Newsflash: Corvette gaat Mustang achterna met elektrische cross-over

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+++ FAW-Volkswagen Automobile announced that its AUDI brand set a new sales record in China in 2020. A total of 726.288 new Audi vehicles were sold in China last year; up 5.4 % year-on-year, the automaker said. A total of 674.700 domestically-manufactured vehicles were delivered; up 7 % year-on-year. Models such as Audi A6L, Audi Q5L recorded strong performance. A total of 51.588 imported Audi cars were sold, with sales of Audi A8L rising 13.9 % year-on-year to 14.150. Audi officially entered the Chinese market in May 1988. At present, China is Audi’s biggest single market in the world. +++ 

+++ BAIDU , the Chinese internet search giant, announced that it would form a smart electric vehicle company in strategic partnership with automaker Geely as the country’s new energy vehicle market gets in the fast lane. The 2 companies will have tight cooperation in car manufacturing based on Geely’s EV-focused platform, Sustainable Experience Architecture, for future product development. Baidu’s new EV firm will maintain its own operations, independent from its parent company. Baidu also said the auto company will focus on the whole-industry chain of smart car development, including design, manufacturing and sales, by integrating its Apollo platform with autonomous driving technology. It is an inevitable trend that more and more technology companies will make their forays into the emerging new energy vehicle sector, ramp up production and roll out new smart vehicles in a bid to seek new growth engines and expand business landscapes, industry experts said, while noting the competition in this sector will intensify. The new company, which will operate as an independent subsidiary of Baidu, will oversee the entire industrial chain, from vehicle design and research and development to manufacturing, sales and service, Baidu said in a statement. The Beijing-based technology behemoth will produce the vehicles with intelligent driving capabilities while Geely will contribute its expertise in automobile design and manufacturing. Baidu will support the new company’s growth with its full portfolio of core technologies, including Apollo autonomous driving, Duer-OS voice assistant for Apollo and Baidu Maps. The company aims to reshape intelligent vehicle offerings and bring about a revolution in intelligent transportation. “China has become the world’s largest market for electric vehicles, and we are seeing EV consumers demanding next generation vehicles be more intelligent”, said Robin Li, co-founder and CEO of Baidu. Li said Baidu has long believed in the future of intelligent driving, and over the past decade it has invested heavily in artificial intelligence to build a portfolio of self-driving services. “The collaboration marks a significant expansion into auto making for Baidu, which is in need of a new platform to showcase its accumulated cutting-edge technologies, such as autonomous driving, intelligent connected vehicles and artificial intelligence, as well as to promote its technology upgrades”, said Jiang Zheng, an expert at the research and development center affiliated to Guangzhou Automobile Group. Jiang explained Baidu only served as a supplier of technology solutions when partnering with other car manufacturers in the past and couldn’t give full play to its overall strengths, especially in the self-driving segment, in consideration of current laws and regulations, costs and safety issues. “It is of great significance that Geely, as an automobile and EV manufacturer, is teaming up with Baidu. Vehicle manufacturing is a typical asset-heavy industry, which requires huge investments in land, production facilities and factory construction and may take a long time”, Jiang said. China’s NEV market will see robust growth in the next 5 years driven by government promotion, investments from vehicle manufacturers and advancements in battery technology, a report from global market research firm IDC said. According to the latest development plan for the NEV industry from 2021 to 2035 approved by the State Council in November, the nation’s NEVs sales are expected to account for 20 % of all new vehicle sales by 2025, and vehicles used in public transportation will be completely electrified by 2035. It may take 2 or 3 years for Baidu to mass produce its intelligent electric vehicles, said Zhang Xiang, an automobile analyst at the new energy and intelligent connected car industry think tank under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. “China’s internet companies, which possess a large number of users and abundant capital, have encountered some development bottlenecks, such as facing difficulties in making profits continuously”, said Zhang, adding that they hope to find new business growth points and that developing autos in collaboration with traditional automobile makers is a good choice. Local players including Nio, Xpeng and Li Auto have already tapped into the NEV sector, with sales rising and stocks soaring in recent months. In addition, e-commerce giant Alibaba Group has formed a joint venture with automaker SAIC Motor Corp to produce smart EVs, while ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing launched the purpose-built car model for ride-hailing services in partnership with BYD. Statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers showed that about 200.000 NEVs were sold in November in China, more than double the previous year. +++ 

+++ Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the BMW Group sold 777.379 of its own and Mini branded vehicles last year in China, marking its best annual sales in the country since its arrival in 1994. That was a 7.4 % growth from 2019, said the Munich-headquartered premium carmaker, although customers stayed away from showrooms in the first quarter of 2020, when the pandemic was at its peak in China. Jochen Goller, president and CEO of BMW Group Region China, said China’s economy has shown great resilience and the carmaker is confident in the middle and long-term development of the Chinese market. BMW said new energy vehicles were one highlight of its sales in the country, where around 30.000 were last year, bringing the carmaker’s accumulated sales to nearly 90.000. The carmaker is now producing the iX3 electric SUV in China and exporting them to overseas markets. BMW said it will introduce the iX in 2021 into its lineup in the country. In contrast to its record sales in China, BMW saw a double-digit fall in deliveries in the United States and Europe. The group’s global sales stood at 2.32 million in 2020, which went down 8.4 % year-on-year. Of them, electrified BMW and Mini vehicles totaled 192.646 last year; an increase of 31.8 % over 2019. The group said it plans to offer 25 electrified vehicles by 2023, of which more than half will be fully electric. +++ 

+++ CHINA ‘s sales of SUVs, minivans and sedans fell for a third year in 2020 as the coronavirus hurt already weak demand in the industry’s top global market, an industry group reported. Sales declined 6 % compared with 2019 to 20.2 million, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. In December, sales rose 7.2 % over a year earlier to 2.4 million, down from November’s 11.6% growth. Even before the coronavirus hit, demand was hurt by consumer unease about possible job losses due to a slowing economy and Beijing’s tariff war with the United States. The downturn hurts global manufacturers that are looking to China to drive revenue at a time of flat or declining demand in the United States, Europe and Japan. It squeezes cash flow for global and Chinese automakers that are pouring billions of dollars into developing electric vehicles under government pressure to meet sales quotas. Dealerships and factories were closed in February to fight the coronavirus outbreak that began in China’s southwest in late 2019. The auto industry was among the earliest to revive after the ruling Communist Party declared the disease under control the following month and allowed businesses to reopen. Full-year results were an improvement over the January-November period, when sales were down 7.6 % from a year earlier. Sales of electric and gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles rose 10.9 % in 2020 over a year earlier to 1.4 million, according to CAAM. December sales rose 49.5 % from a year ago to 248.000. +++ 

+++ General Motors is working on a strategy to build at least one new electric vehicle inspired by its CORVETTE sports car, potentially expanding the brand from a single performance model into a family of vehicles, people familiar with the matter said. If the plan is approved, the most likely model to emerge later this decade would be a marriage of a crossover and a sports car. The automaker has toyed with the idea of building different types of vehicles with Corvette styling and performance in the past but never took the plunge. Purists worried about muddying the image of a vehicle with legions of die-hard fans and owners. GM has designers working on several Corvette-brand concept vehicles that target a wider range of buyers, said the people, who asked not to be named because the plan has not been publicly unveiled. These seek to blend Corvette’s reputation for high-performance driving and rakish styling with creature comforts such as more interior room and storage, the people said. They added that the program is referred to internally as Project R or Brand R. A GM spokesman declined to comment. A Corvette crossover could go on sale as soon as 2025 but probably after that, one of the people said. That would follow similar efforts to cash in on renowned nameplates by several other automakers who’ve expanded their niche brands beyond core vehicles. Ford recently launched an electric crossover called the Mustang Mach-E sporting its iconic pony-car name. Lamborghini debuted the luxury Urus in 2018 and Porsche has sold more SUVs than sports cars for years. The Corvette model GM is most likely to build has a similar profile to the Mach-E and Urus, the people said. GM plans to sell an electric pickup under the Hummer brand once known for SUVs. Ferrari has expanded its lineup and now has a market value of about $42 billion. Any addition to the Corvette line would be a pure battery-electric vehicle, one of the people said. GM chief executive officer Mary Barra has taken a series of steps recently to make electrification a hallmark of her tenure. Barra pledged in November to boost investment in EVs by 35 % to $27 billion over the next 5 years. And she previewed a slew of luxury and commercial EV models at CES, the former Consumer Electronics Show, this week, sending GM’s stock to record highs. Developing a family of Corvette vehicles, even a small one, would be a big departure for the Detroit-based automaker and possibly create a valuable franchise within the company. GM designers have mulled broadening Corvette beyond one car on and off for about 20 years, the people said, but none of the conceptual models were built. Corvette debuted its 8th generation Corvette to much fanfare in 2019 and sales rose 20% last year. It marked a big departure from its heritage because GM shifted to a mid-engine configuration, which sports-car enthusiasts prefer because of its better balance. GM has hinted that a hybrid-electric version of the Corvette is in the works, with added low-end torque and improved fuel economy. During a CES presentation, Mike Simcoe, GM’s vice president of design, said GM’s Ultium battery pack enables the company to make a wide range of models, especially for a broad brand like Chevrolet. “The Ultium platform will allow Chevrolet to further expand its range of electric vehicles to full-size pickup trucks, compact crossovers and even high-performance vehicles”, he said. +++ 

+++ Hyundai has sold over 2 million units of its signature sedan GRANDEUR , the company said. As of last year, the Grandeur sold a total of 2.000.573 units since the release of its first model in 1986, the automaker said. The sedan sold 145.463 units during last year alone, breaking its annual sales record and becoming the best-selling car in the country for the 4th consecutive year. The Grandeur was initially seen as a luxury car symbolizing success, but the sedan has more recently enjoyed broader popularity. Accordingly, sales have been on an upward curve over the past years. A total of six generations of the car have been released, with the first generation having sold 92.571 units between 1986 and 1992, the second generation 164.927 between 1992 and 1999 and the third generation selling 311.251 between 1998 and 2005. The fourth generation, from 2005-2011, sold 406.798 units. The fifth and sixth generations, known as the Grandeur HG and the Grandeur IG, sold 515.142 between 2011 and 2017 and 509.884 units between 2016 and last year, respectively, taking the car past the 2 million unit threshold. The Grandeur IG was the first car from Hyundai to come with a fine dust sensor designed to monitor the quality of the air inside the vehicle in real time as well as an air-purifying function. The sixth generation is thought to have helped solidify the market for hybrids as the Grandeur Hybrid, a part of the sixth-generation line-up, sold 111.249 units over the last 4 years. The Grandeur Hybrid, also known as the Grandeur IG HEV, sold 38.989 units last year, accounting for 26.8 % of all Grandeur sales during the same period and becoming the best-selling hybrid car in Korea. “We’ll continue to put our innovative technology and class into Hyundai’s flagship model and ensure it becomes a strong competitor to imported car brands”, one official at the company said. +++ 

+++ HONDA said it would halt output at its British factory next week due to Covid-19 related global supply chain issues, the latest production suspension in recent weeks. “The situation is currently being monitored with a view to re-start production on Friday 22 January”, the company said in a statement. Honda also stopped car output for a few days in December as some major container ports, such as Felixstowe, struggled to cope with disruption caused by Covid-19, pre-Brexit stockpiling and Christmas. A further stoppage occurred at the start of January. Last week, Honda said its domestic output could be affected by a shortage of semiconductors as automakers and electronic makers face a lack of chips while consumer demand has been bouncing back from the pandemic. In Britain, the firm made just under 110.000 Civic cars in 2019 but is due to permanently close the site this year. +++ 

+++ The HYUNDAI MOTOR GROUP has suspended development of diesel engines in the latest step of its shift toward zero emission vehicles. According to local reports and industry sources, Hyundai suspended development of new diesel engines from the latter half of last year. It will not launch any new diesel engines from now, although the carmaker will release partially revamped versions of existing models. R engines for SUV models like Hyundai’s Santa Fe and Tucson and V engines for smaller models like Hyundai Accent and Kia Soul are among the diesel engines developed by the Korean automaker. Gasoline engines, on the other hand, will continue to be developed as they are an essential part of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Hyundai’s latest move is in line with other global carmakers which have already revealed plans to suspend diesel engine development as well as sales amid tightening regulations on nitrogen oxide-emitting vehicles. Volvo, one of the first carmakers to do so, announced in 2017 that it would stop developing diesel engines. Volkswagen said in 2018 that it would stop developing all internal combustion engines after 2026. Fiat Chrysler, which owns Jeep, Chrysler and Maserati, among others, will also reportedly phase out diesel engines from passenger cars by 2022. Hyundai aims to account for 8 % to 10 % of the world’s electric vehicle (EV) market by 2040. It is expected to launch the Ioniq 5, the first EV to be manufactured with its EV-dedicated E-GMP platform, in the first quarter of this year. +++ 

+++ IM MOTORS , a joint venture among China’s SAIC Motor, e-commerce giant Alibaba and Shanghai’s Zhangjiang Group, unveiled on Wednesday its first 2 electric models that can be charged wirelessly. The premium marque said the vehicles, one sedan and one SUV, can see their range extended by 70 to 80 kilometers per hour via wireless charging. IM Motors said the vehicles are built on a central architecture that integrates 4 domain controllers. They can be updated over the air and will feature a 39 inch display. They have a maximum output of 550 hp and a top torque of 700 Nm, running from 0 to 100 kph in 3.9 seconds. The vehicles will be able to park themselves automatically. IM Motors said the functions will be available by the end of 2021 in Shanghai and in other cities starting in 2022. The models feature batteries developed in partnership with China’s CATL. IM Motors said the batteries’ energy density will be 30 % to 40 % more than current ones in the market, and will be able to run for up to 1.000 kilometers on one charge. The joint venture, with an investment of around 10 billion yuan, was established late last year. SAIC is the largest shareholder with a 54 % stake. Alibaba and Shanghai Zhangjiang each hold a stake of 18 %. IM Motors 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. The carmaker said it will begin taking preorders on the sedan in April during the Shanghai auto show. The sedan will be launched later this year and delivered in 2022. The electric SUV is scheduled to launch in 2022, the carmaker said. IM Motors’ first showroom will open around May 2021 in Shanghai, and mass production of its first model will start in the same year. China has been the world’s largest market for new energy vehicles since 2015. Despite the hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, sales of electric cars and plug-in hybrids totaled 1.37 million in China last year, up 10.9 % year-on-year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER sold nearly 13.000 vehicles in China in December, setting a sales record high for almost 3 years, the British premium carmaker said. December was the 4th month in a row that the carmaker had seen year-on-year double-digit growth. It said the upward trend from the third quarter continued well into the fourth, in which sales registered a 19 % year-on-year rise. That had brought the carmaker’s accumulated sales in the country to 1 million. Jaguar Land Rover said its product range was the major driving force. Land Rover’s Range Rover sales went up 14 % year-on-year. Jaguar’s XE-L saw its sales increase 8 % from 2019. “We now look forward to a continuation of this steady growth in 2021, underpinned by the launch of great new products”, said Richard Shore, president of Jaguar Land Rover Integrated Marketing Sales and Service, in a statement. +++ 

+++ After being hit by the Covid-19 pandemic last year, JEEP , a brand under Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, aims to restore its sales in South Korea by rolling out new powerful models, including a brand new Grand Cherokee with diversified powertrains, Jeep’s global president said. In a interview, Jeep president Christian Meunier laid out a positive outlook for the automaker in the Korean market, highlighting 2 new models of its iconic Grand Cherokee and the Wrangler planned for release, saying they will make “a big difference” this year. “Covid-19 has been a challenge for us in supply in 2020, but I have all the confidence in the world that 2021 will be a very beautiful year for Jeep in South Korea”, Meunier said. Earlier this month, the carmaker unveiled the new Grand Cherokee L that came with a third-row option for the first time. The model is slated to launch in the South Korean market in the second half of this year. In 2020, the Jeep brand sold 8.753 units in South Korea; down 14.6 % than the year prior, according to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association. Reaching a 10.000 unit sales mark is considered a major threshold for foreign car brands here. In comparison with other Asian markets, Meunier noted how South Korea has “extremely strong” domestic manufacturers, coupled with a keen public interest in technology and customer service. For that, it is crucial for an import brand to provide outstanding products to be successful in the market, he said. The nation’s heightened attention on the values of work-life balance also matches with Jeep’s identity, while the company’s capability to combine sophistication and technology with an outdoor lifestyle and authenticity really resonates with Koreans, Meunier added. The Jeep president also expressed great confidence that the all-new Grand Cherokee will be able to compete on par with Genesis, the luxury brand by Hyundai. “Genesis is obviously very successful in South Korea, and we need to have a very close look at what they do and understand the details of their strategy, so that we can see how we can better compete with them”, Meunier said. “I really think that with a product like Grand Cherokee, we have the ability to compete with brands like Genesis, because we have very competitive technologies, best-in-class safety, unbelievable sophistication and craftmanship, and we offer the ‘Jeepness’ that nobody else can offer”. On popularizing electric vehicles, Meunier said his brand is very much committed to the initiative and that it will aim to electrify all Jeep vehicles by 2022. “Electrification is something that Jeep completely embraces. And the reason is not only about compliance, fuel economy, nor eco-friendly. It’s about the perfect combination of our brand values, and a new technology that allows us to bring more capabilities for our Jeep”, Meunier said. “So we want to have a leading role in electrification not a following role, and we want to be the greenest SUV brand in the world”. Autonomous driving is also one of the series of technology that will be rolled out this year, with the L2+ hands-off autonomous drive assist, which will be introduced along with the Grand Cherokee and Grand Wagoneer, the automaker said. “We are investing in L3 and L4, we have a lot of different projects in the pipeline, that will be very exciting for Jeep too”, Meunier said, referring to future, more advanced levels of the lineup. As for the long delivery period and weak accessibility to service centers that have been pointed out, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles managing director in South Korea, Jake Aumann, said the automaker plans to expand their service network for better customer experience. “In 2021, it will be not only renovating our service network to match our world class sales, but also expanding our service network. We will make sure we have the availability (for customers to get them) in a timely manner”, said Aumann, who also attended the media briefing. Jeep deliveries may be slow in the first quarter of this year due to a lack of inventory in the dealer network amid the Covid-19 pandemic, but the automaker will make sure to pick up speed in the coming quarters in the Korean market, Meunier added. +++ 

+++ KIA started its own reinvention with a new company name and slogan. It ditched the ‘Motors’ from its original company name to emphasize the company’s evolution into a so-called solution and service provider in the mobility sector, not a mere maker of cars. That identity, and the name Kia Motors, had sufficed for more than 3 decades. Its slogan was changed from “The Power to Surprise” to “Movement that Inspires”. The company’s new electric vehicle (EV) models will be simply labeled EV1, EV2 and EV3, employing a new kind of elemental simplicity in its branding. Last week, Kia unveiled a new futuristic logo. Kia’s history goes back to 1944 when the company was called Kyungsung Precision Industry, which made bicycles and three-wheeled cars. Its name changed to Kia Industries in 1952 and to Kia Motors in 1990. Hyundai, the biggest carmaker in the country, acquired Kia in 1998. “We are breaking away from our traditional manufacturing-driven business model”, explained Song Ho-sung, CEO of Kia, in an online video laying out a new vision for the company. “We are expanding into new and emerging business areas by creating innovative mobility products and services that meet customer needs”. Song elaborated on a long-term roadmap dubbed the Plan S initiative, in which the company is supposed to expand into EVs, mobility solutions and services as well as purpose-built vehicles (PBV), vehicles that fulfill specific purposes such as logistics work or car-sharing. Song said Kia will be a good global citizen as well by focusing on sustainability by utilizing recycled materials and clean energy. Under Plan S, Kia will launch 7 new EV models through 2027, which will include sedans, SUVs and minivans. They will be manufactured on E-GMP, Hyundai Motor Group’s EV-dedicated modular platform. First in the lineup will be a crossover known by its project name CV, which will premiere in the first quarter of this year. It will have a range of 500 kilometers per charge and be able to be charged within 20 minutes. Kia plans to grab 6.6 % of the global EV market share by 2025 and sell 500.000 units of EVs per year by 2026. Kia’s current EV market share is not available as its EV sales accounted for only 1 % of its overall sales in 2019. Starting afresh will require some heavy tinkering with the corporate culture, Song admitted; almost an overhaul. “In order to expand into new business fields, Kia should have a flexible working environment and a creative organization culture”, Song said. Kia plans to introduce sedans, SUVs and MPVs based on the new EV platform for the next 7 years. It will beef up its EV lineup with 11 models, including the 7 E-GMP-based ones, by 2025. Kia senior vice president Artur Martins in charge of the company’s global brand and customer experience division said, “Movement has always been at heart of our brand, and moving people at the core of our business. Movement helps humankind to constantly progress, improve and evolve. That is why at Kia we believe that movement inspires ideas”. A company slogan is a short phrase that follows its brand name in advertisements and marketing materials. It can be a powerful marketing tool as is the case with Nike’s “Just Do It” and Apple’s “Think Different”. +++

+++ South Korea’s transport ministry said that the MERCEDES-BENZ S-CLASS became the first model that will be exchanged for malfunctions under a local lemon law. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said it held an experts’ review committee meeting last month to decide whether the S 350d 4Matic should be exchanged or refunded. The committee found the S 350d model’s Idle Stop and Go (ISG) start-stop system is malfunctioning and ordered the German carmaker to exchange it for a new one. The ISG system has nothing to do with the safety of the vehicle but affects its fuel efficiency. Mercedes-Benz said it respects the committee’s decision and will exchange the model as quickly as possible. The Korean lemon law went into effect on January 1, 2019, to enhance customers’ convenience, though it is not obligatory for companies to follow it. Under lemon laws in the United States, those who purchase cars and other consumer goods that repeatedly fail to meet certain standards of quality and performance are compensated by the sellers. The term “lemon” has long been used to describe defective vehicles in the United States. Vehicles that qualify for the lemon laws should have been purchased less than 1 year earlier and not have traveled more than 20.000 kilometers, the ministry said. If the vehicle underperforms or malfunctions due to the same problem, a government-led committee of experts will decide whether the vehicle should be exchanged or refunded, it said. +++ 

+++ Global investors have shown confidence in China’s NEW ENERGY VEHICLE market, with record financing in 2020. The emerging new energy vehicle industry raised 129.21 billion yuan ($20 billion) last year. It marks an increase of 159.4 % compared with 2019, according to a report by Qcc, a government-recognized enterprise credit rating system. It is also the first time that the annual financing exceeded 100 billion yuan. The report also shows the number of financing events declined 18.3 % year-on-year in 2020. Roy Lu, director of the Gasgoo Auto Research Institute, said the investors are mainly State-owned enterprises and local governments, who echo China’s policies and industry plan. The electric vehicle startups and leading related companies that raised the most money showed that investors are being more cautious to avoid risks, Lu added. “Market competition is bound to be fiercer this year. The investment will shift from manufacturing to infrastructure and supply chains. Further investment will depend on the new models and the carmakers’ performance”, Lu said. Over the past decade, there were 897 new energy vehicle-related financing events in China, worth 384.11 billion yuan. Chinese new energy vehicle startup Nio had 13 rounds of funding. The money added up to 32.78 billion yuan over the past decade. Both figures ranked the highest among all NEV companies. The company got listed in New York Stock Exchange in 2018 to better raise money. Nio’s share price soared from $3.24 at the start of 2020 to a high of $54.28 late last week. It represents a stunning 1.575 % return for investors who held on strong. The rapid development and innovation of startups, such as Tesla, are forcing traditional car companies to accelerate transformation and innovation, which needs the support of capital, Lu said. BAIC Bluepark New Energy Technology Company raised 26.99 billion yuan over the past decade, ranking third place after Nio. “Energy, new energy vehicle R&D enterprises and infrastructural support enterprises are also beloved by capital”, Lu said. Chinese battery giant CATL was involved in 12 financing events over the past decade, raising 26.61 billion yuan in total. New energy vehicles were expected to deliver record sales in China for 2020. There would be total deliveries of 1.3 million; up 8 % year-on-year, according to statistics of the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. +++ 

+++ NIDEC , the world’s top supplier of motors for everything from hard drives to power plants, is betting it can make a key component for Tesla’s electric vehicles (EVs) cheaper and better than anyone else, possibly including its chief executive officer, Elon Musk. “I very much want to have a top-level discussion with Elon Musk”, said Jun Seki, Nidec’s president and chief operating officer, in an interview. Without an outside partner, Tesla won’t be able to achieve Musk’s goal of producing 20 million EVs a year by 2030, he said. It’s an audacious overture to a company that flirted last week with being the world’s most valuable, making Musk the richest man, but Nidec isn’t just any ordinary parts supplier. The manufacturer is a quiet behemoth in the global electric-motor industry. Although the vast majority of people who use its products don’t know its name, Nidec’s motors are used in about 85 % of the world’s hard drives, and it controls almost half of the global market for brushless motors found in everything from air conditioners to factory robots. Nidec is Japan’s ninth-largest enterprise, with a market value of $80.3 billion. That’s made CEO Shigenobu Nagamori the nation’s 4th wealthiest individual, with a net worth of $10.2 billion. He poached Seki a year ago from Nissan where he had come up through engineering to becoming vice-chief operating officer to embark on a bet-the-company pivot. The goal? Turning the manufacturer Nagamori founded in a shed in Kyoto 47 years ago into the world’s top supplier of motors for electric vehicles. Nagamori, 76, is backing the effort with a pledge to invest close to $10 billion over the next five years to seize a market share of 40 % to 45 %. With Japan, California and other major automobile markets mandating that all new car sales be electric over the next 2 decades, the global EV traction motor market is on track to reach about $29 billion by 2026, according to consultancy firm Shibuya Data Count. Up until now, much of the industry’s focus has been on building out the capacity to produce enough batteries, while improving technology to make them more efficient and expand the range of EVs. After batteries, traction motors are the most expensive component of an EV, meaning the segment is ripe for claiming if a company is able to mass-produce a disruptively cheap product. Combining the motor, gears and electronic components, traction motors are also used in electric trains; they must be able to withstand mechanical stress and cool efficiently because of the high power levels involved. “As we move forward with mass production, costs will come down and it’ll be easier to win out against rivals”, said Seki, 59, who traveled abroad several times during the 2020 pandemic to secure deals with automakers, seeking to edge out Bosch, ZF, Dana and other competitors. Tesla, based in Palo Alto, California, is just one of the many carmakers in Nidec’s sights. The Japanese manufacturer has already reached agreements to provide EV motors to 22 automakers, including China’s Guangzhou Automobile Group and Peugeot SA, according to Seki. Whether it’s a traditional auto manufacturer, an electric-truck startup or Apple (which is said to be planning a self-driving electric car), “any new company entering into the realm of electric vehicles is a chance for us”, Seki said. Through its joint venture with Peugeot, Nidec also has a “big opportunity” with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, as the automaker is set to merge with PSA, he added. Nidec’s pitch to automakers is its “E-Axle” system, which combines motors, gears and inverters into a single package. As EV-makers seek smaller and more efficient powertrains, manufacturers that are able to design high-precision durable gears and cool them effectively, all while keeping costs down, will have an edge. To secure the technologies and resources needed, Nidec is ready to spend as much as ¥1 trillion ($9.7 billion) on mergers and acquisitions, Seki said. He singled out gear and inverter manufacturing as 2 industries ripe for growth. If Nidec’s vision plays out, it will be able to offer Tesla and other EV-makers a traction motor that’s less than $1.000 in under 5 years, down from the standard today that can run up to $2.000 or more. While batteries make up about a third of a typical EV’s cost, a basic motor makes up about 10 %. Nidec sees Europe and China as relatively quick adopters of EVs. As such, it has invested heavily in the latter over the past three years and is planning to inject some ¥200 billion into its European operations. The company is looking at Serbia as the top candidate for a new EV motor factory it’s looking to build in the region. For now, Seki is laying the groundwork to be able to meet a spike in demand anticipated in the decade after 2025. Thanks to greater investment battery costs are coming down, making EVs more affordable. At the same time, a number of governments including Japan and the U.K. have said they will ban the sale of new gasoline vehicles. By 2035, annual EV sales are projected to exceed 48 million units, up from roughly 2 million this year, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. To clinch a share of that, Seki is counting on adding Tesla as a customer. Although Nidec’s U.S. representatives have approached the EV-maker, the market capitalization of which now exceeds that of Toyota and Japan’s 6 other major car manufacturers combined, no deals between the 2 have been announced. Despite its outsized valuation, Tesla made about 500.000 vehicles last year, or less than a 10th of what Toyota will produce. Tesla is believed to mainly design and manufacture its own traction motors for the Model S, X, Y and 3. With new factories being built in Texas and Germany to add to plants in California and China, Musk struck an optimistic tone in September that Tesla would hit his lofty goal. Seki acknowledged there are also a number of storied automakers that won’t consider diverging from in-house production of the important electrification technology. Nissan, for one, will equip future EV models with its own dual electric motor “E-4orce” system. General Motors is also designing proprietary e-axle systems. While Nidec is a relative newcomer to the EV motor sector with much left to prove, the manufacturer is betting that its plunge into the technology can be modeled after its success in hard-drive motors, where it invested early and built production capacity to drive down costs. The company is regarded as a bellwether of manufacturing trends, picking up early on shifts such as the growth of factory automation. Today Nidec produces more than 3 billion motors a year, and is betting that the automotive business will make up a growing portion of the ¥10 trillion in annual net sales Nagamori aims to reach by fiscal 2030. The next move Nidec is considering after traction motors is to offer nearly complete EV platforms. There will be demand for such packages from new entrants in the sector that would prefer to focus on a vehicle’s interior and styling, Seki said. With the wave of electrification hitting the automotive industry “this kind of creative destruction is already happening”, he said. +++ 

+++ The next NISSAN Qashqai is set to gain an efficiency boost from a range of hybrid powertrains, and the Japanese brand has opened up on the specs before the car’s official release. A new hybrid engine option will be offered with e-Power branding. When it joins the range in 2022, it will combine a 1.5-litre petrol engine with an electric motor though in a different way to many other hybrids on the market. Here, the 160 hp petrol engine doesn’t ever drive the wheels directly; instead it charges the battery which supplies an electric motor producing 194 hp and 330 Nm of torque. Nissan says this configuration brings several advantages. With the electric motor driving the wheels alone, the Qashqai will benefit from the instant throttle response of an EV, as opposed to the laggy response of many other combustion-led hybrid alternatives. This also means that Nissan has been able to tune the 1.5 petrol unit to operate at its most efficient when topping up the battery, meaning that it has the potential to deliver even better fuel economy. A feature taken from the Nissan Leaf is the e-Pedal system. This will allow Qashqai e-Power drivers to make use of one pedal driving; when releasing the accelerator pedal can provide up to 0.2G of regenerative deceleration without any need to touch the brake. Other engines in the next Qashqai will gain mild hybrid technology. The 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol is related to that of the current car (albeit with its own internal improvements to reduce fuel consumption), but is now mated to an uprated 12 volt electrical system, known as Advanced Lithium-ion battery System. ALiS weighs just 22 kg and recuperates energy otherwise lost under braking. This saved energy can then be deployed in the form of a modest 6 Nm torque boost under acceleration for up to 20 seconds at a time. Combined with a stop/start system that cuts the engine from 18 kph when coasting to a halt, the system has helped to reduce CO2 emissions by 4 g/km. The revised 1.3 turbo is available with a choice of 140 hp and 160 hp. Both models will come with front-wheel drive and a 6-speed manual gearbox as standard, while the higher powered unit is also available with a CVT automatic gearbox and 4-wheel drive. As Nissan has previously confirmed, diesel will no longer feature in the Qashqai’s engine family. A plug-in hybrid version of the Qashqai won’t be coming, either, with Nissan instead prioritising e-Power tech and all-electric vehicles such as the new Ariya, the Qashqai’s slightly larger electric sibling. The detailed engine specs follow an earlier teaser, when Nissan granted us an in-depth look at the new Qashqai’s interior. The Japanese brand says the new model will offer more practicality, better packaging and improved technology, all within a body shell that’s only marginally larger than the previous car. The third-generation Qashqai is 35 mm longer and 30 mm wider than its predecessor which, thanks to some clever organisation, has provided 22 mm-worth of extra knee room for rear seat passengers and 28 mm more shoulder room for those up front. Front and rear headroom has also improved by around 15 mm, thanks to the redesign. +++ 

+++ Detroit’s big auto show will not take place as scheduled in September, but will be replaced by an outdoor exhibit at a race track in nearby Pontiac. Show organizers cited worries that the coronavirus pandemic could affect the indoor show, normally held at Detroit’s downtown convention center. The new event scheduled for September 21 through 26 is being called Motor Bella. It will take place at the M1 Concourse, which has the track and room for 1.6 million square feet of display space. Brent Snavely, spokesman for the NORTH AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL AUTOSHOW , said organizers still have reserved the downtown TCF Center for the fall of 2022 and 2023. “Will NAIAS return in 2022? We’re hopeful, optimistic. That’s what we would want”, he said. “It’s hard to predict the future”. Show executive director Rod Alperts said they had to look for new and creative ways of doing business. The show will have track activities, mobility exhibits and a full complement of automaker and technology displays, he said. Auto shows have been struggling to retain their relevance at a time when companies can unveil new vehicles online without having to share the day with others. “While auto shows remain an important platform to promote new mobility innovations and help people make major vehicle purchase decisions, the traditional auto show model is changing”, Alberts said. +++ 

+++ Back in December 2019, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and Peugeot S.A. (PSA) came to an agreement to complete a 50:50 merger. Then, as we reported last summer, the two automakers announced that the new company would be called Stellantis when the merger was completed in early 2021. Now, as the FCA – PSA merger nears completion, it means increased worldwide competition. However, PEUGEOT may not compete directly with Chevrolet and Ford in the U.S. as it had originally intended to, after all. The PSA Group may reconsider its plans to return to the market it left in 1991 following the completion of its merger with FCA. Originally, the French automaker announced that it planned on coming back to the U.S. in 2026 as part of its strategic plan. “We were last speaking about Peugeot’s U.S. re-entry a year and a half ago, before Stellantis”, Peugeot CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato told a group of journalists in an online discussion this week. “We can’t not take into account that in the coming days Peugeot will be part of this new world. I imagine in the coming months due to the new strategy we will have to adapt and reconsider all elements, including this one”. Impartato did go on to say that returning to the U.S. was “still on the table”. Meanwhile, Peugeot will concentrate on its core markets (Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America), Imparato said. “In the next months, I have to feed my base camp, as well as come back on track in China”. Stellantis will still have an established presence in the U.S., thanks to FCA, while the vast majority of PSA’s sales come from Europe. Following the merger, a new logo will accompany the new Stellantis name, but the names and the logos of the individual FCA and Peugeot brands will remain unchanged. That means Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, Jeep, Peugeot, Opel, Citroën and DS won’t be changing. Meanwhile, the Stellantis name will be used exclusively at the Group level, as a corporate brand. The union of these 2 automotive giants will create the world’s fourth-largest automaker by volume and third-largest by revenue. Much like Ford and Volkswagen’s partnership, the main driving factor behind this merger is to mitigate the high costs of developing electric and autonomous vehicles, share resources, achieve global economies of scale, and further perpetuate global expansion. +++ 

+++ TESLA has shaved 30 % off the price for its China-produced Model Y. It is forecast to fuel competition in the traditional vehicle market rather than the new energy vehicle market, analysts said. With the massive markdown from the price quoted 6 months ago when presale began, the Model Y will sell from 339,900 yuan ($52,000). This excludes a government subsidy to encourage customers to replace their gas guzzlers for NEVs. Meanwhile, the sporty Model Y Performance will be sold from 369,900 yuan. The first delivery can be expected within the month. “Tesla’s competitors, of course, are traditional car companies like Volkswagen”, Xue Xu, an associate professor of economics at Peking University, told. Traditional carmakers, with large operational scale, have few barriers to introducing new technologies such as electrification and autonomous driving. Although the NEV startups have raised large sums of money, they face difficulties in development under the pressure of many big brands, Xue added. “Tesla’s frequent price cuts in China reflect that it is poised to expand its scale to pursue efficiency”, Xue said. Tesla’s Shanghai Gigafactory is expected to reach an annual production capacity of 550.000 vehicles this year. The Model Y and Model 3, Tesla’s bestselling model, share the same platform and electric motor, which is in line with the development model of traditional car companies. Nio founder and CEO William Li said the Model Y will hit traditional automotive products first, not Nio. Many people who were thinking of buying a traditional carmaker’s NEV or fossil-fuel vehicle will be attracted by Tesla’s price cut, according to Li. The relationship between Tesla and Chinese NEV startups is not a zero-sum game. They are not only competitors, but comrades-in-arms. This is according to an automobile industry research institute affiliated to the China International Capital Corporation, an investment bank. Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of the China Passenger Car Association, shared a similar view. He said that the main effect of the Model Y’s price reduction will be felt in the traditional car market. The price cut will help stimulate the enthusiasm of luxury car buyers, who are inclined to choose SUVs from traditional automakers like BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. As their products have the advantage of differentiation, NEV startups will not be affected too much by Tesla’s price reduction. But it is expected to make the electric car market bigger together with the United States’ electric carmaker, Cui added. Data show that in 2020, Tesla delivered 499.550 vehicles globally, 11 times that of Nio, 15 times that of Lixiang and 18 time that of Xpeng. The 3 are top electric vehicle startups in China. +++

+++ TOYOTA will pay $180 million to settle U.S. government allegations that it failed to report and fix pollution control defects in its vehicles for a decade. The company also agreed in court to investigate future emissions-related defects quickly and report them to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a timely manner. “Toyota’s actions undermined the EPA’s self-disclosure system and likely led to delayed or avoided emissions-related recalls”, Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. Attorney in Manhattan said in a prepared statement. The Japanese automaker’s actions from 2005 to 2015 brought financial benefits and excessive vehicle pollution, the statement said. The company was accused in a government lawsuit of delays in filing 78 emissions defect reports as required by the Clean Air Act. The reports covered millions of vehicles, and some of them were as many as eight years late, the statement said. The lawsuit was filed Thursday and settled on the same day, according to the statement. In a statement, Toyota said it reported the problems to the EPA 5 years ago after finding a “process gap” that brought delays in filing the defect reports. “Within months of discovering this issue, we submitted all relevant delayed filings and put new robust reporting and compliance practices in place”, the company said. The company said the reporting delays resulted in a “negligible” impact on emissions, contradicting the government’s statement alleging excessive pollution. The company said that despite reporting delays, it notified customers and fixed vehicles that needed to have emissions recalls. Automakers have to report to the EPA if there are 25 cases of the same pollution control defect in a model year. But Toyota decided to report the defects only when required under a less-stringent California standard, the Justice Department said. Toyota is the third automaker in recent years to pay penalties for Clean Air Act violations. The worst was cheating by Volkswagen, which for years programmed its diesel vehicles to turn pollution controls on for EPA lab tests and turned them off for roadway driving. In 2019, Fiat Chrysler agreed to a settlement over allegations that it rigged pollution tests on diesel pickups and SUVs. Fiat Chrysler has maintained that it didn’t deliberately cheat emissions tests and the company didn’t admit wrongdoing. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN saw its China sales fall 9.1 % in 2020, but it remained the top choice for Chinese car buyers, said the German car giant. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the carmaker sold 3.85 million vehicles under its brands from Volkswagen to Porsche in the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong last year. The sales were 4.23 million in 2019. The namesake Volkswagen brand and Skoda saw a steep sales fall, while Audi and Porsche deliveries hit a new high in 2020. However, Volkswagen maintained its position as the best-selling carmaker in the country, seizing a 19.3 percent share of the Chinese passenger vehicle market. Stephan Wöllenstein, CEO of Volkswagen Group China, said the year 2020 posed significant challenges for the industry and the company. The overall Chinese vehicle market dipped 1.9 percent year-on-year to 25.31 million passenger cars and commercial vehicles in 2020, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Wöllenstein said: “For 2021, we expect positive growth of deliveries ahead of the total market, and to increase our market share over the course of the year”. The shortage of semiconductors are causing a delay in Volkswagen’s vehicle production in China, but Wöllenstein said he is optimistic in the carmaker’s recovery from the impact in following months. The carmaker is planning to launch 25 new models in China in 2021, with 13 of them new energy vehicles. Globally, Volkswagen delivered 9.3 million vehicles in 2020, falling 15.2 percent year-on-year, primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. +++

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