Newsflash: Tesla overweegt bouw fabriek in Rusland


+++ Tesla has halted plans to buy land to expand its Shanghai plant and make it a global export hub, people familiar with the matter said, due to uncertainty created by U.S.- CHINA tensions. With 25 % tariffs on imported Chinese electric vehicles imposed on top of existing levies under former U.S. president Donald Trump still in place, Tesla now intends to limit the proportion of China output in its global production, 2 of the 4 people said. Tesla had earlier considered expanding exports of its China-made entry-level Model 3 to more markets, including the United States, sources told; a plan that had not previously been reported. Tesla currently ships China-made Model 3s to Europe, where it is building a factory in Germany. Tesla sold 25.845 China-made vehicles in China and overseas in April, down from 35.478 in March, according to data from China Passenger Car Association. Tesla’s Shanghai factory is designed to make up to 500.000 cars per year, and has the capacity to produce Model 3 and Model Y vehicles at a rate of 450.000 total units per year. In March, Tesla refrained from bidding on a plot of land across the road from the plant as it no longer aimed to boost China production capacity significantly, at least for now, three of the people said, declining to be named as the discussions were private. In a statement, Tesla said its Shanghai factory was “developing as planned”. The Shanghai city government, a key supporter in Tesla’s establishment of a wholly owned factory in China (the first and only foreign passenger car plant not required to form a joint venture) did not respond to a request for comment. Tesla had never declared an intention to acquire the land, which is about half the size of the 80 hectare plot housing Tesla’s current facility and would enable the company to lift capacity by another 200.000 to 300.000 cars, said 2 of the people. Tesla’s China sales are surging despite mounting regulatory pressure in the country after consumer disputes over product safety and scrutiny over how it handles data. It generated $3 billion in revenue in China in the first 3 months of this year, more than tripling year-earlier sales and accounting for 30 % of total revenue. Led by mercurial Chief Executive Elon Musk, Tesla is known for shifting gears on strategy, including in China. Construction documents posted on a government website in March show Tesla is revamping its plant in Shanghai to add capacity. Tesla still has land, designed for production but now used for parking, at its Shanghai site. One of the people said Tesla could expand its capacity beyond 500.000 on its existing site. Another said Tesla may acquire more land for more car production lines in the future. Separately, Tesla is building facilities to repair and reproduce key components such as electric motors and battery cells and build EV chargers at its Shanghai plant. The Shanghai government has been talking to several companies to sell the land for new-energy commercial vehicle production, said a person with direct knowledge of the matter. Tesla faces intensifying competition in China with domestic players such as Nio, which is considering making mass market products under another marque. Even before the trade war tariffs, relatively few China-made cars were shipped to the United States. General Motors sells its China-made Buick Envision in the United States, paying the additional 25 % tariff, although the SUV is not a high volume model. +++ 

+++ A century ago, Henry FORD came to Brazil and established the town of Fordlandia, hoping to become an Amazonian rubber baron, but retreated deep in the red. Now the automaker he founded is once again licking its Brazilian wounds, having abandoned production in the challenging market after burning through roughly 61 billion reais ($11.6 billion) in the past decade. Ford announced the closure of its manufacturing plants in January, dealing a heavy blow to its more than 5.000 workers in the country and almost 300 dealerships. Previously unreported corporate filings show the scale of the financial woes that led to the decision. Ford had burned through $7.8 billion, the bulk in accumulated losses but also some cash injections, according to the documents filed in Sao Paulo state, where the automaker is registered in Brazil. Add to that the $4.1 billion that Ford will shell out to extricate itself from its commitments, and the price tag for the Brazilian operation rises to almost $12 billion. Almost all the losses and cash injections were in the past 8 years, when the company has lost about $2,000 for every car it sold, calculations based on the filings and sales data indicate. Ford, which does not separate out Brazil from South America in its financial results, declined to comment on the losses, cash injections and calculations. The expensive retreat of the U.S. heavyweight underlines the risks for global automakers in Brazil, a country seen not long ago as one of the most promising growth markets in the world, but where tax, labor and logistics costs are high. The Covid-19 pandemic has strained finances while Ford’s problems also reflect, in part, a strategic misstep that saw it lag rivals in transforming its lineup of unprofitable compact cars into higher-margin SUVs, according to half a dozen sources familiar with the company’s Brazilian operation. Ford had in fact drafted a plan to shift into SUVs, larger cars with higher profit margins, but was too slow to implement it, they said. “There were no other viable options”, Lyle Watters, Ford’s head for South America, told in a statement about the decision to exit the country. Watters, who will start a new Ford role in China in July, cited an “unfavorable economic environment, lower vehicle demand (and) higher industry idle capacity” for the Brazil retreat. He declined to comment on the SUV project, saying he would not “speculate on new product plans”. A Ford spokesman in Brazil said the company was implementing “a lean and asset-light business model in the region, with a truly customer-centric mindset”. Brazil is largely a lossmaker for global car companies, despite the government providing federal subsidies totaling $8 billion over the past decade and a 35% import tariff to shield local production. Domestic costs are high. Even though local factories can make 5 million cars a year, more than double the number sold in the country, exports are minimal because prices are uncompetitive. And it costs automakers money to keep factories open while operating at low capacity. Mexico, by contrast, exports more than 80 % of the cars it makes, helped by free-trade agreements with the United States and Canada, making it an attractive alternative for the same carmakers that already operate in Brazil. A 2019 study by consultant PwC found that selling a Mexican-made car in Brazil was 12 % cheaper for an automaker than selling a locally-made vehicle, including production, tax and logistics costs. The study was commissioned by Brazilian auto industry group Anfavea, which is lobbying the government to reduce taxes and labor costs. The high Brazilian costs mean even carmakers who pivoted earlier than Ford to higher-margin SUVs, like the Brazilian units of players like Volkswagen, General Motors and Toyota, are struggling to stay in the black. Volkswagen Brazil has lost $3.7 billion since 2011, according to the corporate filings in Sao Paulo state. GM Brazil has received $2.2 billion in cash injections since 2016, and Toyota Brazil last year required forgiveness on $1 billion of inter-company debt, the documents showed. Volkswagen and GM and Toyota all declined to comment on the filings figures. The Brazilian economy ministry did not respond to a request for comment about the Ford exit and problems faced by the auto sector. Ford failed to develop a viable production business in Brazil despite a practice of pursuing tax subsidies, which totaled more than that of its rivals over the past decade. Since 2011, Ford has reaped about $2.6 billion in tax subsidies, or a third of all federal automotive incentives distributed in that period, according to calculations based on official tax forfeiture figures. Ford declined to comment on its tax benefits. In 2013, however, the business outlook began to change, as commodities prices crashed and dragged the local currency with it, sending Brazil into a deep recession made worse by corruption scandals. At the time, it was the world’s 4th largest auto market. It now ranks 7th. Weak domestic demand and the uncompetitive exports pushed Ford to quintuple its bulk fleet sales between 2011 and 2019, and deepen the discounts to 30 % or more, a person familiar with the pricing said. Ford headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, shored up its Brazilian subsidiary with $1.3 billion in cash injections, in 9 transfers between March 2018 and January 2021, according to the Sao Paulo corporate filings. By late 2019, Ford was considering the key strategic shift to manufacture SUVs in Brazil and had 3 models planned, according to 3 sources. Yet many of its competitors had already been revamping their lineup to produce such vehicles for about 2 years. “The truth is, Ford failed to modernize its product lineup at the same speed as its rivals”, said Ricardo Bacellar, automotive head at KPMG’s consulting arm in Brazil. In the end, the SUV plans never came to fruition. By April 2020, the economic pain wrought by the pandemic forced Ford to reevaluate its plans for Brazil, the automaker has said. Still, Ford made commitments to the government as late as November last year to invest more in Brazil and told its dealers in December that it expected improved sales in 2021, according to a government announcement and the dealers’ association. Yet just weeks later, it halted production. It closed its 3 plants, the largest one in Camaçari, in the northeastern state of Bahia. It retains only a small operation selling imports, a niche market for high-end cars that the import tariffs make prohibitively expensive for many people. On Thursday, Ford launched its new Bronco Sport in Brazil. Made in Mexico, it is exported to the U.S. where it starts at $26,820. In Brazil, where per capita income is much lower, Ford said the Mexican-made car will retail for $48.000. While Ford sold 18.000 cars in Brazil in April 2019, it sold 1.500 cars in the same month this year. +++ 

+++ HONDA said that its full-year net profit soared more than 40 % thanks to cost-cutting efforts, shrugging off the negative impact of the pandemic. But the company now forecasts a drop in net profit for the year ahead and a stagnation in its operating profit, citing a global chip shortage and the rising costs of materials. The Japanese automaker posted net profit of 657.4 billion yen ($6 billion) for the year to March, up 44.3 %, beating its own annual forecast of 465 billion yen. Operating profit grew 4.2 % to 660.2 billion yen “due primarily to control of selling, general and administrative expenses and cost reduction efforts”, it said in a statement. The company added there were “some unfavorable factors such as a decrease in demand due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact of semiconductor supply shortages”. It forecasts consolidated operating profit for the current fiscal year that started in March of 660 billion yen, with net profit at 590 billion yen. The results come after the car giant said last month it would aim to have electric and fuel cell vehicles account for 100 % of all sales by 2040 to promote climate goals. Its rival Toyota, the world’s topselling automaker, generated 2.25 trillion yen annual net profit. The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the global auto sector but demand recovered swiftly in the second half of last year, most notably in the United States and China, they said. Crisis-hit Nissan in the meanwhile narrowed its net loss to 448.7 billion yen, from a loss of 671.2 billion yen a year earlier. A shortage in semiconductors used in modern vehicles has weighed heavily on the global auto industry. +++ 

+++ Toyota is focusing on the development of an engine that uses HYDROGEN as fuel as part of its efforts to expand the options for environmentally friendly vehicles. The automaker said it aims to utilize hydrogen in a way different from fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) that use electricity generated from hydrogen to power their motors. Challenges for practical use of hydrogen include lowering costs, improving safety and establishing sufficient infrastructure in terms of hydrogen stations, observers said. This weekend, for the first time, Toyota used a hydrogen-engine vehicle to compete in a 24-hour Super Taikyu Series race in Shizuoka Prefecture, in which president Akio Toyoda participated as a driver. Toyota planned to collect data in the harsh conditions of a hard race for use in future development. The automaker, which has been making all-out efforts to develop a hydrogen engine vehicle since 2016, used some of the technology of the commercially available Mirai FCV for the car in the race. Toward the decarbonization of vehicles, Toyota is conducting research and development in a wide range of fields for its cars that include not only hybrid vehicles (HVs) and electric vehicles (EVs) but also FCVs. “Our goal is to be carbon-neutral, and there should be more than one path to the goal”, Toyoda said. Hydrogen engine vehicles emit water vapor when running, but do not emit carbon dioxide except for the incidental combustion of engine oil. FCVs also emit only water, but their basic structure is different. While FCVs use a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity to power the motor, hydrogen-engine vehicles burn hydrogen in the engine to generate power. As with gasoline vehicles, the driver can feel the sound and vibration. Since hydrogen engine vehicles can utilize existing gasoline engine parts and technology, their production costs may be lower than those of FCVs in the future, sources said. However, there are high technical hurdles to the practical application of hydrogen engines. The use of hydrogen, which burns explosively, in the engine leads to quick acceleration, but hydrogen engines have lower fuel efficiency. Due to the hydrogen burning at higher temperatures than gasoline inside the engine, the parts for hydrogen engine vehicles need to be more durable than those of gasoline vehicles. The car industry has been developing hydrogen engines for many years. Mazda for example unveiled a prototype car with a hydrogen engine in 1991, and leased an HV with a hydrogen rotary engine to local governments in 2009. Full-scale mass production has not been achieved so far because there have been few hydrogen refueling facilities. The government has been encouraging the installation of hydrogen stations, but even now there are only about 150 stations of this kind nationwide. Mazda has frozen the development of its hydrogen engine. “There is a possibility of using the hydrogen engine when infrastructure improves”, Mazda president Akira Marumoto said. +++

+++ LEXUS announced that the luxury brand eclipsed the milestone of 2 million global sales of electrified vehicles at the end of April. Since the launch of the RX 400h in 2005, Lexus has been a pioneer of electrification in the luxury market, and the models have continued to evolve on the mission of balancing excellent driving performance with environmental sensitivity. Lexus has continued to expand its lineup of electrified vehicles to provide a wide range of options tailored to meet the needs of our customers and society. Based on a philosophy of “right time, right product, right place”, Lexus hopes to further develop its electrified product portfolio to best respond to a varied range of energy sources and infrastructure environments encountered around the world. As a result, Lexus now sells 9 models of electrified vehicles, including HEVs and BEVs, in approximately 90 countries and regions around the world. In 2020, 33 % of the Lexus models sold globally were of the electrified variety. Since 2005, Lexus electrified vehicles have contributed to a cumulative reduction in CO2 emissions of approximately 19 million tons. This reduction is equivalent to the combined CO2 output of approximately 300.000 passenger cars each year for the past 15 years. Lexus will continue to lead the steady growth of electrified vehicles and the reduction of CO2 emissions in line with our corporate mission of carbon neutrality and Sustainable Development Goals. Under the “Lexus Electrified” vision announced in 2019, Lexus will evolve its electrification technology to realize enhanced vehicle performance characteristics and continue to provide customers with the fun and joy that the car brings. By 2025, Lexus will introduce 20 new or improved models, including more than 10 BEVs, PHEVs, and HEVs. That year is also the target for the brand to offer electrified vehicle options across the entire Lexus product range. The future expectation is that the sales of electrified models will exceed that of the pure-petrol variety. In addition, by 2050, Lexus will achieve carbon neutrality throughout the entire vehicle lifecycle such as materials, parts, and vehicle manufacturing along with logistics, driving, and disposal/recycling. In order to further accelerate the spread of electric vehicles, Lexus plans to introduce the first PHEV in a mass-market model in 2021, and a completely new model dedicated to BEVs in 2022. In addition, by utilizing the electrification technologies such as motors, inverters, and batteries that Lexus has cultivated over the year in the field of HEVs, we will create new value and driving experience unique to Lexus electrified vehicles. Future Lexus electrified models will feature Direct4 and steer-by-wire systems. Direct4, our four-wheel-drive torque distribution technology, combines highly-precise drive force control with responsive steer-by-wire systems that greatly enhance vehicle reflexes, resulting in a high level of dynamic performance and a driving experience that appeals to all five senses that is unmatched by conventional cars. +++ 

+++ Crisis-hit Japanese carmaker NISSAN said it had trimmed its annual net loss but warned its outlook remained clouded by the global chip shortage that has hit the auto industry. The firm has faced a series of trials, from weak demand during the pandemic to the fallout from the arrest of former boss Carlos Ghosn, now an international fugitive after jumping bail and fleeing Japan. Nissan said it narrowed its net loss to 448.7 billion yen ($4.1 billion) for the fiscal year to March, from losses of 671.2 billion yen a year earlier, beating its own forecast. For the current year, Nissan expects to stay in the red but move closer to profitability, projecting a net loss of 60 billion yen. The firm also forecast stronger sales for the current fiscal year, steadily recovering from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. “However, there is continued business risk due to semiconductor supply shortage and raw material price hike in this fiscal year”, it said in a statement. Even as vaccine rollouts put the end of the pandemic within sight for the hard-hit auto sector, it is battling a chip shortage driven by a surge in demand for electronic devices during lockdowns. Supply disruptions including a fire at a Japanese factory, an extreme cold snap in the United States and a drought in Taiwan have compounded the mismatch between demand and availability. Semiconductors are a key component in modern cars and the supply shortage has prompted Nissan to reduce production at home and furlough around 800 workers in Britain, Japanese media reports said. Nissan has said its production has been affected but declined to provide details. “Nissan is on the path to recovery”, Satoru Takada, an auto analyst at Tokyo-based research and consulting firm TIW, told before the results were released. “But the semiconductor shortage and growing shipping costs could pour cold water on its recovery”. The group’s strategy of trying to cut sales incentives, which tend to lead to discounts and squeeze overall profit, has paid off, Takada said. Sales fell 20.4 % to 7.9 trillion yen in 2020-21 but are forecast to rise to 9.1 trillion yen in the current fiscal year. Volkswagen last week said the chip shortage has hurt production and would have a “more significant impact” in coming months, while Ford expects the supply crunch to halve second-quarter auto production, with the issue possibly not resolved until 2022. “Semiconductor supplies are expected to remain tight for now, because the global economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic should further boost chip demand in many sectors”, Yasuo Imanaka, chief analyst at Rakuten Securities, told. Nissan’s recovery has been slower than that of its rivals, as the firm struggled with growing sales costs and the ongoing saga surrounding its former chief Ghosn. +++ 

+++ Elon Musk said on Friday that TESLA was close to establishing a presence in Russia and was looking at whether it could open factories there. Addressing an event in Russia via video link, Musk said the company already had production sites in China and the United States, but was looking at opening production facilities in other parts of the world. The Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade invited Musk to Russia. “Dear @Elonmusk, we were delighted to learn that you are considering building a factory in Russia. By the way, we have a number of state support measures for local OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers). Come to see us, we’ll talk about it:)”, it said on social media in English. Russian small private carmaker Zetta is designing an electric car and plans to launch production this year. The auto industry in Russia, a global oil and gas exporter, has no successful electric car projects at present and analysts see slim prospects in the near future, primarily due to poor charging infrastructure. +++ 

+++ The global microchip shortage dragging on the auto industry has put barely a dent in production at TOYOTA , the world’s biggest automaker, thanks to lessons it learned after Japan’s 2011 tsunami disaster. While the latest crisis caused by skyrocketing demand for semiconductors has forced global car makers to revise production plans, Toyota exceeded its sales targets this year and expects to sell even more units in the next 12 months. Its success lies in part, experts say, in its decision to prepare extensively for disruptions after the experience of Japan’s devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis 10 years ago. The catastrophe left parts of Japan’s industry on its knees for months, especially vehicle makers, whose domestic supply chains were thrown into turmoil. Toyota suffered like its rivals and took six months to return to normal production, but the firm resolved not to let the same thing happen again. “Toyota learned the lessons of the 2011 earthquake probably better than anybody”, said Christopher Richter, an auto expert and managing director at the brokerage CLSA. The Japanese giant reviewed all its suppliers, even the most indirect, giving it a better understanding of its supply chain and allowing it to react quicker in times of crisis. Faced with a global semiconductor shortage this year, “they were just way better prepared than any other automaker in the world”, Richter told. A source close to another Japanese carmaker agreed. “We all took steps like that post-Fukushima, but Toyota did it best, and kept it up”, he said, referring to the nuclear plant that was crippled by the tsunami. The global auto industry has faced serious headwinds during the pandemic, with lockdowns fueling declining sales, and a shortage of the chips used in modern vehicles has only compounded the woes. A surge in demand for home electronics that use semiconductors, as well as a U.S. cold snap, a drought in Taiwan and a fire at Japan’s Renesas manufacturer have created a perfect storm throttling chip supplies. Toyota was a pioneer of the widely used “just-in-time” production model, where stockpiling is kept to a minimum to reduce costs. But as soon as it spotted the first signs of a chip shortage, the firm switched things up. “Toyota was the first automaker to adjust its supply chain management system from a purely ‘just-in-time’ model to a hybrid model where it stockpiles more of the critical components such as semiconductors”, said Joshua Cobb, an auto analyst at Fitch Solutions. “Toyota has always been a leader in developing supply chain management systems, and other automakers tend to follow Toyota’s lead”, Cobb said. German auto giants Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler, and their U.S. rival General Motors, have all recently announced that they will change their supply and stockpiling systems to build up more reserves. But Japanese firm had a head start, and another crucial advantage: most of its suppliers, including chipmakers, are Japanese companies, which will “prioritize supplying Toyota”, Cobb said. Toyota often holds shares and sometimes controlling stakes in these firms, so it has “greater control” over the situation, he added. “This differs from other automakers, specifically European and American automakers which source most of their components from Asian companies”, Cobb told. An industry source said Toyota also prioritizes good relations with suppliers, ensuring consistently solid sales and pledging not to renegotiate fees after a contract has been signed. All these factors mean Toyota often comes out on top. “If we receive orders from several clients at the same time, we have to prioritize the most powerful and stable”, said the source. Announcing its earnings Wednesday, Toyota could point to the fruits of its preparations, surpassing its sales target with 9.9 million vehicles sold by all its brands in the financial year to March. It is now targeting total sales of 10.5 million units in 2021-22. +++ 

+++ In late March, driver Morizo put on his helmet, got in the driver’s seat of the TOYOTA GR YARIS and stepped on the gas. With the engine roaring, the blue and yellow car sped around the track, sending Morizo, also known as Toyota president Akio Toyoda, into a world of his own during a 5-hour endurance race at Twin Ring Motegi racetrack in Tochigi Prefecture. While driving the car, Toyoda concentrates all his senses on the driving experience; the moment when he gears up, steps on the brakes and rounds corners. “It’s like having a dialogue with the car”, Toyoda said, referring to the experience. Toyoda, the “master driver” at Toyota who test drives a new car model as a final check before they hit showrooms, has been test driving the car from the start of its development alongside its engineers. It’s the first car in which Toyota has used its technology developed for race cars. “I’m the developer on the ground and Morizo is the chief engineer”, said Naohiko Saito, who is in charge of the GR Yaris development, adding that Toyoda sat down with the engineers to discuss the details of the car. When the first test car was manufactured, Toyoda flew to Hokkaido in mid-winter for a test drive at a racetrack in the city of Abashiri. But when he was testing out the car, he lost control and crashed into a mound of snow. As people rushed to the rescue, Toyoda calmly got out of the car and said, “I don’t like the feel of it”. “He’s staking his life on this”, Saito recalled. Just before the car went on sale, Toyoda tested the car at a dirt course in Aichi Prefecture until the car broke down, checking the details from the test course with other race drivers he developed the car with. Quite a task for a president who has every second accounted for in their schedule. For Toyoda, the noise that surrounds him disappears when he is behind the wheel; a time to be by himself and indulge his passion for cars. “I’m always getting reports from someone, rarely having a quiet moment to myself. I’m on my own when I’m driving”, said Toyoda. At the end of 2016, when Toyoda gave the green light to develop the GR Yaris, the only instructions he gave were to offer a great driving experience and avoid an overall loss. Toyoda took the lead in making sure the GR Yaris offers a great driving experience. Profitability, meanwhile, is an issue every chief engineer at Toyota needs to face up to. “I ditched the idea of making it cost-effective using mass production”, Saito said. His team looked over every auto part individually, asking parts makers to keep the production cost low using existing facilities. In one case, they used a production facility from 50 years ago. Staffers were all for the policy that to make a better car, they needed to make a production line especially for the GR Yaris, based on their knowledge of luxury car models produced only in small quantities. Many top-notch engineers, dubbed the “artisans”, were gathered from factories nationwide to carry out certain assembly process by hand. In the end, the GR Yaris, with an annual production volume of around 25.000 cars, has been supported by car enthusiasts, getting 10 out of 10 in some car magazines overseas that are known for their harsh reviews. More than 6 months since the car went on sale, the development team is still working with Morizo, who drives the GR Yaris in races. In the pit, Saito is there to handle any malfunction on the spot, along with 20 other engineers on call at head office in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture. Their journey continues. +++

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