Newsflash: Jaguar Land Rover maakt zich klein

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+++ American-Italian electric vehicle start-up AEHRA will launch a €160,000 electric saloon to join its recently revealed SUV, forming a 2-car line-up to take on the “under-occupied” ultra-premium segment. Arriving without a name (no Aehra vehicles will be named), the Mercedes-Benz EQS rival will be styled in a similarly dramatic way to its larger sibling, with short overhangs, a rakish roofline and a signature lighting design front and rear. The second model from the firm, which was formed only this year, will sit “much” lower than the €180,000 SUV, chief designer and former Lamborghini style boss Filippo Perini told, and it will resemble a “concept on the street”. The electric vehicle will also look more like a supercar than a saloon, the Urus designer confirmed, with a sleek body and sharp lines. Perini called it the “best vehicle” he has ever designed: “The exterior is amazing”. Alessandro Serra, Aehra’s head of design, said: “We simply aim to become the most attractive Italian EV brand”. As with the SUV, most of the design will be fitted around the car’s stretched cabin (the dashboard will sit above the front axle) in line with Aehra’s vision of a spacious interior to fit passengers over 6-foot tall “comfortably”. The doors will be “not usual”, confirmed Serra, but he said they will not take the form of the SUV’s scissor doors. The saloon will share 70% of its components with the SUV to minimise production costs and time. This will include the same 3 meter long monobody chassis (the saloon will measure 5.10 meter in length) and 120 kWh battery (no other car on sale currently houses a bigger one) giving it a range of close to 800 km. It is also expected to use the same powertrain set-up, which will be either 2 or 3 motors (1 on the front axle and 2 on the back), depending on which supplier is eventually used. The set-up will produce a similar 800 hp output to that of the SUV. Serra said: “It will have a familiar feeling and the language will remain the same as the SUV, but with some difference at the front”. Perini added: “It is difficult to do a car like this, a premium saloon. You can’t be shy with the design”. Production of the saloon is expected to start 6 months after the SUV in 2025, with the first deliveries pencilled in for either the second half of the same year or early 2026, Aehra CEO and co-founder Hazim Nada told. Aehra says it will produce up to 25.000 units of each model per year. Question for Hazim Nada, Aehra CEO and co-founder: why choose to launch the SUV first and not the saloon? Answer: “Because we think in the SUV the impact of what we are trying to do is more evident, especially as the segment is bigger and more popular. The evolution of our vehicles’ shape is more evident in the SUV compared to the saloon”. Q: What can you tell us about the saloon? A: “What I can tell you is that the designers love it. They’re very happy. It is like a concept on the road and gets very close to a supercar in that sense. Everything you see on the SUV is even more expressed on the saloon”. Q: Why don’t you want to name your cars? A: “We do not want to limit anything or constrict the possible market evolution of these vehicles by giving them a name. At the same time, we think the brand will be sacrificed by giving”. +++

+++ When ALFA ROMEO introduced the updated Giulia and Stelvio last month, changes were limited to the design and a digital driver’s display. A Competizione special series was also announced, but nothing to write home about. There was no mention of any engine tweaks, and now we know why. Head of Product, Daniel Guzzafame, told the automaker has no intentions to electrify the 2 midsize luxury cars. Why? Because it would’ve been too expensive to engineer the Giorgio platform to accommodate a plug-in hybrid powertrain. A mild-hybrid setup using 48 Volt tech would’ve been technically possible for this mid-cycle revision, but the reduction in CO2 emissions would’ve been too small to justify the increased asking price. That brings me to the problems Alfa Romeo is having with both the Giulia and Stelvio since the 2 cars are becoming out of reach for more and more people in the European Union. Increasingly higher taxes on pollution cars are forcing customers in EU countries to consider other models: “In certain markets now, you can not deliver a car that emits 200g/km of CO2. Most people would not buy it”. Guzzafame went on to say fewer people are buying these vehicles “because there are taxes on it because people are not free to move around in that car anymore”. He specifically mentioned France where the Giulia and Stelvio models come with “taxes that are beyond what people are wanting to spend”. Consequently, Alfa Romeo will skip hybridising the Giulia and Stelvio altogether. According to Guzzafame, the next-generation models arriving later this decade will “most probably” have a purely electric powertrain. That makes sense considering Alfa Romeo has already pledged to sell only EVs in Europe, North America and China from 2027. Parent company Stellantis will discontinue the combustion engine in Europe by the end of this decade. The Giulia and Stelvio won’t remain at the top of the lineup forever considering Alfa Romeo is cooking up a larger model scheduled to hit the market in 2027. +++

+++ Drivers should seek to prolong the life of their existing cars rather than replace them with brand new ones, according to BMW ’s sustainability boss. Monika Dernai, sustainability team lead at BMW, told an audience in London that the automotive industry could reduce waste by encouraging people to hang on to their existing cars and retrofitting them with upgrades to keep them fresh instead of constantly buying new models. “We really need to think about prolonging the life of cars; not having a used car market where you sell cars to each other, but maybe take a car and extend its lifespan”, she said. “The idea could be that you could freshen up the interior. We need new skill sets in the aftermarket and to design cars so that the seat can be removed and a fresh seat can be moved in, then it’s a used car that looks like a new car. It can have the same owner, who then doesn’t buy a new car, but we still have a business model as BMW and the whole of society benefits from that”. Dernai was speaking at a panel discussion on the topic of creating a circular economy, the idea of which is that society should reuse and recycle everything as much as possible and have minimum waste. Although Dernai suggested the car market would need to change to be compatible with a circular economy, she said there is still a need for car ownership. “Can we actually just move everybody to public transport?” she said. “I think the answer is no. You’re worried about the public transport in Europe, but if you look at the United States, it’s even more desolate. So I think there’s still a market for cars out there”. Also speaking at the event was Geoff Mulgan, professor of collective intelligence, public policy and social innovation at University College London. He talked about towns such as Freiburg in Germany, where cars are largely prohibited and everyone is encouraged to walk, cycle or use public transport. He acknowledged, however, that such a concept could come across as “puritanical” and “authoritarian”. +++

+++ Thierry Bolloré warned that the chip crisis wasn’t going away anytime soon shortly before his abrupt departure as boss of JAGUAR LAND ROVER and now we know just how bad the situation has got for the British luxury carmaker. JLR is reducing vehicle output at its UK plants until March 2023 as it attempts to tackle a shortage of semiconductors that has hit the company harder than many of its rivals. Production of the Range Rover Velar and Jaguar F-Pace at the firm’s Solihull plant will be reduced until next spring by moving from 2 shifts to 1, allowing the company to concentrate on delivering its most profitable models, the flagship Range Rover and new Range Rover Sport, according to multiple news reports. An extra shift will be added to allow an increase in the production of Range Rover body panels and output at JLR’s Halewood factory, where the cheaper (and less profitable) Evoque and Discovery Sport SUVs are built, will drop from 2 shifts to 1. But Defender production at JLR’s Nitra plant in Slovakia is unaffected. Many carmakers have struggled to secure an adequate supply of semiconductors over the last year, having previously reduced their orders during the Covid-19 pandemic. But JLR has been particularly slow to recover, a situation made all the more frustrating by the fact that it has an incredibly healthy order book of more than 205.000 cars. Car manufacturing in the United Kingdom is running at roughly half the level it was before the pandemic, new figures reveal. Though Bolloré’s resignation was put down to “personal reasons”, the former CEO must have been taking some heavy flak from bosses at parent company Tata for JLR’s inability to deal with the chip issue. The firm has made some headway in its search for a long-term solution, however. Last month it announced a deal with U.S.-based Wolfspeed to buy silicone carbide semiconductors that will be used in the company’s next-generation EVs from 2024. +++

+++ At the Paris Motor Show held last month, PEUGEOT boss Linda Jackson disclosed plans to unveil a new concept. Dubbed Inception, the showcar will portray “the next generation of e-native cars”. In other words, it’ll serve as a window into the future of cars developed from day one exclusively as EVs. An announcement made today by the company with the lion badge reveals when and where we’ll see the mysterious EV on January 5, 2023, at CES. Rather than being unveiled at a traditional auto show or a dedicated event, the Inception concept will premiere at the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show. Yes, Peugeot has chosen a tech-focused event held in Las Vegas to introduce what is shaping up to be an interesting car. Don’t get too excited about the automaker’s return to the US since parent company Stellantis has decided to focus on existing brands active in North America. In March 2021, a spokesperson for the automotive conglomerate told that the “new context of Stellantis with a strong presence on US market leads us to focus on existing brands”. There had been plans to bring back Peugeot after its US exit in 1991, but those were scrapped when FCA and PSA merged to become Stellantis. As for the Inception concept, I’m being told it will portray an overhauled cabin with the next-generation i-Cockpit. Peugeot is “completely redesigning the interior space” and is also “reinterpreting driving gestures”. Stepping outside, the CES-bound concept car will provide a glimpse into the future of design while staying true to the “feline stance and luminous three-claw signatures.” In addition, next-generation features and technologies will be seen for the first time in the Inception. Peugeot has an excellent track record when it comes to designing gorgeous concept cars, so we have a strong feeling the 2023 Inception will also be a stunner. The official reveal will be held live from CES on Thursday, January 5. A digital presentation is scheduled for the day after. +++

+++ Very positive sales results for PURE ELECTRIC CARS in both USA and Europe. The latest data released by JATO Dynamics indicates that the growth in the demand of these cars is not only a matter of China, the world’s largest market for this kind of vehicle. The market share for the BEV (Battery Electric Vehicles) in the USA totalled 5.1% between January and October 2022. Even if it is still small compared to the strong presence of combustion engines vehicles, it is remarkable to see the growth compared to the previous years. During the first 10 months of 2021, the BEVs made up 2.9% of the total market. 2 years earlier, in January-October 2020, they represented 1.7% of all new vehicle sales. Right before that in 2019, the BEVs counted for 1.3% of total market. The popularity of the Tesla Model Y along the good start of the electric pickups such as the GMC Hummer EV and Ford F-150 Lightning explain part of the rapid growth. The trend is expected to continue in 2023 following the arrival of more affordable electric SUVs and trucks. It is important to mention that the consumers in USA buy mostly these vehicles. Despite the progress, the US electric car market lags behind Europe. JATO data for 23 markets in Europe shows that these vehicles made up 12% of the new passenger car registrations through October. This is equivalent to 1.09 million units out of the 9.09 million units for the whole market. The total climbs to 1.86 million if plug-in hybrids (PHEV) are added. Therefore, the European total was 1.9 times higher than the American one. The gap has fallen considerably since 2020. That year, there were 2.5 electric vehicles registered in Europe for every electric vehicle sold in USA. Then the ratio fell to 2.4 between January and October 2021. The European boom is explained by a better infrastructure, more choices for consumers and good deals. In fact, sometimes it is easier to get a brand-new electric car than a petrol one. And this is because of the change in priorities that the maunfacturers are giving to their products. As the semiconductor issue is here to stay, the very few available are being used in the most popular models (mainly SUVs), or in those that are easier to sell (EVs thanks to public incentives). Next year these 2 markets are expected to see bigger numbers for the EVs. The rapid adoption in certain markets is being driven by a more competitive offer. More affordable and interesting products are due to arrive next year. The introduction of these vehicles includes big trucks and SUVs in USA, and small and compact SUVs in Europe. While the awareness among consumers increases, and their willingness to drive electric is enhanced by better cars, it would not be strange to see double-digit market share for BEVs in USA, and more than 20% share in Europe. +++

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+++ While the new plants in Germany and in TESLA are ramping-up production, Tesla is already considering where to build another manufacturing site. According to recent media reports, one of the next gigafactories might be built in Asia and South Korea has a big chance to attract the investment. Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk said during a virtual meeting with South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol that he considers the country as a top candidate for EV investment. However, the decision has not been made and any investment will require reviewing investment conditions in other countries, Musk added. Let’s recall that in the Asia region alone, Tesla would be welcome also in Indonesia, India and probably many other countries. A new automotive plant usually translates into several billion dollars of investment and thousands of new jobs. Tesla Giga Shanghai in China is currently the world’s largest electric car factory with an output that might exceed 1 million units annually. It’s an open question whether such capacity is currently enough for Asia (end export to some other markets, including Europe), or if another plant would be needed to support expansion. Yoon’s office mentioned also that Tesla might step up cooperation with South Korea on supply chains. The company is already closely working with LG Energy Solution, which supplies 2170-type cylindrical lithium/ion cells for Tesla and is engaged in the development of the 4680-type cylindrical format, which initially will be produced in South Korea. In 2023 alone, Tesla expects to buy components worth more than $10 billion. Tesla is also open to actively investing in charging infrastructure in South Korea, but I don’t yet know what it really means: the situation in the country is similar to the US. Tesla uses its own charging standard, while Hyundai Motor Group and other manufacturers are using CCS1. Asia is not the only area where Tesla might build a new gigafactory. Earlier this year we heard a report about Canada and talks with Ontario government. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN badly needs a pickup in the United States, but its top executives appear to have different opinions on this topic. The company’s new North America head Pablo Di Si thinks American Volkswagen dealers are right to demand a pickup truck, and believes any new pickup that Volkswagen potentially brings to market needs to be electrified. Using the purpose-built EV platform that Volkswagen Group is designing for Scout Motors, its independent US brand, sounds like a good idea, but things are more complicated than that. Di Si acknowledged that a pickup, although badly needed, is not on top of Volkswagen’s priority list. “What are the relevant segments in the U.S.? SUVs and pickups. Are we going to have a pickup? I will try. Do we have one now? No. Right now, my focus is on strengthening the SUV portfolio. I will address pickups at the right time, but right now, I have other issues to tackle”. While the former head of Volkswagen North America and current CEO of Scout Motors, Scott Keogh, told in May that the Scout platform could provide an opportunity for other Volkswagen Group vehicles, that doesn’t look likely to happen anytime soon. Volkswagen Passenger Cars’ global CEO Thomas Schäfer made that all too clear to a small group of journalists at a roundtable discussion before the Los Angeles Auto Show. “At the moment, our focus on the lineup doesn’t include it. At the moment, we have a clear lineup all the way through the second half of this decade. Then again, in the American market, if you do not play in certain segments, then you have to stay in a certain market share area. But the question of VW’s new Rugged SUV platform is not our priority at the moment”. Assuming the Volkswagen Group does eventually decide to share Scout Motors’ platform with a Volkswagen brand pickup, that won’t happen until late in the decade, since Scout is expected to launch its first product in 2026. There is still hope for a Volkswagen pickup in the United States, however, as one can count on Pablo Di Si to fight for making it possible. The Argentinian, who headed up Volkswagen’s Latin American region before taking over North America on September 1, was responsible for the Tarok Concept shown at the 2019 New York Auto Show. The compact unibody pickup study has come up in discussions with US dealers as a possibility for the market, Di Si admitted. Now, it doesn’t take much imagination to realise the Tarok would make an ideal candidate for Volkswagen Group’s MEB platform, but it remains to be seen if the automaker is considering such a possibility. +++

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