Newsflash: Volvo blijft XC90 naast EX90 doorverkopen

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+++ BMW is celebrating a significant milestone: the German company has built 6 million cars in the United States since opening its factory in Spartanburg in 1994. The milestone car is an eye-catching X6 M that was sent directly to the firm’s historic collection. BMW made the announcement exactly 30 years after it broke ground to build the facility, its first in the United States. Since then, the company notes it has invested nearly $12 billion into the plant and that it exports about 60% of Spartanburg-built cars to 120 global markets. While reaching the 6 million mark in under 30 years is impressive, what’s even more stunning is how quickly BMW increased the plant’s output. The millionth Spartanburg-built BMW (a Z4 M Roadster) was built in February 2006, so approximately 12 years after the facility opened. The 2 millionth car (an X3) rolled off the assembly line in January 2012, the 3 millionth (an X5 M) was made in March 2015, and the 5 millionth (an X5 M Competition) was finished in June 2020. It took a little over 2 years for BMW to build 1 million cars. Notice a pattern? Most of the milestone cars are SUVs, which is what the Spartanburg plant has specialized in for several years, and they’re what sell particularly well. It’s not a coincidence that the 6th millionth BMW with a “made in the United States” label is an X6 M painted in Java Green Metallic and powered by a twin-turbocharged, 4.4-liter V8 rated at 600 horsepower. It’s equipped with a black leather interior. But it certainly wasn’t always BMW SUVs coming out of the plant. The first South Carolina-built BMW was an E36-generation 318i, a car that predated the brand’s first SUV, the X5. +++

+++ Now, this is my idea of wrong place, wrong time. I’m in rural suburbia, it’s early morning, I have a busy day ahead and my car is parked up, in town, 30 km away. But there’s a train station about 5 km from me, and I must head for it, despite the threat of strikes from railway workers. There’s little evidence of taxis (for those who can afford their fares). So I have to walk to the shabby station, wearing out my shoe leather and losing an hour of my day. I languish on the platform for 20 miserable minutes. Miraculously, the train shows up for my 45-minute ride. After that, 25 mins of walking, waiting for, and being hauled by bus. My circa-30 km trip therefore robbed me of almost 3 hours of my life and cost around €20. Actually, make that 6 hours and €40 if (heaven forbid) some poor sod has to endure this sort of slow, soul-destroying schlep as a daily commute from home to work and back again. During a typical 5-day working week, that’s equivalent to nearly 30 hours of punishing travel and waiting time, plus €200 on train and bus fares. No wonder millions of employees now work from home. Coincidentally, a few days earlier, in and around a famously busy town, I drove the cheapest slowest electric vehicle. And genuinely, I’ve never driven anything (not even VW’s XL1) that’s more appropriate, usable or satisfying on increasingly tight inner-urban streets and parking spaces. I’m 100 percent convinced that if I’d had a CITROEN Ami about my person on the morning of my time-sapping commute from rural suburbia, my journey would’ve been massively quicker, cheaper, cleaner and happier. Forget 3 hours of walking and waiting, and 2 modes of lousy, subsidized public transport collectively resulting in a pathetic door-to-door journey time averaging 7mph. The unsubsidized Ami is purpose-designed for exactly this type and length of trip; travelling for about an hour, at an average speed closer to 30kph. That’s not, and isn’t supposed to be, particularly quick. But it’s fast enough, and perfectly reasonable during rush hour, which is when and where this runt of an electric car thrives, although it’ll also happily plod 24/7 in all weathers, unlike trains, buses, blistered feet or skinny tires on pushbikes. I don’t think Citroen, drivers of all ages and incomes, politicians or ailing public-transport bosses and unions have yet fully appreciated the significance of and huge potential for the Ami. Leasing starts at a stupidly low fare per month (admittedly after stumping up a sizeable deposit). Alternatively, put down next to nothing before paying €100 monthly and you can buy/own one outright. Such prices render rural taxis (if you can find one), commuter trains (assuming they can be bothered to turn up), and buses (ditto) almost, but not entirely, redundant. What we’re witnessing here is the beginning of a transport revolution, courtesy of (who else but) the French. +++

+++ When CUPRA branched off from parent company Seat in 2018, its second car was the Leon, first launched in 2020. Although it’s only been around for 2 years, Cupra is already looking to give its hot hatch a redesign. My spy pictures show a Cupra Leon Estate and it looks like the car has received light exterior tweaks. The rear end remains the same with its full-width light bar and bumper design, but at the front we can expect a few changes. There’s a new look to the lower grille and the side air intakes, but most interestingly the top grille has been camouflaged, which could mean a redesign there too. The headlights remain the same, although we could expect the triple light feature taken from the upcoming Tavascan and Terramar models. The wheels look even larger than the 19 inch ones found on the range-topping model. As before, there will be a 1.4-litre plug-in hybrid and the EA888 2.0-litre petrol with 245 hp. The interior might not change drastically in terms of looks, but we could see the adoption of the latest Volkswagen Group technology, including improved voice recognition and touch sensitive controls. +++

+++ The 812 GTS is already a fairly rare supercar, but for those seeking true one-of-a-kind FERRARI , then the SP51 will turn more heads. As you may be able to tell, the SP51 was based on an 812 GTS, before heading to the Ferrari Styling Centre, where it received plenty of design changes. The SP51 joins several other Ferrari one-offs created by the ‘Special Projects’ division. We first saw a commission model made by the in-house design team in 2008 with the 599-based P540 Superfast Aperta and then perhaps more famously the SP12 EC (EC standing for its owner Eric Clapton) which used a 458 Italia as a base. More recently, Special Projects has worked on the SP1 and SP2 which are common in comparison at 499 units produced. As it’s a commission, the SP51 already has a home: a “Taiwan-based client” is as much as I’m told, so you can’t buy it. However, Ferrari is obviously proud enough of its work to share the new car with the public as the brand says it features the “pinnacle of Ferrari’s customization scope and range”. Although much has changed on the outside, Ferrari says the “SP51’s aerodynamics required meticulous honing to guarantee ultimate comfort in the cabin”. There are new headlights, bumper, bonnet and air intakes at the front, and to the side, the surfacing has been reshaped. There are also carbonfibre vents behind the front wheels. The rear of the SP51 still features the typical four circular light units, although they’re a new design. The spoiler is more pronounced and akin to the one found on the more hardcore Competitzione models. The bumper has also been given a new look with a revised diffuser, although not as extreme as the one found on the Competizione and open-top Competizione A variants. Inside, there’s a new blue insert to the seats and dashboard with white stitching, plus extra use of carbonfibre. Underpinning the SP51 is the same powertrain found in the 812 GTS. Ferrari hasn’t said if the exterior tweaks have affected the perfo mance delivered by the 800 hp 6.5-litre, naturally-aspirated V12, although we’d still expect a sub 3 seconds 0-100 kph time and a top speed way over 320 kph. +++

FerrariSP51

+++ A comprehensive trade deal between India and the European Union could pave the way for MERCEDES-BENZ to produce more cars in the South Asian nation, potentially making it an export hub, Mercedes’ country head told on Friday. In June, the EU and India relaunched talks for a free trade agreement with the aim of completing them by the end of 2023. Talks began in 2007, but were frozen in 2013 due to lack of progress on issues including EU demands for greater access to Indian markets for its cars. A trade deal that puts India in a competitive situation or gives it an advantage over other markets where Mercedes produces cars would “definitely help”, Martin Schwenk said in an interview, when asked about the German firm’s export plans. “To produce one car out of India for all markets of the world could be a strategy. But if we cannot, for example, export to the EU without penalties then we will not be able to compete against our factory in Hungary”, he said. Mercedes on Friday launched its first locally built electric vehicle (EV) in India, the EQS 580, the brand’s flagship electric sedan, with plans to potentially build more clean cars in the country. “We are aiming in the next 8-10 years, to fully electrify the portfolio and be an electric manufacturer here. The intention is to build the capability now and depending on how demand develops increase the numbers”, he said, adding the current strategy was not to export. To produce a model in one location would require an annual volume of 150.000 to 200.000 cars, Schwenk said. Although Mercedes is India’s largest luxury carmaker, it sold just 11.242 cars in 2021. At its peak in 2018, it sold 15.500. India is largely a small- and low-cost car market, in which luxury models make up 1% of total annual sales of about 3 million cars. The luxury EV market is even smaller and largely untested, with most models currently imported at high tariffs. The EQS has a certified range of 857 kilometers on a single charge and will be priced at 15.5 million rupees ($190,564). +++

+++ TESLA ’s latest delivery numbers are in, and they’re a mixed bag. The company produced 365.923 vehicles and delivered 343.830 in the third quarter of this year, it announced. The deliveries set a new record for the company and are up from 310.048 in the first quarter; 254.695 in the second quarter and 241.300 in Q3 of last year. Still, deliveries fell short of the consensus of analysts’ estimates, which was closer to 360.000. The company cited logistical challenges as a reason for the discrepancy, noting there was an increase in cars in transit at the end of the quarter that will be delivered after arriving at their destination. “Historically, our delivery volumes have skewed towards the end of each quarter due to regional batch building of cars”, Tesla said in a press release. “As our production volumes continue to grow, it is becoming increasingly challenging to secure vehicle transportation capacity and at a reasonable cost during these peak logistics weeks”. According to the company, Tesla’s production numbers are up from 305.407 in the first quarter; 258.580 in the second quarter and 237.823 in Q3 of last year. Of the vehicles produced in Tesla’s most recent quarter, 19.935 were Model S and Model X, and 345.988 were the cheaper Model 3 and Model Y. As for deliveries, 18.672 were Model S and X and 325.158 were Model 3 and Y. In the past 2 quarters, Tesla cited supply chain issues made worse by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as a shutdown of its Shanghai factory amid a surge in Covid-19 cases in the city, as factors hampering production and delivery. Tesla will post its financial results for Q3 on October 19. Tesla plans to push global production of its top-selling Model Y and Model 3 electric vehicles sharply higher in the 4th quarter and build on that growth in 2023 as newer factories in Austin and Berlin ramp production, internal plans show. Tesla’s production forecast, if achieved, would put the EV maker on track to meet Elon Musk’s goal for production in the coming quarter and put the automaker close to the scale of German luxury automaker BMW by end 2023. Musk and Tesla have a record of pointing to stretch targets the company has not always met. In April, for instance, Musk had said Tesla could hit 60% growth in deliveries. By July, the company had walked that target back to 50% for this year. The ambitious goal came despite lingering supply chain risks, a slowing economy, rising competition and falling Tesla order backlogs. But its forecast, which covers the next four consecutive quarters, sets an ambitious target to produce almost 495.000 Model Ys and Model 3s in the 4th quarter of this year. Those 2 models account for about 95% of Tesla’s output. The production plans would see Tesla blow past projected growth in the global market for autos by close to a factor of 10 in 2023 with a production increase of over 50% for the year. Tesla’s expansion has been expensive. In late May, Musk had said new factories in Texas and Germany were losing billions of dollars, comparing them to “gigantic money furnaces”. Tesla is expected to announce third-quarter deliveries and output as early as Saturday. That is forecast to show the automaker bounced back sharply from the slowdown in the previous quarter when output in Shanghai had been hit by Covid-19 control measures. Brokerage Piper Sandler projects Tesla will deliver 354.000 vehicles in the third quarter. Citi expects deliveries of 369.800 vehicles. Troy Teslike, a Tesla-watcher who tracks production and delivery data, projects sales of 343.779 units of the Model Y and Model 3. If Tesla hits or exceeds those analyst forecasts and then makes the internal forecast for the coming quarter, the company would have global sales of around 1.4 million vehicles in 2022. Tesla’s output and deliveries have been higher in the 4th quarter than other quarters of the year going back to 2018. Its forecast production of 1.59 million Model Ys and Model 3s through the first 3 quarters of next year, would put it on track to end 2023 with sales of over 2.1 million EVs. Including gas-powered car sales, that would make it larger than Volkswagen’s Audi brand and closing on BMW’s sales of 2.5 million vehicles in 2021, the most recent full year of comparable sales. That output would also be just past the forecast of Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives, who has been bullish on Tesla’s prospects. Ives forecasts 2023 deliveries of 2 million EVs in 2023, up from 1.39 million this year. Musk, Tesla’s CEO and product architect, told analysts last quarter the company had a “good chance” of hitting a global production run rate of 40.000 vehicles a week by the end of 2022. The internal forecast detailed to Reuters would assume Tesla can hit and maintain that production through the first quarter. The forecast also hinges on a sharp gain in output in Tesla’s newer factories in Austin, Texas and Berlin. Production in Austin would jump to almost 101.000 by the end of the third quarter 2023. For Berlin, the equivalent gain would be from 51.000 next quarter to almost 90.000 by the quarter ending September 2023. Jörg Steinbach, the regional economy minister of Brandenburg, where Tesla has its factory near Berlin, has said Tesla would be moving to three shifts at the plant by the end of the year. Sam Fiorani, vice president of global forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions (AFS), which tracks production, said it would not be a surprise to see big jumps in output for Tesla from plants in Austin and Berlin since those plants have been running below capacity. “Berlin and Austin are coming into their own next year and that’s where a lot of this volume is coming from”, he said. But he said his baseline forecast did not put Tesla at over 2 million vehicles for 2023. “We don’t have them at that level yet”, he said. “It seems very optimistic”. Fiorani added: “The industry as a whole is still struggling with supply chain issues”. The Tesla forecast also includes an assumption that production in Shanghai, a mega-factory that accounted for over half of its output in the first half of this year, will level off over the course of 2023. Tesla recently upgraded the factory’s capacity. Sources told Reuters earlier this week the plan was to run production at 20.500 vehicles a week for the remainder of the year. The projected growth in Tesla’s output also faces economic risks, an issue Musk himself has raised before. Global growth has slowed sharply, especially in China, the world’s largest EV market, where Tesla faces fast-growing rivals. German industrial production faces uncertainties in coming months over the availability of gas to power plants. In June, Musk had told Tesla executives he had a “super bad feeling” about the economy and was looking to cut staff. +++

+++ VOLVO ’s all-new, all-electric large SUV will be called EX90 and will come loaded with advanced safety tech as part of the Swedish brand’s vision of zero deaths and serious injuries in its new cars. The Volvo EX90 will be sold alongside plug-in hybrid variants of the current XC90 and will be unveiled on 9 November, before sales start in 2023. The EX90 will feature plenty of tech to protect pedestrians, cyclists and other road users, as well as its occupants. According to Joachim de Verdier, head of Safe Vehicle Automation at Volvo, “We believe the EX90 to be the safest Volvo car to ever hit the road. We are fusing our understanding of the outside environment with our more detailed understanding of driver attention. When all our safety systems, sensors, software and computing power come together, they create a preventative shield around you – and you won’t even know it’s there until you need it”. Systems offered on the EX90 include a new Lidar (light detection and ranging) set-up, which uses a scanning laser light to detect objects ahead. Volvo claims the tech can ‘see’ a stray tyre in the road up to 120 meters in front, for example, while it can spot pedestrians up to 250 meters ahead. This works at high speeds as well as in daylight and at nighttime, unlike a camera-based system, so the level of protection is the same regardless of driving conditions. Using Lidar, Volvo claims accidents with severe outcomes can be reduced by up to 20 percent, with overall crash avoidance improved by 9 percent. The EX90’s system is accompanied by 5 radars, 8 cameras and 16 ultrasonic sensors. The latter include parking sensors, while much of the other tech will still be used for pedestrian detection and lane-keep assist, plus convenience features, such as surround-view while parking and semi-autonomous adaptive cruise control. The EX90 will also be fitted with plenty of interior safety technology, including a driver understanding system that features two cameras trained on the driver to assess their concentration and attention levels. The tech observes a driver’s eye-gaze patterns. Volvo believes a driver can focus too much on the road ahead and suffer from cognitive distraction, focusing on their thoughts and not the task of driving. But too little attention paid to the road shows that they are visually distracted, potentially by a mobile phone or another device. Combined with a capacitive steering wheel sensor that knows when the driver is gripping the wheel, the gaze-monitoring tech will attempt to build a bank of driver behavior data and intervene in a manner of different ways when needed. Expect more details on the EX90’s powertrain and tech to be drip-fed ahead of the car’s reveal in seven weeks’ time. +++

 

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