicle sector in the country over the next few years. CATL will invest 17 billion yuan to build a lithium-ion battery base in Fuding of Ningde, Fujian province. Another 12 billion yuan will be used to set up a unit in Liyang, Jiangsu province, while the remaining 10 billion yuan will be used to expand the existing power battery unit in Yibin, Sichuan province. “The base construction, in line with the company’s strategic development plan, will further improve the production capacity to meet future business development and market expansion needs. It will also bolster the company’s long-term, stable development”, CATL said in a regulatory filing on Tuesday. Zeng Tao, an analyst at China International Capital, said in a research note that the new investment will add an additional capacity of about 120 GWh to 150 GWh in the next 2 to 4 years. “CATL has spent 73 billion yuan, according to public announcements, for capacity expansion this year”, Zeng said. “CATL is looking to speed up its capacity expansion with an eye on growing its global market share to 40 %. Given its insufficient production capacity currently, the battery maker is planning ahead for a boom in new energy vehicle sales”, said Wang Jing, a research supervisor for high-end manufacturing at Shanghai Chaos Investment Group. Sales of NEVs, which include electric batteries, plug-in hybrids and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, are expected to see rapid growth in the next 10 years, according to industry experts. According to the latest development plan for the NEV industry from 2021 to 2035 approved by the State Council last month, China’s NEV sales are expected to account for 20 % of overall new car sales by 2025, while purely electric automobiles will account for the majority of new cars sold in the country by 2035. “CATL’s new investment will provide a strong impetus to the NEV supply chains, so that related companies can also expand their production to ensure raw materials on demand and at relatively low prices”, she said. The battery maker, whose battery packs are used by almost every major automobile brand, including in Tesla’s Model 3 electric cars that are assembled in Shanghai, was reportedly to have invested $5 billion in a new manufacturing plant in Indonesia. Ren Zeping, chief economist with Evergrande Group, said China is edging closer to its dream of becoming a major player in the conventional and new energy vehicle sectors. “After 10 years of planning and development, especially during the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-20), the country’s NEV industry has already gained certain first-mover advantages and scale advantages. A basic industrial chain and charging infrastructure have been formed”, he said. “Government efforts (like the development plan) will have a far-reaching effect, especially when economies like Europe, Japan and South Korea are accelerating their efforts in electrification of vehicles while electric cars made by US automaker Tesla are gaining traction with customers in China”, he said. The NEV market in China has been the largest in the world for 5 consecutive years. Despite the Covid-19, the country’s NEV sales reached 200.000 units in November; up 104.9 % on a yearly basis, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. +++ 

+++ The merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Groupe PSA cleared one of its final hurdles earlier this month, but the companies are now facing a last minute objection from Walter P. CHRYSLER ’s great-grandson. As part of his alternative buyout proposal, Frank B. Rhodes Jr suggests the merged entity not adopt the widely mocked Stellantis name. Instead, he proposes the automaker become known as the “Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram Corporation”. On top of that, Rhodes wants the company to be headquartered in the United States. His proposal also calls for giving existing management and employees a retention bonus, based on tenure. Furthermore, the proposal says that in “addition to a cash price to be negotiated, and a payoff of all existing debt, existing stockholders would receive rights to acquire shares in the buyer entity if it was taken public in the future”. In a statement, Rhodes said “This alternative proposal is, in my opinion, superior to the planned merger and would result in the return to the United States of the Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram brands and away from the proposed Chinese, and foreign control as proposed in the merger”. While the proposal has little chance of gaining traction, Rhodes filed an objection to the Stellantis merger with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. He is also advising U.S. Senators oppose the merger as it would “remove future profits and technologies from America”. The last-ditch effort will likely amount to nothing as shareholders are set to approve the merger on January 4th. Following that, the deal should be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2021. +++ 

+++ If you’re looking for a small ELECTRIC car in Europe, the choice of such models has never been as varied as it is today. The offerings are so different that you can even get to pick your favourite not only based on specs and range, but also based on heart’s desire. In other words, there are cars for sensible people who want to get from A to B, as well as ones that are focused on making you look good and providing fun in the process. On the fun and flashy side of the small electric car spectrum, we have the Honda E, which is also one of the most expensive vehicles of its size. It is very cute, packed with tech and remarkably fun to drive, but the tradeoff is a very low range that renders it useless at anything other than getting your around the city. At the other end of the scales, we have the much more down-to-earth Renault Zoé, a vehicle that is all about the maximum range it can provide: even though it costs about the same as the Honda, it has about twice the range, so it’s no wonder that it’s one of Europe’s most popular small electric city cars. These cars were tested, along with a slew of others to see just how close they can get tho their manufacturer claimed range. Based on the findings, the Zoé was able to travel for 290 km, the Opel Corsa-e managed 276 km, its French brother, the Peugeot e-208 achieved 273 km, the Volkswagen e-Up! came in next with 245 km, followed by the brand new Fiat 500e with 243 km, the Mini Cooper SE (the most fun to drive of them all) with 185 km, the Mazda MX-30 with 179 km, the Honda e with 145 km and the Smart EQ with 109 km. The result is not surprising given that the Honda e has one of the smaller batteries in the group test, yet one of the highest consumptions out of them all (22 kWh / 100km), and it’s also the second heaviest in the test, after the MX-30. This test confirmed what I already knew: if you want to buy a small EV in Europe, just buy a Zoé or either the Corsa-e or e-208. +++ 

+++ The new FERRARI Purosangue SUV will launch in a little over a year’s time, in early 2022 and will form the basis for a range of more practical, crossover-flavoured models wearing the coveted prancing horse badge. tHE Purosangue itself will stick with hybridised petrol power, but the related projects (codenamed F244 and F245) will usher in the era of full electrification at Ferrari. The SUV’s hardware is electric-ready, and that flat skateboard floor means the prospect of five-seater Ferraris is now tantalisingly close. Capable of packaging up to four e-motors with an initial output of 620 hp along with a scalable fast-charging lithium-ion battery pack good for a base capacity of 80 kWh, this exciting plug-in Ferrari may have what it takes to qualify as an Access All Areas showpiece for the environment-conscious jet set. The Italians have now confirmed the Purosangue working name, meaning ‘thoroughbred’, and this is understood to be the production badge too. But there’s been some legal rights wrangling over the new car’s name which may yet change the moniker. The Purosangue is Ferrari’s first foray into the ultra-performance SUV market. My sources at Maranello claim the 5-door is even sportier than the Urus, Bentayga, DBX and Cullinan, and is more based on dynamics than rock-crawling (no surprise). The mould-breaking newcomer blends crossover advantages like a slightly taller seating position, plenty of cabin and boot space and a more rugged exterior design with sports car features like agile handling, riveting roadholding and strong performance. In an interview with Car magazine in 2018, then-new-but-now-departed Ferrari boss Louis Camilleri told: “I abhor hearing the word SUV in the same sentence as the Ferrari. It does not sit well with our brand. This vehicle will be unique in so many ways, and it will redefine expectations”. This explains why executives prefer to call this an FUV, for Ferrari Utility Vehicle. Confidence like that is meant to breed effortless success. But confidence has been in short supply in Maranello in recent years, as its Formula 1 team continues to squander the fastest car on the grid and the storied car maker reels from the sudden loss of CEO and chairman Sergio Marchionne. The renewal of investor confidence was the primary objective of Ferrari’s Capital Markets Day in 2019. Ferrari and FCA share prices wobbled in the wake of Marchionne’s passing in July 2018, not helped by comments Camilleri that the plan he inherited was both ‘aspirational’ and faced ‘risks’. How to build confidence in the 70-year-old maker of iconic road and race cars? With the unveiling of an SUV? Too divisive, and too soon: Camilleri asked for ‘breathing time, to meet our ambitions for what will be an extraordinary vehicle’. While investors are keen, heartened by the popularity of comparable products from Lamborghini and Bentley, the Ferrari faithful are waiting on the SUV’s arrival as a patient waits for the dentist’s drill; with reluctant consent. Camilleri nevertheless confirmed that the ‘revolutionary’ hybrid ‘FUV’ is in development, with its costs but not its revenues present in the new period plan. A whopping 60 % of Ferrari’s cars will be hybrid by 2022, with technology officer Michael Hugo Leiters describing hybridisation as a zero-lag enabler of, rather than a replacement for, turbocharging. A full electric Ferrari isn’t on the cards just yet. Speaking at the Detroit motor show in January 2018, late Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne hinted that the new Perosangue would be the fastest SUV on the market, meaning it’ll have to beat the Urus’s physics-bending performance. Lamborghini’s SUV has a top speed of 205 kph, so the new Ferrari will need to be seriously quick. The Ferrari off-roader’s styling remains shrouded in mystery, but our sources suggest it’ll retain hints of Ferrari’s front-engined models, albeit on a taller, larger chassis. “It will probably happen but it will happen in Ferrari’s style”, Marchionne told analysts back in 2017, as he announced a 24 % jump in second-quarter profits. “That space is too big and too inviting and we have a lot of customers who will be more than willing to drive a Ferrari-branded vehicle that has that king of utilitarian objective”. Ferrari will stick with an aluminium architecture and all-wheel drive; Maranello has quietly developed a lot of 4wd knowledge since launching the FF in 2011. It’ll be taller than its next-generatiom GTC relation and I hear it’ll have suicide back doors, allowing for a huge doorway and no B-pillars for unimpeded access to the rear seats. The platform is capable of accepting V6, V8 or V12 power, so Maranello can react to different market conditions. How much will the Ferrari crossover cost? In excess of €360.000 in The Netherlands, according to my insiders. It’s good business, alright. Adding a tougher, rougher Ferrari could help double sales of the prancing horse to around 16.000 a year by the middle of this decade. Which explains why nearly every premium brand going has chosen to launch an SUV. +++ 

+++ GERMANY , whose automotive industry is going all-in on EVs, has had to pay out 6-and-a-half times more in electrified vehicle subsidies than it did in 2019. The government paid out more than €652 million in subsidies this year. By comparison, it paid out just €98 million in 2019. Buyers have applied for a subsidy for a total of 229.951 vehicles. Although that’s a sharp increase from 2019’s 73.081, it doesn’t account for the full rise in Germany’s payouts. Indeed, increased funding for tax breaks for electrified vehicles introduced in July helped the payouts reach their 2020 heights. Although the credits doubtless played a role in a number of Germans’ decision to buy electrified vehicles, a slew of new EVs, such as the Volkswagen ID.3, that were launched this year probably helped, too. Increases in hybrid adoption outpaced increases in EV adoption, though. While the number of applications for EV subsidies rose from 51.000 to 126.000 (increasing by 250 %) the number for hybrids skyrocketed from 22.000 to 103.000 (nearly 470 %). The German government is more than happy about the increase on EVs and hybrids and is confident that the number of electrified vehicles being purchased will only increase in 2021. Indeed, the new breaks for buyers will go on until at least 2025. Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier said: “In 2020 we made a significant leap forward in electromobility in Germany. The main reason for this was the introduction of the innovation bonus in July, with which the federal government doubled its funding for the purchase of an electric car”. Meanwhile, the demand for new hybrids and EVs is being recognized by the industry. Volkswagen, for one, just announced that it will be installing 750 new charging points around Germany in 2021. “We need significantly more charging points in Germany and Europe if electric vehicles are to establish themselves quickly”, said VW’s head of e-mobility, Thomas Ulbrich. “For that reason, all players from the fields of politics and industry must continue their efforts in the coming year”. +++ 

+++ HONDA has decided that it will stop supplying its official dealers in Russia with new cars come 2022, as part of the automaker’s efforts to restructure its global operations in the midst of a global pandemic. The Japanese brand will however remain in the Russian market by selling motorcycles and power equipment. They will also retain activities related to the after-sale service of its vehicles. Unlike rivals such as Toyota and Nissan, Honda has no manufacturing facilities in Russia, where they sold just 79 vehicles last month; a 50 % drop compared to the previous year. Honda currently sells just 2 models in Russia and both are SUVs (CR-V and Pilot). Furthermore, its overall sales in Russia this year through November were down 15 % to 1.383 units, a mere spec compared to the 1.3 million new cars sold there in total during that period. Honda’s plans for Europe also include the company ditching its pure gasoline and diesel variants by 2023, aiming to retain a lineup consisting of fully-electric or hybrid models. According to company exec Ian Howells, Honda also believes in alternative fuels and isn’t ready to go all-in on fully-electric propulsion just yet. “They’re 33 % to 50 % more expensive than a conventional or hybrid vehicle”, he told. Still, Howells does know that hybrids don’t represent a long term solution, stating: “They don’t take us the full way and that’s why we do see this as a transitioning or bridging type of technology to get us to the point at which the technology behind the batteries and the infrastructure are both in place to move forward to offering mass personal mobility with a new type of energy carrier”. +++ 

+++ A MotorTrend Best Driver’s Car winner doesn’t just make a talented amateur feel like a hero. It has to impress and inspire every driver, from a rookie to a pro. And in this aspect, there was no question: The LAMBORGHINI Huracán Evo is the 2020 Best Driver’s Car. It all boils down to one thing: driver confidence. What’s more, among the 2020 Best Driver’s Car field, no other car, going that fast, provoked that same reaction. It’s mechanical harmony, every input and feedback system working together. Every piece of the car that makes it go, stop, and corner is in lockstep with the others and with the driver. Every input you make, every response you get from the car, is exactly what you want and expect. Above all, the Lambo doesn’t lose any of that sensation when you put it on a track. That is the failing of the Porsche 911 Turbo S; all those tingly feelings it gave you on the road got dulled on the track. The Lamborghini was always thrilling to drive no matter where or when. And it was as thrilling and confidence-inspiring on the open road as it was on the closed track. Tearing through the valleys that define California’s Coast and Transverse ranges, the Huracán Evo lulls you into that perfect state of driving bliss, traveling incredibly, illegally fast without a conscious thought in your head. The Huracán allows you to be completely engaged in the moment, seeing braking points and apexes but sending the information directly to your hands and feet without analyzing the situation, reacting to the world rushing at you and feeling the car move about around you in precisely the way you instructed, as if it were an extension of your body. The new Porsche 911 Turbo S is an absolute revelation to drive … on the street. It’s as much a religious experience on a back road as the Huracán Evo. Put both on a track, though, and the 911 goes cold and sterile. The Lamborghini just keeps hitting your dopamine producer like a game show contestant attacking the buzzer. And although the second-place Mustang Shelby GT500 was a beast and a bully at a (relatively) bargain price, it lacked the refinement and zhoosh required of a winner. What really makes it special is that it can do everything, and it can switch personalities at the driver’s whim. Whether blitzing a racetrack, carving a tight canyon, roaring through a series of long sweepers, or loafing on an endless highway, the Huracán Evo is pure joy. Even mooching around town, the dual-clutch transmission avoids most of the herky-jerky issues such trannies often have. (Advice from Jonny: keep it in Sport; Strada had some balky moments). The Huracán Evo is just as thrilling, lustworthy, and confidence-inspiring with only half the Performante’s hardware. The Huracán didn’t need to evolve. The competition still hasn’t caught up yet. +++ 

+++ According to unofficial media reports from Japan, MITSUBISHI will launch next year an electric SUV related to the Mitsubishi e-Evolution Concept from 2017 and the Lancer Evolution sports saloon from the past.For sure, it will not be as extraordinary as the concept, but it might be an interesting sporty SUV, with a dual-motor all-wheel-drive powertrain (the concept had 3 motors). The production version will have normal doors (instead of double doors), a steeper slope to the A-pillar, and a bold coupe-style rear end. The target cruising range is reportedly around 500 km on a single charge. Is all of this true? We will find out next year, as sales might start in Fall 2021. I guess an electric SUV from Mitsubishi might be related to the Nissan Ariya and in general to the Renault – Nissan – Mitsubishi alliance’s CMF-EV platform. The other path is a new model, built with a Chinese partner for the Chinese/Asian market. +++ 

+++ TESLA is reportedly looking to boost end-of-quarter sales by offering 3 months of its Full Self-Driving (FSD) package for free. This isn’t the first time Tesla has offered various incentives to boost quarterly earnings. For the 4th quarter of 2020, Tesla wants to deliver a record number of cars, in a bid to achieve a total of 500.000 units sold for the entire year. That means delivering over 181,000 vehicles this quarter alone. In the past, perks offered by the U.S. carmaker have included things like free Supercharging. However, with this most recent incentive, Tesla is offering something that’s never been done before: 3 months of its Full Self-Driving (FSD) package for free to buyers who can take delivery by the end of this year. The package contains the following features: Navigate on Autopilot, Auto Lane Change, Autopark, Summon, as well as Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control. The first one means that your Tesla can drive itself from highway on-ramp to off-ramp, while also overtaking slower vehicles. Auto Lane Change does what the name implies and allows your car to change lanes automatically, while Autopark works with both parallel and perpendicular spaces. As for Summon and Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control, the former means that your parked car will come to you from anywhere in a parking lot, with the latter offering assisted stops at traffic controlled intersections. Otherwise, the cost of this package is $10.000 and in the future, Tesla will use it to enable true full-self driving capability via software upgrades. +++ 

+++ Unlike other cars from VOLKSWAGEN that have performed poorly in the moose test recently, the Tiguan managed to pass the test. A R-Line variant powered by a 150 hp 1.5-liter TSI petrol engine that’s mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch DSG automatic transmission was tested, fitted with 19 inch wheels wrapped in 255/45 Pirelli Scorpion tires. The compact SUV completed the challenge at 77 km/h without hitting the cones, with relatively low body roll and the ESC kicking in and stabilizing it. However, at 78 km/h it performed poorly. On a related note, the all-new Golf Mk8 didn’t do as well when subjected to the same test earlier this year. The compact hatchback managed to stay within the cones at 69 km/h, which is considered an unsatisfactory result for a car in this segment. Other attempts resulted in heavy oversteer and the Golf not being able to return to its lane quickly enough. Volkswagen’s latest plug-in hybrid Passat, the GTE, also failed the moose test, albeit with more dramatic oversteer that made it less safe as the driver increased the speed. As a matter of fact, they had to lower the speed to 65 km/h in order for the family sedan to stay within the cones. +++

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