Newsflash: kans op terugkeer Saab 9-3 kleiner dan ooit

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+++ CHINA ‘s auto industry is going green, with more new energy vehicles produced and sold on the market thanks to government support and stronger infrastructure, as well as competitive domestic automakers, according to a report released by S&P Global Ratings on August 4. The report, titled “The Future Is Increasingly Electric for China’s Automakers”, said China is on track to reach its target of having new energy vehicles account for 20 % of new auto sales by 2025, compared with 5.4 % in 2020. As China has targeted NEVs as an important strategic industry, nine of the country’s top 10 electric car makers are domestic, the report said, adding S&P has raised its assumptions for NEV wholesale volume in China to 2.4 to 3.4 million units for 2021-2022, from the previous 2.0 to 2.8 million units, which represents a growth of 40 to 75 percent annually. The number of NEV models under production grew to 327 from 105 in 2017, as carmakers launch more models to meet consumer demands, the report said, citing EV Volumes, a global EV database. As OEMs are providing a greater variety of products with differentiated price tags, lower-tier cities are seeing NEV sales expand, according to the China Passenger Car Association. NEV passenger car sales in small cities and counties accounted for 28 % of total sales in the first half of 2021, up from 20 % in 2017. The number of charging piles has soared in the past 5 years, reaching 1.9 million as of June 2021. As China now owns about 6 million of electric vehicles, this means 1 charging pile is shared by roughly 3 EVs. Supportive government policies also include requiring newly built residential areas to put space aside and meet conditions for installing charging piles at a later stage. The report also noted Chinese local brands are likely to continue to dominate the country’s NEV market for the next 1 to 2 years. CPCA data showed among the top 10 electric passenger vehicle sellers, Tesla remains the only foreign brand. +++

+++ HYUNDAI suspended assembly lines in its mainstay factory Wednesday due to a parts shortage following infections among employees of one of its suppliers, company officials said. Hyundai Motor halted 3 out of 5 plants in Ulsan, 414 kilometers southeast of Seoul, earlier in the day due to lack of some modules from its contractor, a company spokesman said over the phone. The 3 production lines make Palisade, Kona, Avante as well as Ioniq 5 electric vehicles and independent the luxury brand’s Genesis GV80 models. Hyundai is expected to resume the production lines once the supplier normalizes after completing quarantine measures, the spokesperson said. In July, the automaker briefly halted 4 production lines at the Ulsan factory due to parts supply disruptions after employees at a key parts supplier tested positive for Covid-19. +++

+++ LUCID MOTORS has revealed that it will produce 2 variants of its flagship Air Dream Edition. The Lucid Air Dream Edition is the first version of the brand’s maiden EV and was originally announced in just one configuration. It has now been confirmed that Dream Edition reservation holders will be able to configure their cars and choose between the Performance version and the Range version. Both use the same basic dual-motor powertrain but whereas the Air Dream Edition Performance produces 1.111 hp, the Air Dream Edition Range is capped at 933 hp. Both have more than 1.000 Nm of combined torque and the Performance will hit 100 km/h in 2.6 seconds while the Range will hit the same mark in 2.8 seconds. Both can hit a 270 km/h top speed. As standard, the Performance comes with 21 inch wheels wrapped in Pirelli P Zero tires measuring 245/35 at the front and 265/35 at the rear. 19 inch wheels are optional. By comparison, the Range gets the 19 inch shoes as standard with 245/45 Pirelli P Zero tires front and rear and can be optioned with the larger 21 inch shoes. Official EPA range figures for the two models have yet to be announced but Lucid recently completed a range test where a pair of Range models traveled from LA to San Francisco and back, completing the 700 km journey with 50 km and 110 km of charge remaining. “As a technology company, we seek to exceed expectations and this is clearly evident with our Lucid Air Dream Edition Performance and Range variants”, Lucid chief executive and chief technology officer Peter Rawlinson said in a statement. “I’m delighted to provide our Dream Edition customers with this additional choice and breadth of capabilities”. Both the Lucid Air Dream Edition Performance and Range carry a full-equipped price of $169.000. Customer deliveries will begin later this year while the more affordable Lucid Air Grand Touring will launch shortly after. +++

+++ Following the death of a 31-year-old man who crashed his NIO ES8 while its ‘Navigate on Pilot’ semi-autonomous system was enabled, the electric carmaker has introduced a test that all of its vehicle owners must complete before accessing the driver assistance suite. In a bid to prevent other crashes triggered by owners not paying attention while behind the wheel, NIO has rolled out a test available through its smartphone application available to owners. This test consists of a 6-minute video that explains the purpose and abilities of the Navigate on Pilot system, emphasizing that it is an assisted driving feature and does not enable complete autonomous driving. In addition, the video reiterates that drivers must remain alert at all times and be ready to take control of the car at a moment’s notice. It then features a 10 multiple-choice questions that users must complete and answer correctly. If they do this, they will receive 200 NIO credits and gain access to the Navigate on Pilot system, which is essentially NIO’s equivalent to Tesla’s Autopilot and GM’s SuperCruise. The incident involving a NIO ES8 which triggered the automaker to implement this test occurred on August 12 and claimed the life of 31-year-old entrepreneur Lin Wenqin. The crash happened while the vehicle’s Navigate on Pilot system was enabled and according to investigations, the ES8 first hit a bucket on the side of the road before slamming into a highway maintenance vehicle, causing the electric SUV to roll multiple times. +++

+++ PORSCHE has been spied testing a 911 Turbo prototype that could feature a hybrid powertrain. The blacked-out 911 Turbo was recently spied near the Nurburgring and for the most part, it looks identical to the current 992-generation car. However, my eagle-eyed spy photographers point out that there is a yellow sticker on the rear window. This sticker is important because it is used by car manufacturers to notify first responders that the cars have electrified powertrains. While many carmakers use yellow stickers that read ‘Hybrid Test Vehicle,’ Porsche has gone for a more subtle approach with a simple round yellow sticker. What the sticker doesn’t specify is whether the prototype has a mild-hybrid, traditional hybrid, or plug-in hybrid powertrain, but given the lack of a visible charging port, we doubt it’s a plug-in. Another aspect of the 911 Turbo prototype that is unique is the fact that the rear side windows have been blacked out. My photographers claim that Porsche may have done this because there is now a battery pack where the rear seats would usually sit. Porsche has previously confirmed that it developed the 992 platform to support a hybrid powertrain. In 2020, the German brand said it was still deciding whether the first hybrid 911 would be a performance-oriented hybrid or a range-oriented plug-in hybrid. It appears it has decided on a performance-oriented hybrid that will be even more powerful and quicker than the already extremely fast 911 Turbo S. Performance details are unclear, but with an electric motor working in tandem with the car’s current 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged flat-6, we think a figure around the 700 hp mark is likely. +++

+++ The story of SAAB has taken a lot of twists and turns since it filed for bankruptcy in 2011, with a Chinese company called National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) acquiring most of its assets including the storied factory in Trollhättan, Sweden. Despite many efforts, plans to restart production and turn it into a fully electric automaker never materialized. The latest reports are not good either as the current owner, Evergrande Group, is going through a financial crisis and is reportedly interested to sell NEVS. Evergrande Group is one of the largest real estate companies and property developers in China. However, a record number of legal cases against the real erestate giant in recent years have forced it to search for funds in order to pay off part of its debts that are surpassing the $100 billion mark. This is why the company is trying to sell its automotive business, including NEVS that was fully acquired by Evergrande in 2020 after acquiring a 51% controlling stake in 2019. Xiaomi and Shenzhen state-backed investment firms are interested in buying the automotive sector of Evergrande Group, since the technology company wants to produce electric vehicles. However, even this rumored deal materializes, it won’t necessarily mean that we are going to see Saab vehicles driving around. Evergrande’s structure is a lot more complex than you might assume with many different companies under its umbrella. According to its CEO, Evergrand Group wanted to become the world’s largest electric car manufacturer. This is why besides NEVS, it bought stakes in Faraday Future, and battery-maker CENAT, while investing in supercar manufacturer Koenigsegg, and started a new electric car company called Hengchi. The latter announced a bunch of upcoming models in the Shanghai Auto Show back in April 2021, when Evergrande was evaluated at $87 billion despite not having sold a single vehicle yet. If you want our opinion, Hengchi could be the most plausible candidate for moving on into the future after a possible acquisition by a new owner. Back to NEVS, after a failed effort to restart production of an electric sedan based on the Saab 9-3 in 2017, the company tried again in 2019 at the Tianjin plant in China. Despite the optimistic initial reports, no cars have been seen to come out of the factory yet. What makes this even more suspicious is that besides the collaboration with Koenigsegg aiming to expand in other market segments, NEVS is also helping the German EV startup Sono Motors with the upcoming production of their Sion van scheduled to begin in 2022 in Trollhättan, Sweden. Last but not least, we shouldn’t forget the NEVS Sango concept car which was unveiled in 2020 by NEVS, as a fully autonomous shuttle. This model was aiming to become the robotaxi of the future, with a possible production in the Trollhättan factory after a fleet of 10 vehicles completes its pilot program in Stockholm. +++

+++ SELF DRIVING startups like Cruise and Pony.ai have begun testing their driverless cars in some parts of California in the past year with an additional feature: human operators. While there is no driver behind the wheel, the passenger seat is occupied by a safety operator who “has a red button that can stop the vehicle just in case anything happens”, Pony.ai CEO James Peng said. The operator will be removed next year when Pony.ai, whose investors include Toyota, plans to deploy its driverless ride-hailing vehicles in certain areas of California. Still, a remote operator will monitor vehicles and provide guidance when the vehicles run into trouble, Peng said. Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo keeps personnel wearing fluorescent yellow vests at the ready to provide roadside assistance for its automated minivans in Phoenix, according to videos and to one of its avid riders, Joel Johnson, who has witnessed this. Cruise, majority-owned by General Motors, started operating five driverless vehicles in San Francisco at night in October 2020 with a human in the front seat. The minder has “the ability to stop the vehicle at any point during the ride”, a Cruise spokesman said. “Cruise views the development of self-driving vehicles as not only a tech race, but also a trust race”, the spokesman added. “Given that, we keep humans in the loop in testing driverless vehicles not only as a means of safe development, but also, beyond that, in order to build trust with the public”. South Korea’s automotive giant Hyundai Motor Group has invested in remote operation startup Ottopia, which will provide remote assistance for the robotaxi fleets by Hyundai’s self-driving car joint venture, Motional.The continued human presence in what are supposed to be software-driven, automated vehicles underscores the challenges facing the automated vehicle industry, which has consumed billions of dollars in investor capital over the past decade. With no end in sight to the technical and regulatory obstacles to free-range, driverless taxis, some self-driving companies are accepting the need for human minders and scaling down their ambitions so they can start generating revenue in the near future, according to interviews with investors and startup executives. Even Tesla, which recently launched a new test version of what it calls Full Self-Driving software, said in a message to owners that drivers should “be prepared to act immediately, especially around blind corners, crossing intersections, and in narrow driving situations”. U.S. safety regulators have opened a formal investigation of the automaker’s Autopilot driver assistance system following a series of fatal accidents. Waymo has been developing self-driving technology for more than a decade, and launched the first commercial driverless taxis in Phoenix in 2018. But the successor to the pioneering Google self-driving car project still keeps humans in the loop. Waymo said it runs four teams monitoring and assisting the fleet. Duties range from responding to riders’ questions to remotely providing a “second pair of eyes” in tricky situations such as road closures. One of its teams provides roadside assistance to respond to collisions and other incidents. The teams “work together to orchestrate the operation of our fully autonomous fleet throughout the day”, Nathaniel Fairfield, a software engineer at Waymo, said in a statement. Waymo does not operate vehicles by remote control, he said. “We don’t use remote takeover, or ‘joysticking’, because we don’t think remote humans actually add safety”, he said, citing potential wireless connection problems. Waymo has applied for a permit to start commercial autonomous vehicle operations in San Francisco with safety drivers initially. The company relies on an army of vehicle operators to ramp up testing in the dense and complex city environment. A former Waymo operator who participated in San Francisco testing this year said he had to “disengage” and intervene roughly 30 times a day in cases including the car failing to stop fast enough for red lights or vehicles in front that abruptly slow down or stop. There are times where you think: ‘Oh, I did not predict this behavior at all. ‘This behavior doesn’t usually happen’ ”, said the experienced safety operator, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to confidentiality concerns. Waymo publicly reported 21 disengagements over 1.01 million kilometers of driving in 2020.Regulators are also keeping humans involved with automated vehicles. California laws “call for a two-way communication link that allows the manufacturer to continuously monitor the (driverless) vehicle’s location/status”, the California Department of Motor Vehicles said in a statement. Other driverless taxi companies are using remote operation as a way to get vehicles on the road. In Las Vegas, startup Halo allows customers to summon a driverless car, which is driven by a remote human operator over fast, fifth-generation wireless networks operated by T-Mobile. “Just a few years back, remote human assistance was a dirty little secret in this space”, said Elliot Katz, co-founder of teleoperation firm Phantom Auto. “Virtually no one talked about it publicly because there was still this facade that these vehicles were just going to be able to drive autonomously, everywhere they need to go and do everything that a human driver would do”. He added, “Everyone now knows that’s not going to be the case”. +++

+++ The new SUBARU WRX was originally scheduled to be introduced last week, but the continuing coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the New York Auto Show. Following that announcement, Subaru released a teaser video confirming the model would be introduced soon. Now, the company has a date as the high-performance sedan will be introduced on September 10th. Set to be unveiled 8 days after the Forester Wilderness, the 2022 WRX will have an aggressive front fascia with a prominent grille that is flanked by sweptback headlights. Previous teasers have also shown a hood scoop, plastic body cladding and black wheels. They’ll be joined by black window trim, a dual exhaust system and a small rear spoiler. The interior is more mysterious, but last week’s teaser revealed the model will be offered with a manual transmission and have a redline shortly above 6.000 rpm. Other highlights will include red contrast stitching, metallic trim and a traditional handbrake. Of course, the WRX is mostly about the engine and we can expect a new turbocharged 2.4-liter 4-cylinder. While it normally produces 264 hp , it will be upgraded for use in the WRX and rumors have suggested it could have around 300 hp. Regardless of the final number, power will be sent to the ground via a symmetrical all-wheel drive. +++

+++ In a 1.5 hour-long presentation, Keiji Yamamoto, chief product integration officer at TOYOTA , talked about the automaker’s approach to software development for future models of Toyota and Lexus. The big news is that Toyota will launch the new Arene Operating System within the next 5 years while starting from the new-generation Lexus NX this fall, over-the-air updates will be offered more widely following the example of rival automakers Tesla and Volkswagen. Around 10 million Lexus and Toyota vehicles manufactured to date are connected cars. In fact, the Lexus LS 500h flagship and the Toyota Mirai FCEV sedan are already capable of receiving over-the-air updates, but the upcoming Lexus NX and other future models will expand this capability even further. According to the presentation, a modern car is equipped with as many as 50 ECUs and up to 1.000 semiconductors! The number of lines of code per vehicle is rapidly increasing over the last decade and will continue to do so even faster. What started from less than 500 lines of code in the early 00’s, will reach close to 8.000 lines of code by 2025 according to Toyota’s forecast. For this reason, the automaker has around 3.000 people working on software development together with its technology branches Woven Planet and Toyota Connected. If you add the entire Toyota Group, the number of workers associated with software increases to more than 18,000. Keiji Yamamoto revealed that Toyota’s new operating system will be called “Arene” and is expected to hit the market within the next 5 years. The system is developed by Woven Planet, a Toyota subsidiary that focuses on AI and automated driving, and will be also offered to other companies. The company believes that Arene will be the equivalent of Microsoft Windows and Apple iOS for cars. Besides offering more functionality and improving efficiency, Arene will contribute to shorter development times, thus allowing for shorter product cycles. The new-generation Lexus NX that debuted in June and is expected to reach the markets in the fall, will be capable of over-the-air updates, eliminating the time gap in the introduction of new technologies among different regions. The goal is to expand the OTA updates to a number of systems over the multimedia (infotainment) and safety (ADAS systems) functions, as Toyota believes that connectivity can contribute to carbon neutrality. A good example is the “geofencing” technology which uses information from the cloud and from navigation in order to predict the road ahead and make the best use of the electric energy that is stored in the battery of hybrid powertrains. For example, when the driver is heading towards the city center, the system will prioritize battery charging in order to allow for more efficient use of zero-emission driving. The first step of geofencing technology will be previewed with the Lexus NX’s “Predictive Efficient Drive” feature. This will analyze the driver’s behavior, real-time traffic, and the road ahead, in order to optimize battery charging and discharging cycles. Another cool feature will be the visualization of the car’s health status, just like an electronic medical record. According to Toyota, this will allow for better maintenance, thus increasing vehicle longevity and battery recyclability / reusability. +++

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