Newsflash: elektrische Jeep krijgt vorm

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+++ A next generation version of APPLE CAR PLAY is making waves in the automotive space at Apple’s 2022 event. It’s far more than just a minor update to the regular, old screen projection on the infotainment display. No, today Apple proposed a system that would take over every screen in the car, instrument cluster included. As shown, Apple software would power literally every last part of the car’s user interface. By contrast, today’s Apple CarPlay can take over your infotainment system’s display, but that’s where the experience ends. The gauge cluster (if it’s fully digital) and any other ancillary screens are all powered by OEM-designed software. In Apple’s example of the next-generation system, the instrument cluster essentially becomes an Apple CarPlay-powered instrument cluster, using Apple-designed gauges, widgets and more. The look you end up seeing on the cluster is highly customizable with various Apple-designed gauges, layouts and more. But, it would be a unified and consistent experience across every vehicle capable of running this version of Apple CarPlay. In theory, the gauge set of a Porsche could be made to look exactly like that of a Nissan, should both companies decide to support this level of integration. How does this work? Apple says that “your iPhone communicates with your vehicle’s realtime systems in an on-device, privacy friendly way”. Yes, that is extremely vague, but there’s no additional information as of now. At the very least, it seems like the iPhone will continue to require the same wired or wireless connection to the car to make the system run. But again, that’s not made crystal clear here. The integration goes deeper into the infotainment system, too. Instead of having to exit out of CarPlay to tune the radio or adjust the climate control (in cars without physical climate controls), you’d be able to do both within the Apple CarPlay software. This really would be a true Apple takeover of your everyday vital car functions. You’d be able to customize the display with widgets such as the calendar app, music app and more, allowing you to move them between the central infotainment display and gauge cluster as you wish. So, when is it coming? And what cars will be able to run this software? Apple doesn’t have clear answers to either of these, but it did flash some brands up onto the screen and say that they’re “excited to bring this new vision of CarPlay to customers”. Those include Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Nissan, Ford, Lincoln, Audi, Jaguar, Acura, Volvo, Honda, Infiniti, Polestar and Renault. As of now, Apple says it’s going to start to announce specific vehicles that will support it “late next year.” Basically, don’t expect this to hit cars anytime soon, as the first vehicles announced will be toward the end of 2023. +++

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+++ As BENTLEY ’s Continental lineup soldiers on dutifully toward a world without big internal combustion engines, Bentley is doing its best to soften the blow for fans of barrel-chested power. While the W12 may be on its way out the door, Bentley’s V8 Continental GT and GT C are getting a little extra spark in the form of a new driving-oriented S package that borrows some interior and exterior queues from the Speed series. “Owners of Bentley’s 2-door models have long appreciated the breadth of choice available to them, from the towering performance of the 6.0-litre W12 Continental GT Speed to the characterful beat of the 4.0-litre Continental GT V8”, Bentley said in its announcement. “Now, with the arrival of the Continental GT and GTC S, owners can choose to emphasize the sporting character of the 4.0-liter V8-powered Bentley Continental GT, thanks to a package of performance-focused design and engineering features”. Bentley says the S package is for those who are focused on driving pleasure. Standard equipment includes a sport exhaust (the better to announce the presence of that 542-horsepower V8) and Bentley Dynamic Ride, along with a set of 22 inch wheels that are unique to the S model. Inside, the upgraded sport seats bear “S” embroidery, and the dark theme employed on the exterior accents continues on the dash and upholstery. The instrument cluster graphics are unique, as well. “The new S range adjusts the Bentley grand touring recipe to center on the pleasure of driving; an opposing yet complementary emphasis to the ‘Wellbeing behind the Wheel’ concept of the recent, comfort-centric Azure range launch”, Bentley said. +++

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+++ Owners of vehicles equipped with so-called DEFEAT DEVICES have a right to compensation from the vehicle manufacturer, an adviser to the top EU court said in a case brought against Mercedes-Benz. Defeat devices are mechanisms or software that can change vehicle emissions levels, leading to disputes over whether manufacturers use them to mask the true pollution levels of their vehicles. Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to using software to cheat U.S. emissions tests on some diesel engines. Judges of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) are not bound by advice from their advocates general, but follow them in the majority of cases. German lawyer Claus Goldenstein, who represents 42.500 clients with interest in the case, said the opinion was significant by including negligent, not just intentional, behavior of companies, which would make enforcement of claims easier. Advocate General Athanasios Rantos also said it was for EU members to determine methods for calculating compensation, ensuring it was commensurate with the loss or damage sustained. Mercedes-Benz said it remained to be seen how the court would rule and noted the opinion was not binding. The case was brought to a German court by the purchaser of a used Mercedes C 220 CDI, whose exhaust gas recirculation system operated within a temperature range. In colder outside temperatures, the recirculation is reduced, leading to increased nitrogen oxide emissions. The court in Regensburg provisionally established that this constituted an unlawful defeat device. The German court asked the CJEU whether, under EU law, the purchaser of a vehicle equipped with such a device has a right to compensation against the vehicle manufacturer and how this compensation should be calculated. In May, Volkswagen said it would pay $242 million as part of an out-of-court settlement to around 91.000 British drivers over its diesel emissions scandal. +++

+++ The American Justice Department has charged the U.S. business of FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA) with criminal conspiracy in its multi-year emissions fraud probe surrounding vehicles with diesel engines. The carmaker, now part of Stellantis, had agreed to plead guilty to a criminal conspiracy charge arising from its efforts to evade emissions requirements for more than 100.000 older Ram pickup trucks and Jeep sport-utility vehicles in its U.S. lineup and would pay roughly $300 million in penalties. The government’s criminal information charges FCA with conspiracy to defraud the United States to violate the Clean Air Act and to commit wire fraud, said the automaker deceived U.S. regulators and sold the vehicles “knowing that those vehicles did not meet U.S. emissions standards” and also deceived customers “by making false and misleading representations”. Stellantis declined to comment. The government said FCA property subject to forfeiture was $203.6 million. FCA is also expected to pay a criminal fine of about $96 million as part of the settlement. The imminent guilty plea represents the final significant action U.S. officials are expected to take against FCA in the emissions fraud matter. The affected diesel-powered vehicles span model years 2014 to 2016. FCA merged with Peugeot SA in 2021 to form Stellantis. The plea deal comes 5 years after Volkswagen pleaded guilty to criminal charges to resolve its own emissions crisis affecting nearly 600.000 vehicles in a scandal that became known as “Dieselgate”. Volkswagen’s deception precipitated additional scrutiny that resulted in officials on both sides of the Atlantic cracking down on automakers accused of using illegal software known as defeat devices to dupe government emissions tests. European automakers relied on so-called clean diesel technology to make vehicles that could comply with tougher environmental regulations only for officials to find they were polluting more on the road than during the tests that certified them for sale. Automakers are now focusing efforts on battery-powered electric vehicles. In January 2019, Fiat Chrysler agreed to a settlement worth about $800 million to resolve civil claims from the Justice Department and California in the diesel emissions probe. +++

+++ GENERAL MOTORS Korea’s new chief executive Roberto Rempel has made his first on-site inspection to the carmaker‘s No. 1 Bupyeong plant early this month, officials said Monday, making a leadership change official within the US company’s operation in South Korea. The new CEO, however, faces a series of challenges ahead. The carmaker has been making a last-ditch effort to restore its market share amid rumors circulating that it is already in the process of leaving the country. The urgent task for Rempel appears to be resolving the carmaker’s prolonged disputes with a hardline labor union. The disputes have caused a setback in its efforts to rebuild its market reputation and customer base for years, according to market insiders. The labor union has raised concerns over the management‘s decision to shut down a plant and reshuffle employees, saying that this had been ”unilaterally“ decided. As GM Korea plans to shut down the No. 2 Bupyeong plant, the carmaker has switched to a 1-shift system, or regular daytime shifts, from the 2-shift system at the plant. It will also relocate 1.200 workers from the No. 2 Bupyeong plant to the No.1 Bupyeong and Changwon plants by the end of this year. The labor union has also requested for a wage and incentive increase, a difficult request to fulfil considering the carmaker‘s piling debts and plummeting sales. GM Korea’s sales last year dropped by 35.7 percent on-year, having sold only 237.044 units. The numbers are worse this year, as sales for the period between January to April dropped by near 50 percent on-year with only 10.350 units sold. GM Korea is trying to seek a fresh start by introducing new models such as the Chevrolet Next Equinox and a next-generation crossover in 2023. The South Korean unit of General Motors had invested 200 billion won ($159.74 million) on establishing manufacturing infrastructure in the No. 1 Bupyeong plant to produce 500.000 cars a year here. It is currently test-manufacturing 5 crossovers a week to aim for an annual production target of at least 250.000 crossover units at its Changwon plant. Experts say that the carmaker should show its assurance in continuing its business in South Korea by deciding whether to manufacture electric vehicles here or not. GM Korea is the only domestic carmaker that does not manufacture electric vehicles in the country, and has to fully rely on imports. The carmaker announced last year that it will launch 10 such cars in South Korea by 2025. Rempel has previously said the company is considering an electric vehicle project here for securing future competitiveness in the domestic market, without elaborating on the plan. +++

+++ HONDA and Sony recently announced plans to build EVs together, with Honda focusing on the manufacturing and Sony creating the mobility service platform. Now, it looks like the companies plan to make it a separate business. “We shared the view that it is better to make the joint venture independent, in the long run, rather than putting it under Sony or Honda”, Sony president and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida told. Yoshida didn’t provide more details, but did say it’s a “possibility” that the companies may sell a stake in the joint venture or have an initial public offering. “I hope to be able to talk a little about it at some point in the near future”, he added. The companies announced the joint venture back in March. Sony said it aimed to “fill the world with emotion through the power of creativity and technology”, likely via high-tech interiors and fancy entertainment systems. It added that it wants to create a mobility system “centered around safety, entertainment and adaptability “. Last year, Honda announced plans to shift its entire vehicle lineup to EVs and fuel-cell vehicles by 2040. As part of that, it’s going to invest $40 billion and launch 30 new EVs by 2030. It’s not yet clear how the Sony tie-up fits into those plans, but Honda is far behind rivals: its only true EV sold in the west is the niche, Europe-only Honda E. Sony apparently believes that other tech companies like Apple may soon be jumping into the fray, and that EVs will become more connected much like gaming consoles or the company’s Aibo robot dog. “Mobility is becoming more of a service”, he said. “We want to contribute to the evolution of mobility by providing the basis with network functions”. +++

+++ HYUNDAI and affiliate Kia’s U.S. sales plunged last month due to soaring inflation, compounded by an ongoing semiconductor shortage. Hyundai said that U.S. sales declined 31.9 percent on-year last month. Kia’s U.S. sales also plunged 27.8 percent. The poor performance came after the 2 carmakers had seen their combined sales in the U.S. overtake Honda to reach the No. 5 position there recently. They are not alone. Toyota suffered a 27 percent drop in U.S. sales, while Honda’s sales plummeted an alarming 57 percent. An industry insider said: “Inflation has weakened the buying power of U.S. consumers, stoking concerns of a drop in private spending”. Hyundai’s global sales edged down 0.5 percent on-year last month to 324.039 cars. Domestic sales grew 2.1 percent to 63.373 but overseas sales slid 1.1 percent to 260.666. Sales plunged in the U.S., China and Russia, but were buffered by brisk business in Europe, India and Southeast Asia. Kia’s overall sales declined 4.9 percent to 230.455 cars. Meanwhile, GM Korea’s sales dropped 4.4 percent on-year in May to 15.700 cars. Exports rose 9.3 percent to 12.932 vehicles from a low in May last year, but domestic sales plunged 39.8 percent. “We were unable to bring in Tahoe, Traverse, Colorado and Bolt EVs from the U.S. due to supply chain disruptions”, a GM Korea staffer said. At Renault Korea, whose sales started to rise once it started selling the XM3 compact SUV as the Arkana abroad, sales dropped 17 percent to 8.591 cars. A Renault Korea staffer said this was largely because it could not produce enough QM6s due to parts supply problems. Ssangyong’s sales fell 6 percent to 8.282 vehicles. The troubled SUV maker’s orders rose recently because rivals had problems supplying new models, but it was unable to keep up with demand due to the chip shortage. +++

+++ A couple of months ago, Stellantis gave us front and rear images of its coming electric JEEP for international markets. The chunky little guy was a hit, packaging all the necessary Jeep cues into a dinky package: the model will slot under the Renegade when it launches later this year, while still being clean, crisp, and full of attitude. Said to be known internally as “Project 516” or “Junior”, it will be built in Tychy, Poland and in India. I still don’t know specifics about the model, but its looks should draw attention. What I do know is that it rests on the CMP platform shared throughout the Peugeot SA family that also comes in a pure electric version called eCMP. A Fiat and coming Alfa Romeo under the Tonale (which won’t be called the Brennero) are the brand-engineered versions of Project 516. Speaking of names, rumor has it the Jeep will be called Jeepster, a moniker first applied to a Willys-Overland product from 1948 to 1950, then to a Kaiser Motors product from 1966 to 1973, then on a special-edition Renegade in 2020. The Jeepster is scheduled to hit assembly lines in November this year, powered by an internal combustion engine expected to be a 1.2-liter Peugeot unit. The electric version is anticipated for production in April 2023, followed by a mild hybrid trim in January 2024. The Peugeot e-2008 built on the same platform fits a 50-kWh battery powering a 136 hp motor turning the front wheels up to a range of 320 km on the WLTP cycle. The e-2008 is within inches of the Renegade, though, so those specs could shrink for this sub-Renegade Jeep. The electric Jeepster will start with a batteries from CATL, same as in the Peugeot, then switch to cells from Chinese automaker BYD not long after production commences. It’s not clear when the Jeepster will get all-wheel drive, because the CMP platform wasn’t designed to accommodate such a drivetrain. Reports from last year said the Alfa Romeo version, which isn’t expected until 2024, would be the first to turn both axles and then share its AWD system with the Jeep. But that was in reference to the ICE version that would use the combustion engine to turn the front wheels and an e-motor to turn the rears. It’s not clear what’s in store for the battery-electric trim. Stellantis apparently has an annual production of about 300.000 in mind for the Jeep, Fiat and Alfa Romeo; the Jeep sales figured to account for a little more than one-third of that. +++

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+++ SOLID POWER , a developer of solid-state batteries for electric vehicles, aims to begin shipping pre-production battery cells by year-end for validation testing by partners BMW and Ford, the company said. In an interview, Doug Campbell, Solid Power’s chief executive and co-founder, said the Colorado company has set up a pilot production line to provide validation samples to automakers while looking for a manufacturing partner to begin producing its cells as early as 2026. One prospective partner, he said, is Korea’s SK Innovation, which is building joint-venture battery plants with Ford in Tennessee and Kentucky. “Long term, we do not endeavor to be a cell producer”, he said. Campbell said Solid Power has sufficient pilot production capacity to provide prototype battery cells to other vehicle manufacturers, but declined to provide specific detail. The company, which went public through a reverse merger in 2021, drew early investments from Hyundai and Samsung, in addition to Ford and BMW. Campbell acknowledges the intense competition in solid-state battery development among the “big boys: groups like Toyota, Panasonic, Samsung, LG Energy Solution, Hyundai and CATL”. “We’re in a space among a lot of very prominent and credible players”, he said. Like most of those companies, Solid Power’s battery cell features a sulfide-based solid-state electrolyte, the medium through which lithium ions flow between positive and negative electrodes during charging and discharging. Battery cells with solid-state electrolytes have a significantly lower risk of catching fire from internal shorts than those with liquid electrolytes. Campbell said Solid Power’s cells, which currently use silicon-rich anodes and nickel-cobalt-manganese cathodes, have the potential to hold more energy (thus providing electric vehicles with longer range) and cost less than conventional lithium-ion batteries. Solid Power also has designed its solid-state cells to be compatible with current lithium-ion manufacturing processes. +++

+++ TESLA chief executive Elon Musk said that the electric vehicle maker’s total headcount will increase over the next 12 months, but the number of salaried staff should be little changed, backtracking from an email just 2 days ago saying that job cuts of 10% were needed. “Total headcount will increase, but salaried should be fairly flat”, Musk tweeted in a reply to an unverified Twitter account that made a “prediction” that Tesla’s headcount would increase over the next 12 months. Earlier, Musk said he has a “super bad feeling” about the U.S. economy and needed to cut jobs by about 10%. In another email to employees, Musk said Tesla would reduce salaried headcount by 10%, as it has become “overstaffed in many areas”. But “hourly headcount will increase”, he said. According to a Tesla U.S. regulatory filing, the company and its subsidiaries had almost 100.000 employees at the end of 2021. Ahead of his emails on staffing levels, Musk on Wednesday in an email to Tesla employees issued an ultimatum to return to the office for a minimum of 40 hours a week. Failure to do so would be taken as a resignation, he wrote. Musk on Thursday said Tesla’s AI day has been pushed to September 30, and said a prototype of Optimus, a humanoid robot that is a company priority, could be ready by then and could be launched next year. +++

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