Newsflash: Dodge komt met elektrische Muscle Car

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+++ While its battery-electric vehicle offensive is picking up speed, the BMW Group continues the development of hydrogen fuel cell technology. At next month’s IAA Mobility 2021 show in Munich, BMW will unveil the iX5 Hydrogen, the near-production version of the i Hydrogen Next concept car from 2019. Although it looks like a regular X5 except for the unique lower bumper inserts, BMW i Blue accents, and 22 inch aero wheels, BMW says the iX5 Hydrogen is still in series development. From the end of 2022, a small series of the iX5 Hydrogen will be used for demonstration and testing purposes. The iX5 Hydrogen combines a high-performance hydrogen fuel cell with BMW’s fifth-generation eDrive developed from the system also used in the iX all-electric SUV. The drive system uses hydrogen as fuel by converting it into electricity in the fuel cell, delivering an electrical output of up to 170 hp and water vapour as the only emission. The motor serves as a generator in coasting overrun and braking phases, feeding energy into a power battery. The energy stored in the power battery is also unleashed during particularly sporty driving manoeuvres, delivering a system output of 374 hp and “the brand’s signature driving experience”. The hydrogen needed to supply the fuel cell is stored in 2 tanks (each 700-bar) made of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP), which together hold almost 6 kilograms of hydrogen. This complex powertrain also enables the iX5 Hydrogen to maintain consistently high speeds over longer distances, although BMW hasn’t revealed the maximum range achieved with full tanks. “Filling up the hydrogen tanks only takes 3 to 4 minutes, so there are no limits on using the BMW iX5 Hydrogen for long distances, with just a few, short stops in-between”, Jürgen Guldner, head of BMW Group Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology and Vehicle Projects, said. BMW sees hydrogen fuel cell technology as an additional option for sustainable individual mobility. In addition to battery-electric models like the i3, iX3, iX, and i4, the BMW i brand could in the future also offer vehicles with hydrogen fuel cell drive trains. “Provided the hydrogen is produced using renewable energy and the necessary infrastructure is available, this technology can complement the BMW Group’s electrified drive train portfolio and, in particular, meet the needs of customers who do not have their own access to electric charging infrastructure, frequently drive long distances or desire a high degree of flexibility”. If that decision is eventually taken, the iX5 Hydrogen will most likely become the first BMW of its kind to enter series production. Until then, IAA Mobility 2021 visitors will be able to check it out by taking rides in it along the Blue Lane connecting the main exhibition grounds with other exhibition venues in Munich city centre. +++

+++ DODGE ’s all-electric muscle car could be sold alongside the current Charger and Challenger. The car manufacturer has made no secret of the fact that it will launch its first performance EV in 2024. Recent teasers suggest that the vehicle will have a retro design that could be inspired by the 1968 Charger, complete with a full-width front grille. Dodge chief executive Tim Kuniskis said that the electric muscle car will likely be sold alongside the ICE-powered Charger and Challenger, at least initially. “The new platform comes in 2024”, Kuniskis confirmed. “The new car comes in 2024. We didn’t say that the current cars are going to die in 2024. There might be a little overlap, but you’re not going to have years and years and years of the classic and the new one at the same time”. It is unclear if the electric Dodge will be a 2-door like the Challenger or a 4-door like the Charger but Kuniskis did suggest that there could be one last hurrah for the 2 outgoing models before they are retired and they may sell in strong numbers just like the final Viper. “There’s probably some run on ICE vehicles. I’ll tie it back to Viper”, Kuniskis explained. When we announced Viper going away, and we announced ACR at the same time, it was the best and highest price-point Viper sales ever. That was a run on Vipers. Is there a run on ICE? I don’t know, maybe when we get closer to the end. But not right now, especially when we said 2024”. For a brand as synonymous with high powered V8 muscle cars like Dodge, shifting to electrification won’t be easy and Kuniskis acknowledged that not all customers will be pleased with the move. “The reception that I’ve gotten from customers, when you make a big change, there’s going to be people that just aren’t going to follow you, at least initially”, he said. “But a lot of those people will return eventually when they see we’re serious, and we’re going to be Dodge first”. +++

+++ GEELY retaines its annual sales target, betting that new vehicle launches will offset the short term impact of a global chip shortage and a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic. The company’s upbeat forecast and a strong first half revenue growth helped send shares of the Hangzhou based car maker up nearly 4 %. “The recent worsening of chip shortage and the resurgence of Covid-19 cases globally could pose significant threat to our sales performance over the next few months”, Geely said. “But the upcoming launch of more new and competitive vehicle models should enable the Group to perform better in the second half”, the company said, maintaining its full-year sales target of 1.53 million vehicles. It said total annual vehicle sales under Geely, Lynk & Co, which is a joint venture with Volvo Car, and electric vehicle (EV) brands Zeekr and Geometry would hit 3.65 million units by 2025. More than 30 % of them would be electrified vehicles. Geely posted a 22 % rise in 6-month revenue to end-June of 45 billion yuan ($6.94 billion), driven by an improved product mix. Its total vehicle sales rose 19 % to 630.237 cars, underperforming a 27 % growth in China’s overall passenger vehicle sales. More than 90% of Geely’s vehicles are sold in China and the company has been pushing to increase exports in recent years, focusing mainly on Southeast Asia and Europe. But net profit grew just 4 % to 2.38 billion yuan due to share-based payments of 641 million yuan. Its parent Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, which has stakes in Daimler and Volvo Cars, created Zeekr to consolidate its resources and better challenge in the highly competitive EV market. Geely said it would seek external funding for Zeekr and would introduce more electric models in its overall lineup. The company, which abandoned a merger plan with Volvo Cars earlier this year, said the 2 firms would combine their powertrain operations and also jointly develop next generation EV architecture and autonomous driving solution. +++

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ has confirmed that it will quit the ABB Formula E World Championship at the end of next season, citing a need to focus resources on the ramp-up of its electric road car development. The news comes just days after the Mercedes-EQ squad claimed both championships in the 2020/2021 season finale in Berlin. Dutch racer Nyck de Vries secured the drivers’ crown, with the German firm edging Jaguar in the makes’ title standings. Mercedes is committed to racing in the forthcoming 2021/2022 season but will then withdraw “as a team entrant and manufacturer” before the new Gen3 rules package is introduced for the following season. Mercedes-Benz said the decision to quit Formula E was made following the announcement in July that it will switch to a fully electric line-up in certain markets by 2030. The firm said it “has deliberately chosen to shift resources for this accelerated ramp-up of electrification”, which will include the development of 3 bespoke EV platforms. It added that it will apply “the lessons learned in Formula E competition” to series-production cars. Despite the focus on its electric road car development, the firm said it will continue in Formula 1 with the ultra-successful Mercedes-AMG squad, “reinforcing the sport’s status as the fastest laboratory for developing and proving sustainable and scalable future performance technologies”. Mercedes-Benz Cars boss Markus Schäfer said: “We have committed ourselves to fighting climate change at full force in this decade. This demands the accelerated transformation of our company, products and services towards an emission-free and software-driven future, and to achieve this, we must give full focus to our core activities. “In motorsport, Formula E has been a good driver for proving our expertise and establishing our Mercedes-EQ brand, but in future we will keep pushing technological progress (especially on the electric drive side) focusing on Formula 1. It is the arena where we constantly test our technology in the most intense competition the automotive world has to offer, and the 3-pointed star hardly shines brighter anywhere else. “F1 offers rich potential for technology transfer, as we can see in ongoing projects such as the Vision EQXX, and our team and the entire series will achieve net-zero status by the end of the decade”. Mercedes added that the team’s leadership group is exploring options for the team to continue competing in Formula E beyond next season, including a potential sale to new owners. Reports have suggested that Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff, who already owns a third of the F1 team, could take over the outfit and run it as a privateer team. Mercedes first entered Formula E in the championship’s fifth season in 2018/2019, supplying engines to the privateer HWA Racelab squad. That team grew into the full Mercedes-EQ works squad for the 2019/2020 season, with Stoffel Vandoorne claiming its first win in that year’s season finale. The squad won three races this season, including two for de Vries on his way to the drivers’ title. News of Mercedes-Benz’s exit comes in the wake of Audi’s and BMW’s final Formula E race. The 2 firms have each quit the championship to focus on other motorsport projects, with both having announced a return to Le Mans endurance racing. +++

+++ An Indian arbitrator has issued an order asking NISSAN to pay its factory workers additional wages, despite warnings from the automaker that a higher payout could make its business “unviable in the long run”. Nissan and its union have been locked in an industrial arbitration dispute since July after the 2 sides failed to reach a mutual agreement over several issues including higher wages. A previous wage agreement expired in March 2019. A tribunal has ordered Renault-Nissan to pay its 3.542 workers an average of over 7,100 rupees ($96) a month in backdated dues as interim relief. The payments, higher than the consortium’s initial offer of $30 a month but lower than the union’s demand of $270, would cost Renault-Nissan about $9.53 million in total. The arbitrator will continue to hear over 50 other demands by the workers over the coming days, which if agreed to could together cost the company 93% more per worker, Nissan said. The petitions filed by the unions and the management (previously not reported) expose the widespread disagreements between the workers and Renault-Nissan. Nissan said in a statement it was committed to offering a competitive package to its workers, and was open to a retrospective payment at its southern India plant, it said. The ongoing legal tussle exposes the business challenges Nissan faces in the world’s fifth-largest car market where, despite investing about $1 billion, it has been elbowed out by competitors and is struggling to woo car buyers. The ruling comes despite arguments by Renault-Nissan that it is making “huge losses” in India and has “no financial capacity” to meet the demands. Any pressure to pay higher wages “could potentially make the very sustenance of the unit unviable in the long run”, the carmaker had said in its 147-page filing to the arbitrator in July. The workers had sought a wage increase arguing in their 123-page petition that total wages paid by Renault-Nissan are less than half of what peers in the region such as Hyundai and Ford pay. In the order, the arbitrator ordered Renault-Nissan to pay $134 per month for the 12 months ending March 2020, and $67 rupees a month for the 16 months ending July 2021 in 3 monthly instalments starting in September. “I strongly believe and conclude that there is a case for granting interim relief to the workmen”, P Jyothimani, the arbitrator, said in his order. Nissan has been trying to restructure some of its key international markets such as India where it is yet to decide on a future strategy for its under-utilised factory. The workers’ demands include higher basic pay, an annual increment of 500 rupees, hike in allowances and insurance cover, and appointing an additional member in assembly lines to cover for workers taking restroom breaks. “The demands made on the worker for sacrifice for the viability of the company is much more than the sacrifice made by the supervisory and managerial personnel and the directors”, the union said in the filing. The union also said that a spike in the price of food and fuel has also forced them to ask for more pay. Renault-Nissan, however, said that local competition, migration of management-level talent to other companies, an increase in raw material costs and poor response to some of its car models has hurt business. The company also argued that its workers’ wages cannot be compared to Hyundai and Ford because they had set up factories in the state much earlier, have higher production levels and better plant utilisation. “The demand of the union was only a desire to have an increment without considering the business reality, market salary range and affordability”, Renault-Nissan said in its filing. +++

+++ SUBARU ’s first real production electric vehicle will be a crossover twinned with the Toyota BZ4X. Called the Solterra, Subaru’s interpretation of the Toyota BEV high rider is apparently only the tip of the spear when it comes to the manufacturer’s plan to electrify its lineup; it plans to invest more in EV research and development in order to meet the growing demand for such vehicles. The first step will be the creation of a seven-story technical centre at its Japanese headquarters near Tokyo. The plan is to open this facility in 2024 with the goal of bringing more of its workers and engineers under the same roof in order to improve speed and flexibility as the company tries to adapt to the shift towards electric vehicles. Subaru intends to pour some $272 million into this new R&D centre and it will employ some 2.800 people. The company also created a new management position for a chief technology officer (CTO), stating that their aim is to: “Create an organisation that is well suited to developing new technologies such as electrification technology, software and communications”. The longer term plan at Subaru is to have electrified vehicles provide up to 40 % of its entire world wide sales volume by the end of the current decade. The automaker has a lot to do and aside from the aforementioned Solterra that is jointly developed with Toyota, it has made no mention of another fully-electric vehicle that it may have in the pipeline; there is a chance future EVs from Subaru may be designed on another company’s platform or as part of a joint effort like the Solterra. +++

+++ 2 U.S. senators pressed the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to probe TESLA , saying the company has misled consumers and endangered the public by marketing its driving automation systems as fully self-driving. “Tesla and CEO Mr. Elon Musk’s repeated overstatements of their vehicle’s capabilities put Tesla drivers, and all of the traveling public, at risk of serious injury or death”, Senate Democrats Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey said in a letter to newly appointed FTC Chair Lina Khan. “Tesla drivers listen to these claims and believe their vehicles are equipped to drive themselves, with potentially deadly consequences”. The letter, which came after the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration opened a probe into Tesla’s Autopilot on Monday, added to pressure on Tesla. Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Autopilot is a standard feature for Tesla cars and enables the vehicles to maintain distance from cars in front. Tesla sells its advanced driver assistant features such as lane changing and automated parking under the name Full Self-Driving (FSD) for $1.000, although the system does not make its vehicles fully autonomous. Musk, who has nearly 60 million Twitter followers, uses the term FSD frequently, generally referring to the Tesla package of features, but many consumers take it to mean fully autonomous driving. Musk has touted how safe the technology is and promised that its vehicles would soon drive themselves, only to miss his own deadlines. NHTSA said in June that since 2016 it has opened 30 investigations into Tesla crashes in which the agency suspects advanced driver assistance systems were in use. The NHTSA in 2018 said in a letter to Tesla the company had made “misleading statements” about the safety of its Model 3 and had confused consumers. The agency referred the issue to the FTC to investigate whether Tesla’s statements constituted “unfair or deceptive acts or practices”. +++

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