Newsflash: dit zijn de toekomstplannen van Alfa Romeo

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+++ At long last, it finally seems ALFA ROMEO is getting the attention it deserves. CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato has a busy schedule up ahead for the troubled Italian marque, with plans for a new model launch each year until 2026. The reveal was made in an interview and then later confirmed by a spokesperson for parent company Stellantis, so this juicy piece of news is as official as it gets. Leading the way will be the Tonale, a compact crossover originally previewed by a concept in March 2019 at the Geneva Motor Show. It was supposed to enter production by the end of this year, but had to be pushed back by a few months as Imparato was not satisfied with the performance delivered by the plug-in hybrid system. Alfa Romeo’s head honcho wants the electrified Tonale to be sportier than the Peugeot 3008 PHEV, so the engineers are working hard to make the boss happy. The top brass at Alfa says a world premiere of the Tonale is now scheduled to take place in March 2022 and sales will commence at home in Italy the following June. The identity of the remaining four new models has not been disclosed, but one of them is rumoured to be a subcompact crossover tentatively called Brennero, twinned with the Fiat 500X and Jeep Renegade replacements. I am hoping Alfa has something other than SUVs on its mind, and ideally, one of the cancelled GTV or 8C models is back on the drawing board. A more affordable coupe to fill in the void left after the 4C’s demise would also be appreciated by enthusiasts. I for one would be delighted to see a new wagon, but it’s just wishful thinking at this point. Imparato went on to mention every single new model the company will launch from 2027 will be an EV. Lancia has a similar plan in regards to electrification, with plans to make only zero-emissions models from 2026. Earlier this week, the rebirth of the Delta was confirmed for the impending electric era. +++

+++ During the recent 2021 Annual Meeting of Stockholders Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk noted that it will take a few decades until the world will switch entirely to BATTERY ELECTRIC VEHICLES . The main point is that the global vehicle fleet stands at about 2 billion units, and not even 1 % is all-electric yet. That’s a gigantic fleet, which will require time to be replaced with battery-electric counterparts. Assuming that 100 % of new vehicles would be electric, at 100 million per year, it would still take 20 years from now to replace 2 billion vehicles. This 20-year period might be considered as the age of a vehicle until it finally goes to a junk yard. However, currently the global BEV sales share is not even close to 10% (it might be soon on a monthly basis for BEVs+PHEVs), but annually, it appears to be above 5 %. So we need to add the time to reach 100% first – globally (all the brands and all the markets). Elon Musk says that the full electrification might take 30-40 years. While Tesla produces only 100% electric cars, the established manufacturers are at a 2-digit share at best and those on the forefront set targets of 100% BEV by 2030. Others assume 2040 or so. We must also take into account that to achieve 100 %, the world needs to make BEVs affordable enough for the countries below average wealth. On the other hand, the electrification might accelerate through automation of driving. If new autonomous electric cars will be used in favour of owning a car, the global fleet of cars will decrease (the old ICEs will be removed in the first place) and share will increase faster. Anyway, more than 10 years of lithium-ion-powered revolution is behind us (counting since around 2008, or at least 2010), and a few more decades ahead of us. Meanwhile, the electrification will have to spread to other areas like ships, aircrafts and energy sector (solar + battery energy storage) on a mass scale. +++

+++ Designing a car is really, really hard. Not only do you have to come up with how it looks, but you also have to predict what consumers will want. Or won’t. And judging consumer trends 2, 3, or 5 years into the future requires a professional Nostradamus. One could have helped BMW avoid the backlash to its larger grilles after fans took to the internet to protest the bold move, though the styling feature could be coming to more BMW models. An interview with Adrian Van Hooydonk, BMW Group vice president of Design, revealed the company could place the oversized feature on other models. He said, “We want to spread it out a little bit more” when asked about the large grilles. Some will have vertical kidney grille designs, while others will have horizontal ones. The company wants its cars to be instantly recognisable with a strong character. “We want our customers to be able to recognise the BMW in the rearview mirror”, said Van Hooydonk, adding that people should be able to recognise it beyond just being another BMW. Large grilles have proliferated throughout the company’s lineup, finding their way onto the 4 Series, the M3 and M4, and the upcoming all-electric iX and i4. As BMW updates its lineup over the next few years, more models could get redesigned to accommodate the larger face. Van Hooydonk didn’t speculate on what we should expect next from the company, though he did reveal BMW is already working on cars for 2025 and beyond. That means designers and engineers are making predictions about the designs people will want, and those designs could still be on the road a decade from now. A lot can change between now and then, and betting a multi-million-dollar product on design trends is no easy task. Designing the iX, which goes on sale next spring, started nearly six years ago, for example. +++

+++ GORDON MURRAY Automotive has finally fixed a date for the launch of its 650 hp, €3.5 million T.50 supercar. It’ll make its public debut later this month at the 78th Goodwood Members’ Meeting, making five no-holds-barred laps of the track to mark the occasion. Alongside the dynamic debut of the road-going T.50, there’ll also be a static display of the 725 hp track-only T.50s Niki Lauda and some of Gordon Murray’s greatest race cars, with the intention of highlighting the designer’s “light-weighting ethos”. Show-goers will also see the 1972 Duckhams Ford LM, the 1975 Brabham BT44B and the 1967 IGM Ford, which was Murray’s first ever crack at making a race car. GMA is even wheeling out one of Gordon’s earlier attempts at a road car: the 1992 LCC Rocket. Gordon Murray said: “There’s no better place to show and demonstrate the T.50 than the Goodwood Members Meeting. It’s been frustrating not to be able to show our supercar before, but for everyone intending to visit Goodwood, it will certainly be worth the wait. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to sound superb”. Production numbers for the road-going T.50 will be limited to just 100 examples, the first of which are expected to arrive next year. Once they’re all built and accounted for, GMA will start production of the T.50s Niki Lauda, of which there’ll be just 25. +++

+++ Global passenger PLUG-IN ELECTRIC CAR sales more than doubled year-over-year in August to 516.416 (+ 114 %), which is one of the best monthly results ever. The market share, according to Jose Pontes (based on EV-Volumes data), actually increased to an all-time record level of 7.7%. In the peak months (usually December) we might even see 10 %. Most of the sales fall on the all-electric vehicles: 365.000 and 5.4 % market share. PHEVs sold about 151.000 times and had a 2.3% marketshare. So far this year, passenger plug-in electric car sales stand at over 3.55 million (more than in the entire 2020), while the market share increased to 6.6 %. It’s expected that in 2021, plug-in car sales will exceed 6 million. The top-selling models for the month were: Wuling Hong Guang Mini EV (41.188 – new record), Tesla Model Y (28.144 – ahead of Model 3) and Tesla Model 3 (22.889 – the second year-over-year decrease in a row). The only 2 other models above 10.000 a month were the BYD Qin Plus (PHEV; 13.043) with a record of 13,043 and the Volkswagen ID.4 (11.313). An interesting finding is that 12 out of the top 20 most popular models in August were Chinese, and 7 of them set their own monthly records. The topselling models year-to-date are: Tesla Model 3 – 22,889 and 285,047 YTD, Wuling’s Hong Guang MINI EV – 41,188 and 253,704 YTD, Tesla Model Y – 28,144 and 180,953 YTD, Volkswagen ID.4 – 11,313 and 60,466 YTD, BYD Han EV – 6,198 and 50,458 YTD, Li Xiang One EREV – 9,433 and 48,176 YTD, Changan Benni EV – 7,358 and 45,237 YTD, Volkswagen ID.3 – 8,025 and 44,625 YTD, BYD Qin Plus (PHEV) – 13,043 and 43,546 YTD, Great Wall Ora Black Cat EV – 7,015 and 41,786 YTD. BYD was the top brand in August with over 61.000 units (a second monthly win in a row), followed by Tesla (52.036) and SAIC-GM-Wuling joint venture (44.493).

BYD is expected to take second place year-to-date after September (I am waiting for data). The top brands year-to-date: Tesla – 52,036 and 473,136 YTD, SAIC-GM-Wuling – 44,493 and 267,206 YTD, BYD – 61,014 and 259,108 YTD, Volkswagen – 32,343 and 214,127 YTD, BMW – 20,168 and 172,336 YTD, Mercedes-Benz – 16,931 and 138,601 YTD, SAIC – 21,766 and 132,712 YTD, Volvo – 10,312 and 115,598 YTD, Audi – 13,828 and 107,195 YTD, Kia – 12,843 and 87,208 YTD, Total: 516,416 and 3,554,016 YTD. Among the manufacturers, Tesla is top #1 with 13% share, followed by SAIC (12%) and Volkswagen Group (11%). +++

+++ The fledgling electric car manufacturer POLESTAR has set its sights on Porsche as its main competition moving forward. This bold claim was made by CEO Thomas Ingenlath, during an interview. For a company with only two models built so far, it’s quite a claim, but Ingenlath has big plans for the future of Polestar with models that will take the fight directly to Porsche. Polestar wants to build cars that are climate neutral by 2030. This massive endeavour is known internally at Polestar as Project 0 and devotes all aspects of the business to be greener. Renewable energy for production and less waste are cornerstones of this ambitious project that will forever shape the brand and its long-term goals. Outside of Polestar’s environmental goals, it wants to be the premier manufacturer of premium electric cars. This means competition with Tesla and BMW in the sports saloon and SUV space while targeting Porsche’s upcoming electric sports cars. Thomas Ingenlath affirms, “We are competing with Porsche for the best electrically powered premium sports car”. Polestar’s vision faces numerous challenges. As of right now, all manufacturing takes place in China, and cars are then shipped to European customers. Polestar plans to utilise more rail applications and has aspirations to expand into European Volvo plants to grow production capacity and reduce emissions. Polestar has a long-term goal to also manufacture their upcoming Polestar 3 in Southern California. The future of Polestar is bright as the new brand begins to win over customers in the premium segment from competitors. The growing appetite and excitement for EVs mean that as long as Polestar can produce a strong product they will surely gain market share. Can they compete with Porsche to build an electric sports car? We’re excited to see what happens. +++

+++ Jeff Bezos stood before a packed conference room in Washington, D.C., and declared war on climate change. It was September 2019. His secret weapon, tucked deep into a chart-heavy presentation, was a bug-eyed cargo truck built by a startup few people had heard of. “I am incredibly excited to announce that we have just placed an order for 100.000 electric delivery vans”, Bezos, then chief executive officer of Amazon.com, told the stunned crowd. “They will be built by a company called RIVIAN ”. Amazon would be carbon neutral by 2040, he pledged; a game-changing moment for Bezos and the millions of Prime customers. But this was an even more defining moment for Rivian. The order immediately separated the auto rookie from the parade of promising electric startups, providing backing, a big book of business and legitimacy. It also would soon start to draw in additional investment from major players, including Ford, T. Rowe Price, D1 Capital Partners and Fidelity. For Rivian’s founder, R.J. Scaringe, the Bezos endorsement opened doors that were inaccessible to his rival Elon Musk in the early days of Tesla. While most of Rivian’s marketing focuses on its sleek and powerful consumer models (and Scaringe’s vision for creating the Patagonia of pickups) the company is driven by the business Amazon is providing. Without it, say people familiar with the company’s financials, there would be no hope of the $80 billion valuation Rivian is aiming for in its upcoming initial public offering. Amazon’s primacy as a customer is underscored now as production gets underway at Rivian’s Illinois factory. Scaringe has prioritized building hundreds of delivery vans this year, while production of the highly anticipated new electric pickup runs at a trickle, according to people familiar with the plan. On Friday, Rivian shared new details of the Amazon deal in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, revealing how closely its fate is tied to one of its biggest benefactors. The e-commerce giant will have exclusive rights to Rivian’s delivery vehicles for four years after receiving its first one, and it gets right of first refusal to buy the vans for 2 years after that. Rivian’s official debut came about a year before the Bezos announcement, at the 2018 Los Angeles auto show. Scaringe, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Ph.D., used the annual event to formally unveil his company, which had been operating in stealth mode until then. He’d been working on a premium electric pickup and an SUV. Rihanna was among the guests at the launch party the night before the event. The singer posed for pictures with Scaringe in front of the sleek pickup, offering a thumbs up. She was there with her then-boyfriend, Hassan Jameel, whose family conglomerate Abdul Latif Jameel had already invested millions in the startup. In a 22-minute pitch at the car show, Scaringe explained that every detail of the R1T pickup and its close SUV cousin, the R1S, was developed in-house: the headlamps, storage, battery management system and quad motor system. The trucks would be built at the company’s recently acquired factory in Normal, Illinois. A team outside of Detroit was refining the engineering. And in Irvine, California, workers were designing the core battery and propulsion technology. Scaringe, it turns out, was steering his venture into an entirely empty slot in the industry’s fastest lane. Americans were rapidly ditching their sensible sedans and indulging in the bigger is better ethos. As gasoline prices plummeted, SUVs became the modern family wagon and pickups were snapped up by suburban cowboys whose heaviest load was hauling mulch for the garden. By 2015, pick-ups and SUVs were outselling traditional cars in the United States. Today, they account for three-quarters of the market, prompting automakers like Ford to get out of the sedan business entirely. “When Rivian showcased its electric pick-ups and SUVs, it gave the EV market hope in the sense that electric vehicles could evolve to meet more mainstream preferences”, says Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at auto-market researcher Edmunds. Rivian started to take pre-orders for the consumer vehicles at the L.A. show. Potential customers have put down a refundable $1.000 deposit to buy 48.390 R1T and R1S models. By comparison, Ford already has surpassed 150.000 non-binding reservations for its F-150 Lightning. The most-hyped Rivian consumer today is Bezos, who has never said publicly how the startup landed on his radar. There are several connections between the 2 companies that offer some clues. In mid-2018, Rivian worked with a production company owned by director Peter Berg, who knows Bezos, to film material that would later be used at Rivian’s L.A. auto show reveal, people familiar with the matter said. Some of the impressive aerial photography was shot by Black Ops Aviation, a company owned by Bezos’ now-girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez, the people said. Through the companies’ interactions with Rivian, word eventually got back to Bezos about a startup with an intriguing electric truck that was worth a look. Due diligence by Amazon followed and in the late fall of 2018, Bezos flew to Rivian’s engineering facility in Plymouth, Michigan, and met with Scaringe. The Rivian founder presented a detailed document: his vision for an electric future. Throughout Amazon’s search for an electrified fleet, a particular sticking point was just how expensive it would prove to mass-produce the electric vans, according to a person familiar with the matter. Until that point, Bezos and Amazon had found no company that could build a battery-powered van at scale. Now he had. “We weren’t super excited about the products that were available”, Ross Rachey, Amazon’s director of fleet and product, said in an interview in August 2020. “It was a combination of established manufacturers who were maybe a year or two farther out than we wanted. And it was a host of startups, some compelling, some non-compelling”. In February 2019, Amazon led a $440 million investment round in Rivian just days before it stood up a target of reaching net zero carbon for half of all shipments by 2030. 6 months later, Bezos was in Washington with more big, green goals: a plan to get all of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 and to become entirely carbon neutral by 2040. While Amazon, Rivian and Berg declined to comment for this story, after it was published Bezos tweeted that the EV maker’s team has a lot to prove, but is “world class”. The billionaire praised Scaringe as “one of the greatest entrepreneurs I’ve ever met”, and quipped: “Now, RJ, where are our vans?” Scaringe had built 2 lines of business: one reliant on a just-in-time delivery empire and the other on environmentally conscious consumers. The vans for Amazon would deliver steady revenue, while the SUVs and pick-ups try to keep their momentum in a fickle retail market far more sensitive to economic conditions. There’s a clear recognition inside Rivian and with its investors that the van for Amazon is a priority and the pickup a sideshow until production can be ramped up to meaningful volumes. The deal gives Rivian visibility and guaranteed revenue, along with a deadline. An all-hands-on-deck edict has been issued to get the project up to speed: for now, the R1T is taking a back seat. Rivian’s most immediate goal is to deliver 300 vans to Amazon by year-end, according to people familiar with the deal. The first 10.000 units are due by the end of 2022. The full order of 100.000 vans is due by the end of the decade. The vans, in different configurations, are principally for last-mile delivery. Each will have a range of up to 240 km on a charge. Over the summer, Scaringe fast-tracked testing on the R1T pickup to clear the decks for accelerated van production in the fall. In September, the company’s efforts refocused on building what is known internally as the Rivian Prime Van. The pickup is being produced in steady but modest numbers, according to people familiar with the plan. The pickup has also faced multiple delays since the global coronavirus pandemic hit, most recently attributed to a global computer chip shortage. Rivian has promised each buyer a human point of contact, dubbed an “ambassador”, to set expectations before the vehicle is delivered. But to date that PR army has had little positive news to report. Ross Gale, a car collector and business owner in New Jersey, ordered a launch green R1T pickup last November. Lately, he says, despite his excitement when he first placed the order, he’s been frustrated by the lack of communication from the company on when he can expect to receive his vehicle. Once delivered, he plans to use the pick-up as his daily driver and to haul cars from his collection to auto shows. “I 100% believe in the product, having never seen one, having never touched one”, Gale says. “But I am annoyed with the failure to meet promises. I mean, just be honest. Tell us what you’re doing”. Meanwhile, Rivian’s contractual requirements for Amazon may simply be an opening bid. Bezos, as he looks toward future orders, has set up a kind of bake-off (as he is known to do). In addition to Rivian, Amazon currently buys vans from Ford, Stellantis and Daimler, all companies that are quickly flipping the switch on electric models. “You can safely assume 100.000 vans is not really the objective”, one source familiar with the deal says. “If Amazon really wants to change over their fleet (because how else are they going to become carbon neutral) then you can imagine the size of the order and how big it will be”. The deal between the 2 companies is stacked in Amazon’s favor. Rivian’s October 1 filing details that Amazon’s logistics unit is not bound to buy any electric delivery vehicles from Rivian, and that it can still work with any other potential automotive partners it chooses. Quantifying how much of a boost the Amazon deal will be to Rivian is tricky, as the specifics have never been disclosed. The unknown price of each van is just 1 part of the equation. The agreement between the 2 companies also includes provisions for recurring revenue for fleet management, such as software updates and running diagnostics, people familiar with the matter said. PitchBook analysts forecast the total Amazon order could bring more than $4.5 billion to Rivian and, more importantly, additional commercial customers. “These orders are a validating signal for investors and set Rivian up well to supply electric delivery vans to other logistics companies”, said Asad Hussain, Pitchbook’s senior mobility analyst. “In the same way investors look to Tesla for the future of automotive, many investors look to Amazon for the future of logistics”. Rivian will try to simultaneously launch three all-new electric vehicles. “Moving into the production on multiple fronts is a challenge for any automaker, let alone one that has never scaled up a single model before”, says analyst Corey Cantor. Sometime in the next few weeks, Rivian’s first customer will get a pick-up, the ambassadors will start booking delivery dates and Instagram will fill up with the 2.250 kilo version of an iPhone unboxing video. Still, the wait for most customers will be long. Scaringe told in November that it would take two years to catch up on its order book. Amazon currently is testing a handful of pre-production vans in cities across the United States and Bezos is no longer at the helm. He stepped down from the CEO’s perch in July and has been devoting time to his rocket company Blue Origin. Mere minutes before blasting himself into space in July, with much of the world watching, Bezos drove to the launch pad in a Rivian SUV. After touching back down to earth, his capsule was swarmed by vehicles: all Rivian pickups and SUVs, each of them shiny and dusty. +++

+++ The first cars to emerge from TESLA ‘s new Berlin factory should roll off the production line as early as next month, CEO Elon Musk said at the site of the plant on Saturday, but added that volume production would take much longer to achieve. Musk hopes to get the green light in coming weeks to start production at the site. The latest consultation on public concerns towards the site closes on October 14, after which the Environment Ministry will make a decision. “Starting production is nice, but volume production is the hard part”, Musk told a cheering audience at a festival at the plant site, many of whom livestreamed the speech on social media. “It will take longer to reach volume production than it took to build the factory”. He said volume production would amount to 5.000 or “hopefully 10.000” vehicles per day, and battery cells would be made there in volume by the end of next year. He also defended the factory against critics of its environmental impact, saying that it used “relatively little” water and that battery cell production was “sustainable”. Some local residents and environmental groups are unhappy with Musk’s approach, which they say flies in the face of German business culture. “I would tell him to stop building electrocars but rather fly to Mars,” said Manu Hoyer, who led a small protest of locals who oppose the project on environmental grounds, saying it will pollute drinking water. Brandenburg’s economy minister has put the chances of the factory gaining approval to operate at 95 %. Tesla has submitted plans to invest €5 billionin a battery plant with 50 GWh capacity next to the site, outstripping Volkswagen’s planned 40 GWh capacity site in Salzgitter. Musk said Tesla was worried that recruiting sufficient staff would be an issue, calling for people to apply from “all over Europe”. He said he hoped the battery plant would reach volume production by the end of next year. The company offered 9.000 tickets to the festival, with residents of Brandenburg state given priority. “Look, Mummy! A Tesla”, shouted an excited 9-year old called Emil, one of many children lined up with parents waiting for a 90-minute site tour. Fans cheered and laughed when Musk took the stage at sunset, welcoming him like a popstar. “This day is unique”, said Tesla fan Fred Schröder. “The Tesla factory in Germany will be opened to the public for the first time. That is a very special day”. Another had driven his Tesla from Milton Keynes in Britain, despite not having a ticket. He said it was worth it just to see the site from the outside. +++

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