Newsflash: Tesla blijft maar uitbreiden


+++ Weary car-buyers may stand to benefit from the waning impact of the CHIP SHORTAGE on today’s vehicle inventory. Towards the end of December, it appeared as though the chip shortage was going to have a lesser impact on 2022 than it did the year before. The chip shortage forced automakers to prioritize only their money-making models and slash valuable features, which shrunk dealership inventory levels, and drove up the prices of new and used vehicles. The easing of the shortage could mean shoppers don’t have to pay so much for limited choices. Sure enough, in 2022, automakers built 1.62 million fewer vehicles than expected in North America because of the chip shortage. That’s about half of the 3.25 million fewer vehicles built in the region in 2021. Further, the impact of the chip shortage globally substantially declined from 2021 to 2022. Across the globe, automakers built about 4.38 million fewer cars last year, down from 11 million vehicles impacted world-wide the year before. This is not to say that losses will not happen to some extent in 2023, but car-buyers may see some respite from the past few years’ inventory and selection issues. More new vehicle inventory could mean lower prices and more vehicle options than buyers had in 2021 and 2022. If car-buyers do encounter those issues at dealerships, it’d likely be more on the all-new electric vehicle or tech-heavy side, according to a Deutsche Bank note this week. While older and less techy cars used more antiquated, less profitable chips, EVs and vehicles with more advanced driver-assistance systems require more complex ones, which chip suppliers are eager to make. But pricing and supply combined stand to be bottlenecks for these types of cars. The expected number of chips coming online still might not be able to accommodate all the EVs automakers anticipate will hit the roads. “Even with an expected tripling of wafer supply over the next 2 years”, the Deutsche Bank note said, total chip production “would still only be able to support a single-digit million number of EVs per year”. More chip capacity will be required going into the second half of the decade. Meanwhile, on the advanced driver-assistance side, “Our industry conversations suggest another year of pricing tailwinds”, the note added, “which combined with additional capacity could drive another strong year for the Auto Semi market”. Demand means pricing will go up for automakers, and while that stands to benefit chip companies, the impacts may trickle down to consumers. +++

+++ After much testing and deliberation, the winner of the 2023 North American Car Vehicle of the Year Award have been announced: the KIA EV6 . It has taken the top spot in the Utility Vehicle category, over 2 other all-electric rivals, the Cadillac Lyriq and Genesis GV60. This seems like it was probably the toughest choice for the jurors, as these are each excellent EVs. The Kia EV6 is built on the same E-GMP electric platform as the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and the Genesis GV60, which means it has 800 volt battery architecture for extremely fast charging, available all-wheel drive and plenty of power. The Honda Civic was the 2022 winner. +++

+++ LAMBORGHINI has announced that it set a sales record in 2022. The firm posted a big increase in deliveries. Lamborghini sold 9.233 cars in 2022, an increase of 10% over 2021 (which was a record year as well). Its best-selling model is the Urus, which accounted for 5.367 deliveries (a 7% increase over 2022). That’s not surprising; SUVs sell well. What’s rather stunning is that Huracán deliveries soared by 20% to 3.113 examples in 2022. Finally, Lamborghini delivered the last 753 examples of the Aventador. Geographically, the United States remains Lamborghini’s biggest market; the company delivered 2.721 cars there in 2022 (an increase of 10% over 2021). China takes second place with 1.018 deliveries (up 9%) followed by Germany (808 cars; up 14%), the United Kingdom (650 cars; up by 15%), and Japan (546 cars; up 22%). All told, deliveries in the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East and Africa) jumped by 7% to 3.484 cars. The company’s outlook for 2023 is bright. It will notably unveil the Aventador’s hotly-anticipated successor, and the yet-unnamed model will stand out as its first series-produced hybrid model. Its historic factory in Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy, will keep busy as well. “We now have the opportunity to focus on our next objectives also thanks to an 18-month waiting list”, said company boss Stephan Winkelmann. While it’s too early to tell if 2023 will be another record year for Lamborghini, executives stress that they want to keep the company’s growth in check. The aim isn’t to rival, say, BMW in terms of volume. “The idea will always be to have one car less than demand”, Andrea Baldi, the head of the Americas region for Lamborghini, told. “We will never become unexclusive. That is a promise”. +++

+++ German tuner Mansory is known globally for putting controversial-looking body kits on high-end cars like the Maserati MC20. The company’s first build of 2023 goes much further: called Venatus Coupé EVO C, it’s a LAMBORGHINI URUS that has been transformed into a coupe. Lamborghini doesn’t offer a 2-door version of the Urus, the popular SUV is exclusively offered with 4 doors, so a substantial amount of time and effort went into completing the transformation. Mansory started by removing the 4 doors and shifting the b-pillars back by nearly 8 inches. It then extended the front doors, widened the quarter panels, and, of course, fitted a full body kit that includes a redesigned front bumper with numerous vents and a splitter, side skirts, not 1 but 2 rear spoilers, plus a massive diffuser, among other add-ons. Why bother? Well, the company notes that it has received several requests for a 2-door Urus in the past couple of years. Nearly every part of the cabin has been redesigned to some extent. The first Venatus Coupé EVO C features specific trim, blue leather upholstery, leather-upholstered floor mats, and ambient lighting integrated into the headliner. The ignition button has been relocated to the headliner as well (it’s on the center console in the regular-production Urus) and the front seats now tilt forward to provide easy access to the individual rear seats separated by a center console. The word “Coupé” is embroidered into the four seatbacks, lest you forget what you’re in. The modifications don’t end there. Pop the hood and you’ll spot an evolution of the 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 that powers the standard Urus. It has been tuned to develop 900 horsepower and 1.100 Nm of torque in this application. In comparison, the stock Urus S and the Urus Performante are both rated at 666 horsepower and 850 Nm of torque. The 8-cylinder spins the 4 wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission linked to shift paddles. Mansory quotes a 0-to-100 kph time of 2.9 seconds and a top speed of 330 kph. Pricing hasn’t been announced, but it’s of little interest to someone in the market for a heavily-modified Lamborghini Urus. Mansory notes that this is the first of eight Urus coupes it plans to build in the coming years. +++


+++ Sorry, MAZDA fans. I know you’re excited about your favorite car brand bringing back the rotary engine as a range extender for the MX-30. I would be too if it were 8-10 years ago. But now (and probably even back then), the Mazda rotary range extender is a silly idea. We’re waiting for Mazda to reveal its rotary-range-extended MX-30 this week in Brussels, and it’s been a long time coming. As Mazda said back in 2021, “This technology is being engineered for nearly silent operation and will replenish the battery rather than drive the wheels. As a result, the MX-30 will always drive like the engaging EV that it is, but with freedom to charge from the wall or on the go”. Despite the adulatory PR speak, that doesn’t sound all that great for a few reasons, and not just because of the dubious market prospects of range extenders these days. Range extenders might still serve a purpose for a little while. More range-extended EVs would probably have better served the public than the numerous plug-in hybrids with minimal electric range that we got instead, especially prior to the longer-range battery EVs available now. Range extending systems are a last resort for ameliorating range anxiety, largely for owners who don’t live where public charging infrastructure is built out. And if charging providers keep failing as hard as they do, extenders might still find meaning in a vast, drivable country like the U.S., but that window of opportunity is closing, if it hasn’t already, as battery costs and charging infrastructure improves. Range extenders should no longer be an excuse to offer crappy range from an EV. Then you’ve just got a low-performing plug-in hybrid with even more compromised efficiency. If you’re driving an EV with a meager range of 200 km (or less if Mazda has to sacrifice battery capacity to make room for the rotary system), many drivers will find themselves relying on that extender too often, killing the joy of having an EV, while others will avoid employing it as much as possible, if at all (thus wishing they’d have just gone full battery EV). And maybe this range extender won’t detract from the driving experience by putting the car into a low-powered limp mode (looking at you, BMW i3 Rex), but it won’t add anything to the enjoyment of the experience the way a rotary normally would. Most of the fun of a Wankel engine, besides its status as an automotive oddity, is its personality at peak performance, specifically the high revs, the distinct sound and the power delivery. And while those thrills won’t translate in a range extender, the rotary will add complexity and another vector of eventual maintenance to ownership. With the luxury of hindsight, a rotary’s reliability isn’t something to get excited about. A general lack of cleanliness and thermal efficiency make it an even worse candidate to support an EV. If you’re going to put up with a rotary engine in an electrified car, you should at least get to enjoy the advantages it does offer. But its inherent compromises lead me to think, despite Mazda’s current attempt to prove the contrary, that the rotary is dead for good. If you really want to justify its resurrection, the Wankel should drive the wheels (not just charge the battery) and the e-motors should assist in the fun … at least while there’s still a market for hybrid powertrains that focus on power over efficiency. I don’t think that would be on my wishlist for a daily driver, at least not in the body of an MX-30, but it’d still be neat despite being instantly outdated. Otherwise, we should just let the rotary rest in peace. And if range extenders find market popularity again (which I doubt they will) let them be as clean, efficient and invisible as possible. That is to say, conventional. That’s not always a bad thing. +++



+++ Reports of the MCLAREN 720S ’s death are not greatly exaggerated. In fact, they are completely correct. A representative from the maunfacturer confirmed that the supercar is no longer in production. The official statement is as follows: “We are not taking further customer-specified build orders for 720S, but cars are available through our retailer network”. With the discontinuation of the 720S, the remaining car in the “Supercar” line, as McLaren calls it, is the recently introduced Artura hybrid. It makes 680 horsepower, a fair bit less than the 720 of the 720S. But it seems the Artura will not be a de facto successor, as there’s something else coming. The McLaren representative couldn’t say anything about that new car, but the president of the Americas region said the follow-up will still be somewhat derived from the outgoing 720S. We’ll be curious if it utilizes the Artura’s hybrid system, but coupled to a more powerful gas engine. I’ve actually seen 720S testers specifically labeled as hybrid test cars, so it seems quite likely. +++

+++ Are men who drive flashy sports cars compensating for something after all? A study conducted at a London university suggests that the old trope of men with less-than-average endowment turning to sports cars and other forms of “conspicuous consumption” may indeed be rooted in truth. As a group of men who tend to be drawn to flashy sports cars, this headline caught our eye. The study does not appear to be peer-reviewed, but the methodology is described in detail and the study authors claim their data indicate a psychological link between attraction to sports cars and the belief that one has a smaller-than-average PENIS . The researchers studied 200 men between ages 18 and 74. Due to the inherent unreliability of self-reported penis size, they decided that the simplest approach (ranking penis size relative to interest in sports cars) would be a dead end. Instead, the team designed a study that would convince the participants that they were having their memory evaluated in a multi-tasking environment. In other words, they had to read information while being served ads on the internet. How like life, no? OK, it wasn’t quite that simple, but it’ll do for our purposes. Interspersed among the factoids were misleading statements about penis length intended to convince some participants that they perhaps don’t have a penis as big as they thought, while others were led to believe that they were candidates for a blue ribbon. After their sessions, the 2 groups were then asked to rate their interest in sports cars. “Our primary hypothesis was that ratings for sports cars would increase when male participants were manipulated to believe that they have a relatively small penis”, the study authors said. “We tested a secondary hypothesis, that the link is driven by self-esteem in general, with other trials in that contained manipulated facts that might impact self-esteem in different ways, and a variety of luxury and non-luxury products. Finally, we analysed participants age, since it determines both mating strategies and patterns. “The key experimental trial told participants that the average erect penis size of other men was either 10 cm (small penis / low self-esteem) or 18 cm (large penis / high self-esteem) and was always followed by a rating of 1 of 6 sports cars. On 4 trials, they were given either the original fact, or a version with one detail changed, and asked if the statement was true or false. After the experiment trials, participants were told that some of the facts they had been told were incorrect, and they were asked to give their estimates of the true values of these facts, including the true average penis size”. They found that participants were more likely to rate their interest in buying a sport car highly if they’d been presented with information intended to make them feel insecure about the relative size of their penis. The effect was most pronounced in participants over age 29, where positive responses toward sports cars exceeded the expected statistical variance, suggesting a link, rather than mere coincidence. In other words, yes, it’s possible that feelings of inadequacy may drive men to buy flashy cars. This is not the first time the concept of flashy cars has been studied in the context of men’s dating habits. One study conducted a decade ago in the good old US of A found that while sports cars may help men get dates, they don’t tend to be indicators of long-term potential; some may consider that a feature rather than a bug. The authors of this latest study suggest that other flashy, desirable items would make wise candidates for further research. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which ones. +++

+++ TESLA has applied to expand its gigafactory in Texas with an investment totaling $775.7 million, government filings showed, marking one of its largest expansion drives since setting up the $5.5 billion gigafactory in Germany last year. It plans to add 5 new facilities at its Austin site, including a cell test lab and a unit named “Cathode,” according to the company’s filings on the Texas state department of licensing’s website. The Austin expansion comes days after reported that Tesla promoted its China chief Tom Zhu to take direct oversight of the carmaker’s U.S. assembly plants as well as sales operations in North America and Europe. The world’s most valuable automaker has been facing Covid-driven production and logistics snags at its key Shanghai hub, coupled with growing demand concerns. Tesla’s 4th quarter deliveries fell short of market estimates. The company is also running a reduced production schedule at its Shanghai plant through January, extending the reduced output it began in December. The company is expected to host its investor day on March 1 at the Austin facility and will likely disclose plans for expansion and capital allocation. Tesla also has a gigafactory in Nevada, and a production facility in Fremont, California. Local newspaper Reforma reported in December that Tesla could announce the construction of a gigafactory in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon soon, with an initial investment of between $800 million and $1 billion. And Bloomberg reported that Tesla is close to a preliminary deal to set up a factory in Indonesia, according to people familiar with the matter, to capitalize on the Southeast Asian nation’s reserves of key battery metals. The plant would produce as many as 1 million cars a year, the sources said, in line with Tesla’s ambition for all its factories globally to eventually reach that capacity. The discussions include plans for multiple facilities in the country serving different functions, including production and supply chain, one of the people said. A deal hasn’t been signed and the agreement could still fall through, said the people, asking not to be identified as the talks are confidential. Indonesian investment minister Bahlil Lahadalia said talks with Tesla are being led by the coordinating ministry for maritime affairs and investment when asked about the potential deal. Indonesia has long courted Tesla. President Joko Widodo visited Musk in May of last year and and struck a $5 billion nickel-supply agreement with the carmaker in August. In an interview that month, Widodo said he wanted Tesla to make electric cars in the country, not just batteries, and was willing to take the time to convince Musk to see Indonesia as more than just a supplier of key resources. An Indonesian factory would be at least the third Tesla plant outside its home U.S. market, joining facilities in Shanghai and near Berlin. While Indonesia offers a gateway to Southeast Asia’s 675 million consumers, it’s a tough market for global automakers, with cars priced below $20,000 making up the bulk of sales. During Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting in August, Musk said he expects the company will eventually build 10 to 12 factories globally. Tesla appears to be plowing ahead with plans to add capacity despite missing estimates for vehicle deliveries each of the last 3 quarters and producing about 60.400 more cars than it handed over to customers during that span. The company cut prices in China for the second time in 10 weeks earlier this month. +++

+++ If you ask us, VANS have always been low-key rad, but their ability to resonate with American shoppers has really ebbed and flowed. Today, vans are experiencing an uptick in popularity, and one of the big factors driving this change is an unlikely source: SUVs. In the 1980s and 1990s, MPVs were the de facto vehicle for families. But as SUVs became more popular (and indeed, more refined and car-like) many buyers wanted to eschew the family-friendly image associated with MPVs in favor of something more outgoing. Why be a mom when you can be a cool mom, you know? This shift went into overdrive in the 2000s, reducing the once booming MPV segment to just a few key players. Now, the term “SUV” is almost meaningless, used to describe vehicles of all shapes and sizes. Many automakers are even applying this butch updo to sedans and wagons in an attempt to boost their appeal. “In the 1990s, SUV popularity was enhanced by the promises of a fun and active lifestyle afforded by their rugged proportions and design”, said Ed Kim, president and chief analyst at AutoPacific. “Today, the only truly popular station wagon in North America is the Subaru Outback, which has a raised suspension and rugged styling details. The latest Kia Carnival (photo) has seen success partly because it has a more upright and blocky design than the typical jellybean-like MPV”. When it launched in 2021, the Carnival replaced the long-serving Sedona minivan. But at no point during the Carnival’s launch did Kia use the word MPV. Kia even went so far to say the Carnival filled “the unoccupied space between SUV and family hauler” (a niche I didn’t know existed), touting the van’s “bold and boxy SUV-like design”.  Silly as that sounds, the thing is, it worked. Through the course of 2021, Kia sold 25.155 Carnivals, besting the number of Sedonas sold in 2020, 2019, 2018 and 2017. “The design helped with the visibility”, said Joseph Choi, Kia’s product strategy manager for the Carnival. “We took everything that makes this type of vehicle compelling but then hit on an area of design that kind of expanded the appeal”. That should only get stronger as the Carnival moves through its lifecycle, too. “As good as the car looks, I’m already very excited about the next iteration of its design”, Choi said. Following this trend, in 2021, Toyota announced a new Woodland trim level for its Sienna that gave the minivan more SUV-like features. The changes were minimal, limited to things like an 0.6-inch increase in ground clearance, roof rails with crossbars, a tow hitch with the ability to pull 1.600 kilo and a 120 volt AC outlet to power small camping equipment. The Woodland comes with standard all-wheel drive, something that was (and still is) optional on other Sienna models. However, while the Woodland trim seemed great in theory, it was a different story in the real world. When we tested one in early 2022, we found the Woodland didn’t really go far enough to warrant its relatively high price, which for the 2023 model year is $47,530 including $1,335 for destination. There have been outliers over the years that attempted to blur the line between vans and MPVs, notably the Volkswagen Syncro Van, the first-generation Mazda MPV and more cynically, GM’s collection of badge-engineered Vans of the 2000s, but not across the minivan market as a whole as is the case today. The rise in popularity of overlanding is another area where the van/SUV mash-up is surging. Owners are buying full-size vans and upfitting them to full-on exploration rigs, and carmakers themselves are now getting in on the action. Years ago, Mercedes-Benz added 4-wheel drive to its Sprinter van to give this big boy some added capability. More recently, Ford debuted the Transit Trail last year, a seriously cool take on its full-size van with legit off-road chops. The Trail features all-wheel drive, a 3.5-inch ride height increase, 2.8-inch wider track and 16-inch wheels with 31-inch Goodyear Wrangler Workhorse all-terrain tires. There’s even an optional towing package that can pull up to 3.000 kilos, as well as drillable areas specifically designed to accommodate shelves, cabinets, beds and other amenities available from upfitters. “SUVs will continue to influence the design and proportions of general vehicle design for the long term because they remain by far the most popular vehicle segment in North America”, Kim said. And if automakers continue to bring SUV attributes to other vehicle segments, Vans and MPVs (especially future electric ones) could be more successful as a result. +++


+++ VOLKSWAGEN warned that ongoing chip shortages meant 2023 would remain volatile and challenging but expects supplies to improve, as it reported a 6.8% drop in sales by the brand to 4.56 million in 2022. Order books in Europe, where the war in Ukraine has caused extensive supply chain problems, were up 18% from the same time to 640.000 vehicles, and the carmaker was working to deliver faster this year, it said in a statement. “We are working intensively to further reduce delivery times for customers and to work off the high order backlog as quickly as possible”, said chief sales Officer Imelda Labbe. Sales of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) were up 23.6% on the year, at roughly 330.000 units, said Volkswagen. Sales in China, where the carmaker lags far behind domestic electric vehicle makers, more than doubled to 143,100. SUVs are the fastest-growing market segment, it said, up 4% and representing 80% of all sales in the United States. +++

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