Newsflash: Apple car komt in 2025


+++ APPLE is pushing to launch its electric car as early as 2025 and refocusing the project around full self-driving capabilities, according to people familiar with the matter. The iPhone maker’s shares rose nearly 3% to hit a new record following the report. Apple’s ideal car would have no steering wheel and pedals, with interiors designed around hands-off driving, the report said. The company’s automotive efforts, known as Project Titan, have proceeded unevenly since 2014 when it first started to design a vehicle from scratch. Demand for electric vehicles has surged as countries and customers turn more environment conscious, propelling the market value of companies such as Tesla and Rivian far above traditional carmakers around for decades longer. “It’s a matter of when, not if”, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said, adding that chances of Apple unveiling its own standalone car by 2025 as 60 % to 65 %. Some people working on the project were skeptical about the timeline even with recent progress, which includes the car’s underlying self-driving system, processor chips and advanced sensors. Originally, Apple was targeting 2024 to produce a passenger vehicle that could include its own breakthrough battery technology. Now, Apple is preparing to bring back employees to offices starting February 1st and will let staff work for up to 4 weeks remotely each year. +++

+++ DAIMLER will produce the first in-house electric motor at its oldest plant in Berlin, the carmaker said, providing relief to workers worried that the diesel motor production site was on the brink of deep job cuts. Workers who feared for their positions after Daimler said in September 2020 its Berlin site would end production of the 6-cylinder diesel motor within a year would also be offered retraining in software and coding, the German company said. Investment in the 120-year-old Berlin-Marienfelde plant, previously pinned at a 2-digit million euro amount, will rise to a low 3-digit million euro amount in the next 6 years, Daimler said. The motor, known as an axial-flux motor and designed by the British startup Yasa which Daimler acquired earlier this year, weighs a fraction of its diesel equivalent and can boost the range of an Electric Vehicle (EV) by up to 7 %, Yasa’s founder Tim Woolmer told in July. Woolmer said at the time that Daimler had briefed Yasa to bring costs down in future iterations of its motor so the carmaker could use them across its entire EV range. The e-motor is simpler to produce than its diesel equivalent, meaning the plant will eventually require less workers, but the exact number of future job losses was not yet clear, head of production Joerg Burzer said on a press call. A start date for production of the motor was not provided. The digital training campus, which Daimler partnered with Siemens in March to develop and which will go live in 2022, would also create new jobs, Burzer said. The factory’s around 2,300 employees are guaranteed their positions until the beginning of 2030 under an existing union agreement. “A year ago, we didn’t know what would happen at the plant. Today we’re embarking on what will hopefully be a successful transformation with our heads held high”, Michael Rahmel, works council chairman at Berlin-Marienfelde, said in a statement. +++

+++  The GENESIS GV70 SUV has been given a fully-electric transformation, to go head-to-head with the Audi e-Tron and Mercedes EQC. Called the Genesis Electrified GV70, this new zero-emissions version uses a dual-motor 4-wheeldrive setup producing 490 hp and offers 350 kW rapid charging capability. From 2025 onwards, every new Genesis launched will be electric, and the Electrified GV70 follows the Electrified G80 saloon and GV60 coupe-SUV as the brand’s third EV. Based on the standard GV7, the Electrified variant receives numerous tweaks aimed at improving efficiency and packaging. Outside, there’s a new front bumper design with a smoother facia, aimed at reducing aerodynamic drag. The lower grilles are integrated more neatly within the bodywork, and without the cooling requirements of a combustion engine, the large Genesis ‘crest’ grille has been completely closed off, enabling smoother airflow over the front of the car. The grille also incorporates a hidden charging port. Elsewhere, the electric GV70 is fitted with a new design of 20-inch alloy wheel, and in the absence of a set of tailpipes, Genesis has redesigned the rear bumper for a smoother, cleaner look. The cabin receives a number of unique design touches, too. The Electrified GV70 is offered with a Glacier White interior, which is trimmed in a variety of ‘eco-friendly materials’. The absence of a traditional gearbox and prop shaft running through the middle of the car has allowed for a lower central tunnel, too. The Electrified GV70 is offered with a dual-motor 4-wheeldrive setup. The 2 motors deliver a combined maximum output of 490 hp and 700 Nm of torque when the car’s ‘Boost Mode’ is enabled, which propels the GV70 from 0-100 kph in 4.5 seconds; 0.6 seconds faster than the Mercedes EQC. Genesis hasn’t detailed the size of the Electrified GV70’s battery, but the car offers more than 500 km of range according to China’s CLTC standard. Using the more stringent Korean EV testing regime, the GV70 achieves 400 km. Like other electric cars in the Hyundai Group, such as the Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6, the electric GV70 utilises an 800 Volt architecture, for ultrafast charging. The brand claims that when plugged in to a 350 kW rapid charging station, such as an Ionity point, a 10-80 percent battery top-up takes just 18 minutes. Like the Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6, the Electrified GV70 includes 3.6 kW ‘vehicle to load’ charging capability. This allows the user to power electrical appliances, or charge another electric vehicle, using the car’s onboard charging system. On the move, the electric GV70 will switch from four to two-wheel drive to maximise efficiency, by decoupling an electric motor and reducing energy losses. The car’s ‘Smart Regenerative Braking System’ analyses driving habits and road conditions to alter the level of energy recuperation, too. Full one-pedal driving is possible, and the Electrified GV70 is also equipped with an e-Terrain driving mode to tackle tricky surfaces. For improved refinement, noise-cancelling technology has been fitted to reduce tyre roar, which works by using microphones and sensors to project inverted sound waves through the car’s speakers. The GV70’s forward-facing camera and navigation system are also used to analyse upcoming road conditions and prime the suspension to suit. +++

+++ About half the time the KIA Stinger GT makes the news, it’s because of rumors Kia is going to kill the critically acclaimed but slow-selling sports sedan. The automaker’s traditional production cycle would indicate a second-gen sedan appearing sometime around the 2024 model year, but the last report out of South Korea was that the Sohari plant that assembles Stingers would switch to hybrid and EV production in Q2 of 2022. At the L.A. Auto Show, I was able to ask Kia design chief Karim Habib about the chances of an all-new Stinger. Habib’s answer was like a response to the challenge, “Tell us you’re not replacing the Stinger without telling us you’re not replacing the Stinger”. Habib said: “The spirit of Stinger remains and will remain. I like to think that the EV6 has the genes of the GT. We’re doing to do a GT of that, and it has the Stinger in it. Stinger has been a transformational car, and opened a whole new perspective as to what Kia can be, sporty and a precision driving tool. EV6 is now doing similar”. A similar response was received from Damien Meredith, head of Kia Australia, back in May. Meredith said: “The Kia Stinger has been good to us on many fronts. It’s given a performance edge to our brand which we didn’t have before”, then put the EV6 forward as “the next step up in performance sharpness”. Admittedly, Habib presaged such a future in an interview in 2020, during a previous round of Stinger death knells. Habib said he hoped that the “spirit of the Stinger” remained as the Kia brand evolved. “As the technology goes toward EVs and as the world and its appetite for these types of cars changes, the concept probably has to evolve as well”. Assuming I’m reading the right things between the right lines, I’m not surprised there won’t be another Stinger. That car did every job it was designed to do except sell well, an understandably unforgivable whiff. I am surprised Kia sees the EV6 as any kind of spiritual (or gene-based) successor to the Stinger, but that’s where we are. It’s true the EV6 will get a GT trim, one quite a bit more powerful than the Stinger was ever provided. The dual-motor, all-wheel drive EV6 GT tops out at 584 hp and 720 Nm, ripping off the sprint to 100 km/h in 3.5 seconds. The Stinger GT with the twin-turbo V6 maxes out at 374 hp and 500 Nm, and needs another 1.2 seconds to finish the test to 100 kph. The EV6 GT should land in the Netherlands next year, but that’s a long way off, when it’s impossible to know what the world’s going to look like next week. If Stinger production does end in Q2 next year, that will likely provide enough inventory to last until its spirit takes on its next form. +++

+++ When the new RANGE ROVER was revealed, Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern spoke repeatedly about the philosophy of “modern, reductive design” driving the latest generation of an automotive icon. By “reductive” he meant free from excessive lines and ornamentation, the former of which is frequently seen throughout the automotive industry, while the latter is something the last 2 Range Rovers were not immune to, especially after mid-cycle refreshes. McGovern quoted famed architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s well-known mantra of “less is more” and showed admiration for Coco Chanel, who said “Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity”. However, much like an architect or fashion designer, opting for a clean and reductive aesthetic requires the utmost attention to detail. You can’t rely on brightwork or bodywork slashes and creases to hide imperfect cut lines or imprecise construction. “God is in the detail”, as van der Rohe also famously said. What does that mean on the Range Rover? Let’s take a look at a few examples. Most cars have a piece of trim that runs atop the doors and meets the windows for the purposes of finishing and clearing water. Above left is the Range Rover Sport, but the previous Range Rover had such trim as well. Above right is the new Range Rover, which does away with this trim for a perfectly clean, streamlined appearance that is not an easy thing to manufacture. Another example is the new Range Rover’s aluminum roof that is laser welded to the aluminum body side within half a millimeter of tolerance. While laser-welded joints are common, doing so with aluminum is not, according to Land Rover executive director of Vehicle Programmes, Nick Collins. The result is only one line visible on the roof, especially from the front of the car. Compare this to the Range Rover Sport, which has a finisher panel and therefore 2 lines. Then there’s the cut lines. Note the size difference between the “bonnets” of the new Range Rover and the Range Rover Sport. Is it a giant difference? Of course not, but we’re talking degrees of precision here, and it matters. Specifically, it allows for a much thinner, full-length body line that continues to line up with the bonnet cut. Also, just note how clean and flush the body sides are on the new Range Rover versus the previous-generation model. This speaks to both the decision for reductive, modern design and the construction methods necessary to make it happen. Another harder-than-it-looks detail involves the new “hidden-until-lit” taillights. When not illuminated, the taillight panels are indistinguishable from the piano black trim piece that works across the tailgate. However, in order to meet the legal requirements for luminosity, Collins said Land Rover need to utilize the most powerful LED taillamps ever made. It was the only way to make the surface perfectly black yet light up sufficiently. Finally, when talking about reductive design and the idea of “less is more”, just take a look at the Range Rover Sport versus the new Range Rover. Note the Sport’s black-trimmed vents on the hood and front fenders. No such frivolity exists on the new Range Rover, and while it maintains a trim piece on the doors, it no longer resembles venting (which was always a curious design choice for the previous-generation model). There are no doubt many other examples, especially inside, but this should provide a sufficient taste of what goes into ensuring that less is indeed more. +++

+++ The American Customer SATISFACTION Index reports that overall satisfaction scores for automakers stayed constant between 2020 and 2021. That’s good news, but a look at the past five years suggests that customer satisfaction in new vehicles isn’t as high as it once was. Back in 2017, the average score was 82 on a 100-point scale; for 2021 the average sits at 78. Let’s get to the numbers, broken out by mainstream brands and luxury brands: American Customer Satisfaction Index: Mass-market nameplates: Honda (82), Subaru (81), Ram (80), Hyundai (79), Mazda (79), Toyota (79), Dodge (78), Ford (78), GMC (78), Nissan (78), Buick (77), Kia (77), Volkswagen (77), Chevrolet (76), Jeep (76), Mitsubishi (71) and Chrysler (70). American Customer Satisfaction Index: Luxury nameplates: BMW (81), Lexus (81), Audi (80), Tesla (80), Mercedes-Benz (78), Cadillac (77), Volvo (77), Acura (76), Lincoln (76), Infiniti (75). With an overall score of 82 (up 4% over last year), Honda leads all automakers regardless of what segment they compete in. Subaru, BMW (up 4%) and Lexus (down 1%) all tied with a score of 81, followed by Ram (which had the highest score last year), Audi and Tesla at 80. The lowest score of all came from the Chrysler brand all the way down at 70 (down 4%) and just below Mitsubishi’s score of 71 (down a disastrous 8% compared to last year). On the luxury front, Infiniti’s score of 75 is just below the 76s of Acura and Lincoln. “Over the last few years, luxury automakers’ satisfaction lead over mass-market manufacturers has been slowly eroding. That gap is now almost nonexistent”, David VanAmburg, managing director at ACSI, said in a statement. “In terms of style points and cool factor, luxury vehicles may still have the edge, but if you remove all the bells and whistles, the two are more similar than not”. Not surprisingly, vehicle owners who received a recall notification in 2021 reported a lower satisfaction score (76) than those who went recall free (80). European brands had the highest average scores at 79, followed by Japanese and Korean brands at 78 and American brands at 77. Breaking the numbers down further, mass-market-brand owners gave the highest scores in categories like Safety, Dependability, Driving Performance, Exterior, Comfort and Interior while scoring the Warranty, Gas Mileage and Technology categories poorly. On the luxury side, owners were most satisfied with Comfort, Interior, Safety Driving Performance and Exterior. The category that scored the worst was Gas Mileage. The ACSI scores were calculated based on interviews with 4,888 customers who were chosen at random.  +++

+++ TESLA announced this week that it is recalling approximately 7.600 2021 Model S sedans and Model X SUVs to address a potentially faulty driver-side airbag that can be damaged during deployment, resulting in inadequate protection for the driver. “A torn airbag may not adequately protect an occupant in a crash, increasing their risk of injury”, Tesla said in its Recall Acknowledgement to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which has not yet posted Tesla’s full documentation of the issue (or the automaker has not yet furnished it), so details are few and far between. Tesla has been under mounting pressure from the regulator to improve its defect documentation and adherence to mandated recall processes, both of which have gotten the EV builder in hot water in recent months. Tesla faced blowback for attempting to address issues with its Autopilot semi-self-driving suite when NHTSA discovered it had deployed software fixes to safety systems without conducting a recall campaign. Tesla said it will have a remedy for the Model X and Model S airbag issue in place in time for a campaign to begin early next year, promising owners that they’d receive a notice to visit their dealers for a fix in January. +++

+++ In the United States, the Supreme Court  turned away appeals from VOLKSWAGEN that sought to stop state and local lawsuits related to the 2015 scandal in which the automaker was found to have rigged its vehicles to cheat U.S. diesel emissions tests. The court’s action allows suits by Ohio, Salt Lake County, Utah, and the environmental protection agency in Hillsborough County, Florida, which includes Tampa, to continue. A lower court said Volkswagen could face “staggering liability” over the state and local claims. The company argued that federal law gives the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, not state and local officials, authority to regulate its conduct. German-based Volkswagen ultimately paid more than $23 billion in fines and settlements with federal regulators, the company said in its court filings. It now is facing additional suits from state and local governments over its admission that it installed on 585.000 new cars sold in the U.S., and on more than 11 million cars worldwide, software that turns on pollution controls during government tests and shuts them off on the road. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the suits from Florida and Utah could continue over software updates that Volkswagen installed to allow the deception to continue, when owners took their vehicles in for service or recalls. In a separate case, the Ohio Supreme Court also rejected Volkswagen’s arguments in ruling that the federal Clean Air Act does not preempt the state’s claim that Volkswagen violated Ohio’s anti-air pollution laws.The justices offered no comment on the rejection, other than to note that Justice Stephen Breyer did not participate. His brother, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco, has handled some of the lawsuits. +++

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