Newsflash: DS en Opel zijn straks deels ‘made in Italy’

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+++ While most Americans expect electric vehicles eventually to dominate the nation’s roadways, many have greeted the first battery-powered models with skepticism, expressing concerns about the potential costs and inconveniences of owning such vehicles, a Ipsos poll showed. Automakers have already recognized the challenge and said they plan to market future battery-powered models by touting their performance and long-term cost savings over environmental benefits. Vehicle manufacturers need to win over more rural Americans and Republicans, with the survey showing those groups express less enthusiasm than others for electric vehicles. Vehicle electrification, particularly of the most popular large, fuel-intensive pickups and SUVs, has become a central part of U.S. efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change. In the Ipsos national poll of around 1.005 adults, 67 % of all respondents agreed in a bipartisan consensus that pickups are the American way of life, underscoring the focus on electrifying those vehicles to reach climate goals. Rural consumers in so-called red states or Republican strongholds are a key demographic for pickups, the auto industry’s most profitable vehicle segment, challenging automakers to navigate an electric future without alienating those customers. Several automakers, including Ford and General Motors, are planning to release ALL-ELECTRIC PICK-UPS in the coming years. But no electric pickup is yet available, which means consumer attitudes about them are largely based on second-hand knowledge. A majority of 65 % agreed that electric vehicles are the future of the auto industry, the poll showed. While there were clear divisions along party lines (with 53 % agreeing among Republicans, compared with 78 % among Democrats) the issue is less partisan than other contentious U.S. political topics. Nearly half of Americans (46 %) believe EVs are not worth the cost, the survey showed, with opinions again reflecting a political divide. EVs have a higher sticker price than comparable gasoline models, largely due to costly batteries. When asked to consider buying a new truck, only a minority said they would search for one that minimizes its impact on the environment. 38 % said they would look first for an efficient truck that costs less to operate. Another 34 % said they wanted a durable truck, and only about 19 % said they wanted an environmentally friendly one. Jim Richman, a window installer in Austin, Texas, who owns a 2018 Ford F-150, said he is also concerned about the reliability of electric pickups and the hassle of charging them. “I just want to know my truck is ready whenever I need it and also for longer trips” Richman said, echoing a sentiment among a majority of survey respondents who said EVs generally were inconvenient because of their need for charging. The auto industry is trying to alleviate those concerns with technological innovations, including reductions in battery costs and longer driving ranges. GM, which plans to start selling an all-electric version of its Hummer pickup by the end of next year, said more consumers will consider EVs as they become familiar with battery-powered vehicles. GM is also trying to emphasize economic benefits of going electric. “We have a tremendous opportunity to help consumers understand that benefits of driving electric aren’t just related to the environmental benefits, but performance and capability that EVs offer”, said Darryll Harrison, a GM spokesman. Researchers expect EVs to reach price parity with fuel-powered counterparts around 2030, and EVs also provide long-term cost savings due to lower maintenance costs and the lower cost per mile of refueling with electricity instead of gasoline. Ford said its research had shown consumer demand for an e-truck, especially among younger truck owners. The company plans to release its all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup next year, for which it has received some 100.000 reservations to date. “By 2030 we expect 40 % of our global mix to be fully electric and we’ll achieve that by electrifying our most popular name plates”, said Darren Palmer, Ford’s North America EV general manager. Chris Sherman, general manager of a Ford dealership in rural Paris, Texas, said he has been surprised by the positive response to the Lightning so far. “These are pretty much diehard gas and diesel pickup owners”, Sherman said. “Lot of people here are blue-collar, and they tow utility trailers. They want to know how much of a day’s work they can do with their truck”. Sherman said he had so far received 10 reservations for the electric truck and that he fields up to 40 phone calls per day about it. +++ 

+++ U.S. electric vehicle startup CANOO said it plans to build a plant in Oklahoma to assemble the pod-shaped vans it calls “lifestyle vehicles” beginning in 2023. The company also said it has a deal to contract out near-term manufacturing to VDL Nedcar in Netherlands until the Oklahoma plant is ready. The Oklahoma plant will be on about 400 acres of land in Pryor, in the northeast part of the state, chief executive Tony Aquila said at Canoo’s investor relations meeting in Dallas. The plant will employ over 2.000 people and will include assembly as well as a body shop and paint shop. “We have picked the awesome state of Oklahoma to manufacture”, said Aquila, who previously opened offices in Dallas. The plant, at full capacity, will be able to build over 150.000 vehicles a year, he said in an interview. Canoo’s investment in the facility will come in stages, and depending on demand could ultimately range from $500 million to $1 billion, he said, adding that the state is providing Canoo more than $300 million in tax incentives. Until the Oklahoma plant opens, VDL in the Netherlands will build Canoo’s 7-seat vehicle for the U.S. and European markets, he said, allowing Canoo to meet its commitment to start production in the 4th quarter of 2022. VDL is scheduled to build up to 1.000 vehicles next year, with a target of 15.000 in 2023, Canoo said. Canoo also has plans to introduce a multipurpose delivery vehicle and pickup truck. In December, Canoo went public through a reverse merger with a special-purpose acquisition company (spac). In April, it changed CEOs, with Aquila, a former software executive and one of Canoo’s largest shareholders, taking over. Canoo developed a “skateboard”, or a low-rise platform that bundles batteries and electric motors with such chassis components as steering, brakes and wheels, on which a variety of vehicle body types can be built. +++ 

+++ The head of DETROIT ‘s big auto show says it will return to the Motor City next year, but with smaller indoor displays, and more emphasis on experiencing vehicles and technology outside. The North American International Auto Show was canceled last year due the coronavirus pandemic and will be replaced this year by an event at a racetrack north of Detroit. But Rod Alberts, executive director of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, which runs the show, says the 2022 show will be an event in the city’s downtown. “That’s the place it belongs”, Alberts told. But he said the show will have to change from the past, when automakers built elaborate and costly multi-story displays and unveiled their most important new models. Now car companies are finding they can get good exposure and spend less by doing virtual unveilings outside of auto shows, where vehicles can get overshadowed by other debuts. Some automakers had pulled out of Detroit and other shows. Alberts said Detroit and other shows have to change to appeal more to millennials, which are two generations after baby boomers and like to experience things rather than just view them. He envisions a mainly a walkable outdoor event encompassing the entire downtown, with smaller displays and maybe some electric-vehicle driving indoors. It would be during good-weather months instead of the traditional frigid January in Detroit. “You can’t just keep doing the same things over and over again”, Alberts said. The show had been scheduled at the downtown convention center for September of this year, but in January organizers decided to merge it with an outdoor event called “Motor Bella” at the M1 Concourse track in Pontiac, Michigan. Alberts said Motor Bella could be incorporated into a future downtown auto show, or could be a separate event. It will have track driving, an off-road driving area, and displays by automakers and technology companies. He said there will be new-vehicle debuts at the event from September 21-26, but he wasn’t sure how many. Last month, the Chicago Auto Show announced that it would be back downtown in July. The New York International Auto Show is scheduled to make a comeback August 20-29 at the Javits Convention Center, while the Los Angeles Auto Show is to return November 19-28 at the city’s convention center. +++ 

+++ Every month, I take a look at vehicle sales data in America to pick out the vehicles with the largest monetary DISCOUNT . Usually, the list is dominated by high-performance 2-door luxury sports cars. This month is different. Much to my surprise, the Rolls-Royce Phantom stands above all others with an average discount of $18,588 off the price quoted on its window sticker. Now, it bears mentioning that an $18,000-plus discount still only represents 3.46% of its $537,500 average retail price, and that the resulting $518,912 cost to drive off the showroom floor still makes the Phantom an extremely expensive range-topping luxury sedan. Still, even very wealthy people won’t snicker at that kind of savings. Up next is another unlikely newcomer to the biggest-discount chart: the Porsche Taycan. The electric super sedan’s average sticker price of $152,250 is cut to $135,707 after a discount of $16,453 is lopped off. That represents a savings of nearly 11%. We can’t say how many of the Taycan’s buyers over the last month will be able to claim tax rebates due to the Taycan’s status as an electric vehicle, but that could potentially represent a further cut off the car’s sticker. Rounding out the top-3 is the Maserati Quattroporte. Buyers of this Italian luxury sedan are saving an average of $13,839 for an average transaction price of $87,646. I normally only share the top three, but this month’s list is interesting enough that we’ll share some more. In fourth and fifth place are the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (with an average $13,239 discount) and the BMW 7 Series (with an average $12,435 discount) followed by the Rolls-Royce Wraith (interestingly enough also with a savings of 3.46%) and the Maserati Levante and Ghibli. +++ 

+++ Long-term employees of the United States Patent Office must be having déjà vu. After filing a trademark for the Lightning nameplate, FORD moved to protect the Splash designation it used for several years during the 1990s. Set your time machine back to the 1993 model year. Ford’s entry-level Ranger received comprehensive updates that brought a more rounded exterior design and a more modern interior. It was largely aimed at young buyers, so the Blue Oval introduced an appearance package named Splash about halfway through the model year to drive the point home. The pickup was initially offered with a short box, rear-wheel-drive, the so-called Sport interior, and in either Vibrant Red, Brilliant Blue Clearcoat Metallic, or Oxford White. Specific decals rounded out the changes. Back to the present: Ford’s trademark application simply lists a number of different vehicle types as the Splash name’s intended uses. It could choose to release a more colorful version of the Ranger, regardless of whether the edition follows the guidelines set by the original Splash, or it might give the designation to the new Maverick. What strikes us as odd is that the Splash was cheap, cheerful, and road-focused, and the demand for such a truck simply isn’t there anymore. Some speculate Splash will denote another electric model, but no hard evidence backs it up. Keep in mind a trademark filing is not a guarantee that the name it protects will be used on a production vehicle. Carmakers sometimes file trademarks to prevent rivals from using a nameplate, or simply to keep it in their arsenal. Even if the name does end up on a truck, nothing says it will reach showrooms; the model could be a concept. As of writing, Ford hasn’t commented on the report, and it hasn’t announced plans to make another Splash. +++ 

+++ We’re about a week out from the halfway point of 2021, and one of the big real economy stories this year has been the explosion in demand for cars. This has pushed up prices, particularly for used cars. And while most used and new cars are running on internal combustion engines, the industry agrees that electric vehicles are the future. For the last decade, the best way to play that trend has been via Tesla. Shareholders in that particular trade have been rewarded handsomely: since June 2011, the car maker’s shares are up over 10.000 %. This year, however, investors have been betting that the industry’s OLD GUARD can make their businesses work better in an electrified future. Through Thursday’s close, shares of Ford and General Motors were both up more than 40 %, outpacing both the broader market and all of the market’s buzziest names in the EV space. At an industry conference, Ford CEO Jim Farley said the company’s second quarter earnings were likely to come in better than expected. Earlier this week, GM announced that it would increase its investment in electric vehicles to $35 billion from $27 billion through 2025. And it was only a few weeks back that Ford announced its own ambitious plans to electrify more of its fleet, unveiling the electric F-150 Lightning based on its best-selling vehicle, while unveiling plans to invest $30 billion in electric vehicle development over the next 5 years. This year’s rally in shares of GM and Ford also remind us (in yet another way) how different this recovery has been from what we endured after the financial crisis. GM and Chrysler went bankrupt during the 2008-2009 recession; Ford just barely staved off that fate. This time around, these companies are parlaying a surge in consumer demand into increased investments in trying to keep up with the Teslas of the world. These announcements out of Ford and GM also come as upstart competitors like Nikola and Lordstown Motors struggle to accurately communicate with investors. Nikola shares, which fell over 50 % in 2020, were up about 11 % this year through Thursday’s close, while Lordstown’s stock has been just about cut in half this year. Both Nikola and Lordstown replaced their chief executives after bold pronouncements about orders and capabilities for their vehicles didn’t check out. Elon Musk’s iconoclastic style at Tesla is much imitated but never duplicated by companies hoping to position themselves as the “next Tesla”. Tesla’s “Technoking” really is one of one. In the years before the pandemic, Tesla’s rise and the industry’s electrified future pressured shares of Ford, GM, and other automakers. From the time GM emerged from bankruptcy in the fall of 2010, shares of both GM and Ford were trounced by the overall market. This year’s gain does not erase that underperformance. And the lead the traditional auto industry has staked on Tesla becoming the leading electric vehicle brand will be hard to overcome. But today, what investors seem to see in Ford and GM is at least a chance. A chance to benefit from the post-pandemic economic expansion. And a chance at remaining a major player in the electrified auto market of tomorrow. +++

+++ STELLANTIS will produce 4 medium-segment electric vehicles, of different brands (DS, Jeep, Lancia, Opel), at its Melfi plant in southern Italy from 2024, the UILM union said. Since Stellantis was formed at the beginning of this year through the merger of Fiat Chrysler and France’s PSA, production in Italy has been under scrutiny for costing more than elsewhere in Europe. “Stellantis announced that Melfi would be the first plant in Italy to get new models, based on post-2022 business plan”, UILM said in a statement after workers’ representatives met with the carmaker at Italy’s industry ministry in Rome. Future production at Melfi will be based on a single enhanced production line that will merge the 2 existing ones, the union said, adding the restructuring will leave production capacity at the site unchanged at around 400.000 units. UILM’s head, Rocco Palombella, said unions had not received all the answers they wanted as Stellantis was still working on its new business plan. “But the positive element is that the company has not absolutely called for structural redundancies,” he said after the meeting. Stellantis Chief executive Carlos Tavares has said the group would present its business plan late this year or in early 2022. Stellantis, the world’s 4th largest carmaker, gave no details about what was discussed at the meeting. In an earlier statement the company said it was working “with determination and speed” to support the energy transition of all its Italian sites. Italy’s Industry minister, Giancarlo Giorgetti, however, said in a separate statement after the meeting that Stellantis had yet to decide where it would build its third electric battery plant in Europe. Stellantis, which already has two battery factory projects in France and Germany, has said adding gigafactories in Europe and the United States would be decided this year. The company is holding talks on this with Rome, as Italy is one of its main production hubs in Europe. +++ 

+++ Despite it appearing in images pulled from TESLA ‘s own website, as well as making cameos in a handful of the automaker’s test cars, a traditional round steering wheel is not in the cards for the refreshed Model S electric vehicle. Instead, the brand is committing to the funky yoke-style steering device that the updated luxury sedan debuted with, which looks much like a normal steering wheel sans the upper rim. For those with a knack for pop culture, think of the steering setup used by Knight Rider’s K.I.T.T. Admittedly, I rather like the design of Tesla’s new tiller (admit it, it looks cool), however, I was left underwhelmed by its execution after a week of living with a so-equipped Model S Plaid. This was especially true when driving at lower speeds where the car’s quick, but not quick enough, 14.0:1 steering ratio made it difficult to complete near-full-lock turns without awkwardly fumbling for the device’s (purposely) missing upper rim out of habit. I’ve heard a variety of reasons for Tesla’s decision to fit every variant of the new Model S (and presumably the similarly updated Model X), ranging from the company’s hope to improve visibility to the car’s gauge cluster to its desire to create a better Autopilot experience, but we have yet to hear any rumblings that the automaker has any plans to offer a traditional steering wheel as an alternative to the yoke. Sources within Tesla revealed the steering wheels seen fit to aforementioned 2022 modelyear Model S prototypes were strictly there for engineering purposes. Nevertheless, it’s clear Tesla has the resources and capability to build and offer a more traditional steering wheel for the updated Model S. While the revised EV is currently offered exclusively with the yoke, it’s possible a more typical steering wheel may find its way to the car’s cabin as an optional feature in the future. After all, Tesla moves quickly and the brand may simply decide to fast-track production of a full-rimmed steering wheel for the refreshed Model S if enough customers find the yoke more charming in theory than in practice. +++ 

+++ The VOLKSWAGEN Group is gearing up to make and sell considerably more electric vehicles in North America because of president Joe Biden’s $174 billion plan to accelerate the move to electric cars. The Biden administration has created a new proposition for EVs in the market, VW brand development chief Thomas Ulbrich told reporters in Munich. Volkswagen is drafting plans “to realign to this in a massive way”, Ulbrich said. A final decision is set for later this year during the manufacturer’s annual investment review, and the updated U.S. electric-car strategy is currently “being worked out”. he said. Europe’s largest automaker is in the midst of arguably the most aggressive push into EVs by a traditional automaker, with plans to launch about 70 battery-powered models by the end of the decade. Peers from Toyota to Ford have followed suit in recent months. General Motors raised planned investments in future technology for a second time in 8 months to $35 billion. Volkswagen plans to churn out vehicles based on its dedicated electric-car platform at 8 factories worldwide by 2022, with Europe and China accounting for the biggest chunk of production. So far the only model to be built in North America from next year is the ID.4 at VW’s sole U.S. factory in Chattanooga. The ID.4 spearheads the global rollout of VW-branded electric cars after last year’s bumpy introduction of the ID.3, which primarily targets European customers. VW is adding the ID.5 later this year and the 7-seat ID.6 in China in the fall. Plans for a subcompact EV below the ID.3 priced at less than €28.000 have been pulled forward by 2 years to 2025. Andreas Krüger, VW’s head of electric mobility, said the brand plans to make a midsized stationwagon code-named AeroB in 2024 to broaden its lineup further. VW’s electric-car architecture for mass-market vehicles will be improved for battery ranges of as much as 700 km and faster charging, he said. This improvement will include so-called bidirectional charging, allowing the vehicle battery to service as power storage and feed energy back into the grid. Besides growing the ID lineup, VW is working on a new car (code-named Trinity) to help narrow the gap with Tesla on software. Due to be launched in 2026, the vehicle will be made in a highly-automated factory that’ll pit VW’s biggest plant in Wolfsburg against Tesla’s first European site under construction outside Berlin. It will offer automated driving and a range of new digital features. +++

+++ ZEEKR , a new premium electric vehicle brand launched this year by Geely, has sold out of deliveries for this year, chief eExecutive An Conghui said. Geely, the owner of Volvo Cars, in April launched Zeekr to target growing Chinese demand for premium EVs that has boosted sales for Tesla and Chinese peer Nio. Parent Zhejiang Geely Holding Group and Geely Automobile jointly invested 2 billion yuan ($306 million) in the Zeekr venture. Executives said that Zeekr would use a direct sales model to manage pricing and inventory. The brand plans to open more than 100 stores this year. Geely is making Zeekr 001 cars in China’s eastern city of Ningbo. +++

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