Newsflash: Hyundai annuleert Honda NSX concurrent

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+++ FARADAY FUTURE said a “misinformation campaign” has affected its fundraising efforts as the startup looks to start production of its FF 91 luxury electric car. “Threats that began with lawsuits have escalated to threats of physical violence and even death threats”, the company said, adding it was working with law enforcement to investigate. Late last month, some Faraday Future employees wrote to the board and shareholders seeking the removal of executive chairperson Susan Swenson, suspecting she had organized attempts to “push the company into bankruptcy and restructuring”. The Los Angeles-based company said a law firm hired to conduct a “thorough independent external investigation” found the “allegations” were without merit. Earlier this week, FF Top Holding (a shareholder with 36% voting rights in the company) filed a lawsuit against the startup seeking the removal of Swenson and director Brian Krolicki. Amid cooling capital market conditions, Faraday Future has faced hurdles to raise funds required to start production of its car at its Hanford facility in California. The electric-vehicle startup said in August it was in talks with investors for “significant additional near-term funding” after raising $52 million in committed funding with a financing facility to raise up to $600 million. The company has also been battling high costs and supply-chain disruptions that have delayed the production of FF 91 to the fourth quarter of 2022. +++

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+++ FISKER says it will begin selling its Ocean (photo) in India next July and could begin manufacturing its cars locally within a few years, the company’s chief executive officer told. Sales of electric cars in India will increase by 2025-26, Henrik Fisker said in an interview in New Delhi, adding that the company wants to secure a first-mover advantage. “Ultimately, India will go full electric. It may not go as fast as the U.S., China or Europe, but we want to be one of the first ones to come in here”, Fisker said. Electric cars currently make up just 1% of India’s roughly 3 million annual car sales, with insufficient charging infrastructure and high battery costs partly to blame for the slow shift. The government, which wants to increase this share to 30% by 2030, is offering companies billions of dollars in incentives to build their EVs and associated parts locally. Tesla put its India entry plans on hold after failing to secure a lower import tariff for its cars. Like Fisker, it first wanted to import vehicles to test the market before committing to local manufacturing. While Fisker admitted it is “very expensive” to import vehicles into India, the company wants to use the Ocean to build its brand, with its premium pricing likely to limit numbers, he said. The Ocean retails at around $37.500 in the United States but importing it to India would add logistics costs and a 100% import tax. That would put it out of reach of most buyers in a market where the bulk of cars sold are priced under $15,000. “Ultimately, if you want to have somewhat of a larger volume in India, you almost have to start building a vehicle here or at least do some assembly”, Fisker said. The company’s next EV, the smaller Pear, is being considered for production in India but not before 2026, he said. “If we can get that vehicle just below $20,000 locally in India, that would be ideal. Then I think we’ll get to a certain volume and market share”, he said, adding that if they find the right local partner the timeline could be shorter. To set up a plant in India would require volume of at least 30.000 to 40.000 cars a year, Fisker said. He did not directly comment on the size of investment the company considered necessary, but said that to set up a plant with an annual production capacity of 50.000 cars would likely cost $800 million in India. Fisker has a contract manufacturing agreement with Magna International, which will produce the Ocean at its Austrian unit and ship it to India. It also has an agreement with Foxconn to build the Pear. The company is scouting for real estate space to open a New Delhi showroom and is meeting auto component suppliers to source parts for its global production, he said. “Already we are starting to build some relationships”, he said. +++

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+++ FORD has been forced to hold back deliveries on some models because it is running out of badges. Yep, the Blue Oval that adorns their vehicles inside and (sometimes) out. Some individual model emblems are also in short supply and unlike bandits in the Sierra Madre, Ford execs believe very strongly that they need those stinkin’ badges. Ford’s recent supply-chain issues are largely related to non-semiconductor components, meaning chips are no longer the driving concern. Ford executives were presented with the option of supplementing badge production (and perhaps other parts, though this was not specified) with 3D-printed substitutes, however concerns about meeting quality standards reportedly sidelined the proposal. The shortage is hitting the company’s F-Series pickups the hardest, which may explain why they’re again stacking up in auxiliary holding lots. While many supply chain issues stem from logistical congestion far from home, Ford’s headaches could be at least partly to blame on local suppliers. Tribar, which produces plated exterior trim parts (and, at least in the past, has produced badges for Ford), was recently in the news for discharging carcinogenic hexavalent chromium into a tributary of Michigan’s Huron River. Chromium is used in the plating process. When the spill was detected by local wastewater treatment facilities, Tribar was forced to shut its effluent discharge system, limiting its ability to operate. The company was granted approval to resume discharging wastewater in September. +++

+++ HYUNDAI rolled out a number of mid-engine concept cars in the 2010s. None saw the light that awaits at the end of a production line, and that’s because the company’s performance-oriented N division ended up having to can what would have been a rival to the Honda NSX.”We were working on an N supercar”. affirmed Albert Biermann, the former head of Hyundai’s N division, in an interview. He added that the car didn’t have an official name; his team simply referred to it as “The Chairman’s Car”. As for the specifications, it sounds like nothing was set in stone when the project was canceled but Biermann envisioned the model with a carbon fiber tub and a mid-mounted engine that could have worked with a hybrid system if needed. Alternatively, The Chairman’s Car could have used a hydrogen fuel cell. What could have been is a model with supercar power, supercar handling, and a relatively affordable price tag. Kind of like the NSX, right? “Sure, but not boring”, said Biermann. He added that Hyundai’s top brass decided to pull the plug on the project out of fear the car wouldn’t be taken seriously. “The problem was the car would have cost over $150,000, and at that time it was thought a Hyundai could not have this price”, he said. Instead, the South Korean company launched its N division globally in 2017 by releasing the i30 N. Americans had to wait until the Veloster N disembarked here for 2019 to get their first taste of Hyundai’s N brand. It sounds like Hyundai hasn’t given up on planting its stake in the supercar segment. Earlier in 2022, it unveiled a concept called N Vision 74 (a tribute to the 1974 Pony) that’s powered by a hydrogen-electric hybrid powertrain rated at 670 horsepower and 900 Nm. +++

+++ It has been 50 years since the launch of the RENAULT 5 , and to kick off the celebration, a special version of the iconic Turbo 2 has been revealed as a 380 hp electric drifter. The Renault 5 Turbo 3E prototype, which joins the Renault 5 show car, has been created to show that EVs can be fun, said deputy design boss Gilles Vidal, while paying homage to the special sport variants of the French firm’s past. To do this, 3 drift modes have been added; something not seen on the original 1980s hot hatch. These program the car to allow for easy drifts, donuts or just quick, “playful” driving. When one of the drift modes is active, pink, blue and yellow LED stripes flash on the front of the car, adding to the “1980s video-game vibe”. Want to show your mates your drifting skills? Renault has thought of that too, integrating 10 mounting brackets for cameras, such as GoPros, inside and outside the bodywork. Drifting is helped by a rigid tubular chassis, a flat base, a roll bar, a carbonfibre body and a wide steering angle. A deep air inlet on the front of the car aids downforce and cools the battery and a massive wing pushes the rear wheels into the road to keep the car planted. These wheels are driven by a motor each, combining to produce 380 hp and 700 Nm. They can push the 5 Turbo 3E from 0-100 kph in just 3.5 seconds, and all the way to 200 kph. A 42 kWh lithium ion battery powers the motors, which can be fully charged in 2 hours via a 32A charger. A range of around 320 km is expected, although no official figures have been given. Vidal said: “The Turbo 3E combines ultra-tech design and wilfull exuberance with numerous references to the world of car racing and video games. “This pure-electric drifter demonstrates that electric cars can also be fun with incredible performance”. Many cues from the original Turbo 2 can also be found within the prototype, including the iconic huge side-mounted air inlets and rear fenders. The bonnet, doors and cockpit are also the same shape as their predecessors. The prototype will debut at the Chantilly Arts and Elegance contest on 25 September before being shown off at the Paris Motor Show next month. +++

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+++ Toyota has decided to close its plant in RUSSIA, Russia’s Ministry of Industry and Trade said in a statement. The automaker suspended production in St Petersburg in March due to supply chain disruptions and stopped vehicle imports into Russia. Toyota will ensure the fulfilment of all social obligations, as well as significant additional pay-offs to the staff, the ministry said, and will retain after-sales service of Toyota and Lexus cars and maintain its dealer network. Russia’s Kommersant newspaper first reported the plans, citing unnamed sources. The factory, which has a capacity of 100,000 units a year and produced the Camry and RAV4 models, will be preserved and may be sold in the future, Kommersant’s sources said. The ministry and regional authorities are working on possible scenarios to develop the site, the ministry said. Many factories in Russia have suspended production and furloughed workers due to shortages of high-tech equipment and an exodus of Western manufacturers after Moscow sent armed forces into Ukraine on February 24. +++

+++ TOYOTA is on the cusp of one of the most rapid and comprehensive Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) roll-outs from any car company yet, with the launch of a zero-emissions alternative to each of its core offerings alongside standalone models to compete in new segments. The firm has been vocal in recent years about its belief that electrification isn’t the only route to decarbonising the global vehicle parc, but it’s committed to launching a diverse and comprehensive range of electric vehicles to cover the most popular market segments, success in which is crucial if it is to maintain its position as the world’s leading car manufacturer. Like established mainstream rivals such as Volkswagen, Stellantis, Kia and Hyundai, Toyota is using a bespoke EV platform (E-TNGA) as the basis for a new line of EVs that will in effect succeed today’s combustion-engined offerings. The spearhead of this rollout is the RAV4-sized BZ4X crossover, which is on its way to customers now, pending a fix for a wheel-mounting fault that has delayed its global launch. According to a line-up preview given by Toyota CEO and president Akio Toyoda at the end of last year, the BZ4X will be followed by an array of mainstream and enthusiast-orientated EVs, ranging from urban-focused superminis to rugged off-roaders, large SUVs, compact commercial vehicles and a sleek new saloon aimed at some of the world’s most popular EV models. This sedan, referred to as the BZ Sedan in concept form but now thought to be taking the BZ3 name into production, will first be aimed at the Chinese market, where such cars remain hugely popular in the face of a wider global shift towards SUVs. Toyota has recently reinvented its Crown flagship as a strikingly styled, high-riding fastback for China and the US, albeit with combustion power, but it hasn’t made any indication of plans to bring this to Europe. European prospects for the BZ3 look solid, however, with a potential arrival as soon as 2024, courtesy of an onslaught of similarly positioned new models from rival firms keen to steal market share from the Tesla Model 3. Volkswagen will launch the sleek ID.6 in China next year, Hyundai’s similarly positioned Ioniq 6 will arrive in the coming months and there’s a raft of electric executive saloons on the way from nascent, but rapidly expanding, Chinese firms with global ambitions, including the Nio ET5, Xpeng P5 and the not-yet-confirmed but highly likely BYD Seal. The Seal is interesting because a new partnership between Toyota and BYD is set to result in the BZ3 using the Chinese firm’s innovative Blade lithium iron phosphate battery technology, which is said to be a much safer and more energy-dense alternative to the conventional lithium ion items powering its rivals. It’s also more compact, which should give the BZ3 a competitive edge in terms of interior space. Also, European law will mandate that all car makers have a zero-emissions line-up by 2035 and the BZ3, at 4.725 mm long, 1.835 mm wide and 1.475 mm tall, seems well placed to take the role of the big-selling Corolla, an electric successor for which wasn’t previewed in Toyota’s 15-strong EV concept showcase last year. Specifications published on China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology website reveal that the BZ3 will be available with either 180 hp or 240 hp, weigh 1.710 – 1.840 kg at the kerb and have a top speed of 160 kph; figures that stack it up neatly against its direct rivals. Range and efficiency figures remain under wraps, but BYD’s new Atto 3 crossover (a similar weight) covers 420 km using a 64.5 kWh Blade battery, so the more aerodynamic saloon may improve upon that figure if armed with the same hardware. Toyota has yet to reveal production locations for its upcoming EVs. The BZ4X is built at the firm’s Motomachi factory in Japan and by two other Chinese partners, FAW and GAC, in Tianjin and Guangzhou respectively. Investment into other global sites to ready them for the EV era will be necessary, but it remains to be seen whether the Corolla factory in Burnaston, Derbyshire, will be adapted to build E-TNGA-based cars. +++

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+++ VOLKSWAGEN is exploring ways to counter a shortage in natural gas, including shifting production around its network of global facilities, signaling how the energy crisis unleashed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens to upend Europe’s industrial landscape. Volkswagen, Europe’s biggest carmaker, said that reallocating some of its production was one of the options available in the medium term if gas shortages last much beyond this winter. The company has major factories in Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which are among European countries most reliant on Russian gas, as well as facilities in southern Europe that source energy from elsewhere. “As mid-term alternatives, we are focusing on greater localization, relocation of manufacturing capacity, or technical alternatives, similar to what is already common practice in the context of challenges related to semiconductor shortages and other recent supply chain disruptions”, Geng Wu, Volkswagen’s head of purchasing, said in a statement. Russia’s decision to throttle gas supplies to Europe has raised concerns that Germany might be forced to ration its fuel. Recent news that gas storage levels hit 90% ahead of schedule has soothed fears of acute shortages this winter, but Germany faces a challenge in replenishing depleted reserves next summer without contributions from Russia. Southwestern Europe or coastal zones of northern Europe, both of which have better access to seaborne liquefied natural gas cargoes, could be the beneficiaries of any production shift, a Volkswagen spokesman said by phone. The Volkswagen group already operates car factories in Portugal, Spain and Belgium, countries that host LNG terminals. To be sure, any major production shift away from Europe’s biggest economy would face significant hurdles. VW has some 295.000 employees in Germany and worker representatives account for around half the company’s 20-member supervisory board. Any shift in production would likely involve a limited number of vehicles rather than wholesale factory shutdowns. While gas supplies for VW’s plants are currently secured, the company has identified potential savings at its European sites to cut gas consumption by a “mid-double-digit percentage”, said Michael Heinemann, managing director of VW’s power-plant unit. Still, the carmaker said it was concerned about the effect high gas prices could have on its suppliers. “Politicians must also curb the currently uncontrolled explosion in gas and electricity prices,” said Thomas Steg, the company’s head of external relations. “Otherwise small and medium-sized energy-intensive companies in particular will have major problems in the supply chain and will have to reduce or stop production”. +++

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