Newsflash: Audi doopt e-Tron om tot Q8 e-Tron


+++ AUDI has released official images of its revised e-tron Sportback, due to arrive later this year, together with a facelift for the standard bodystyle. Along with the potential for more range, the new e-Tron will also get a new name: Q8 e-Tron. This new image gives us the clearest look yet at the new design. The Sportback’s coupe-SUV silhouette with its swooping roofline remains, but there should be noticeable changes to the front of the car where the camouflage is focused in these pictures. To give the Sportback more than its current 418 km maximum range, grilles and ducts could be redesigned for extra aerodynamic efficiency, and the closed-off grille that features on other Audi e-Tron models will stay. At the rear we see the same full-width light bar and sloping tail as the outgoing Sportback, and despite the camouflage on the rear bumper, it looks like the design remains almost entirely unchanged. Inside, the Q8 e-Tron keeps the same basic cabin architecture as before. The current e-Tron fitted with a 10.1-inch infotainment screen, coupled to a touchscreen climate control panel and a digital instrument display. Under the bodywork, the Q8 e-Tron will utilise upgraded batteries and electronics to keep pace with cars like the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Tesla Model Y and the new Nissan Ariya; all capable of topping 480 km of range. The updates could see the car’s energy density improving to provide a battery capacity of over 100 kWh. Audi’s board member for technical development, Oliver Hoffman, last year said: “We are very clear: with Q4 e-Tron we are present in the C-segment, while the e-Tron is focusing on the D-segment. The e-Tron really is a special car for Audi because it was really the pioneer of electric mobility for us. So it’s important to keep the car fresh, and therefore we are developing a big update in terms of range and charging time”. A faster charging rate than the current e-Tron’s 150kW is also expected on the facelifted car in order to keep it from falling behind the upcoming Q6 e-Tron – which will sit on the firm’s new PPE platform and should receive around a 350 kW recharging speed. The Q8 e-Tron should launch towards the end of this year, extending the life-cycle of the car before it’s replaced by an all-new model sporting the Volkswagen Group’s new SSP architecture in 2026. +++


+++ BMW more than doubled pre-pandemic earnings in 2021 to €16 billion, the company said, as higher prices and strong sales of top-end cars boosted revenue despite supply chain constraints. The premium carmaker, which sold a record 2.52 million vehicles last year despite semiconductor shortages, reported a 10.3% earnings margin for the year, its highest since 2017. Still, earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) in its automotive segment took a 4.2% hit in the 4th quarter as the global chip shortage, which BMW has so far weathered better than competitors, caused a drop in deliveries of 14.2 %. Quarterly net profit for the group came in at $2.04 billion, a third higher than last year but well below 2019 levels of $4.54 billion. BMW’s share price tumbled 7 % from yesterday’s close to $64.23, hitting the bottom of Germany’s bluechip index alongside Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz Group and in line with a European-wide slump in auto shares amid fears over disruptions to supplies. Renault, Stellantis as well as Volvo were all among the worst performers of their respective indexes on Thursday. Premium carmakers have largely been better positioned to weather supply chain troubles than value brands because they can push higher costs onto consumers through elevated prices. Mercedes-Benz, for example, registered a 24.7% fall in deliveries in the fourth quarter of 2021 but still boosted its EBIT by 12% in its cars and vans division. BMW’s revenues climbed 12.4 % from last year to $100.5 billion, with net profit reaching a record high of $11.28 billion. “We are in a good position and optimistic about the future”, chief financial executive Nicolas Peter said. +++

+++ BMW, one of the car industry’s strongest proponents of HYDROGEN technology, is putting a close-to-production prototype called iX5 through its paces in a remote, frozen part of Sweden. It plans to begin building the hydrogen-electric SUV in limited numbers before the end of 2022. Hydrogen isn’t a new item on Munich’s powertrain menu; BMW built and tested a small number of hydrogen-powered 7 Series sedans from 2005 to 2007. Much has changed over the past 17 years, however. While the big sedans burned hydrogen in an internal combustion engine, the iX5 is fitted with a fuel cell that uses hydrogen stored in a pair of 700-bar carbon fiber tanks to generate electricity that’s then sent to a battery pack. The fuel cell develops 170 hp, while the same electric motor found in the iX increases the system’s total output to 374 hp. Testing the iX5 near Arjeplog, a town in Sweden that’s further north than Fairbanks, Alaska, is a way for engineers to gather data about how the system performs in really cold real-life conditions. So far, the results are positive: BMW notes that, even when the thermometer drops to -4 degrees Fahrenheit, the powertrain delivers its full operating range (which certainly can’t be said about electric cars) and full performance. “The iX5 offers the locally emission-free mobility of an electric vehicle and the unrestricted every usability (including short refueling stops) familiar from models with an internal combustion engine”, said Jürgen Guldner, BMW’s vice president of hydrogen fuel cell technology and new vehicle projects. He added that another benefit is that the iX5 weighs less than a comparable battery-powered SUV. More details about the BMW iX5 will emerge in the coming months, and production is scheduled to start later in 2022. As of writing, it’s too early to tell whether the model will be sold in the Netherlands. Regardless, this will be an extremely low-volume version of the X5 but the Munich-based firm expects that demand for hydrogen-powered vehicles will pick up in the coming years. It wants to help expand the network of charging stations in order to position hydrogen-electric cars as a viable alternative to EVs with shorter refueling times and better range. +++


+++ PEUGEOT already has a few SUVs, but there’s always room for more, right? That could be what’s brewing in the minds of Peugeot executives. Now is the perfect time for Peugeot to expand the 308 lineup. The current generation just launched for the 2021 model year, available as both a wagon and hatchback. An all-electric version is reportedly coming next year, so everything is still fresh and new. It’s a popular vehicle, too, having just won the Women’s World Car of the Year award. But what about the 3008? A 308 SUV could encroach on the 3008’s territory, but it should adopt more of a coupe/crossover vibe. The roof slopes sharply down compared to the upright design on the 3008. And there’s no missing the extra ground clearance beneath it. Here’s where things get a bit muddled, at least with regards to the name. The current-generation 3008 dates back to 2016, though it received a facelift in 2020. A rumour says the 308 SUV will be called the 408. My sources have heard all the above but there’s nothing to support any specific name at this time. Nevertheless, something new with off-highway aspirations is in development at Peugeot. We likely won’t have full disclosure, however, until sometime next year. +++

+++ After a stunning year in 2021, global passenger PLUG-IN ELECTRIC CAR sales continue to increase in January 2022 at a very high rate. According to EV-Volumes data, 603.007 new passenger plug-in electric cars were registered last month, which is 87 % more than a year ago. Not only that, the market share was estimated at 10 %, one point above the 2021 average (9 %). BEV sales were up 94 % year-over-year. PHEV cars sold 72 % better. A very strong start of the year, combined with the trend that usually sales increase towards the end of the year, makes me very optimistic about the possibility to exceed 10 million units for the very first time. For reference, in 2021, almost 6.5 million new passenger plug-in electric cars were registered globally, which is about 108 % more than the 3.1 million in 2020. The average market share improved to about 9 % (including 6.1 % BEVs), compared to 4 % in 2020 (including 2.8 % BEVs). If we check the top 20 most popular plug-in models, it turns out that in January, the list was dominated by the Chinese models. There are 17 Chinese plug-in cars in the top 20 (including 7 BYD), and the remaining 3 (Tesla Model Y, Tesla Model 3 and Volkswagen ID.4) are partially produced in China too. A year ago, there were 9 Chinese models in the top 20, while 2 years ago only 2. Nonetheless, the Tesla Model Y managed to beat all of the Chinese plug-ins and take #1 with 32.700 units. The Model Y is clearly on the rise (best January ever), while the Model 3 noted its lowest monthly result since April 2021. Tesla had a very strong end of 2021, but in the first month of 2022, there is no match for BYD, which noted some 93.263 units, compared to 51.302 Tesla. The third best is the SAIC-GM-Wuling joint venture. +++



+++ Car maker is a term we use a lot but the truth is that today’s car companies are more assemblers of bought-in parts than manufacturers. That was highlighted in a recent comment by Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares, who pointed out that the value of a car once it’s emerged from the factory is “85% bolt-on parts”. These parts are sourced from thousands of often nameless suppliers, but as we shift out of internal combustion engines and into an era of electric cars powered by ever more sophisticated software, car makers are trying to recapture some of the value lost to suppliers. The process of making parts yourself is called VERTICAL INTEGRATION and car makers are going further down that route in specific areas, most notably batteries but also chips and software. This is happening for a number of reasons: to keep some of the profit lost to suppliers; to ensure a good flow of limited supply; and to even work out exactly what the CO2 cost of the components are. “Companies are increasingly seeing it as a competitive advantage to have greater control over the supply chain”, said Jonathan Davenport, an analyst at consultant Gartner. Some manufacturers have always leaned towards vertical integration, notably Volkswagen. But the trend in recent years has been to farm more work out to suppliers. This keeps capital investments to make the parts off your books and, if the parts supplier is large enough, can actually work out cheaper because their broad base of customers will bring the price of those parts down through sheer scale. The rapid pace of technology change is forcing a rethink, however. Ford will split its supply strategy between its 2 new divisions, Ford Blue for internal combustion engines and Ford Model E for electric cars. “Ford Blue will source with breadth of scale, while Ford Model E will source very deeply with depth”, Lisa Drake, Ford’s new head of EV industrialisation for Model E, told analysts last week. The depth will focus on parts “very specific to EVs” (batteries, power electronics and raw materials in the batteries) and not just take over the jobs of the so-called tier-one supplies, those that sell parts directly to the OEM, rather than to other parts suppliers. “We will go very deep into the supply chain: tier two, tier three, tier four”, said Drake. “Places where we haven’t gone before and where the semiconductor situation has now shown us where we need to be”. The semiconductor supply crisis has been a wake-up call for car makers who were frustrated by the fact that their entire production was being held up by suppliers much further down the chain. Their frustration was further compounded by the fact chip makers saw them as just another customer, and not a very big one at that, compared with the big electronics firms. Now the car companies are going directly to the chip makers, which previously would have sold their products to tier-one suppliers like Bosch, Continental and Harman. This is leading to a previously unheard of situation where car companies like Ferrari, Renault, Volvo and Mercedes are flagging up collaborations with chip suppliers such as Qualcomm and Nvidia. “The traditional tier one and tier two go-to-market model has evolved”, said Enrico Salvatori, president of Qualcomm Europe. The new vertical integration approach is different from the old model, where car companies would forge cylinder blocks themselves. They don’t have or want the capability to make chips or to refine battery materials. But they do want to secure the supply long before they need it and that means investing in or partnering specialists. For example, VW has partnered China’s Gotion for a new battery cell plant in Salzgitter, Germany, due to start in 2025. Both Volkswagen and Volvo have invested in Swedish battery company Northvolt to create partnerships that will secure them cell production. Stellantis and Mercedes both have a stake in French battery company ACC, while Renault has put its own money into battery maker Verkor. Investments in battery companies give car makers more of a financial stake in the most expensive element of an electric car, but the worry now is whether they will be able to source the raw materials for their ever more expansive promise of EV production. They are trying to solve the “great raw material disconnect”, as raw material analyst firm Benchmark Mineral Intelligence phrased it. “At the moment there is insufficient investment into raw material supply to meet battery demand in 2030, let alone 2040”, said CEO Simon Moores last year following declarations made by some car makers at the COP26 climate summit to go all-electric by 2040. So they are going deeper. As ever in the modern car world, they are generally following the lead of Tesla, which showed the way with its partnership with Panasonic on batteries. Tesla has also moved to secure raw materials with deals with the BHP Group on nickel and Glencore on cobalt. Stellantis is talking to companies to secure lithium while Renault has signed a deal with a company that aims to extract lithium from the Upper Rhine valley in Germany. BMW, meanwhile, has invested in a US company called Lilac Solutions that is researching environmentally friendly methods for extracting lithium. “We’ve had various approaches by auto makers”, said Jeremy Wrathall, head of UK mining start-up Cornish Lithium. “No one has made us an offer to buy us, but the mood music is hotting up”. One other big advantage of going direct to the source of raw materials is that you know exactly its provenance and probable CO2 footprint. “It’s important that you know your CO2 intensity of your input materials”, said Jon Regnart, automotive trend strategist at the UK’s Advanced Propulsion Centre. He cites VW’s investigation of Chilean lithium mining as an example. The other big focus is on software. “We will vertically integrate key elements of the electronics and software platforms”, said Tavares in speech to present Stellantis’s strategy up to 2030. Car companies such as BMW, Mercedes and VW are busy hiring thousands of software engineers to ensure their future cars merge seamlessly into your digital life, while also delivering online services that (they hope) will be so tempting that you will be persuaded to pay additional sums to use. Again, Tesla is leading the way by programming its own software to create a closed-off infotainment system where even Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are banned. The argument is you control the whole ecosystem, including the data generated. The big car companies are taking a more flexible route that involves partnering the likes of Amazon on the stuff you don’t see but keeping control of the digital touchpoints. It’s not efficient to do everything yourself, argues Continental’s head of software, Michael Huelsewies. Rather than “ploughing 1.000 engineers into developing an operating system, all this stuff that nobody really sees, you can take 200 of them and put them in the pool to work out something that helps all of us, so the 800 can work on the fancy stuff”, he said. Tavares agrees. “I’m not going to make my own operating system; it doesn’t make any sense. Consumers don’t care,” he told journalists at the recent strategy event. He explained his philosophy on vertical integration. “If I can do it internally because I have the right skills, I will do it. If I don’t have the skills but can educate my people, I will do it. If I can’t do that, I have to partner with someone”, said Tavares. Speed would be another reason to find a partner, he said. Vertically integrating is also vital to replace jobs lost in the switch away from combustion engines. Engines and to a lesser extent transmissions mostly remained in-house for many car companies, and they are anxious to replace that business with e-motors and other electric transmission parts; parts that in the main are currently outsourced. For example, Mercedes has bought the maker of electric motors Yasa and will build them in its Berlin diesel engine plant. Meanwhile, Renault wants to increase production of e-motors at its Cléon plant to 500.000 a year. Analyst company IHS Markit predicts 70 % of e-motors will be made in-house by car companies, compared with 33 % now. Cars will continue to be largely assembled from bought-in parts, but the planned targeted dives into the supply chain should mean better visibility on parts bottlenecks and a better understanding of what goes into the final product, neither of which is a given right now in light of the often opaque source of parts within parts. +++

+++ As if the global chip shortage was not enough of a problem for the automotive business already, the Russian invasion in Ukraine is now causing new troubles. Those are obviously nothing compared to the humanitarian crisis currently going on in Ukraine, but more and more automakers are facing production difficulties. VOLKSWAGEN is joining them with the announcement that it is no longer accepting orders for most of its plug-in hybrid vehicles. Yesterday, Volkswagen has stopped taking orders for the plug-in hybrid versions of the Golf, Tiguan, Passat, Arteon and Touareg. This is, hopefully, a temporary move as the company wants to ensure the already placed orders will be completed and delivered. However, this process may take longer than expected and may not happen until the end of the year. A Volkswagen spokesman told the decision comes as a result of interrupted supply chains related to the war in Ukraine. The Wolfsburg-based brand is joining Audi in freezing new orders for plug-in hybrid models in an attempt to prevent delivery times from lengthening further. For now, it is not known for how long Volkswagen’s PHEVs will be unavailable. It seems that not only the production of plug-in hybrids at Volkswagen is affected, though. The manufacturer’s core plant in Wolfsburg will be put on pause between March 14 and March 18, while its Zwickau factory (where Volkswagen’s electric vehicles are made) will also be idled until March 18. VW’s production sites in Hannover and Dresden, as well as plants in Poland, are also reportedly affected by supply chain issues. Porsche also stopped production in some of its plants earlier this month and is expected to return to normal later this week. Volkswagen and Porsche are currently not producing or selling cars in Russia. +++

+++ The female jury of the WOMEN’S WORLD CAR OF THE YEAR is announcing the Peugeot 308 takes the crown in the 2022 edition of the contest. A total of 56 women journalists covering the automotive industry from 40 countries across 5 continents voted this year and the winner is announced on the International Women’s Day, “a very special date because it gives women a voice and because of the link in many countries between the automobile and personal autonomy”. A total of 65 candidates were allowed to enter the competition this year, and in the first round of voting, the best cars in 6 categories were selected. The winners were announced on February 15 and the 6 winners were then used as a basis for the final vote. Only one car can be named Women’s World Car of the Year and the honour goes to the Peugeot 308. It turns out the final voting this year was “closer than ever”, Marta Garcia, executive president of WWCOTY, said. “The Peugeot 308 is an automobile that offers just about everything you could want in a car. It drives very well and it’s hard to believe there’s only a 1.2-litre engine under the bonnet of most versions”, comments Sandy Myhre from New Zealand. As a reminder, depending on the market, the new 308 comes with a 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine, a 1.5-litre diesel, and 2 plug-in hybrid options. A 6-speed manual is standard on the conventional powertrains, while an 8-speed automatic is optionally available. The French model is now sold in Europe as a hatchback and an estate with both being produced at Stellantis’ Mulhouse factory. +++

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