Newsflash: Land Rover bouwt Defender uit tot apart submerk

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+++ AUDI VOLKSWAGEN is fined for false advertising about its cars’ emissions for the second time in South Korea in 5 years. The Fair Trade Commission said it fined the German automaker 831 million won ($722,600). Italian automaker Stellantis, manufacturer of the Jeep, Peugeot and Fiat brand, was fined 231 million won for the same thing. The 2 automakers are accused of falsely advertising that its vehicles met all Korean environment regulations. Those claims were posted on the inside of the hoods of vehicles. In the case of Audi Volkswagen, the company advertised that its AdBlue system, an emissions reduction system for its diesel engine vehicles, satisfied the even stricter Euro 6 environmental standards. Compared to Euro 5 standards, Euro 6 requires stronger control of nitrogen oxide emissions. As with the notorious Volkswagen emissions scandal of 2015, the emissions control system operated properly during tests by authorities. But in normal driving conditions, illegal software kicked in and reduced its performance. The FTC said nitrogen oxide emitted from both Audi Volkswagen and Stellantis models exceeded Korean and Euro 6 environmental standards by as much as 11 times. The vehicles in question were sold between 2011 and 2018 and included Audi’s A6, A7, A8, Q5, Volkswagen’s Touareg as well as the Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X. South Korea was the first country to fine Audi Volkswagen for “diesel gate” emissions scandal that started in 2015. Vehicles intentionally designed to fool the government environmental standard tests were sold between 2008 and 2015. The company was slapped with a 37.3 billion won fine for false advertising and Audi Volkswagen Korea’s sales were banned until 2018. Korea was the first country to fine VW for false advertising. “We could call this a second ‘diesel gate’ after the first in 2016”, said Moon Jong-sook, director of the consumer policy department at the FTC. Moon said the size of the fine on Audi Volkswagen shrank compared to 5 years before largely because the German automaker’s market share shrank. “During the first scandal, Audi Volkswagen’s revenue was close to 4 trillion won”, Moon said. “This time, as its market share dropped, revenue was around 340 to 350 billion won”. Until 2015, Audi Volkswagen was neck-and-neck with other German automakers BMW and Mercedes-Benz, with each holding a market share of about 20 percent for imported vehicles sold in Korea. Its market share is recovering. In the first half of the year, Audi sold 10.798 vehicles in South Korea; up 7.2 % year-on-year, claiming a market share of 7.3 %. Volkswagen sold 8.752 vehicles; up 18.2 %, with a 5.9 % market share. Combined, the German automaker has 13.2 % of the local imported vehicle market. Mercedes-Benz is currently No. 1 with a 27.5 % market share. BMW trails with 24.5 %, according to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association. Audi Volkswagen Korea has not commented on the FTC penalty. +++

+++ The global shortage of COMPUTER CHIPS is getting worse, forcing automakers to temporarily close factories including those that build popular pickups. General Motors announced that it would pause production at 8 of its 15 North American assembly plants during the next 2 weeks, including 2 that make the company’s top-selling Chevrolet Silverado pickup. Ford will stop making pickups at its Kansas City Assembly Plant for the next 2 weeks. Shifts will be cut at 2  more truck plants in Dearborn, Michigan, and Louisville, Kentucky. The cuts will compound an already short supply of cars, trucks and SUVs on dealer lots nationwide that have pushed prices to record levels. Automakers reported that U.S. dealers had just under 1 million new vehicles on their lots in August, 72 % lower than the 3.58 million in August of 2019. “It now appears to be accelerating in the wrong direction”, said Jeff Schuster, president of global vehicle forecasting for LMC Automotive, a consulting firm. Industry analysts say the delta variant of the novel coronavirus has hit employees at chip factories in southeast Asia hard, forcing some plants to close. That’s worsened a chip shortage that was starting to improve earlier in the summer. “Now the prospects for new sales for the rest of the year continue to dim with the reality that tight inventory will last well into 2022”, said Kevin Roberts, director of industry insights for Cargurus.com. Demand for trucks, SUVs and other autos is strong, but buyers are growing frustrated due to lack of inventory and high prices. U.S. light vehicle sales fell nearly 18 % in August compared with a year ago, while the average vehicle sale price hit over $41,000, a record, according to J.D. Power. Sales of Ford’s F-Series trucks fell nearly 23 % for the month. The August sales dip and inventory shortages prompted Schuster to cut his U.S. sales forecast for the year to 15.7 million. Until the pandemic hit, sales had been running around 17 million per year. Consumers who need a new vehicle don’t have many choices with dealer supplies so short, Schuster said. Some have left the market because they can’t find anything that meets their needs. For others, “pricing is through the roof, so they can’t afford it and aren’t willing to spend what it’s going to cost to get that vehicle”. GM is shutting down pickup truck plants in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Silao, Mexico, for a week starting Monday. A plant in Wentzville, Missouri, that builds midsize pickups and big vans will close for 2 weeks. Other plants that make small and midsize SUVs will be idled for 2 weeks or longer. “These recent scheduling adjustments are being driven by the continued parts shortages caused by semiconductor supply constraints from international markets experiencing Covid-19-related restrictions”, GM said in a statement. The GM and Ford cuts come on top of temporary plant closures announced previously by Toyota, Nissan and Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler Automobiles). Stellantis shut down its Ram truck assembly plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, this week due to the chip shortage. The company’s Belvidere, Illinois, small-SUV plant and a minivan plant in Windsor, Ontario, are down for 2 weeks. Toyota said it would slash production by at least 40 % in Japan and North America for the next 2 months, cutting production by 360.000 vehicles worldwide in September alone. Nissan, which announced in mid-August that chip shortages would force it to close its huge factory in Smyrna, Tennessee, for 2 weeks until August 30, now says the closure will last 4 weeks, until September 13. There is a little good news. Ford said its overall production rose to nearly 80 % from July to August, although it’s not clear how long that would last. +++

+++ Andrea Knebel has worked at Bosch’s motor assembly plant in Bühl, Germany, for 2 decades, but her post could be one of 700 the firm says it will cut by 2025 as Europe accelerates a push away from fossil fuel transport and toward ELECTRIC VEHICLES . The European Union has proposed an effective ban by 2035 on sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles, which are responsible for nearly 15 % of Europe’s planet-heating carbon emissions. Fewer auto-workers will be needed in the new electric car sector (but with those remaining possessing a much higher technical skill set) threatening mass layoffs in an industry that directly and indirectly employs 14.6 million people, or about 7 % of Europe’s workforce, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association. Knebel, a trade unionist and works council member at Bühl, has been representing workers (some too paralysed by fear to even speak) in talks with the management of car parts supplier Bosch. But even her own white-collar position in change management might not be safe. “I’m really worried”, Knebel, 55, said. “In 4 years, I’ll nearly be 60 years old and my daughter  may be studying by then”. Few “green collar” retraining opportunities have so far been offered at Bosch’s Bühl and Bühlertal factories, she said. Unions believe that up to half of the 3.700 employees at the 2 plants could ultimately lose their jobs when job-shares and part-time and temporary work contracts are taken into account. The cuts are part of a company redundancy wave that is expected to lay off thousands of workers in Germany, although a Bosch spokesperson said it would be done in a way that was “as socially acceptable as possible”. Building a diesel power-train system needs 10 times more workers than manufacturing an electric one, the official added. Without alternative jobs or training opportunities offered, redundancies on this scale raise hard questions about the social costs of transitioning to a low-carbon economy. Economists have increasingly argued that shifting to greener products and business models will be positive for jobs and growth. But older and unskilled workers who cannot relocate or are not given the chance to retrain will need special help, labor rights activists say. Knebel, who is considering looking for work as consultant, said she doesn’t know if she will succeed because of her age. Europe’s unions say they are strong supporters of a rapid shift to electrified transport, which could lead to only a small net loss of 35,000 jobs by 2030 when new clean energy employment is taken into account, according to one recent study. The research by Boston Consulting Group predicted that new plants making battery cells to power electric vehicles (sometimes called “gigafactories”) would be built in Europe. In addition, more than 100.000 new jobs would be created in manufacturing, installing and operating charging infrastructure, it forecast. But some union officials believe those findings are optimistic and point to sectors that could be devastated. “Millions of jobs are on the line if there isn’t a clear plan for how the transition is to be managed”, said Judith Kirton-Darling, deputy general secretary of the industriAll union, which represents 50 million workers globally. “A just transition, if it’s left as empty rhetoric and promises, will simply feed a backlash”, she said. “That’s a massive concern for us”. Such a scenario could stir a broader social reaction similar to France’s “gilets jaunes” (yellow vests) protest movement against fuel price hikes, which brought parts of the country to a standstill in late 2018 and 2019, said Kirton-Darling. “People who are anxious and feel economically insecure (are) the main targets for populists”, she added. Unions fear the hidden agenda behind many of the expected job cuts is the acceleration of an industry shift towards eastern European factories, where wages are relatively low. In August, British workers were balloted on strike action over plans by private equity group Melrose to shutter the GKN automotive plant in Birmingham and move work to Olesnica in southwest Poland, with potentially more than 500 redundancies. Nick Miles, a spokesman for Melrose, blamed the slated closure of the plant, which makes driveline systems, on a sharp fall in customer demand for petrol and diesel engines, intensified by the trend in vehicle electrification. Sigrid de Vries, secretary-general of the European Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA), said new jobs in battery cell manufacturing would not create enough employment to compensate for those lost in other areas of the auto industry. About 40 % of new jobs in the electric mobility sector will need four years of training and a high education level, as well as knowledge of chemical processes and data analysis, she told a European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) webinar in June. According to Knebel, no more than 50 workers at Buehl have so far been offered retraining by Bosch. In a sign of growing concern, European unions, employers and environmental groups issued an unprecedented joint call to the EU in July for more resources to back a just transition. “This is an industrial revolution of historic proportions”, said their letter, which called for the upskilling and retraining of 2.4 million auto workers. In Germany alone, a Volkswagen study predicted jobs in car manufacturing would fall by 12 % as the electrification process advances this decade. That is despite 7 lithium/ion battery-cell gigafactories planned in Germany, more than in any other European country. France’s 57.000-strong auto-engine workforce will also shrink by up to 70 % by 2050 without just transition measures, according to a recent report by former French environment minister Nicolas Hulot’s Foundation for Nature and Mankind. Unions are watching a $7 billion Tesla electric vehicle gigafactory expected to open in Grünheide, Germany, later this year as a test case, not least because of the reputation of company CEO Elon Musk. The tech billionaire has in the past used social media to threaten employees with losing their stock options if they formed a union. Tesla did not respond to a request for comment. “It will be tough to organize these new plants but we have to do it”, Christian Brunkhorst, a board member for Germany’s IG Metall, a manufacturing workers union, told the ETUI event. “It’s an absolute must that we keep the auto value chain unionized, in order to keep working conditions at a good level”, he added. +++

+++ +++ GREAT WALL MOTORS sold 74.257 vehicles in August, bringing the total in the first 8 months to 784.023 units; up 39.3 % year-on-year, according to statistics China’s largest pickup and SUV maker released. The carmaker, which has brands including Haval, Ora, Wey as well as Tank, said its production was affected last month because of chip shortages that worsened because of the Covid-19 pandemic in Malaysia. Haval vehicles accounted for the majority of the carmaker’s sales last month. Their sales in August reached 40.560 units, and deliveries from January to August totaled 489.297 units; up 33.7 % year-on-year. The H6 SUV was the bestseller, with 20.026 units sold in August. The model was China’s most popular SUV model for 99 months in a row. Great Wall Motors’ electric car brand Ora saw its sales in August to reach 12.123 units, bringing total sales in the first 8 months to 71.961 units; up 316 % year-on-year. The carmaker continued its overseas expansion as well. Its overseas sales from January to August totaled 86.509 units, rising 156.8 % from the same period last year. +++

+++ United States robotics startup Boston Dynamics said it will expand its partnership with the HYUNDAI MOTOR GROUP to integrate its robotics technologies in future mobility solutions and expand their applications in other industrial sectors. Boston Dynamics demonstrated its latest robotics technologies during an online media event after the automotive group in June completed the $880 million purchase of its 80 % stake from Japanese conglomerate Softbank. Boston Dynamics, spun off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the early 1990s, was sold to Google in 2013 and again to Softbank in 2017. The Boston-based robotics firm said it has been working with Hyundai to explore ways to use its robot smart factories and logistics and develop new products, taking advantage of the autonomous, sensor and other expertise. In a demonstration video, a pair of humanoid bipedal robots called Atlas smoothly run, jump, leap, vault and perform back flips, which are modeled and designed on computers. Its 4-legged robotic dog, called Spot, equipped with cameras and other censors, is designed to work in a range of environments, covering utilities, manufacturing, construction and offshore oil rigs, Boston Dynamic said. The robotics firm said its huge robotic arm, called Stretch, capable of moving boxes and building pallets is currently in an early pilot stage and expected to be commercialized in late 2022. The Hyundai Motor Group, the world’s fifth-largest automaker, said earlier the investment is expected to boost its plan to develop advanced electric, autonomous and robotics technologies to become a future mobility solution provider. It is the first M&A deal after Hyundai Motor Group chairman Chung Euisun took helm of the Korean automotive group last year with a pledge to transform the company into a future mobility provider. In late 2019, Chung said half of the group’s business will be related to car manufacturing, followed by urban air mobility with 30 % and robotics with 20 %. +++

+++ LAND ROVER will soon crown its Defender range with the largest 130 model but it is already investigating plans to turn the Defender nameplate into a model range in its own right. Under consideration is a luxurious version based on the next Range Rover’s underpinnings, along with a pick-up based on the standard model, but plans for a smaller version based on the Discovery Sport have been axed. Sources say Jaguar Land Rover bosses believe the Defender has the potential to become another high-profit business in the mould of Range Rover, with a line-up of distinct Defender-badged models in dealerships set to arrive by early 2025. If they prove successful, JLR’s fortunes would be transformed, with at least 6 of its 9 future Land Rover nameplates generating high profit margins. JLR has increasingly focused on strengthening its 3 Land Rover model families (Defender, Range Rover and Discovery) in recent years. Under the new plan, it could become a kind of supercharged Porsche: selling high-margin vehicles (JLR is targeting 10 % margins) and generating enough cash to continue to invest in new models, as well as paying down its existing debts. The stakes are particularly high with the Defender because a successful expansion of this revered model line could eventually put JLR in the best financial shape of its existence. Although JLR has not officially revealed any fine detail of the Defender plan, Autointernationaal understands that a high-specification range-topper is planned, built on the new MLA platform, but a smaller and more affordable model on the upcoming EMA range-extender platform has been put on ice. The highly sophisticated MLA platform will make its debut underpinning the all-new Range Rover at the end of the year. It will also be used for the next-generation Range Rover Sport, Velar and Discovery 6. The MLA is what’s known as a ‘flex’ platform with an electric bias. It can be produced in mild-hybrid combustion-engine form, as a plug-in hybrid and in solely battery-electric guise. It has been designed to be “highly capable off road” but also to deliver exceptional refinement in road use. An MLA-based Defender will inevitably be more of a luxury car than today’s Slovakia-built model. It is expected to have a less rugged-style interior but distinguish itself from the forthcoming Range Rover’s. The Defender already has a luxury range-topper in the form of the new V8 version, but the larger, more sophisticated MLA underpinnings could open up the model to a wider audience, while allowing for a full-electric version to rival the inbound Mercedes-Benz EQG. However, the Range Rover and Velar are likely to be initially prioritised as EVs on the MLA platform. Instead of smooth, traditional wood and leather luxury, an MLA Defender will probably use more extravagant colours, more sportily styled seats and a dashboard design that retains the high-mounted gearshifter as the main theme. Unusual materials are also likely, including metallic trims with experimental ‘naturally weathered’ looks and new types of wooden finishes, all in keeping with the Defender’s link to nature and the outdoors. Basing the luxury Defender on the MLA platform gives JLR the option of building a 7-seat version. However, JLR will need to balance the expansion of the Defender range against the Discovery line, with sales of the fifth-generation Discovery seemingly directly affected by the launch of the Defender. In the first 6 months of 2021, Discovery retail sales slumped to below 10.000 units, making it the slowest-selling Land Rover of all the 7 nameplates (the next lowest is the Velar, at nearly 22.000 units).  Discovery sales were even down 17% on the first six months of a locked-down 2020. Obviously, a 7-seat luxury Defender would clash directly with the next-generation Discovery. So defining the Discovery brand more clearly is essential for JLR if it is to take full advantage of the significant opportunity presented by a more luxurious Defender model. JLR’s engine line-up will have developed further by the time the MLA-based Defender appears, but the 3.0-litre straight-6 petrol and diesel engines are expected to be the main powertrains in both hybrid and plug-in hybrid guises. An MLA Defender is likely to start from around €120.000 euri in The Netherlands in today’s money. Given that the plans to expand the Defender family are quite recent, the new luxury flagship version isn’t expected to be in showrooms before late 2024 or early 2025. But before that, the current Defender line-up will expand in 2022 with the launch of the 8-seat 130. This vehicle is a significant stretch over the current 110 model, with most of the extra length being inserted into the rear overhang. Sources say the new Defender 130 will be 5.1 meter long and aimed largely at the crucial US and Chinese markets, where demand for large SUVs remains high. It’s expected to be available in high-end trim only and showroom prices might start as high as €140.000 in The Netherlands. Along with the long-mooted pick-up version this new addition to the range will be crucial in expanding the Defender’s target market and cementing the model line as a spin-off brand in the vein of Ford’s Mustang. The 130 is likely to offer an extra seat over the current 110 and be available with the whole gamut of Land Rover powertrains, from the P300e PHEV option up to the 525 hp supercharged V8. At the other end of the line-up, Land Rover had been expected to use the recently announced EMA (Electric Modular Architecture) platform for an entry-level Defender model in 2025, much like Ford has done in the US with the Bronco and Bronco Sport. However, these plans are now understood to have been scrapped. As previously reported, this platform will be used for the next-generation Evoque and Discovery Sport, with its flat floor enabling much more spacious interiors than the current models  The new EMA architecture is described by JLR as “native BEV”, which means it is designed as a battery-electric ‘skateboard’ platform. But it is also capable of housing a small lean-burn petrol engine (thought to be a 1.5-litre 3-pot) that can be used as a range-extending generator when the battery is depleted. The engine is expected to be available in at least 150 hp and 180 hp versions. The platform will initially be sold with a smaller battery for normal hybrid operation in conjunction with the petrol engine and with a much larger battery pack for a plug-in range of as much as 240 km. The EMA has been future-proofed to accommodate a number of different battery chemistries and JLR promises electric drive motors that are 92 % efficient at turning power from the batteries into forward motion. The company also says the EMA platform will be equipped with a brand-new electrical and software architecture that will support autonomous driving functions from level two (advanced driver assistance features) to level four (allowing for fully autonomous driving on certain enabled roads), communication with other vehicles and street infrastructure and automatic payment capability, as well as “curated digital media and brand experiences”. +++

+++ MAZDA is restructuring its Chinese joint ventures to shore up its lackluster performance, reflecting the stress of smaller marques that struggle to find their position in the world’s most competitive and largest vehicle market. On August 30, the 16-year-old joint venture FAW-Mazda posted its farewell on Sina Weibo. According to a plan, the joint venture, established in 2005 and famed for such models as the Mazda 6 sedan, will no longer exist. FAW and Mazda will shift their joint-venture stakes into Mazda’s partnership with another Chinese carmaker, Changan. After the merger, Mazda and Changan will each hold 47.5 % of the new Changan Mazda, while FAW will own the remaining 5 %. The restructuring comes as the Japanese marque is seeing its sales shrink in the increasingly competitive Chinese market. Mazda sold 214.574 vehicles in China last year; down from 227.750 units in 2019. Other Japanese carmakers Toyota, Honda and Nissan all sold more than 1 million cars in China in 2020. Its downward spiral continued this year, with deliveries in the first 7 months reaching 110.362 units. A breakdown of the sales figures show that only 36.466 units were sold at FAW-Mazda, which has only 2 models in the market. Analysts said Mazda’s focus on internal combustion engine technology has developed a following for its vehicles, but its smaller lineup and slower shift toward new technologies are hindering its development. While most carmakers globally adopt turbocharged engines, Mazda sticks to naturally-aspirated ones, and while many have unveiled massive electrification campaigns, Mazda has not yet offered any such model in China, they said. Analysts said another factor that led to a smaller lineup and fewer sales at FAW-Mazda was probably its equity structure, with FAW holding a 60 % stake and Mazda 40 %. They said Mazda has introduced more popular models into the 50:50 joint venture it built with Changan in 2007 to maximize its profits. In a statement late last month, Mazda said: “The 3 companies aim to utilize every strategic and managerial opportunity in the new joint investment company and strive to make its business and management system optimal to adapt to the needs of the expanding Chinese market”. Mazda is just one of many smaller marques that are trying to bolster its business in the country. Skoda, the Czech brand of Volkswagen, is not faring well either. The carmaker’s sales were more than 340.000 in 2018, the record since its arrival in the country in 2007. Yet deliveries have since fallen year by year. Only 25.000 sold in the first 6 months this year, according to statistics from the China Passenger Car Association. The association said Skoda’s current market share was 0.23 % in the same period, down from 0.77 % in 2020. Possible causes include the rise of Chinese brands including Great Wall Motors’ Wey and Geely’s Lynk& Co, which excel especially in terms of infotainment functions, said experts. Their rise is charming car buyers away from South Korea’s Kia and Hyundai as well as French brands too. Some brands have left China to seek opportunities in other markets, including Japan’s Suzuki that specializes in smaller models, which are less popular in the country. +++

+++ “A shrimp trying to swallow a whale”. Critics invoked that old Korean saying when Edison Motors jumped in the race to acquire the cash-strapped SSANGYONG . But Kang Young-kwon, the local electric bus manufacturer’s founder and CEO, is confident that his company’s expertise in electric vehicle production is enough to infuse life into SsangYong. “The days of internal combustion engine vehicles are numbered. I believe it is crucial that an electric vehicle company becomes the owner of SsangYong Motor for its survival”, Kang said in a phone interview. Edison Motors is one of the prospective bidders in the SsangYong deal. It is bidding as part of a consortium that includes homegrown activist fund Korea Corporate Governance Improvement, Keystone Private Equity and electric vehicle component maker Semisysco. Other prominent competitors include SM Group, the 38th-largest company in the country, which is engaged in multiple business areas including construction and auto parts manufacturing. SsangYong is the 4th largest automaker in South Korea, owned by India’s Mahindra. The Indian shareholder is seeking to sell its controlling stake in the firm, and the deadline for the bidders to submit their acquisition proposals is next week. The biggest supplier of electric buses to Seoul City, Edison Motors recorded sales of 80.9 billion won ($69.2 million) with an operating profit of 5.6 billion won in 2019. On its own, Edison Motors would stand no chance to become the new owner of SsangYong, whose revenue in 2020 was over 2 trillion won. But the CEO said the consortium could channel a fund of about 800 billion won to 1 trillion won for the acquisition and post-acquisition revival program. Kang, a TV producer-turned-entrepreneur, said he wanted to transform SsangYong into a major EV brand to rival global automakers such as Tesla, Volkswagen and General Motors. His goal is to make the company turn a profit within 3 to 5 years by tripling its annual production volume to 300.000 vehicles, including 150.000 EVs and 50.000 hybrid EVs. “Edison Motor’s battery technology would benefit SsangYong to produce more competent electric vehicles”, Kang said. While SsangYong’s electric SUV has a driving range of some 300 km on a single charge, Edison Motors’ third-generation battery pack with its smart battery management system could pull that figure up to 450 or even 800 km, Kang said. The maximum mileage of the Korando Emotion is 306 km per charge. The compact electric SUV is set for launch in the European market in October. Kang dismissed the skeptics, pointing out how even conglomerates with far greater funding power had failed to revive SsangYong over the years. “I would not be considering acquiring SsangYong if I did not believe in its potential. There is no reason to put my company at risk”, Kang said, adding that Edison Motors was already competitive in its own field, with interested investors. Kang acquired an EV company to start Edison Motors in 2017, and in the years that followed it managed to develop and commercialize low- and high-floor buses powered by compressed natural gas and electricity. In expanding its EV product portfolio, the firm has launched a 1-ton electric truck and aims to introduce electric cars within this year. The company’s name reflects Kang’s determination to outcompete Tesla, the No. 1 EV maker in the world by sales, Kang said. Kang named it after the inventor Thomas Edison, who is “more famous” than Nikola Tesla, the engineer for whom Tesla is named, Kang said. If he were to develop and produce electric sport utility vehicles alone, it would take more than 5 years. The process requires getting the certificates for auto parts, building the production plant, and then going through all the necessary tests to export the final product. “By acquiring SsangYong Motors, I would be able to reduce the time, and the cost”, Kang said. For this year, Edison Motors has set its sales goal at 255 billion won and is manufacturing electric buses and trucks at its new production plant in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province. The company is seeking to ramp up exports of its vehicles as well. Starting with the 102 electric school buses it sold to India in May 2020, the company has received orders for 15,000 units to be delivered in the next five years, Kang said. “There are a lot of sales requests, and if they are all realized, we expect to export 1.000 to 3.000 vehicles to the US, Europe, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Ukraine, Turkey and Mexico within this year,” Kang said. Edison Motors is also tapping into autonomous driving technology, Kang said. At the 8th International Electric Vehicle Expo on Jeju Island, the firm presented its ongoing project to develop a self-driving electric bus that can attain speeds within a range of 60 to 100 km/h. Having received approval from the Transport Ministry, Edison Motors plans to test-drive the vehicle on a designated road in Pangyo Smart City in October, the chief said. +++

+++ TOYOTA , the world’s topselling automaker, said it would further slash production in Japan and abroad because of ongoing virus disruptions and a chronic global chip shortage. The Japanese car giant will cut output by 70.000 units in September and 330.000 in October, it said, adding that the move would reduce projected annual production for the fiscal year ending March 2022 to 9 million vehicles. It comes after the automaker had already last month announced a 40 % cut to September production, equivalent to 360.000 units. “Key reasons for the production adjustment include a decline in operations at several local suppliers due to the prolonged spread of Covid-19 in Southeast Asia and the impact of tighter semiconductor supplies”, the firm said in a statement. But it added that the move did not affect its full-year operating income forecast. The outlook for November and beyond remained “unclear”, though it said demand was strong and “the production plan for November and beyond assumes that the previous plan will be maintained”. The auto industry has struggled to recover from the pandemic as new waves of infections affect production lines and with a continuing global shortage of the semiconductors used in modern vehicles. Microchips are essential for car electronics systems and have been in short supply since the end of last year. When the pandemic hit, carmakers scaled back orders and chipmakers shifted output to consumer electronics as people splurged on equipment to work and relax at home, leaving automakers in a tight situation as demand for vehicles picked up. Toyota’s rivals have also been forced to slow or temporarily halt production because of the chip shortage. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN head Herbert Diess said autonomous cars, not electric vehicles, are the “real game-changer” for the auto industry, which is facing the end of combustion engines in Europe by 2035. Diess’ comments signal the pace at which the 62-year old is trying to transform Europe’s largest carmaker by basically saying that the shift toward battery-powered electric vehicles, which still needs to be backed up by actual sales, was sealed. “Autonomous driving is really going to change our industry like nothing else before”, Diess said in Munich ahead of the official opening of the IAA Mobility Show, adding the shift towards electrified cars was “kind of easy” in comparison. “The real game-changer is software and autonomous driving”. Diess spoke as environmental pressure on the auto sector is ramping up, with the European Commission in July proposing an effective ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2035. Greenpeace and German environmental NGO Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) said they would take legal action against German carmakers, including Volkswagen, if they failed to step up their policies to tackle climate change. Diess, who was confronted by Greenpeace activists before entering the venue, is therefore not only aiming to overtake Tesla and turn Volkswagen into the world’s largest seller of electric vehicles by 2025. He also wants to make software services for autonomous cars a key pillar of the group’s future business, which is why Volkswagen has bought into self-driving software startup Argo AI, a competitor to Alphabet’s Waymo. Traditional carmakers and tech firms have spent billions of dollars over the past decade to realize the vision of driverless cars, but robotaxis remain elusive due to technical and regulatory hurdles that require a continued human presence. Volkswagen expects €1.2 trillion of software-enabled sales in the car sector by 2030, accounting for about a quarter of the global mobility market, which is expected to more than double to €5 trillion as a result. “By 2030, about 85 % of our business is cars, private cars, privately owned, shared rental cars. And about 15% of mobility should be shuttles, mobility as a service”, Diess said. This ties into the group’s recent move to lead a consortium in an acquisition of car rental firm Europcar, a bet on potentially lucrative mobility services that still need to become reality. +++

+++ Great Wall Motors’ high-end marque WEY is to deliver its first model in Europe, which is plug-in hybrid SUV, in early 2022. The Chinese carmaker made the announcement at the Munich auto show held in Germany, which is also known as the IAA. Wey said the company will start to take orders later this year on the flagship model, called Coffee 01. Wey has sold over 30.000 Coffee 01s since its launch in May in China. The plug-in hybrid model has a driving range of 150 km on pure electric mode. It has a number of advanced driving-assist functions as well as smart cabin features facial recognition and the augmented reality head-up display. “As the vanguard of Great Wall Motors’ overseas strategy, Wey will start first in Germany and then go to other parts of Europe”, said Sun Bing, a senior executive in charge of the marque’s operations in the European Union. Wey said it will open the first European experience center in Munich in 2022 and over 60 service stations will be set up in the same year. +++

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