Newsflash: Volkswagen gaat ID.2 in China bouwen

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+++ ASTON MARTIN will continue to make cars powered solely by an internal combustion engine beyond 2030. Chairman Lawrence Stroll said there were “always going to be enthusiasts” who would want cars powered solely by internal combustion engines (ICE) and Aston Martin would cater for them. “By 2030, 5 % of business will still always be ICE”, he said. “I never see it going down to zero”. When asked if that would still be the case further in the future, from 2050/60, Stroll said: “That is beyond the horizon I’m looking at”. However, the UK government will ban the sale of such cars from 2030, meaning at present that these cars would not be able to be sold in their home market, at least for road driving. As for its future engine strategy, Aston Martin will be getting bespoke engines from Mercedes-AMG, rather than the current off-the-shelf 4.0-litre V8 units, as part of a wider tie-up between the 2 brands. “Our current AMG engines are just that: AMG engines in an Aston Martin”, said Stroll. “With this new deal, we will have bespoke engines with different outputs, torque characteristics etc. They’ll still be AMG components but bespoke manufactured in Germany”. Aston Martin currently uses its own V12 engines made in the UK and has its own turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 (codenamed TM01) in the works. Announced earlier this year, it will be used in the firm’s still-planned mid-engined Vanquish supercar. However, it’s unclear how these 2 engines fit into the wider AMG deal, particularly around the plug-in hybrid technology that Aston Martin will be getting from its German shareholder as part of the technical tie-up. As such, their long-term futures are unknown. Aston Martin will also be getting its electric car drive systems from AMG as part of the deal. Stroll said the first electric cars will arrive no later than 2026 and will carry the Aston Martin badge rather than the Lagonda name that had been planned by the previous management. “It should be Aston so we changed it back to Aston”, he said. “When we go electric, brand will become critical”, he added, in reference to the fewer differentiators between electric cars in drive and performance compared to internal-combustion-engined ones. “Brand is key”, said Stroll on electric cars. “Aston Martin is known historically for making the most beautiful cars”. +++ 

+++ With its investment planning for the next 5 years, AUDI is pushing ahead its transformation to a provider of networked and sustainable premium mobility: with a total amount of approximately €35 billion, investments remain at a high level, especially for future vehicle projects, in spite of a difficult business environment. Some €17 billion, amounting to half of the investment sum, is allocated to future technologies alone. Like the Volkswagen Group as a whole, Audi is reinforcing investments in electromobility. The premium manufacturer has earmarked approximately €15 billion for this and the future topic of hybridization, thus underlining the key importance of its electro-roadmap. The necessary financial scope is created by synergies in the Volkswagen Group; in both the e-platform strategy and in software development. Improvements in fixed costs, a leaner product portfolio, and savings in non-vehicle investments further contribute to the financial solidity of the Audi brand. “With the investment planning that has now been carried out, we are making Audi stronger for the upcoming transformation of the core business. Technological leadership in electric-powered and fully networked driving is the aim of the supervisory board and management board. We are providing Audi with the necessary resources for this”, says Herbert Diess, chairman of the Supervisory Board of Audi. “The investments approved today for enhancing Audi’s forward-looking themes of electrification, hybrid technology and digitalization are extremely important for us in this transformation. They secure the technological leadership of the Group. This benefits us in many projects, and also in creating high-quality jobs. The Audi sites at Neckarsulm and Ingolstadt will derive long-term advantages from this. That is a decisive factor for us as employee representatives”, emphasized Peter Mosch, vice chairman of the Supervisory Board of Audi and chairman of the General Works Council. From 2021 to 2025, Audi plans spending on research and development and on investments in fixed assets of about €35 billion. Almost €17 billion is allocated by the premium manufacturer to vehicle projects and innovative vehicle technologies alone, in order to newly energize the brand promise of “Vorsprung durch Technik”. The total sum of development costs takes account of comprehensive synergies in the Group. For example, the development and implementation of the electric platforms takes place across the brands. Here Audi is developing together with Porsche the Premium Platform Electric (PPE); at the same time, Audi uses the Group technology of the modular electrification platform (MEB). On the basis of the investment planning, upfront expenditure in the years 2021 to 2025 focuses on the uncompromising implementation of Roadmap E, with a large-scale product offensive for fully and partly electric models. For electrification alone, a sum of approximately €15 billion (more than 40 % of the total expenditure) is foreseen in the context of the planning round. Specifically, some €10 billion is to be devoted to electromobility and €5 billion to hybridization. By 2025 Audi will expand its e-portfolio to about 30 models, of which approximately 20 will be powered entirely by electric batteries. In digitalization, too, Audi benefits from cooperation in the Group, and will now exploit this competitive advantage even more efficiently. In software development, Audi CEO Markus Duesmann is now taking over as chairman at the Car.Software-Organization, which combines and extends the knowhow of the brands. In this way the Group’s own software unit is creating a unified operating system with basic functions for all vehicles of the Group. The tasks of the Car.Software-Organization also include further development of functions for automated driving. “Our investment planning tells a clear story: we are not cutting back on the substance of products, and are giving full priority to expenditure on electromobility and software development”, says Duesmann. “The thorough-going focus on group synergies for these central future themes is an important key to success”. +++ 

+++ Now that it’s clear Joe BIDEN soon will be president, the fight over automobile pollution and fuel efficiency standards is likely to peter out, and U.S. consumers should see a broader selection of electric and efficient vehicles. But just how wide those choices will be and when they will come depends a lot on how negotiations go between the new administration and a fractured industry. At a board meeting earlier this week, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a big industry trade association, recognized that change is coming. Alliance CEO John Bozzella said automakers are committed to working with the Biden administration, which will renew the fight against climate change and likely will undo gas mileage rollbacks under president Donald Trump. The Trump rollbacks were supported by at least a dozen auto companies, many of which are having trouble meeting pollution and efficiency standards set when Barack Obama was president. Toyota, Fiat Chrysler, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, Subaru, Isuzu, Suzuki, Maserati, McLaren, Aston Martin and Ferrari all joined the Trump administration in a court battles over the standards and California’s authority to set its own, more stringent requirements. 5 companies (Ford, Volkswagen, BMW, Honda and Volvo) backed California and last week General Motors switched sides and joined them. Most automakers want 1 national standard so they don’t have to build 2 versions of each vehicle. Sometime after Biden takes office January 20, there will be efforts to reach a deal that all sides can live with. Here’s what experts say is the likely outcome for new vehicle buyers: Under Trump’s standards, automakers would have to show 1.5 % fuel economy increases from model years 2022 through 2025, far less than the 4.7 % increase per year under Obama. Biden likely will make the standards stricter than Trump but not as strict as Obama and automakers will have to sell more battery-powered vehicles to meet those standards. At present, there are about 20 fully electric vehicles on sale in the U.S. with dozens more on the way. Within the next few years, General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler plan to offer all-electric pickup trucks as alternatives to petroleum-powered trucks that are now the top-selling vehicles in the country. Ford plans an electric full-size delivery van, and GM promises 30 new electric models globally by 2025. Experts say that more of those global models from all automakers are likely to make it to the U.S. under a Biden presidency. Under Trump’s looser requirements, automakers would have been under less pressure to bring in more electric vehicles, as well as gas-electric hybrids and more efficient vehicles with internal combustion engines. This year, the consulting firm LMC Automotive expects U.S. consumers to buy around 218.000 fully electric vehicles; about 1.5 % of new vehicles sold. That is expected to rise to 6.6 % by 2025, still only a sliver of the roughly 17 million new vehicles sold annually. Plus, with regular gasoline averaging $2.16 per gallon nationwide, people are buying bigger vehicles such as SUVs and trucks. About 75 % of the new vehicles sold are pickups and SUVs, with more efficient cars accounting for only a quarter. So requiring automakers to sell efficient vehicles may leave unsold cars on dealer lots. “I don’t think it necessarily aligns with what consumers want to buy today”, said Jeff Schuster, an LMC senior vice president. That worries auto dealers, who fear they could be caught between efficiency requirements imposed by Biden and consumers who want larger petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles. Scott Fink, who owns Hyundai, Mazda, Volkswagen and Chevrolet dealerships near Tampa, Florida, says the infrastructure doesn’t exist to charge electric vehicles in his area. Most electrics are too expensive for people and they’re still nervous about running out of juice, he said. “You can put EVs out front, but you’re racing ahead prior to consumer demand”, he says. Prices could rise as well with fuel-saving technology. New batteries, updated internal combustion engines and transmissions, and other devices are likely to drive new-vehicle costs beyond the current average of $36,700 calculated by LMC. General Motors says new battery technology will cut EV costs so they’re equal to gas-powered vehicles, but that won’t come until the new standards end. It’s likely that negotiations between automakers, environmental groups, California and the Biden administration will produce some sort of compromise between Trump’s rolled-back standards and Obama’s stricter requirements. Automakers say they need some relief since gas is cheap and consumer preferences have shifted toward larger vehicles. In 2018 (the last year of numbers published by the Environmental Protection Agency) 11 of 14 automakers did not meet the Obama-era standards and had to comply by using credits from previous years or purchased from Tesla or other automakers. Ford is urging the industry to start bargaining at the 3.7% annual increase it agreed to with California. A spokesman for the Biden administration didn’t return messages left seeking comment. Republican Debbie Dingell said she’s pushing to get everyone to the table. Environmental groups will lobby for stricter standards, she said, but the administration must be mindful of protecting U.S. jobs and bringing battery production to the U.S. “Something is going to have to give and a divided industry is going to make it a bigger challenge,” she said. “We do have to clean up the environment”. +++

+++ CHINA ‘s auto manufacturing sector saw profits rise 6.6 % year-on-year to 421.15 billion yuan ($64.05 billion) in the first 10 months of 2020, industry data showed. The growth picked up from the 3 percent gain seen in the first 3 quarters, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), citing data from the National Bureau of Statistics. The sector’s profits accounted for 8.4 % of total profits among industrial companies with annual revenues of more than 20 million yuan. Earlier CAAM data showed China’s auto market maintained recovery momentum in October, with sales rising 12.5 % year-on-year to 2.57 million as the market warmed alongside government policies to spur consumption. Auto sales totaled 19.7 million in the first 10 months, down 4.7 % year-on-year. +++ 

+++ By the end of next year 60 % of the car models offered by FIAT will be electrified, either hybrid or full electric, the head for the European market, Luca Napolitano, said. “By the end of 2021, out of all Fiat models offered, 60 % will be electrified, better than the market average”, Napolitano said. Fiat this year has launched the full-electric Nuova 500, hybrid versions of its 500 and Panda models, along with a hybrid Ypsilon, Lancia’s only vehicle currently on offer. More Fiat models are expected to be offered in hybrid versions in the future, including the 500X and the Tipo. +++ 

+++ FORD is stepping up localization efforts in China, covering car production, design and development, according to senior executives of its Chinese joint venture. Like many other international carmakers, Ford used to carry out design stages in places such as North America or Europe and then make some twists when the models were introduced into China. It is no longer the case though, said Changan Ford president Steven Armstrong at the Guangzhou auto show that concluded last week. He said Ford cars produced in China are now basically designed in China. The carmaker even opened a new design facility in Shanghai earlier this year to handle the increasingly greater work load. He cited the examples of the Explorer that hit the market earlier this year and the Focus Active Wagon, which was launched at the Guangzhou auto show. Such things as the grilles and onboard infotainment functions in China are different from in North America and Europe. The Sync+ infotainment system available in China was co-developed with China’s internet technology company Baidu to meet the demands of tech-savvy Chinese customers, said Armstrong. He said Ford will go even further by developing models in the country. “It is good proof that we are now producing vehicles for the Chinese market”, Armstrong said. The efforts are paying off. Ford statistics show that a total of 164.352 vehicles were sold in China in the third quarter this year; a 25.4 % year-over-year growth (the largest since the 4th quarter of 2016) and a 3.6 % increase from the second quarter this year. In the first 10 months this year, Changan Ford’s SUV sales soared almost 60 % year-on-year, against the backdrop of a 10.2 % drop in China’s overall passenger vehicle market. The momentum, coupled with the joint venture’s efforts to cut inventory, is improving dealers’ profitability. Zhao Fei, executive vice-president of the joint venture, said, “Our operational quality is much better now. The product mix is improved and 65 % to 70 % of our dealers are in profit”. Changan Ford said it will strengthen the competitiveness of its sales network and expand into smaller cities, which are an increasingly important source of car buyers. “This year, we have achieved win-win results, ensuring the interests of us and our partners. For 2021, we will take a practical, step by step approach. I think we can keep steady growth”, Zhao said. +++ 

+++ The GAC GROUP , one of China’s largest State-owned carmakers, is setting up a joint venture with the country’s leading AI company iFlytek, as the car industry is shifting toward digitalization. The joint venture will focus on smart interiors, internet of vehicles technology as well as car-related digital services, according to a deal the 2 inked. “The car industry has entered into the critical stage of industrial revolution. Smart, connected and digital functions have become key to the industry’s growth”. GAC said the joint venture will strive to become a benchmark in terms of technologies and products. However, the company will not take GAC as its only client but will offer solutions to carmakers in China and overseas. Neither GAC nor iFlytek revealed the value of their investment in the partnership. iFlytek is a leading intelligent speech and voice recognition company. It has worked with carmakers on over 1.200 models and its functions are available in over 25 million cars including those from GAC, the company said. GAC and iFlytek first collaborated in 2017, and they set up a research center in 2018. Analysts said the partnership could help GAC to reach its goals for the next 5 years unveiled at the Guangzhou auto show that concluded last week. It set a sales goal of 3.5 million vehicles by the end of 2025 and key R&D areas include electrified, smart and digitalized vehicles. In the first 10 months this year, the carmaker, partner of Toyota and Honda, delivered 1.62 million vehicles. +++ 

+++ The GEELY GROUP (owner or part-owner of Lotus, Lynk&Co, Mercedes-Benz, Polestar, Smart and Volvo) is considering launching a subscription service whereby customers pay a monthly fee to access any of its cars. While stressing that any such a scheme is still at the discussion stage, Lotus’s executive director of corporate strategy and product management, Uday Senapati, said: “When you’re part of a big group, it’s natural you will look at what could be done together. It’s an obvious thing to look at”. Reacting to data showing that the average car is parked 96 % of the time, Senapati added: “For Lotus, that number is probably higher. It’s really a Sunday summer car for a niche of enthusiasts who adore it for that. We can change that in the future, both by making our cars more useful and moving into different segments, but there are opportunities in sharing too”. Senapati didn’t agree that car sharing was an inevitability in the future, however, saying: “Car ownership is here to stay, I believe. Cars aren’t just a commodity for many people; they mean more, and that will always be the case”. A Global Market Insights report recently projected that 20 % of car journeys will be made in cars operating under subscription services by 2026. +++ 

+++ GKN AUTOMOTIVE , a tier one supplier that has sold over a million of its eAxle electric axle systems, has announced that 13 more electrified models powered by its eDrive technology will soon go on sale. The models, from four global manufacturers, range from 4-wheeldrive SUVs to a battery-electric city car. The powertrain line-up includes GKN’s 3-in-1 eDrive systems, which combine electric motor, transmission, inverters, software and control systems in one integrated unit. GKN Automotive is known for its innovative driveline technology, including the Twinster all-wheel drive system, variations of which have been used in the Range Rover Evoque, Ford Focus RS and Opel Insignia Country Tourer. Now, though, says Dirk Kesselgruber, president ePowertrain at GKN Automotive, the industry is undergoing a significant change as it makes the transition to electrification. “The trend is moving away from the powertrain as a USP and towards functionality and in-car experience. I think there will be a trend towards connectivity, automated driving functions and interior design. In most models, powertrain will no longer be the main differentiation element across different brands”. The relative simplicity of an electric drivetrain compared to the complexity of a combustion engine and transmission means the role of driveline technology suppliers will change, according to Kesselgruber. “Electrification is an opportunity to grow and we are investing in our engineering transformation”, he said. “We’re shifting the skill set significantly from mainly mechanics to predominantly system software and electronics. We are expanding our workforce in Germany and in India, where we are opening a technical centre with Tata Tech in Bangalore to focus on software engineering but also to cover other engineering services”. GKN’s electric drivetrain portfolio aims to cover all bases. Kesselgruber said: “We can supply any kind of transmission, and although the biggest emphasis will be on single-speed transmissions, we can add dual-speed transmissions at any time”. It’s a similar story with electric drive motors and both permanent magnet synchronous machines and asynchronous induction machines (free of rare earth materials) are in the mix. GKN Automotive also has a systems team working with the Jaguar Formula E team in Oxfordshire, which, Kesselgruber says, provides valuable technology transfer from race to road. “The beauty of Formula E is that we are learning a lot about control strategies, the power electronics and the motor and many of these areas are relevant to the mainstream”, he said. +++ 

+++ Alexander HITZINGER , a 49-year-old engineer who defected to Apple after helping to develop Porsche’s winning 919 racecar, has been lured back to Volkswagen Group for perhaps his biggest challenge yet: building an electric car to take on Tesla. While Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker, has been rolling out electric vehicles from the ID.3 to the Porsche Taycan, analysts say it needs a more comprehensive system that integrates electric power with new self-driving and infotainment technologies if it hopes to overtake Tesla. It has turned to Hitzinger, whose ability to conceptualise clean-sheet designs and manage projects helped Porsche develop a racecar that won the Le Mans endurance race in 2015, 2016, 2017. After a stint working on Apple’s autonomous cars, Hitzinger now heads up Volkswagen’s Project Artemis, named after the Ancient Greek goddess of hunting, with the aim of chasing down electric car pioneer Tesla. “At Porsche, I always thought of a vehicle as a comprehensive system. This is a very important point. It is what Tesla does well”, he explained in a video interview. The task of building a car has gotten more complex with the advent of electric and autonomous driving technologies, forcing new battery-driven powertrains to compete for electricity with camera, radar, and lidar sensors, plus infotainment systems. Rather than stitching together separately designed systems, Artemis wants to create something new and seamlessly integrated, from the ground up, Hitzinger told. “The idea behind Artemis is to have a comprehensive understanding of the vehicle. When something is optimised, this has knock-on effects and these need to be understood”. Allocating processing power between propulsion, automated driving and infotainment systems such as satellite navigation and music streaming is a key challenge, he said. But it’s not the only one. “The human-machine interface, the interior design, the exterior design, aerodynamics and the range are all interconnected. If I modify something on the exterior, it will impact the aerodynamics and the efficiency”, Hitzinger said. The Volkswagen Group, whose brands range from budget Seats and Skodas to high-end Audis and Bentleys is now focussing on developing systems that can handle all these new demands. The car, which is due to be produced in 2024, will make use of components developed for Porsche and Audi’s premium electric vehicle platform, PPE. The group’s factory in Hanover, Germany, is being retooled to build an electric SUV for Audi, Bentley and Porsche. Having a small team of highly qualified engineers, who are empowered to take decisions unencumbered by the corporate bureaucracy of the Volkswagen empire, should end up producing a better vehicle more quickly. Project Artemis will have between 200 and 250 staff once Hitzinger is done hiring, up from 10 at present. “I am putting the team together on a top down basis. The managers come first. Then I look for A-players, who will attract other A-players. I don’t want managers, but people who love to develop technologies, who are prepared to take risks”, he said. Artemis will seek to draw on existing skills within the Volkswagen Group, such as expertise in making vehicle bodies at Audi, but take the lead in developing new techniques which speed up production and improve the customer experience. “We want to set new standards for what a customer can do in a vehicle and how he interacts with the car”, Hitzinger said. He declined to elaborate on what user experiences the new car would offer, citing the confidential nature of the project. He also declined to comment on a power struggle unfolding at Volkswagen. +++

 

+++ HONDA is aiming to phase out pure internal combustion engines from its European line-up by the end of 2022, the firm’s senior vice president, Ian Howells, has confirmed. “It will be a combination of full electric and hybrid”, he said. “Obviously, if the legislation starts to move as we approach 2035, or transitions away from hybrid as well, then we’ll move our technology away from that”. Howells was keen to stress that Honda believes in a multi-pathway approach to reducing its carbon footprint and the recent UK government announcement around a 2030 ban hasn’t changed that. He feels there is a role for various technologies. “There’s a role to play for e-fuels, for biomass, for hydrogen, to some degree for conventional fuels, and also batteries”, he said. Although Honda supports electrification, the cost of electric vehicles is one reason that Howells doesn’t see them as an immediate solution to reducing the carbon output: “They’re 33 % to 50 % more expensive than a conventional or hybrid vehicle”, As a result, Honda feels that hybrid technology will offer an effective way of transitioning to full electric. Howells is aware of the limitations of hybrids: “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”. +++ 

+++ If a new report is to be believed, Honda may be planning a successor to the S2000 roadster. The original HONDA S2000 was created to mark the company’s 50th anniversary. The new car would be released in 2024, a quarter-century after the original’s 1999 Japanese debut and coinciding with Honda’s 75th birthday. A source close to Honda says the company’s marketing team is seriously considering an all-new iteration of the S2000. Veteran Japanese auto industry reporter Peter Lyon says that 20th Anniversary Concept of the old S2000, which you may recall was shown at January’s Tokyo Auto Salon, was intended to keep enthusiasm going for an upcoming model. The car would have similar proportions to the original, using aluminum and carbon fiber to maintain a sub-1.350 kilo curb weight. Engine-wise, Honda is considering a 350 hp version of the 2.0-liter turbo found in the Civic Type R. As exciting as a new Honda sports car would be, color me skeptical on this one. For one, rumors of a Honda roadster revival have been ongoing practically since the S2000 went out of production in 2009. Honda has also been historically reluctant to share engineering with other companies, and is unlikely to partner with another to defray costs, as Toyota did with BMW and Subaru, or Mazda with Fiat. The Type R makes 310 hp and starts at €56.770 euro in The Netherlands. With the pricey materials, a conversion to rear-wheel-drive, plus a convertible top, a new S2000 would have a hard time coming in under €75.000. And then there’s this odd tidbit from what the source at Honda said: “Obviously the Civic Type R’s brilliant, close ratio 6-speed manual transmission would be carried over to the new S2000”. Except, there really isn’t a way to adapt a transversely mounted front- or all-wheel-drive transmission into a longitudinal orientation for a rear-wheel-drive car. A new one would have to be developed from scratch, adding more to the cost. The original S2000 was known for its high-revving 2.0-liter engine, which had the highest power-to-displacement ratio of any production car on the planet at the time. And the S2000 was itself an homage to Honda’s first passenger car, the 1963 S500, whose motorcycle-inspired engine could rev to 10.000 rpm. If Honda could create a car to carry on the spirit of these cars, I would welcome it with open arms. With Toyota reviving the Supra, Nissan brewing a new Z, and Subaru giving us a continuation of the BRZ, perhaps there’s a chance for the S2000 as well. +++ 

+++ Sales of HONGQI , a car brand under China’s leading automaker FAW Group, have more than doubled in the first 11 months of the year to 178.100 units, the company said. In November alone, the automaker sold 25.000 Hongqi cars; an increase of 100 % year-on-year, indicating a rising demand for the vehicles. Hongqi, meaning “red flag”, is China’s iconic sedan brand. The brand was established in 1958 and has been used as the vehicle for parades at national celebrations. In recent years, FAW Group has sped up the expansion of its product portfolio. The new SUV model E-HS9, which targets the high-end auto market, is scheduled to hit the market this month. Hongqi’s sales exceeded 100.000 last year. The company has set sales targets of 200.000 cars this year and 600.000 by 2025. Founded in 1953 in Changchun, capital of Jilin province, FAW Group is regarded as the cradle of China’s auto industry. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI said its vehicle sales in the United States fell 9 % last month from a year earlier on lower demand amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Hyundai sold 55.171 vehicles in the US in November; down from 60.601 units in the same period of last year. The monthly sales declined as “there were 3 fewer selling days and one less selling weekend” last month amid Covid-19 challenges, it said. “We’ve never had a better product lineup and with the all-new Elantra hitting dealerships now and an onslaught of new SUV, performance and eco-friendly vehicles on their way, we are optimistic about the future of Hyundai”, vice president Randy Parker in charge of national sales at Hyundai America said in the statement. Hyundai sold 45.690 retail units in November, with the flagship Palisade and other SUVs representing 68 % of the total retail mix. From January to November, US sales fell 11 % to 555,991 autos from 624.051 during the same period of last year. Globally, Hyundai’s sales declined 16 % in the first 11 months to 3.369.055 units from 4.026.075 a year ago. +++ 

+++ The HYUNDAI MOTOR GROUP unveiled its new battery electric vehicle (BEV) dedicated platform, which will serve as the core technology for the automobile group’s next-generation electric vehicles. The automaker said the Electric-Global Modular Platform, or E-GMP, would underpin a range of new vehicles starting 2021, including Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 and Kia’s first new generation electric vehicle to be revealed next year. Battery electric vehicles are those that only use energy stored in rechargeable battery packs and no secondary source of propulsion. Designed exclusively for electric vehicles, E-GMP provides advantages such as higher development flexibility compared to the group’s existing platforms, which are engineered to accommodate internal combustion engines, the company said. “Today our front-wheeldriven Hyundai and Kia BEVs are already among the most efficient ones in their segments”, said Albert Biermann, president and head of the R&D for Hyundai Motor Group. “With our rear-wheeldriven based E-GMP, we are extending our technological leadership into segments where customers demand excellent driving dynamics and outstanding efficiency”. Hyundai said the E-GMP will be set the ground for the group’s plans to introduce a total of 23 battery electric models and sell more than 1 million BEVs worldwide by 2025. In a closer look, E-GMP offers a 800 volt charging capability, which enables faster charging than conventional 400 volt charging systems, delivering 80 % of charge within 18 minutes. With just 5 minutes of charging, a vehicle can drive about 100 kilometers. With a full charge, a car can travel more than 500 kilometers, the automaker said. The 800 volt charging will be standard but 400 volt charging will also be available through the integrated power electric system. The automaker also explained that a high performance model based on E-GMP will be able to accelerate from 0 to 100 kph in less than 3.5 seconds, with a top speed of 260 kph. Components on the platform will optimize driving dynamics and safety, while maximizing cabin space, Hyundai explained. For instance, E-GMP is engineered to offer improved cornering performance and driving stability at high speed through the optimal weight distribution between front and rear. For safety, the platform has adopted a battery support structure made of ultra-high strength steel. The design of the platform, such as the battery pack mounted beneath the floor and slim cockpit module, will enable a larger interior space, it said. Moreover, platform modularization and standardization will enable rapid and flexible development depending on customer needs, Hyundai noted. When asked about the E-GMP will also be used for the group’s high-performance N-Line cars, Biermann said, “Yes. It is too good. We can make any with it. All the technologies are there”. “There are currently high-performance N Line vehicles only for Hyundai, but we are also thinking about high powered version of Kia and Genesis cars”. The automaker launched its battery electric vehicle brand Ioniq in August, which includes cars, the Ioniq 5, 6 and 7 by 2024. Kia is also undergoing a transformation based on its “Plan S” mid-to-long-term strategy. In September, Kia announced plans to increase sales of battery electric vehicles to 20 % of its total sales by 2025. The company also recently published an early image of seven dedicated battery electric models to be released sequentially by 2027. The adoption of a standardized E-GMP will help Hyundai, Kia and Genesis design new BEV models far faster than if every car had to be made on an adjusted platform originally designed for internal combustion engine vehicles, allowing the automaker to quickly respond to a rapidly changing market. The single platform, according to the Korean carmaker, will fit in sedans, crossovers, SUVs and high-performance cars. Although a range of 500 kilometers is falling a bit short of Tesla’s long-range Model S, which is able to drive 647 kilometers, its range is beyond most of the BEVs available on road at the moment, which tend toward a 400 kilometer range. The Hyundai Motor Group said it used what’s called a multi-charging system, the automaker’s patented technology, in order to offer the convertible charging system which would otherwise need additional components or adapters. The E-GMP will also enable what’s called vehicle-to-load (V2L) technology, which enables electricity in the vehicles battery to be used for external products such as airconditioners or TVs without requiring additional adapters or inverters. This feature is expected to benefit users that are going out camping or even charging other electric vehicles running out of power. Biermann emphasized that the E-GMP innovations will be brought to customers under Hyundai’s well-known value-for-money strategy, although he did not specify the exact price range of vehicles built using the module. The first car to launch using the E-GMP module will be the Ioniq 5, the first model to launch under Hyundai’s EV-dedicated brand Ioniq, expected in the first half of next year. “For the Ioniq 5, you will see new features you haven’t seen in other EVs”, Biermann said. “We can definitely separate and differentiate from competitors. Value for money will always be the quality”. Using the brand new module, Hyundai plans to launch 23 EVs by 2025 and sell 1 million cars globally. +++ 

+++ In JAPAN , the industry ministry is considering introducing an emissions trading system for automakers in the late 2020s to encourage them to develop electric cars, informed sources said. Under the system, an upper limit on greenhouse gas emissions will be set for each automaker. If an automaker’s emissions exceed the limit, it would be able to come under the limit by buying quotas off other companies. The ministry believes that the introduction of the system will help automakers accelerate the development of electric vehicles to avert additional costs, the sources said. An emissions reduction in the auto industry is crucial to meeting prime minister Yoshihide Suga’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality for Japan by 2050. The government is planning to ban sales of new vehicles that run solely on gasoline starting in the mid-2030s as part of efforts to cut emissions. Vehicles that will be allowed for sale after the mid-2030s will include gasoline-electric hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric cars and fuel-cell vehicles. There is concern that a uniform emissions limit will deliver a serious blow to automakers. Giving automakers a choice of shifting to electrified vehicles or buying emissions quotas is expected to make it easier for them to reduce emissions. +++ 

+++ NISSAN said that it will no longer support the Trump administration in its legal fight to end California’s ability to set its own auto-pollution and gas-mileage standards. The announcement is another sign that a coalition of automakers backing the outgoing administration could fall apart. General Motors ended its support for the Trump administration’s battle with California on emissions standards last week. Nissan said it’s pulling out because of confidence that discussions between the industry, California and the administration of President-elect Joe Biden “can deliver a common-sense set of national standards that increases efficiency and meets the needs of all American drivers”. GM and Nissan were part of a coalition of 13 automakers that joined the Trump administration’s legal fight. Nissan’s departure leaves Toyota, Fiat Chrysler, Hyundai, Kia, Subaru, Isuzu, Suzuki, Maserati, McLaren, Aston Martin and Ferrari in the coalition. “We continue to support improvements in fuel economy and a framework that incentivizes advanced technologies while balancing priorities like the environment, safety, affordability and jobs”, Nissan’s statement said. The auto industry already was split before Nissan and GM pulled out of the lawsuit. 5 companies (Ford, Volkswagen, BMW, Honda and Volvo) backed California. Most automakers want one national standard so they don’t have to build 2 versions of each vehicle. President Donald Trump rolled back Obama-era fuel efficiency and emissions standards, and it’s likely that the Biden administration will end the rollbacks. Trump also ended California’s unique ability to set its own pollution and efficiency standards, which is being challenged in court. Biden is likely to recognize California’s power, and replace Trump’s rollbacks with more stringent requirements. Many automakers, including Nissan and GM, still are supporting Trump in defending the rollback of national fuel efficiency standards. +++ 

+++ RENAULT SAMSUNG said Thursday its SUV model QM6 has climbed the sales chart to lead company’s performance this year. According to the automaker, the QM6 model sold 4.323 units in October; up 35.6 % from the month before. The gasoline model, QM6 GDe, which has topped the midsized SUV market in South Korea for the second half of this year, takes 50.7 % of the total sales of QM6, with 2.191 units, the automaker said. The rest is taken by QM6 LPe, which is the country’s first LPG-powered SUV. In November, the automaker introduced a new version of the QM6, which is sold as Koleos in Europe, with a revamped exterior that highlights its identity. For the popularity of QM6, Renault Samsung attributed to its wide range of powertrains offered to customers, and also for its competitiveness in price and quietness. The increase in domestic travel due to Covid-19 pandemic also appears to have affected the company’s sales, the automaker said. +++ 

+++ New SKODA boss Thomas Schäfer says a small city car and family car are the “most important” priorities to add to its electric vehicle line-up within the next decade following the new Enyaq iV. This SUV will go on sale early next year as the first Skoda model built on the Volkswagen Group’s dedicated MEB EV platform and is set to be joined next year by a coupé variant. Schäfer, who moved across from running Volkswagen’s South African operation to take over from Bernhard Maier as Skoda chairman earlier this year, said the brand would focus its electric efforts on those 2 models for the next 2 years as demand for EVs grows. Asked whether Skoda planned to eventually offer an electric equivalent of every combustion engined model in its range, Schäfer said: “First of all you’ve got to pay for all of it. I could wish for another 10 cars but the total investment won’t happen. We’re not going to double the portfolio. On the electric side, with the Enyaq and the derivative that’s coming, that’s fine for now, but we need something smaller, maybe city-sized, and we need something in the flat saloon range, maybe an Octavia of the future, in a sense. For our brand, those are the most important electric vehicles we will see in this decade developing”. When asked about the timeline for a hatchback equivalent in size to the Volkswagen ID.3 to sit below the Enyaq, Schäfer said: “Starting vehicle concepts usually takes at least 2 or 3 years, so probably the middle of the decade, to be safe. We still believe the Enyaq has a lot of potential to bridge quite a range of demand, going almost from a sleek SUV into estate terrain. We’re balancing and trying to find out when our factories have to changeover to electric vehicle production as well. It’s a tremendous investment to change a factory around so you don’t do that for fun. The Enyaq is for the next 1 or 2 years definitely our hero and we have the derivative of the Enyaq launched at the end of next year. Those will take us through the next 2 or 3 years, and then we’ll see how quickly we’ll get onto another model”. The Volkswagen Group is currently developing an ‘ID Lite’ platform for small electric cars, with Volkswagen planning to use it for an ID.1 supermini and ID.2 crossover. Schäfer said: “If the platform is there, we will definitely do something off it, but it will definitely look completely different to the Volkswagen models and we’ll play in a different ground there”. Schäfer said that capacity remains Skoda’s biggest issue in growing its line-up, with the firm’s Czech factories in Mladá Boleslav and Kvasiny currently operating at 118 % capacity. The firm will shift production of the next-generation Superb to Bratislava from 2023 onwards, freeing up annual capacity of 150.000 units at Kvasiny for a new model alongside the Kodiaq and Karoq. The Enyaq is currently produced at Mladá Boleslav on the same production line as the MQB-platformed Octavia and Karoq. Prior to Maier’s departure earlier this year, there had been reports that the Volkswagen Group wanted to reposition Skoda as a ‘budget brand’ to move it apart from Volkswagen, Audi and Seat. But Schäfer insisted that wasn’t the case. “When you look at the statistics, the movement of customers between Volkswagen and Skoda is negligible”, he said. “The question for us strategically is: how do you address the maximum number of customers for the group? We have been doing this: we’re more functional, more rational. You’ve got to see where the profit pools are and where the cars are sold, and you want to play in that. “I’ve got no instructions to move the brand in any direction: we have instructions to keep this company successful, and so far we’ve been doing well”. +++ 

+++ Sales of imported vehicles in SOUTH KOREA rose 7.5 % in November from a year earlier due to strong demand for German cars, an industry association said. The number of newly registered foreign vehicles climbed to 27.436 units last month from 25.514 a year earlier despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (KAIDA) said in a statement. From January to November, foreign carmakers sold 243.440 autos; up 13 % from 214.780 in the same period of last year. The 3 best-selling models last month were the Mercedes-Benz E 250, the Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TDI and the Mercedes-Benz E 350 4Matic. In the first 11 months, German brands (Audi / Volkswagen, the BMW Group and Mercedes-Benz) sold 164.349 units; up 29 % from 127.921 in the year-ago period, it said. 7 out of 10 imported vehicles sold in Asia’s 4th biggest economy last month were from Germany. But Japanese brands (Toyota and its luxury brand Lexus, Honda plus Nissan and its premium brand Infiniti) continued to struggle over a protracted trade spat between Seoul and Tokyo despite aggressive marketing. Their combined sales plunged 45 % to 18.250 units in the January-November period from 32.991 a year earlier. Nissan is set to withdraw its operations from South Korea by December due to the worsening business environment amid the Covid-19 pandemic. In July last year, Japan tightened regulations on exports to South Korea of 3 high-tech materials critical for the production of semiconductors and displays. In August 2019, it removed the country from its list of countries given preferential treatment in trade procedures. Seoul views Tokyo’s moves as retaliation against 2018 Supreme Court rulings here ordering Japanese companies to compensate Korean victims of forced labor during Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. Imported brands accounted for 18,3 % of the Korean passenger vehicle market in October; up from 16,1 % a year ago. Their market share for November will be available next month, KAIDA said. +++ 

+++ SSANGYONG said its sales jumped 10 percent last month from a year earlier, helped by increased exports. It sold 11.859 vehicles in November; up from 10.754 units a year ago due to strong overseas demand for its SUV models despite the Covid-19 pandemic. Domestic sales rose 0.3 % to 9.270 units from 9.240 during the same period and exports surged 71 % to 2.589 from 1.514. The SUV-focused carmaker said it will continue to expand overseas sales by launching upgraded models, including the upcoming face-lifted G4 Rexton, as well as the Tivoli Air. From January to November, however, sales fell 19 % to 96.763 units from 119.876 over the cited period. SsangYong’s lineup consists of the flagship G4 Rexton, as well as the Tivoli, Korando and Rexton Sports. In 2011, Indian carmaker Mahindra acquired a 70 % in SsangYong Motor for 523 billion won ($437.93 million). Mahindra currently owns a 74.65 % stake in the SUV-focused carmaker. +++ 

+++ TESLA Chief Executive Elon Musk said he was open to discussing a merger of his start-up electric carmaker with a rival. Musk was asked whether he would consider buying a rival carmaker given that Tesla’s market value of more than $500 billion would make it easy to launch a takeover bid. “We are definitely not going to launch a hostile takeover. If somebody said it would be a good idea to merge with Tesla, we would have this conversation”, he said. +++ 

+++ The car industry in the UNITED KINGDOM was heavily hit by England’s second lockdown, with 42.840 fewer new cars sold in November compared with the same period in 2019. The latest figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that just 113.781 new cars were registered in November, representing a 27.4% decline year on year. During the recent second lockdown, only deliveries and click-and-collect sales were permitted. However, private demand fell by 32.2 % and fleet sales dropped by 22.1 %. Although November’s decline wasn’t as severe as the one that occurred during the first national lockdown, the SMMT welcomed the reopening of Covid-19 secure car showrooms following the easing of restrictions on 2 December. “Reopening dealerships across most of the UK will help protect jobs in retail and manufacturing and should help stimulate spending”, the industry body said in a statement. “Around 31.000 cars would need to be registered every working day in December if the market was to achieve the level expected at the start of the year”. The UK car market is now down 30.7 % overall this year; the equivalent to a 663.761 units loss and representing a £1.3 billion revenue hit for the industry. Figures like these were last seen during the height of the 2008 recession. Sales of diesel cars were heaviest hit, dropping by 56.2 % compared with the previous year, and petrol model registrations decreased by 41.9 %, although mild-hybrid petrols recorded a significant 232.6 % increase over 2019’s figures. More positively, plug-in hybrids spiked by 76.9 % in November, while electric cars grew 122.4 %, commanding 9.1 % of total sales; their third-highest monthly share on record. In total, 18.000 zero-emissions-capable models were added to UK roads. “Compared with the spring lockdown, manufacturers, dealers and consumers were all better prepared to adjust to constrained trading conditions”, said SMMT chairman Mike Hawes. “But with £1.3 billion worth of new car revenue lost in November alone, the importance of showroom trading to the UK economy is evident, and we must ensure they remain open in any future Covid restrictions”. The Vauxhall Corsa was November’s biggest seller, managing 3.718 units. The Volkswagen Golf, Mercedes-Benz A-Class, Nissan Qashqai and Ford Focus completed the top 5. +++ 

+++ Tensions remain high at VOLKSWAGEN ‘s headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, as the top executive committee of the world’s largest carmaker avoided discussing chairman and CEO Herbert Diess’ proposal to extend his contract. Diess had demanded a vote of confidence in his reform because of growing frustration with labor chiefs’ opposition, but the committee’s ambiguity has made it more uncertain whether Diess can finish his job heading up the carmaker’s $87 billion electric vehicle investment plan. However, one silver lining emerged in China for the group, one day after the fruitless meeting in Germany, no matter Diess will stay at the helm or not. A filing from Shanghai-listed JAC Motors showed that Volkswagen is now the first ever foreign company to have a majority stake in a car-making joint venture in China. JAC said Volkswagen made an additional investment of 1.6 billion yuan ($245.45 million) and now holds a 75 % stake in their electric car-dedicated joint venture. The name has changed from JAC Volkswagen to Volkswagen Anhui. Anhui is the name of the province where the joint venture is located. In 2018, China released a policy to phase out foreign carmakers’ equity limits in joint ventures, starting with those in the new energy vehicle sector. The policy means a lot for companies like Volkswagen because of the country’s sheer size. China overtook the United States in 2009 as the world’s No 1 car market. Last year, over 21 million passenger vehicles were sold, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Around roughly 40 % of Volkswagen’s global sales are from China. The carmaker calls it “home away from home” and Diess is in direct charge of its operations here. Volkswagen is one of the first international carmakers to establish joint ventures in China. Last year, FAW-Volkswagen and SAIC-Volkswagen combined sold over 4 million vehicles bearing Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda marques, generating a decent chunk of the carmaker’s global sales and profit. But the Chinese parents of these 2 joint ventures are major established car groups and they won’t be persuaded to give in, according to sources familiar with the matter. That made 3-year-old JAC Volkswagen the choice: its less competitive Chinese parent knows Volkswagen models’ popularity and relishes prospects of more profit from the partnership, and Volkswagen is convinced that China and e-mobility are key to its future. The 2 signed the deal in late May this year. In a statement Volkswagen said gaining management control of the joint venture is paving the way for more electric models and infrastructure, and opening up new opportunities for the company. China is the largest market for electric cars and plug-in hybrids, with over 900.000 sold in the first 10 months of the year. It has also become an important source for electric car-related technology such as batteries. “The electric car segment is growing rapidly and offers a great deal of potential for the joint venture”, Diess said when the deal was signed earlier this year. According to the deal, Volkswagen will introduce 4 to 5 electric models to the joint venture and scale up its production capacity to around 250.000 vehicles by 2025. Volkswagen is also acquiring a 26 % stake in Chinese battery manufacturer Gotion for around €1 billion to its largest shareholder. “The partnership is an opportunity for Volkswagen to achieve deeper knowhow in the field of batteries”, said the carmaker. Volkswagen expects to sell 1.5 million electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids annually in China by 2025. Globally, it expects half of such vehicle sales to come from China by 2028. In the short term, a big chunk of sales in China will come from the 2 stronger joint ventures. But Volkswagen Anhui will grow its importance soon within the group. For example, it will produce cars, like the small electric ID.2 in China and export them to European markets. Volkswagen also plans to introduce its Spanish subsidiary Seat into China with the joint venture as the conduit. The joint venture’s research and development center, which is said to have cost billions of yuan, is scheduled to open next week, which will mark the start of a new chapter for Volkswagen’s business in China. The carmaker’s foray into China started in 1984, when it built the first Chinese joint venture with SAIC Motor. Like Diess, then chairman Carl Hahn reportedly encountered some opposition within the leadership about the prospects of the deal, which has today proved to be one of the best decisions in its history. +++ 

+++ Jost Capito has stepped down as the head of the VOLKSWAGEN R performance car division after 3 years in the position. This revelation comes less than 48 hours after the German car maker announced it was ending all of its motorsport activities to concentrate its engineering on the establishment of an extended range of electric ID-badged models. The 62-year-old German is yet to officially comment on the reasons for his departure, but differences in opinion with new Volkswagen chairman Ralf Brandstätter on the future of R in the absence of any official motorsport engagement are said to be behind the decision. Capito has departed the brand for the second time within the past 5 years. In 2012, Capito was appointed director of motorsport for the Volkswagen brand and led the company to victory in the FIA World Rally Championship in 2013, 2014 and 2015, before becoming CEO of McLaren Racing in 2016. After a short and turbulent period at McLaren, he was lured back to Volkswagen in 2017 to head up the company’s expanding R division as a successor to Ulrich Riestenpatt Richter. Since then, Capito has overseen the development of a number of R-badged VW models, including the latest Golf R. Initial indications of a shift in emphasis for the R division came in 2019, when Volkswagen confirmed it had axed its involvement in the World Touring Car Racing championship, which it contested with the Golf. The move effectively severed any link between Volkswagen most popular R model, the Golf R, and its motorsport activities. A further shift in Volkswagen’s performance car activities also came apparent earlier this year, when it revealed a 462 hp plug-in hybrid version of the Touareg was to wear R name despite using the same suspension tune as other Touareg models; a move that critics claimed diluted the brand’s standing. Performance versions of Volkswagen’s new ID-badged electric models are set to adopt the GTX name, starting with the four-wheel drive ID 4 GTX that’s due out next Spring. Brandstätter’s decision to axe Volkswagen’s motorsport activities, including the program for the ID.R prototype, also appears to have put paid to earlier plans to establish a range of R-badged EVs. Capito first worked for the Volkswagen Group in the Porsche racing department from 1989. After managing the Sauber Formula 1 team from 1996, he joined Ford in 2001, where he was responsible for the company’s RS division, including the Focus RS, and its motorsport activities. +++

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