Newsflash: opvolger Volvo XC90 kan deels autonoom rijden

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+++ AUDI SAIC aims to sell 50.000 vehicles in China in 2022, which marks the first year for the Sino-German joint venture to deliver its products in the world’s largest vehicle market. Jia Mingdi, a senior SAIC Audi executive, unveiled the sales goal when the world’s largest Audi showroom, which covers around 2.400 square meters, opened in Shanghai. He said the joint venture will have 3 models available in the market this year and build a sales network of 120 dealerships across the country. Besides the A7L Limousine it has started to deliver, SAIC Audi will launch the electric Q5 e-tron and a full-size SUV whose name Jia did not reveal later this year. Jia said the joint venture has received over 2.000 orders and around 70 percent of those who have placed orders are aged below 40. The Q5 e-tron, which will be produced in Shanghai, will be the first China-produced Audi model based on parent company Volkswagen’s dedicated electric MEB platform. Thorsten Godulla, another senior executive at the joint venture, said he is confident in China’s market for new energy vehicles which include electric cars and plug-in hybrids. Godulla said he estimates that around 30 percent of vehicles sold in China will be electrified ones in 2025, and the percentage would be even higher in the premium segment where Audi competes in. China is Audi’s largest market worldwide, with over 700.000 units sold in 2021. The country is expected to play an important role in the company’s strategy unveiled last year. As part of the strategy, the Ingolstadt-headquartered carmaker said its new models from 2026 will be pure electric, and production of combustion engine models will end in around 2033. It estimates that China’s premium vehicle market will grow to 4.5 million sales annually by 2030 from 3.1 million in 2020, and electrified vehicles’ share could increase from 10 percent today to as much as 40 percent by the end of the decade. “As such, it is only logical for Audi to continue expanding its business in China. This includes increasing the supply of electric cars produced locally”, said the carmaker in a statement. SAIC Audi is the German carmaker’s second Chinese partner to produce and sell vehicles in the country. Audi is producing sedans and SUVs with China’s FAW Group as well. +++

+++ CAR SHORTAGES will continue into 2022 as a solution to the chip shortage remains elusive, and the prices of second hand vehicles are rising fast as a result. System basis chips (SBCs) used in cars were all sold out on the website of Neubiberg, Germany’s Infineon, a chip supplier. With cars becoming hightech, more chips are needed to make a vehicle. Chips control many functions in cars, including those used in autonomous driving, parking assist and airbag deployment. Infineon says chips are used in over 20 functions in each car. Market tracker LMC Automotive projects that there will be 82.6 million cars manufactured in 2022, down 9.3 percent from an estimated 91.1 million in 2021. “Several chip suppliers have been referring to structural problems with demand”, said Mercedes-Benz chairman of the Board of Management Ola Kälenius at a press event in September last year. “This could influence 2022”. Car chip suppliers are investing more in chip plants to ramp up production, but it will take 4 or 5 years to finish construction or increase production to match demand. With fewer chips, customers are forced to endure long waits to get their cars. According to car purchase information website Getcha, in December waiting time was longer by a month compared to the wait in October. It takes 8 months to get the Ioniq 5, and more than a year to get Volvo’s XC60. Car prices are going up globally, along with those of secondhand cars. Based on data from Irvine, the average price of a new vehicle in the United States was $45,000 in September last year, up 12 percent on year. Secondhand car prices rose by 29 percent to $29,000. +++

+++ GORDON MURRAY Automotive’s next supercar will be called the T.33 and will be unveiled on 27 January, the company has confirmed, and the vehicle is to be built at the company’s new global headquarters in Windlesham, Surrey. Also referred to as Project Two, the new T.33 model is expected to retain the Cosworth-developed V12 engine from the radical T.50, but lose that car’s 3-seater layout and its complex ground-effect fan. It’s expected to be produced in small numbers, in line with GMA’s ethos of only ever producing up to 100 examples of any of its models. In a short statement, Gordon Murray Automotive described the new model as ‘the world’s finest supercar GT’ and said the new HQ and Technology Campus, called Highams Park, would be the base for its manufacturing, as well as “most of the development work”. The former BOC facility was taken over by GMA in 2020 and £50 million is being spent on developing its offices, as well as on a heritage centre, customer sales and servicing facilities, and a test track. Murray himself has told previously that the T.33 is likely to be the last GMA car to feature a normally aspirated powerplant, without some form of electrification. “We’ve looked very long and hard at future regulations, and we can get in one more normally aspirated model. The money it cost us to build the V12 and transmission from scratch, we’ve got to try to get a little bit back”, the former McLaren designer said. “The powertrain is what feeds back into Project Two. It’s a brand new platform for that car; we’re starting again on that. The T.50 was a unique monocoque, because of the fan and the central driving position, so it would be difficult to take that and adapt it to a 2-seater”. Murray has declined to give a price for the T.33, beyond confirming that it will be more affordable than the £2.36 million T.50. “If you’re only doing a hundred cars, they’re not going to be £150,000”, he told. “But I promise T.50 will be our halo car; it’s a very expensive car, and Project Two won’t be at that level”. +++

+++ At CES 2022, HYUNDAI envisions a future where humans, robotics and metaverse merge. One of the first stepping stones in realizing that vision is likely to be the construction of a virtual factory built in a metaverse space. The Meta-Factory will be a digital twin of Hyundai’s actual factory existing in the physical world. Hyundai formed a partnership with San Francisco’s Unity Technologies at CES 2022, where the 2 agreed to develop a metaverse platform and build these factories. The partnership’s first project will be establishing a digital twin version of Hyundai Motor’s factory and innovation hub in Singapore scheduled to complete construction by the end of the year. The 7-story Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Center in Singapore (HMGICS) is expected to be the Korean carmaker’s first center that oversees not only research, development and manufacturing but also ordering and delivery of vehicles to customers. “With the construction of world-class Meta-Factory, the Hmgics will become a ‘game changer’ in the field of manufacturing innovation”, said Chi Young-cho, president and chief innovation officer at Hyundai. Not only traditional cars, but even flying cars and drones are expected to be tested at the rooftop space of the center when it is completed this year. The HMGICS Meta-Factory is scheduled for completion in the virtual world by 2025. The carmaker expects the Meta-Factory to enhance the operation efficiency of the physical version. For example, car factories in the real world need to test run their facilities before starting the production of a new model. It is to check the optimal operation rate of the facilities as well as to see if there is any issue in the manufacturing process. With the Meta-Factory, this part of the process can be done virtually with higher efficiency. If any problem should take place at the physical factory while in operation, its cause and solution can be analyzed on the virtual platform as well, saving time and effort for the employees because there is no need to physically visit the location. Hyundai with Unity plans to not only work on metaverse technology but also collaborate on artificial intelligence and autonomous driving simulation. “Real-time digital twins will permanently change how we live, work, shop and make a positive impact on our planet, representing a significant component of what is often referred to as the metaverse”, said John Riccitiello, chief executive at Unity. “Hyundai’s vision for the future, including the digital twin of factory operations, represents a significant technological step forward in manufacturing with unlimited potential in its efficiency”. Merging metaverse technology into auto manufacturing has been the latest trend among global automakers. Mercedes-Benz also implemented virtual reality technology when developing its Vision EQXX electric concept model. By testing the vehicle in a virtual environment, Mercedes-Benz said it was able to finish the development process of the model within 18 months. +++

+++ In JAPAN , new automobile sales in 2021 dropped 3.3% from the previous year to 4.448.340 units, down for the third straight year, industry data showed. Sales failed to reach 5 million units for the second straight year due chiefly to persistent supply chain bottlenecks amid the coronavirus pandemic, industry sources said. The Japan Automobile Dealers Association said sales of new vehicles larger than 660 cc minivehicles slipped 2.9 % to 2.795.818 units. Meanwhile, the Japan Light Motor Vehicle and Motorcycle Association reported that sales of minivehicles fell 3.8 % to 1.652.522 units. Although the spread of the coronavirus in the country did not affect sales much, a global shortage of semiconductors and lack of other parts from Southeast Asia amid supply chain turmoil forced automakers to suspend some of their assembly lines, association officials said. Looking ahead, the JADA expressed concerns over not only the supply chain problem but high pump prices, which would make consumers less willing to buy cars. In December alone, new vehicle sales fell from a year earlier for the 6th straight month to 336.442 units. Nissan and Mitsubishi in particular were hit by minivehicle sales plunges of 60.0 % and 41.3 %, respectively, after they stopped production and sales of three models due to abnormal collision test data. +++

+++ Hyundai and affiliate KIA aim to restore their annual sales to pre-pandemic levels this year. Hyundai raised its annual target by 11.1 percent from last year to 4.32 million cars and Kia by 13.4 percent to 3.15 million cars for a combined total of 7.47 million cars, up 12.1 percent. The 2 carmakers’ sales peaked at around 8 million in 2014 and 2015, but fell to 6.34 million in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. Hyundai plans to roll out the Ionic 6 electric vehicle and the EV version of its luxury brand Genesis’ GV70 SUV, while expanding Genesis brand sales beyond the U.S. to Europe and China. Kia plans to roll out a new generation of the Niro. They sold a combined 6.67 million vehicles in 2021, up 5 percent on-year: 3.89 million for Hyundai and 2.77 million for Kia. Despite the increase, which was due to a low base effect from the previous year amid the pandemic, both companies failed to meet their respective targets of 4.16 million and 2.92 million vehicles last year. A Hyundai spokesman said: “We will achieve our sales targets this year by responding adeptly to semiconductor supply shortages and expanding sales of EVs and other eco-friendly vehicles”. +++

+++ Japanese automakers are racing to electrify their MINIVEHICLES , despite major technical challenges regarding maintaining low prices and securing a certain cruising range per charge. The moves are an unavoidable part of efforts aimed at decarbonization, as minivehicles make up around 40 % of the domestic market for new vehicles. Nissan and Mitsubishi plan to release in early fiscal 2022 a new electric minivehicle developed by their joint venture company NMKV Co. The new model has a cruising range of around 170 kilometers, shorter than ordinary electric vehicles, but is equipped with driving assistance and other advanced technologies. It is expected to cost around ¥2 million in real terms, considering government subsidies. Meanwhile, leading minivehicle-maker Daihatsu said in December last year that it plans to release its first electric minivehicle by 2025, with the price set under ¥2 million in real terms. The Toyota unit also said that it will electrify all new vehicles in Japan, including turning them into hybrid vehicles, by 2030. “We want to make efforts to lower costs and expand the share of electric vehicles in our lineup”, Daihatsu president Soichiro Okudaira said. Honda, which has pledged to end sales of combustion engine vehicles by 2040, is also working to electrify its minivehicles. “Minivehicles will be key to spreading electric vehicles”, president Toshihiro Mibe said. The automaker plans to release an electric minivehicle in 2024. Meanwhile, Suzuki is speeding up the development of its electric minivehicle for release in the next 2 to 3 years, although it has not declared a concrete timeline for the move. However, the rush to go electric presents challenges for the automakers. Electrifying minivehicles means that a surge in costs related to batteries and other parts must be reflected in the vehicles’ retail prices. If automakers reduce battery capacity in order to cut costs, the vehicles will have short cruising ranges. “Users are sensitive to the price and performance of minivehicles” as there are as many minivehicles as people in rural parts of Japan, a source from a major automaker said. “It will be difficult to strike a balance between the two”. +++

+++ The current PORSCHE Panamera received a refresh as recently as 2020, but Porsche is preparing another update to its Audi A7 rival for next year to extend the lifecycle of its large luxury saloon. We don’t expect significant mechanical revisions for the new car, although it will arrive with fresh styling and interior changes. My spies caught the updated version carrying out cold-weather testing in Sweden, revealing numerous design changes over the outgoing model. The front end is smoother, with a pair of smaller, more rounded outer grilles with fewer horizontal strakes. The LED running lights are new vertical units. The main radiator grille has been reprofiled, too, and is taller and narrower than before. The grille now extends above the front number plate, and brings the Panamera into line with the upcoming facelifted Cayenne, which was spied last year. Elsewhere, the test car shares its wheels with the current model, but new designs could come as part of the facelift, along with new paint colours. The rest of the car is unchanged from the current Panamera, although further styling tweaks could be introduced for the production version. The interior of the development car was covered over, indicating that a cabin update could be on the cards. The general layout won’t change much, but a new, stubbier gear selector (as seen on the latest 911) could feature. Porsche may also install a fully digital instrument panel; at present, the Panamera uses a partly digital layout, with an analogue rev-counter. A new range of interior trim and upholstery options might also be included, although the Panamera’s 12.3-inch central touchscreen will likely remain. Last year, Porsche updated the Taycan’s 6th generation PCM infotainment system to include upgraded speech recognition, faster navigation route calculations, Android Auto integration and a tweaked interface, and we expect these changes to make their way to the facelifted Panamera. The engine range is unlikely to change, save for small power and efficiency gains, potentially. The Turbo S E-Hybrid will continue to top the range; the current version produces a mammoth 700 hp. Under the skin, the springs and dampers could also be tweaked to aid the car’s ride and handling. The updated Porsche Panamera is expected to arrive next year. +++

+++ Keystone Private Equity is threatening to back out of the consortium buying SSANGYONG , saying that it first needs to see a business plan that makes sense. “We haven’t received a business plan that justifies an investment”, a Keystone executive told the JoongAng Ilbo on December 31. The private equity firm joins Korea Development Bank (KDB), which is needed for debt financing, in raising questions about the purchase and the consortium’s aim of transforming the failing company into a profitable electric-vehicle (EV) manufacturer. Edison Motors, an electric bus maker from Hamyang, South Gyeongsang, was chosen as the preferred bidder in October last year for SsangYong Motor, which was placed under court receivership in April. It was joined by Korea Corporate Governance Improvement (KCGI) fund, Keystone Private Equity and Semisysco in making the 310 billion won ($260 million) offer for the company (later reduced to 300 billion won) and promising to invest significant amounts into turning the operation around. More than 1 trillion won will be needed following the acquisition for working capital, debt management and the payment of overdue salaries. Edison said SsangYong Motor will produce 10 EV models this year, 20 by 2025 and 30 by 2030, and that it will turn SsangYong Motor into a profit-making company in the next 3 to 5 years by transforming the maker of internal combustion-engine SUVs into an EV maker. “Without a mid to long-term business plan to recover SsangYong Motor’s business, we can’t do it”, the executive said Keystone told Edison Motors. The executive noted that even if the main acquisition deal between Edison Motors and SsangYong Motor is signed, financial support “can only be provided if there is a strategy to develop SsangYong”. Edison Motors was planning to borrow 700 billion won from financial institutions including KDB using SsangYong’s Pyeontaek factory as collateral. An additional 500 billion won was to be sourced from consortium partners. “Its plan needs to be evaluated by a third party”, KDB Chair Lee Dong-gull said in December. “It is questionable whether the plan can actually be carried out and satisfy consumer’s expectations”. With a KDB loan unlikely, Edison Motors came up with a plan B recently, saying it would work with the city of Pyeongtaek to turn SsangYong’s factory site into an apartment complex to raise additional funding. The Pyeontaek government said in a recent statement that the city has not approved the development of the factory site. “Investors are considering additional investments”, Kang Young-kwon, CEO of Edison Motors, said. “We are also negotiating with foreign investors about a trillion won-level investment”. +++

+++ Activists are appealing to TESLA to close a new showroom in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang, where officials are accused of abuses against mostly Muslim ethnic minorities. The appeals add to pressure on foreign companies to take positions on Xinjiang, Tibet, Taiwan and other politically charged issues. The ruling Communist Party pressures companies to adopt its positions in their advertising and on websites. It has attacked clothing and other brands that express concern about reports of forced labor and other abuses in Xinjiang. Tesla announced the opening of its showroom in Urumqi, the Xinjiang capital, and said on its Chinese social media account, “Let’s start Xinjiang’s all-electric journey!” The Council on American-Islamic Relations called on Tesla and its chairman, Elon Musk, to close the showroom and “cease what amounts to economic support for genocide”. “No American corporation should be doing business in a region that is the focal point of a campaign of genocide targeting a religious and ethnic minority”, said the group’s communications director, Ibrahim Hooper, in a statement. The Communist Party has pressured foreign hotel, airline and other companies to adopt its positions on the status of Taiwan, the island democracy claimed by Beijing as part of its territory, and other issues in advertising and on their websites. Activists and foreign governments say some 1 million Uyghurs and members of other mostly Muslim minorities have been confined in detention camps in Xinjiang. Chinese officials reject accusations of abuses and say the camps are for job training and to combat extremism. In December, Intel, the world’s biggest maker of computer chips, apologized for asking suppliers to avoid sourcing goods from Xinjiang after the state press attacked the company and comments online called for a boycott of its goods. The United States has barred imports of goods from Xinjiang unless they can be shown not to be made by forced labor. China is one of Tesla’s biggest markets. The company’s first factory outside the United States opened in Shanghai in 2019. Other foreign auto brands including Volkswagen, General Motors and Nissan have showrooms in Xinjiang operated by the automakers’ Chinese joint-venture partners. VW also operates a factory in Urumqi. +++

+++ TOYOTA is set to turn up the wick of its rally-bred GR Yaris hot hatch with a more focused version at this year’s Tokyo Auto Salon on 14 January. The brand describes the new model as a ‘fully tuned’ version of its homologation special, confirming speculation that a more potent GR Yaris is in the works, although it’s unclear whether it will be a stand-alone model or simply a tuning package for current owners. Toyota has released a teaser image of what we can expect. The uprated GR Yaris will be markedly more aggressive than the standard model. At the front, additional aero fins will be fitted to reduce front end lift at speed, and there could be a deeper, more menacing grille design, although this is difficult to pick out from the teaser shot. A large cut out in the bonnet hints that a more powerful version of the GR Yaris’s 1.6-litre 3-cylinder turbo motor is lurking beneath, requiring extra cooling capacity. Elsewhere, the side sills look to be tweaked from the standard version, enabling better airflow along the car’s flanks. But the key addition is a large, ‘swan neck’ rear wing, which is top-mounted to provide smoother airflow along its bottom surface. Given that it’s a ‘fully tuned’ variant, we expect a healthy power increase over the base car’s 262 hp and 360 Nm outputs. To contain the extra grunt, a more aggressive chassis set-up is expected, along with a recalibration of the GR Yaris’s four-wheel-drive system. Alongside the tuned GR Yaris, Toyota will reveal another motorsport-inspired creation at Tokyo next week: a GR GT3 concept car that represents Toyota’s “continuing work to create ever-better cars bred from motorsport”. The GR GT3 racer is a front-engined racer designed for one of the most competitive motorsport classes on the planet. +++

+++ VOLVO is readying an electric successor fot the XC90 flagship SUV for launch later this year, and the new model will be fitted with an unsupervised autonomous driving function called Ride Pilot. The system is currently undergoing testing, and with the necessary government and safety approvals, will allow drivers to read a book or rest while the car drives to its destination. The company says that when autonomous driving is enabled, “Volvo Cars takes responsibility for the driving, offering the driver comfort and peace of mind”. The Ride Pilot software is being developed in conjunction with autonomous driving software experts Zenseact, along with sensor company Luminar. The new XC90 will be fitted with an array of sensors to enable self-driving, with 5 radars, 8 cameras and 16 ultrasonic sensors, and consistent over-the-air updates will improve Ride Pilot over time. Volvo stresses that it will launch Ride Pilot only once it has verified its safety through extensive testing, and after securing the required approvals. Once this has been achieved, the firm plans to release Ride Pilot in California first, where traffic conditions and government regulations are favourable towards self-driving cars. Ride Pilot will be introduced to other markets later. The system is being tested on Swedish roads, and data is being collected from Volvos across the US and Europe to facilitate its development. When it arrives later this year, the new XC90 will be available in either fully electric or hybrid petrol guises, riding on the marque’s next-generation SPA2 platform. I expect the new car to adopt an evolutionary design over the current model, and Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson previously told that a cost of “around €10,000 is not unrealistic” for the XC90’s autonomous driving option. +++

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