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+++ New-energy vehicles from CHINA are gaining more footing in overseas markets, including Europe, where the demand for green transportation has been rapidly growing. The popularity of Chinese electric vehicles (EVs) in other markets, which have fitted into the drive to reduce emissions, is an epitome of their competitiveness arising from efforts to develop green and smart technology. NIO, a Chinese EV designer and manufacturer, opened a showroom in Oslo, Norway, the first of its kind in Europe, last week. Green technology from China helps further develop the green way forward in Norway, according to Marius Hayler, CEO of NIO Norway. NIO is among a long list of Chinese brands marketing EVs in Europe, which also includes rising start-up XPeng, iconic brand Hongqi, and Build Your Dreams (BYD), a popular Chinese automaker famous for its electronic bus fleet in European countries. In the first half of 2021, sales of new-energy vehicles of MG and Maxus, 2 brands of Shanghai-headquartered SAIC Motor, a major Chinese auto manufacturer, exceeded 12.000 in European countries, including Britain, Norway, the Netherlands and Denmark. “From the very beginning, the overseas business has been included in our development plan”, said Lan Qingsong, vice president of SAIC Motor. “After 10 years of operation, our products and services have entered more than 50 countries and regions”. According to data from the Ministry of Commerce of China, new-energy vehicles have driven the growth of China’s auto exports, which increased by 102.5 % year-on-year from January to July. “Only when Chinese auto companies enter the markets of developed countries can they truly participate in international competition”, said Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of the China Passenger Car Association. The explosive rise of China’s auto exports in 2021, according to Cui, reflects the significant increase in the global competitiveness of China’s auto industry, while there is still huge room for export growth. Chinese EV manufacturers are darting into the global auto market with both latest products and new technology, including battery swapping. With just one tap on the center display, NIO cars can be automatically parked into a battery-swap station and it takes only three minutes to swap a fully charged battery. NIO said it aims to install 20 battery-swap stations in Norway’s 5 largest cities and on some of the country’s major roads. Zhang Hui, vice president of NIO Europe, said that the company contributes to sustainable development in China and Europe through a unique technological base, adding that smart and digital experience advantages and cloud-based upgraded hardware features are NIO’s technical advantages. A number of Chinese technology giants have recently jumped into the EV market, bringing more competition and innovation to the auto industry. Xiaomi, a Chinese electronics manufacturer, unveiled in September an EV subsidiary, with a starting capital of 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion). The Guangzhou-based GAC Group announced earlier this year a joint project with Chinese tech giant Huawei to develop a “smart SUV”. Artificial intelligence has been a major feature of many Chinese EVs. With tech companies entering the track, competition surrounding AI is expected to be more intense. Chinese EV brand XPeng started to export its smart electric coupe P7 to Norway in August, after its G3 has made its way to the European market for almost a year. One month later, BYD announced that the total number of its pure-electric Tang SUVs shipped to Europe exceeded 1.000 units. “Now is a good time for the export of new energy vehicles of independent brands, especially in the European market”, said Xu Haidong, deputy chief engineer with the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Most of the NEV products in the European market are hybrid, which creates a competitive edge for pure electric vehicles, said Xu. The subsidies for new energy vehicles in European countries also form a preferential policy environment. As an emerging EV manufacturer in China, NIO has opened its first NIO House, a flagship shop with a cafe and showroom, in Oslo and started selling its vehicles in Norway at the end of September. “The Norwegians are investing very heavily in green technology and I think that also NIO from China is coming to Norway with their green technology like the swapping stations”, said Marius Hayler, CEO of NIO Norway. Hongqi, one of China’s oldest automaker FAW’s high-end brand, said recently that it had received about 500 orders for its e-SUV in Norway, thanks to the environmentally friendly policies and good infrastructure for electric vehicles in the northern European country. In Britain, a total of 750 electric vans made by Maxus, a subsidiary of the Shanghai-headquartered carmaker SAIC Motor, is to be added to the delivery company DPD’s fleet, marking Britain’s largest-ever single order of Chinese-brand vehicles. The vehicles, including 500 vans (3.5-ton) and 250 smaller ones, will double DPD’s e-vehicle fleet to 1.500, making it among the country’s top e-vehicle operators. Wang Rui, general manager of SAIC Maxus, said that the main highlight of the company’s sales in 2020 is in developed countries and the biggest highlight is in Europe, where it became a leader in the local niche market with more than 5.000 NEVs exported last year. In NIO’s advanced production base for NEVs in East China’s city of Hefei, about 400 vehicles are produced each day, with 307 robots busy at work under a fully automated system. For European consumers, electric vehicles made in China bring a different user experience with their eye-catching technology, customized production, and affordable prices. With just one tap on its center display, NIO cars can be automatically parked into a battery-swap station and it takes only three minutes to swap a fully charged battery, to shorten the owner’s waiting time for a recharge. NIO said it aims to install 20 battery-swap stations in Norway’s 5 largest cities and on some of the country’s major roads. Gunnar Birkenfeldt, one of the first Norwegian users of NIO and executive of a car subscription service platform, said that even though the battery swapping technology was not new to this world conceptually, it is another matter to commercialize the concept. Given the current user experience, he had no reason not to choose other NIO models in the future, Birkenfeldt said. In addition to innovations in the production and charging process, artificial intelligence has also been a major feature of many Chinese EVs. Also in September, a 12-meter-long self-driving electric bus made by China’s CRRC Electric Vehicle went on a trial run on open roads in Paris. The vehicle cleared a 6 km section along a bus route. In about 40 minutes, it passed 26 traffic lights and ten bus stops. The bus is scheduled to start regular passenger services next autumn. A number of Chinese technology giants have recently jumped into the EV market, bringing more competition and innovation to the already booming industry. With tech companies entering the NEV market, competition surrounding AI is expected to be more intense. Competition might be harsh for the automakers but also benefit the customers and will further boost the industry as well as contribute to the international community’s efforts to tackle global warming. “Only when Chinese auto companies enter the markets of developed countries can they truly participate in international competition”, said Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of the China Passenger Car Association. The explosive rise of China’s auto exports in 2021, said Cui, reflects the significant increase in the global competitiveness of China’s auto industry, while there is still huge room for export growth. +++

+++ GENERAL MOTORS and its Chinese joint ventures sold 623.500 vehicles in China in the third quarter this year; down 19.2 % from the same period in 2020. “Sales were impacted by the ongoing global semiconductor supply chain disruption”, said GM, the largest carmaker in the United States, in a statement. 4 of its 5 brands available in China saw precipitous drops in their third quarter sales compared with the same quarter in 2020. Baojun, of its joint venture SAIC – GM – Wuling, delivered 39.600 vehicles in the quarter, slumping 60.4 % year-on-year. It was followed by Chevrolet and Buick, both of which saw their sales fall over one third. Cadillac, GM’s premium brand, delivered 59.500 units from July to September this year; down 8.7 % year-on-year. Wuling was the only exception. Its deliveries totaled 309.400 units in the quarter; up 11.8 % from the same quarter last year. The Hong Guang Mini EV posted a record quarter with sales reaching 99.000 units. It remained the best-selling NEV model in China. Wuling’s Asta SUV, the newest product bearing the brand’s silver badge, achieved deliveries of about 3.300 units following its launch in September, said GM. The new energy vehicles of its other marques also performed well. Deliveries of Buick’s Velite 6 rose 36 % to about 8.500 units. Deliveries of Chevorlet’s Menlo EV, the brand’s first electric model, tripled to about 1.000 units in the quarter. GM said it will step up its efforts toward achieving its global vision of a future of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion in China. The carmaker said presales of the first Ultium-architecture model for the Chinese market, the electric Cadillac Lyric, a SUV, will start later this year. GM recently announced it will invest $300 million in Chinese autonomous driving startup Momenta to accelerate the development of next-generation self-driving technologies tailored for local consumers. Early this month, GM announced that its US sales dropped 33 % year-over-year in the third quarter, when it sold only 446.997 vehicles, down from 665.192 sold in the same period of last year. +++

+++ HYUNDAI MOTOR GROUP chairman Chung Euisun on Thursday will mark his one-year anniversary since taking office at the South Korean automotive group. With the new chief at the helm, Hyundai has embarked on a journey of transforming into a future smart mobility company. According to Hyundai officials, Chung, who inherited the top job from his father and now honorary group chairman Chung Mong-koo last year, has always emphasized that the future lies on resolving problems that people find most difficult to solve. For him, the solutions are robotics, urban air mobility, autonomous driving and hydrogen. Chung’s first M&A since taking office was in the robotics sector, acquiring a 80 percent stake in the US robotics unicorn Boston Dynamics. The group is currently developing the Factory Safety Service Robot with Boston Dynamics. UAM is also an important pillar of the Hyundai Motor Group that aims to create safe and free mobility. The company had announced that they will be showcasing an electric UAM model apt for city mobility by 2028. Last month, the Hyundai Motor Group showcased all-electric Ioniq 5 based robotaxi at the IAA mobility 2021, which took place in Munich, Germany. Hyundai is also speeding up the transition to eco-friendly vehicles by releasing their EV models such as Ioniq 5, EV6 and GV60. Chung has also been specially investing in hydrogen vehicles, seeing hydrogen as a future solution. Earlier in September, the company said they aimed to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. Under Chung’s lead, the group’s two automakers, Hyundai and Kia, are solidifying their brand image as eco-friendly brands with sales of eco-friendly cars between January to September increasing 68 % on-year. The Hyundai Motor Group added that their chairman tries to communicate without barriers with employees and innovate organizational culture. Chung promised employees during a town hall-style meeting last March that he will work on offering incentives and paying attention to human resources affairs, pointing out that what matters is not becoming No. 1 in car sales, but becoming a company where talented people want to work at. +++

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ , the German company founded by the inventors of the motor car, is pouring more resources into its cutting-edge research and design capabilities in China as the center of gravity of the new auto world shifts eastward. In a drive to create a “home away from home”, Mercedes-Benz is doubling down on bases in Beijing and Shanghai to stay ahead of regulations and consumer trends in a car market that outstrips the United States and Germany combined. 3 years after initially announcing plans to strengthen its research and development (R&D) in the country, the luxury car brand owned by Daimler will unveil its new Tech Center China in Beijing this month. Reuters has spoken to 4 people close to the tech center and the brand’s Chinese design studio who are familiar with the company’s new China strategy. All declined to be named because they are not allowed to speak with the media. With 1.000 engineers, the new tech center is more than 3 times the size of the one Mercedes-Benz opened in 2014 and the first outside Germany that can test “everything”, putting it more “on par” technically with the far bigger R&D headquarters near Stuttgart, a person close to the center said. Mercedes-Benz has also invested significantly in upgrading its Chinese design studio and has moved the whole team from Beijing to Shanghai, a megalopolis of about 25 million people known as the car design capital of China. Mercedes-Benz has good reason to elevate its Chinese operations. Its car sales in China jumped 12 % last year to a record 774.000 despite the pandemic, streets ahead of its next 2 markets, Germany on 286.000 and the United States with 275.000. About 80 % of the cars it sold in China were also made there, typically with an array of China-only features and models, and Asia overall accounted for almost half its global sales in 2021. China’s auto market, the biggest in the world since 2009, is expected to carry on growing steadily, with demand forecast to reach 35 million vehicles by about 2030 versus 25 million now. But Mercedes-Benz, like all foreign automakers in China, is under growing pressure from local EV startups such as Xpeng, Li Auto and Nio and their stylish vehicles with high-tech features tailored to Chinese consumers. That’s why the German carmaker’s “second home” strategy for China is focused on making its design and technology more agile, to respond quickly to the ever-shifting landscape and to firmly entrench the Mercedes-Benz brand, the 4 sources said. “The expectations in China are for the in-car experience to be served by a localized digital services ecosystem, and such solutions must be conceived and built by people that live in China and truly understand the mobile internet”, Bill Russo, head of consultancy Automobilityin Shanghai, said. Mercedes-Benz customers in China are 36 years old on average (roughly 20 years younger than in Germany) and are more tech-savvy, but they are also notoriously disloyal, hopping from brand to brand as trends shift. Mercedes has spent 1.1 billion yuan ($170 million) upgrading the center, with much of the investment ensuring it can do an array of testing locally, rather than send new technologies back to the Sindelfingen headquarters in Germany. “A key reason for the expansion is to gain the proximity to those customers and their needs”, the person close to the tech center said. “Here, we finally have everything we need to test the car fully”, said the source. The center has modern chassis test benches and others including for noise, vibration and harshness, as well as batteries and e-drive powertrains and it has the flexibility to swap in new ones as technology develops, 2 sources said. Mercedes has also added functions deemed important for Chinese customers, such as a team dedicated to intelligent, connected electric vehicle (EV) technology. “Tech savvy customers here require that you’re very local in terms of intelligence, connectivity and autonomous driving”, 1 of the sources said. All 4 sources said a sharper focus on the customer in China in recent years is already paying off. A drive to create China-only colors led to research into the preferences of younger luxury goods buyers. While sensitive to being seen as hip and tech-savvy, there has been a revived interest in styles inspired by China’s ancient dynasties. As part of that research, the studio came up with “rose gold metallic”, a variation on rose gold tones adjusted for cars first used as an exterior color for the Mercedes-Benz A-Class L sedan in 2018. New EVs such as the EQA and EQB now come in rose gold, and it’s also an interior tone in the EQC. “Global ideas, inspired by China”, said one source close to the studio, adding that while Mercedes needs to cater to its China customers first, some China-grown ideas will go global. Moving the studio to Shanghai was partly driven by the need to significantly speed up the design process by making it more digital, as most virtual model-making vendors are based there. “Besides, Shanghai is a lot easier a place to recruit design talent”, said the source close to the studio, which is just north of city’s prime waterfront district The Bund. Designers typically sketch a car on paper or a touch-sensitive computer screen and expert modelers then help sculpt the designs into clay models. Mercedes-Benz plans to more or less do away with those physical models. Under the new process, the Shanghai studio will review its designs using virtual tools, except for the occasional quarter-size physical models, according to one of the four sources. If the studio makes it to the final of internal competitions for car designs, it will send designers and modellers to the main studio in Germany to create life-size models for the last round, the source said. Daimler’s drive to strengthen its technology development in China also comes at a time when the cost of failing to be in step with Beijing policymakers has never been higher. Beijing’s sweeping regulatory crackdown in recent months has wiped billions of dollars off the value of some of the country’s best-known private firms, and has weighed on the auto sector. That’s partly because tensions between the United States and China have created a tricky environment for foreign companies to import technology developed elsewhere. And from battery technology to new kinds of mobility including smart connectivity and autonomous driving, Chinese policies and regulations are shifting and evolving rapidly. “If you respond to change after policies and regulation kick in, it’s too late”, said one of the contacts close to Daimler. With that in mind, the tech center works closely with the brand’s external affairs team which keeps its finger on the regulatory pulse, and that has proved key when it comes to so-called vehicle-to-everything, or V2X, technology. V2X controls communications between a car and “everything” outside, from 5G cellular signals to low-earth-orbit satellites to smart traffic lights and cameras on the road. In China, vehicles will soon have to come with full-fledged V2X capabilities to achieve a top safety ranking under a new version of its vehicle safety evaluation system, or New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), which is expected in 2025. “We knew this regulation was going to be implemented. We started developing those self-drive technologies including V2X to be in compliance with the new law and did so well before new regulation kicks in”, one of the tech center sources said. +++

+++ The POLESTAR 4, revealed under a dustsheet to investors in this new photograph, will be a more affordable premium electric crossover to target the likes of the Porsche Macan when it launches in 2023. CEO Thomas Ingenlath has confirmed the name, pricing and details as the company announced its plan to float on the Nasdaq. Investment specialists The Gores Group and Guggenheim Capital have provided funding to take Polestar public, valuing the business at $20 billion. Crucially, the deal will inject the funds to accelerate the expansion of Volvo’s EV offshoot, including the Polestar 4 and 2 other incremental models. It’s the first official confirmation that a second Polestar SUV is in the plan, following on the coat-tails of the US-built Polestar 3 launching in 2022. “We have a second SUV in our pipeline”, Ingenlath revealed. “It will compete in The Netherlands below the Polestar 3’s €82.500 sector, it is slightly smaller. It will not compromise on the interior length, but this car is slightly more ground-hugging, a bit more of the coupe-type roofline. The Polestar 4 really brings the greatness of the brand to a segment that will, eventually, start around €60.000, where we in some point in time want to reach with the Polestar 4. This is the price spectrum we will cover with these 2 cars”. Documents shared with investors reveal that the Polestar 4 is forecast to leapfrog the 2 by mid-decade to become the company’s bestseller, with 79.000 annual sales projected, a whisker ahead of the liftback saloon. Globally, the mid-sized premium sport SUV sector is expected to grow by 46 % by 2025, making this a ripe hunting ground for Polestar and others. Ingenlath pledged that aerodynamics would play a major part in the brand’s SUVs in future, claiming that the days of big, boxy off-roaders were over. But each car will have “different shapes and silhouettes, different interiors, and with Polestar drivetrains, which make them very, very powerful”. The company is developing a 600 hp e-motor, as well as hands-off autonomous driving skills due within two years. The smaller, more affordable Polestar SUV will maintain the performance drivetrain now associated with the brand, even though it is based on a different group EV architecture dubbed PMA by Polestar (echoing its genetic roots in Volvo’s CMA platform). The same hardware is called the Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA) by parent company Geely, which claims this is the world’s first open-source electric vehicle platform. The Polestar 4 will be built at Geely’s Hangzhou Bay factory in China, with production slated to start before the end of 2023. The boss also confirmed that the third new model would, logically, be the Polestar 5, trailed by the Precept. It means Polestar will launch one new model every year until 2025, by which time sales are projected to rise tenfold from this year’s output to 290,000 vehicles a year. +++

+++ With automobiles now becoming more like computers on wheels, carmakers are aggressively competing in SOFTWARE development. The rapidly growing electric vehicle (EV) market has only made their efforts that much more urgent. With all the features, EVs today are a lot like smartphones. According to Hyundai, the Genesis GV60 (photo), which was debuted this month, has a wireless software update function, known as over-the-air-programming (OTA). This feature allows a regular update of software installed on the vehicle, much like a smartphone. The software update is especially notable as it makes changes to the electronic control system, which operates the suspension, brakes, steering and airbags. Previously, updates were only made to the vehicle’s infotainment system, which includes the head-up display and navigation systems. “The software installed on the GV60 was developed by Hyundai on its own”, said an executive.
Hyundai in recent years has been increasing it capabilities in software development. The Korean automaker is seen as falling behind Tesla in terms of software development. Other automakers are also increasing development of their own software in transitioning to the manufacturing of EVs. One example is General Motors (GM). GM last month announced its Ultifi software platform, which will be built into all GM vehicles starting 2023. “Ultifi is a big, big step in our software strategy”, said Scott Miller, a GM vice president. “Today, cars are enabled by software. With Ultifi, cars will be defined by it”. Miller said one of the strengths of Ultifi is “continuous integration”. “We’re separating the software from the hardware so we can continuously upgrade apps”, Miller said. “It will allow us to be very agile and constantly learn how to make it better”. The software is not only targeted at improving the driving experience but also preventing accidents. The software on the numerous sensors installed could help the driver have more control in unfavorable weather conditions, including slippery roads, or reduce the speed of vehicles in school zones. Due to the vast potential, European automakers are also jumping on the bandwagon. Volkswagen has 5.000 people working on software development, while Mercedes-Benz is working on its own operating system (OS) jointly with Santa Clara, California’s Nvidia. One of the key reasons legacy automakers are competitively developing software is because future cars are rising as new IT platforms. On average, 80 million vehicles are sold globally a year, far fewer than the 500 million smartphones sold every year, but the mobility IT market is perceived as a blue ocean. Apple might also move into the vehicle market, though it hasn’t confirmed any plans. Automobiles transitioning to IT platforms is expected to accelerate once 5G connectivity improves, allowing fully autonomous driving. “The line between IT devices and the automobile will become more ambiguous as artificial intelligence technology becomes more advanced”, said Jeong Tai-kyeong, an AI Convergence professor at Hallym University. “As we have experienced through the smartphone, even in future cars, companies that fail to develop their own software will be pushed out of the platform competition”. +++

+++ 3 associations representing SOUTH KOREA ’s auto industry asked the government to limit the distribution of electric vehicles (EVs) in Korea, citing the need to protect the industry that is currently still focused on internal combustion engine vehicles. The Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA), Korea Auto Industries Coop. Association and Federation of Korea Metal Workers’ Trade Unions submitted the opinion to the Presidential Commission on Carbon Neutrality. Such concerns derive from the commission’s recent announcement that it would raise its greenhouse emission reduction goal from 26.3 % to 40 % by 2030 as part of efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. “If the reduction goal is raised to 40 %, the accumulated number of EVs that has to be distributed by 2030 will go up from 3.6 million to 4.5 million, which will put a dent in Korea’s auto industry that is concentrated on internal combustion engines and hinder its transition to EVs,” said a statement from KAMA. “The speed needs to slow down. There needs to be protection for the auto-related workforce, auto parts suppliers and more preparation is needed to establish a manufacturing environment for EVs in the country”. The associations also added that aside from Hyundai and Kia, the remaining automakers don’t have concrete plans to manufacture EV models in Korea, which means that the raised goal will push them to import EVs from overseas. “This will downsize the manufacturing of internal combustion engine vehicles in Korea, which will have bad effects on parts suppliers and consequently trigger employment instability in the auto industry”, KAMA said. South Korea is only able to produce a maximum of 3 million EVs by 2030 considering the time needed to develop auto parts and make facilities investment, according to the letter submitted to the commission. “If the objective exceeds the figure, the remaining quantity will need to be imported”, the letter said, according to KAMA. The letter asked for the goal to be lowered and called for more support for auto parts suppliers to upgrade their facilities for EVs. +++

+++ As automakers shift their focus to electric vehicles to achieve carbon neutrality, TOYOTA said it will aim to equip its cars with highly efficient solar power generation systems. Toyota will carry out research and development with the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, which has expertise in renewable energy production, and Toyota Central R&D Labs Inc., a firm in the same group as the automaker that is focused on achieving technological advances. “The 3 parties will seek to popularize vehicles equipped with solar power generation systems. To this end, (we) will pursue improvements in conversion efficiency and reductions in cost for both solar batteries and solar power generation systems”, Toyota said in a statement, without giving details about the in-vehicle systems. Based on data collected by the national institute, Toyota is seeking to improve the conversion efficiency of solar power generation systems and batteries, and bring down costs to allow for wider adoption. To achieve its goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions to net zero by 2050, Toyota will also step up the development of technology to produce and transport near emission-free hydrogen at lower costs. Automakers are shifting their focus from conventional internal combustion engine cars to electrified vehicles as a way to do their part in reaching greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. Carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gas emissions are blamed for global warming. Toyota has set a goal of increasing its global sales of electrified vehicles to 8 million units in 2030, offering a variety of options from hybrids to hydrogen-powered fuel-cell cars. The company said last month that it plans to spend ¥1.5 trillion on the supply and development of batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles by 2030. Toyota has said it will look to make a number of improvements to its batteries to lower the total cost of EVs. The company is targeting a per vehicle cost reduction of 50% for its future batteries. Earlier this year, Toyota announced plans to introduce 15 EV models globally by 2025, quelling to a certain extent concerns that it has fallen behind in the industrywide pivot to electric cars. 7 of the models are part of Toyota’s new “BZ” series, the first of which was previewed at the 2021 Shanghai Auto Show in April. +++

+++ New car sales of TOYOTA in China plunged in September, the manufacturer said, highlighting that its business in the country has become sluggish against a backdrop of semiconductor shortages. Sales in China for Toyota, Japan’s largest automaker, fell 35.9 % from a year earlier to 115.000 units last month, after decreasing 11.9 % in August. Japan’s carmakers operating in China are likely to continue suffering from acute semiconductor shortages, triggered by an expansion of coronavirus infections in Southeast Asia, for the time being, some economists said. Honda saw new car sales drop 28.1 % to 121.448 units in China in September, while its electric vehicle business was stagnant. Sales for Nissan plummeted 26.2 % to 104,443 units last month, with the company saying the negative impact of semiconductor shortages is expected to linger at least through the end of this year. +++

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