Newsflash: Hyundai Kona Electric klanten ontevreden over afhandeling brandgevaar

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+++ While Stellantis has axed plans for Peugeot to make a return to the U.S. market, the newly-formed conglomerate is remaining committed to ALFA ROMEO and its American dealers. Alfa Romeo recently appointed Larry Dominique as its North American head and shortly after assuming his new role, he held a call with retailers expressing his commitment to the brand. One of them was Bob Nouri, who co-owns Russell Westbrook Alfa Romeo in California, the nation’s top-selling Alfa Romeo dealership. “He personally told me that he is dedicated, and they’re going to do whatever it is within their power to make sure the brand makes it”, Nouri told. “I believe he brings a wealth of experience and new ideas to the table for us, which we’re very excited about that as well”. Alfa Romeo’s sales peaked in the United States back in 2018 and while 2020 figures were 22 % short of that mark, sales did jump by an impressive 23 % in the 4th quarter. Scott Ritter, part owner of Planet Alfa Romeo in Miami, is also optimistic about what Dominique can do for the brand. “He brings a pretty robust resume, so he’s very familiar with the industry”, he said. “It sounds like the commitment is to continue to grow the brand significantly. There was no indication that they’re going to back off or ease off. They want to continue with the momentum that’s been created thus far”. +++ 

+++ The Cayenne is being credited for saving Porsche. Now, another SUV, the DBX, is crucial for getting another premium manufacturer, ASTON MARTIN , back on track. Although Aston Martin saw its sales drop pretty substantially in 2020 in the Americas region, the automaker’s biggest market, it has seen strong interest in the DBX despite the Covid-19 pandemic. “The vast majority of those that signed up for the DBX have followed through”, Ed Moran, interim president of Aston Martin of the Americas, told. “Just over 95 %, which from our perspective has been a fantastic statistic”. The brand is averaging around 90 sales of the DBX per month, and the SUV has been hailed as a game-changer by dealers like Ken Gorin, CEO of Miami luxury dealer group The Collection. “I think as you see more on the road and it becomes a car that is on people’s shopping lists and gets a little bit more well known as availability increases, the sky’s the limit”, said Gorin. Moran, meanwhile, is confident the DBX could help Aston Martin back to pre-Covid levels of 2.000 sales per year in the Americas and believes that it will be crucial in the automaker’s future growth aspirations. Among the reasons for his optimism is the fact that the DBX is helping Aston Martin steal sales from its competitors. “We’re definitely conquesting and we need to conquest at a pretty high rate for us to be able to hit our targets which, 5 months in, we’re accomplishing”, he said. “We’re seeing a pretty good range from premium to high-luxe brands. You’re seeing some Bentaygas, some Uruses, within the high-luxe segment itself”. The DBX has been selling well in southern markets like Florida, Texas, and Southern California, but Moran says that it is also doing well in northern climes. The SUV is apparently popular in places like Colorado, Chicago, and Canada thanks, in part, to its AWD system. +++ 

+++ AUDI finance and legal boss Arno Antlitz has confirmed that the brand’s model cycles will remain at 6 to 7 years, despite the increasing costs of electric cars. Audi has confirmed that its research-and-development costs will rise from the current 5-6% of revenue to 6-7% in 2021 and beyond. Antlitz told: “From today’s perspective, we don’t expect a change in that logic: Every 6 or 7 years, we will see a new car. In between, we will get the major product updates. “But on the other hand, you’re quite right: this has to be financed. And there comes the unique strength of the Volkswagen Group and also Audi. We can use platforms across different brands”. The cost savings that the platforms yield is a useful tool for the Volkswagen Group to have. Audi uses both the PPE and MEB platforms for its electric cars, for the e-Tron GT and e-Tron respectively, and the economies of scale are clear given the numbers of cars being produced. Antlitz said: “We use the PPE platform together with Porsche in the D-, E- and F-segment, where we will see 7.000.000 cars over the lifetime of the platform”. This allows Audi to “scale electromobility very efficiently and at the same time keep the cars fresh and new, and stick to that 6 or 7 year product cycle”. It’s not just the hardware that will need updating. Audi’s director of sales and marketing, Hildegard Wortmann, said: “We’re what I would call the platform champions, but the same principle applies to the software platforms. So we have the firm’s software organisation where we bundle all our competencies and manpower into the software development. We all know how important that is. It’s success-critical to have the right resources bundled. With this we have the chance to update the car more frequently to go into over-the-air updates and play on the whole digital side”. She added: “The platform thinking and the platform concept really enables us to be very cost-efficient, while at the same time allowing the customer more updates and contemporary stuff in the car than ever before”. Audi is currently preparing to launch its next EV, the Q4 e-Tron, and promises a total of 7 electric cars within its range by the end of 2021. That figure will jump to more than 20 by 2025, as Wortmann explained: “There will be many more electric cars coming. We will take it step by step, but it’s important for us to offer electrified Audis across all of our segments”. Wortmann explained Audi’s reasoning for the e-Tron GT and Q4 e-Tron being the next electrified cars, bringing the total number of Audi EV models to 6. “We started our journey on electrification on the e-Tron, with the large SUV, where you have the biggest impact and where we have high customer demand”, she said. “Those large SUVs are still very much being asked for. We then took a second step with E-tron GT because this is the spearhead of the brand. This is the brand-shaper that we put a lot of energy into the emotional side of the brand. And now with the Q4 comes the model where we can scale into volume. We can attract customers into the brand at a lower price point. With this strategy, we have three strong lines”. The news comes off the back of Audi celebrating the most successful period in its history in the fourth quarter of 2020, reflecting the pent-up demand from the various Covid-19 lockdowns around the world earlier in the year. The company also had a strong January and February, with a higher order intake than in the same months last year. +++ 

+++ BENTLEY is open to the idea of using synthetic fuels as a way to keep the internal combustion engine alive. Fellow Volkswagen Group manufacturer Porsche is investing heavily in synthetic fuels and establishing an e-fuel production facility in Chile through a partnership with Siemens. While Bentley won’t partner with Porsche on this project, it does believe e-fuels will allow it to continue to produce Internal Combustion Engines (ICEs) until the British carmaker goes all-electric in 2030. “We’re looking more at sustainable fuels, either synthetic or bio-gen”, Bentley engineering boss Matthias Rabe told. “We think the combustion engine will be around for a long time yet and if that’s the case, then we think there can be a significant environmental advantage from synthetic fuels. We will have more to say on this in time, but we’re positive about this technology. We absolutely believe in e-fuels as a further step beside electromobility. We will probably tell you more details on this. Right now the costs are high and we will have to install some processes, but in the long-term, why not?” Bentley chief executive Adrian Hallmark is similarly optimistic about e-fuels but acknowledged they simply can’t completely replace the reliance on oil. “Today we need about 5 trillion barrels of oil a day, so replacing that with e-fuels won’t be possible”, he said. “But as EV uptake rises, to further reduce the impact of cars that need liquid fuels, it can be a parallel exercise, and we can be involved in that journey too. It won’t replace battery electric vehicles, but it can extend the life of combustion-engined cars in a more sustainable way”. I’m not sure where Hallmark got his figure of 5 trillion barrels of oil a day from, as the world actually uses nearer to 100 million barrels of oil per day. Nevertheless, it is becoming increasingly apparent that synthetic fuels will only be used by a small handful of car manufacturers for select models. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen will seek damages from former chief executive Martin Winterkorn and former Audi boss Rupert Stadler for what it claims are “breaches of duty of care” related to the DIESEL EMISSIONS CHEATING SCANDAL . The car maker has decided to launch the action against the 2 following the conclusion of a 6-year investigation to determine responsibility for the Dieselgate scandal. Volkswagen admitted in 2015 that it had sold more than 10 million diesel vehicles fitted with ‘defeat device’ software that artificially lowered emissions during laboratory testing. The firm has paid out more than €22 billion in fines. Volkswagen’s supervisory board tasked law firm Geliss Lutz with reviewing liability claims against all members of the board. Volkswagen says the investigation found both Winterkorn and Stadler breached their ‘duty of care’, but no breaches of duty were found by other members of the Volkswagen supervisory board. As a result, the supervisory board said it has decided “to assert claims for damages” against Winterkorn and Stadler, “on account of breaches of the duty of care under stock corporation law”. Winterkorn resigned from his role in September 2015, while Stadler remained at Audi until he was arrested in 2018. Both men are facing criminal charges in Germany relating to the scandal, with Stadler currently on trial in Munich. The supervisory board claims that Winterkorn breached his duty of care by failing, in a period from 27 July 2015 onwards, to “comprehensively and promptly clarify the circumstances behind the use of unlawful software functions in 2.0 TDI diesel engines sold in the North American market between 2009 and 2015”. It added that “Winterkorn also failed to ensure that the questions asked by the US authorities in this context were answered truthfully, completely and without delay”. The board claims that Stadler, in the period from 21 September 2016 onwards, failed “to ensure that 3.0 and 4.2 TDI diesel engines developed by Audi and installed in EU vehicles of Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche were investigated with regard to unlawful software functions”. Based on information from the same investigation, the supervisory boards of Audi and Porsche have also accused former Audi board members Ulrich Hackenberg and Stefan Knirsch and ex-Porsche board member Wolfgang Hatz of breaches of duty. Audi and Porsche have launched claims for damages against them. Claims of damages have already been made against former Volkswagen Passenger Cars board member Heinz-Jakob Neusser. Volkswagen has previously claimed that the diesel emissions scandal was the fault of a rogue employee. It is facing a number of lawsuits that accuse the firm of trying to cover up the scandal from when questions first arose about the test rules in June 2015 until VW admitted fault in September that year. Winterkorn’s lawyers issued a statement saying he rejected the allegations. Lawyers for Stadler declined to comment when contacted by the Reuters news agency. +++ 

+++ GENESIS ‘ sales increased significantly in January and February after the launch of new models last year. Hyundai’s luxury brand sold some 18.818 cars already in the first 2 months, led by the G80 with 8.364 and accounted for more than 16 & of the parent company’s sales, compared to only about 7 to 10 % until 2019. Sales started surging last year with the launch of 4 new models (the GV80, G80, G70, and GV70) reaching more than 100.000 cars a year for the first time. A survey suggests that some 35 % of Koreans would be minded to buy a Genesis over an imported luxury car. +++ 

+++ Porsche has shared details of how it plans to develop a range of HIGH PERFORMANCE BATTERIES for its top-flight EVs. Porsche is investigating the use of silicon, rather than graphite, anodes in battery packs to improve energy density and reduce charging times. Porsche’s first EV, the Taycan, is the first production electric car to use 800V charging architecture, and the company plans to be on the front foot with its next battery innovations, too. The first batteries to use the new technology will be reserved for limited-run performance flagships and customer motorsport cars. But the firm said that power units used in its future production cars will “benefit from the technological experience gained”. These prototype units will be built in Europe, and Porsche said that it will “ensure that there is a completely European production chain for high-performance batteries” going forwards. Porsche CEO Oliver Blume described the battery cell as “the combustion chamber of tomorrow”, adding: “Our electrified high-performance sports and racing cars place the highest demands on battery technology. To meet these demands, Porsche needs special high-performance cells. Silicon has big potential”. Alongside the battery development programme, Porsche is planning its own fast-charging network “along the most important European major highways and motorways” to complement the existing Ionity infrastucture in which it holds a stake. Each station will have between 6 and 12 chargers, offering charging rates of 350 kW “and more”. This suggests that Porsche is working on technology that will allow EVs to charge even faster than the Taycan, which is capped at 270 kW. Unusually, the charging stations will also have a dedicated lounge area with self-service facilities. All chargers will be accessed and operated using a dedicated smartphone app. Blume said: “An important prerequisite for electromobility is fast and convenient charging. That’s why we are currently working on the details of a concept for our own fast-charging stations. We will select attractive locations for these in order to offer our customers the most comfortable and fastest long-distance travel experience possible”. Both projects were announced alongside Porsche’s unveiling of a plan to go CO2-neutral “across the entire value chain” as soon as 2030. The company’s Leipzig, Weissach and Zuffenhausen production facilities in Germany are already CO2-neutral, thanks to the use of renewable energy and biogas, but Porsche will now work with its battery suppliers to ensure sustainability throughout the entire production process. It will also invest €1 billion in the installation of wind turbines, solar panels and other sustainable energy providers over the next decade. “We don’t want to buy CO2 certificates from other companies, but we don’t want to cause any emissions ourselves”, Blume vowed. “Where energy can’t be saved, we use electricity from renewable sources”. +++ 

+++ The Hyundai Motor Group has unveiled a plan to build its own HIGH SPEED CHARGING INFRASTRUCTURE for electric vehicle models under the new independent brand “E-pit”. Under the new system, electric cars embedded with Hyundai Motor’s exclusive platform may operate for up to 100 kilometers upon a single 5-minute charge at E-pit stations. E-pit was inspired by pit stops where motorsports race cars pause for refueling, tire replacement, repairs, mechanical adjustments or a driver change during course. These new charging stations will provide simplified processes, allowing users to access chargers by simply attaching the charging connector, without preliminary user verification. They will also adopt a digital wallet system so that users can make payments through the E-pit mobile app, without an actual credit card. A digital queue service will be introduced to reduce waiting times and prevent possible disputes between drivers. The auto group’s plan is to establish 120 charging units in 20 E-pit stations within this year, starting with motorway service stations, to address increasing electric vehicle demands in the domestic market. All-electric cars built on Hyundai Motor’s exclusive electric-global modular platform, or E-GMP, may charge up to 80 % of their full battery capacity within 18 minutes on a single charge. The speed is almost twice faster than the average time required to fully charge an electric vehicle with conventional chargers. Hyundai and Kia are exerting all efforts to hold an upper hand in the electric vehicle market this year. While Hyundai has recently unveiled its Ioniq 5, the first model to adopt the E-GMP system, Kia is set to follow suit with its EV6 this month. The group’s premium independent brand Genesis is also slated to roll out an electric model later in the year. +++ 

+++ HONDA has plans to sell 2 all-electric SUVs in the U.S. for the 2024 model year, and it soon will offer hybrid gas-electric versions of its topselling models. The announcements come as the automaker acknowledges it has work to do to comply with emissions-reduction targets that will be coming from the Biden administration, and a California ban on sales of new internal-combustion vehicles by 2035. Honda of America sales chief Dave Gardner told 1 of the electric SUVs will be from the Honda brand, while the other will be an Acura. Honda will offer more details later this year, he said. Underpinnings of the new vehicles will come from a partnership with General Motors, while the tops would be made by Honda, he said. As part of Honda’s efforts to meet stricter emissions standards, it will reduce emissions from its internal combustion vehicles, Gardner said. Already the company has a hybrid called the Insight, as well as hybrid versions of its Accord and CR-V. Gardner said there will probably be 1 or 2 additions that he would not identify. He conceded that Honda isn’t leading the race to electric vehicles and wouldn’t say when it will go all-electric. Honda is focused on being carbon-neutral by 2050 and is aware that President Joe Biden is focused on zero emissions, not just reducing them, he said. “We’ve got to now focus all of our energies in this direction in order to meet timelines”, he said. Honda has been a dominant sedan / hatchback seller for decades but U.S. buyers are shifting toward SUVs and pickups. And it’s also a large manufacturer of internal combustion engines, Gardner said. “We’re really good at a couple of things that seem to be going out of vogue today, so there’s no doubt that we have work to start moving quickly in the zero-emission direction”, he said. Honda is the latest automaker to announce battery-powered vehicles that will be sold in the U.S. market. The consulting firm LMC Automotive says automakers will roll out 22 new electric vehicles this year alone. Last year Americans bought about 260.000 vehicles; only 2 % of new vehicle sales. But LMC expects the number to hit more than 680.000 in 2022 and passing 1 million in 2023. +++ 

+++ Honda has revealed the hybrid-only third-generation HR-V ahead of its European launch in late 2021, claiming that the new model offers improved interior space on its predecessor. As part of the company’s aim to electrify all of its mainstream European models by 2022, the HR-V ditches the previous car’s pure-petrol plant for a new e:HEV petrol-electric hybrid system promising “exceptional” efficiency. Technical details remain unconfirmed, but the combustion element of the powertrain is likely to be either a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol 4-cylinder, as used by the hybridised Jazz supermini, or a 2.0-litre unit borrowed from the larger CR-V Hybrid. The first full images of the SUV confirm what previous spy shots and teasers have suggested: that the third-generation HR-V’s design is a dramatic departure from that of its predecessor. Honda says it “embodies the brand’s seamless, clean, modern design philosophy seen in other recent new Honda models”. Slim, distinctive headlight designs and a revamped grille dominate the new-look front end, with a long bonnet, rakish roof line and straight-edged shoulder line heavily distancing the new model from its predecessor. Honda has said that the new HR-V will retain the previous version’s centrally located fuel tank to offer increased interior space. Honda says the car can accommodate four adults in “maximum comfort”, claiming that design changes from the previous model means the inteior offers increased leg and shoulder room despite similar overall dimensions. The cabin has been redesigned to maximise the feeling of spaciousness, with a minimalist dashboard layout, simple horizontally aligned instrument panel and Honda’s ‘Magic’ folding, flipping rear seats in the back. The dashboard is a revised design, with Honda using new L-shaped vents in the top corners of the dashboard to free up space. The firm also says the new vents offer improved comfort by directing airflow along the side windows, rather than directly onto the occupants. Also new for the third-generation HR-V is an air diffusion system that sends a “curtain” of fresh air through new L-shaped vents. Further details of the new, European-spec HR-V, including pricing, are expected in the coming months. +++ 

+++ Some owners of a HYUNDAI Kona Electric say the South Korean automaker is bungling a major recall with delays and poor communication, and risks losing buyers as it targets the No.3 spot in the fast-growing sector. Hyundai said last month it would replace the battery systems in some 82.000 electric vehicles globally at a cost of $900 million following fires in 15 units of the Kona Electric. But Hyundai has yet to convey a clear plan to owners on when and how they can expect to have a potential fire hazard they are driving fixed, some of the owners have complained. “When I asked Hyundai’s repair centre when exactly my Kona Electric will be getting a battery replacement, they just told me that they would put me ahead in the line, but I haven’t received the exact date yet”, a 34-year-old owner in Seoul. Owners declined to give their full names, citing concerns about privacy and a potential backlash from Hyundai. “There were only a few EV options when I bought my Kona Electric back in 2018, but now that there are way more EV models available, I don’t think I would go for Hyundai again”, Kim said. In response, Hyundai said the safety of customers was its top priority. “Hyundai will continue striving to take necessary actions to prevent customer inconvenience from the ongoing recall”, it said, without addressing questions regarding owner complaints about delays and a lack of communication. Hyundai has said battery replacements would be available in South Korea starting next week. But the lack of clarity has led owners to turn to social media to air their frustrations and to seek compensation. In November, 173 owners of a Kona Electric filed a class-action lawsuit, seeking 8 million won ($7.000) compensation each for what they say is the reduced value of their EVs and other losses. Lee Hang-koo, an executive adviser at the Korea Automotive Technology Institute, said there could be potential issues with battery supplies and the automaker should communicate more clearly with owners. “Hyundai should be straightforward with its consumers and let them know what’s going on, whether or not battery sourcing has been difficult”, Lee said, noting competition in the EV market is getting fiercer. “If Hyundai falls behind on this EV race, that would be problematic. In that sense, they should review how they treat their customers”. Hyundai’s Ioniq 5, launched last month, is the first in a planned family of electric vehicles (EV) built on a common platform that it hopes will propel it to become the third-largest global EV maker by 2025. The vehicle fires, dating from within weeks of the Kona EV’s 2018 launch, have caused no injuries or fatalities so far. In October, Hyundai offered a software upgrade to address the issue. But following a consumer outcry and at least one fire in a vehicle that had been recalled for the upgrade, Hyundai agreed to replace the batteries, made by LG Chem’s battery division LG Energy Solution. The 75.680 Kona EVs affected by the recall account for nearly 70 % of the 111.000 units sold over the past 3 years in Hyundai’s major markets of United States, Europe and South Korea. Another Kona Electric owner, a 35-year-old engineer surnamed Lee, said the software update had substantially reduced the battery’s charging capacity and he will never buy a Hyundai vehicle again. Hyundai, in a statement on its website, said the limiting the batteries’ charging capacity to 90 % until the battery was replaced was an effective way to reduce fire risks. Lee said he had even been refused service at a public charging station when trying to recharge his Kona Electric. “These recalls already have already wasted my time and I have to charge my car worrying about fire risks”, Lee said. “On top of that, I have to worry about what other people think about my car”. +++ 

+++ Stellantis is considering whether to close 1 of 2 production lines at its Melfi car plant in southern ITALY , the head of the FIM CISL union told Jeep’s Renegade and Compass models and the Fiat 500X are produced at Melfi, which is considered Stellantis’ most efficient plant in Italy, but they could be moved to a single production line. Closing a line at Melfi could mark a first step by CEO Carlos Tavares to tackle excess capacity in Italy. The carmaker’s production in Italy is under scrutiny for costing more than elsewhere, as Stellantis seeks more than €5 billion a year in savings following its creation from the merger of France’s PSA Group and the Italian-American Fiat Chrysler earlier this year. Downsizing plants was at the heart of Tavares’ “back in the race” strategy at PSA, where he helped the Peugeot maker recover from near-bankruptcy around a decade ago. All plants producing fewer than 250.000 vehicles per year saw their capacity cut from 2 production lines to 1 to maximise capacity at the remaining line. In France, PSA took that route with its assembly plants at Rennes, Poissy and Mulhouse. It later applied the same approach at Opel-Vauxhall plants when it bought the business from General Motors. FIM CISL’s Ferdinando Uliano said the plan at Melfi was being assessed and Stellantis had not made a decision. The union had yet to receive official confirmation that the project was being considered, he added. Tavares has committed not to close plants or cut jobs. “We are very worried”, Uliano said. “Once you have reduced production capacity at one site, it’s very difficult to gain it back”. Elsewhere in Italy, Turin’s Mirafiori has 2 lines, while all of Stellantis’ other sites in the country have one. Unions will meet with Stellantis’ Enlarged Europe region top executives on April 15 in Turin to discuss the outlook for the group’s production sites in Italy. +++ 

+++ KIA ‘s new large sedan, the K8, received a strong response from the domestic market, with first-day preorders setting a record high among its sedan models, the nation’s No. 2 carmaker said. Kia started receiving orders for the K8, a direct follow-up to the K7, known as the Cadenza in the United States, ahead of the model’s domestic launch slated for early April. Preorders for the K8 reached 18.015 units on the first day, outpacing the K5’s preorders of 7.003 units in November 2019, Kia said. The first-day preorders accounted for about 44 % of K7 sales in the domestic market last year, the firm said. Kia offers the K8 in 2.5-liter and 3.5-liter gasoline engine versions, as well as a 3.5-liter liquefied petroleum injection (LPI) option, with prices starting at 32 million won ($23,370). It plans to add a 1.6-liter gasoline plug-in hybrid engine model in the first half of this year. The K8 is the first model that bears Kia’s new brand logo. +++ 

+++ Electric cars continue to gain popularity, with some manufacturers even going so far as announcing complete discontinuation of internal combustion engine models in the near future. But others think there’s life left in the ICE, at least until costs of battery production reduce, EV energy density increases, and adequate infrastructure is in place. Like Toyota, NISSAN evidently feels there’s life left in the hybrid. And now the Japanese carmaker wants us to know that there’s more than just a casual link between its e-Power initiative and the GT-R supercar thanks to one of their star engineers. Naoki Nakada is the man responsible for much of the e-Power drivetrain development. As one of Nissan’s chief powertrain engineers, Nakada has had a hand in many of its most well-known engines, including the legendary VR38DETT twin-turbo V6 found under the hood of the R35 GT-R. But it wasn’t only loud, powerful engines that fascinated Nakada. The Japanese maestro also played a role in developing the quiet yet torquey Leaf, one of the first-ever mass-marketed BEVs. “When we were developing the R35 GT-R, we were not just pursuing speed, but also that satisfying acceleration feeling”, said Nakada. “For GT-R drivers, there’s little that compares to the amazing feeling of putting it through its paces”. Nakada recognizes the need to go beyond just efficiency and green credentials. “An electric vehicle from Nissan should not only be environmentally friendly but also be fun and exciting to drive”. Identifying his accomplishments on either end of the subject, Nissan called upon Nakada to channel his knowledge into giving drivers the response and quiet of an electric vehicle, with the assurance of a traditional engine. The result was the e-Power drivetrain. The e-Power concept was completely different from a typical hybrid system. To maintain a fully-electric driving experience, a high output electric motor is placed as the sole provider of power to the wheels. Simultaneously, an on-board internal combustion engine charges the lithium-ion battery that powers said electric motor. The result is a driving experience similar to that of a fully electric vehicle, sans any range anxiety. The only thing needed to keep going is a trip to the fuel station to refuel the generator-style combustion engine that charges the battery. Basically, a range extender EV. “E-Power looks like a simple system that’s easy to develop”, says Nakada. “In fact, it’s quite the opposite. You have to get the balance right between electricity use and power generation, ensure the perfect timing for when the gasoline engine operates, and match the battery capacity to the type of car. A lot of development work went into perfecting the customer experience”. Nissan went on to launch e-Power cars for the Japanese market in 2016. They saw some success, with those electrified models closing almost 500.000 units sold. Nakada believes that since current infrastructure cannot accommodate a world of electric vehicles, e-Power is the next best alternative. “We want to offer E-Power to as many people as possible, as soon as possible. We are giving them the full-electric driving experience, which can in turn help accelerate towards a carbon-neutral, electrified mobility world”. +++ 

+++ PORSCHE ’s all-electric 4-door saloon, the Taycan, has been struck by its first recall, along with some 911, Cayman and Boxster models. In an official document, the NHTSA notes that “a loose threaded connection might cause movement of respective suspension component beyond its intended position”. If the connection fails, then drivers will experience “a sudden loss of vehicle stability and control”, increasing the risk of an accident. The recall concerns the entire 2021 Taycan family, including the base model, 4S, Turbo and Turbo S. It also affects the coupe versions of the 2021 911 Carrera, S, 4S, Turbo and Turbo S, as well as the convertible 911 Carrera, S, 4S, Turbo and Turbo S, and the 4S Targa and 4S Targa Heritage Design Edition. The 2021 Cayman, Cayman T, Cayman S, Cayman GT4, 718 Spyder and Boxster are also affected by the same problem. Despite covering pretty much the entire Porsche sports car lineup for 2021, the recall only concerns 396 vehicles whose owners will have to take them back to the dealer for repairs, which will consist of replacing the threaded connections with a new nut and bolt, tightened to the correct specification. Technicians will then check the surrounding components for any potential damage, and depending on their findings, will replace the faulty parts. The dealer and owner notification is scheduled for on or before May 9, when the recall is expected to commence. +++ 

+++ The boss of SKODA had detailed ambitious new product plans for the brand including a more affordable electric car to follow the Enyaq. Skoda will reveal its new generation of Fabia in May and the Czech brand is also working on a Combi version of the model. The current Fabia is the last of the Volkswagen Group superminis to move across onto the more modern MQB A0 platform, as used on everything from the current Polo to the Seat Arona and Audi A1. Skoda has previously teased camouflaged versions of the car and allowed journalists to try prototypes a few weeks ago. Speaking at Skoda’s annual press conference, the company’s CEO Thomas Schäfer said that the new Fabia was one of the brand’s most exciting launches of 2021. “The world premiere of the Fabia will be coming up in May”, he said, “and I’m already looking forward to it”. Schäfer also announced that the current Fabia Combi will get a successor, bucking an industry trend away from small stationwagons. It will go on sale in 2023 and will be built in Skoda’s Kvasiny plant, as part of a shake-up that also includes a new generation of the Superb. Schäfer said that work has already started on a successor to Skoda’s flagship liftback, and that it is being developed alongside the next-generation Volkswagen Passat. Skoda plans to move production of the Superb when the new version arrives in 2023, building it in Bratislava to free up space in the Kvasiny facility. That will allow the Fabia Combi to be made there, as well as opening up extra production capacity for Skoda’s big-selling SUVs, the Karoq and Kodiaq. Skoda “wants to be a part of” the VW Group’s project to build supermini-sized EVs on a new cost-focused electric platform called MEB Entry, Schafer said. “This is a VW Group topic at the moment. If the Group is working on that we want to be part of this”, he said. “We see that the Skoda brand plays strongly in that segment at the moment, with combustion-engined cars anyway. So we will fight for this”. In the meantime, Schäfer confirmed that the next full-sized MEB model from the company will be more affordable than the newly revealed Enyaq. “We’re working on the next model and it will be smaller than Enyaq. It’s true”, he said. But when he was asked if the next EV would be a more conventional hatchback, like VW’s ID.3, he said, “It’s too early to say what shape that car would be”. That could mean that Skoda’s second EV line will, in effect, be a scaled-down Enyaq with an SUV body style. +++ 

+++ Eager to slash costs following the merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA Group, STELLANTIS has kicked things off with cuts to cleaning services at its Italian factories. Stellantis is looking to make savings of more than €5 billion per year and according to Davide Provenzano of the FIM union, has reduced the number of toilets available to workers at its Mirafiori plant in Turin. It has also cut cleaning shifts and has reorganized transport facilities. “This is happening during Covid-19, when you should be increasing toilets available and cleaning services, rather than cutting them”, Provenzano told. Other cost-saving measures have been reported at different Stellantis sites in Italy. For example, Nicola Manzi from the UILM union says the automaker has slashed cleaning services at its Atessa plant in central Italy by 35 %. Stellantis hasn’t responded to reports of these cost-saving measures and Edi Lazzi of the FIOM union believes the actions in Italy have been taken by local management and don’t form a broad strategy launched by the group, stating “the measures are a drop in the ocean”. Shortly after the PSA-FCA merger was finalized, Stellantis revealed it is targeting annual synergies of more than €5 billion, a figure it will hit by optimizing powertrain and platform utilization, smart purchasing and investment strategies, and improving manufacturing and tooling facilities. Moreover, Stellantis chief executive Carlos Tavares has committed to not cut jobs or close plants following the merger. +++ 

+++ SUV and MPV cars account for more than half of Hyundai and affiliate Kia’s sales so far this year. They sold a combined 157.488 cars in South Korea in January and February, and about 52 % of them, or 81.938 cars, were SUVs. They saw a sharp increase in sales of their flagship SUV models, headed by the Carnival (14.196), Tucson (12.602) and Sorento (12.425). Additionally, Hyundai’s premium brand Genesis released its luxurious SUV lineup including the GV70 and GV80, and they are selling well. SUVs have become popular in recent years, as they have more loading and leg space than sedans. The increased demand for SUVs is also attributed in part to a growing interest in car camping amid the coronavirus epidemic. One industry insider said, “The popularity of MPVs is expected to continue to grow”. +++ 

+++ TESLA ’s use of in-car cameras to record and transmit video footage of passengers to develop self-driving technology raises privacy concerns, influential U.S. magazine Consumer Reports said. Consumer Reports said the usage potentially undermines the safety benefits of driver monitoring, which is to alert drivers when they are not paying attention to the road. “If Tesla has the ability to determine if the driver isn’t paying attention, it needs to warn the driver in the moment, like other automakers already do”, said Jake Fisher, senior director of Consumer Reports’ auto test center. Automakers such as Ford and General Motors, whose monitoring systems do not record or transmit data or video, use infrared technology to identify drivers’ eye movements or head position to warn them if they are exhibiting signs of impairment or distraction, the magazine said. The Palo Alto, California-based carmaker’s internal cameras are also a point of contention in China, where the military banned Tesla cars from entering its complexes, citing security concerns. Tesla chief executive Officer Elon Musk said last week his company would be shut down if its cars were used to spy. +++

+++ He doesn’t date a synth-pop star, publicly puff on blunts, or profess to want to die on Mars, but Herbert Diess is starting to look and sound an awful lot like Elon Musk. The chief executive officer of VOLKSWAGEN kicked off a March 15 news conference modeled after Tesla’s Battery Day (Diess called his version Power Day) by declaring that there’s only 1 way to quickly reduce emissions from transportation: Go electric. Skeptics could be forgiven for raising their eyebrows at that message, coming as it was from the same carmaker that spent years gaslighting the world about “clean diesel”. But Volkswagen is finally seeing the payoff from its five-year effort to create a standardized platform to underpin dozens of electric models. “Many in the industry questioned our approach”, Diess said during the 2-hour infomercial he led from VW’s headquarters in Wolfsburg. “Today they are following suit, while we are reaping the fruit”. Volkswagen last year became the No. 1 electric-vehicle maker in Europe, where sales of battery-powered cars surged thanks to stricter carbon dioxide limits. After the introduction of the ID.3 hatchback in 2020, the ID.4 crossover (the first global model based on VW’s electric platform) is starting to reach showrooms from Shanghai to Chicago. This year, VW plans to deliver 1 million plug-in hybrid and fully electric vehicles, and Diess aims to surpass Tesla in EV sales no later than 2025. Some analysts predict it will happen much sooner. In addition to staging splashy events, mixing it up on Twitter, and spewing shameless bombast, Diess has something else in common with Musk lately: a stock price headed into the stratosphere. Sure, Tesla’s sky-high valuation means Musk could afford to buy Volkswagen tomorrow if he so desired (he doesn’t), but VW’s common shares have jumped more than 80% this year. Musk has long said that he welcomes EV competition and that Tesla’s mission was to accelerate the advent of sustainable energy. He got what he wanted. EVs are shifting from what seemed like a one-man show to an extravaganza with an increasingly crowded stage. Although Volkswagen has as good a chance as anyone to share top billing with Tesla, what’s less clear is the rest of the cast. General Motors CEO Mary Barra sent her stock price soaring in January when she said she wanted to phase out gas and diesel cars by 2035. Many Chinese manufacturers are rolling out budget EVs, and Hyundai is planning almost 2 dozen models. Renault had a surprise hit in Europe last year with its Zoé. In the U.S., Ford’s Mustang Mach-E is hitting showrooms, and Amazon.com-backed Rivian Automotive and Lucid Motors (a Tesla clone that’s on track to raise $4.4 billion in funding) are seeking to replicate Musk’s success. Tesla has done to the auto industry what Netflix did to cable TV, speeding the shift away from internal combustion in much the same way easy access to Breaking Bad and hundreds of other shows spurred consumers to take the scissors to their Comcast contracts. But just as Netflix now sees a growing challenge from parts of the old guard (think Walt Disney and HBO) incumbent automakers are starting to emulate the upstart. Even though Disney+ was years behind Netflix, Disney’s service has been a runaway success with new fare such as The Mandalorian offered alongside its deep catalog of classics like Pinocchio, Toy Story, and Mulan. Similarly, Diess has won over investors by making the case that Volkswagen can exploit something Tesla doesn’t have much of yet: scale. With a dozen brands that fill every nook and cranny of the auto market (and sales last year of 9.3 million vehicles, compared with a half-million for Tesla), Volkswagen is uniquely positioned to pool resources and bear the cost of developing new technologies. By next year, VW will have 27 models based on its standardized platform. “Our transformation will be fast”, Diess said at his event, “bigger than anything the industry has seen in the past century”. Like Musk, Diess is going big on batteries and charging stations. By 2025, Volkswagen and its partners will have more than 35.000 public chargers around the world. And one element of its legal agreement with the U.S. and California over cheating on emissions tests was a pledge to spend $2 billion promoting plug-ins and building charging infrastructure. Volkswagen in 2017 set up an affiliate called Electrify America that now boasts the largest fast-charging network in the U.S. Diess is also planning a half-dozen battery factories in Europe, which analysts estimate will require an investment of almost $18 billion. The energy researcher says improvements in cell design, battery chemistry, and manufacturing put VW on track to cut the cost of batteries in half by as early as 2025. That could make its EVs cheaper than similarly equipped combustion cars. Some rivals insist VW’s headlong charge into electric cars is imprudent because they remain a sliver of global sales: roughly 3 % of vehicles delivered worldwide last year. Toyota, which narrowly surpassed Volkswagen as the world’s largest automaker in 2020, has long argued hybrids are a more sensible intermediate solution. And BMW has embraced flexibility, building many of its models in various versions: gasoline-powered, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric. “We think a one-propulsion strategy could be very dangerous”, CEO Oliver Zipse told. “The likelihood that 150, 160 markets in a very short period of time (and 1 decade is a very short period of time) will converge fully into one drivetrain is highly unlikely”. Diess has no plans to hit the brakes. Even as the first models from the current platform start to roll out, Volkswagen is furiously developing a separate set of standard components for electric vehicles from Audi, Porsche, and its other upscale brands. That premium platform promises speedier charging times, greater range and faster acceleration than the first-generation models. By the middle of the decade, VW says it will have a single scalable system to underpin all its battery-powered cars (no matter the brand or segment) as it aims to sell 26 million of them in the next 10 years. “They’ve got confidence that they can catch up with Tesla”, says Michael Dean, an analyst, who expects VW to take the global EV crown by 2023. “Their foray into electrification is serious”. +++ 

+++ VOLVO will establish a joint venture with technology company ECARX to develop a new, cutting-edge infotainment system platform. ECARX was founded by chief executive Shen Ziyu and Geely chairman Li Shufu in 2016 and will work with the Swedish automaker to create a platform that will be used by future Volvo models, other brands within the Geely Group and, potentially, third-party manufacturers. “The infotainment system in Volvo’s latest cars is one of the best on the market, rivaling mobile phones in user experience”, Volvo chief technology officer Henrik Green said. “Through this joint venture, we can speed up development of the system, bring high quality infotainment to more cars and maximize incentives for companies and developers to create great services and apps for the users of the platform”. ECARX expanded into Europe in December 2020 and has experience developing and integrating Android-based infotainment systems for brands including Geely, Lynk & Co, and Proton. “With profound accumulation in in-vehicle infotainment systems and the intelligent connected field, ECARX is committed to becoming the leading power in automotive intelligence technology in China”, ECARX chief executive Ziyu Shen said. “This joint venture will be another important move for ECARX’s globalization strategy. It will start the partnership between ECARX and Volvo Cars, integrates their respective technical advantages to bring global consumers connected infotainment experiences that lead the industry, and paves the way for further cooperation”. The new platform will first be introduced in Volvo and Polestar models, each with their own unique user interfaces. The joint venture will be led by Jan-Erik Larsson, the current head of R&D in China for Volvo Cars, and be headquartered in Gothenburg, Sweden. +++ 

+++ ZEEKR might sound like an odd sidekick from a children’s television show, but it’s actually Geely’s new premium electric vehicle brand. Little is known about the company at this point, but the first Zeekr vehicles are slated to be launched in the third quarter of 2021. That’s only months away and this is possible as Geely will be handling production under a “light asset strategy”. Geely didn’t say much about the first model, but Zeekr intends to introduce a new electric vehicle every year for the next 5 years. While the brand will initially focus on the Chinese market, it promises to serve “growing global demand for premium electric vehicles”. That isn’t much to go on, but Zeekr EVs will be based on the Sustainable Experience Architecture that was introduced last year. The platform is highly flexible and can underpin everything from A- to E-segment vehicles. The architecture can also accommodate front-, rear- and all-wheel drive layouts. Geely is keeping details under wraps, but confirmed Zeekr models will have their “own battery technologies, battery management systems, electric motor technologies and electric vehicle supply chain support”. This is likely being done to distance the premium brand from mainstream models based on the architecture. Besides unique technology, Zeekr models promise an “unrivalled luxury vehicle experience in terms of comfort and performance”. Geely also said the vehicles will be capable of receiving over-the-air updates, which will enable them to improve with age. +++

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