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+++ Renault Group sub-brand ALPINE seems to be getting more eager about its plans for global expansion. In October 2022, group CEO Luca de Meo took an optimistic but cautious tone to journalists when discussing the chance of a return to the U.S. market. De Meo said then that an American launch wasn’t under consideration, and, “The Renault Group is not in the U.S. for good reasons. It exited the U.S. twice. We need to make sure that if we make a return, it’s a successful one … you can’t really mess up a third time. And the Alpine brand is in a rebirth, so we have a lot of things to accomplish first, to establish it as a solid, graduated brand in Europe”. In November, de Meo told journalists Alpine’s developing 2 electric crossovers and it’s possible the brand would expand into North America and China. This month, de Meo’s position is that the 2 coming cross-overs are being developed with the U.S. market in mind, the plan being to get them there by 2028. Alpine’s got a huge ramp-up ahead. Currently, it’s a Europe-only concern at the moment with just one car on sale, the A110. Last year, Alpine’s roughly 140 dealers sold 3.546 units of the A110, an increase of about 33%, all of them produced in a Renault factory in northern France with a capacity of 6.000 units. This year, the automaker wants to grow its dealer body to 150 storefronts. Next year, a second model joins the lineup, the Alpine version of the all-electric Renault 5, and de Meo is eyeing an Alpine spinoff and IPO. The year after that, Alpine will release a sporty electric compact crossover thought to be called the GT. The year after that, in 2026, the second-generation battery-electric replacement for the A110 will hit the market. By 2028, the 2 larger electric crossovers will go on sale at home and potentially in the U.S. and China. In all, these 5 products are charged with getting Alpine from 3.546 units in 2022 to de Meo’s target of “north of 150.000” units by 2030. That’s an average increase of 60% per year for 8 years, sales outside of Europe potentially accounting for half of that. The smaller crossover would be about the size of the Porsche Macan and the larger one about the size of the Cayenne Coupe. Renault’s still answering questions as basic as the platform. Within the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, Nissan’s thought the most likely candidate for an architecture since Nissan makes midsize vehicles and now has a pure-electric crossover. But de Meo said partnering outside the brand is a possibility. That could mean talking to Chinese conglomerate Geely, which owns electric SUV-makers Lotus, Polestar, Volvo and Zeekr. Renault is already in a joint venture with Geely for ICE and electrified ICE powertrain development, and the electric Alpine A110 successor is rumored to spring from a partnership with Lotus. Renault hasn’t ruled out tying up with “any leading EV player,” though. We should get ideas of what’s to come when the compact electric crossover debuts in 2025. Design details could trace their way back to last year’s Alpineglow concept (photo), which “”hints at what Alpine cars will be like tomorrow”, while tech features will include Alpine-specific battery chemistry, powerful motors and torque vectoring. +++


+++ Now that the current generation BMWM3 and M4 have been out for a few years, the high-performance variants are officially in full swing. Last year saw the M4 CSL be revealed, but this year BMW adds the M3 CS to the lineup. “CS” stands for Competition Sport and if you’re already familiar with the formula for BMW CS models, this one maintains the trend. The 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-6 engine is massaged to produce 550 horsepower now, a 40 horsepower boost over a regular M3 Competition. Torque output remains the same at 650 Nm. BMW says it found the extra power by increasing boost pressure from 24.7 psi to 30.5 psi. It also features model-specific changes to the engine management software. BMW says the CS features specially-designed engine mounts for a more rigid connection between the engine and vehicle structure. As a result, throttle inputs and the transmission of torque to the drivetrain should be sharper. The CS will only be offered with all-wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic transmission, both of which are necessary to make it the quickest M3 variant with a 0-100 kph time of just 3.3 seconds. That’s 0.2 second quicker than a non-CS M3 Competition xDrive model. Top speed is 285 kph, making the CS faster on the top end by 15 kph. For those who want for rear-wheel drive, the CS’ AWD system can be put in a 2WD-only mode with stability control off. BMW also says it’s optimized the multi-plate clutch’s oil supply to keep the system performing at its peak under hard track driving. Tough luck to anybody wishing for a manual transmission. The chassis gets some choice upgrades for improved handling performance. BMW says it has specially tuned the electronically controlled dampers and anti-roll bars for the CS model. Plus, it features unique wheel camber settings and model-specific axle kinematics tuning. The steering is uniquely tuned for the CS, and the calibrations for the stability control and AWD system are, too. Michelin Pilot Sport Cup2 tires can be fitted as a no-cost option, but conventional (unspecified for now) high-performance tires are available as a standard setup. The tires wrap standard forged wheels (19-inch in front and 20-inch in rear) finished in either Gold Bronze or matte black. M Carbon ceramic brakes are available, but the M3 Competition xDrive’s standard brakes are fitted otherwise. BMW makes sure you know it’s a CS on the outside with a unique kidney grille like the one seen on the M4 CSL. This grille features an “M3 CS” badge on the upper bars and brings red contour lines as a frame of sorts around the outside of it. The daytime running lights illuminate in yellow as a nod to motorsports instead of the usual white light, just like the M5 CS. Exposed carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) is used for the hood (two strips visible), roof, front splitter, front air intakes, mirror caps, rear apron and rear spoiler. Shaving weight is part of what makes a CS product what it is. In addition to the exterior bits, BMW outfits the CS with its M Carbon bucket seats as standard equipment. Plus, a titanium muffler is fitted instead of the standard exhaust system. In total, BMW says the M3 CS is 35 kilos lighter than a standard M3 Competition with xDrive, and that’s before you take into account additional potential savings from optioning the carbon ceramic brakes. The reveal color you see in the photo here is an optional add-on called BMW Individual Signal Green. Frozen White metallic is the one M3 CS-exclusive color on offer, and the no-cost paint options are Black Sapphire metallic and Brooklyn Grey metallic. On the inside, BMW offers a single black Merino leather upholstery option for the seats. It’s accented with Mugello red bits and stitching scattered about. A red “CS” logo is placed on the center console, and the door sill plates say “M3 CS” too. The M steering wheel is wrapped in Alcantara and features a red center marker. Carbon fiber paddle shifter are affixed to it, and the interior’s trim continues the carbon fiber theme. Every M3 CS comes with the M Drive Professional package as standard equipment: this adds the M Drift Analyzer, laptiming functionality and the 10-stage traction control system. Lastly, the M3 Cs features the regular 3 Series’ new 14.9-inch Curved Display and redesigned center stack. It’ll be running the revamped iDrive 8 infotainment system that the M3 adds to the roster. BMW says the M3 CS will be “built in limited numbers”, but does not specify how many will be produced in total. If you want one, it starts at €191.844, including the destination charge. Compared to a base M3 Competition xDrive, that’s an extra €50.000. Production begins in March this year. +++


+++ It feels like the 8th generation CORVETTE just arrived, but it’s been 3 years since the mid-engine icon landed. Since then, we’ve seen the Z06 and E-Ray variants, but the rumor mill’s already churning about the 9th generation car (C9), which is scheduled for debut in 2028. Sources say the C9 Corvette won’t move to a electrified architecture. It will instead get a modified version of the Y2 platform from the current car. Production will continue at the Corvette’s ancestral home in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Interestingly, the C9 won’t share much with the rumored Corvette SUV, which is expected to arrive as an EV. The next-generation Corvette will continue with internal combustion power. In the meantime, Chevrolet has a few other variants planned for the Corvette: higher-performance models. A Corvette ZR1 is expected to arrive in the next few years with a twin-turbocharged V8 and upwards of 850 horsepower. The 4th variant will be the Corvette Zora will build on the ZR1’s twin-turbo drivetrain with hybrid power. The Zora as the last C8 variant, so it will be interesting to see what Chevrolet does with the platform. The Corvette subbrand is expected to launch in 2025. GM Boss Mark Reuss hinted at the Ultium-based vehicles, the first of which will be a SUV. There is little other information available other than a report with speculation on the vehicle’s output. The SUV is said to bring 800 volt architecture, a 2-speed transmission, 4-wheel steering and torque vectoring. If it retains any of the actual Corvette’s spirit, the new model could be a hit. Ford made a similar move with the Mustang Mach-E, and once the initial rabble-rousing died down, people realized it was a legitimate performance vehicle in its own right. +++

+++ GENERAL MOTORS says it will spend more than $900 million to update 4 factories, with the bulk going to an engine plant in Flint, Michigan, to build the next-generation V8 for big pickups and SUVs. Factories in Rochester, Defiance, and Bay City also will see investments, some to make V8 engine components as well as parts for future electric vehicles, the company said Friday. The investments won’t create any new jobs, but they will preserve about 2.400 hourly and salaried positions positions at the 4 sites, the company said. The investments “provide job security at these plants for years to come”, Gerald Johnson, GM’s manufacturing chief, said in a statement. Much of the money, $579 million, will go to Flint Engine Operations for equipment to build the 6th generation small-block V8 that will go into the next round of big pickups and SUVs. The plant now employs about 700 people who also will keep making their current product, a diesel engine used in light trucks. GM, like other automakers, is facing stricter government fuel economy standards and pollution limits starting in the 2024 model year. New vehicles sold in the U.S. will have to average at least 40 miles per gallon of gasoline in 2026, up from about 28 mpg, under new Biden administration rules that undo a rollback of standards enacted under former president Donald Trump. That means the new V8 will have to get better mileage and pollute less than the current versions. Although GM wouldn’t release details on the new engine, Johnson said during a news conference at the Flint plant that it would be more efficient than the current version. GM has a goal of selling only electric passenger vehicles by 2035, but Johnson said that’s a dozen years out, a period when many customers will still want gas engines. “We know that has a horizon”, he said. “Between here and there, there are a lot of internal combustion customers that we don’t want to lose”, he said. In addition to Flint, GM’s engine components plant in Bay City will get $216 million to build camshafts and connecting rods and to machine engine blocks and heads for the new V8 being built in Flint. The plant now employs about 425. The Defiance foundry will get $55 million to build a variety of block castings for the new V8. Included is $8 million for castings to support future electric vehicles, the company said. The plant has about 530 employees. And GM’s operations in Rochester, New York, will get $68 million, with $56 million to produce battery pack cooling lines for electric vehicles. The rest will go for tools to make intake manifolds and fuel injection rails for the new V8. About 745 people work at the Rochester facility, GM said. GM’s plant in Tonawanda, New York, now builds the fifth-generation small-block V8s for big pickups and SUVs, and Johnson said that will continue until the end of the decade. “It is a great organization, a great work force for us”, he said Friday. “Tonawanda will be fine running the current Gen 5 well into the future,” he said. +++

+++ GERMANY for decades led on well-engineered combustion cars. It’s now facing a watershed year in the quest to retain an edge in the age of electric vehicles. Europe’s biggest economy is under growing pressure to retool dozens of fossil fuel-era factories employing tens of thousands of workers in a race for clean-technology leadership with the US and China. Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and BMW are rolling out several new battery-powered models in the coming months that will be pivotal to proving they can finally start to narrow the gap to Tesla and China’s BYD; the 2 clear leaders in EV sales. At stake is nothing less than Germany’s future as a global industrial powerhouse. The task looks more complicated than ever. The war in Ukraine has whipsawed energy prices in Germany, which had to turn its Russia-reliant energy policy on a dime. China, which is emerging from lockdowns, has built a sizable lead processing the raw materials underpinning the EV revolution. Its homegrown carmakers (propped up with huge sums of state support) are now expanding in Europe. The latest threat has cropped up in the US, where president Joe Biden is luring EV suppliers with $370 billion worth of clean-technology subsidies in the Inflation Reduction Act. Tax credits incentivizing the assembly of battery cells and packs are so generous that the US has the potential to become the most profitable location in the world for production, UBS analysts said last year. Calls on Germany and the European Union to respond in kind are getting louder by the day. The threat posed by the IRA has been a recurring topic in talks at the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering in Davos this week, with several European leaders demanding more aggressive subsidies at home. They’re unhappy about the US’s approach, which they say favors American firms and puts their EU rivals at a disadvantage. Interestingly, chancellor Olaf Scholz hasn’t complained much, despite having as much to lose as anyone. The automotive industry employs around 786.000 people in Germany and is the country’s biggest in terms of investments, sales and exports. Any setbacks for the nation’s carmakers and their suppliers would reverberate throughout the wider German economy. In an interview, Scholz struck a conciliatory tone, saying his government appreciates and broadly supports what Biden is trying to achieve, and is “working very hard to avoid” a trade war. That’s understandable, given Germany’s reliance on exports. But the consequences of missteps remain. Just ask the United Kingdom, which is reeling from the collapse of Britishvolt, a company the government was counting on becoming a big domestic battery player. Berlin last week pledged an additional €1 billion for battery projects as part of a larger European aid package, but that’s dwarfed by what the US is offering. Bloomberg has tracked almost $28 billion in new electric mobility-related investment announcements in North America since the IRA passed in August. Europe’s best hope for a homegrown battery startup, Sweden’s Northvolt, is considering delaying plans for a major cell factory in Germany, and instead expanding first in North America. Germany won’t completely miss out. China’s CATL, the world’s biggest maker of EV batteries, has started production at its first European cell plant in the eastern German city of Erfurt. Volkswagen is building a battery factory in Salzgitter that will be able to produce 40 gigawatt-hours of cells per year, enough for roughly 500.000 EVs. But the country’s carmakers still have a ways to go in convincing drivers to buy into their EV shift. Tesla last week made deep price cuts in the US and Europe, on the heels of two rounds of reductions in China. Those are signs chief executive officer Elon Musk is willing to act aggressively to keep the company growing. Musk’s erratic behavior in recent months may create an opening for mass manufacturers like Volkswagen, but the German giant needs to fix software issues that have recently put off buyers. Both BMW and Mercedes have made messes recently with their attempts to squeeze owners for more money to unlock software-enabled features. All 3 manufacturers need to sort out supply chain issues that have contributed to declining sales. Germany and Europe “risk falling behind” in the global race for clean mobility, Hildegard Müller, who heads Germany’s VDA auto lobby, said last week, after the country’s carmakers met with Scholz in the chancellery. “Berlin and Brussels must ensure Europe’s competitiveness as quickly as possible”. +++

+++ HONDA just celebrated its 40th anniversary of U.S. production, and now it has reached another milestone: 30 million cars built in America. Its first automotive factory went into operation in 1982 building the Accord, the first Japanese car factory in America. Over the past 40 years, Honda has built an average of 750.000 cars in the U.S. every year. That first Honda car plant was in Ohio and in that first year of production, Honda only built 968 Accords. The following year that jumped past 55.000. Honda did start building vehicles there earlier, in 1979, but they were motorcycles, not cars. Honda still builds Accords in Marysville, but it’s now joined by the Acura TLX and the new Integra, too. Most of Honda’s automotive manufacturing facilities are in Ohio, but it also builds components and full cars in Alabama, Georgia and Indiana. Of course, Honda builds more than cars, including in America. In South Carolina it builds ATVs and side-by-sides, and in North Carolina it builds power equipment, jet engines and the HondaJet itself. +++

+++ It has been interesting to see the speed of movement and paths taken by various automakers in the move to electrification. Some have moved rapidly, releasing new models and developing concept cars without delay. Others have taken a much more measured approach, though it appears that mentality has left some playing catch-up. HONDA was slower to shout about its new EVs and when it did, the automaker announced partnerships with other major automakers to get the job done. Honda first announced its partnership with General Motors to develop and produce a line of affordable new EVs. Shortly after, we saw Afeela, Honda and Sony’s joint EV effort. Recently, the automaker announced plans to create a dedicated business division for electrification, which it hopes will help it compete in the exploding world of EVs. The changes go into effect on April 1 and will handle electrification efforts across several Honda product lines, including vehicles, power products and motorcycles. 6 regional units will consolidate into 3, which will help Honda become more nimble and faster in addressing issues. Honda wants to be a significant player in the EV space and said it plans 30 electric models by 2030. Its goal is to produce 2 million electric vehicles annually by the decade’s end, but its late movement isn’t an advantage. Honda, along with Toyota, Mazda and Subaru, have all been slowly moving into electrification. Toyota’s CEO still doggedly insists that hydrogen and other fuel sources are just as important. Though he may be right, the market is moving toward the most commercially viable technologies, which for now are traditional EVs. Hydrogen is currently only available in California, and solar power is in its infancy. The good news for Japanese automakers is that many have the resources to invest and develop EV tech. Nissan and Mitsubishi may not, but they have each other and can pool resources between their alliance with Renault. +++

+++ LAMBORGHINI is sprinkling various European intellectual property offices with bits of its future V12 super sports car it wants to protect. The internet continues to dig those bits up. After a couple of spy specialists found line drawings of the hybrid V12 coupe filed with the World Intellectual Property Office in North Macedonia, a sound clip of the V12 in electric mode, filed with the European Intellectual Property Office, was found. Spy shots have showed the car will come with a City Mode that’s expected to enable battery-only motivation. The audio clip appears to present 3 modes of the electric driving sounds required of all electric-capable vehicles to warn pedestrians of the EV’s approach. The first sample was made under steady-state driving. It sounds a little like dark ambient ASMR with some wind in the background, like something from Atrium Carceri or Metatron Omega. The second would be under acceleration, the sinister electric symphony rising in pitch then fading as the unheard V12 internal combustion engine takes over. The last clip would be the reverse, as the V12 gives way to the battery again. There’s nothing amiss in any of the sounds, but I find myselve thinking there’s nothing especially Lamborghini about them, either. That’s not a slight against the crew from Sant’ Agata, that’s a statement about what the future of hybrid and electric supercars could mean to us everywhere outside of a highway or Cars and Coffee. It could make Dodge’s Fratzonic Exhaust that much more interesting assuming the production sonics match what I’ve been told, and a recent Ferrari patent shows a rival group of Italians trying to forestall roads full of computer monitor noises with a “sonority current”. +++

+++ POLESTAR is making significant changes to the 2 for the 2024 model year. The entry-level version of the electric sedan makes the switch from front- to rear-wheel-drive, and all variants regardless of drivetrain configuration get a new-look design, more range, and additional features. Going from front- to rear-wheel-drive is a major change that would be considerably more difficult to achieve with a gasoline-powered car but that’s reasonably straight-forward in an electric vehicle. Polestar took advantage of the new layout to update the motors: both the rear- and the all-wheel-drive versions of the 2 receive next-generation motors and inverters, and they’re much quicker than the models they replace. The rear-wheeldrive 2’s motor is rated at 299 hp and 500 Nm of torque, up from 231 hp and 330 Nm, respectively, in the outgoing front-wheeldrive model. The extra power lowers the 0-to-100 kph time to 5.9 seconds (1.1 quicker than before). The dual-motor all-wheel-drive system’s output checks in at 421 horsepower and 720 Nm of torque, and engineers dialed in a rear bias for sharper handling. Driving range improves as well, thanks in part to a new, bigger battery pack with a usable capacity of 82 kWh, while the dual-motor version keeps its 78 kWh pack but is now rated at a higher mileage thanks in part to a function that disconnects the front motor when it’s not needed. Polestar notes that the rear-wheel-drive 2 is compatible with 205 kW DC fast charging. Interestingly, the all-wheel-drive model isn’t; it tops out at 155 kW. The optional Performance Pack remains available, and it now includes 20 inch alloy wheels whose design is inspired by the rims fitted to the 3 in addition to Brembo brakes, Öhlins dual-flow valve dampers and gold-colored seatbelts. It also increases the all-wheel-drive 2’s output to 455 horsepower and lowers the 0-to-100 kph time to 4.3 seconds. While only cars ordered new with the package get the 20-inch wheels, the Öhlins suspension and the specific seatbelts, the power hike is also available with a downloadable, over-the-air software update. Most of the visual changes are found up front, where designers replaced the 2’s grille with what Polestar calls a SmartZone. Also found on the 3 revealed in 2022, the SmartZone is a piece of trim that houses hardware like the front-facing camera and the mid-range Radar. Polestar hasn’t revealed photos of the 2’s interior but it doesn’t sound like much has changed from a design perspective. However, the all-wheel-drive 2’s list of standard features grows with the addition of the Pilot Pack, which bundles a blind spot information system with steering support, cross-traffic alert with brake support, a rear collision warning mitigation system, adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree camera, Pilot Assist technology, auto-dimming door mirrors, and LED front fog lights with cornering assist. The wireless phone charger is standard as well. On sale now, the upgraded Polestar 2 will enter production later in 2023. +++


+++ While Tesla’s epic stock-price collapse dominated headlines over the past year, for some SMALLER ELECTRIC VEHICLE COMPANIES the rout has been even worse, a sign that investors see few attractive alternatives in the sector. 2 of the most prominent new EV makers, Rivian and Lucid, have lost roughly 90% of their equity values from their bull-market peaks, compared with a 69% drop for Tesla. The companies have struggled to ramp up output of vehicles amid supply-chain woes just as investors grew leery of highly valued companies with no earnings. “Tesla’s stock performance has certainly had an impact on the group, and this group’s own production issues have also weighed”, said Canaccord Genuity analyst George Gianarikas. The staggering 740% climb for Tesla shares in 2020 helped spur investor euphoria around the sector. EV stocks of all kinds (whether the companies were making passenger cars, commercial vehicles, buses or niche autos) exploded as well, with even the tiniest names commanding valuations of several billion dollars. Rivian and Lucid were touted as potential “next Teslas”, with valuations bigger than century-old legacy car companies. Lucid began trading in July 2021 and its equity value topped out at $91 billion in November that year. Rivian shares peaked just days after its November 2021 initial public offering, valuing the company at $153 billion; more than Volkswagen, despite Rivian having zero revenue at the time. Rising interest rates over the past year and fears of a recession have curbed investors’ risk appetite, causing them to flee unprofitable companies with high expected growth. Rivian is now worth $14.8 billion, while Lucid is valued at $13.7 billion. Even Tesla, which is profitable, plunged, casting a shadow over the rest of the industry. Lucid built 7.180 Air Sedans in 2022, a far cry from its projection of 20.000 vehicles at the beginning of that year, as it struggled with supply-chain snags and logistics problems. Rivian also narrowly missed its annual production target of making 25.000 cars. Their sinking share prices will raise the cost of equity financing for the carmakers, which are still investing heavily in their businesses. Lucid, which had $3.3 billion of cash, said in November it could raise up to $1.5 billion in equity in subsequent months. For now, Rivian has no immediate need to tap capital markets. The company had about $13.2 billion in cash as of September 30, which it said is enough until 2025, though it’s been spending a lot to bring models to market and expand production. “People are worried that given the pace of production, they will not be able to make cars fast enough to reach that point where they will not need to raise cash anymore”, Canaccord’s Gianarikas said of Rivian. The EV startups appear increasingly risky at a time when investors are looking for safe assets. Car manufacturing was already a capital-intensive, supply-chain-focused business. On top of that, the industry is highly sensitive to economic swings and climbing borrowing costs that drive up the cost of financing a car purchase. And as consumers tighten their purse strings, EVs that are typically more expensive than gasoline-powered vehicles are bound to take a harder hit. “Most unprofitable technology stocks got hard hit last year due to tightening Fed policies and commensurate impact on interest rates”, said Ivana Delevska, chief investment officer at SPEAR Invest. “But in addition to that, fundamentals for EVs deteriorated in the 4th quarter as it became clear that too much supply was coming on the market”. For Rivian, the selloff has been especially ugly. It has performed worse than Tesla and Lucid, as well as other EV makers such as Nikola, Fisker, Polestar and Lordstown. The disadvantages of being a smaller EV maker in these times became clearer last week when Tesla announced a price cut across its product lineup; a move that analysts said could come as a bigger blow to its competitors who will be forced to follow. On Friday’s trading session after the cut was announced, Rivian and Lucid shares dropped more than Tesla’s. Shrunken equity values and price cuts aren’t the only risks the startups face. The pace of EV sales also is expected be slower than previously expected. While the adoption of electric cars will continue to rise in 2023, it will be at a more tepid pace than the last 2 years. “Even without a recession, the risk for the ‘next Teslas’ is elevated”, SPEAR’s Delevska said. “Tesla now has scale and profitability, and while we expect significant downside to that profitability, we don’t think Tesla will go out of business. Many of the newcomers will”. +++

+++ Elon Musk has huge aspirations for TESLA , like selling a staggering 20 million cars in 2030 (the equivalent output of Toyota and Volkswagen combined) and making the company worth trillions. To remain a leader in the auto industry long term, though, Tesla will need to expand its skimpy lineup and start selling cheaper models, experts say. The electric automaker has made massive strides with its current high-end, four-vehicle lineup. It’s the top seller of battery-powered cars globally with 1.3 million units shipped last year (a 40% boost over 2021). The Model 3, Model Y, Model S, and Model X, which cost between $44,000 and $120,000, accounted for nearly 70% of EVs sold in the US in 2022. But its skyrocketing growth has an expiration date if it can’t give people more affordable, mass-market options, industry watchers say. And that makes perfect sense when one considers how the biggest automotive players do business; they sell a broad range of products to meet a spectrum of buyers. Toyota has the $22,000 Corolla and the $100,000 Lexus LC, plus a whole lot in between. Volkswagen sells budget hatchbacks, but also Porsches, Audis, and Bentleys. General Motors makes Chevrolets and Cadillacs. The gap at the low end of Tesla’s lineup leaves it exposed to stiffening competition. China’s BYD, the No.2 EV seller globally, is quickly gaining on Tesla’s top spot. That’s not surprising in the least, Michael Dunne, founder of the EV consultancy ZoZoGo, told, especially when considering that BYD has an extensive portfolio while Tesla is solidly a luxury player. “It’s like asking, ‘will Toyota surpass Mercedes in overall sales?’ Yeah, because Toyota has a full spectrum of vehicles that go from $20,000 to $80,000”, Dunne said. “And the lower the price point, the bigger the market of course”. Mercedes-Benz sells around 2 million cars per year. Toyota sells 10 million. As EV competition heats up and buyer interest grows, Tesla will need to release new offerings like trucks and cheaper cars to supplement its aging lineup, Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions, told. The Model 3 and Model Y, by far Tesla’s topsellers, went on sale in 2017 and 2020, respectively. “It will take a few more years before the buyers of EVs expand enough that they need a range of products, and Tesla needs to be there when the market is ready”, he said, adding that Tesla can’t be a top player or reach its lofty goals with just a few models. Analysts at Bernstein recently said developing lower-cost models should be a priority for Tesla, especially given recent price cuts that signal slowing demand for its cars. “Given our concerns about end state volume levels for Models 3 and Y, dictated by either price or luxury buyers’ desire for differentiation, we believe it is increasingly imperative that Tesla offers additional (lower priced) models”, they said in a note to investors earlier in January. Tesla has discussed plans for a $25.000 car, but it’s unclear where that project stands today. The vehicle was supposed to arrive by 2023, but in early 2022 Musk said Tesla had too much on its plate to work on it. Then in November, Musk mentioned progress on a cheaper vehicle platform without specifying what the final product would be. Musk’s automaker has had trouble diversifying its lineup as it’s poured resources into accelerating production of the Model 3 and Y. The Semi, a class-8 truck, launched in late 2022, 3 years behind schedule. Years after they were announced, the Roadster sports car and Cybertruck pickup are both nowhere to be found. +++

+++ The last time I was reporting on the VOLKSWAGEN ID.Ruggdzz was in 2020. At the beginning of that year, a battery-electric ID.Ruggdzz was going to join the Icons division of the ID lineup, perched on the MEB platform like the ID.Buzz, and rebirth the VW Thing with square lines and all-wheel drive. Come September 2020, the ID.Ruggedzz (renamed after VW relented on its consonant-to-vowel ratio) was still trying to find its place in the market alongside a reborn all-electric ID.Buggy concept. By December, the Ruggedzz and the Buggy were dead as VW focused on continued problems with software written for the volume ID models; problems that still aren’t resolved, in fact. Despite the public hiatus, the Ruggeddzz is still in the works, now based on the Ford Ranger’s T6 platform that also supports the new Volkswagen Amarok. VW Commercial boss Carsten Intra, who confirmed: “It’s still on the agenda”; the 2 automakers still taking stabs at electrifying the chassis. An Amarok-based off-roader would do for VW what Ford does with the Ranger, turning that American pickup into the Everest in certain global markets like Australia. Speaking of Oz, Ford Australia is said to be handling the brunt of the engineering work for the conversion, with Ford HQ in Michigan assisting. It’s said the body-on-frame architecture needs to fit at least 110 kWh of battery capacity to provide the necessary towing and range. The Amarok would be a smaller truck than the F-150 Lightning, but that battery capacity number sits between the 98 kWh and 131 kWh pack sizes for the Lightning and we haven’t heard anyone being impressed with the full-sizer’s towing range yet. VW designers worked up a concept Ruggeddzz when the plans were to have the thing in production by 2023, that model has never met the public. Since we know there’s going to be an electric Ford Ranger (unless it gets canceled), an electric Amarok-like SUV seems a best-case scenario for both automakers. As things stand, we figure we won’t get this particular electric VW the same way we don’t get the ICE Amarok, VW bringing the impending Scout EV brand to the U.S. to satisfy our electric hardcore 4×4 lust. The Germans are talking to Foxconn’s Foxtron Vehicle Technologies about a Scout platform, and to Magna Steyr about an assembly plant in the U.S. to build it. +++

+++ VOLVO ’s long-rumored entry-level electric crossover is taking shape. Positioned below the XC40 and likely called EX30, the city-friendly model will make its debut this summer, and it should play a significant role in bringing younger buyers into the firm’s showrooms. While specific details remain under wraps, Volvo boss Jim Rowan pledged that the EX30 will be “very safe” and offer a “decent range” as well as a “good size”. Downsizing in terms of price and size will help the Swedish company reach a wider audience. “The age demographic that we have at Volvo is a lot older than we would like; we’d like to get some more younger people into the brand”, the CEO told. Letting customers buy the EX30 online will help lure younger drivers, according to Volvo’s research. However, it’s not forgetting about older motorists: It expects that older drivers who want a smaller car and don’t regularly drive long distances will be interested in the EX30 as well. As we previously reported, the EX30 will share its Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA) platform with the Smart #1. The connection isn’t as random as it might seem: China-based Geely owns Volvo and runs Smart via a joint-venture with Mercedes-Benz. Rear-wheel drive will come standard, and buyers will have several battery sizes to choose from, though it sounds like none will be massive. Rowan expects that driving range will become less of a concern for electric-car drivers as the charging infrastructure improves in the coming years. The Volvo EX30 is scheduled to make its debut in June 2023 and go on sale shortly after. Production will take place in China, and there’s no word yet on whether we’ll see the EV in the United States. As it stands, the next new Volvo to reach showrooms is the range-topping EX90. Rumors suggest that an electric MPV is around the corner as well, but Volvo hasn’t commented on the report or confirmed the model. +++

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