Newsflash: Rolls-Royce werkt aan elektrische Silent Shadow

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+++ AUDI is partnering with China’s FAW Group to establish a joint venture dedicated to electric vehicles based on the platform the German premium carmaker has developed with Porsche. In a statement, Audi said it, together with its parent Volkswagen, will hold a 60 % share of the partnership, which is scheduled to be established in the first quarter of 2021 in Changchun, Jilin province, where FAW is headquartered. Audi said this is the first Chinese joint venture in which it holds a majority interest. None of the shareholders disclosed the amount of investment in the new company, which is scheduled to kick off production in 2024. “With the new Audi-FAW company in Changchun, we are further expanding our presence on the Chinese market and strengthening our position as a manufacturer of fully electric premium vehicles through local production”, said Markus Duesmann, chairman of Audi. Audi is currently producing its vehicles, mainly gasoline ones, in China through FAW-Volkswagen, in which it has a 50 % stake. The German carmaker said the number of its China-made vehicles will reach 12 by the end of 2021. FAW Audi Sales Co, which is selling locally-made and imported Audi vehicles, will sell electric cars to be produced at the new joint venture. Products from its second partner, SAIC Motor, are set to be introduced in 2022. China is Audi’s largest market, where it has delivered almost 7 million vehicles. In 2020, it sold 727.358 vehicles, the brand’s best ever result in over 30 years of business in the country. +++

+++ BAIDU ‘s decision to produce cars have caused a stir in the capital and automotive markets, but the Chinese tech company is more likely to build robotaxi fleets than sell vehicles to individual customers, analysts said. The company announced its plan last week to build a standalone car company to produce and market passenger vehicles, using Chinese carmaker Geely’s electric vehicle architecture. Baidu did not offer details on how its vehicles will be different than those from Tesla or any other gasoline car challenger or when the vehicles will hit the market. Though much remains a mystery, the news drove investors into a frenzy. Baidu’s stock price hit $249, the highest since July 2018 and up from around $180 in December, when its intention to make cars was first reported. “China has become the world’s largest market for electric vehicles, and we are seeing EV consumers demanding next-generation vehicles to be more intelligent”, said Robin Li, Baidu’s CEO. Nearly 1.37 million electric cars and plug-in hybrids were sold in China last year; up 10.9 % from 2019, according to statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. The association estimates the figure will reach 1.8 million in 2021. China expected such vehicles to account for 20 % of total vehicle sales in 2025. Roy Lu, director of Gasgoo Auto Research Institute, said Baidu is unlikely to sell vehicles to personal customers. Unlike Apple or Sony, Baidu does not produce any customer products, so it would be unwise to try its hand at the more expensive vehicles, he said. “Its biggest competitive edge lies in its autonomous driving technology. And it may co-build vehicles with Geely for car-hailing or autonomous driving fleets”. Compared with Alibaba, Tencent and Huawei, Baidu is lagging behind in its collaboration with the automotive industry, Lu said. Baidu established its autonomous driving unit Apollo in 2017.The unit mainly supplies technology powered by artificial intelligence and it has attracted automakers such as Geely, Volkswagen, Toyota and Ford. However, many leading carmakers later started to develop their own systems instead of installing those developed by others. That is because nobody wants to let others serve as their brains”, said Yale Zhang, managing director of Shanghai-based consulting firm Automotive Foresight. Zhang said Baidu may try to promote its Apollo system as well. It can tailor-make fleets of robotaxis with its own autonomous driving system, enhance its popularity with passengers, and then convince carmakers to use its system. Zhang said even if it does not work out, it can grow its robotaxi fleets, because offering mobility services will replace selling cars as the auto industry’s most profitable area. Baidu now operates the autonomous robotaxi service, Apollo Go, in Beijing, Changsha in Hunan province and Cangzhou in Hebei province, and plans to expand to 30 cities in 3 years. Earlier in December, it won the green light to carry out robotaxi tests without safety drivers in Beijing, marking another milestone for the company. +++

+++ If you’re in the market for a midsized SUV coupe, BMW has an exciting new offering on the horizon. The hugely popular SUV coupe segment continues to grow and BMW is working to maintain its market dominance. Based on the spy photos, the upcoming 2022 modelyear X4 facelift will be an evolution of an already successful package. Spy shots show that the facelifted X4 will feature a revised front and rear facia. These exterior changes are traditional for mid-cycle refreshes that companies use to refine the styling of their current offerings to keep customers interested. Along with these exterior changes, I expect BMW to inject their latest interior technology to bring in new customers. The current X4 is the coupe version of the midsized X3 and offers similar powertrain options with the addition of coupe styling. The more expressive X4 gives owners a uniquely styled machine with the capabilities of an SUV while only losing a small amount of storage space. This new market segment was started by BMW with the larger X5-based X6 and then followed up with the X4 to give customers a smaller and more affordable platform. The current X4 offers customers a range of powertrains starting from a fuel-sipping 2.0-litre all the way up to a 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-6 found in the top tier M version. This range of offerings means the development cost for BMW’s SUV architecture and powertrains can be shared across more models helping to amortise development costs and improve their return on engineering investment. +++

+++ BMW GROUP chairman Oliver Zipse expressed the German carmaker’s backing for China’s de-carbonization goals, saying the country’s economic growth has been accompanied by a firm commitment to sustainability. Zipse made the remarks as he addressed the annual China EV 100 forum online. “China will achieve the goals of carbon peak before 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060. The BMW Group fully supports these goals”, he said. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, BMW sold 777.379 vehicles last year in China, marking its best annual sales in the country since its arrival in 1994. Of them, over 30.000 were new energy vehicles. BMW is one of the first international carmakers to produce new energy vehicles in China. The booming sector is believed to play a big role in cutting carbon emissions. The carmaker’s first China-made electric model, the iX3, rolled off the assembly line in Shenyang, Liaoning province last year, with the aim of being sold globally. China has been the world’s largest market for new energy vehicles since 2015, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Last year, nearly 1.37 million electric cars and plug-in hybrids were sold in the country; up 10.9 % year-on-year, despite the Covid-19 pandemic. Zipse said China has seen the rise of some of the world’s leading battery manufacturers including CATL. Its installed capacity reached 34 GWh in 2020, ranking first worldwide. “This development underlines that sustainability is far more than a short-term trend. In the long run, it will lead to superior solutions in technology and ensure lasting prosperity”, Zipse said. He said it is working in collaboration with suppliers including CATL to cut emissions. By producing batteries using electricity from renewable resources, they are saving 10 million tons of carbon dioxide until 2030, said Zipse. BMW sold a total of 192.646 electric cars and plug-in hybrids worldwide last year; an increase of 31.8 % over 2019. With more electric models hitting the road, Zipse said he expected sales of such vehicles to reach 100.000 this year. By 2030, the German premium carmaker expects to have over 7 million electrified vehicles on the road worldwide. +++

+++ While countries around the world struggle to contain Covid-19 and get their economies back on track, CHINA has bucked the trend. Premium carmakers have reaped the benefits, with impressive sales results in the country for 2020. BMW topped the list of premium vehicle companies. A total of 777.379 BMW and Mini branded vehicles were delivered last year in China; a 7.4 % growth from 2019. Jochen Goller, president and CEO of BMW Group Region China, said the carmaker is confident in the medium-and long-term development of the Chinese market and the country’s economy has shown great resilience. BMW said new energy vehicles were a highlight of its trade in the country, around 30.000 were sold last year, bringing the carmaker’s accumulated sales to nearly 90.000. The carmaker is now producing the iX3 in China and exporting them to overseas markets. 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. Another premium brand, Mercedes-Benz, delivered a total of 774.382 new cars to Chinese customers in 2020; an increase of 11.7 % year-on-year. The carmaker introduced 18 new models to China last year. The Chinese market was the first among Mercedes-Benz’s global markets to demonstrate a recovery in the first half of 2020, becoming the main driver for Mercedes-Benz’s global sales. Hubertus Troska, Daimler’s board member responsible for China, said: “Over the last few months we have witnessed China leading the recovery of the global auto markets. That encourages us to continue our strategy of investment, increasing our local footprint as well as co-creating and sharing business opportunities with our local partners”. Like BMW and Mercedes-Benz, most premium carmakers saw robust demand in the country. Audi set a sales record in China in 2020 with a total of 726.288 new vehicles sold; up 5.4 % year-on-year. A total of 674.700 domestically manufactured Audis were delivered; up 7 % year-on-year. Models such as A6L and Q5L recorded a strong performance. Ford’s premium arm, Lincoln, saw sales rise 32.5 % on an annual basis in 2020 to a record 61.700 vehicles. Porsche delivered 88.968 new vehicles in China last year; up 3 % year-on-year. Its global sales declined 3 % year-on-year. Yale Zhang, managing director of Shanghai-based consultancy Automotive Foresight, said China has opened a “window of opportunity” for premium vehicles. Zhang said that last year, 50 % of all car purchases were not by first-time buyers and the number reached to 60 % in the first-tier cities. These customers would like to choose premium brands to improve driving pleasure. With premium carmakers strengthening domestic production, introducing more models in different segments and lowering prices, customers are being provided more choices, Zhang added. Roy Lu, director of Gasgoo Auto Research Institute, said that overseas auto markets fell sharply because of belated outbreak control. Meanwhile, China’s auto market saw sustained recovery since April amid government support and a rebound in domestic demand. As a result, carmakers regard China as the stablest and most important source of global sales. Lu forecast that the premium car market will maintain a growth of 15-20 % this year. He said that the pandemic is expected to affect less of the world this year and allow overseas production resumption. Therefore, more imported premium vehicles will come to China. Premium carmakers are continuing to improve localization and introduce more new energy vehicles to echo China’s regulations, Lu said. Full-year sales in the world’s biggest auto market fell 1.9 %to 25.3 million vehicles in 2020, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. +++

+++ The CUPRA Formentor is about to get a whole lot more interesting. Thanks to an Audi sourced turbocharged inline-5, the spied FZ version is on its way to a dealership near you. This exciting SUV will borrow a great deal of hardware from the superb Audi RS Q3 and I am expecting some impressive results. The Cupra Formentor rides on Volkswagen Group’s latest MQB Evo architecture that is shared with newer products like the new Golf and Skoda Octavia. Since the Cupra Formentor is one of the first SUVs to ride on this latest architecture, this is a unique opportunity for Volkswagen Group to develop future drivetrain configurations for upcoming models in their other brands. Power is rumoured to come from the same turbocharged 2.5-litre inline-5 cylinder engine found in the Audi RS Q3 where it produces an impressive 400 hp. This power is routed to Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system via a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. This potent drivetrain is capable of catapulting the Audi RS Q3 from 0 to 100 kph in less than 4 seconds. When it comes to final power figures for the Cupra Formentor FZ, we’ll have to wait and see how the chips fall. If there are no plans for a more powerful RS Q3 any time soon expect the Cupra Formentor FZ to have a slightly detuned engine so that it doesn’t upstage its Audi big brother. However, if Audi is planning to turn up the power of the RS Q3 we can expect the Cupra Formenter FZ to offer the output of the current engine. As automakers transition to more SUV-focused product portfolios, it’s exciting to see the growth of performance trim levels. This allows customers to enjoy a practical SUV without sacrificing the engaging driving experience synonyms with sports saloons. +++

+++ Bigname automakers are making strides in their ELECTRIFICATION campaigns. General Motors, the largest carmaker in the United States, unveiled the latest electric powertrain Ultium Drive at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, held from January 11 in Las Vegas. Consisting of 5 drive units and 3 motors, the electric powertrain is expected to function for electric vehicles of different sizes and models, which will help the carmaker expand its electric vehicle production capacity and lower costs. The GMC Hummer EV, set to hit the market in 2021, will be the first production model to be equipped with the Ultium Drive technology. The electric midsized SUV Cadillac Lyriq will be GM’s second model to adopt the electric powertrain. Besides the Ultium Drive, GM launched BrightDrop, an electric commercial vehicle brand, at the 2021 CES. FedEx will be the first partner of the new brand, the automaker said. BrightDrop has 2 models, the EP1 and EV600. Both are set to hit the market this year. GM has sped up its electrification to realize its vision of “zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion”. From 2020-25, the automaker plans to invest more than $20 billion in developing new energy vehicles. Mercedes-Benz sold more than 2 million vehicles globally last year; 7.4 % of which are NEVs. In 2020, Mercedes-Benz sold more than 160.000 NEVs worldwide, which include plug-in hybrids and electric cars. Its sales soared 228.8 % year-on-year, marking a giant leap for the carmaker toward carbon neutrality. Mercedes-Benz calls 2021 “the year of EQ”, as the automaker is set to launch 3 electric models: the EQA, EQB and EQS. As the first model produced on Mercedes-Benz’s large electric vehicle production platform EVA, the EQS can run more than 700 kilometers on one charge. The vehicle will also adopt the automaker’s largest and most intelligent display screen, the new MBUX Hyperscreen. According to the automaker, the number of EQ models will reach 8 by 2022. German auto conglomerate Volkswagen is also pushing forward with electric vehicles. It has unveiled a series of NEV models, including the Volkswagen ID.3, Audi e-Tron and Porsche Taycan. In China, Volkswagen delivered more than 52.300 NEVs in 2020; up 36 % year-on-year. The automaker delivered 231.600 electric cars in total across the world last year; up 214 % year-on-year. Volkswagen will launch 10 electric models under its 5 marques this year, including Audi and Porsche. As scheduled, the automaker will phase out the production of internal combustion vehicles by 2040. +++

+++ The first FORD Mustang Mach-E buyers may have to wait a bit longer than expected to get their hands on the new electric crossover. Ford confirmed that some early deliveries have been delayed to address quality concerns. “As part of our commitment to delivering high-quality vehicles, we are conducting additional quality checks on several hundred Mustang Mach-E models built before dealer shipments started last month”, Ford spokesperson Emma Berg said. “As part of our quality process, we want to ensure they meet the quality our customers expect and deserve. We notified affected customers that they may receive their Mustang Mach-Es on different timing than previously discussed. The team is working to expedite these vehicles and we hope that customers receive them ahead of targeted dates, providing there are no Covid-19-related transportation delays”. That last bit is actually good news, as our tipster shared a screenshot of an email that was reportedly sent to a customer waiting on a 2021 California Rt. 1 edition, informing them that the expected delivery window has been pushed back by more than a month. +++

+++ Banking on the automaker’s future mobility business and new cars, local analysts are drawing a rosy picture for HYUNDAI MOTOR GROUP’s earnings in the 2021 fiscal year. Local brokerages projected Hyundai Motor’s operating profit this year to hit 6.63 trillion won ($6 billion); up 132.6 % from the forecast laid out for last year’s earnings. If that turns out to be true, it will be the automaker’s highest operating profit since 2014, when it recorded 7.5 trillion won. Its sales forecast stood at 115.3 trillion won; up 10.8 % from the previous year’s forecast. Kia is also expected to post 3.9 trillion won in operating profit for 2021, which is up 116.6 % from the previous year’s forecast. Aside from the base effect derived from the poor auto market in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, analysts were optimistic about the Korean automakers’ business in 2021 as new models, a major share of which will have an electric powertrain, are expected to launch. “Although deliveries of cars shrank by 10.4 % in 2020 due to the coronavirus, Hyundai’s earnings were robust, excluding the provisioning of 2.1 trillion won reflected in the financial statement due to Theta 2 gasoline engine recalls”, said Kwon Soon-woo, analyst from SK Securities. “New models as well as scheduled shipments of existing models to overseas market in 2021 will boost Hyundai’s deliveries of cars by 16.9 percent this year”. The company reported an operating loss of 314 billion won in the third quarter of 2020 after reflecting the recall expense of 2.1 trillion won. Hyundai is scheduled to launch the all-electric Ioniq 5 in February as well as high-performance version of its Kona, known as a N model, this year. It launched the partially revamped hydrogen-powered Nexo in January. Its luxury brand Genesis will go into full gear in the United States this year as well, selling the G80 and GV80 models which launched in the latter part of last year as well as the GV70, which is scheduled to roll out in the United States this year. “Back in 2014, South Korea’s auto market was going through a quantitative growth”, said Kim Jin-woo, an analyst from Korea Investment & Securities. “Now, the expectation is derived from the qualitative growth of Korea’s auto market, which Hyundai Motor is leading”. Hyundai hasn’t been as profitable in recent years partially due to slow demand in the global auto market. The carmaker reported 6.4 trillion won in operating profit in 2015, followed by 5.2 trillion won, 4.6 trillion won, 2.4 trillion won and 3.7 trillion won over the following years. Brokerage houses forecast the company will post 2.9 trillion won in operating profit for 2020. Reflecting the expectations, shares of Hyundai Motor and its affiliates were bullish. +++

+++ Hyundai and affiliate Kia dominated the SUV market in INDIA last year, claiming a combined 44.6 % share; a dramatic rise from 28.7 % in 2019. Hyundai led the market with 25.5 % by selling 180.237 SUVs and Kia followed it with 19.1 %, pushing India’s own Mahindra down to third place. The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers said that a total of 2.44 million cars were sold in the country last year; down 17.4 % on-year, as the market took a direct hit from the Covid-19 pandemic. But the SUV segment fared somewhat better, suffering a 6.3 % drop to 705.152 cars. “Roads in India are not very good, so people prefer SUVs, as they have high ground clearance. Young middle class people with rising incomes also prefer to buy an SUV as their first car”, an industry insider said. The key to Hyundai and Kia’s rise in India is their focus on the SUV segment. Kia only entered the world’s fourth largest auto market in 2019 and has centered its marketing on the SUV lineup including the Seltos, Carnival and Sonet. Hyundai’s Creta was the bestselling SUV in the country last year, with 96.989 cars sold, followed by Kia’s Seltos (96.932). Hyundai’s Venue was fourth (82.428). Both the Creta and Seltos were also among the top 10 bestselling vehicles overall. Hyundai plans to make India its hub for sourcing automobile parts and is set to expand operations there in a bid to reduce its dependency on China. It recently asked partners such as tire maker Continental and parts maker Aptive PLC to increase production in the country. +++

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER (JLR) is maybe not on the forefront of electrification, but the 4th quarter of 2020 has proven that JLR is progressing. The company announced that its sales in the 4th quarter amounted to 128.469 (down 9.0 % year-over-year) and 11.6 % of this (or over 14.800) falls on plug-ins. The British company (part of Tata Motors) has only one all-electric model on the market: Jaguar I-Pace. The number of plug-in hybrids increased over the past few years to 8, but as we can see, those PHEV versions are not very popular, because their combined result is lower than the result of the I-Pace. A significant part of sales is mild hybrid (MHEV) vehicles: 41.4 % in the 4th quarter. In total, 53 % of JLR cars sold in this period were at least hybrids. In the full year, the share was 43.3 %. “In today’s changing environment we are particularly proud to now offer an electrified version of every Land Rover including various class-leading Plug-in Hybrids. Together with the completely renewed Discovery and Velar this will support sales in the challenging market environment”. Hopefully, Jaguar Land Rover will improve the share of plug-ins this year, and at least stop the decline of its business. In 2020 the company sold 23.6 % fewer cars (425.974) than in 2019. Jaguar sold 102.494 units (down 36.6 %) and Land Rover 323.480 (down 18.3 %). +++

+++ JAPAN is lagging behind other countries when it comes to the number of electric vehicles on the road as the government strives to phase out gasoline-only vehicles. Electric vehicles are apparently regarded as not practical for consumers for a number of reasons, including a lack of charging stations, high prices and some functional challenges. Still, shifting to electric vehicles is necessary for Japan to achieve its 2050 decarbonization target, and domestic automakers are rolling out new nongasoline models in a bid to stimulate demand. The government has recently hammered out a plan to stop selling new gasoline-only vehicles by the mid-2030s, meaning that new vehicle sales will be limited to electric and fuel-cell vehicles as well as gas-electric hybrid models. Responding to the government’s call, Nissan will launch the Ariya this summer. Honda released its first mass-produced electric vehicle, the E, last year, while Toyota fully revamped its Mirai fuel-cell vehicle late last year for the first time in 6 years. Among factors hampering the spread of electric vehicles in Japan are costs and charging inconveniences. Most models cost more than ¥5 million even with the use of subsidies, and it takes more than 30 minutes to fully charge an electric vehicle, while the cars’ cruising ranges can vary. As for fuel-cell vehicles, there are only about 140 hydrogen charging stations in the country compared with 30.000 gas stations. Given these circumstances, domestic automakers are devoting their efforts to the development of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Honda launched a new hybrid version of the Jazz last year, while Mitsubishi has released a plug-in hybrid version of the Eclipse Cross. Hybrid vehicles, however, are not a silver bullet for decarbonization. They are fuel-efficient, but not zero-emission models. In 2020, sales of electric vehicles in Japan came to slightly below 15.000 units, representing less than 1 % of overall new vehicle sales in the country, compared with about 7 % in Germany and around 5 % in China. “A foundation for the promotion of electric vehicles hasn’t been put in place yet in Japan”, an official at a major automaker said. +++

+++ KIA will unveil its first electric car in March, the automaker said. Kia aims to transform itself into an electric-car and mobility service provider. As part of that, it plans to launch 7 electric cars by 2027, including passenger cars and SUVs. Song Ho-sung, Kia’s president of global operations, said, “Our goal is to account for a 6.6 % share of the global EV market by 2025 and sell 500.000 EVs annually by 2026”. The first will be the CV, a crossover that will be able to travel up to 500 km on a single charge that will take less than 20 minutes. +++

+++ The Mercedes S-Class is the pinnacle of Mercedes road cars and the vehicle all other Mercedes road cars follow. In today’s world of electrified luxury performance vehicles, the technologically advanced S-Class has been surprisingly quiet. Sure, there are some hybrid S-Class models, but up until now, the top-tier MERCEDES-AMG S-Class models have steered clear of battery packs. But a camouflaged version of the upcoming S 63e is currently being tested around the Nürburgring. Based on my research, this appears to be the upcoming S 63e V8 hybrid performance saloon. The team at Mercedes-AMG understands that hybrid technology is the next logical step to elevate the performance of their top tier S-Class performance saloons. With a hugely successful Formula 1 team who proved Mercedes’s mastery of hybrid tech, it was only a matter of time until road cars could benefit from this engineering knowledge. Some may say it’s about time, but when you’re working on a car that holds the identity of your brand, you don’t want to make any mistakes. Mercedes-AMG simply waited until hybrid technology was ready for the S-Class and we will see the results of their hard work very soon. Based on my estimates, I expect the S 63e to produce around 700 hp while returning better fuel economy and offering a plug-in option for customers. This ability to utilize a power V8 augmented by a sophisticated hybrid option will resonate with S-Class customers that are seeking the pinnacle of engineering. I look forward to seeing the final reveal and hope an even more powerful S73e is right around the corner. +++

+++ Automakers in Japan, where almost 30 % of the population is 65 or older, are taking the lead on adapting cars so the nation’s legions of OLDER DRIVERS can feel more confident (and be safer) behind the wheel. A run of accidents involving older drivers has upped the pressure from regulators to standardize advanced features. Automatic brakes will be required for all new vehicles sold domestically from this year, for example, and car companies from Toyota to Nissan are employing smart technology to make cars more user friendly for older people. It’s also becoming more of a priority as public railways in rural areas disappear, worsening an isolation crisis made only more stark by the coronavirus pandemic. Without any means of getting around, older people in Japan are increasingly confined to their homes, their lives shrinking as transport options evaporate. A recent high-profile fatal accident highlighted the issue. In February last year, prosecutors indicted 89-year-old Kozo Iizuka on a charge of negligence resulting in death and injury after a crash in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district. The former senior bureaucrat was on his way to a French restaurant with his wife in April 2019 when his Toyota Prius plowed through a crossing, killing a toddler and her mother and injuring several others. The accident made headlines, not least because of Iizuka’s high-ranking government position. Public sentiment swiftly turned against Iizuka, who is back in court this week after pleading not guilty in October. The incident also sparked a national debate about the swelling ranks of older drivers on Japan’s roads. After the incident, the number of older people opting to park their wheels for good soared. According to the National Police Agency, 350.428 people 75 or over returned their driver’s licenses in 2019, the highest on record. “Young people tell us seniors to return our driver’s licenses, but they aren’t around”, says Hideaki Fukushima, 90, whose wife returned her own license around the time of the accident. The couple’s children live in Nagoya, a 2-hour drive away. In the small town in Japan’s central mountainous area where they live, trains only come about once an hour. “There’s nothing you can do without a car”, Fukushima says. Last year, Toyota upgraded its Safety Sense offering. The technology is designed to prevent or mitigate frontal collisions as well as keep drivers within their lane. By using high-resolution cameras on the windscreen and bumper-mounted radars, it can detect oncoming cars or pedestrians (or even bicycles in daylight hours) and give audible and visual alerts. If drivers fail to respond, automatic braking may be deployed. The new software also has intersection functionality to help detect oncoming obstacles if a car is making a turn from a stationary position. Other Toyota Safety Sense features include the correction of unintentional lane departures, automatic toggling between high and low-beam at night depending on surrounding traffic, the detection of slower-moving cars ahead on a highway and automatic maintenance of a preset distance. Road-sign assistance technology detects stop and speed signs as they’re passed and displays a dashboard alert in case drivers have missed them themselves. “A society in which the older people can drive safely is crucial for their active social participation and healthier, fuller lives,” Toyota said. “Our ultimate goal is, of course, to have zero casualties from traffic accidents”. Subaru’s aspirations are similar; it wants to eliminate all fatal accidents by 2030. Like several other automakers, it’s using stereo cameras, which have two or more lenses with a separate image sensor for each, providing the ability to capture 3-dimensional images. Dubbed EyeSight, the technology looks ahead and alerts drivers to any danger. Subaru says Eyesight-equipped vehicles are involved in 6 1% fewer accidents and 85 % fewer rear-end crashes. Pedestrian-related injuries are lowered by 35 %. “It would be impossible to eradicate all fatal accidents without utilizing artificial intelligence”, says Subaru’s Eiji Shibata, who oversees the development of EyeSight. To reach its ambitious target, Subaru plans to combine its stereo cameras with AI, assigning meaning to each object and trying to accurately infer risk. That’s not without its challenges, according to Shibata. “It’s a technologically tough area”, he says. Stereo cameras are harder to install in mass produced cars, partly because they convey more information than other sensors and require more complicated back-end support. “Equipping the technology in cars that people ordinarily use is a huge task”. An upgraded EyeSight X that uses autonomous technology debuted in August in the second generation of the Levorg. The model, which went on sale in Japan in November, has 360-degree sensing and, like Toyota’s upgraded tech, has an intersection assist function that can autonomously steer cars away from an impending collision. Using EyeSight X, vehicles can even change lanes on their own and slow down for toll booths. Nissan has a similar offering called ProPilot that it expects to have in at least 20 models in 20 markets globally by the end of 2023. Takuya Matsunaga, who lost his wife and child in the 2019 accident, admits it’s a good start but adds that dealers, when selling cars, should stress that these technologies aren’t failsafe. “Anyone can cause an accident”, he says. Matsunaga has become a member of Aino Kai, a support group for families bereaved in traffic collisions. Aino Kai also plays a lobbying role, urging government officials to expand public transport networks in regional centers. “I don’t want to see divisions like the young and the older people hating each other”, Matsunaga says. “We need to think about the people who are suffering: the elderly in rural areas”. +++

+++ ROLLS-ROYCE has been relatively silent about its electrification strategy so far. Back in 2017, it said it’ll skip the hybrid era and will jump directly into building electric vehicles when the technology is there. About a year later, the Goodwood-based automaker admitted demand in China is driving its EV plans but it was not ready to reveal specific steps taken towards zero-emission mobility. Now, finally, it seems that Rolls is about to begin actual work on its first battery-powered model. The British company is preparing a standalone EV, the first details for which should be unveiled before the year’s end. Don’t expect a full reveal until later this decade though. Rolls-Royce already has an all-electric Phantom prototype but it is believed the final product won’t be integrated into the existing Phantom model range. Instead, Rolls wants to launch a brand new model and the Phantom EV currently in existence will be used solely for powertrain test purposes. Last year’s Silver Shadow patent could hint at the name the production Rolls EV will get: Silent Shadow. The design of the luxury machine is expected to take after the extravagant 103EX concept from 2016 while the technology underneath the skin will be shared with the BMW iX and the upcoming flagship i7 electric vehicle. “We need to make smart decisions on where we invest our money. It may be okay for bigger companies to go into hybrids and all sorts of different technologies. We needed to make a certain decision”, Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös commented. The brand’s first production electric vehicle should open the doors for Rolls to customers who are looking for more technologically advanced and greener vehicles. The main markets for the new EV will be the United States and China. +++

+++ STELLANTIS , the carmaker created by combining Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and Peugeot-owner PSA, enjoyed a positive start, its shares rising 8% on their European market debut and valuing the business at around €42 billion. With annual production of around 8 million vehicles and revenues of more than €165 billion, the world’s fourth largest auto company is expected to play a key role in the industry’s jump into the new era of electrification. Stellantis will have 14 brands, from FCA’s Fiat, Maserati and U.S.-focused Jeep, Dodge and Ram to PSA’s traditionally Europe-focused Peugeot, Citroen, Opel and DS. “We have the scale, the resources, the diversity and the knowhow to successfully capture the opportunities of this new era in transportation”, chairman John Elkann said in a video to mark the occasion. Chief executive Carlos Tavares said the merger would add €25 billion in value for shareholders over the years, thanks to projected cost cuts. “I can tell you that the focus from day one will be on the value creation that is the result of the implementation of those synergies”, Tavares said in the same video. FCA and PSA have said Stellantis can cut costs by more than €5 billion a year without plant closures. +++

+++ SUBARU said it would cut output this month by “several thousand” vehicles at plants in Japan and the United States, citing a global shortage of semiconductors. A spokesman said Subaru will adjust production at factories in Gunma, Japan and Indiana, reducing output by several thousand vehicles at each, without specifying exactly how many fewer cars will be made. Subaru will also examine in future whether there will be further cuts from February, he said. Global car makers have been hit by a global scramble for semiconductors as demand rebounds from the coronavirus crisis. Subaru’s competitor Nissan said it planned to reduce production of the Note, a hybrid electric car, at its Oppama Plant in Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, while Honda also said on January 8 its domestic output could be affected by a shortage of chips. +++

+++ In April 2018, BMW launched a SUBSCRIPTION PROGRAMME for some of its vehicles. Called Access by BMW, the platform was only available in Nashville, Tennessee, and was an expensive way to get temporary access to performance vehicles such as the M5, X5 M, X6 M, and M4 Convertible. A few months later, the Bavarian brand introduced an entry-level subscription plan letting you drive the 330i, 330e iPerformance, X3, X2, M240i convertible, and the fully-electric i3 for half the price. It turns out, the programme was not really a success story for the automaker and never expanded beyond Nashville. BMW will shut down the programme at the end of January putting an end to an almost 3-year run, at least for now. “Our intent with the pilot was to learn about the viability of the subscription model and gauge customer interest”, BMW spokesman explained. “We are in the process of developing the next iteration of the programme”. It seems that BMW’s subscription pilot was launched with the only goal to test the waters and to be used to help the automaker better understand what customers expect from this service. BMW wanted to “test these different business models”, as BMW National Dealer Forum chairman David Sloane told. Meanwhile, Audi will also cancel its Audi Select subscription programme at the end of the month. It was launched in September 2018 at five Dallas-Fort Worth stores but never got popular. Mercedes also discontinued its subscription plan last summer after the weak demand it got for the mobility service. +++

+++ The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has asked TESLA to recall 158.000 Model S and Model X vehicles over media control unit (MCU) failures that could pose safety risks by leading to touchscreen displays not working. The auto safety agency made the unusual request in a formal letter to Tesla after upgrading a safety probe in November, saying it had tentatively concluded the 2012-2018 Model S and 2016-2018 Model X vehicles “contain a defect related to motor vehicle safety”. Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment but it must respond to the NHTSA by January 27. If it does not agree it must provide the agency “with a full explanation of its decision”. It is unusual for the agency to formally demand a recall. Automakers typically voluntarily agree to a recall if sought in discussions by regulators. The agency said it sought the recall after considering “Tesla’s technical briefing presentation and evaluated Tesla’s assertions”. NHTSA added that “during our review of the data, Tesla provided confirmation that all units will inevitably fail given the memory device’s finite storage capacity”. NHTSA said other automakers have issued numerous recalls for similar safety issues, the agency told Tesla, including a detailed list of prior callbacks. The agency said touchscreen failures pose significant safety issues, including the loss of rearview/backup camera images. It noted 9 prior recalls by other automakers for similar problems. The Tesla vehicles that lose touchscreen use may see driver assistance Autopilot system and turn signal functionality impacted due to potential loss of audible chimes, driver sensing, and alerts associated with these vehicle functions, NHTSA said. It added that loss of alerts tied to systems like Autopilot “increases the risk of a crash occurring because drivers may be unaware of system malfunctions”. Touchscreen failures result in drivers being unable to use windshield defogging and defrosting systems that “may decrease the driver’s visibility in inclement weather, increasing the risk of crash”. NHTSA noted that “Tesla has implemented several over-the-air updates in an attempt to mitigate some of the issues but tentatively believes these updates are procedurally and substantively insufficient”. It noted that under law “vehicle manufacturers are required to conduct recalls to remedy safety-related defects”. NHTSA said in November it reviewed 12.523 claims and complaints about the issue, which would impact roughly 8 % of the vehicles under investigation. Many complaints said Tesla requires owners to pay to replace the unit once warranties expire. +++

+++ Automakers around the world are shutting assembly lines because of a global shortage of semiconductors that in some cases has been exacerbated by the TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ‘s actions against key Chinese chip factories, industry officials said. The shortage, which caught much of the industry off-guard and could continue for many months, is now causing Ford, Subaru and Toyota to curtail production in the United States. Automakers affected in other markets include Volkswagen, Nissan and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The problems stem from a confluence of factors as auto manufacturers compete against the sprawling consumer electronics industry for chip supplies. Consumers have stocked up on laptops, gaming consoles and other electronic products during the pandemic, creating tight chip supplies throughout 2020. They have also bought more cars than industry officials expected last spring, further straining supplies. In at least one case, the shortage ties back to President Donald Trump’s policies aimed at curtailing technology transfers to China. One automaker moved chip production from China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International, or SMIC, which was hit with U.S. government restrictions in December, to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing in Taiwan, which in turn was overbooked, a person familiar with the matter told. An auto supplier confirmed TSMC has been unable to keep up with demand. “The systemic aspect of the crisis is giving us a headache”, said a supplier executive, who asked not to be identified. “In some cases, we find substitution parts that could make us independent from TSMC, only to discover that the alternative wafer manufacturer has no capacity available”. On an earnings call with investors, TSMC chief executive C.C. Wei said there was a shortage of automotive chips made with “mature technology” and that it is working with customers “to mitigate the shortage impact”. It only takes the tiniest of chips to throw off production: a Ford plant in Kentucky that makes the Escape sport utility vehicle idled because of a shortage of a chip in the vehicle’s brake system, a union official in the plant said. Ford also will idle its Focus plant in Saarlouis, Germany, for a month starting next week because of chip shortages. The situation is unlikely to improve quickly, since all chips, whether bound for a laptop or a Lexus, start life as a silicon wafer that takes about 90 days to process into a chip. The chipmaking industry has always strained to keep up with sudden demand spikes. The factories that produce wafers cost tens of billions of dollars to build, and expanding their capacity can take up to a year for testing and qualifying complex tools. “The long and short of it is, demand is up about 50 %. And there’s no asset-intensive industry like ours that has 50 % capacity lying around”, said Mike Hogan, senior vice president at chip manufacturer GlobalFoundries and head of its automotive unit. Tight capacity and soaring demand has made it difficult for chip producers to absorb two shocks from the Trump administration. First, the White House in September banned Huawei Technologies, the Chinese telecommunications giant and a major smartphone maker, from buying chips made with American technology. Huawei stockpiled chips ahead of the ban in order to keep building what products it could after it took effect. And Huawei’s rivals, eyeing a chance to grab market share, started snapping up chips, analysts said. Second, the U.S. government enacted rules that bar SMIC from using some U.S. tools to make chips, a move that has prompted at least some of SMIC’s customers to look for a different chip factory because of concerns that production could be disrupted. “There’s a fear of using a Chinese chip factory if the United States is going to put them on an entity list”, said Daniel Goehl, chief business officer of UltraSense Systems, referring to possible further restrictions. A Commerce Department spokesman declined to comment on the implications of the SMIC and Huawei blacklistings for the auto sector but said that the top priority was “to ensure the Export Administration Regulation protects U.S. national security, economic security, and foreign policy interests”. Analysts said the automotive chip shortage is likely to persist for as long as 6 months. An AutoForecast Solutions report estimated the global auto industry had already experienced lost volume of 202.000 vehicles as of January 13. Executives at automakers and suppliers said they are adapting production schedules to protect chips used in higher-profit vehicles. And companies are weighing sourcing chips from more suppliers and increasing inventory levels in the future. “It’s 4-dimensional chess all day long”, said one auto official, who asked not to be identified. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN was significantly affected by the various challenges in 2020, which resulted in a 15 % drop in passenger car sales year-over-year to 5.328,000 globally. However, the plug-in segment, in particular, is booming! The German manufacturer reports that it tripled all-electric car sales to 134.000, and more than doubled plug-in hybrid car sales to 78.000. In total, more than 212.000 plug-in cars were delivered during 2020 (up 158 % year-over-year). It’s a very impressive outcome and really nice to see that 2.5 % of Volkswagen car sales are all-electric. With plug-in hybrids (1.5 %), the share jumps to nearly 4.0 %. Ralf Brandstätter, CEO of Volkswagen Passenger Cars said: “2020 was a turning point for Volkswagen and marked a breakthrough in electric mobility. We are well on track to achieve our aim of becoming the market leader in battery electric vehicles. More than any other company, we stand for attractive and affordable e-mobility”. The most important electric car for Volkswagen in 2020 was the ID.3; the first of the ID. family. Customer deliveries of this model began in September. During those several months, Volkswagen sold 56.500 units of the ID.3 (including 14.400 in Germany), while the total number of orders in 2020 reached 68.800. It means that the ID.3 was responsible for more than a quarter of total Volkswagen plug-in car sales. Klaus Zellmer, the board member responsible for Sales of Volkswagen Passenger Cars said: “We really hit the bullseye with the ID.3. Even though it was only introduced in the second half of the year, it ranked in the top of the sales charts in many countries almost right away”. Volkswagen notes also: “In fact, the ID.3 was the most frequently delivered BEV in Finland, Slovenia and Norway in December. In Sweden, the ID.3 was actually the topselling car in December 2020 in absolute numbers, regardless of the type of drive. In the Netherlands and Germany, Volkswagen managed to leap to the number 1 spot in all-electric vehicles over the full-year 2020, with a share of 23.8 % in Germany in the BEV market and 23 % in the Netherlands”. The second best was the retiring Volkswagen e-Golf with 41,300 units, while the third best happened to be the Volkswagen Passat GTE plug-in hybrid (around 24.000). 2021 will be mostly about the ID.4, which is expected to be the highest volume Volkswagen electric car, produced at several sites simultaneously. +++

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