Newsflash: waarom BMW liever in een SUV dan in een sportwagen investeert

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+++ BMW ’s decision to give the i7 electric luxury saloon very similar styling to the 7 Series contrasts with the way rival companies like Mercedes-Benz or Audi are approaching their electric vehicles. While this is nothing new for BMW (the iX3 based on the X3 and the i4 based on the 4 Series Gran Coupe are similar examples) it’s not a unitary approach throughout the lineup. For example, the iX flagship electric SUV looks like nothing else the brand makes at the moment. So why did BMW not make the i7 a standalone model too, just like arch-rival Mercedes-Benz has done with the EQS, which not only looks completely different to the S-Class but also utilises a dedicated EV platform? Cutting costs and the limitations of the i7’s multi-energy platform are the first things that come to mind, but apparently, there’s more to it. BMW design boss Adrian van Hooydonk explained the decision on the sidelines of the Villa d’Este Concours d’Elegance in Italy: “That was a deliberate choice. We feel that electric mobility is going to happen but nobody knows how quickly. So, we felt that if we were to combine luxury and electric in one vehicle, that would be beneficial because, otherwise, in the near future we might force our customers to make an uncomfortable choice. ‘Am I modern, do I want to go electric, or do I want a certain comfort and space?’ So, that’s almost an unfair decision that we don’t want our customers to make”. The latter part sounds a bit confusing to us as van Hooydonk seems to imply that a modern standalone electric saloon cannot offer similar levels of comfort and space as an ICE powered equivalent. Unless I’m reading it wrong, that’s not quite accurate as modern EVs built on dedicated platforms are typically more spacious than their ICE counterparts and just as comfortable; the Lucid Air exemplifies that all too well. Adrian van Hooydonk did not say whether future electric vehicles from BMW will adopt the same strategy, although we can think of 2 similar examples to the i7: the i3 eDrive35L recently unveiled in China, which looks almost identical to the 3 Series, and the upcoming i5. Judging from the spy shots we’ve seen so far, the i5 will be the spitting image of the next-generation 5 Series. This may be a short-term strategy for BMW, though. With the launch of the company’s Neue Klasse of dedicated EVs in 2025, the Bavarians will most likely look to differentiate their electric vehicles from ICE / hybrid models from a design standpoint. +++

+++ BMW M ’s first standalone model since the M1 released in 1978 will be a big SUV called XM, and is due out before the end of 2022. While that might sound like a surprising move, especially considering some of the heritage-laced concepts that BMW has unveiled in the past decade, company boss Frank van Meel argued that there is a good reason for launching an SUV rather than making another high-power coupe. “When we did the M1, every car company that wanted to say ‘I have something special’ built a sports car: that was the segment everyone wanted to enter. If you look today at the biggest, most important, and fastest growing segment, it’s clearly the SUV segment. And, in comparison to other manufacturers, we were still lacking this ultimate expressive luxury flagship at the top of the M division”, he told. Unveiled as a close-to-production concept in late 2021, and previewed as a close-to-production prototype earlier this year, the XM will stand out with a love-it-or-hate-it exterior design that seemingly won’t change much as it transitions from the show floor to the showroom floor. Living up to its positioning as the range-topping M model will require a significant amount of power, and it sounds like BMW will deliver. Power will come from a gasoline-electric plug-in hybrid powertrain built around a new V8 engine, tuned to develop 650 hp. Here again, van Meel pointed out that the drivetrain is closer to M’s heritage than it might initially seem. “In our 50-year heritage, we’ve always looked at racing and series-production cars to see where each one is going and what they can learn from each other. We’re continuing this with the XM: it has a V8 electric plug-in hybrid system and our upcoming entry into the LMDh prototype category also has a V8 hybrid drivetrain. You can see that when it works for racing, it also works for the high-performance cars”. Some purists will argue that a coupe with a mid-mounted engine would have been more fitting. But blame the buyers, in this case. “Of course, there is the Mercedes-AMG G 63, the Lamborghini Urus, the Aston Martin DBX and so on. You see all of these high-end, very expressive models. For the customers, this is something that has been missing at M. That was the biggest demand”, he concluded. +++

+++ Car sales in CHINA and Europe remain depressed compared to last year’s levels as semiconductor shortages and anti-pandemic measures weigh on global autos markets, data showed on Thursday. Chinese retail car sales grew in May from April but were still down 16% from last year, according to the Chinese Passenger Car Association, which called for more government support for the industry. In Europe, data from auto consultancy JATO showed new car sales in Europe down 20%, with plug-in vehicle sales (generally more resilient to supply chain troubles in recent months as automakers prioritized electric car production) also down by 1.4%. Though battery-electric vehicle sales were up, the fall was driven by a 15% drop in sales of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, whose environmental credentials are coming under growing scrutiny from European regulators. Overall, car sales in China in the first quarter were 0.2% higher than last year, the Chinese data showed. By contrast, Europe’s year-to-date sales were down 13% by JATO’s figures, at their second lowest level since 1991. Still, further economic data from China paints a picture of a grinding and only partial economic recovery from anti-pandemic measures. Road freight transportation and express delivery from distribution centers last week were both stronger than a month earlier but still down sharply on last year, Nomura Global Economics said. Chinese electric vehicle maker Xpeng is accelerating deliveries after resuming double-shift production in mid-May at its plant in the southern city Zhaoqing, the chairman of the company, He Xiaopeng, told analysts this week. Tesla also added a second shift at its Shanghai plant on Thursday, heading towards making 2.600 cars daily, according to a person familiar with the matter. +++

+++ CHINA is like a different world. Culturally, politically, and economically speaking this country is quite different from what we are used to seeing in the West. It is also the case in the auto industry, where the giant market welcomes a large number of brands and models that are not available in the rest of the world. Their strong local demand has been enough to concentrate on the domestic market, but sooner or later they will expand their business globally. These are the 9 largest Chinese car makers by volume. 9) GAC Group, Guangzhou Automobile Group: In 2021, this company sold 450.000 units of its own brands that include GAC, Trumpchi and Aion. They are basically SUVs of all types, and some saloons along with interesting electric cars. They also produce cars under a joint venture with Mitsubishi, Toyota, Honda and until recently with the late Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. So far, their global expansion has not arrived to Europe or USA yet, but they are investing hard with Toyota to bring more competitive electric cars. 8) BYD, Build Your Dreams: It was founded in 2003 when BYD bought Qinchuan Automobile. Last year, they were able to sell 740.000 cars from different family groups. They include the Dynasty series, among which you can find the appealing BYD Tang mid-size SUV and the modern BYD Han plug-in/electric saloon. There is also the Ocean family with the Dolphin, Seal and many more to come. BYD already sells the Tang in some European markets and has presence in the Middle East and South America. 7) Dongfeng: Dongfeng is massive in terms of brands: Venucia, Fengdu, Aeolus, Forthing, Voyah and of course Dongfeng. It also produces cars for Honda, Nissan, Kia and Peugeot-Citroën. In 2021 this group sold 762.000 units of its own-branded cars (excluding the JV), up by 13% compared to 2020, and by 23% vs 2019. They sell some of these cars in Europe (Seres 3, Dongfeng 580 and F5), but their biggest strength in the global markets is in the light commercial vehicle segments. 6) FAW Group, First Automobile Works: It was founded in 1953, it is one of the key makers in China due to its strong ties with the Chinese state officials. Last year they sold 810.000 vehicles of their own brands that include Jiefang trucks, Bestune mainstream cars, and Hongqi luxury cars. The latter produces the Hongqi L5, the official state car of China. FAW has joint ventures with Toyota, General Motors and Volkswagen Group. Hongqi is present in Europe with the luxury SUV E-HS9 in Norway. 5) Chery Automobile: Chery is relatively a new brand, established in 1997. Their principal products are passenger cars, SUVs and commercial vehicles. It started to export its cars in 2001 but has still a very limited presence in developed markets. However, it has production plants in Brazil and Egypt. Last year, Chery sold 962.000 units of its own brands that include the namesake, Exeed, Karry and Jetour. Most of the cars assembled by DR Automobiles in Italy are Chery origin. 4) SAIC Motor, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation: It is the current owner of MG, Morris Garages, and other brands like Roewe, Maxus and Feifan. In 2021, SAIC sold 1.11 million cars around the world, excluding the sales of the cars made under JV with GM-Wuling (that produces the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV, China’s top-selling EV), Volkswagen, General Motors and Iveco. Through its marque MG, this maker was the second largest Chinese in Europe by sales in 2021 as it registered 53.100 units, or more than 80% of all the Chinese brands sales there, excluding Geely. 3) Great Wall Motors: This privately-owned company is known for its SUVs mainly. It produces vehicles under its own brands such as Haval, China’s largest SUV brand, Wey, Tank, ORA and Great Wall. Although most of the 1.28 million cars sold in 2021 were sold in China, it started to explore the European market through the brand ORA and its retro-designed small cars. Haval is also present in developing markets like South America and the Middle East. 2) Geely Group : It is probably the most global Chinese OEM thanks to its controlling stake at Volvo and the strong push of some of its Chinese brands outside China. With 2.03 million units, this conglomerate started making cars in 1997 through the Geely brand. Years later, they acquired foreign brands like Volvo, the Malaysian Proton and Lotus. They also launched new brands like Lynk & Co (present in Europe with big success in the Netherlands), Polestar, Zeekr and Geometry. 1. Changan Automobile: Headquartered in Chongqing, southwest China, it was the country’s top vehicle seller in 2021 with 2.3 million units, excluding the JV. Volume increased by 15% vs 2020 and by 31% vs 2019. Changan produces vehicles under Changan brand (the second most popular Chinese brand in China in 2021), Oshan and Kaicene. Currently, they have also JV with Ford and Mazda. Last year, Changan sold more cars than other companies like Mazda and Tata Group. +++

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+++ Sport utility vehicles and crossovers have gradually replaced sedans, station wagons, minivans, COUPES and sometimes even convertibles in driveways, and carmakers big and small are reworking their line-ups accordingly. This trend isn’t recent, it’s at least a couple of decades old, and it traces its roots to a wide array of circumstances that go far beyond the “drivers like sitting high” argument that often comes up in this debate. Adrian van Hooydonk, the head of BMW’s design department, gives his take on the shift: “It’s not easy to understand, because when you come here, to the Villa d’Este Concours d’Elegance, many of the cars displayed are 2-seaters. Back then, it was perfectly normal to create an incredibly complex product with only 2 seats. In the not-so-distant past that was still alright. Perhaps, if you analyze each person’s life, there is this period when they want just that. Then, for most people, life progresses into something where they need four doors and the ability to carry a lot of stuff”, van Hooydonk told. This hasn’t changed: folks still tend to settle down and have kids, dogs and, generally speaking, more stuff to haul around. What has changed in the past few decades, in van Hooydonk’s opinion, is what motorists look for in a car when they reach this stage in their life. “In the past, the expectations were ‘I had this for a while, but I can’t have it any longer so now I have that’. Today, people want everything. They want it all, so that turned into an SUV with a sporty character, and then it turned into an SUV-coupe like the X6. It sounded quite strange at first but now it’s very normal. People don’t want to give up a certain lifestyle because they need 4 doors”, he added. Practicality is one of several factors in this equation. Another is the relationship between a car’s fun factor and the concessions that motorists need to make to own it. Driving a Z3 is a blast but only on the right roads. In a traffic jam in 38 degree weather, it’s a bit of a chore. Van Hooydonk opined that the appeal of a cool car isn’t dead, far from it, but it’s the idea of making compromises to drive a cool car that’s fading away. “What does this mean for the 2-seater, 2-door vehicle? It’s quite interesting, and at the moment it’s something that we are looking into. For the most part now you see companies taking these vehicles out of the market. I hope that’s not a trend that will continue, but perhaps times have changed for good. Perhaps people are no longer prepared to make the type of compromises that they were prepared to make several years ago”, he added. All told, the definition of what’s cool to drive and be seen in has changed significantly in the past few decades. BMW remains committed to its coupe and convertible models. Its line-up includes the 2 Series (which was recently redesigned, and which will spawn a hot-rodded M2 in the not-too-distant future), the 4 Series, the 8 Series and the Z4. However, many of BMW’s rivals have left (or are planning to leave) the segments that these cars compete in. Mercedes-Benz axed the SLC and the 2-door variants of the S-Class and it doesn’t sound like direct successors are in the pipeline. Then again, Mercedes has also just released a new SL and is working on a new AMG GT coupe. Unverified reports claim that Audi’s TT and R8 are not long for this world. Will BMW continue to be a safe haven for fans of coupes and convertibles? Time will tell. “That’s something we are toying around with at the moment, but I can’t tell you where that leads to just yet”, he concluded. +++

+++ New car registrations in EUROPE fell 20% year on year in April, with sales of EVs stalling, due to the ongoing shortage of semiconductors around the world. Registrations across 27 European markets dropped to 821.000, figures from market analyst Jato Dynamics have revealed. Year to date, new registrations dropped by 13% to 3.55 million, which Jato said was the second-lowest result since 1991. As well as the global shortage of semiconductors, Jato attributed the drop to the inflation crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “It’s concerning to see European sales falling at such a rate, despite the global easing of Covid-19 restrictions”, said Felipe Munoz, global analyst at Jato. “The worst of the pandemic damaged sales for several months, but the chip shortage looks set to be even more sustained in its impact on the market”. The drop in sales in Ukraine has also affected the overall registration number for Europe. Some 103.300 new cars were sold in the country last year, making it the 20th biggest market on the continent. The uptake of electrified models also stalled in April having previously been “a reason for optimism”, Jato said. EV and PHEV registrations dropped by 1.4% from April 2021 to 154.219. This was the second year-on-year drop since April 2020. According to Jato, the drop in EV uptake is a result of supply failing to meet demand generated by EV incentives. Demand increased by 13% to 83.000. The Peugeot 208 was the month’s bestseller, shifting 15,615 examples across the continent. This figure is 15% down on April 2021, though. The French supermini was followed by the Volkswagen T-Roc (13.998) and the Dacia Sandero (12.913). The top 10 bestselling models in Europe are listed here: 1( Peugeot 208: 15.615, -15% . 2) Volkswagen T-Roc: 13.998, -19%. 3) Dacia Sandero: 12.913, -2%. 4) Fiat 500/500e: 12.835, -18%. 5) Ford Puma: 12.601, -5% 6) Toyota Yaris: 12.448, -28%. 7) Opel / Vauxhall Corsa: 11.843, 30%. 8) Toyota Corolla: 11.678, -4%. 9) Kia Sportage: 11.653, +53%. 10) Fiat Panda: 11.554, -4%. +++

+++ Euro NCAP announced the third round of safety test results for 2022, which includes the all-electric KIA EV6 . The South Korean model does not disappoint and, as expected, has received a 5-star overall safety rating, matching the previously tested Hyundai Ioniq 5. The Kia EV6 score in the Adult Occupant category is 90% (compared to 88% in the Ioniq 5, based on the same E-GMP platform). The result in the Child Occupant category is the same: 86% In the Vulnerable Road Users category, the Kia EV6 noted 64% (vs. 63% in the Ioniq 5). The reason behind the Vulnerable Road Users’ result in the 6x% range is mostly related to the lack of an active bonnet (it could boost the result to a level of 80%). In the Safety Assist category, the Kia EV6 noted an 87% score, which is only slightly lower than Hyundai Ioniq 5’s 88%. Overall, the Kia EV6 might be considered one of the safest new cars on the market, which adds on top of its other advantages like range, performance and fast charging. +++

+++ Development of a bespoke EV architecture for small cars will facilitate a direct electric replacement for the MERCEDES-BENZ A-Class, in line with the firm’s plan to usher in an EV in every segment by 2025. Currently, the smallest model in the EQ family is the EQA: an electric version of the combustion-powered GLA that shares its sibling’s platform. It is 1 of 4 EVs in the brand’s portfolio (alongside the slightly larger EQB, the EQC and the van-based EQV) to use a modified version of an existing combustion-engined architecture. But with the new MMA platform, Mercedes is well placed to take on the Volkswagen ID 3 with a lower-slung premium hatchback that matches the current A-Class for interior space and its rivals for range per charge. The MMA platform is intended, in the first instance, for EVs in this segment (the smallest in which Mercedes-Benz currently operates) and it will bring a step change in the functionality and performance of its entry-level EVs. No doubt the packaging constraints of a C-segment car will mean the ‘EQ A-Class’ comes with a smaller battery than the largest cars on this platform. However, the substantial increase in power density – in conjunction with a greater focus on lightweighting and aerodynamic efficiency, means it will improve on the 438 km range of the current longest-legged version of the EQA. The car will also have a more characteristically spacious and airy interior, given the slim battery pack and lack of transmission tunnel; both of which mean it can also sit closer to the ground, adopting a less overtly crossover-style stance. Importantly, it will also be a much more overtly luxurious proposition than Mercedes’s current entry-level cars, in line with a radical repositioning of the brand which will focus on higher-margin models. So as Mercedes winds down its presence in the compact segment to just 4 models, it will imbue those that are left with refinement and technology on a par with some of the largest and most luxurious models in its line-up. +++

+++ With its appealing headlamps, sleek front grille and eye-catching steering wheel designs, the legendary Soviet-era car, the MOSKVICH , was the pride of any Russian who owned one. Last manufactured 2 decades ago, a surprise comeback for the Moskvich (which translates as “Muscovite”) is now on the cards thanks to the exodus of Western car manufacturers from Russia. When French carmaker Renault announced its departure, Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin swooped, outlining plans to nationalize its Moscow factory (which had once been the production center for the Moskvich) for a modern revival of the classic car brand. Despite the Moskvich’s “long and glorious history”, as Sobyanin, put it, enthusiasts told they are divided about plans to reboot a car many assumed had been consigned to the past. “I heard the Moskvich is about to be brought back to life and I’m really glad about it”, said Alexander Bondarenko, sporting a Moskvich-branded T-shirt. “If they introduce a modern version of the 2140 model, I’ll buy it immediately”. But some Moskvich enthusiasts are skeptical about the plans, sensing political motivations. “The rebirth of the Moskvich is a populist decision”, said Moscow resident Sergei, who declined to give his surname, adding: “It’s unclear what we’ll get out of it”. Amid a widespread exodus of Western companies, president Vladimir Putin has said Russians should be proud of the country’s industrial heritage and wants to boost Russia’s domestic manufacturing base. Other fans of the car said the story of the much-loved Moskvich should remain in the past. “The Moskvich should not be touched: it died; it was killed”, said Stanislav Tsibulsky, referring to the painful demise of the Moscow car plant that manufactured the cars. He said plant workers did not receive salaries for years and thousands lost their jobs. “The plant was pulled down, there was no museum, and now we’re planning on restoring the Moskvich”, he says. “It seems like blasphemy to me”. There are dozens of models of the Moskvich, which first began production in 1946, and weathered the fall of the Soviet Union before being wound down in 2001. In the car’s heyday, people regularly waited a decade to be able to acquire one of the more popular models, the Moskvich 412, which fans say cost around 5.000 Soviet rubles in 1975, when the average monthly salary was 150 roubles. For nostalgic Moskvich owner Sergei Ushakov, the car’s return to life is welcome news, but he says the country’s focus should, nevertheless, be on making modern cars. “This is a rare object that I keep in working condition”, he says, beaming as he presents his 400 model Moskvich. “But there is no need to produce the same cars”. +++

+++ The VOLKSWAGEN GROUP will establish a new brand in the United States focused on adventure vehicles. If everything goes as planned, the so-called Scout marque will become official later this year and in 2024, we will see the first prototypes of an SUV and a pickup truck. The final production models should hit the market in 2026, though it seems that not everyone is as excited about the new brand as Volkswagen is. According to a new report by Automotive News, the National Automobile Dealers Association and several state associations reached out to Volkswagen of America asking questions about how the new brand will be marketed and retailed in the United States. More precisely, the dealers’ associations wanted to have guarantees that any marketing plan won’t violate state franchise laws, according to the online publication. We reached out to Volkswagen of America but the automaker declined to comment. When Herbert Diess, VW Group CEO, announced the new brand, he said Scout will be established as a “separate, independent company” and will operate as a standalone business entity from the main VW brand. At the time, Diess did not explain how the brand’s products (an electric SUV and pick-up truck at launch) will be distributed, though. Scott Keogh, CEO of VW of America, decided to “quickly and clearly communicate Scout’s distribution plan to your dealers who have made significant investments to support VW’s business model and transformation to electrification”. Meanwhile, several dealer associations wrote Keogh generally asking how the Scout brand will be retailed in the United States. The letters varied in tone but everyone wanted to know whether the new brand would sell directly to consumers or be a competing franchise with the existing VW dealer network. Apparently, Volkswagen is not ready to provide more information regarding its retail plans for the Scout brand. However, the Wolfsburg-based automaker promised to “share more news as it becomes available”, so stay tuned. +++

+++ The all-electric VOLVO C40 Recharge has received a 5-star safety rating in the Euro NCAP tests. The Swedish brand boasts that all of its models tested by Euro NCAP continue to be rated at 5-stars. In the case of the C40 Recharge, the results are especially high in occupant safety (92% in the Adult Occupant category and 89% in the Child Occupant category), while in driver-assist systems (89%) the result is the highest among several recently tested models. This is partially thanks to extensive standard safety features. The lack of an active bonnet translated into a lower result in the Vulnerable Road Users category (70%), but it’s still pretty good. Malin Ekholm, Head of the Volvo Cars Safety Centre said: “We always aim to be a leader in safety. That means we adhere to strict safety standards in all of our cars, many of which we helped establish over time. No matter which Volvo you choose, you and your loved ones will drive one of the safest cars on the market.” The Volvo C40 Recharge is the second all-electric Volvo on the market, after the Volvo XC40 Recharge, but the first that’s considered a stand-alone model (without conventional or even hybrid powertrain version). It’s expected that all the future Volvo models will continue to offer top safety ratings. +++

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