Newsflash: Dacia gaat een wereldmerk worden

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+++  In CHINA , automotive manufacturers are driving the development of smart vehicles with autonomous capacities in their growing conviction that the technology can deliver safer and cheaper mobility. China’s largest carmaker, SAIC Motor, established a smart truck subsidiary on Thursday. The Shanghai-based subsidiary said it will release heavy-duty trucks capable of Level 3 functions later this year. According to the Society of Automotive Engineers International, autonomous driving has six levels: from Level 0, which means no automation, to Level 5, or full automation. Level 3 functions can enable drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel and eyes off the road. SAIC said its trucks will be used in such places as ports and plants, where traffic conditions will be easier. It said the Level 3 trucks will pave the way for Level 4 functions. Startups including Pony.ai and TuSimple are exploring autonomous driving solutions for heavy trucks as well. Li Hengyu, head of Pony.ai’s truck division, said there is huge potential for autonomous driving in the logistics sector. He estimated that the technology can cut the costs of a truck fleet by 40 %, as there will be little need for human drivers. Statistics show that China’s road freight totaled 33.8 billion metric tons in 2020, with more than 30 million truck drivers on the roads each day. Robotaxis are hitting China’s roads as well. SAIC will launch 40-60 Level 4 vehicles for tests in Shanghai and Suzhou in Jiangsu province by the end of this year, said vice-president Zu Sijie. He was speaking at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in June. Baidu is moving even faster in this respect. It was approved in May to charge passengers for driverless robotaxi services in Beijing’s Shougang Park, which the technology company said marked another step toward commercialization. The company aims to build a robotaxi fleet of 3,000 vehicles in two years, with total users expected to reach 3 million across 30 Chinese cities by 2023. Baidu said it has offered more than 4 million rides over the past few years in four cities: Beijing; Guangzhou in Guangdong province; Cangzhou in Hebei province; and Changsha in Hunan province. Earlier this month, Baidu released a Level 5 concept vehicle. CEO Robin Li said cars of the future will be fully autonomous with self-learning and continuous self-improvement abilities. In March, Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi announced plans to launch an electric vehicle business and invest $10 billion over the next 10 years. Last week, it acquired an autonomous driving startup. The acquisition of Deepmotion for around $77.37 million will “enhance the technological competitiveness” of its electric vehicle business, Xiaomi said in a statement. The acquisition could help bring some form of automation to Xiaomi cars, a feature being developed by many automakers for electric vehicles. Xiaomi will compete with companies like Baidu and even Huawei, as well as carmakers including Tesla, Xpeng and Nio. All of them are developing driver-assist and autonomous driving solutions. Nio expects its autonomous driving staff members to number around 800 by the end of this year from 500 in August, said Chairman and CEO William Li. A Nio driver died in a crash earlier this month while the vehicle’s driving-assist system was on. Dong Yang, vice-president of leading automotive think tank China EV 100, said carmakers should be more careful regarding high-level smart driving technologies. “They must be objective. More importantly, they need to educate users about the new technology”. While convinced that the technology will offer easier and safer driving in the long run, analysts are calling for legislation to regulate the sector and assist its healthy development as such vehicles’ popularity is growing rapidly in China. Statistics from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology showed that 15 % of vehicles sold last year in China had Level 2 functions. That figure rose to 17.8 % in the first quarter of the year, and it was higher in the segment of new energy vehicles, at more than 30 %. China expects vehicles with Level 2 functions to account for around half of all vehicles sold in 2025. +++

+++ Renault will unveil a new family car under its lower cost DACIA brand in September, aiming to replace 3 existing models as part of chief executive Luca De Meo’s push to trim ranges and focus on profitable vehicles. De Meo is looking to revive loss-making Renault’s finances, including through cost savings and by cutting jobs, and reverse an expansionist strategy under former boss Carlos Ghosn to restore the group’s profitability. Dacia, the Renault group’s low cost brand, which includes bestsellers such as the Sandero, will unveil its new 7-seater Jogger model in early September ahead of the IAA Motor Show in Munich, the company said in a statement. The car is set to replace Dacia’s Logan MCV model, which is already no longer in production, as well as its small Dokker people carrier and the larger Lodgy vehicles, also due to be phased out. Dacia gave no pricing details. The Renault group is aiming to make a push in medium-sized cars in Europe, known as the compact segment and where it competes with the likes of Volkswagen’s Golf, and reduce its dependence on smaller vehicles with lower margins, mirroring a strategy followed by Peugeot maker PSA, now Stellantis. De Meo has looked to give Renault, Dacia and sports car brand Alpine more distinctive identities within the carmaking group, at a time when competition in electric vehicles is heating up globally. Dacia, originally a Romanian firm bought by Renault in 1999, presented its small Spring electric car in 2020, and De Meo has said he wanted to give the Europe-centred brand global impetus. It is due to introduce a new logo on its cars from 2022. Ghosn, who was arrested in late 2018 in Japan on financial misconduct charges he denies, before fleeing to Lebanon,  forged Renault’s alliance with Japanese carmaker Nissan and had pursued a volume-based strategy which the company is now shifting away from. +++

+++ Last weekend, global luxury automotive brand GENESIS made its debut at the Chengdu Motor Show 2021 with the China premiere of the G70, marking a strong addition to the Genesis product portfolio and further demonstrating the brand’s rapid development in China. The carmaker announced its arrival in China with a spectacular drone show in April, setting a new Guinness World Record in the process. Since then, the brand has moved fast and pushed boundaries. Within these few months, the carmaker has already expanded its product portfolio with the latest member of the Genesis family, the G70, following the recent start of sales of the G80 and GV80, which received positive feedback from the Chinese market. The carmaker is rapidly expanding its network in China. It has launched two Genesis Studios since April, and introduced the Genesis Showcase, full-function stores, which provide guests and Genesis owners in China with customized consultation and maintenance services in a relaxing and comfortable environment. The Genesis Showcases will open in Shanghai and Chengdu this September and November respectively. Amid rapid development in China, Genesis has been highly recognized by the Chinese market for presenting its new vision of luxury through the unique Genesis Experience. Markus Henne, CEO of Genesis Motor China, said that the expansion of its product portfolio and its rapid development in China signal its strong confidence in the future of Genesis in China. “We look forward to delighting more Chinese customers with the unique Genesis Experience that manifests our commitment to delivering exceptional products and experiences that make a positive impact on our customers’ lives”, Henne said. The carmaker said that true luxury is about the complete experience. Facing fiercer market competition in China, the carmaker designed the unique Genesis Experience to help the brand stand out in the market. The Genesis Experience enables the brand to build authentic relationships with customers through meaningful, stress-free experiences centered on human touch, convenience, transparency and trust. The exceptional quality and luxury of Genesis makes it one of the highest-ranked brands in the luxury automotive industry by respected third-party experts such as North American Car of the Year and Consumer Reports, and it has been chosen as the best luxury brand by J.D.Power for four consecutive years. With its commitment to delivering superior quality and luxury products for Chinese customers, Genesis is introducing its global award-winning products to the Chinese market based on the Two Trim Strategy, which offers customers peace of mind with an unparalleled level of specifications that come standard for all models. To deliver the unique Genesis Experience at all touch points, the carmaker has implemented an all-new business model tailored for the Chinese market; an omnichannel approach based on direct sales and online sales and supported by trusted agents. The business model is realized through Genesis Studios. With the business model, customers benefit from unified pricing across all channels under the Genesis One Price Promise. The Genesis Partner Concept guarantees customers a one-to-one experience throughout every interaction with the brand. The Genesis Valet Service offers the utmost convenience for customers, including valet test drive experience, home delivery for new Genesis vehicles, as well as pickup and delivery for specific maintenance and service at a designated location within the same city. The service will start in Shanghai and Chengdu first. In addition, Genesis vehicles come with Genesis Care, driven by a confident warranty offering and thoughtful services, which include a 5-year or 100,000-kilometer warranty and a 5-year unlimited mileage and 24/7 roadside assistance across the Chinese mainland. At the ongoing Chengdu auto show, Genesis hosted the Chinese premiere of its G70, which is expected to meet the diverse needs of a broader audience. The luxury sports sedan offers dynamic performance with athletic design and a driver-focused interior design including the Genesis Infotainment System. Drivers can take full advantage of the Genesis G70’s performance potential with features such as a 2.0-liter turbo engine and a sport plus mode. The model also features advanced safety and technology, such as Genesis Active Safety Control and a 10 airbag system with front center side airbag, Genesis Connected Services, and Lexicon sound system with 15 speakers, adding to the unique Genesis Experience. Genesis will start collecting orders for the G70 from October. Delivery of the G70 will start within this year, together with the G80 and the GV80, the first 2 Genesis models launched in China. Henne said: “The Genesis G70 is a strong addition to our product portfolio that will both appeal to the younger generation with its distinct dynamism and expand the reach of our brand in China”. Although Genesis is a newcomer to China, the world’s largest premiere vehicle market, the six-year-old brand has made waves around the world, launching its distinctive products in markets as diverse as the United States, Canada, Australia, Russia and Europe and reporting excellent business performance. The carmaker said it will continue to expand its offering to more segments so that the unique Genesis Experience can be discovered by a broader audience in China. The carmaker will keep expanding its footprint in China city by city to deliver the unique Genesis Experience, the carmaker said. +++

+++ In JAPAN too, electric vehicles could play a key role in the move toward a decarbonized society, but their presence in the market is far from commonplace. While their driving range is limited, this limitation is increasingly seen as acceptable by home delivery services that rely on small trucks and light vans to carry out deliveries in fixed areas. Thus, logistics companies, which have been struggling in their measures to combat global warming, have been paying more attention to electric vehicles, with commercial EVs boosting the market ahead of passenger EVs being widely accepted by consumers. HW Electro, a Tokyo start-up specializing in EVs, launched the small EV truck Elemo in July. The start-up has 2 models. On a full charge, one model has a shorter driving range of 120 km and the other has a longer range of 200 km. It takes around 6 hours to charge the first one, and 8 hours to charge the second one. The shorter-range version sells for around ¥2.1 million. The vehicle is designed to be more practical than standard light trucks. As the EV has more cargo capacity and is smaller in width, it can, for example, cruise more deftly through narrow urban road networks. The cars are sold online to help reduce costs and the company aims to sell 500 units this year. It is said that the vehicle has already attracted the attention of major companies in the logistics and retail industries. The model was developed by a U.S. company and produced in China, but HW Electro plans to develop and produce a made-in-Japan version by 2023. “The new model will be cheaper”, said HW Electro President Hsiao Weicheng, who is from Taiwan. “In the future, we want to sell our vehicles at major electronics and appliance stores, too”. It’s not only start-ups that have been electrifying their lineups. Among major auto manufacturers, Hino Motors, will launch the Dutro Z, a compact EV truck, in early summer 2022. It will be smaller than most gasoline-powered vehicles and is aimed at being suitable for a wide range of use applications. Mitsubishi, which in 2011 launched the Minicab-MiEV, a light commercial EV, plans to launch an improved model at a reduced price within a few years. Sagawa Express plans to use EVs in its delivery services by jointly developing a new model with a start-up after September next year. In the transportation industry, the “last mile” refers to the final leg of a delivery of goods, from a local distribution station to a recipient. The Japan Association for Logistics and Transport pointed out that EVs can be used for such last mile deliveries if they have a 50-kilometer driving range when fully charged. In response, various companies have started to focus on developing EVs for commercial use with limited battery capacity and pricing them at around ¥2 million. On the consumer side, demand in delivery services has ballooned in tandem with the proliferation of online shopping. Yano Research Institute estimates that the market related to last mile delivery services will expand by about 1.5 times over the next 4 years to ¥2.9 trillion in fiscal 2023. The movement toward decarbonized societies, which has become global, is expected to be a factor for the expansion of the EV market. But according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association, EVs accounted for only 0.6 % of new passenger vehicles sold in Japan in 2020, excluding mini vehicles. The low percentage is believed to stem not only from the widely held consumer belief that EVs are relatively expensive with limited driving ranges, but also because of a lack of infrastructure, such as fast charging stations. For EVs to become widespread, success in the commercial vehicle market is seen as a key factor. +++

+++ Needless to say, the heritage of the Z car is very important to NISSAN . Its very first iteration, the Datsun 240Z, the sports coupe served as the automaker’s entry-point and flag-bearer in the US, and then in other parts of the world. The latest Z car (or just the Nissan Z) is no different, but questions about the nameplate’s continuity are already on the horizon despite the new-generation model only getting revealed this month. For those who have this question in mind, Nissan’s chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta has an answer, something that won’t surprise anyone. In an interview during the Z’s unveiling, Gupta hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a next-generation Z car. In fact, he said that Nissan “will definitely continue with it”, as long as there is demand. This remark is quite expected. Though Gupta noted that the Z is not a simple car and that it is the company’s culture, that doesn’t mean that it’s excused from the nature of car companies as corporate entities. Business is still business, and if people aren’t buying the Nissan Z, no matter how much enthusiasts laud its arrival, Nissan won’t continue to develop and build a vehicle that will not bring money into the fold. It’s important to note that Nissan is currently rebuilding itself coming from a scandal involving its previous leadership. It’s also no secret that the company is struggling right now, prompting it to lay down a business strategy that also concerns its partners in the Alliance. That said, the future of the Z car will depend on the market’s reception within the next several years or so. And more importantly, it will also depend on how will it react and bend to inevitable electrification. +++

+++ PORSCHE is setting up a research and development facility in Shanghai, as part of its efforts to better understand local Chinese car buyers. The German carmaker said the facility will also focus on forward-looking technologies and trends in the industry and integrate technologies from the Chinese market with Porsche’s global innovation strategy. The initial areas of interest of the facility, which is scheduled to open in early 2022, include connectivity, autonomous driving and digitalization. It will also have the capability to test, verify and ensure that the technical specifications and safety requirements of relevant products meet the regulatory standards for entry into the Chinese market. Oliver Blume, chairman of Porsche’s executive board, said: “The Chinese automotive market is very dynamic and customer preferences are highly specific. We want to meet these demands the best way possible”. China has been the world’s largest market for Porsche for the past six years. In the first half of the year, Porsche delivered 48.654 new cars in the country, up 23 % compared to the same period last year. Porsche said the new R&D facility in Shanghai will integrate the know-how and experiences of Porsche Engineering China, Porsche Digital China, and Porsche China Product Management Department. Porsche Digital China, established earlier this year, provides services tailored to China’s unique digital ecosystem and consumers’ needs. It is also “an extremely important part” of the brand’s ambitious strategy in digital transformation, said the carmaker. “Clearly the weight of the Chinese market is increasing, and that exists not only in terms of sheer dimension and volume but especially when it comes to trendsetting technologies”, said Detlev von Platen, a Porsche board member for sales and marketing. “China is more and more becoming a place of inspiration for us regarding the technology and innovations. This (setting up a R&D facility) is a clearly strategic movement, very important for Porsche to have it in China”, he said. Porsche is shifting towards electrification. The carmaker expects 80 percent of its vehicles will be either plug-in hybrids or full electric ones by 2030. It has plug-in hybrids and one electric model, the Taycan, currently on the market. It will be followed by an electric Macan. The electric Taycan has been well received worldwide, but especially in China. The performance of the Taycan and the feedback of customers in China has met Porche’s expectations, said von Platen. “We have sold more than 3.300 cars in China for the first 6 months and we are seeing the demand increasing continuously”, he said. Jens Puttfarcken, president and CEO of Porsche China, said the Taycan was the best-seller among electric cars priced over 500.000 yuan in July. He said over 5.000 Taycans have been sold in the country since its launch in 2020. +++

+++ TOYOTA said its global output increased 11.9 % in July from a year earlier to 773.135 vehicles, but the pace of increase has been slowing on the coronavirus pandemic and a global shortage of semiconductors. The output grew for the 11th straight month but the rate of rise was well below the 41.2 % gain in June. The top Japanese automaker is expecting a production cut ahead due to difficulties in securing components amid surging coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia, where many suppliers are based. Toyota has said it expects its global production in September to fall by 40 %, or some 360.000 units, from its initial plan. Its overseas production rose 6.1 % to 463.997 units, with output in China and other Asian countries gaining 9.1 %. The impact of the chip crunch has already been felt in North America where Toyota’s production dropped 2.4 %. In Japan, it made 309,138 units, up 21.8 %. Toyota globally sold 858.569 units, up for the 11th straight month and the largest figure for the month of July, driven by a recovery in auto demand in key overseas markets including North America. It sold 718.762 units overseas, up 16.0 %. Robust demand for the RAV4 helped boost sales in North America, Toyota said. Its domestic sales, including those of minicars with engines of up to 660 cc, came to 139.807 units, up 9.4 %, on strong demand for the Yaris and the Roomy minicar. +++

+++ ZEEKR , the electric vehicle brand by Geely, said it raised $500 million in its first external funding from investors including Intel Capital, battery maker CATL and online entertainment firm Bilibili. Led by Chief Executive Andy An, who is also Geely’s president, Zeekr said investors would jointly hold a 5.6 % stake in the company, valuing it around $9 billion. Chief financial officer Yuan Jing told reporters that Zeekr does not currently have a clear plan for its initial public offering. The company makes the Zeekr 001 model in the eastern city of Ningbo and is expected to start delivering them later this year. It aims to sell 650.000 vehicles a year by 2025. Investors also included Cathay Fortune Corporation, which invests in mining companies, and private-equity firm Boyu Capital that additionally signed long-term investment partnerships with Zeekr, the carmaker said in a statement. Zeekr, which targets young and trendy customers, is jointly owned by Geely Automobile and its parent Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, The companies are expected to contribute expertise in intelligent connectivity, batteries, young consumer markets and raw materials, it said. Car companies globally are working with more tech companies, battery makers and mining firms to develop future products and secure supply of components amid a shift towards electric vehicles (EV). Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, the owner of Volvo Cars and a 9.7 % stake in Daimler, and Geely Automobile launched the Zeekr in March this year to compete with EV companies including Tesla and Nio. They jointly invested 2 billion yuan ($308.4 million) into the brand earlier. Zeekr, like other global automakers, is trying to secure more chips that is used in its vehicles to ramp up production. Its executive said in June that it has sold out of deliveries for this year. It also has other electric vehicle brands including mass-market Geometry, which saw sales growing in the past months, and premium Polestar. +++

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