Newsflash: facelift voor Ford Fiesta

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+++ The 7th generation BMW 5 Series will bow out after 7 years in mid-2023 and its successor will be radically transformed, both technologically and stylistically, as part of BMW’s transition to a maker of electric cars. Most notably, the 5 Series will follow its X3 and 4 Series siblings in being offered with a choice of pure combustion, hybrid and full electric powertrains in line with BMW’s ambition to sell 7 million plug-in hybrid and pure-electric vehicles by the end of 2030. By the time the new 5 Series goes on sale in 2023, the BMW Group will offer 12 fully electric vehicles globally, including EV versions of the X1 and 7 Series, and an all electric version of the 3 Series is being readied as a sibling model to the i4. The next 5 Series (which brings a sharper front-end design and a more rakish roofline than the current car) will sit atop an evolved version of the modular Cluster Architecture (CLAR) used by all current BMW models apart from the i3, 1 Series, 2 Series Gran Coupé and 2 Series Active Tourer. Compatible with pure-combustion, mild-hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully electric powertrains, as well as both rear- and all-wheel drive layouts, the CLAR platform underpins BMW’s strategy of portfolio diversification in the run-up to going all-electric. The 5 Series will be one of the last all-new BMW models launched before the company begins the ‘third phase’ of its electric transition in 2025. This new era, termed ‘Neue Klasse’ in reference to the mould-breaking saloon cars that catapulted BMW into the mainstream in the 1960s and 1970s, will usher in new-generation EV powertrains, heighten BMW’s focus on supply chain sustainability and introduce an all-new software platform with the aim of providing “a completely novel user experience”. Codenamed G60, the new 5 Series could be updated during its life cycle to keep pace with Munich’s new-era line-up. However, when the car is launched in 2023, BMW’s ‘Power of Choice’ strategy will still be in operation (a follow-up to the initial ‘Project i’ programme under which the i8 and i3 were launched), whereby each model in the lineup is offered with combustion, hybrid and electric powertrains. To that end, it is set to largely retain the current car’s turbo-only 4- and 6-cylinder petrol and diesel motors, as well as an expanded choice of plug-in hybrid systems centred on a 2.0-litre or 3.0-litre petrol combustion unit. Less certain is the survival of the 4.4-litre V8-powered M550i xDrive to occupy the gap between the 540i and top-rung M5. Its twin-turbo N63 petrol engine dates back to the first-generation X6, launched in 2008. This will make the unit 15 years old when the Mk8 5 Series arrives, so it will not be a strong candidate for expensive modifications to be made compliant with new Euro 7 emissions regulations. One possibility for the M550i’s successor is an uprated version of the 545e PHEV’s four-wheel-drive powertrain, which comprises a 3.0-litre straight-6 and a 109 hp gearbox-mounted electric motor for a combined 394 hp and 600 Nm. BMW has previously said CLAR-based PHEVs could accommodate electric motors with up to 204 hp, which hints at the potential for a circa-510 hp hybrid to sit beneath the M5. The M5 itself has been widely tipped to match its arch-rival, the Mercedes-AMG E63, in adopting plug-in power for its next iteration but with a petrol unit of larger capacity than AMG’s electrified turbo-4. BMW development boss Klaus Fröhlich has already said there will not be any fully electric M cars until 2025. “Until then, we will have normally aspirated, turbo and ‘powered’ PHEV applications that deliver what we want to achieve”, he said, suggesting pure-electric powertrains and platforms remain too heavy to match the dynamic performance of today’s M cars. An M5 PHEV could use the electrified set-up tipped to appear in the upcoming X8 M performance SUV, which has been reported to mate the M division’s ‘S63’ twin-turbo V8 with a 204 hp electric motor for a combined output in the region of 750 hp. In the M5, that would almost certainly prove a significant enough boost (around 136 hp) to offset the weight penalty of a hybrid powertrain. It would also provide BMW with a contender to rival the forthcoming PHEV variant of Mercedes-AMG’s GT 63 4-Door Coupé, which will pack around 800 hp, hit 100 kph from rest in less than 3.0 seconds and have a top speed above 320 kph. If the M5 does adopt such a set-up, it still leaves room at the top of the 5 Series line-up for an even more powerful fully electric performance variant based on the new i5. The CLAR platform can house up to 3 electric motors (2 on the rear axle and 1 at the front) with a combined power output of 800 hp. That would make even a far heavier ‘i5 M’ capable of outstripping the current, 625 hp M5 Competition in a straight line. Fröhlich also anticipates that an EV’s easily configurable traction control system means agility and responsiveness could be on a par. “The control can be 100 % faster than on an M4 today, so it is easy to have a more responsive car”, he said. “If you want a drift mode that slips to 5 or 10 degrees, even 45 degrees, then it is easy”. However, it remains to be seen if BMW would offer a road car this potent. The Porsche Taycan Turbo S has a maximum output of 760 hp (even then only for a few seconds) and is one of the fastest-accelerating cars on sale today. Further down the scale, the standard i5 will be marked out from the 5 Series in usual BMW EV style with a blanked-off grille, bespoke wheel designs and, based on subtle differences between two recently spotted prototypes, a bespoke rear-end design. The i5 is highly likely to mirror the line-up of the new i4, which means potentially a choice of rear- and four- wheeldrive, with outputs ranging from 340 hp in an entry-level i5 eDrive40 to 540 hp in a twin-motor M50 xDrive model. The i4’s 80.7 kWh battery pack, said to be 30 % more power dense than the smaller i3’s 42.2 kWh item, is also likely to feature, providing a WLTP range of around 550 km at the top end. +++

+++ With market shares going downhill in CHINA , South Korean automakers are facing their “darkest hours” in the world’s largest automobile market, insiders said. Statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers show that by the end of July, the market share of South Korean automakers had dropped to 2.7 %, down from 3.5 % at the end of 2020. Beijing Hyundai and Dongfeng Yueda Kia, the 2 producers of South Korean cars in the Chinese market, have experienced depressed sales. In the first half of this year, Beijing Hyundai sold 194.100 vehicles, down 10.15 % from a year earlier. Only 32.200 cars were sold in June, down 44.21 % year-on-year. The joint venture’s double-digit sales decline is grim, compared with a 27 percent year-on-year sales growth in China’s passenger car market in the first half of 2021. Dongfeng Yueda Kia sold 79.800 cars in the first 6 months of this year, down 29.25 % from the previous year. Only 14.000 vehicles were sold in June, down 37.01 % year-on-year. The sharp decline in sales of the 2 joint ventures has directly contributed to the downturn in market share of South Korean carmakers in China, according to insiders. According to the CAAM, the market share of South Korean cars in China hovered low between January and June this year, and even dropped to 2.5 percent in February. “South Korean carmakers rarely promote local research and development in China, mostly importing existing models”, said a senior expert in the industry. “With the growth of Chinese automakers and the burgeoning innovation wave set off by Chinese car manufacturers represented by automobile startups, the South Korean automakers are unable to keep up with market changes”, the expert added. In terms of electrification, South Korean automakers are far behind Chinese brands, with delays in the launch of new energy models and without popular models to sell. The failure to catch up with the rapid electrification of the Chinese market is also an important reason for the poor sales of South Korean vehicles and it will be difficult to catch up for some time to come, insiders said. Hyundai has launched its luxury sub-brand Genesis with 2 models in China, in an effort to compete in the Chinese luxury car market. However, considering the past development of the brand and the current competitive situation in that market, Hyundai faces a big challenge in reviving sales in the Chinese market with Genesis, experts said. Kia has learned its lesson. The South Korean automaker launched the K5, positioned as a flagship sedan, in the second half of 2020, which just reached a sales of 542 in June. In the first half of 2021, fewer than 5.000 K5s were sold. The decline in sales has been accompanied by a sharp fall in the number of dealerships. Data show that by the end of 2020, Beijing Hyundai had 700 dealerships. There will be further cuts this year and the number may eventually fall to 600, according to Fan Jingtao, deputy general manager of Beijing Hyundai. Under the market pressure of continuous sales decline, it is inevitable for dealerships to withdraw from the marketing network. This will further aggravate the decline in sales, insiders said. +++

+++  China Evergrande Group, a prominent property developer, on Friday denied holding negotiations with Chinese technology company Xiaomi Corp for a 65 % stake in its electric car unit, EVERGRANDE New Energy Vehicle Group. Evergrande’s denial coincided with a similar response from Xiaomi to media reports that the 2 sides were in talks for the said stake sale. The property giant, media reports suggested, was keen to reduce its debts and hence seeking to raise funds by offloading some assets or via subsidiary stake sales. After reported meetings with the People’s Bank of China, the central bank, and the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, Evergrande said it will strive to ensure stable operations across its group of companies and deal with debt risks, so as not to rock the property and financial markets. For its part, Xiaomi said it has been in touch with various carmakers but not made any decision on reaching cooperation agreements. Evergrande, however, admitted on its website it did exchange initial communications with Xiaomi to explore an agreement for bringing the latter onboard as a strategic shareholder, but did not conduct any negotiations for a stake sale. On August 10, listed companies belonging to the Evergrande group announced they were in talks with potential independent investors for stake sales relating to the electric car and property management units as concerns arose over a liquidity crunch. The PBOC and the CBIRC said in a statement that Evergrande, being an industry major, should implement the country’s strategic policy supporting stable and healthy development of the property market. Evergrande said on its website it will fully comply with the policy and strive toward the healthy development of the property industry. It also pledged to work diligently on its property projects so as to meet its commitments on both quantity and quality. It promised to make all necessary full disclosures on major issues, in accordance with relevant laws and rules, and would never spread false information and issue clarifications promptly in case of any disinformation. Evergrande has invested 47.4 billion yuan ($7.3 billion) in its new energy vehicle unit at the end of 2020, including 24.9 billion yuan in research and development. The company unveiled nine new models at this year’s Shanghai Auto Show, without a clear timetable for mass production and delivery. +++

+++ Just a few weeks after I caught sight of an updated FORD Fiesta Active running around on European roads, camouflaged test mules of the high-spec ST-Line and entry-level variants have broken cover. The popular supermini has been on sale for nearly four years so is due a substantial midlife update to keep it competitive in light of newer rivals. The newer Opel Corsa (which has an electric option, unlike the Fiesta) is currently outselling the Ford in the UK, and the Volkswagen Polo, Skoda Fabia and Seat Ibiza have each been substantially updated, or moved to new generations entirely, in recent months. As was the case with the Focus mule spotted recently, the Fiesta looks to hide a new-look front end under its bulky camouflage. Unusually, the supermini’s front grille looks to have been reduced, rather than expanded, for the facelifted car, and new designs have been ushered in for the headlights and lower bumper. At this stage, changes to the rear end look to be a lot more subtle; the layout of the disguise suggests we will see new-shape brake light clusters and potentially a restyled bootlid. The jacked-up Active variant, meanwhile, wears chunky body cladding and roof rails and rides higher than the standard Fiesta. A more subtle model year update in 2020 removed diesel power from the Fiesta, while a new 48 Volt mild-hybrid petrol option was added to the line-up. Ford’s smallest car is now powered exclusively by a 1.0-litre turbocharged 3-cylinder engine (with or without electric assistance) in its standard form, with a choice of power outputs. The Fiesta ST performance variant uses a 200 hp non-hybridised 1.5-litre unit. There have not been any indications of significant alterations to this powertrain line-up for the facelift. The newer Puma crossover, which shares the bulk of its underpinnings with the Fiesta, uses the same engines, and the lack of any warning stickers or obvious charging ports means these protoypes aren’t testing a new plug-in hybrid powertrain. Ford recently announced plans, however, for its European passenger car line-up to be entirely electric by 2030, and as part of that, it will introduce a PHEV version of every model by the middle of 2026. The timings of the company’s strategy place question marks over the Fiesta’s future, as the current car’s lifecycle is set to end in 2024/2025, but any ICE variant introduced after that date would have only a few years on sale before Ford ditches fossil fuels. The factory that builds the Fiesta in Cologne, Germany, is to be transformed into an EV production hub and will first produce Ford’s “first European-built, volume, all-electric passenger vehicle for European customers” using Volkswagen’s MEB EV platform. The current Fiesta is scheduled to be built alongside the new electric car until the end of its production run. +++

+++ In June 2017, months after GENERAL MOTORS beat Tesla to market with an affordable, long-range electric vehicle, it took out full-page newspaper ads touting how long its Chevrolet Bolt could travel between charges. The tagline: “Begin a long-distance relationship, now”. 4 years later, the long-distance relationship between GM and its battery partner, LG Energy Solution, is being tested like never before. At issue: who will pick up a roughly $1 billion tab. GM last week recalled Bolt EVs for the third time in 9 months because of the risk their batteries could catch fire. The Detroit-based company will replace modules in more than 73.000 additional vehicles and said it’s trying to get LG to pay for the fix. LG, headquartered some 10.500 km away in Seoul, said the expense will be divvied up depending on the results from a joint investigation into the root cause of the problem. At stake is what has looked like one of the most promising partnerships in the burgeoning world of EVs. Chief executive officer Mary Barra is betting GM’s future on going electric, setting a goal in January to sell only zero-emission vehicles by 2035. LG Energy is pursuing a stock listing after splitting last year from South Korea’s LG Chem and can ill afford to lose such a big customer. “Together with our client and partners, LG is actively working to ensure that the recall measures are carried out smoothly”, the South Korean company said in an emailed statement. The root-cause investigation is being carried out by GM, LG Electronics and LG Energy Solution. LG Electronics’ shares plunged as much as 5.8% in Seoul. LG Chem tumbled as much as 9.5%, the most since March 2020. GM first recalled about 70.000 Chevrolet Bolts from the 2017 through 2019 model years in November. A month earlier, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had opened an investigation into whether the cars were prone to catch fire when parked. GM voluntarily called back the vehicles, citing issues with batteries made in Ochang, South Korea. The automaker asked Bolt owners to take their cars to dealerships for a software upgrade that limited recharging to 90 % of full battery capacity as it worked to find a permanent remedy. NHTSA issued a statement at the time urging Bolt owners to park outside and away from their homes as a precautionary measure, saying it was aware of five fire incidents, including at least one that ignited a home. In July, GM recalled the same group of cars again, after 2 vehicles that had been repaired caught fire. The company said it would replace battery modules after identifying the simultaneous presence of 2 manufacturing defects in the same battery cells. “Batteries are very hard”, Greg Less, technical director of the University of Michigan’s Battery Lab, said. “When something goes wrong in a cell, the cell goes bad, but not always right away”. Early this month, GM took an $800 million charge related to the recall, which contributed to quarterly profit missing estimates and its shares plunging the most in more than a year. Barra said cells for the 2020 and later model-year Bolts were built using improved manufacturing processes, so the recall didn’t affect the newer vehicles. 2 weeks later, GM changed its tune. In a statement issued, the carmaker said that in rare circumstances, batteries supplied for newer Bolts may have 2 manufacturing defects (a torn anode tab and folded separator) in the same cell that increases fire risk. The additional cost: $1 billion. Working with LG, the best information GM had the time that it reported earnings earlier this month was that battery module issues were confined to the LG plant in Ochang, according to Dan Flores, a spokesman for the carmaker. “As we continued analyzing battery modules and doing physical teardowns of battery packs, we found rare instances of these issues in battery modules from other production lines”, Flores said in an email. GM recently confirmed that a fire in Chandler, Arizona, involved a 2019 Bolt that contained cells from an LG factory in Holland, Michigan. Flores said a recent battery fire posted to YouTube also has been confirmed to involve a 2020 Bolt. GM has not inspected the vehicle and the video didn’t factor in the company’s decision to expand its recall, he said. The fires and challenges finding a fix are straining a 14-year relationship. When GM and LG announced they would join forces on the Bolt in 2015, they touted how virtually problem-free the battery cells were that LG supplied for the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt, which launched in 2010. That successful early track record is little consolation to tens of thousands of Bolt owners waiting anxiously for a resolution. Elise Hurwitz lives in the hills of Oakland, California, in a neighborhood at increased risk for wildfire amid the state’s ongoing drought. The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt parked in her driveway now makes her extremely nervous and uncomfortable. “I really do not want to be parking my Bolt in the Oakland hills during fire season waiting for my turn for battery cell replacement”, Hurwitz said. “I would like GM to take custody of the vehicle until it is safe to park it at my home. How do I get rid of my car? I don’t want it with this risk, and I can’t sell it”. Customers can be confident that GM is taking steps to make sure its vehicles are safe, Doug Parks, the automaker’s executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain, said in last week’s statement. “We know that building and maintaining trust is critical”. GM and LG have little choice but to maintain close ties. They’ve started constructing two battery factories together in Ohio and Tennessee, each costing more than $2 billion and expected to employ more than 1,000 people. GM will direct the manufacturing quality processes used at these and other yet-to-be announced cell manufacturing plants, Flores said. The next-generation Ultium batteries going into an electric Chevy Silverado truck, Cadillac Lyric sport utility vehicle and GMC Hummer pickup and SUV, among other models, will use a common cell design that GM and LG will manufacture as part of a joint venture called Ultium Cells LLC. Since GM started receiving complaints of fires from customers last year, Flores said GM and LG have been reviewing manufacturing data from several facilities and disassembling battery packs to inspect cells. “There are hundreds of people at both companies that have been working very long hours for months now digging into the data”, Flores said. +++

+++ The HYUNDAI MOTOR GROUP ranked No. 6 in the global all-electric vehicle market in the first half, a step down from last year. Hyundai sold 51.300 pure electric vehicles (EVs) from January to June this year; up 75.6 % on year. Despite the growth, its global market share slipped to 2.9 % from 4.5 % at the end of 2020. Tesla, which retained the top spot in the first half, sold 396.200 pure EVs, up 118.2 % on year. Its market share was 22.2 % compared to 27.7 % at the end of 2020. Chinese EV manufacturers were especially strong. Liuzhou, China’s SAIC-GM-Wuling, a joint venture between SAIC Motor, Liuzhou Wuling Motors and General Motors, was No. 2, selling 191.900 pure EVs, up 1.388 % on year. It grabbed 10.7 % of the global pure EV market compared to 2 % at the end of 2020. The Hongguang micro EV was a particularly strong seller, according to SNE Research. Shenzhen’s BYD was No. 3, with a 5.4 % market share, up from 5.2 % at the end of 2020. Volkswagen was No. 4, with 4.8 % market share, followed by Baoding, China’s Great Wall Motors, with a 2.9 % market share. “Hyundai’s Kona Electric, Ioniq 5 and the electric version of the Porter pick-up truck all sold well in the first half, but the growth rate fell short of the industry average”, said SNE Research in a release. +++

+++ 7 British companies have agreed to work together to develop prototype SOLID STATE BATTERIES , with the aim of making the United Kingdom a world-leader in an avenue seen as the “holy grail” of battery technology. A memorandum of understanding has been signed by the Faraday Institution, the UK’s independent institute for electrochemical energy storage research,; EV battery maker Britishvolt; manufacturing equipment designing firm E+R; battery materials business Johnson Matthey; the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre; the University of Warwick’s Warwick Manufacturing Group; and the University of Oxford. The group’s goal is to develop solid-state batteries that can be used in the automotive industry, where the potential ability to hold more charge per unit of volume than current lithium ion packs could dramatically increase the range of electric vehicles. “I’m delighted to be able to announce the formation of this unique consortium for the advancement of solid-state battery prototyping that includes leading UK-based organisations at many stages in the value chain”, said Professor Pam Thomas, CEO of the Faraday Institution. “Our leadership in this venture signals a move towards a role that the Faraday Institution will increasingly play as a trusted convener of significant partnerships between UK industry and academia as a route to commercialise breakthrough science emerging from our research programmes to maximise UK economic value”. The Faraday Institution estimates that solid-state batteries will take a 7 % share of the global consumer electronics market by 2030, as well as a 4 % share of the EV battery market. By then, sales of solid-state batteries to car manufacturers could reach $8 billion, with a rapid rise predicted in the following decade. Designs for a prototyping facility have already been drawn up by the consortium, although it’s still searching for sources of funding. The facility would allow solid-state battery technology to emerge from university labs in the UK, with an ability to produce larger cells using scalable manufacturing techniques. “Solid-state is the holy grail of battery solutions”, said Dr Allan Paterson, chief technology officer at Britishvolt. “Solid-state batteries have the potential to increase energy density significantly over battery technology available today and could dramatically and positively change the world of electric vehicles. Britishvolt will be at the forefront of commercialising this step change over the coming years”. David Greenwood, the CEO of WMG High Value Manufacturing Catapult added: “Early forms of solid-state battery are already around us, but we have yet to see solutions which are both mass-manufacturable and meet the performance and cost targets for future transport applications. There remains huge opportunity for innovation in this space, and this initiative will provide the route for the UK to fast-track candidate technologies to industrialisation”. +++

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