Newsflash: Volkswagen overweegt Europese verkoop ID.6

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+++ Purveyors of speed love the unrestricted sections of the German AUTOBAHN . In 1952, the government of what was then West Germany abolished speed limits, leaving such things up to individual regions. Today, limit-free stretches of motorway are still quite common but a new survey says a majority of German citizens would like to change that. However, it’s not due to the reasons you’d expect. We’re not talking a slim majority just over the halfway mark, either. A recent poll stated 60 percent of people in the country support a limit of at least 130 km/h, with 38 percent in favour of unrestricted motorways. And lest you think it’s just Sunday drivers voicing such opinions, Formula 1 champion and German citizen Sebastian Vettel is among those in favour of slowing the pace. We shared Vettel’s opinion on the matter in early October, but this new poll adds more legitimacy to the argument of established speed limits for all motorways in Germany. Curiously, safety is not the primary reason for this position. Higher speeds mean higher revs and more fuel consumption from internal combustion engines, and that means higher carbon emissions. When faced with a variety of actions to curb emissions in the country, German citizens favour the speed limit versus additional taxes for things like fuel or meat and dairy products. Safety is also an issue, but in this context, it seems the poll is driven by a choice of slower speeds or higher taxes. The report goes on to state that Autobahn speed limits could reduce carbon emissions in Germany by 2 million tons per year. However, at this time it seems the German government isn’t keen on addressing the climate issue through such limits. We’d be remiss if we didn’t at least suggest the poll for speed limits might be quite different if it wasn’t an issue of taxation. Given a choice of paying more money or driving a bit slower, we can absolutely understand people wanting to keep more of their paycheck. In any case, don’t expect Germany’s status as a haven for speed to change anytime soon. And with electric vehicles gaining momentum as serious performance machines, the argument for lower speeds leading to lower carbon levels won’t last forever. +++

+++ It’s been a sobering week for Herbert DIESS ‘ electric vehicle ambitions. While Tesla joined the trillion-dollar club, received a landmark order from Hertz and set a new sales record in Europe, the Volkswagen chief presented a sales and deliveries outlook cut and a drop in quarterly profits that drove home one point: Dethroning Elon Musk as the king of electric vehicles (EV) has got a lot harder. “The recent achievements of Tesla are sending a clear message”, Diess told analysts during a call on third-quarter results that ended up being mainly about Tesla. “We have to prepare for a new phase of competition”. A longtime admirer of Musk, Diess this year cranked up the pressure and outlined plans (including setting up 6 large battery factories in Europe) aimed at overtaking VW’s U.S. rival as the world’s top EV seller by 2025. But a chronic semiconductor shortage has slowed Volkswagen’s progress, laying bare the disadvantage volume car makers have compared with luxury rivals that sell fewer vehicles. And with Tesla worth almost 8 times as much as VW while selling just 5 % of the cars, and its Model 3 becoming the first-ever EV to lead monthly European sales, at this stage it’s more about keeping up, not catching up. “They’re gapping away in terms of their gross margins. They seem to have a structurally better access to chips. They seem to have a structurally better access to batteries”, Patrick Hummel, head of European and U.S. Auto & Mobility Research at UBS, said during the call with Diess. To make matters worse, Musk will soon start producing cars at Tesla’s state-of-the-art plant in Grünheide near Berlin, taking the battle for global car dominance to Germany, where some of the first automobiles were invented. Diess, 63, who has steered the carmaker out of its Dieselgate emissions cheating scandal, said this will force local heavyweights to significantly raise their game to stop falling further behind. “Tesla Grünheide is for us for sure a new reference, setting new benchmarks when it comes to speed, productivity, also lean management and we have to adjust ourselves to that”, he said during a call with reporters. Diess, who years ago got an offer to lead Tesla, has repeatedly singled out Musk’s success at the EV pioneer which has disrupted the auto industry’s established ways and whose $1 trillion valuation dwarfs that of Volkswagen. Even though Volkswagen’s shares are up 28% so far this year, its current valuation of around €121 billion is a long way from the €200 billion Diess believes the company, which includes luxury brands Porsche and Audi, is worth. Diess, who became Volkswagen’s CEO in 2018, even invited Musk to speak to his managers this month, seen as a move to put pressure on senior leadership to move more quickly to catch up with the U.S. carmaker. A central part of that push will be Volkswagen’s Trinity project, under which the carmaker wants to build a flagship EV sedan at its Wolfsburg plant from 2025/26 and turn the factory into a challenger to Tesla’s Grünheide site. This plan includes cutting the time it takes to assemble EVs to about 10 hours, Volkswagen chief financial officer Arno Antlitz told; about the same time it takes Tesla to build its Model 3. It’s also clear that this will mean fewer jobs, which carries the risk of lengthy and painful battles with labour representatives, who traditionally have wielded significant power at the world’s second biggest carmaker. “We have to prepare manufacturing for much reduced labour in some of the lines. We have to prepare for less complexity, for more speed, line speed”, Diess said. Earlier this week, Volkswagen’s new labor boss took Diess to task for being too focused on investors and not invested enough in the workforce, which is concerned that the EV switch will cost tens of thousands of jobs. Antlitz said that even though both management and workers may agree on the need to overhaul Wolfsburg he acknowledged that finding common ground could be challenging. “Of course there’s the question, as usual, on ‘how do we get there’ but I’m convinced that we share this same vision with the works council”. +++

+++ While the overall car market in EUROPE is in crisis mode and decreased 25 % year-over-year in September, the plug-in electric cars are continuing to expand. Last month, the total number of new passenger plug-in electric car registrations increased 42 % year-over-year to 227.238, which is one of the best monthly results ever. The result of the 2 trends (overall decrease and plug-in increase) is an outstanding market share of 23 %, including 15 % Battery EVs and 8 % PHEVs. An interesting thing is that the conventional hybrids (at 21 % share) are now behind plug-ins. Diesel is in the spiral of death already with 18 % share and falling. So far this year, over 1.58 million passenger plug-in electric cars were registered in Europe. That’s also 17.3 % of the total market (8.7 % Battery EVs). The 2 topselling models for the month happened to be Tesla cars: the Model 3 with 24.952 registrations (but not a record) and the Model Y with a record of 9.496 registrations. The Model 3 was the topselling model of any kind and thanks to the September surge, it crossed 100.000 units year-to-date, strengthening its first place position, far above the second best Volkswagen ID.3, which was third in September (8.392) and second so far this year (53,037). The top 5 for the month was completed by the Renault Zoé (6.808 but down some 40 %) and Skoda Enyaq iV (6.048), which outsold the Volkswagen ID.4. The rest of the top 10 are the Kia e-Niro (5.527), the Fiat 500e (4.801), the Volkswagen ID.4 (4.752), the Peugeot e-208 (4.342) and the Dacia Spring Electric (4.181). The topselling plug-in models year-to-date are: 1) the Tesla Model 3 – 100.993, 2) Volkswagen ID.3 – 53.037, 3) Renault Zoé – 45.694, 4) Volkswagen ID.4 – 38.305, 5) Ford Kuga PHEV – 36.193, 6) Kia Niro – 33.929, 7) Hyundai Kona Electric – 32.299, 8) Volvo XC40 Recharge 31.736, 9) Fiat 500e – 30.922 and the BMW 320e/330e – 29.847. Finally, here are the top automotive groups by plug-in electric car sales volume in Europe: Volkswagen Group: 25 % share (Volkswagen brand: 10 %), Stellantis: 13 % share, Daimler: 10 % share (Mercedes-Benz brand at 9 %), BMW Group: 10 % share (BMW brand at 9 %), Hyundai Motor Group: 9 %. Tesla noted a 7 % share so far this year. +++

+++ MAZDA has quietly revealed the most lightweight version of its fourth-generation MX-5 yet. They’ve dubbed it the 990S because it weighs just under 990 kg. For those keeping track, that’s about the mass of a first-generation MX-5. The minimalist version was unveiled at a gathering of MX-5 enthusiasts in Japan. Mazda demonstrated its dedication to shaving weight by removing sound deadening material from under the hood and in the cabin. The 990S also substitutes stock wheels with forged units made by Rays, scrubbing 1 kilo each. It uses aluminum Brembo brake rotors as well, which measure larger but end up being lighter than the standard steel units, saving 0,8 kilo. Visually, the 990S is distinguished by a blue convertible top, blue louvers on the cabin air vents and blue Brembo logos on the brake calipers. Mazda says the color blue conveys a feeling of lightness. The 990S isn’t just light; it’s also pure, eschewing technologies like Mazda Connect and GPS in favor of a focused driving experience. The 990S also introduces a new handling system that Mazda calls “Vehicle Attitude Stabilization Control”. Like G-Vectoring Control, it uses software and sensors to detect motion to subtly enhance dynamics. In this case, if it detects lateral forces greater than 0.3g, it knows the car is cornering and applies a tiny amount of braking to the inside rear wheel. Mazda says this will help reduce its tendency to lift and stay flatter in turns. The system can be deactivated when the traction control is turned off. The weight savings is possible because it’s based on the 132 hp, 1.5-liter MX-5. Chief of development Shigeki Saito believes that the 990S is the purest driver’s car in the Mazda lineup. “Horsepower and fun are not proportional”, he said at the owners’ event, “But lightness and fun are”. +++

+++ A brand-new MERCEDES-AMG GT Coupe is on its way where it will join the all-new SL roadster. Although both of these 2 doors are Mercedes-AMG exclusives, in a recent interview, Mercedes design chief Gorden Wagener, explained how both of these cars will co-exist. Based on Mercedes-AMG’s plans both the new SL and GT Coupe will share some components and the same platform, however, each car has a distinct mission that will keep them as unique products. The new SL is now a Mercedes-AMG exclusive product alongside the highly successful Mercedes-AMG GT Coupe. This means that both cars will have some overlap in parts, but that’s where the similarities end. The SL is meant to be a comfortable luxurious cruiser while the GT is a sporty track capable car. Wagener went on to explain that he is confident that both cars will live harmoniously and help give customers a more diverse model lineup to meet their needs. The top of the line SL 63 will come standard with AMG Active Ride Control air suspension. This means that occupants will enjoy one of the most comfortable suspension systems on the road today. This sublime ride won’t be a wobbly mess either thanks to the inclusion of hydraulic anti-roll stabilisation which takes the place of normally fixed anti-roll bars to keep the SL flat in corners, but comfortable and stable as well. I expect the upcoming GT coupe to pick up where the current car left off as one of the most potent cars on the road. This direct competitor to the Porsche 911 will do battle on the Nürburgring and at local track days, while the SL will comfortably cruise to your favourite vacation spot. If you’re in the market for a coupe, you can’t go wrong at Mercedes-AMG. +++

+++ Global passenger PLUG-IN electric car sales doubled year-over-year in September to 685.881 (up 98 %), which is the new all-time monthly record (16 % better than the previous one from June). Not only that. The market share has reached a new all-time record of 10.2 %; the first double digit result. Plug-ins are conquering the world and already one in 10 newly registered passenger cars (including minicars) is rechargeable. Three quarters of the plug-in volume were all-electric cars, which is quite a significant advantage over plug-in hybrids. Battery EVs sold about 512.000 and had a 7.6 % marketshare. PHEVs: about 174.000 and 2.6 %. Sales are expected to further expand, reaching new all-time highs, in the final months of the year. So far this year, passenger plug-in electric car sales stand at almost 4.3 million (more than in the entire 2020 – 3.1 million), while the market share increased to 7.0 %. It’s expected that in 2021, plug-in car sales (including PHEV cars) will exceed 6 million. The model rank is full of records set by individual models, including the top 2 in September: the Tesla Model 3 (70.798) and the Tesla Model Y (68.469). The Model Y appears to be ready to soon significantly overtake the Model 3 on a monthly and quarterly basis. The Wuling Hong Guang Mini EV was third best (35.169), followed by the BYD Qin Plus (PHEV) (15.164; a new record) and the Volkswagen ID.4 (13.138; a new record). There were 12 Chinese plug-ins in the top 20 in September (including the XPeng P7 for the first time – at #19) and 6 noted new monthly records. Tesla noted a new monthly record of 143.143 units, strengthening its first place year-to-date. BYD, with its outstanding record of 70.236, is now the #2 year-to-date, ahead of SAIC-GM-Wuling (39.666). The Volkswagen brand (33.109) is the best of the rest, off the podium though. The rest of the top 10 consists of BMW (25.253), SAIC (25.403), Mercedes-Benz (18.782), Kia (17.703), Audi (15.936) and Volvo (15.231). Among the manufacturers, Tesla is #1 with a 14.7 % share, followed by the Volkswagen Group (12.3 %) and SAIC (10.9 %). +++

+++ TESLA has recalled just shy of 12.000 of its Model 3, Y, S and X vehicles to address an issue that causes their automatic emergency braking software to activate unexpectedly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Tesla confirmed. “A software communication error may, under a certain sequence of events, result in false forward-collision warnings (FCW) and/or automatic emergency brake (AEB) events”, Tesla said in its recall report to NHTSA. “If the AEB system unexpectedly activates while driving, the risk of a rear-end collision from a following vehicle may increase. We are not aware of any crashes or injuries related to this condition”. The recall covers 11.704 Model S, X, 3 and Y vehicles. The update “introduced a software communication disconnect” between onboard systems that could cause the vehicles’ camera systems to generate what are essentially false positives in the automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning systems. Tesla says the update to address the issue has already been deployed and customers should not have to do anything further to address the issue. The update may have headed off a looming confrontation with U.S. safety regulators, but recall documents posted on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website Tuesday don’t address another safety issue specified by the agency when it demanded that Tesla explain why it wasn’t doing recalls for safety-related software updates done over the internet. Company documents say Tesla started getting reports from owners the next day about phantom braking. In a matter of hours, the company says it canceled further updates or reverted the software to a previous version, in some cases disabling the automated braking feature entirely, prompting some Tesla owners to ask CEO Elon Musk why it had been switched off without their permission. On October 24, the company traced the cause to a communication disconnect between two computer chips. It developed another software update to fix the problem and sent it out on October 25, according to the documents. The company said it voluntarily agreed to do a recall on October 26. The move appears to show that Tesla now will issue a recall when it pushes out software updates to fix safety issues. It also sets a precedent for other automakers that they do the same. On October 12, regulators sent a letter to Tesla demanding to know why the company didn’t recall its vehicles when it sent a software update to fix a problem with its Autopilot partially automated driving system. The update addressed detection of emergency vehicles parked on roads while crews responded to crashes. The NHTSA opened an investigation of Autopilot in August after getting reports of a dozen crashes into emergency vehicles. The investigation covers 765.000 vehicles, almost everything that Tesla has sold in the U.S. since the start of the 2014 model year. Of the dozen crashes that are part of the probe, 17 people were injured and one was killed. Tesla has not yet explained why it didn’t issue a recall for the Autopilot update. The NHTSA said conversations with Tesla continue “to ensure that any safety defect is promptly acknowledged and addressed according to the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act”. The statement didn’t say if Tesla responded to the agency’s questions on the Autopilot software update. Tesla did a software update in late September that was intended to improve detection of emergency vehicle lights in low-light conditions. The agency says Tesla is aware that federal law requires automakers to do a recall if they find out that vehicles have safety defects. +++

+++ The MEB-based, 7-seat SUV model VOLKSWAGEN ID.6 was developed specifically for China and is locally produced by 2 independent joint ventures: FAW-Volkswagen (as ID.6 Crozz) and SAIC Volkswagen (as ID.6 X). The German manufacturer from the beginning was denying sales of the ID.6 outside of China (some were expecting it in the US), but now it appears that the ID.6 might be launched in Europe. The company is considering import of the ID.6 to Europe at a volume of around 15.000 per year or 80.000 over 5 years. The decision has not yet been made, but is expected within a few weeks, which would be quite interesting. So far, Volkswagen was not importing cars from China to Europe. There might be a strong opposition from unions, but other manufacturers are already selling cars produced in China, including BMW (iX3), Tesla (Model 3 and Model Y), and Polestar (Polestar 2). The next question is whether it means that North America will also get the ID.6, as big vehicles are more popular in the US than in space-constrained Europe. The only rational explanation behind not importing it would be taxes and/or an intention to launch local production of electric 7-seater (after the ID.4). In the case of Europe, import of the ID.6 possibly could open the doors for import of other derivatives like the upcoming 7-seat Audi Q5 e-Tron. The Volkswagen ID.6 is offered with 2 battery options (62 or 82 kWh) and with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive system. In China, it’s sold alongside the ID.4 and the most recently introduced ID.3. +++

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