Newsflash: Volvo komt met ‘XC75’

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+++ FORD said on Friday it is considering producing electric vehicles (EVs) in India for export, and possibly for sale in the domestic market, just months after the U.S. automaker decided to stop selling and manufacturing cars in the country. Ford’s comments mark a shift in strategy after it said in September it was taking a hit of about $2 billion because it does not see a path to profitability and was leaving the market. The decision came as a setback for prime minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” campaign. Ford has 2 car plants in the country. In a statement, the company said it was “exploring the possibility of using a plant in India as an export base for EV manufacturing”. When asked if the company may consider selling electric cars in India as well, a Ford India spokesman said, “there have been no specific discussions on this right now, but it is not out of the realm of future consideration”. Ford is increasingly targeting customers in what it said was a “global electric vehicle revolution”. The automaker has previously said it plans to invest $30 billion in EVs and batteries through 2030. Ford had less than 2 % of the Indian passenger vehicle market when it stopped production in the country, having struggled for more than 2 decades to turn a profit. The restructuring was viewed positively by analysts. The move allows Ford to keep a door open to re-enter India if it so decides at a later stage, said Gaurav Vangaal, associate director Light Production Forecasting at IHS Markit. There is a cost benefit to manufacturing in India, and the company has historically exported vehicles to North America and Europe; both of which are now large and growing EV markets, said Vangaal. “Ford will have to prove India can also be cost-competitive for making EVs, for which it will need big investments to localize the supply chain”, he said, adding that it will also need to figure out how it would source lithium-ion batteries. Ford’s comments to explore India as an EV manufacturing hub came after the company’s proposal to seek incentives under the government’s $3.5 billion scheme for clean-fuel vehicles was approved on Friday. The plan is a cornerstone of the Modi government’s agenda to cut oil imports and reduce pollution by giving benefits of up to 18% of new investments made by companies to manufacture electric and hydrogen fuel-powered vehicles. Ford is among 20 other companies eligible for benefits under the scheme. +++

+++ The new Stellantis inline 6 cylinder engine has pretty much reached “open secret” status within the auto industry, but we’ve yet to see concrete plans for its introduction. Well, the wait is coming to an end. Jeep appears ready to debut its new Hemi replacement at the New York International Auto Show in April. JEEP brand chief Jim Morrison was asked whether he had anything to share regarding the new turbocharged engine; Morrison answered the question with another: “Are you coming to New York?” While not a hard confirmation in the strictest sense, that’s about as good as it gets when it comes to discussion of future product. So, we know it’s coming. But in what? The turbocharged inline engine is widely expected to be phased in as a replacement for the 5.7-liter Hemi V8. Jeep’s newly redesigned Grand Cherokee and new-new Wagoneer are the only models in the lineup currently offered with the 5.7-liter, making them the likeliest candidates. There’s a compelling case for either (or both). Grand Cherokee would benefit most from Hemi replacement, provided it’s lighter and more efficient than the old iron-block V8. It also sells in volumes that make it appealing to Stellantis from a CAFE standpoint. On the other hand, the Wagoneer has recently been spotted testing in long-wheelbase guise, meaning Jeep could be just about ready to show it. Why not debut it with a trick new engine that will help bring the Wagoneer’s curb weight down without sacrificing power? +++

+++ For the first year ever, KIA leads J.D. Power’s annual Vehicle Dependability Study with a score of 145 problems per 100 vehicles. Buick (147) and Hyundai (148) round out the top 3. The highest premium brand on the list is Genesis, with a score of 148. It’s common for so-called “mass market” brands to lead this particular study, according to J.D. Power, as “premium” brands “typically incorporate more technology in their vehicles, which increases the likelihood for problems to occur” and aren’t necessarily built to a higher standard that less-expensive brands. The highest-rated single nameplate is the Porsche 911. It’s the third time out of the past 4 years and the second year in a row that Porsche’s quintessential sports car has taken top honors. Porsche as a brand sits in 7th place (162) just behind Lexus (159) and ahead of Dodge (166). At the very bottom of the list is Land Rover with a dismal score of 284; the SUV specialist held the same unfortunate distinction on last year’s list. Ram (266), Volvo (256), Alfa Romeo (245) and Acura (244) also performed poorly. The overall industry average score sits at 192. Mass market brands average a score of 190 while premium brands sit 14 points lower at 204. While Tesla is unofficially included in some of J.D. Power’s results, the agency says the sample size it has access to for this study is too small to include. As has been the case for the past several years, infotainment systems dominate the list of problems reported by owners. Popular (or unpopular, depending on your point of view) complaints include built-in voice recognition (8.3 PP100), Android Auto/Apple CarPlay connectivity (5.4 PP100), built-in Bluetooth system (4.5 PP100), not enough power plugs/USB ports (4.2 PP100), navigation systems difficult to understand/use (3.7 PP100), touchscreen/display screen (3.6 PP100) and navigation system inaccurate/outdated map (3.6 PP100). While problems with the car’s infotainment and technology packages are indeed bothersome, it’s important to remember that such issues aren’t usually leaving owners stranded with an immovable vehicle like a broken transmission or blown engine would. Culling infotainment complaints from the results would reduce the average problem-per-100-vehicle score by a staggering 51.9 points. The vehicles included in this study are from the 2019 model year. That means owners have had three years to get to know their cars and trucks. It’s the 33rd year that J.D. Power has surveyed owners regarding dependability, but the study has evolved with the times. It was redesigned for this year to include “184 specific problems areas across nine major vehicle categories.” For 2022, these categories include driving assistance technologies for the first time. You’ll notice that this year’s scores are dramatically different from last year’s, reflecting the change in the study’s format. “Automakers are increasingly looking at owners’ relationships with their vehicles as having similarities to other consumer technology”, David Amodeo, director of global automotive at J.D. Power, said in a statement. “For instance, cellphones update all the time with over-the-air software releases and, increasingly, automakers must take advantage of this approach to fix problems, improve features and add capabilities to keep owners satisfied. Automakers that are able to do this best will have a huge advantage”. Individual models earning top honors in their segments are: Compact car: Toyota Corolla, Compact Premium car: BMW 4-series, Compact sporty car: Mazda MX-5, Large car: Chevrolet Impala, Midsize car: Hyundai Sonata, Midsize premium car: Lincoln MKZ, Midsize sporty car: Ford Mustang, Small SUV: Buick Encore, Small premium SUV: Lexus UX, Compact SUV: Buick Envision, Compact premium SUV: Lexus NX, Midsize SUV: Hyundai Santa Fe, Midsize premium SUV: Lexus RX, Upper midsize SUV: Kia Sorento, Upper midsize premium SUV: Porsche Cayenne, Large SUV: Chevrolet Suburban, Midsize pickup: Nissan Frontier, Large light duty pickup: Toyota Tundra, Large heavy duty pickup: Chevrolet Silverado HD, Minivan: Dodge Grand Caravan. +++

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+++ Volkswagen’s supercar brand LAMBORGHINI is looking to keep combustion engine vehicles alive beyond the end of the decade, the unit’s Chief Executive Stephan Winkelmann told. “After hybridization, we will wait to see whether it will be possible to offer vehicles with an internal combustion engine beyond 2030”, he said. “One possibility would be to keep combustion engine vehicles alive via synthetic fuels”. Winkelmann last month said Lamborghini planned to roll out its first fully electric model at the end of this decade, underscoring a more cautious approach after comments last year that a release was planned for second half of the decade. Lamborghini, as well as key rivals Ferrari, Aston Martin Lagonda and McLaren, are wrestling with how to shift their ranges to battery power without losing the high performance that supports their premium pricing. +++

+++ Ford is stepping up plans to extensively electrify its LINCOLN brand in North America, as it prepares to introduce at least 5 new battery-powered Lincoln SUVs through 2026. Included are battery-electric models that will replace or supplement the Lincoln Corsair, Nautilus, Aviator and Navigator, said sources familiar with the plans, who asked not to be identified. The strategy to electrify Lincoln is a key element of Ford’s planned $30 billion investment in EVs and batteries through 2030. Ford announced the $30 billion initiative in May 2021. Lincoln had previously planned to have EVs across its lineup by 2030. Ford has said it will have the annual capacity to build at least 600.000 electric vehicles globally within 24 months, when it aims to become “the clear No. 2 electric vehicle maker in North America” behind Tesla. Lincoln spokeswoman Anika Salceda-Wycoco said it was “too early to talk about specific details around future vehicle or production plans”. The first of the new Lincoln EVs, a large crossover about the size of the Aviator, is slated to begin production in late 2024 or early 2025 at Ford’s Oakville, Ontario, plant, as part of a $1.5 billion changeover there from combustion-engine to battery electric vehicles, the sources said, citing the automaker’s plans shared with suppliers. Several more Lincoln EV crossovers, including potential replacements for the compact Corsair and the midsize Nautilus, could be built in Oakville in 2025-2026, said the ources, who cited internal planning documents. Production plans for those models have not been finalized. Several of the smaller Lincoln EVs will share an improved version of the EV platform that underpins the Ford Mustang Mach E, the sources said. A larger Lincoln SUV, a battery-powered companion to the big Navigator, is scheduled to go into production in 2026, the sources said. It will share a new dedicated EV truck platform with the next-generation Ford F-150 Lightning, the sources said. Ford’s plans to transform the Lincoln brand in North America into a mostly electric family of premium SUVs parallels an effort at General Motors, where the Cadillac brand has embarked on a similar makeover, starting this year with the midsize Lyriq electric crossover. Eventually, Cadillac is expected to field a full portfolio of electric SUVs, GM executives have previously said, including a full-size Escalade EV that is expected to share its underpinnings with the Hummer and Silverado EVs. Cadillac also plans to introduce an ultra-luxury sedan called Celestiq in 2023. +++

+++ MERCEDES confirmed to us that the A-Class is for sure dead after 2022 model year production wraps up. The automaker’s official statement says: “While the A-Class was extremely well received by our customers since its introduction in 2019, this decision is consistent with our ongoing effort to streamline our product offering strategy. The GLA will take over the A-Class’ position as the entry point into the Mercedes-Benz U.S. product range”. It was only 3½ years ago that Americans were enjoying our first drive in the new A-Class and now it’s demise is a fact. That was quick. The main reason for the A-Class’ death: (lack of) sales. The A-Class came out relatively strong in its first year of sales, moving 17.641 units in 2019. Meanwhile, 2021 saw just 8.108 leave dealer lots. This low volume problem is compounded by the lower profit margins for cheaper vehicles like the A-Class versus more expensive SUVs. It’s not just the decline of sedan sales hurting the A-Class (Limousine), but competition from within, as well. Mercedes sells the CLA-Class alongside the A-Class here in the U.S. In this crossover-hungry market, trying to sell 2 sedans that are similar in size, performance, price and in many other ways is tough business. Culling one of them makes sense, and it’s the slower-selling A-Class that gets the ax. This news was relatively predictable. Mercedes thinned its A-Class lineup for the 2022 model year by discontinuing the AMG A 35, the A-Class’ only AMG performance model. The A 220 is the only version left this year, so if you were holding out on buying for any reason, the window for doing so is closing. +++

+++ VOLVO has a new electric crossover coming, 2 sources familiar with the plans told. Said to be codenamed V546 at the moment, the new product is said to slot in between the XC60 and XC90. If size is a factor in its tweener placement, the XC60 is 185 inches long, the XC90 195 inches long, so the V546 could be about the length of the 189-inch Ford Edge. The sources claim it will ride on a new electric platform, which could be SPA2 bones that will support the coming electric XC90 and that the Concept Recharge electric crossover study (pictured) sits on. The Swedish automaker debuted the Concept Recharge in June last year as a template of future styling cues, sustainable materials, and advanced infotainment and autonomous technology. We’ll see that some design and tech transfer into the V546. Out of a global production of about 100.000 units, 40 % will be allotted to Volvo’s plant in Ridgeville, South Carolina, to serve the North American market, starting in early 2025. That leaves an available capacity of 110.000 units out of the plant’s 150.000-unit annual cap. The 4-year-old plant builds just the S60 sedan at the moment (turning out roughly 23.000 units last year) but is transitioning to an all-EV assembly operation. Before the V546 arrives in 3 years, the Ridgeville facility will add an electric version of the next-generation XC90, thought to be called the Embla, and the Polestar 3, both hitting the market in 2023. Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson has said Ridgeville will “be the only plant in the Volvo Cars Group which only makes full-electric cars”. And although it’s fallen off the radar, we’re still anticipating the new flagship XC100 to debut in 2023 as well. The top model will come in 6- and 7-seat layouts akin to what BMW and Range Rover do, with the 6-seater bolting up captain’s chairs in the second row. Ridgeville also gets the nod for this one, production said to begin in early 2023. +++

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