Newsflash: BMW ontvouwt elektrische toekomstplannen

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+++ As part of its annual results conference BMW has confirmed that it will offer a fully electric 3 Series model as part of its electrification ramp-up, which will see 15 EVs in production by the end of 2022. The brand has raised its targets when it comes to electrification and outlined that: “This year, including pre-production vehicles, the company will already have 15 fully-electric models in production, covering around 90 per cent of its current segments. In addition to existing models like the i4, iX and Mini Electric, this also includes four high-volume BMW model series: the 3 Series and 5 Series, the X1 and the X3. The new 7 Series also has a special role to play in 2022, with the launch of the new i7”. However, while it’s inevitable that a fully electric 3 Series for Europe will join the range in time, for now this model will be limited to the Chinese market only. BMW confirmed it will launch a production version of the fully-electric long-wheelbase 3 Series for China this year, a car which was leaked last year through images from the Chinese patent office and which my photographers have previously caught testing. The new stretched electric 3 Series (thought not to be badged i3 in China, as per the brand’s convention in Europe for its electric models) will rival the Tesla Model 3. BMW originally submitted these undisguised pictures to the Chinese patent office as part of the verification process for the country’s intellectual property register, but they’ve now worked through the government body’s defences and into the public eye. Cosmetic revisions over the standard 3 Series are fairly minimal. Up front, there’s a blanked- off radiator grille and a new bumper, with similarly narrow side intakes to the iX3. The rear end has also been tweaked, with the addition of a new diffuser element that does away with the standard car’s exhaust outlets. The electric 3 Series also has slightly deeper side skirts, which help reduce the visual mass created by housing the car’s battery back in the floor. To maximise range from the system, there’s a set of aerodynamically efficient alloy wheels, too. BMW hasn’t yet disclosed what’s powering the electric 3 Series, but we expect it’ll feature the same electric motor and battery pack as the i4 four-door coupe. Both cars are based on BMW’s modular CLAR architecture, so it is possible that the electric technology from the i4 will fit with minimal modifications necessary. Currently, the i4 is available with a choice of 2 powertrain options, called eDrive40 and M50, both of which are powered by the same 81 kWh battery pack. The former option uses a 340 hp electric motor mounted on the rear axle, which offers a 0-100 kph time of 5.7 seconds and a top speed of 190 kph. The high-performance i4 M50 features an extra electric motor on the front axle, which bumps power up to 545 hp and adds four-wheel drive. As a result, the car’s 0-100 kph time drops to 3.9 seconds, while top speed increases to 220 kph. BMW’s eDrive40 variant can cover 560 km between charges, while the M50 claims 500 km. All of these performance and range figures should also be comparable across the i4 and the electric 3 Series due to their similar sizes and weights. +++

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+++ Where you go. What you pass. Where you stop. What you listen to. What you watch. Your good habits. Your bad habits. Companies in Europe and beyond are vying for control of the crown jewels of the connected car era: your vehicle’s DATA . The contest is entering a pivotal phase as EU regulators look to hammer out the world’s first laws for the ballooning industry around web-enabled vehicles, pitting carmakers against a coalition of insurers, leasing companies and repair shops. European Commission sources said the EU executives should launch an industry consultation on in-vehicle data this week which could lead to legislation later this year; the first of its kind globally. Many companies view data as the gold of the new wired world, though for some it’s more akin to air or water. “If you don’t have access to data in the future, eventually you’ll be squeezed out”, says Tim Albertsen, CEO of ALD, Societe Generale’s car leasing division, which commands millions of vehicles. “You’ll not be efficient, you’ll not have the right services, you just can’t operate at the end of the day”. Car manufacturers, guarding their gatekeeper role in accessing data from their vehicles, have resisted specific regulations for in-vehicle data, saying that protecting consumers is paramount. “Europe’s auto industry is committed to giving access to the data generated by the vehicles it produces”, said a spokesperson for the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA). “However, uncontrolled access to in-vehicle data poses major safety, (cyber) security, data protection and privacy threats”. Yet the companies lined up against them say limiting or charging what they deem unfair amounts for access to in-vehicle data could kill off competition for carmakers who already operate their own leasing firms, car subscription services and repair shops. In some cases, they say carmakers are already restricting access to vehicle data and charging independent repair shops more for access. “The manufacturers are in direct contact with the vehicle, so they get all the data”, says Sylvia Gotzen, CEO of the International Federation of Automotive Aftermarket Distributors, or FIGIEFA, which is part of a broader alliance of repair shops and parts makers that employs 3.5 million people in Europe. “They get the full buffet and all we get is some crumbs”. Vehicle manufacturers have big plans for data. For example Stellantis, the world’s No. 4 carmaker, expects to generate €20 billion ($22.4 billion) annually by 2030 from software products and subscription services. Such offerings are also central to General Motors’ plan to double annual revenue to around $280 billion. Volkswagen said data is becoming the “key source of value creation and innovation”, adding that customers have “full control” over it, citing vehicle security and customer sovereignty as its main focuses. BMW rejected suggestions it was withholding data. The German company said it can share nearly 100 data points with third parties if drivers requested it and could make more available if companies prove a real business need for them and a willingness to take responsibility for cybersecurity risks. Auto supplier groups like FIGIEFA say carmakers can access thousands of data points. A BMW spokesperson said the carmaker would like all sides to sit down with a mediator such as the European Commission and hammer out a list of data points that is acceptable to everyone. Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares told reporters that the carmaker aggregated data, which cost money, and so needed to be paid for it. He cited, as an example, data that Stellantis sells to cities to measure how often anti-lock braking systems are engaged at junctions and gauge which are the most dangerous. “It is not only collecting the data, it is also about crunching the data in a way that is going to create value for somebody willing to pay for it”, Tavares said. Yet other companies in the auto ecosystem, such as ALD, say they want the European Union to ensure a level playing field. ALD, in the process of buying Dutch rival LeasePlan to give it a combined fleet of 3.5 million vehicles, has a car-sharing platform that needs to run diagnostics, read the odometer, check the fuel gauge and switch cars between users. It also offers an insurance product that lowers your premium based on good driving behavior; monitoring how you accelerate and brake. “Access to data is absolutely key for us to provide the services we do today”, CEO Albertsen said. To extract car data, ALD plugs a wireless “dongle” into the vehicle that transmits information to an in-house developed platform that it pays U.S. startup Vinli to operate. Carmakers running similar services get that data directly, putting ALD at a competitive disadvantage, Albertsen said. Stellantis, for instance, offers car sharing and rentals through its Free2Move unit. Volkswagen could take over rental company Europcar to take advantage of car sharing and subscription services. And most major carmakers have their own leasing units, like BMW’s Alphabet and Mercedes-Benz’s Athlon.ALD’s Albertsen said major fleet customers were willing to pay for the data but that he wanted regulations to ensure ALD’s car-sharing unit paid the same as, for instance, Stellantis charges its own Free2Move division. Insurers and car repair shops say it is paramount that the EU let drivers choose who accesses their vehicles’ data. “There is a need to regulate this, as you cannot leave this in the hands of car manufacturers”, said Nicolas Jeanmart, industry group Insurance Europe’s head of personal and general insurance. “It should be for each driver to decide what they want to do with their data”. FIGIEFA’s Gotzen said that would allow car owners to link their preferred repair shop to their car and have it run remote diagnostics if they had car trouble, instead of relying solely on the manufacturer’s recommendations. “All of this is technically possible now, but we are hampered because car manufacturers prevent us from doing this”, she said. She said FIGIEFA’s members are willing to adopt carmakers’ cybersecurity processes and requirements, but added cybersecurity could serve as an excuse for carmakers to restrict access. Richard Knubben, deputy director general of Leaseurope, which represents Europe’s leasing and car rental firms, said the longer the EU took to legislate car data, the more independent repair shops are at risk of going out of business because they lack access to it. “By the time we get legislation we may already be stuck with an imbalance that we can’t fix anymore”, Knubben said. +++

+++ HYUNDAI celebrated the completion of a $1.55 billion manufacturing plant in Indonesia, the Korean automaker’s first in the Asean region. The company held a ceremony Wednesday at the plant in Bekasi in West Java, with Hyundai Motor Group chairman Euisun Chung and Joko Widodo, president of Indonesia, attending. The factory, which was built on a 777.000 square meter site, will have annual production capacity of 150.000 units by the end of the year. Hyundai intends to expand the capacity to 250.000. Hyundai’s Ioniq 5, Creta (a budget SUV) and Santa Fe will be produced there. They will be shipped to Southeast Asian nations such as Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand. Those exports will be exempt from tariffs thanks to the Asean Free Trade Area agreement. The plant symbolizes the company’s pivots away from China and toward the fast-growing Southeast Asian market, including Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, markets that are traditional strongholds of Japanese carmakers. “Indonesia is a key hub for Hyundai’s future mobility strategy”, chairman Chung said during the ceremony. “This plant will play a key role in the automotive industry and specifically in the field of electric vehicles”. Hyundai sold a total of 605 units of the Ioniq5 and Kona Electric in Indonesia in 2021, accounting for 87 percent of the Indonesian EV market. In July 2021, Hyundai and LG Energy Solution established a 50-50 joint venture to build a battery factory in Karawang Regency, Indonesia, 65 kilometers southeast of the capital of Jakarta. It will have an annual production capacity of 10 gigawatt-hour or enough for approximately 150.000 EVs. Construction is expected to finish in the first half of 2023, and operations should start in 2024. Its batteries will be sourced to Hyundai’s Bekasi plant. Hyundai has 7 domestic plants (5 in Ulsan, 1 in Asan and 1 in Jeonju) and 11 overseas plants (4 in China and 1 each in the United States, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Russia, India, Brazil and Indonesia). Their combined capacity reaches 5.65 million vehicles. +++

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+++ MERCEDES-BENZ ‘ dominant position in the Korean import-car market is under threat as its main customer base aged 20 to 49 is turning to other brands. According to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association, Mercedes-Benz sold 76.152 cars last year despite an industry-wide shortage of microchips, similar to 2020 figures. But sales to the main customer base dwindled from 27.072 cars in 2020 to 24.085 last year. Rival BMW did much better in terms of growth, with sales rising from 29.419 in the wake of a scandal over spontaneously combusting cars to 33.031. Mercedes’ bestselling E Class sedan is suffering from stagnating sales. It sold more than 39.000 units in 2019 and 33.000 in 2020, but that fell to 25.722 last year. Industry insiders say that fickle, status-conscious customers are switching to Porsche and BMW. Porsche sold 8.403 cars last year, double the number of 2 years earlier. Tesla, is also popular among the core group. Of the 8.898 Model 3 units sold last year while 4.060 were bought by those aged 20 to 49. Mercedes-Benz hopes to boost sales by rolling out an electric version of the E-class later this year. +++

+++ MINI has unveiled its first electric model in Korea. The Mini Electric preserves the iconic brand’s characteristics, but can only travel 159 km on a single charge. Prices range from W45.6 million to W49.9 million (US$1=W1,238). The car has already drawn great interest, as 90 percent of its estimated sales volume for this year, or 700 cars, have been sold since pre-orders started early this month, according to the company. +++

+++ Renault Samsung Motors has changed its name to RENAULT Korea Motors, a spokesman said Wednesday. It dropped “Samsung” because its contract with Samsung Card on the use of the brand name expires late this year. It also disclosed a new logo. With the name change all traces of Samsung’s involvement in the enterprise, which started out as Samsung Motors in 1995, have now vanished. Samsung Card is also in the process of selling its 19.9 percent equity. “The new company name reflects our resolve to strengthen our identity as a finished-car maker rooted in Korea while being part of Renault Group”, the spokesman said. “We put ‘Korea’ in the middle of our new name to make it clear that we have long carried out research, development and production in Korea”. The decision was made in a shareholders’ meeting last month, and all signage will be updated by the end of July. +++

+++ BMW and Volkswagen warned this week that Russia’s invasion of UKRAINE is causing shortages of some vital components, forcing them to reduce vehicle production in Europe. The two German carmakers said the war is having a “negative” effect on auto supply chains, which have already been battered by shortages of semiconductors. BMW said Wednesday that bottlenecks at its suppliers in Ukraine have forced the automaker to adjust or interrupt production at a number of factories, which is likely to have a negative impact on vehicle sales figures. “Ukraine is, of course, home to many suppliers, hence we too will have to face production interruptions and supply disruptions for important components”, Maximilian Schöberl, BMW’s director of corporate affairs, said in an earnings webcast. Executives from both companies said wiring harnesses, which bundle and organize wires or cables, were in short supply because their main suppliers were in western Ukraine. BMW said the war forced its suppliers to reduce or suspend production of the harnesses, which in turn forced the automaker to cut its own output. The company said it’s resuming production at two factories in Germany this week, while its Mini factory in Oxford, England, is expected to start up again next week. “But what is clear is that the situation will remain volatile”, Schöberl said. BMW finance chief Nicolas Peter said raw material prices are expected to cost the company hundreds of millions of euros. The invasion sent commodity prices soaring over worries it would restrict supplies from Russia, a major producer of metals like nickel and palladium that are used in auto production. Volkswagen said that it’s supporting its Ukrainian suppliers of wiring harnesses as they try to keep up operations. “The dominant constraint is indeed wiring harnesses”, CEO Herbert Diess said. The company sources them from up to 11 plants in Ukraine, 9 of which are working at “reduced capacity”. “We cannot expect that this continues”, he said, so VW is working on relocating production, which will take some time. Volkswagen said it’s also shifting some auto production out of Europe to other regions including China and South America. Both companies paused production of cars in Russia as well as exports to the country after the war erupted. +++

+++ It took almost 20 years, a step-change in driving technology, a diesel emissions scandal and a geopolitical gas crisis, but the VOLKSWAGEN bus is back, baby. Volkswagen pulled the cover off the retro-bus Wednesday, a battery-powered van awkwardly dubbed the ID Buzz. The cavernous machine will ship to European dealers later this year and can be configured for all kinds of Tetris situations, from smelly mattresses to surfboards and dog beds. With organic paint and vegan leather, it’s entirely on brand. American drivers won’t be able to slide into one until 2024, but rest assured they will be lining up for it shortly. This van may kill the stigma of the electric vehicle as a compliance car: a cramped, eat-your-vegetables tool for a few crunchy consumers and corporations stretching to squeeze under emissions mandates. Sure, the GMC Hummer is now among us, with its 4.000-plus kilos and tank-driving tricks, but the camper-van is arguably an even more extreme use-case for electrification. For one thing, its reason for being is the road trip. The #vanlife crowd isn’t commuting or heading to Costco; that’s for the Hummer bros. These rigs are bound for the beach and Burning Man. Secondly, vans are not (and have never really been) hot-selling vehicles. Last year, Americans bought just 311.000 minivans, a rounding error in Detroit and 35 % fewer than they did just 5 years ago. Of course, a VW bus is a bit different. The company has cranked out about 7 million of them over the years and when Volkswagen stopped shipping new versions to America in 2003, it just kept churning on its own cult momentum. Indeed, the most treasured classic Transporters are fetching $200,000 these days. None of this is lost on the suits in Wolfsburg. Car companies, in their heedless lust for so-called white space, are great at making gas-powered vehicles that few people want (see: Opel Cascada). The fact that they are finally doing so with electric vehicles is perhaps the strongest evidence to date that we’ve hit a tipping point in the battery-powered revolution. Volkswagen has been teasing concepts of a new microbus for 21 years. It was the fifth CEO in that span who finally decided to steer one to the factory. But over the years, there was plenty of time for rivals to step. The jockeying for pole position in EV segments has warmed up lately. Car companies may be killing off their eccentric gas cars (the hatchbacks, convertibles and all things not SUV) but they are going all in on the evolution of the EV species. Rivian produced the first electric pickup. Porsche has given us a battery powered station wagon. Things will only get weirder from here, as investor lust for all things electric confronts a brewing gas crisis. The green lighting of strange ideas will be fast and frequent. Consider the Polestar O2 that was recently unveiled. It’s a tiny electric sportscar with a removable roof and its own autonomous drone that can be slung skyward and ordered to follow the car and log video: a vehicle purpose-built for driving nuts with a strong TikTok game. In an industry ruled by conglomerates who never saw a focus group or scrap of supply-chain synergy they didn’t like, that’s as niche as it gets. +++

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+++ VOLKSWAGEN is to sell at least twice as many electric vehicles in China this year as it did in 2021 as the world’s No 2 carmaker revs up efforts to tap into growth potential in the country. Last year, the German auto giant sold 93.000 electric cars in the country; 4 times the number in 2020. The China Passenger Car Association estimated that total sales of electric cars and plug-in hybrids will reach 5.5 million this year in the country, up from 2.98 million in 2021. Volkswagen now has 5 electric models bearing the namesake marque in China, its largest market. Its premium subsidiaries, including Porsche and Audi, have electric models available as well. The growing number of models and a new sales approach that targets younger customers, including 120 pop-up stores at Chinese malls, will help it to double its 2021 sales this year, Volkswagen said on Tuesday. Herbert Diess, CEO of Volkswagen, said its EV sales in the last months of 2021 matched the level of Chinese competitors including New York-listed Xpeng and Nio. “We had a bit of a slow start, yes, accepted. But toward the end of last year, we already had a run rate of 15.000 units. Now at least, we want to double up, and that should happen”, he said. Volkswagen launched its first model based on its electric car platform in China in the first half of 2021. Within months, it became the second most popular electric carmaker in the country after United States’ Tesla. Despite making headway into the booming but competitive sector, there is a long way to go before Volkswagen gets established as it has been in China’s gasoline vehicle segment, said analysts. Last year it delivered 3.3 million vehicles in the country, with 97.2 percent being gasoline vehicles, earning it a 16 percent share of the world’s largest vehicle market. Volkswagen said it was “almost twice the size” of its closest rival, despite its production in the country being hit disproportionately by the semiconductor shortage. The Volkswagen brand alone had a market share of 11 percent last year in China. Premium subsidiaries Porsche, Bentley and Lamborghini achieved sales records as well. Last year, chip shortages cut the group’s production by at least 630.000 units in the country, according to Volkswagen Group China CEO Stephan Wöllenstein. Globally, its production declined by around 2 million units and its sales of 8.9 million units were down 6.3 percent from 2020, the lowest in a decade. The group could have sold significantly more vehicles in 2021, but was unable to meet the high demand due to semiconductor shortages, said the carmaker. However, its revenues grew 12 percent year-on-year to €250 billion as the carmaker allocated more chips to higher-margin models and reduced sales incentives. The carmaker said it has reason to be optimistic about 2022 considering the receding Covid-19 pandemic and eased semiconductor supplies, but the geopolitical tensions in Europe are affecting the sourcing of raw materials and related supply chains. Diess said Volkswagen is building up additional capacities for wiring harnesses for Europe and is shifting car production to regions such as China and the Americas. “Volkswagen has proven its resilience over the past years and will manage this crisis, too”, he said. +++

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