Newsflash: nieuwe Kia Niro debuteert volgende week

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+++ Folks, cars are expensive. If you think fixing up your project car is pricey, imagine building millions of cars while also building millions of parts, creating all-new cars, developing new technologies, paying hundreds of thousands of people to work for you, and occasionally paying hefty fines for skirting emission rules. We say this to help ease the blow from the information that follows. What blow are we talking about? In the time it’s taken you to read these this far, the 10 HIGHEST EARNING CAR COMPANIES in the world made more money than you probably make in a year. Yes, a year. That’s the word from a new study conducted by Uswitch, which gathered up data on annual revenue for the world’s top automakers. That information isn’t exactly secret: pretty much every company announces sales and revenue on at least a quarterly basis, if not monthly. And there’s always a yearly summary to bring it all into perspective, averaging out the highs and lows. The twist here is that Uswitch went the other direction by breaking down annual earnings all the way to earnings by the second. Yes, that means another yearly salary was earned by the top car brands while you read this paragraph. How much are we talking about exactly? Here’s a quick chart for the 10 highest-earning automakers, showing annual earnings broken down by the hour, minute, and second as reported by Uswitch. At $8,731 every second, Toyota tops the list but Volkswagen is a close second at $8,073. Both groups have a commanding lead over third-place Daimler, but even Nissan at the bottom of the list earns nearly $3,000 each second. It certainly puts a different perspective on the financial world of the auto business, but don’t lose heart. In 2020 Toyota spent over $1 billion just for advertising, and that’s just for the United States. Spending an extra buck to supersize your Big Mac meal suddenly doesn’t seem so bad, does it? +++

+++ HONDA has asked its major parts suppliers to achieve net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, a source familiar with the request said, making the automaker the first in Japan to roll out a long-term reduction plan for a whole supply chain. Honda has proposed that starting from fiscal 2025 suppliers cut CO2 emissions by 4 percent every year compared with fiscal 2019, the source said. Each supplier will set a target in accordance with its corporate size and products, and then submit a reduction plan toward the 2050 zero emissions goal. Honda had already said that it would aim for net zero emissions by 2050 in its corporate operations, including production and sales. The Japanese automaker is considering providing support to its parts suppliers to meet that goal, such as sending engineers to the companies, while asking them to bring forward decarbonization measures as early as possible. Similar efforts have also been sought by other Japanese automakers. Toyota has asked its parts suppliers to cut greenhouse gas emissions in 2021 by about 3 percent from a year earlier. Nissan has also decided to call on its business partners to reduce certain amounts of CO2 emissions from 2022 depending on company size. +++

+++ JAPAN ‘s car exports continued to plunge in October, seeing a 36.7 percent fall from a year earlier amid a parts and semiconductor shortage that led domestic automakers to reduce production, government data showed. Although the pace of decline slowed from a 40.3 percent fall in the previous month, it was the second straight monthly fall in car shipments on year, causing growth in Japan’s overall goods exports to decelerate to 9.4 percent from 13.0 percent in September, according to a preliminary report by the Finance Ministry. Goods exports amounted to 7.18 trillion yen ($62.5 billion), failing to post a double-digit percentage rise for the first time in 8 months, the ministry said, in a development that could slow the recovery of the world’s third-largest economy from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Since around the summer, Japanese automakers have been forced to cut output on the back of a global chip crunch and parts supply disruptions in Southeast Asia caused by a surge in Covid-19 infections there. “Car exports are believed to have already bottomed out based on the production plans of automakers, but whether they will move toward normalization soon is still uncertain” as the semiconductor shortage is expected to drag on, said Kazuma Maeda, an economist at Barclays Securities. “The supply issue will remain as a risk factor to suppress Japan’s exports at least until the first half of next year”, Maeda added, referring to a recent slowdown in the Chinese economy as another matter of concern. Imports jumped 26.7 percent to 7.25 trillion yen, up for the 9th month in a row, as prices of crude oil from such producers as the United Arab Emirates remained at high levels and the Japanese yen weakened against the U.S. dollar. As a result, Japan’s trade balance registered a deficit of 67.37 billion yen, turning negative from a surplus of 840.80 billion yen a year ago to log red ink for the third consecutive month. Meanwhile, exports and imports fell 2.6 percent and 3.0 percent, respectively, by volume. Maeda said the outcome might have reflected surging prices of raw materials. Exports to Asia reached 4.24 trillion yen, up 15.0 percent from the previous year to hit their highest level since the ministry began compiling data in January 1979, due to rising shipments of steel to countries such as Pakistan, and those of semiconductor-producing equipment to areas including Taiwan. Imports from the region grew 14.7 percent to 3.47 trillion yen. By country, exports to China, Japan’s largest trading partner, rose 9.5 percent to 1.60 trillion yen, up for the 16th successive month, on solid demand for semiconductors. Imports from the neighboring country grew 11.4 percent to 1.72 trillion yen. As for the United States, Japanese exports inched up 0.4 percent to 1.30 trillion yen as a 46.4 percent plummet in car shipments almost offset growth in chip-making equipment and construction machinery. Imports gained 18.5 percent to 717.22 billion yen, pushed up by rises in energy resources such as liquefied petroleum gas. With the European Union, Japan’s exports increased 12.1 percent to 671.53 billion yen, with imports expanding 18.8 percent to 761.87 billion yen. All figures were compiled on a customs-cleared basis. +++

+++ The second-generation KIA Niro might be unveiled at the Seoul Mobility Show on November 25. The South Korean car manufacturer has been testing the new Niro for quite some time now. We know it will take design inspiration from the HabaNiro concept that was unveiled in early 2019, and while Kia hasn’t announced a launch date for it, industry sources claim we will see it next week. Recent spy shots of heavily-camouflaged prototypes have revealed the new Niro will sport unique led headlights with distinctive daytime running lights, while, the body of the new Niro will have a slightly edgier shape than the outgoing model. Key HabaNiro cues will be visible from the rear where the new model sports boomerang-shaped led taillights that stretch up the rear pillars. A number of different hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric powertrains should be offered for the new Niro. While details haven’t been confirmed, they might be similar to the first-generation model. That could mean a hybrid variant that rocks a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder, an electric motor, and a lithium-ion battery pack that gives the current car a total of 141 hp and 264 Nm. The outgoing plug-in hybrid has a larger 8.9 kWh battery pack that gives it 42 km of electric-only range. Of most interest will be the new e-Niro. The first-gen model has a 204 hp electric motor fed by a 64 kWh battery pack, providing the vehicle with a range of 385 km, as per the EPA. Kia will be on the right track if it manages to increase power and range figures for the new model. +++

+++ Battery-powered vehicles will get top billing at the LOS ANGELES AUTO SHOW , which opens this week after a year’s hiatus due to the novel coronavirus. Subaru, which has seen strong sales growth in the U.S. during the past decade, will unveil its first all-electric vehicle, a smallish SUV named the Solterra. VinFast, a Vietnamese automaker that plans to start selling in the U.S. next year, will show off two all-electric SUVs. Auto shows have been waning in importance because auto companies have decided to avoid the expenses and unveil vehicles at their own events. Automakers showing new vehicles have only 10 news conferences planned for the L.A. show this year, many from electric vehicle startups. In 2019, the show said it had 25 global reveals from automakers. But the shows are still big big draws for customers in metro areas who want to see what’s new, all in one place. Subaru’s Solterra, about the size of a Forester gas-powered SUV, can go about 350 kilometers on a single charge, and will have the brand’s trademark all-wheel-drive to go off the road and handle inclement weather. The automaker says the Solterra’s lithium-ion battery can be charged with home alternating current chargers and also has the ability to handle DC fast charging on the road. Its electric motor puts out 215 hp. Subaru says the 5-passenger Solterra will go on sale sometime next year. The price was not released. Vietnam’s VinFast plans to introduce the VF e35 midsize and VF e36 large electric SUVs at the show. Show promoters say it will have more test-drive opportunities than at past shows, including an indoor electric vehicle test track as well as outdoor test drives. +++

+++ 2 years after Elon MUSK elicited audible gasps from an awards show audience with his surprise announcement that Tesla would build a factory outside Berlin, the project is nearing fruition and the hype has never been more palpable. One analyst recently compared the series of innovations Musk is pursuing at the plant to Henry Ford’s revolutionary moving assembly line. Volkswagen’s chief executive officer this month expressed worry Tesla will be able to crank out an electric car in a third of the time it’s taking his company; a disparity that would jeopardize jobs. Musk has billed the novelties Tesla is working on as transformative to the structural design of its vehicles. He wants to use massive machines (as long as a semitrailer and tall as a two-story home) to produce front and rear body parts using single pieces of metal. Pulling this off would save time and cost, reduce weight and improve driving range. All this buzz will sound familiar to those who followed the launch of the Model 3 a few years back. The perennially promotional Musk touted an effort to build a highly automated “alien dreadnought” manufacturing system that went disastrously awry and nearly bankrupted Tesla. Today, the company has vastly more resources to support its CEO’s desire to push the envelope with regard to how cars are made. “The big picture here is that Tesla has the opportunity to completely reinvent the car manufacturing process for vehicle production and factories”, Adam Jonas, Morgan Stanley’s top auto analyst, wrote in a report last month. “Tesla is building the car factory of the future”. Musk summed up Tesla’s pursuit in a simple way early this year. “With our giant casting machines, we are literally trying to make full-size cars in the same way that toy cars are made”, he tweeted in January. On billboards strewn about Tesla’s factory when it opened to the public for a day last month, Tesla said it would inject aluminum into the world’s largest die-casting machines, which will then clamp the metal using 6.100 tons of pressure; a force equivalent to 1.020 African elephants standing on the tool to form parts. The plant will house 8 of these machines, with Musk aiming to eventually stamp out the 2 biggest parts of its Model Y (the front and rear underbodies) each with just one piece of metal. The current Model 3, by contrast, comprises 70 metal pieces just for the rear underbody. While Musk has used a term for these machines (“Giga press”) that suggests Tesla conjured them in-house, that isn’t the case. The company has been buying them from Idra Group, a closely held Italian company that’s sold them to 3 customers on 3 continents and is in talks with other carmakers and major suppliers. The front and rear castings will interface with frames beneath Model Ys that will house batteries built into the structure of the vehicle. This, too, could be a step change: Tesla and other makers of electric vehicles have to this point been housing their batteries in sheet metal, then sealing those coverings to separate floor pans. Musk touted the ramifications of simpler and more integrated battery and body manufacturing during Tesla’s Battery Day event last year. He claimed the company could reduce investment per gigawatt hour of battery output by 55 % and shrink the amount of plant-floor space needed by 35 %. For all the upside Musk has described, he’s also acknowledged Tesla will be gambling in Grünheide, a town about an hour’s drive east of the German capital. “Lot of new technology will happen in Berlin, which means significant production risk”, Musk tweeted in October of last year. Tesla’s plants in Shanghai and Fremont, California, will attempt the same transitions in about 2 years, when the new tech is proven, he wrote at the time. 5 months after that post, a Giga press in Fremont was involved in a minor fire. The machine melts aluminum alloy at up to 850 degrees Celsius before the metal is moved into an only somewhat less-hot holding oven. Morgan Stanley’s Jonas wrote in his October 24 report that the manufacturing process is tricky in part because the alloy must enter at a speed that ensures even cooling across the structure. Germany’s automakers are watching Tesla’s progress closely. Volkswagen may build a new EV factory near its sprawling Wolfsburg headquarters in direct response to Musk’s foray. Earlier this month, Volkswagen’s CEO Herbert Diess sought to rally his workers for the challenge. He warned Tesla may manage to make an EV in just 10 hours, versus the more than 30 hours VW needs at its plant in Zwickau. Volkswagen’s new factory would make 250.000 EVs a year and aim to catch up to Tesla on production time. Morgan Stanley’s Jonas last month increased his forecast for how many cars Tesla will crank out annually by the end of the decade by 2.35 million, citing his expectation that Tesla will produce an average of more than 800.000 vehicles per plant by 2030. That’s far greater than the capacity for 500.000 units the company claims for its Fremont factory now. “We have yet to see the ‘moving assembly line moment’ in the EV industry”, Jonas wrote, referring to Henry Ford’s 1913 breakthrough. “We believe the time is approaching for that moment. And we believe Tesla is uniquely positioned to push the boundaries at the epicenter of a manufacturing change in auto making”. BMW’s production chief Milan Nedeljkovic told reporters at an event last month that the carmaker hasn’t worked with big casting components like Tesla, in part because this would reduce the flexibility it needs to produce several different kinds of models on the same assembly lines. Tesla’s new approaches intrigue him, nonetheless. “If it works, maybe it’s something we’d consider”, Nedeljkovic said. +++

+++ According to recent research by the Peter Vardy Newsroom, people across the globe are in the market for a TESLA vehicle. In fact, there’s no current car brand with more demand than the California (Texas) electric automaker, which also produces cars in China. Soon, Tesla will be manufacturing cars in Texas and Germany, too, though the brand doesn’t believe that will completely ease up production constraints. Tesla continues to raise its prices on a regular basis, and delivery estimates on its website continue to be extended. CEO Elon Musk chimed in after Hertz said it ordered 100,000 cars and should have them by the end of 2022. There’s no contract, and the timeline is probably not going to happen since there are so many unfilled orders already, and Tesla is highly production constrained. Currently, many automakers could easily say demand exceeds production. There’s a shortage of new vehicles for sale primarily due to a global chip shortage, though supply shortages, in general, are causing the industry to struggle. Peter Vardy analysed search data from 120 countries across the globe. It revealed that Tesla appears to be the most in-demand car brand, which comes as no surprise based on what we’ve been seeing over the past few years. Out of the 120 countries, Tesla is the most in-demand brand in a total of 22. Vardy points to “the looming petrol and diesel-fuelled car bans” as a potential contributing factor that may be pushing demand for Tesla’s cars even higher. France, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands all seem to be searching for Tesla more than any other manufacturer, and as you can see from the infographic above, Europe and Asia are dominated by Tesla. +++

+++ As U.N. climate conference delegates considered how to save the planet over the weekend in Glasgow, TOYOTA ’s chief executive was in Japan racing an experimental hydrogen car: a vehicle he says could preserve millions of auto jobs. The colorful Corolla Sport that Akio Toyoda steered around the Okayama International Circuit in western Japan was powered by a converted GR Yaris engine running on hydrogen. Making such a power plant commercially viable could keep internal combustion engines running in a carbon-free world. “The enemy is carbon, not internal combustion engines. We shouldn’t just focus on one technology but make use of the technologies we already possess”, Toyoda said at the track. “Carbon neutrality is not about one having a single choice, but about keeping options open”. Toyota’s latest push into hydrogen tech comes as the world’s biggest carmaker joins the rush to win a share of the growing market for battery electric vehicles as the world tightens emission regulations to meet carbon-cutting pledges. Although still only a small portion of vehicles on the road, global electric car registrations in 2020 grew 41 % even as the overall car market contracted by almost a sixth, according to the International Energy Agency. By 2025, Toyota plans to have 15 EV models available and is investing $13.5 billion over a decade to expand battery production. At the gathering in Glasgow, 6 major carmakers, including General Motors, Ford, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz, signed a declaration to phase out fossil-fuel cars by 2040. Toyota declined to join that group, arguing that much of the world is not ready for a shift to EVs. Another notable absence was Germany’s Volkswagen. “We don’t want to be seen as an EV-maker, but as a carbon-neutral company”, Toyota vice chairman Shigeru Hayakawa said in an interview. Hayakawa likened the technological choice facing the auto industry to the late 19th century contest that pitted direct current electricity transmission against alternating current. The stakes are high. “If the adoption of carbon-free fuels happens quickly, that could bring the first battery EV boom to an end”, said Takeshi Miyao, an analyst at auto industry research company Carnorama. In Japan, where mass layoffs are politically difficult, hydrogen’s allure is that it would cause less disruption than a full switch to EVs. The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association estimates the automotive industry employs 5.5 million people. Although Toyota and other carmakers are putting resources into building hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, none have shown the appetite Toyota has for hydrogen engine technology. One problem is that the engine is not completely carbon-free and cannot therefore be classed as zero-emission. Although the byproduct of hydrogen and oxygen combustion is water, a small amount of engine metal burns as well, resulting in about 2% of the emissions of a gasoline engine. The exhaust also contains traces of nitrogen oxide. There is a carbon cost to building electric car batteries, but EVs do not pollute when operated. Hydrogen cars also need bulky pressurized tanks for their fuel. Much of the rear seat and trunk in Toyota’s hydrogen car was taken up by fuel tanks that blocked the rear window. Safety concerns meant Toyota engineers had to refuel the vehicle far from the pits where other teams worked on their cars. Such concerns have also slowed the construction of hydrogen fueling stations in Japan, despite government backing for the fuel, which it sees as a key component in the country’s future carbon-neutral energy mix. At the end of August, there were 154 hydrogen stations in Japan; 6 short of what the government wanted by the end of March. “Hydrogen has long been known as a potential low-carbon transport fuel, but establishing it in the transport fuel mix has been difficult”, the IEA said in a progress report this month. Even with adequate fuel infrastructure, Toyota still must build a vehicle that can compete in price, range and operating cost with conventional gasoline cars and EVs. In Okayama Prefecture, Toyoda declined to say when Toyota might launch a commercial hydrogen-engine car. “It’s good to have a lot of choices. If everything becomes EVs then much of that industry is in China”, said Eiji Terasaki, who had traveled to the Okayama circuit from neighboring Kagawa Prefecture to watch the races. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN plans to double staff numbers at its charging and energy division, roll out new payment technology next year and strike more alliances to take on Tesla in a key electric vehicle (EV) battleground: power infrastructure. By ensuring there are enough fast-charging plugs (and enough power) for the EVs it wants to sell, Europe’s biggest carmaker hopes to convince drivers worried about battery ranges that they can ditch their fossil fuel cars for good. Underlining its electric ambitions, Volkswagen has drafted in power-industry veteran Elke Temme, who spent nearly 2 decades at German energy companies RWE and Innogy, to help the carmaker get in better shape to take on Tesla. In the job since January, Temme, 53, has been tasked with bundling the carmaker’s various power activities, such as enabling customers to charge their cars at home and on the road, procuring energy and selling the electricity required. Getting it done will require a bigger workforce. Temme plans to double the staff at Volkswagen’s European charging and energy division, known as Elli, to about 300 in 2022, having already tripled it this year, she said in an interview. “We’re investing in huge growth areas that don’t always have to be profitable right away. We always see these investments in the overall context of our group strategy”, she said. “That’s why building up a comprehensive infrastructure is key”. Temme declined to specify the budget she has been given, but said Volkswagen (led by Tesla admirer Herbert Diess) has approved the investment requests for the division, which also sells home battery storage systems similar to Tesla’s Powerwall. Volkswagen leads the pack worldwide by far with its investment plans for EVs and batteries through 2030, according to a Reuters analysis, and is planning to spend €35 billion on battery EVs by 2025. But when it comes to the networks of fast-chargers that many analysts believe are crucial to bring EVs into the mainstream, VW has some catching up to do. Tesla has been rolling out high-performance Superchargers for years and has a global network of about 30,000 fast-chargers that it says can give a 200 kilometer boost in 15 minutes. The company said in October that its own network has doubled in the past 18 months, and will triple over the next 2 years. Volkswagen, meanwhile expects its network of fast-chargers to nearly quadruple to about 45.000 by 2025, when it aims to overtake Tesla as the global EV market leader, with 18.000 EV “pumps” in Europe, 17.000 in China and 10.000 in North America. Volkswagen said in March it plans to spend €400 million on expanding its fast-charging network on the continent by then. But that’s a drop in the ocean compared with the €5 billion the European Union believes is needed every year until 2040 to expand charging infrastructure on the continent, and it is raising the pressure on utilities and governments to step up. In Europe, the Volkswagen group is a shareholder in the EU’s fast-charging venture Ionity, along with rival carmakers BMW , Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz, Ford and Hyundai. It has also teamed up with energy firms such as Italy’s Enel, the U.K.’s BP and Spain’s Iberdrola to plug geographical gaps and form a blueprint for how funding for EV infrastructure can be split across industries. “Various models are conceivable, from product partnerships and joint ventures to M&A”, said Temme. Tesla has already shown that when it comes to EVs, just selling cars no longer cuts it. It has adopted a model that offers customers everything from cars to battery storage and solar panels, as well as electricity in some U.S. states. Volkswagen is now selling power to retail clients that drive an EV or plug-in hybrid. One of its tariffs (which is available to customers who don’t own a VW) has attracted more than 10,000 clients since its launch in July, Temme said. She said VW was planning to make its fast-chargers available for all EV drivers, unlike Tesla, which has so far kept its supercharging network limited to just Tesla drivers, with the exception of a pilot program in the Netherlands. “We are pursuing a different approach than Tesla when it comes to charging infrastructure roll-out”, said Temme. “We want an open, non-discriminatory charging network and will develop our services to make our offer more comfortable, simpler, more attractive”. Volkswagen says its open-for-all approach means buyers of its EVs can charge at more than 250.000 existing public charging points across Europe, from various providers with various charging speeds. The problem is that charging protocols and payment methods can vary across vendors, potentially turning the act of refueling an EV into a time-consuming and messy undertaking. From the first quarter of 2022, Volkswagen plans to offer “Plug & Charge” technology in Europe to make the process smoother. The car will store the owner’s payment details and make a contactless payment when the charging plug is attached to the EV at refueling stations set up to support the service. While these are new challenges for established carmakers, Temme, who witnessed first-hand the abrupt shift of Germany’s utilities away from nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, believes they can be mastered. “Utilities must reinvent themselves and transition from nuclear and coal to renewables. In the automotive industry, including at Volkswagen, the question is currently how to consistently shift the focus from conventional vehicles to sustainable mobility”, she said. “These challenges are of similar magnitude”. +++

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