Newsflash: nieuwe elektrische Honda op komst


+++ BMW Belarus has leaked an image of the facelifted X7. As is tradition for a midlife refresh, which in BMW parlance is called a Life Cycle Impulse (LCI), the front fascia received the brunt of the changes that we’re able to see. The single headlight enclosures, trapezoidal lower intake, and large lower outside intakes are gone. The new look breaks the front into three distinct areas, starting with a grille that doesn’t appear much larger than the current opening, if at all. Beside that is where the controversy could land, a set of split headlights with slim DRLs above a short horizontal plane of sheetmetal that leads to the main beams. Looking at the far side, the main beam covers look recessed akin to a “Star Wars” Scout Trooper helmet as the sheetmetal beneath opens for a set of slim vertical intakes. At the bottom, a smaller rectangular intake is garnished with 2 triangular pieces. That geometric theme is repeated behind the front wheels with a triangular design element set high on the wheel arch. Also, tucked in the arches, there’s a set of large alloys carved with a design we haven’t seen from BMW before. I won’t be shocked to find out they’re 23 inchers. With the revised X7 expected on sale in August, a debut shouldn’t be far away. Beyond what we see here, I anticipate tweaks to the rear fascia, and a massaged interior. It’s possible BMW installs its new iDrive 8 infotainment system, but with so many other models on the way this year, BMW might want to let the other high-end debuts like it i7 have some alone time with the latest tech. We hear powertrain nomenclature will change to match the new cars, the X7 M50i turning into the X7 M60i. +++


+++ In the United States, the GMC HUMMER pickup only just went on sale, and already there’s word from company brass that demand is higher than expected. Duncan Aldred, global vice president of GMC, said the automaker has received more than 65,000 combined orders for the current electric pick-up and upcoming SUV. What’s more, the number of customers converting reservations into orders is humming along at 95%, which is also higher than the company projected. “Production’s actually slightly ahead of plan and we’re putting things in place now to actually expedite that as well, so we can deliver these reservations quicker than we originally thought”. Aldred said, adding that new orders placed today probably won’t result in a delivered vehicle until 2024. “We’re doing all the studies on that and we’re confident we can go a lot quicker than we originally thought”, Aldred said, “But it still means a reservation now probably means delivering in 2024”. The version of the Hummer pickup that’s currently being built is the highest-spec Edition 1 model. That ran at least $110,295, but since it’s already sold out, new customers will be looking at Hummer EV 3X that starts right around the $100,000 mark before any optional equipment is added (and assuming you can find a dealer that won’t try to jack up the price). At some unspecified point in the next year or so, GMC will start building a lower-cost Hummer 2X for $89,995. A year or so later, the $79,995 Hummer EV 2 will make its debut. +++

+++ HONDA made 9 patent applications with the European Union Intellectual Property Office that could signal a westward expansion of the automaker’s aims. Honda’s been showing conceptual electric vehicles in China over the last 18 months. At Auto Beijing in 2020 we saw the E:Concept 2-door crossover. Come the Shanghai Auto Show in April 2021, the E had been shrunk to e for a redesigned, 4-door electric crossover called the e:Prototype. Then at Auto Beijing in October 2021, Honda showed five EV concepts for the Chinese market to be sold under a regional sub-brand called e:N; of those five, the first production models were to be called e:NS1 and e:NP1, both looking like remade versions of the HR-V. That’s the long way of setting the table for the EUIPO filings—it’s expected the nine electric vehicle name applications from e:Ny2 to e:Ny9 would potentially become production EVs for Europe. The range of models on the way will sit on a trio of platforms devoted to front-, rear- and all-wheel-drive vehicles. Honda didn’t include e:Ny1 in the patent applications, which started with e:Ny2. Perhaps the first number was saved for conceptual use, because a few days later, Honda showed Europe an e:Ny1 prototype (it should be pronounced as “Anyone”). It looks like the HR-V that Honda sells in Europe and Japan now, which itself looks like the e:Prototype Honda revealed in Shanghai last April. Honda Europe execs said it presages a B-segment electric crossover that will “be at the center of Honda’s future product line-up” there, targeting “families looking for their first EV”. That puts it about the size of the Jazz/Fit on which the Euro HR-V is based. The crossover model is expected in 2023, sitting on a stretched version of the Honda e architecture to carry a bigger battery enabling a longer range than the 200 km possible in the Honda E, as well as “greater space, versatility and, range”. If it cribs from the e:Ns1 and e:NP1 in China, the European EV will fit a 68.8 kWh battery. In China, that pack is good for a 500 km range. Next year also sees the market launch of a hybrid, C-segment crossover that will be about the size of the current CR-V. It fills the space that will be abandoned by the new-generation CR-V, which will grow and offer hybrid and PHEV powertrains. I’ve read that the e represents Honda’s eTechnology, the N stands for new or next. As for platforms, we know the front-driver is called the e:N Architecture F. All the electrified debuts slated for 2023, following new hybrid offerings like the European Civic Hybrid, will “set the course for the next generation of electrified Honda cars”, according to Honda. +++


+++ Major overseas units of the HYUNDAI MOTOR GROUP were profitable in 2021 on brisk sales of eco-friendly vehicles and increased capacity utilization, company data showed. Hyundai, the group’s flagship, said its US production unit swung to a net profit of 237 billion won ($195 million) from a net loss of slightly over 1 trillion won the previous year. It represented the subsidiary’s first black ink in three years. Its net loss came to 228.2 billion won in 2019. Hyundai’s subsidiary in Brazil also switched to a net profit of 41 billion won after losing money for the second consecutive year. Hyundai’s sales subsidiary in America registered the largest net income of 1.03 trillion won last year, followed by its Indian unit with 437.4 billion won and its Czech plant with 417.5 billion won. Hyundai said major overseas units turned a profit last year thanks to strong sales of eco-friendly vehicles and greater capacity utilization, despite a global shortage of auto chips. Hyundai’s US plants operated at 78.8 percent of capacity in 2021, up from 72.6 percent from a year earlier, with the operating rate of its Brazilian plant surging to 89.2 percent from 71.1 percent. Kia, Hyundai Motor Group’s smaller affiliate, also saw its major overseas subsidiary make money thanks to rising green car sales and an increased plant operating rate. Kia’s US plant posted a net profit of 116.5 billion won last year, a sharp turnaround from a 615.7 billion-won loss and marking the first black ink in 4 years. Kia’s US sales unit chalked up a net income of 855.4 billion won, with its subsidiaries in Slovakia, Russia, India and Mexico also turning a profit. Yet, Hyundai Motor Group’s joint ventures in China remained in the red in 2021 due to the impact of a Seoul-Beijing row over the deployment of an advanced US missile defense system in South Korea in 2017, but their net losses narrowed. Beijing Hyundai Motor, Hyundai’s joint venture with China’s Beijing BAIC Motor, registered a net loss of 1.01 trillion won, smaller than the 1.15 billion-won deficit a year earlier. The net losses of Dengfeng Yueda Kia, Kia’s joint venture with Dongfeng Motor Corp., narrowed to 783.2 billion won last year from 835.5 billion won a year earlier, according to the data. +++

+++ Ladies and gentlemen, the new era has begun for LOTUS as it is now (als0) an EV maker. It begins with this, the Eletre. It takes elements we’ve seen on the Evija battery-electric hypercar and Emira ICE sports car, wraps them in a larger package, jacks them up, and throws in a lot of new tech for the brand and the market. Let’s start with size, which is the easy bit. The Eletre is 5,08 meter long on a 302 centimeter wheelbase, about 2 meter wide and 163 meter high. Every one of those dimensions puts the Lotus within a couple of inches of the Aston Martin DBX: the EV being a little longer, with a slightly shorter wheelbase, a little wider, and a roof a couple of inches lower. For me, the side view most closely represents the form we had in mind based on recent spy shots. The front is intense, the yellow of the hero car making the greatest contrast with the polygonal void below. The lights above the leading edge are DRLs and turn signals, the main beams are recessed into that void, hugging the upper edge. The rear, with its Lotus script and full-width light bar fading into triangular intakes along the sides, clearly comes from the sports cars. It can glow in four colors depending on what it needs to communicate, and forms a connection with the light bar across the instrument panel. The SUV proportions and black roof are still playing tricks with our eyes, though; we can’t help feeling the Eletre carries its bulk up high. The wheels are an optional set of 23-inchers that hide optional 10-piston (ten!) calipers gripping ceramic composite rotors. Lotus isn’t ready to divulge specific battery capacity and motor outputs between those wheels. All I’m told is the pack is more than 100 kWh and output starts at 600 horsepower. Every Eletre is all-wheel-drive, with a motor on each axle. The 800-volt electrical architecture can handle up to 350 kW fast charging, 20 minutes at a station at that charge rate restoring 400 km of the Eletre’s estimated 600 km range in WLTP testing. EPA numbers will come eventually. Lotus says the hauler will get to 100 km per hour in under 3 seconds and hit a top speed of 260 kph. The electronic side mirror housings each contain three cameras, one camera for the rear views, one to help stitch a 360-degree overhead view, and one to help enable self-driving. The charge port is on the front left fender, but keen eyes might notice more shutlines atop the front wheel arches. Those are for retracting lidar sensors that work with two more lidar sensors in the roof, one at the front, another at the back. These could give the Eletre the kind of autonomous capability not seen on a production car yet. The interior comes in four- or five-seat configurations. A slim gauge cluster and a head-up display provides the driver with relevant info, front passengers get a similar slim display that can display infotainment options. Between them, a 15.1-inch infotainment touchscreen that lays flat when not in use. Connecting them, a full-width light bar “changes color to communicate with occupants.” Cabin materials include a wool blend for the seats, microfiber for soft-touch points, and recycled carbon fiber. And on top of this being Lotus’ first SUV, here’s a sentence Lotus has never had to write before: “There is a wealth of practical storage space in the Eletre’s cabin”, from storage trays and cupholders to liter-bottle-holders in the doors. There will be tunes, too. British audio concern KEF provides the standard and optional units, the former being a 1.380 watt, 15-speaker surround sound affair. Upgrade from KEF Premium to KEF Reference and get 2.160 watts run through 23 speakers. We can’t imagine Lotus lost its way with driving dynamics; we won’t be surprised if the Eletre sets a new bar in the tiny-but-growing segment. The SUV will offer air suspension and active damping standard; active ride height, active rear axle steering, an active anti-roll bar, and torque vectoring via braking will be available. The four drive modes are Range, Tour, Sport, and Off-Road, their elements able to be mixed and matched in an Individual mode. On top of the usual changes to things like steering and dampers, certain modes alter the angle of the three-stage wing in back. The Eletre is on sale now for a price we’re not privy to at the time of writing. It will be built in the automaker’s new factory in China, deliveries commencing next year. You know who to call if you’re interested. +++


+++ PORSCHE Porsche Automobil Holding SE plans to keep intact its Volkswagen AG holding as the billionaire Porsche and Piech family investment vehicle reviews a range of financing options to buy a stake in the planned listing of the sportscar brand. Porsche SE has a strong balance sheet and significant potential to raise outside capital, chief financial officer Johannes Lattwein said Tuesday. The company, whose main asset is a 53% shareholding in Europe’s biggest carmaker, plans to buy a 25% stake in a planned Porsche initial public offering valued at as much as 90 billion euros ($99.1 billion). There are “currently no plans to reduce the stake in Volkswagen”, Lattwein said on a call with reporters. Teams working on the IPO, the carmaker’s biggest strategic move in years, were “extremely engaged”. Volkswagen is continuing preparations to list the Porsche sportscar operations (one of VW’s key profit contributors) despite market volatility triggered by Russia’s war against Ukraine. The move is part of VW’s efforts to finance the industry’s biggest shift to electric vehicles and boost its market valuation. Negative implications from the war in Ukraine for the IPO can’t be ruled out, Lattwein said. Porsche has “an outstanding future ahead”, chief executive officer Hans Dieter Pötsch, who is also chairman of VW’s supervisory board, said on the call. “Cash flow is expected to grow even more, and a future-oriented investment policy from the company can be expected as well as an attractive payout policy”. Under the terms of the deal, VW’s and Porsche’s supply agreements will continue to exist, Pötsch said. The current terms of the IPO, still not finalized, would allow the Porsche and Piech family to claw back direct influence over the 911 and Taycan maker in what used to be their family enterprise. Under the plan, the family would gain a blocking minority stake of 25% plus one share. Lattwein confirmed a special dividend proposed by Volkswagen would help the Porsche and Piech families finance their direct stake in Porsche AG. +++

+++ Shares of TESLA rose sharply Monday after the electric car maker announced its second stock split in less than two years. The company said in a regulatory filing, and also in a tweet, that it plans to make a request at its upcoming annual shareholders meeting to increase its number of authorized shares so that it can split the stock in the form of a dividend. Shares jumped more than 5% at the opening bell. Tesla’s shares have rocketed higher in recent months and are up more than 60% over the past year. A single share now costs more than $1.000. And the company is growing. It opened its first European factory last week, a Gigafactory in Germany that will employ 12.000 people and produce 500.000 vehicles a year. “Given the stock’s meteoric run, it’s not a surprise that Musk & Co. are heading down the path of another stock split especially with robust EV demand and the build-outs of the flagship Berlin and Austin Giga factories now on a glide path”, said Dan Ives, who follows Tesla for Wedbush. Tesla said that its board has approved the proposal, but that the dividend is contingent on final board approval. Tesla had a 5-for-1 stock split in September 2020, which went into effect one day after the company announced that it planned to sell up to $5 billion worth of its stock. Just 3 months later, Tesla said that it was planning another stock sale, looking to raise up to $5 billion in that offering. Tesla follows other tech giants that have seen the price of shares vault out of reach of most investors. “We view Tesla’s move following the likes of Amazon, Google, Apple and initiating its second stock split in two years as a smart strategic move that will be a positive catalyst for shares going forward”, Ives wrote in a research report. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Tesla said it would include more information, including the date and place of its annual shareholder meeting, in an upcoming proxy statement. +++

+++ TOYOTA has been leaving some semi-cryptic teasers the last couple months about its upcoming GR Corolla hot hatch. Now it’s becoming more explicit. The company released a close shot of the car’s details, and additionally, it finally provided a reveal date: March 31. The teaser is of the car’s front left fender. It has a large air extractor vent, and right next to it is the familiar black-and-red GR badge shared with the GR 86, GR Supra and GR Yaris. It’s hard to tell from this angle, but we suspect that fender sticks out farther than on a standard Corolla, too. Though Toyota has kept the GR Corolla pretty well-hidden, there are a number of things we’re pretty sure of thanks to its close cousin, the GR Yaris. It will have a 1.6-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine with a manual transmission and all-wheel drive. Reportedly, it will make even more power than the Yaris at around 300 hp. And assuming it uses basically the same driveline as the Yaris, it may also be available with limited-slip front and rear differentials. All of which is to say, we’re pretty excited to see this super Corolla this week. +++


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