Newsflash: crisisstemming bij Toyota


+++ CHINA ‘s domination of the market for electric vehicles (EVs) grows, as low costs give domestic manufacturers a competitive edge over rivals. As electric vehicle manufacturers in China continue to introduce compelling new and well-priced models, the number of Chinese-made EVs being exported around the world is expected to grow rapidly. The launch of the BYD Seagull at the Shanghai Auto Show that’s priced from just $11,300 shows how local brands have a “fantastic competitive advantage” over their rivals, chief executive at French auto supplier Faurecia, Patrick Koller, told. Koller has spoken with the chief executives and chairman of more than 2 dozen Chinese car manufacturers and told Reuters that many of them are looking to launch in new markets, including Europe. He believes that “an attractive car for Chinese consumers will be an attractive car for a European consumer”. Chinese carmakers exported 2 million vehicles in 2022; a 4-fold increase from 2020 and given the strength of exports through the first quarter of 2023, Chinese car exports could top 3 million vehicles this year. The nation’s leading EV manufacturer, BYD, managed to export 56.000 vehicles last year with the Yuan Plus EV, also known as the Atto 3, proving particularly popular. While this remains significantly less than the 271.000 EVs that Tesla exported internationally from its Shanghai factory last year, BYD’s exports increased 4-fold in 2022 alone and it is aiming to overtake Tesla as the world’s largest EV manufacturer this year. Nio also has its sights set on Europe. It recently announced that it will launch an affordable EV brand in Europe and may also sell its models in the United States, giving Tesla chief executive Elon Musk other competitors to worry about. “If the overall user experience we can provide to European users is better somehow, we can establish our competitiveness”, Nio president Win Lihong said. “We can get our fair share”. +++

+++ This year’s Shanghai Auto Show signaled the END OF THE PETROL ENGINE CAR ERA in China, as domestic electric vehicle brands drive change across the sector and leave foreign companies in the dust, analysts and industry insiders said. Government support for EVs and growing interest from a vast consumer base has assured Chinese companies’ dominance of their home market, the world’s largest, and they are now beginning to set their sights overseas. Shanghai has shown Chinese brands “can compete with all of the legacy automakers in every way: performance, quality, comfort, there’s nothing they can’t do”, said EV specialist Elliot Richards, joking he had seen “a lot of worried-looking German men wandering around”. “I think this show marks the end of the internal combustion engine and the beginning of the EV era”, he added. EV companies are well aware they are closing in on their fossil-fueled predecessors. “We regard high-end petrol vehicles such as BMW, Mercedes Benz and Audi as our main competitors”, William Li, CEO of the “Chinese Tesla” Nio, told. According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, electric vehicles made up a quarter of car sales in the country in 2022, a year-on-year increase of 94 percent. Despite a downturn across the global auto sector, Li said he thought EVs’ market share in China could increase to over 40 percent this year. In Shanghai, dozens of new models were on display from new and legacy carmakers alike. “The future is very much here now”, Mike Johnstone, a top executive at British luxury brand Lotus, told. “There’s a lot of proliferation of electrified products (in China), and it’s changing the entire market”. China has dedicated huge resources to the industry. “They skipped developing petrol engines because they can’t compete with the rest of the world”, said Richards. “So they thought: ‘With EVs we can get a head start in front of everyone else’ “. The country began investing heavily in associated technology from the early 2000s. “It’s ingrained in the nature of the country’s economic system: the Chinese government is very good at focusing resources on the industries it wants to grow”, Zeyi Yang wrote in MIT Technology Review. Central and local authorities poured billions of dollars into subsidies and tax breaks, and allocated public transport contracts to EV companies. The supporting infrastructure was built too: the government says there are now more than 5.8 million charging piles in China. Guangdong province alone has around three times as many public chargers as the whole of the United States, according to Bloomberg data. “In general, there are still a lot of preferential policies for the production and sale of electric vehicles”, said Nio’s Li, using as an example the waiving of expensive license plate fees in some cities. Those policies have applied to foreign brands too. That tactic helped lure industry leader Tesla to Chinese shores, bolstering the sector’s reputation and sparking further competition. Nowadays, more than 94 brands offer over 300 models in the Chinese market, “the most vibrant globally”, according to Counterpoint Research. Some are smashing the cash barrier that put EVs beyond the means of the average consumer. In Shanghai, China’s Geely exhibited its boxy Panda Mini, including a bright yellow one with the phrase “what the duck” emblazoned on its side. The cheaper versions cost around $5,800. In the future, homegrown technology could drive prices down even further. Battery giant CATL has developed a cell that uses sodium instead of lithium ions, the former both more abundant and cheaper than the latter. Just before the show opened CATL announced those batteries would be incorporated into domestic brand Chery’s cars. All this is being watched closely by foreign competitors. Brands within the Chinese market are “setting the benchmark now” for others, Lotus’ Johnstone said. And Chinese EV companies have already begun to make inroads abroad. The biggest of them, BYD, set up shop in Norway then expanded onwards, and others are following. Geely-owned Zeekr’s Europe CEO, Spiros Fotinos, told the technological sophistication of Chinese-made EVs is combatting old stereotypes around quality that foreign consumers might harbor. “Consumers are seeing a lot of innovative safety technologies, with driver assist systems that are really cutting edge”, he said. Richards though said Chinese automakers’ success in the West wasn’t “a done deal”, as they would have to adapt to the market. “Karaoke machines in cars, for example, are very popular in China, but not so popular in Europe”, he said. Johnstone insisted carmakers with “heritage and history” that welcomed in the electric era would remain competitive. “Brands that have been around for a number of years… will continue to live in the future as well,” he said. +++

+++ Soon after GENESIS acknowledged that it wants to introduce a slew of performance-focused EVs, the South Korean carmaker has filed a patent for the GT90 moniker. Could this be the name of a future sports car from Genesis? The application was made with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on April 4, 2023. This isn’t the first time that the name ‘GT90’ has been trademarked by Genesis. In fact, it also filed to trademark the name in the U.S. back in 2017 but what’s particularly interesting about this latest trademark is that it specifies it is for “automobiles; sports cars”. Genesis hasn’t stated which segments of the sports car market it wants to compete in but the brand’s head of product planning, Mark Choi, did recently state he wants the carmaker to “separate ourselves on the more high-performance side” and wants to develop what it refers to as “effortless powertrains”. There are 3 likely candidates for the first genuine sports car from Genesis. These are the stunning X Coupe, X Convertible and X Speedium Coupe: 3 concepts with absolutely magnificent designs that could compete with the very best from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi. It’s not just the recent GT90 trademark application that has us excited. Last year, the brand filed trademark applications for the names GT60, GT70 and GT80 in Cuba, hinting at some other names that it is considering for its future sports car range. Nevertheless, it’s worth mentioning that just because Genesis has trademarked the name for use on sports cars, that doesn’t actually mean it will release 1 dubbed the GT90, but here’s hoping… +++


+++ As a smaller and more affordable counterpart to KIA ’s EV6, the upcoming EV4 will expand the automaker’s audience when it comes to electric offerings. Kia is already an established player in the EV market, having introduced electric versions of the Soul and Niro, as well as dedicated electric models such as the EV6 and the larger EV9 SUV. However, the Korean automaker has several new EVs in development, including the EV4 which is expected to compete in the subcompact SUV segment. This model will primarily cater to the needs of European buyers, and is intended to serve as a new entry point into Kia’s zero-emission range, at least before the smaller EV3 enters the market. Kia has been tight-lipped about details regarding its upcoming EVs, aside from a vague group shot teaser released in 2021. However, as the automaker’s naming convention suggests, the EV4 will be a lot smaller than the EV6 (which measures 4.680 mm in length). Reading between the lines, the EV4 will likely have a similar footprint to the second-generation e-Soul that debuted back in 2018. Although there are no spy shots of the upcoming EV4 yet, it is likely the vehicle will take cues from the larger EV6, such as the windowline, taillights that connect to the rear fenders, and profile surfacing. However, it has a less futuristic appearance than the EV9 flagship. We can expect the EV4 to offer sportier GT-Line and GT trims, which have been popular with buyers in the past. It’s expected that the interior of the EV4 will feature a digital cockpit with dual screens housed in the same panel, similar to the setup found in the Sportage. The company may also incorporate sustainable materials for the upholstery, as many of its rivals have done in this segment. Additionally, the electric platform of the EV4 will allow for similar interior space despite having a smaller footprint than some of its competitors, making efficient use of the available space. Like all of the new zero-emission models from Hyundai and Kia , the upcoming EV4 is expected to ride on the dedicated E-GMP architecture. This platform will enable the crossover to borrow the 58 kWh and 77.4 kWh battery pack options from the larger EV6, providing a competitive range. Similarly, the single electric motor of the entry-level EV6 that produces 170 hp and 350 Nm sounds like a great fit for the segment. In terms of technology, the EV4 is expected to come equipped with the latest version of Kia’s ADAS suite, which is called “AutoMode.” Additionally, the model will likely be compatible with over-the-air updates (OTA) and software-enabled feature-on-demand (FoD) services, which will be available at a cost. These features were first announced on the EV9 and are set to become available across the entire range in the coming years. If rumors are true, the EV4 is expected to debut as one of the new zero-emission models towards the end of 2023 or sometime in the first half of 2024. As a result, we should begin to see camouflaged prototypes of the EV wearing a production body in the near future. In addition to Kia, Volkswagen is also working on a smaller, fully electric SUV that is slated to debut prior to 2026. +++


+++ Toyota’s new president Koji SATO has promised what he called an aggressive shift on “electrification,” while acknowledging criticism that Japan’s top automaker has fallen behind in actual volumes of electric vehicles sold compared to its rivals. “We like to see that as people cheering Toyota on”, to play catchup in electric cars, Sato told reporters Friday at Toyota’s Tokyo headquarters. “If we look at in practical terms of the situation today, we have done a great deal in reducing carbon emissions”, he said, defending the automaker’s record on other gas-sipping technologies. Toyota is a leader in hybrids, which have both a gasoline engine and electric motor, and Sato stressed that different markets have varying powertrain needs, with emerging markets being slower to adopt pure electric vehicles. But he said pure electric vehicles allow for more software functions because of their connectivity and other features, stressing that Toyota’s electric vehicles would highlight “intelligence,” such as services and entertainment. Sato, who has managed the Lexus luxury division, declined to outline specifics of such features. But he stressed that future EV models would be truly “Toyota-like”, pointing to a high standard for quality and not just affordable pricing. The company’s entire production system must be revamped to make quality EVs befitting the Toyota or Lexus nameplates, he said. Toyota prides itself on its “just in time” production system, which runs like clockwork and is praised by manufacturing experts around the world. Toyota now offers the BZ4X electric crossover, packed with what’s called the e-TNGA platform. That stands for “Toyota New Global Architecture”, also used in its Prius and Lexus models. The electric platform was developed in collaboration with Subaru; a Toyota group company. The BZ4X is available in Japan, the U.S. and parts of Europe, such as Germany and the Netherlands, as well as China and Thailand. Toyota also recently announced a new electric car to be sold in China, called BZ3. It will use technology developed with Chinese EV manufacturer BYD in a collaboration that also includes state-owned Tianjin FAW and other partners. Toyota and BYD set up a joint venture company three years ago to jointly research and develop battery electric vehicles. At the Shanghai auto show this week, Toyota showed a couple of “BZ series” EVs in the works for the Chinese market, a sleek crossover and a model called Flex Space Concept, billed as offering a home-like environment in a car for families. But overall, the world’s EV sector has so far been dominated by the likes of Tesla, Japanese rival Nissan, which makes the Leaf, and BYD. So Toyota has some catching up to do. Sato recently replaced Akio Toyoda, a grandson of the company’s founder who had served as chief executive since 2009, presiding over some difficult years. They included the global financial crisis, as well as a massive recall scandal in the U.S., over “unintended acceleration,” in 2010. Sato kept referring to Toyoda as “chairman Akio”, his new title. Although they both love cars, he said his approach was different as a president with an engineering background. Toyoda has a business background, although he is also a race car driver. Toyota’s new management lineup still needs its shareholders’ approval at the general meeting, held every year in June. Sato’s term officially began April 1. +++


+++ One of the best elements of modern cars is the chance to unlock new features via an over-the-air update. Much like a mobile phone getting a couple of nifty new features, the ability for manufacturers to add new elements to your car’s ownership experience is one not many people will complain about; provided it’s free of course. However, just because your car can be updated with new features doesn’t mean that certain elements can’t be removed, either. For TESLA owners, many may not have noticed that the ability to adjust the regenerative braking intensity quietly departed the settings screens some time ago. Regenerative braking enables electric and hybrid cars to harness the energy that would otherwise have been lost in deceleration. It enables EV users to experience “one-pedal driving,” as retardation is experienced as soon as you let off the gas, much like engine braking in a car, but less wasteful. Previously Tesla had made regenerative braking a mandatory “one-size-fits-all” option, removing the ability to select different strengths. But now, thanks to the latest update which is currently being pushed out to owners, the option has returned. The option is found under Controls > Pedals & Steering > Regenerative Braking. It offers 2 toggles: Standard and low. With the standard regen, the regen is at its strongest, with the car slowing down as soon as the gas pedal is released. The car will coast further in low mode, more like a conventional ICE vehicle. • Standard: Provides the maximum amount of regenerative braking. When you release the accelerator pedal, your vehicle will slow down. • Low: Limits regenerative braking. When you release the accelerator pedal, your vehicle will take longer to slow down and coast farther than if set to “Standard”. While the low regen mode is less efficient, it could assist some drivers who are making the switch from ICE to EV for the first time. There’s also an argument to be made that a lower regen strength is better for those driving in inclement weather. Either way, it’s a neat feature that has been added back. +++

+++ TOYOTA will seek to adapt to the soaring popularity of electric vehicles “with a sense of crisis”, president Koji Sato has said. “It is true that the world is moving fast, so we must respond quickly and flexibly”, Sato said in a recent interview with media organizations. “We need to respond with a sense of crisis”. Toyota is the world’s biggest automaker group with annual sales of 10.48 million units in 2022, exceeding those at second-ranking Volkswagen by over 2 million units.  But in the global EV market, Toyota sold only 20.000 units in 2022, against 1.26 million units logged by market leader Tesla, according to a market research company. Sato underscored eagerness to achieve Toyota’s plan to introduce 10 EV models and raise its annual global EV sales to 1.5 million units by 2026 after improving production efficiency and product appeal. Sato, a former engineer at Toyota, assumed the post of president April 1 after his predecessor, Akio Toyoda, stepped aside to become chairman. Toyoda, a member of the automaker’s founding family, held the presidency for some 14 years. “The major trend in the auto industry is toward electrification and EVs”, Sato said. He admitted that Toyota underestimated the growth of the EV market and said the company plans to catch up with growing demand by boosting its product lineup and other measures. Meanwhile, Sato emphasized the importance of maintaining the strategy of offering a diverse range of environmentally friendly vehicles in addition to EVs, such as hybrid vehicles, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles. “We must have a variety of solutions, considering energy security,” he said. “We cannot move forward while ignoring the realities of regional characteristics, economic impacts and usage environments”. On the role he will play as president, Sato said he will “lead Toyota and the auto industry to the next step while utilizing the foundation laid by chairman Toyoda”. “The biggest difference between the chairman and myself is that I am an engineer”, he said, expressing his wish to add his personal touch to the company through products, namely cars. At a briefing this month, Toyoda announced the goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions per new vehicle sold worldwide by at least 50% from 2019 levels by 2035. “It’s a very ambitious figure”, Sato said. “EVs and other technologies are all just methods. What’s most important is to reduce CO2 emissions”, he said. “We’ll work hard to achieve this goal”. +++

+++ Waze has become the go-to navigation app for millions of drivers around the world but can usually only be used through a smartphone and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. That’s no longer the case for VOLVO owners. The Swedish brand has announced that Waze is now available directly through its Google-based infotainment system and can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. It is available to all Volvo models worldwide with Google built-in and can be launched with just one tap. Volvo notes that it offers all the same functionality as the mobile app. “We’re continuing to expand our in-car app offer to bring more options and benefits to our customers, allowing them to personalize their car”, Volvo global head of New Car Programmes and Operations Strategy, Erik Severinson said. “We’re committed to continuously improving the experience in Volvo cars through our in-house software development and ongoing collaborations with tech companies such as Google and Waze”. Volvo says that the functions of the Waze app may differ slightly between markets. It has also been revealed that the app will not be available in China, South Korea, and Vietnam. “We’re thrilled to announce our collaboration with Volvo as their car owners around the world can now access the best of Waze real-time navigation, routing and traffic alerts through the car’s infotainment system”, added director of marketing and partnerships at Waze, Aron Di Castro. “Having Waze’s real-time navigation, routing and alerts seamlessly displayed in the car, without needing to connect your phone to the car, makes for a simplified and seamless driving experience”. Waze was originally founded in Israel back in 2006 when it was known as FreeMap Israel. As the popularity of the app began to boom, Google purchased its parent company, Waze, in June 2013 for $1.3 billion. The app is loved for a number of reasons, particularly since Waze users can report accidents, police, traffic jams, speed cameras, and other hazards. +++

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