Newsflash: Lotus werkt aan antwoord op de Taycan


+++ BMW chief executive officer Oliver Zipse said companies must be careful not to become too dependent on a select few countries by focusing only on electric vehicles, adding that there was still a market for combustion engine cars. “When you look at the technology coming out, the EV push, we must be careful because at the same time, you increase dependency on very few countries”, Zipse said at a roundtable in New York, highlighting that the supply of raw materials for batteries was controlled mostly by China. “If someone cannot buy an EV for some reason but needs a car, would you rather propose he continues to drive his old car forever? If you are not selling combustion engines anymore, someone else will”, said Zipse. He has long advocated against all-out bans on combustion engine car sales in the face of rising pressure from regulators on the auto industry to curb its carbon emissions and environmental impact. Offering more fuel-efficient combustion engine cars was key both from a profit perspective and an environmental perspective, Zipse argued, pointing to gaps in charging infrastructure and the high price of electric vehicles. Companies also needed to plan for energy prices and raw materials to remain high by being more efficient in their production and stepping up recycling efforts to keep costs down, he said. “We have a peak now, they might not stay at the peak, but they will not go back to former prices”. he said. “How much energy you need and use, and circularity, is important, for environmental reasons but even more for economic reasons”. +++

+++ FARADAY FUTURE Faraday is limiting the role of its founder, Jia Yueting, after completing a months-long internal probe into allegations of fraud. The electric vehicle startup is also putting one of its longest-serving executives on probation while another has resigned, according to filing on Thursday. Jia will continue to serve as Faraday Future’s “Chief Product and User Ecosystem Officer”; a position he has held since relinquishing the CEO role in 2019 to former BMW executive Carsten Breitfeld. Moving forward, his work will be limited to the company’s “product and mobility ecosystem” and its “internet, artificial intelligence and advanced R&D technology”. Faraday Future also said that Jia will no longer serve as an executive officer. The Los Angeles-based company said that Matthias Aydt, a board member and senior vice president of business development and product definition, will be placed on probation for six months. Aydt, who started with the company in 2016, will keep his board seat during the probationary period. Jiawei Wang, the company’s vice president of global capital markets, is also resigning. Wang, who is Jia’s nephew, has been suspended without pay since January 31, shortly before Faraday Future announced an earlier round of measures based on the findings of the internal probe. Faraday Future said Thursday that it took other “disciplinary actions” and fired some other employees who are not executive officers, without providing details. Faraday Future launched the internal probe last year after a short-selling research firm published a report claiming the startup misrepresented the number of preorders for its luxury SUV, the FF 91, following its merger with a special purpose acquisition company. The startup said in February that it had also discovered certain executives had misled investors about Jia’s role in running the day-to-day operations, resulting in a 25% pay cut for Breitfeld and the removal of Chairman Brian Krolicki to a regular seat on the board. The company disclosed in March that it is also being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in relation to the allegations made in the short-seller report. +++


+++ GERMANY is moving up the timeline for hybrid and electric vehicle subsidies to go the way of the Dodo, catching the ire of some automotive industry professionals. The Economy ministry wants to end subsidies for plug-in hybrid vehicles by the end of 2022, as well as cut cash bonuses for electric vehicles by 33 percent starting in 2023. The new plan would see the current incentive of €4,500 for PHEVs eliminated, while subsidies for pure electric vehicles would drop from €6,000 to €4,000 starting next year, dropping again to €3,000 in 2024 and 2025. The change comes as Germany attempts to shift subsidies toward climate protection. Germany had already planned to scrap subsidies for the vehicles, but the accelerated timeline was met with pushback from automotive industry professionals. The Head of VDA automaking lobby, Hildegard Müller, said in a statement that “Plug-in hybrids serve as trailblazers for the transition to electric mobility”, adding that removing the subsidies would “endanger the ramp-up of electric mobility and ignore the realities of consumers in Germany”. “In our opinion, plug-in hybrids are marketable and no longer need public funding”, Greens party member and Economy Minister Robert Habeck told the Funke media group. “We want to sharpen the focus of our support for e-cars and focus more on climate protection”. “We have to make a transition to these vehicles as attractive as possible and subsidize them accordingly”, said Bernd Reuther, transport policy spokesperson for the Free Democrat Party, to the Rheinische Post newspaper. He also added that the ruling coalition shouldn’t deviate from its original plan, as plug-in hybrid vehicles contribute to achieving attainable climate goals. The subsidies are also tied to the vehicle’s time of delivery in Germany, meaning that the amount of money that customers save could be less depending on how long it takes for their car to arrive. Amid global supply-chain shortages and production delays, people could miss out on incentives altogether. +++

+++ HYUNDAI is recalling 54 examples of the 2019 Nexo hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered crossover because of the possibility of leaking hydrogen, which could lead to a fire. These vehicles have production dates from 10 August 2018 to 17 December 2018. According to the filing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the US, the receptacle filter can detach immediately after filling with hydrogen. This could cause the refuelling inlet not to seal correctly. If this occurs, then fuel could leak out, and in the presence of an ignition source, there might be a fire. Hyundai says that the cause of this problem is: “The supplier used a prototype epoxy-bonded filter in place of the original laser-welded filter specified by design”. On 16 March 2022, Hyundai notified its North American division that a 2019 Nexo caught fire in South Korea after refuelling at a hydrogen station. The company investigated the incident and found that material from the fuel inlet detached and allowed hydrogen to leak out. The owner heard an abnormal noise and opened the fuel filler door to investigate. The investigation suspected that static electricity from the person’s hand discharged into the fuel cap and ignited the leaking hydrogen. This caused a fire. The fuelling station had a fire suppression system that extinguished the blaze within seconds, according to Hyundai’s submitted chronology. The investigation found this vehicle didn’t have the proper, laser-welded fuel inlet receptacle filter. The automaker believes the case in South Korea is the only Nexo fire to come from this defect. The Nexo is exclusively available in California because that’s the only state in the country to have enough publicly available hydrogen refuelling stations to be worth offering them to buyers. In 2021, Hyundai delivered 430 of them, which was up 107 percent from moving 208 units of the model in 2020. In the first quarter of 2022, the volume was 166 examples, which was 116 percent growth from 78 cars in the first quarter of 2021. +++

+++ In the Summer of 2012, the editor of a national newspaper asked me to nominate and write about the car company of the decade. I named KIA . Oh, how some ‘experts’ laughed. But who’s laughing now? Precisely 10 years later, guess which firm has just taken over the No.1 slot in the Dutch new-car sales charts? Only little ol’ Kia. During the first quarter of 2022 it outsold Volkswagen (market leader here for almost 2 decades) plus the far wealthier parent company, Hyundai (oops – that wasn’t supposed to happen). So how has humble Kia beaten off ‘superior’ opposition from firms across the globe in order to nick that No.1 spot? Simple. It had, and still has, the right youngish bloke (Eui-sun Chung) at the helm. True, as the son of Mong-koo Chung (the big daddy of the huge Hyundai Motor Group) Eui-sun was born privileged. But he’s a top bloke (I know because I’ve shared a beer with him) and he’s done a fine job since recently taking over the entire HMG empire from his ’pa. And, crucially, he seems to be treating Hyundai and Kia more as equals, less as headliner and support act. Chung Jnr. played a blinder by recruiting engineering/handling god Albert Biermann from BMW’s M Division. He pulled another masterstroke by replacing one of the world’s greatest designers (the retiring German Peter Schreyer) with another great (Luc Donckerwolke, Belgium’s most talented man and newly crowned World Car-Person of the Year). Also, when he needed guidance and advice on the press and public relations fronts, Chung Jnr. sought and listened to Kia’s wisest and most experienced PR guru (Brit Stephen Kitson, who spent years in Korea). Put another way, the younger Chung saw to it that Kias are increasingly entertaining to drive, look the part, are fit to win global awards, and boast levels of quality and reliability that give him the confidence to slap 7-year warranties on them. The icing on the cake is that he hasn’t preached to customers. He’s of the view that if they want ICE cars, they can have ‘em. He’ll also happily supply EVs. If you prefer a hybrid, no problem. Oh, and if and when there’s a demand for hydrogen Kias, you’ll be able to buy them because he’s been designing, building and using ’em for yonks. Kia is a textbook example of a brave, young, once-troubled company that’s unapologetically searched the world to recruit the right, highly paid professionals who rapidly engineer, design, build and sell the right cars equipped with the right tech at the right time, and blessed with the right warranties. +++

+++ LOTUS took a massive step towards the mainstream when it released the Eletre, an electric crossover developed with volume in mind. It will continue walking in this direction by launching its first sedan, and a recent report suggests the model will be aimed at the Porsche Taycan. Known as the Type 133 internally, and referred to as a 5-door coupe, the sedan will join the firm’s portfolio of so-called “lifestyle” EVs. It will borrow some styling cues from the Eletre but it won’t be merely a scaled-down crossover. “There has to be some continuity and family identity”, explained Peter Horbury, Lotus’ senior vice president of design, in an interview. “Families aren’t made up entirely of triplets or quadruplets. Every member of a family can have their own character”, he added. While the Type 133 (a name that won’t make the leap to production; the Eletre was called Type 132) won’t be as basic as, say, an Elise, it will be positioned as a driver’s car. Gavan Kershaw, Lotus’ director of attributes and product integrity, told that the engineering team benchmarked the Porsche Taycan during the Eletre’s development process and the lessons learned will be applied to the Type 133. Like its taller sibling, the sedan should feature a long list of technology features, including an air suspension system and rear-wheel steering. Powertrain specifications haven’t been released yet, but the fact that the Eletre and the Type 133 will be closely related underneath the sheet metal gives us some idea of what to expect. Power for the first Lotus crossover comes from a pair of electric motors that zap the 4 wheels with around 600 hp. The battery pack’s capacity checks in at over 100 kilowatt-hours, and an 800 volt electrical architecture enables fast-charging technology. Lotus pegs the Eletre’s maximum driving range at 600 km on the testing cycle used in Europe. It’s reasonable to assume that the sedan, which should be lighter and more aerodynamic, should be capable of going further on a charge. Lotus is expected to unveil the Type 133 in 2023. The model will be built alongside the Eletre in Wuhan, China. +++

+++ Volkswagen’s electric vehicle push may include a PICK-UP as the company is “actively looking” at the idea. Volkswagen Group of America CEO Scott Keogh said electric trucks are the “chance of a lifetime” because “electrification gives you a reset moment”. As he explained, truck buyers have been extremely loyal to Chevrolet, Ram and Ford. However with the switch to electric pickups, customers seem to be more open-minded and this allows other companies to enter the segment and be competitive. Keogh specifically mentioned Rivian, but they’re not the only company disrupting the truck segment as Tesla has reportedly received more than a million reservations for the Cybertruck. While Volkswagen is looking at the possibility of building an electric pickup for North America, nothing has been decided and there’s no word on when the model could arrive if it eventually gets approved. That could be an issue as rivals aren’t sitting on the sidelines as the Rivian R1T and GMC Hummer EV are already in production. Furthermore, the Ford F-150 Lightning will be launched later this month and be followed by the Chevrolet Silverado EV in the spring of 2023. Not to be outdone, GMC is working on an electric Sierra while a Ram 1500 EV concept is slated to be unveiled later this year. As a result, the window for the “reset moment” appears to be narrowing as heavyweights are gearing up to launch their own electric trucks. If Volkswagen misses that window, it could be significantly harder for their potential electric pickup to stand out. Of course, only time will tell if Volkswagen greenlights an electric pickup. Regardless of what happens, the company has been eyeing the American truck segment for years as the Atlas Tanoak concept debuted at the 2018 New York Auto Show. +++

+++ RIVIAN confirmed in the summer of 2021 that it would begin sales in Europe sometime in the first part of 2022. I still don’t know exactly when they plan to start, but one R1T electric pickup was spotted in an airport in Liège, Belgium, strapped to a flatbed, ready for transport. I don’t know if this R1T was brought into Europe officially by Rivian, or if it’s a private order and import. We are, however, pretty sure this is the first and possibly only R1T on the entire Old Continent, or at least the first documented sighting. It is suggested that the place where it was photographed is relatively close to the headquarters of VDL Nedcar, one of the European companies that Rivian has been in talks with about possibly opening a factory in the Netherlands. Rumours popped up online late last year that Rivan and VDL Nedcar, which currently builds the BMW X1 and the Mini (hatchback, convertible and Countryman), had begun talks about a possible collaboration. Rivian initially looked at a location near Bristol in the UK (reportedly the same one eyed by Tesla for a possible UK Gigafactory), but the company reportedly decided against it even after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered a “bespoke incentives package” and promised that he would help speed up the planning process. Sites in 2 other European countries, Germany and Hungary, were also reportedly considered, and at the time (in November, 2021) the Netherlands were not even mentioned as a possibility. Rivian’s business model is all about building the vehicles locally for the markets they are destined to serve. The company also wants to eventually expand into China, so we presume it will want to build a manufacturing facility there too, and we will most likely see new models that are better tailored for markets other than North America. In mid-2021, we also reported that Rivian had trademarked R3S, R4S, R5S, R3T, R4T and R5T as vehicle model names. The company had also previously applied for trademarks for R1C, R1A, R1V, R2C, R2A, R2X and R2R, hinting at a whole slew of potential new models, some of which are quite possibly neither trucks, nor SUVs. +++


+++ The VOLKSWAGEN brand, despite having some North American fans, has long struggled to make an impression on the U.S. market. If, however, its ambition to become the biggest EV manufacturer in the world is to come true, it will have to find a way to capture the market, according to VW Group CEO Herbert Diess. Asked during a wide-ranging interview if the brand would ever give up on the market that has for so long eluded it, Diess admitted the company does sometimes have internal discussions about just how worthwhile fighting for American market share really is. “There always have been discussions, although internally, ‘Shouldn’t we give up the U.S. because we are losing money? We are going nowhere’ ”, Diess said. But he added that simply giving up isn’t possible because it is such an important market. “No, we have to come back in the U.S. We have to become relevant in the U.S. And we are in the right way”, said Diess. And that means electric vehicles like the ID.Buzz, a modernization of the much-loved Volkswagen Type 2 microbus. The ID.Buzz is also part of an important global movement to decarbonize the automotive sector. Diess said that electrification is the only feasible way to improve the carbon footprint of the industry, though that will be a challenge. “Historically there haven’t been too many cases where the successful companies in the old world could demonstrate that they are still successful in the new world”, he said, adding that startups and tech companies are some of the competitors that VW has to take the most seriously in order to survive the transition to electric vehicles, and in its fight for American market share. A big part of both missions is new infrastructure being set up at VW’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant that will allow it to make the all-electric ID.4, as well as other EVs in the U.S. It’s a race that the automaker got into early as a result of its diesel scandal and Diess said that it’s one that the company is taking even more seriously because of Dieselgate. The scandal “is a long-lasting thing. And we have to convince our customers that we are worthwhile considering, and we are delivering a good product”, said Diess. +++


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