Newflash: Renault Mégane E-Tech Electric onthuld

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+++ AUDI is pouring a tremendous amount of resources into the development of electric technology. It plans to launch an armada of EVs by the middle of the 2020s, but it’s not done improving the venerable internal combustion engine. Oliver Hoffmann, the company’s board member for technical development, reaffirmed his goal of releasing 30 electrified vehicles (including 20 EVs and 10 plug-in hybrid models) by 2025. That’s also when the final Audi model powered by an internal combustion engine will make its debut, though production won’t end there; cars have long life cycles, and Audi will sell gasoline burning cars until the early 2030s (though, as of writing, no later than 2033). While electrified vehicles are hogging development dollars, Audi is still investing in the gasoline powered engine. “We have to put a lot of knowledge and money into the development of gasoline burning engines because we have new regulations, especially in Europe, that will come into effect in the middle of the decade. We want to offer the best ICE cars we have ever built. We will achieve greater efficiency but also better performance”, he told. The regulations he referenced are called Euro 7, and many argue they’re an indirect way of banning the internal combustion engine across the pond. Audi rival Mercedes-Benz has already warned it will need to drop half of its engines to comply with the norms, and making small, affordable cars risks becoming economically unviable. Hoffmann stopped short of revealing precisely what Audi has in store, or which segments it’s aiming for, but he added that electrification will play a role in keeping the internal combustion alive. “Electrification in ICE powertrains will increase to meet the regulations, but also to achieve greater performance. These cars will have a very clear Audi DNA in terms of acceleration, steering, and braking. Everything will clearly feel like an Audi”, he summed up. +++

+++ DAIMLER expects significantly lower sales at its Mercedes unit in the third quarter compared to the previous one due to a global shortage in semiconductors, its chief executive told. “With the plant closings at semiconductor suppliers in Malaysia and elsewhere, the challenge has now become even greater, so that our sales in the third quarter will probably be noticeably below the second quarter”, Ola Källenius said in an interview. The auto industry is facing renewed strains after a recovery in demand stretched supply chains earlier this year, with COVID-19 outbreaks in Asia hitting both chip production and operations at commercial ports. Speaking to the industry publication, Källenius said he was confident the company was better prepared than before the pandemic for supply chain shocks. “We have made our business significantly more flexible and watertight”, he said, adding customers were used to waiting for highly sought-after products. Daimler left its profit margin outlook for the year unchanged in July after reporting better-than-expected second quarter earnings. It is not the only automaker to warn of dampened revenues in the third quarter due to chip supply disruptions. Competitors including Volkswagen, Toyota and Geely have flagged in recent weeks the shortage, as well as resurgent COVID-19 cases, could threaten sales in coming months. Consultants J.D. Power and LMC Automotive also warned last week that U.S. auto retail sales were likely to have fallen sharply in August due to both factors. Källenius refrained from predicting an end to the shortage, pointing out that supply strains such as the lockdowns in Malaysia were impossible to foresee. “What is important is that demand for cars is there”, he said. “At some point the chip problem will also be solved”. Daimler is due to report third quarter earnings on October 29. +++

+++ Passenger car sales in EUROPE (26 European markets, monitored by Jato Dynamics) declined in July by 24 % year-over-year from 1.27 million units to 967.830. The year-to-date volume is above last year by 17 % (7,381.735 units), but it’s still down by 24 % when compared with 2019 pre-pandemic level. In such circumstances, plug-in electric car sales continue to expand, reaching 160.646 units and 17 % market share (the second best result this year, and the third best ever). 47 % of the plug-in registrations fall on BEVs with 75.500 sales. About 85.140 Europeans choose for a PHEV model. Consumers continue to respond positively to the deals and incentives attached to EVs which have made these vehicles far more competitive in terms of their pricing. But despite becoming increasingly popular, consumer uptake has not been enough to offset the big drops posted by diesel cars. According to Jato Dynamics’ data, the topselling electric car in July was the Volkswagen ID.3 with 5.433 units. A total of 8 other models noted good results of 3.000-4.000 units: the Renault Zoé (3.976), the Kia e-Niro (3.953), the Skoda Enyaq iV (3.649), the Fiat 500e (3.644), the Volkswagen ID.4 (3.643), the Ford Mustang Mach-E (3.314 – more than in the U.S.), the Volkswagen e-Up! (3.197) and the Hyundai Kona Electric (3.174). This time there is no Tesla Model 3 on the list, as the first month of a quarter is usually slower (no volume deliveries). Among plug-in hybrids, the Ford Kuga PHEV once again was on the top with 4.247 units. The EV competition is getting more and more fierce as we see more and more new models on the market. As we can see in the BEV ranking, already several models are stand-alone BEVs and probably within 6-12 months all will be stand-alone BEVs on dedicated platforms. +++

+++ As investors in LUCID MOTORS grapple with owning too much of a good thing, some early investors appear to be heading for the exits. The luxury electric vehicle startup plunged to fresh lows, tumbling as much as 19 %, as key investors were freed to sell shares for the first time since it went public via special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, in July. Investors could’ve seen it coming: The lockup expiry was known since February. When Lucid’s SPAC deal with Churchill Capital was formally announced, part of the fanfare was its broad appeal among meme-stock traders and well-heeled investors alike. As average investors crowed about the possibility of an EV revolution, Lucid and Churchill touted $2.5 billion in supportive financing for the merger; the largest common stock PIPE, or private investment in public equity, associated with a SPAC deal at the time, according to the companies. That PIPE was anchored by a who’s who of institutional investors including the Saudi Public Investment Fund, funds and accounts managed by BlackRock, Fidelity Management & Research LLC and Franklin Templeton. The funding commitment was also unique in that it came with a provision that those holders could freely trade their stock on the date the PIPE shares were registered or September 1 (whichever came later). Chief executive officer Peter Rawlinson was jubilant at the time, saying in an interview shortly after the deal announcement: “We’ve been able to attract the bluest of blue-chip companies to make long-term investments in us, and I just see the SPAC as just a useful tool now to achieve that”. A representative for Lucid Group declined to comment. Lucid had a market capitalization of about $32 billion as of Tuesday’s close, though it has yet to deliver a single car to customers. The company expects to build around 577 vehicles this year and ramp up production to 20.000 vehicles next year, but has not announced an official production start date. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is the single largest shareholder in Lucid and participated in the PIPE. The fund invested more than $1 billion in Lucid in 2018, prior to the SPAC deal, and has said regularly that it sees Lucid as a long-term part of the kingdom’s 2030 targets to diversify its economy. PIPE investors collectively held 166.7 million shares when the deal closed in July. Blue-chip or not, some holders appeared to be putting a lid on their profits as they wait to see Lucid hit the road. +++

+++ When the doors open to the IAA Munich Motor Show in just a few days, MERCEDES-BENZ should have one of the biggest stands of anyone. The company plans to roll out products like the GT 63 S E Performance, a new Maybach model, and now we know, an EQE saloon slotted beneath the larger EQS. A new teaser image posted to the automaker’s Facebook page previews what we can expect of the smaller electric saloon when it debuts in Munich later this weekend. Admittedly, the photo doesn’t show much other than a reflection of the EQE from below (which I’ve flipped in Photoshop for the lead image). But in it, we can see a full-width LED light bar similar to the design of the EQS, black accents around the light fixtures, an EQE 350 badge  … and that’s about it. Apart from this new image, previous teasers have told us that the Mercedes-Benz EQE will boast the new Hyperscreen interior layout, which houses three dash-mounted displays beneath a massive single piece of glass. We also know that the EQE will use the same platform as the EQS, so it should have a decent amount of power on hand. As mentioned, the EQE won’t be the only car at the Mercedes-Benz booth in Munich this year. The new GT 63 S E Performance (which debuted online last week) will be there, as will a new Maybach model on the horizon, and rumours suggest that there will be lots more to see beyond that. But we won’t know all the details until doors to the IAA Munich Motor Show open to the media on Monday, September 6, and to the general public in the week that follows. Stay tuned to Autointernationaal next week for all live coverage from Germany. +++

+++ Teaser videos and photos from Mercedes-Benz are all over the place right now. Early in the week, there was the AMG GT 63 S E Performance teaser, followed shortly by the car’s official debut. There’s a new EQE saloon teaser that just hit the internet, and there’s also Merc’s announcement of Will.I.Am being AMG’s ambassador for electric cars. It’s almost as if there’s a big auto show about to kick off in Germany or something. There’s another Mercedes teaser worth mentioning, this time for MERCEDES-MAYBACH . In a short video shared with its Twitter followers, Mercedes offers a few glimpses of a new ultra-luxurious Maybach model. The video also comes with a promise of new beginnings for Mercedes-Maybach. The grille we see in the teaser looks solid; combined with all the recent teasers and announcements from Mercedes involving electrified vehicles, it’s virtually guaranteed we’ll soon see an electric Maybach. Taking it a step further, we’re likely getting a taste of the Maybach EQS SUV. In July, Mercedes said a Maybach version of the Mercedes EQS SUV was coming, and we were even given a glimpse of its backside clearly showing a Maybach badge on the rear pillar. Mercedes also said it would debut a Maybach concept at the IAA Munich Motor Show in September, along with a litany of other electric vehicles. The show is nearly upon us, with media day set for September 6 so we certainly don’t have long to wait. It’s worth noting that previous reports talk about both a Maybach concept and a production vehicle. We wouldn’t be shocked if Mercedes waltzed into Munich with some surprises, so perhaps we could see multiple Maybachs highlighting the near future? In any case, expect at least one luxury machine to grace the stage in Munich. +++

+++ In NORWAY , car consumers absolutely love their electric vehicles, so much so that the penetration of electrified vehicles across the nation continues to soar. New car sales figures released in August reveal that a remarkable 72 % of passenger cars sold in Norway were all-electric. What’s more, a further 20.4 percent of new cars sold in Norway throughout August were hybrids or plug-in hybrids, meaning no less than 92 % of new cars sold were electrified. Evidently, the internal combustion engine is quickly dying out in Norway with petrol engine sales accounting for 4.6 % of the new car market and diesel models accounting for 3.2 % of sales. These figures are particularly staggering when you consider that just 12 months ago, petrol cars accounted for 11.1 % of sales while diesel accounted for 9.8 % of sales. Norway’s bestselling vehicle in August was the Tesla Model Y with the first deliveries starting last month. Registration data reveal that 1.115 Model Ys were delivered in August. The second bestselling EV was the Volkswagen ID.4 with 861 sales followed by the Tesla Model 3 (774 sales). Continuing to sell well is the aging Toyota RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid (721 sales), placing it just above the Volkswagen ID.3 with 649 sales and the Hyundai Ioniq 5 with 631 sales. Tesla was Norway’s bestselling brand last month with 2.083 sales, narrowly edging out Volkswagen with 2.028 sales, Audi with 1.325, Toyota with 1.208 and Ford with 1.140. +++

+++ Global passenger PLUG-IN electric car sales increased in July by 94 % year-over-year to 480.506, which is one of the best monthly results ever. The market share amounted to 7.1 %, and twothird of the plug-ins happen to be all-electric. The Plug-in market includes: BEVs: about 318.000 / 4.7 % share and PHEVs: about 162.500 / 2.4% share . So far this year, passenger plug-in electric car sales stand at 3.039.061 units, while the market share increased to 6.5 %. It’s expected that in 2021 plug-in car sales will exceed 6 million. The topselling models for the month were: Wuling Hong Guang Mini(30.706), Tesla Model 3 (18.811), Tesla Model Y (14.660), Volkswagen ID.4 (10,654) and BYD Qin Plus (PHEV) (9.127). The topselling models year-to-date are: Tesla Model 3 (262.557), the Wuling Hong Guang Mini (212.516), the Tesla Model Y (153.062), the Volkswagen ID.4 (49.153), the BYD Han (44,260), the Li Xiang One (38.743), the Changan Benni (37.879), the Volkswagen ID.3 (36.597), the GAC Aion S (35.958), the Hyundai Kona Electric (35.889). In July, the highest number of new plug-in electric car registrations was noted by BYD (46.938), which was far ahead of Tesla (35.020) and SAIC-GM-Wuling (31.219). Volkswagen was also quite strong with 27.969 units. If BYD will continue at such a rate, it should soon become #2 year-to-date and Volkswagen probably will also race for second place. The top brands year-to-date are: Tesla (421.100), SAIC-GM-Wuling (222.696), BYD (198.094), Volkswagen (181.784), BMW (152.168), Mercedes-Benz (121.669), SAIC (110.946), Volvo (105.286), Audi (93.367) and Kia (74.365). +++

+++ These are the first official photos of RENAULT ’s second mainstream electric vehicle after the Zoé, the new Megane E-Tech Electric ahead of a world premiere at the 2021 Munich Motor Show on Monday. Straddling between crossover and chunky hatchback territory, the electrified Megane E-Tech is a less glorified production version of last year’s Megane eVision concept study. As you can tell, it has similar proportions to the new Nissan Ariya crossover with which it shares the same CMF-EV platform and electric powertrain. The new Megane E-Tech combines pop-out front door handles with hidden handles for the rear doors. The Megane E-Tech Electric will initially be offered with 40 kW and 60 kW battery packs, the latter providing a maximum driving range of 470 km in the WLTP test cycle. That’s more (+20 km) than what Renault had initially communicated when it also said that the electric engine on the front axle produces 218 hp, but we’ll have to wait for the official release to confirm those numbers. The French brand has not yet said if the range-topping powertrain from the all-wheel drive Nissan Ariya e-4ORCE that pumps out an impressive 394 hp and 600 Nm working together with a larger 90 kW battery to deliver up to 580 km range and a 0-100 km/h time of 5.1 seconds will be available in the future. Elsewhere, the photos give us our first uninterrupted look at the tech- and screen-laden dashboard that eschews most, but not all, physical buttons and switches for touch-sensitive controls. There are two separate displays, one for the dashboard in front of the driver and the other, the oh-so-common in electric vehicles these past years, massive tablet-like screen on the center console, under which you will find a small array of physical controls. Also take note of the square-ish steering wheel that seems to be a new trend in the automotive world these days. To be produced at Renault’s factory in Northern France, the new Megane E-Tech Electric will be sold alongside the current ICE-powered Megane models, with sales to begin in Europe in the first half of 2022. +++

+++ In the UNITED STATES , sales of new cars are tanking due to a combination of a shortage of microchips and supply problems stemming from Covid-19 restrictions. But at least one analyst believes dealerships are also to blame. While Ford and GM’s problems, including factory shutdowns and having to sell cars without some expected electrical features such as stop-start systems, have been well-publicized, more carmakers are being caught up in the mess. Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Subaru and Kia are now also mired in the same crisis, and the result is a dramatic 17 % fall in light vehicle sales in the U.S. last month. That fall is right up at the ‘worst case’ end of the 4 to 18 % fall predicted for August by analysts Cox Automotive, TrueCar, J.D. Power and LMC Automotive. The seasonally adjusted August sales slumped to 13.09 million units. Ford sales fell by 33 %, but Subaru also suffered, with sales dropping by 15 %. Honda shifted 16 % fewer vehicles, although its sportier Acura division actually saw sales rise by over over 4 %. Kia and Hyundai also recorded fewer sales in August. Much of the blame is put on decreased availability of vehicles due to the chip shortage and Covid-19-related restrictions in southeast Asia that are causing supply chain problems. Where carmakers would previously carry inventories of cars and trucks as large as three million units a couple of years ago, they’re now less than a third of that volume. Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas suggests that another reason for the drop in sales could be consumers’ lack of enthusiasm for buying new cars. And that’s not down to the quality of the product, but rather an unhappiness at dealers adjusting their prices upwards to reflect the shortage of stock. “Maybe the consumer has decided to ‘wait it out’ until prices fall?”, Jonas speculated. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN of America has agreed to a $42 million settlement covering 1.35 million vehicles that were equipped with potentially dangerous Takata airbag inflators, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Miami. The settlement is the latest by major automakers, and much of the funding goes to boosting recall completion rates. To date, seven other major automakers have agreed to settlements worth about $1.5 billion covering tens of millions of vehicles. The defect, which leads in rare instances to airbag inflators rupturing and sending dangerous metal fragments flying, prompted the largest automotive recall in history. To date, at least 19 U.S. deaths have been attributed to faulty Takata airbag inflators. Honda said in April it had confirmed the 19th U.S. death tied to a ruptured Takata airbag inflator since 2009; the 16th in one of its vehicles. Honda reached an earlier $605 million civil settlement with owners similar to the Volkswagen settlement. More than 400 injuries are also tied to faulty Takata inflators, and at least 28 deaths worldwide. There have been 2 U.S. Takata deaths in Ford vehicles and 1 in a BMW. Ford previously reached a $299.1 million civil settlement with owners, while BMW agreed to a $131 million settlement. The Takata recalls cover about 100 million inflators among 19 major automakers worldwide, including about 67 million inflators in the United States. The VW settlement, like earlier ones, covers rental car and out-of-pocket costs, including lost wages and childcare costs, that owners had or may face getting vehicles repaired or while awaiting repairs. Court documents say around 35 % of the inflators in Volkswagen and Audi vehicles that have been or will be recalled have not been repaired. Peter Prieto, a lawyer for the owners who sued, said the owners would “vigorously prosecute our claims against Mercedes Benz, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to ensure that our clients obtain the relief they deserve”. +++

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