Newsflash: Land Rover plaagt met extra lange Defender 130


+++ CHINA is in talks with automakers about extending costly subsidies for electric vehicles (EV) that were set to expire in 2022, aiming to keep a key market growing as the broader economy slows, 3 people familiar with the matter said. The move by policymakers comes as the world’s second-biggest economy has slowed sharply (and auto sales along with it) after cities led by Shanghai imposed tight Covid-19 lockdowns from March. The curbs have shut stores, disrupted supply chains and slashed spending, including on new homes. Government departments including the Ministry of Information and Industrial Technology (MIIT) are considering a continuation of subsidies to EV buyers in 2023, said the people, who declined to be named as the discussions were private. China’s expensive incentive program has been credited with creating the world’s largest EV market. Since the subsidies began in 2009, some 100 billion yuan ($14.8 billion) has been handed out to buyers including commercial fleet operators up to end-2021, according to an estimate by Shi Ji, an auto analyst with China Merchants Bank International. The full terms of the 2023 extension, including the amount of the subsidies and which vehicles would qualify for them, have not been finalized, the people with knowledge of the matter said. One specific measure under review would roll back a planned purchase tax increase for qualified electric and partly electric vehicles, two people briefed on the discussions told Reuters. For this year, there is no purchase tax for such vehicles, but the government had planned to raise the tax to 10% of the purchase price in 2023. Instead, the rate would be raised to just 5%, they said. Subsidies have been available for cars made by all automakers including non-Chinese players like EV giant Tesla, which has a factory in Shanghai and is the only foreign automaker with a top-selling EV. The EV subsidy scheme was originally scheduled to be phased out by the end of 2020, but Beijing extended it for two years to spur demand in the wake of the Covid pandemic. The government also cut the amount of subsidies per vehicle over the years as demand surged and manufacturing costs fell. For example, the subsidy for a plug-in hybrid with a range of more than 300 kilometres was cut by about 20% to the equivalent of about $1.900. The program of incentives for buying what China calls new-energy vehicles (NEV) has stoked purchases of cars with longer driving range in particular, as it has raised the threshold on vehicles qualifying for the subsidies over the years. In the highly developed China EV market, smaller battery-powered city cars, most of which don’t qualify for subsidies, make up 40 % of EV sales, according to auto consultancy JATO, and cost on average just under $4.000. That compares with more than $26.000 in the United States for equivalent models. Subsidies are now targeted at bigger models, with a driving range of more than 300 kilometers per charge and priced under 300.000 yuan ($44.459). China’s NEV sales increased 45 % year-on-year in April to 299.000, according to data from China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), while across the whole auto sector some 1.18 million vehicles were sold. But that jump was at a much slower pace than growth in previous month, when sales more than doubled from a year earlier. The association has forecast production and demand to begin to catch up in coming weeks after the April trough, triggered when dozens of cities in China were in full or partial Covid lockdown. CAAM has urged the government to consider additional help for the industry. Overall April vehicle sales were down almost 48% from a year earlier, data from the industry group showed. Some local governments, including Guangdong and Chongqing, had also rolled out stimulus measures to subsidize consumers who exchange their old combustion engine vehicles for new EVs in April. In what would be a separate move, state-owned newspaper China Securities Journal reported that officials would introduce subsidies from June to encourage more rural buyers to purchase cars including NEVs, with payouts of up to 5.000 yuan ($740) per vehicle. Shanghai’s municipal government is also considering how it can kickstart spending after a drastic wipeout of vehicle sales in China’s commercial and financial hub in April. According to the Shanghai Automobile Sales Trade Association, not a single new car was sold in the city of 25 million people during last month’s stringent lockdown. +++

+++ HYUNDAI and KIA are recalling their new all-electric twins, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6, to address a software issue with their electronic parking brakes that can cause them to disengage while the car is stationary, increasing the risk that they could roll away. “The subject vehicles are equipped with a shift-by-wire system that contains a Shifter Control Unit (SCU) and a parking pawl actuator motor”, Kia said in its recall report. “If a voltage fluctuation occurs when the vehicle is off and in the parked position, the command signal from the SCU to the parking pawl actuator may be affected, resulting in the temporary disengagement of the parking mechanism and potential vehicle rollaway”, it said. Every example of the Ioniq 5 and EV6 that were built before April 8, have this gremlin, so if you’ve bought one, expect to hear from your dealer. In the meantime, the brands recommend not parking on inclines whenever possible to mitigate the risk of roll-away should the glitch rear its ugly head. Vehicles assembled after the April 8 cutoff have the new software installed already. While both the Ioniq 5 and EV6 are capable of over-the-air (OTA) updates, the brands are asking customers to bring their vehicles in to have the problem addressed. Customers can expect to receive instructions from Hyundai or Kia some time in late May or early June. +++

+++ The HYUNDAI MOTOR GROUP said on Wednesday it plans to invest a total of 21 trillion won ($16.54 billion) through 2030 for the expansion of its electric vehicle business in South Korea. The South Korean auto group, which houses Hyundai and Kia, plans to annually build 1.44 million units of EVs in South Korea by 2030. The 1.44 million units of EV production volume in South Korea would account for about 45% of a combined global EV production capacity of 3.23 million EV units in 2030, the auto group said in a statement. Hyundai plans to build a new EV manufacturing plant in the U.S. state of Georgia. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the South Korean company would invest $7.5 billion in Georgia and hire 8,500 people as part of its plans to build a new factory. Last year, the Hyundai Motor Group said it plans to invest $7.4 billion in the United States by 2025 to produce EVs, upgrade production facilities and further its investment in smart mobility solutions; technology to improve different modes of transportation in cities. +++

+++ After being spotted in spy photos and patent drawings, the wait for the lengthened LAND ROVER Defender is nearly over. The company announced that it will be revealed on May 31. And it provided the above teaser image with wisps of sand hiding the shape. Of course, with all our aforementioned spy and patent images, we’ve got a pretty good idea what the SUV will look like. And, well, it’s basically just a long version of the current four-door Defender 110. More specifically, it should be 35 centimeter longer than the 110. The wheelbase, though, will be the same. That means approach and breakover angles should be the same, but the extra body hanging off the back will hurt departure angle. The extra length will be very good for space, though, particularly for the third-row seats. Land Rover also revealed the available seating layout for the 130. There’s seating for 2 up front, followed by 3-seat benches for the next 2 rows. That gives it one additional seat over the 110. When it launches, it should be available with at least the turbocharged 4-cylinder and turbocharged straight-6. It’s likely it will eventually get a plug-in hybrid version for Europe at least. I wouldn’t hold our breath for a V8 version. +++


+++ Last August, LAMBORGHINI has green-lit a project to put a car in global endurance racing’s Le Mans Daytona hybrid (LMDh) class, but wasn’t ready to announce it yet. The brand’s head of motorsport for the U.S. said at the time that work on a factory endurance program was “90 percent of the way there”. Now, the last 10 percent has been completed, and the Sant’ Agata Bolognese carmaker announced its LMDh car will start racing in 2024. The class, developed by the U.S. IMSA organization in collaboration with France’s ACO, begins competing next year. Here’s the refresher on the top to endurance racing categories, LMDh and Le Mans Hypercar (LMH), both of which are allowed to run in the FIA World Endurance Championship and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. LMDh cars use a spec chassis provided by 1 of 4 suppliers, Dallara, Ligier, Multimatic or Oreca. LMDh teams can use any engine and electronics they want, but they will all fit a spec hybrid unit supplied by Bosch, a spec lithium-ion battery from Williams Engineering, and a spec gearbox from Xtrac. Max horsepower is limited to about 680. Volkswagen sister brand Porsche opted for a Multimatic chassis powered by a turbocharged V8. It is believed that Lamborghini will buy a Ligier chassis. Since the R8 and its V10 are headed for the dustbin, Lamborghini could use a V8 as well. Every team creates its own bodywork, the limit being a 4:1 ratio of drag to downforce and a single aero package for the year to keep costs down. As the teaser shows, Lamborghinis on the track will be known by their Y-shaped DRL signatures, too. Audi had been planning an LMDh entry, but dropped out when it confirmed its eventual entry into Formula 1. So for the moment, Lamborghini will join other LMDh manufacturers Acura, Alpine (which will switch from its current LMH car to LMDh in 2024), BMW, Cadillac, and Porsche. That latter brand is also going into F1, but hasn’t axed any other programs. The LMH class is based on roadgoing hypercars, a manufacturer required to sell 20 of the retail hypercars over a 2-year period to qualify. Although output’s capped to around 680 hp as with LMDh, manufacturers can develop their own engines, gearboxes and hybrid systems. Discrete bodywork is allowed, held to the same drag-to-downforce ratio limit. The current LMH entries are Alpine, our own Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus, and Toyota. Peugeot enters the series at Le Mans this year — and who knows if a Dodge might follow next year. ByKolles aims to join next year after having its 2022 entry denied, and Ferrari puts its Prancing Horse on the line in 2023. Lamborgini’s Squadra Corse is developing the LMDh car for a 2024 debut. Head of Motorsport Giorgio Sanna could only pin down the “first three or four months of” 2024 for the car’s debut, the hard deadline being the starting line at the 24 Hours of Le Mans that year. CEO Stephan Winkelmann said “Our LMDh prototypes will become our most sophisticated open laboratory on four wheels” as the company enters the hybrid road car era and as it fights for overall victories at marquee races like Le Mans, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and the 12 Hours of Sebring. +++


+++  The MOSKVICH Soviet-era car brand could make a surprise comeback in Russia, as Moscow takes over assets belonging to Renault following the French carmaker’s exit from the country. Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin said he would nationalize Renault’s car factory in the city, after the Western carmaker said it was selling its local business following the start of the conflict in Ukraine. The plant, which Sobyanin said had a “long and glorious history”, will be repurposed to produce the Moskvich brand of passenger cars that were last manufactured 2 decades ago. “The foreign owner has decided to close the Moscow Renault plant. It has the right to do this, but we cannot allow thousands of workers to be left without work”, Sobyanin said on his blog. “In 2022, we will open a new page in the history of the Moskvich”. The Moskvich, which means “a native of Moscow”, was first manufactured in the Soviet Union and was intended to be a sturdy, affordable passenger car, featuring parts made in Russia and communist East Germany. Following the Soviet Union’s collapse, the car’s manufacturer was privatized and later was declared bankrupt. There are almost 200.000 Moskvich cars still registered in Russia, including 46.000 that are more than 35 years old, according to the Autostat analytical agency. For Sobyanin, who called the car “legendary,” the return of the Moskvich may prove practically difficult, Autostat head Sergei Tselikov said. “It takes at least 2 years and at least $1 billion to develop a new car”, Tselikov said. Sobyanin said the revived Moscow plant would initially make conventional cars with combustion engines, but would produce electric cars in the future. He said he was working with Russia’s trade ministry to source as many car components as possible from Russia, and that Russian truckmaker Kamaz would act as the plant’s main technological partner. In a statement, Kamaz said that while it supported the mayor’s decision, issues regarding technological cooperation were still under discussion and it would make an official statement once those issues were resolved. Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West say the fascist accusation is baseless and the war is an unprovoked act of aggression. +++


+++ NISSAN is considering adding a new auto plant in the U.S. to keep up with growing demand for electric vehicles, a top executive at the Japanese automaker said Friday. “It may not be a surprise that we go for a third plant”, chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta told reporters at Yokohama headquarters. Nissan now has 2 auto plants in the U.S.: one in Canton, Mississippi that makes the Titan pickup and Altima sedan, among other models. The other in Smyrna, Tennessee makes the Leaf, Pathfinder SUV and other models. Each of the plants employs thousands of workers and has produced millions of Nissan vehicles. The third plant would not just be an added assembly line to an existing plant but a totally new facility, although it may be built as an extension of an existing plant, Gupta said. That would add several thousand jobs in the area, although its realization would be some years down the road. “The importance of localization will increase year on year”, Gupta said. Depending on the region, customers may receive incentives for buying electric vehicles, and the fluctuating foreign exchange rate may also make localized production more desirable, according to Gupta. His comments come a day after Nissan reported profitability for the first time in 3 fiscal years, despite challenges in the overall auto industry stemming from a shortage of chips because of restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic. Nissan, allied with Renault, recorded a profit of 215.5 billion yen ($1.7 billion) for the fiscal year through March, a reversal from the 448.7 billion yen loss the previous fiscal year. Gupta’s comments also reflect a growing shift toward ecological vehicles to support sustainable forms of energy and transportation amid worries about climate change. Gupta said Nissan, as an alliance partner, would support Renault in its recently floated idea to possibly spin off its electric vehicle division. But he made clear Nissan would not take similar action. “It’s too early to say we go in one direction”, he said. Nissan’s products were more diversified because it had the key markets of China and North America in addition to Japan and Europe, he said. Gupta declined to comment on what might be desirable for the future leadership at Nissan, stressing that special company committees were charged with that task. Nissan has focused on strengthening its corporate governance after Carlos Ghosn, who led Nissan for 2 decades, was arrested on criminal charges in 2018. Ghosn says he is innocent. He jumped bail and fled to Lebanon, the nation of his ancestry. Takaki Nakanishi, an auto analyst with Jefferies, said Nissan’s financial results were within expectations, but he thought its target of selling 4 million vehicles this fiscal year was conservative. “There is opportunity for upside in volume, in our vie,,” he said in a report. +++

+++ SUBARU aims to build a dedicated electric vehicle factory in Japan in the late 2020s, it said on Thursday, as part of a $1.9 billion ramp-up to respond to surging demand for battery cars in its main North American market. Subaru has long had a strong presence in the United States and on Thursday warned that its U.S. dealers only have a record low stockpile of around 5.000 vehicles left, reflecting the squeeze of a supply-chain crunch. It plans to launch a mixed-production line of gasoline and electric vehicles around 2025 before opening an EV-only production line in the new factory after 2027, it said. The move would be a first for Subaru. Other Japanese automakers have yet to formally announce plans to build a dedicated EV factory. Japan’s automakers are accelerating their EV production in an attempt to recover ground lost to Tesla Inc, now the leader in the fastest growing segment of the auto industry. “The market for EVs has been changing very rapidly over the past year”, said Subaru CEO Tomomi Nakamura. It plans to invest 250 billion yen ($1.93 billion) over the next 5 years to bolster electrification. The vehicles produced in the new factory would be exported overseas, Nakamura said, declining to reveal specifics about production capability and whether it would make Toyota cars. The announcement came on the same day that Subaru began accepting orders for its first mass-produced EV, the Solterra, developed jointly with Toyota in Japan. Subaru, however, outsourced the car’s production to Toyota, which has also just rolled out its first battery electric car, the BZ4X. Separately, Subaru reported a 12% drop in full-year operating profit to 90.45 billion yen ($701 million). For the current financial year that began in April, it forecast operating profit of 200 billion yen, more than double the year just ended. +++

+++ TESLA has put on hold plans to sell electric cars in India, abandoned a search for showroom space and reassigned some of its domestic team after failing to secure lower import taxes, three people familiar with the matter told. The decision caps more than a year of deadlocked talks with government representatives as Tesla sought to first test demand by selling electric vehicles (EVs) imported from production hubs in the United States and China, at lower tariffs. But the Indian government is pushing Tesla to commit to manufacturing locally before it will lower tariffs, which can run as high as 100% on imported vehicles. Tesla had set itself a deadline of February 1, the day India unveils its budget and announces tax changes, to see if its lobbying brought a result, the sources with knowledge of the company’s plan told. When prime minister Narendra Modi’s government did not offer a concession, Tesla put on hold the plans to import cars into India, added the sources, who sought anonymity because the deliberations were private. For months, Tesla had scouted for real estate options to open showrooms and service centers in the key Indian cities of New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru but that plan is also now on hold, 2 of the sources said. Tesla has assigned additional responsibilities for other markets to some of its small team in India. Its India policy executive Manuj Khurana has taken on an additional “product” role in San Francisco since March, his LinkedIn profile shows. As recently as January, chief executive Elon Musk had said Tesla was “still working through a lot of challenges with the government” in regard to sales in India. But the strong demand for Tesla’s vehicles elsewhere and the standoff over import taxes prompted the shift in strategy, the sources said. Modi has sought to lure manufacturers with a “Make in India” campaign, but his transport minister, Nitin Gadkari, said in April it would not be a “good proposition” for Tesla to import cars from China to India. But New Delhi had clinched a win in January, when German luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz said it would start assembling one of its electric cars in India. Tesla had looked to gain an early advantage in India’s small but growing market for electric vehicles, now dominated by domestic automaker Tata Motors. Tesla’s price tag of $40,000 at minimum would put it in the luxury segment of the Indian market, where sales make up just a tiny fraction of annual vehicle sales of about 3 million. +++

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