Newsflash: Volkswagen rijdt in 2030 volledig autonoom

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+++ FARADAY FUTURE Intelligent Electric said on Monday it had “substantial doubt” about its ability to continue as a going concern, adding that it is uncertain when it can complete first deliveries of its FF 91 luxury electric car. The company had earlier planned to start deliveries of the car in the 4th quarter of this year. Faraday Future, whose stock has plunged about 94% so far this year, said it would require additional funds to finance operations and ramp up production for the remainder of 2022 and beyond. The company had 369 pre-orders as of November 16, down from 399 refundable, non-binding, paid deposits it had as of June 30, Faraday Future added. The electric-vehicle startup said it had $31.76 million in cash as of the quarter ended September 30, down from $121 million at the end of the prior quarter. Faraday Future had reached an agreement in September with its second largest shareholder to resolve a governance dispute, after the investor sued the company seeking the removal of 2 board members. Much like its peers, Faraday Future has been battling mounting costs and supply-chain disruptions that have delayed the deliveries of its FF 91 luxury electric car. Costs of lithium and raw battery materials have risen this year as the war in Ukraine exacerbated the pandemic-induced disruption of global supply chains. Higher costs and depleting cash reserves have forced investors to question the health of EV startups’ balance sheets. British commercial electric vehicle startup Arrival had also warned of a risk to its status as a going concern earlier this month. Meanwhile, Faraday Future’s third-quarter loss narrowed to $103.4 million, from $303.9 million a year earlier. +++

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+++ One of the most talked-about cars in the US right now comes from start-up brand LUCID , led by Peter Rawlinson. Its all-electric Air saloon famously offers more than 1,000 hp and a 0-100 kph time of 2.8 seconds. So when I was out in the US recently on World Car Awards judging duty, the Lucid Air was one of the first sets of keys I grabbed. And as expected, it was something else. The power and performance figures are almost a side issue; the ability of the Air to travel around 800 km between charges is the bigger story. Yes, it has a big battery (a whopping 112 kWh in the version I drove) but with Lucid it’s all about the efficiency, something the firm says should be the biggest talking point with EVs. I agree. Kilometers per liter is hugely important with our petrol and diesel cars, so we should all be focusing on kilometers per kilowatt hour when it comes to EVs. And for the record, the Lucid boasts a massively impressive figure of 7.4 km/kWh, which is how it can achieve such spectacular figures for its range. Talking to the guys from Lucid, they reference Mercedes and BMW as rivals (and the BMW i7 that I also drove for the World Car Awards is another very impressive thing). The one brand they don’t mention is the obvious one: Tesla. Yet for my money, the Lucid is head and shoulders above a Tesla Model S. It drives and rides better, is built better and the tech is more usable. Lucid’s next model, the Gravity, was also previewed last week. And although we don’t yet know when, we were assured we’ll see Lucids in the Netherlands in the future. The Lucid is very much a premium product, but another World Car Award contender that impressed me was the Hyundai Ioniq 6. It’ll be a fraction of the price of the Air, but it also has efficiency at its heart and will go further on one charge than its Tesla rival, the Model 3. Tesla sales are still flying right now, but the competition’s hotting up fast. +++

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+++ MAZDA on Tuesday unveiled a $10.6 billion spending plan to electrify its vehicles and said it was also considering investing in battery production. The company also raised its sales target for electric vehicles (EVs) to up to 40% of its total global sales by 2030, as automakers worldwide spend billions of dollars to ramp up battery and EV production in the face of tougher environmental regulations. The investment plan by Mazda follows similar announcements this year by domestic rivals such as Toyota and Honda, which have been criticized by environmentalists and green activist investors for being slow in electrification. “We will promote the full-fledged launch of battery EVs and consider investing in battery production. We estimate Mazda’s EV ratio in global sales to rise to a range between 25% and 40% as of 2030”, Mazda said in a statement. Its previous EV sales target was 25% by 2030. The new forecast was in line with a broader industry trend, with consulting firm Deloitte expecting EV sales to make up about 32% of total new car sales globally by 2030. As part of a 3-phase plan, Mazda said it would introduce battery-EV models in the “latter half of phase 2” which it identified as the period between 2025 and 2027. It planned a full-scale launch of fully electric vehicles between 2028 and 2030, the company said. Senior managing executive officer Akira Koga told reporters the 1.5 trillion yen ($10.6 billion) investment would be made along with its partners and would be used for research and development. Koga declined to give a detailed investment timeline, adding it would depend on how fast EVs became popular. Still, Mazda CEO Akira Marumoto said the company will seek to introduce a new hybrid system and improve efficiency on internal combustion engine. “We believe that a multi-solution approach will be effective”, he said. The automaker said it had agreed to work with 7 companies, including electric-component maker Rohm, to jointly develop and produce electric drive units. Company executives also said Mazda had reached a supply agreement with battery maker Envision AESC for a limited period between 2025 and 2027. “Beyond that, we would like to develop a strategy on procurement and securing (batteries) step by step”, said Koga. Envision AESC chief executive Shoichi Matsumoto told last month his company was in talks with automakers in Japan, Europe, the United States and China for new supply deals. Mazda is aiming for about 4.5 trillion yen in net sales for the business year ending March 2026, a jump of about 45% from the financial year ending March 2022, the company said. Deloitte expects total EV sales to reach 31.1 million by 2030, up from an expected 11.2 million in 2025 and 2.5 million in 2020. +++

+++ Over-the-air updates have made it easy for automakers to add features and make fixes to certain vehicle systems remotely. At the same time, the increased connectivity has made it possible or some automakers to withhold features and restrict access to added-cost subscription packages. MERCEDES-BENZ EV buyers are the latest group to face such frustrations, as the automaker is offering subscription-based “Acceleration Increase” services for all new EQ models. EQ owners can upgrade their vehicles with a $1,200/year Acceleration Increase package. Mercedes says the package brings quicker acceleration and an improvement in torque output. Depending on the model, the output can increase by as much as 24%. The EQE SUV 350 4Matic sees the most dramatic drop in acceleration times, moving from a 6.2-second 0-100 kph time to a 5.2-second run. Even the large EQS SUV drops from 5.8 seconds to 4.5 seconds. Those are more than respectable performance gains, but as a buyer, it’d be hard not to wonder why the car didn’t just do those things to begin with. The hardware is already in place, so it’s not like Mercedes has to do anything to make the vehicles quicker. At the same time, these sorts of schemes are almost universally unpopular, and not just with journalists or people with large social media followings. BMW offers heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and dash cam features for monthly or one-time fees. It had previously rolled back plans to charge owners a subscription fee for Apple CarPlay. Earlier this year, lawmakers in New Jersey started the process of introducing legislation banning vehicle subscription services. The bill prohibits automakers and dealers from charging fees for the hardware already installed in vehicles. +++

+++ An internal 2018 Tesla worker survey conducted during a trying period for the company reveals employees voiced concerns about Elon MUSK ’s leadership. The survey was referenced last week in a lawsuit against the billionaire over his more than $50 billion compensation package. Tesla’s former chief people officer, Gabrielle Toledano, sent the survey to Tesla board member Ira Ehrenpreis, who chairs the company’s compensation committee, on March 2, 2018. In her email, Toledano identified 2 key issues employees said they were facing: concerns over compensation and concerns about leadership at Tesla, particularly around Elon Musk. “Review of employee survey results”, Toledano said in the email. “Not good on comp, esp from VPs, and not good on leadership, mostly about Elon”. In the survey of Tesla professionals, managers, executives, and directors, a total of 65% of those polled said they trusted Musk and the executive team to “balance employee interests with those of the company”. 67% said they believe Musk and his executives “care about the company’s employees”. A total of 58% of employees at the professional level or higher said they felt “fairly compensated” for their work. A selection of responses about Elon Musk and his executive team showed employees complaining about his company culture, leadership, approachability and communication, work timelines, and firings. “Tesla is hemorrhaging highly talented, ferociously driven people who truly believe in the company’s vision and continue to hope for its success”, wrote 1 worker in the survey. “Elon is a technical leader of the highest order, and yet is widely seen as an unapproachable tyrant who devalues the contributions of the staff, and may fire them on a whim … we treat people, the fundamental unit of a company, like any other expendable resource”. The worker added that Tesla “fails to distinguish between technical leadership and people leadership”, calling it an “ugly part of Tesla’s culture”. Another worker wrote that they felt “at any point I or anyone around me will be fired”, saying they weren’t planning on sticking around much longer in an “extremely toxic environment”. One worker said Musk’s “ego” needed to change, while another said people were being “bullied by Elon into making unrealistic commitments”. In 2018, at the time the survey was taken, Tesla was struggling to scale production of its Model 3. Years later, Musk said Tesla was just weeks away from bankruptcy during the ordeal. “Watching the crushing blow of the ramp and team demoralization of the Model 3 battery has been extremely disheartening”, a worker wrote in the survey. “More so the blame placed by Elon and the Exec team on lower level engineers without owning any accountability to the poor level of design review, non-reality based scheduling and insufficient resource allocation has lead me to lose all trust in Elon as a leader of this company”. Despite several negative comments about Musk, 98% of surveyed employees indicated they were “proud of the impact Tesla is making in the world”. The survey was cited last week during the first day of testimonies in a Tesla shareholder’s lawsuit against Musk over his pay package, which alleged Musk and the automaker breached their fiduciary duties by awarding compensation that was “beyond the bounds of reasonable judgment”. The email was cited as potential evidence that the Tesla CEO was a “threatening” figure to Tesla staff, including the executives in charge of approving his pay package. Musk and a Tesla spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment from Insider ahead of publication. Last week, Ehrenpreis agreed in court that the quotes were “consistent with a long history of how some people felt”. The billionaire has long been known for his intensity. At Tesla and SpaceX, he has pushed for lofty goals and has even been known to work as much as 120 hours a week and sleep on the factory floor. Former executives have said the billionaire can be a difficult person to work for, prone to bouts of anger and even instances of rage-firing employees; allegations he has adamantly denied, calling them “false” on Twitter and saying he gives “clear and frank” feedback to employees. Most recently, Musk fired several Twitter employees last week after the engineers criticized Musk’s technical knowledge. +++

+++ Despite registrations rising in October, PEOPLE SHOPPING FOR A NEW CAR are being advised to go with an open mind if they want something now or to be patient and plan ahead if they want the car of their choice. New car registrations rose in October; an increase that was in part explained by dealers’ fulfilment of strong order books. It suggests the industry may have turned the corner regarding improved new car supply, except that dealers continue to grapple with low stocks and long delivery times. Posing as a new car buyer, I contacted 5 dealers, entirely at random, retailing a selection of popular models. I wanted to find out what delivery times they were quoting and which cars, if any, might be available from stock. While revealing some general delivery trends, readers considering buying a new car should be aware that depending on their order allocation and current stock situation, delivery times vary between dealers, so are advised to make their own enquiries. The Kia dealer I contacted said the earliest we could expect a Sportage GT-Line 1.6 T-GDi HEV auto was next April. Alternatively, I was told, I could have a last modelyear (MY) version with a manual gearbox in 10 weeks or a soon-to-be discontinued 22MY example, again with a manual gearbox, in 2 weeks. Polestar, which is an online-only retailer, presented a more encouraging picture with a reasonable choice of pre-configured models available as early as mid-December. However, according to its website, cars configured today aren’t expected to arrive until April. A BMW dealer I spoke to said that our preferred car, a 320i M Sport, would take 4 to 5 months to arrive. The salesman said he would try to source something sooner but that it would be a dealer swap and they would need to have something desirable to trade, which would be difficult. For this reason, he suggested we purchase his 320i M Sport xDrive available for immediate delivery from stock. He said the situation was worse for the BMW 1 Series with the earliest delivery being May but if we would consider a BMW 5 Series, I’d have a choice of at least a couple of diesels for immediate delivery. At Toyota I was told our chosen Toyota Yaris 1.5 Hybrid Executive would take 31 weeks to arrive. Alternatively, if we were happy to consider a lower specification Icon finished in grey or blue, the dealer had 2 examples for immediate delivery. The Volkswagen dealer I contacted said that most of its Golf allocation, which included mytarget car, a 1.4 Style 1.4 TSI eHybrid DSG, was sold. Ordered now, the car would arrive in May. Alternatively, it claimed to have a few 1.5 TSI Life versions with manual gearboxes available from stock, although due to the current chip shortage, their mirrors deviated from the official specification in not being power folding. Jonathan Lawless, a vehicle broker, said that throughout the industry, the situation for new car deliveries is mixed. “One day, customers are told they’ll be waiting 6 months and the next, that the car they want has suddenly become available. To get the precise model they want, buyers should plan ahead and be patient because it’s when they have to act fast that they have to take what’s offered. They should also consider other brands, which may be better supplied”. Despite these uncertainties, car makers continue to run campaigns offering sales incentives including finance deposit contributions and free servicing. However, Lawless said these campaigns, although welcome, are much shorter than they used to be. “I suspect the variations in supply are behind the move away from the traditional, quarterly sales campaigns to shorter and more reactive month-long ones. To avoid missing out, car buyers need to check the dealer and manufacturer websites for short-term offers before they expire”. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN autonomous cars will be in the mainstream globally by the end of the decade, according to Thomas Schäfer, with its commercial vehicles (CV) division leading the charge. Schäfer’s comments were made amid the recent news that Argo, the US-based self-driving start-up in which Volkswagen invested more than $2.6 billion in 2019, was shutting down. In response to the move, VW said it was “consolidating its development partnerships”, adding: “Our goal is to offer our customers the most powerful functions at the earliest possible time and to set up our development as cost-effectively as possible”. Alongside its CV division, VW’s software firm Cariad will drive autonomous development in China while Bosch will be its partner for the rest of the world. The German car maker’s plans for autonomous driving have been significantly delayed, but no more so than its rivals. All have been faced with the enormity of implementing autonomous driving amid a backdrop of plunging billions in electrification, a global pandemic, chip shortages and the global legislation issues around the technology. Schafer said: “The technology is available and we are driving in Hamburg and Munich autonomously. The cost of the car is still prohibitive because so little of it gets manufactured. And there’s always the need to prove that the system drives better than a human. The legislation for it is enormous. It’s totally different from country to country”. He continued: “You have to put focus on autonomous driving and that is why we are pushing so hard in the CV division, because once it happens it opens up profit pools and opportunities. I wouldn’t say winner takes it all but it’s a game that you need to be in early. You can not wait and then fast forward so that’s why we’re totally focusing on it”. Explaining some of VW’s issues rolling out self-driving vehicles, Schäfer added: “It’s not as trivial as it seems. It’s the legislation, the camera systems, the chips, the energy consumption and the speed of calculation. The car will be the biggest data collection device there is. It’s really complex”. In the mid-term, VW’s goal is that customers will be able to book an autonomously driving ID.Buzz via its Moia ride-hailing service in Hamburg in 2025. +++

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