Newsflash: waarom de Audi Q6 e-Tron geen showstopper is

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+++ Until now, AUDI has only been able to offer customers electric SUVs in the compact class (Q4 e-Tron) and luxury class (Q8 e-Tron). With the Q6 e-Tron, the brand is now also occupying the important mid-size class. The car is already available to order in 3 engine versions, with the market launch scheduled for this summer. In order to better categorise the car, they best way is to compare it with the competition. Midsize premium SUVs are the most crowded electric segment. Nevertheless, it is not so easy to find suitable comparison candidates for the Audi because the direct equivalents from BMW and Mercedes are sometimes lacking. Let’s start with the interim base model, the 326 hp Q6 e-Tron Performance with rear-wheel drive. It competes against the BMW iX3 with 286 hp rear-wheel drive, which is already quite dated. Mercedes, on the other hand, currently has no competitor model at all following the cancellation of the EQC. Let’s include another 800 volt model in our comparison: the Hyundai Ioniq 5 is competitive with the 325 hp top version, even if it has all-wheel drive. The third rival is the popular Tesla Model Y: in the new long-range version with 347 hp rear-wheel drive. The comparison shows the Hyundai Ioniq 5 accelerates the fastest to 100 km/h and the Audi almost the slowest, but the Q6 eTron has almost the hightest topspeed (the Model Y wins here). When it comes to electricity, the Audi is no threat for the Tesla (16.5-19.1 kWh vs. 15.5 kWh). Thanks to a bigger battery, WLTP range of the Q6 e-Tron is topnotch (but that also goes for the Model Y). However, the Audi is really a lot more expensive that the Tesla. The BMW is not really competitive anymore, and the Hyundai lags behind in terms of range. However, it is also cheaper than the Audi. Let’s take another look at the Q6 e-Tron Quattro. With 387 hp it still belongs to the middle-class versions, while the more expensive SQ6 e-Tron is probably more of a niche model. The BMW is no longer a rival due to its significantly lower performance, as is the Hyundai. With Tesla, the cheaper of the 2 all-wheel-drive models is the obvious choice. Let’s add the Xpeng G6 in the top version and the sister model Porsche Macan in the ‘4’ version as exotics. The Tesla and the Xpeng are by far the most powerful. The G6 acceleraties the quickest to 100 km/u; the Q6 e-Tron is slowest here. The Xpeng has the lowest topspeed however, although the Audi is not much faster. The Tesla again has the lowest electricity-consumption. The Porsche is the least efficient. This electric SUV has the best range however, together with the Audi. But boy, the Macan really is expensive. And compared to the Tesla and Xpeng, the Audi isn’t cheap either. The man drawback of the Xpeng is, as being a start-up company, it has not yet built up a reputation and trust in Europe. My small data comparison shows that the Q6 e-Tron is no show-stopper. Also, Hyundai, Tesla and Xpeng offer far cheaper alternatives which are not much worse, in general on the contrary. +++

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+++ While there will be an electric BMW 3 Series based on the Neue Klasse platform in 2025, combustion-engined and hybrid versions with the same look will remain, but they will be built on an updated version of the current mixed-energy rear-wheel-drive platform. Product boss Bernd Körber said BMW will retain its natively front-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive platforms (and all powertrain options) in addition to the Neue Klasse architecture underpinning its new pure-electric cars. The situation is similar at BMW-owned Mini, where the petrol and electric Cooper models are identically styled, yet one is built in China on a bespoke electric architecture and the other in Oxford on a traditional combustion-engined structure. This strategy allows BMW to be adaptable to fluctuating global market conditions around the uptake of electric cars. “What plays out at the moment is our own strategy”, said Körber. “For us, it was always clear that development will be very volatile because it’s dependent on regulation and customer needs. For the foreseeable future, we’re into a technology-flexible approach, which is why we planned to build all drivetrains on one production line. If a market shifts in one direction, we don’t have to close a plant or reduce a shift. We just shift to another drivetrain”. BMW sales boss Jochen Goller added that “2 years ago, estimates on electric cars were too optimistic and now they’re too pessimistic” and the prevailing trend ahead is still “growth coming from electric cars”. He said: “I think with more models coming with a longer range and a shorter charging time, some of the purchase barriers will be removed”. +++

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+++ The expected entry of China’s BYD into the South Korean consumer electric vehicle (EV) market this year will likely intensify competition within the low-cost segment of the market, which globally has seen a stagnation in growth as of late due to the so-called EV adoption chasm, according to industry watchers. The Chinese EV maker has applied for emissions and noise certification for its midsized EV sedan Seal with the National Institute of Environmental Research under the Korean environment ministry on June 5, marking the beginning of BYD’s domestic release procedure. The process, which checks factors, such as the driving range on a single charge, is known to take around 2 to 3 months. Performance evaluations linked to a review for EV subsidies are conducted separately by the Korea Environment Corp. In terms of size and performance, BYD’s Seal model, whose entry price trim is set at 179,800 yuan, is comparable to Tesla’s Model 3 and Hyundai Motor’s Ioniq 6. Market watchers expect the model to become eligible for EV subsidies when released. Some, however, note the use of lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries in the model could work against the model due to the low recyclable value of LFP batteries. Other more affordable BYD models, including the Dolphin and the Atto 3, are also being considered for release in South Korea. BYD has already applied for trademarks for 6 models in this Asian market. If BYD successfully launches its passenger EV cars in South Korea with competitive pricing, it could impact the domestic electric vehicle market, currently dominated by Hyundai and Kia. Korean automakers have already seen a decrease in the domestic EV market share, dropping 3.5 percentage points to 76.6 percent last year, especially in line with the release of Tesla’s Model Y vehicles produced in China. Local automakers, too, are moving to introduce more affordable models with a better value proposition, notably improved battery capacity. Hyundai plans to unveil the EV version of its mini SUV Casper at the upcoming Busan International Mobility show later this month. The model’s maximum driving range on a single charge is 315 kilometers. Kia’s EV3, the company’s third and latest EV model after the larger EV6 and EV9 models, is widely expected to become a hit, as the company has particularly designed the vehicle for drivers, prioritizing reasonable prices and low maintenance costs. The company aims to sell 18.000 units of the EV3 in the domestic market in the July-December period, while planning to begin exporting the model to Europe later this year and the United States in 2025. An auto industry watcher noted that China’s ultra-low-cost strategy has “already proven successful in other sectors, notably in retail with platforms, such as Temu. If BYD proves its competitiveness, it could pose a serious threat to domestic companies”. +++

+++ Now that Europe has announced tariffs on CHINA -made electric cars, the continent is bracing to see if the other shoe drops. Will China retaliate with tariffs on European cars, taking aim at German makers such as BMW and Mercedes? Would it put tariffs on agricultural products, targeting Europe’s politically influential farmers? Or luxury goods from Italy and France? Analysts warn that an escalating trade war could break out, raising prices for consumers and hurting exporters and their workers on both sides. Both are major markets for each other: China, a rising economy of more than 1-billion people, and Europe with its relatively well-off population of more than 400 million. “It’s a little bit like seeing a slow motion traffic accident unfolding”, Jens Eskelund, the president of the European Chamber of Commerce in China said earlier this year. “The accident has not happened yet and it is still possible to find an off-ramp. It is getting urgent”. The Chinese government has said it will take “all measures necessary to protect our legitimate rights and interests” in response to the tariffs on electric vehicles but it hasn’t specified what those might be. China launched an anti-dumping investigation into European brandy exports in January, a warning shot aimed at French cognac. France was a supporter of the European Union investigation that resulted in the EV tariff announcement. The EU is also investigating subsides given to Chinese wind and solar companies and whether China is unfairly restricting access to its market for medical devices, a long-running complaint of European manufacturers. The European Union said it had reached out to China to discuss the findings of the EV investigation, and that the tariffs would take effect on July 4 if the 2 sides fail to resolve the issue. The tariffs would be provisional and finalized only after 4 months. China’s Global Times newspaper has reported that Chinese companies are planning to ask the government to launch an anti-dumping investigation into certain EU pork products and an investigation of subsidies for some dairy products. The state-owned paper has also quoted a leading Chinese auto industry expert calling for raising the tariff on imported vehicles with larger engines to reduce carbon emissions, a move that would hit high-end German exports from Mercedes and BMW. Volkswagen expressed concern that the EU tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles could result in an escalation of trade conflicts and said the European Union is promoting an ongoing trend toward protectionism, nationalism and isolationism. “The negative effects of this decision outweigh any potential benefits for the European and especially the German automotive industry”, Volkswagen said in a statement. Research firm Sanford C. Bernstein noted that the impact on German makers would be muted by the fact that most of their cars sold in China are made locally. Only 2% of Volkswagen’s China sales are imports vulnerable to higher tariffs, along with 15% for BMW and 19% for Mercedes-Benz. China could also impose retaliatory tariffs on French and Italian luxury goods, cosmetics, wine, chocolate or furniture, wrote Gabriel Wildau, a China analyst at the Teneo consultancy, in an analysis ahead of the announcement. While Germany fears retaliation against its automakers and chemical producers, France and Italy have been the primary advocates within the EU for tariffs on electric vehicles, he wrote. How big an impact the provisional tariffs would have on Chinese sales is unclear. Some electric car companies might still be able to sell at a profit, even with duties as high as 30%. The provisional tariffs range from 17.4% to 38.1%, depending on the carmaker, and come on top of an existing 10% tariff on vehicles. The new rates would pose a serious market barrier to Chinese EV exports, the China Chamber of Commerce to the EU said. Calculations by the Rhodium Group found that that 5 of 6 models from BYD, China’s largest EV maker, would earn a profit with a 30% tariff, while a made-in-China Tesla Model 3 would sell at a loss. +++

+++ FORD is now taking applications from customers for its new 800 hp Mustang GTD supercar, with pricing to start at €476.800 in the Netherlands. That lofty price tag sends the GTD well clear of the similarly conceived Porsche 911 GT3 RS and puts it in league with the likes of the Ferrari 296 GTB. The GTD is primarily designed and engineered for track use but is currently being evaluated for approval to be registered as a road vehicle in Europe. “If this cannot be obtained, the Mustang GTD will be a track-only vehicle in certain markets”, Ford said, adding that fuel consumption data will be published before market launch. The application window is open until 19 July. Production of Europe-bound cars is scheduled to begin in spring next year. The GTD is said to have been conceived “after hours” by “a handful” of engineers in an anonymous storage garage at Ford’s Michigan headquarters, with the aim of creating “a Mustang to take on the best of European sports cars”. Ford is targeting a sub-7 minutes lap time at the Nürburgring; a feat that would put the GTD on a par with European supercars including the Porsche 911 GT2 RS, Lamborghini Aventador SVJ and Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series. Ford CEO Jim Farley said: “The GTD shatters every preconceived notion of a supercar. This is a new approach for us. We didn’t engineer a road car for the track, we created a race car for the road. “We’re throwing down the gauntlet and saying ‘come and get it’. We’re comfortable putting everybody else on notice. I’ll take track time in a Mustang GTD against any other auto boss in their best road car”. Designed and engineered in partnership with motorsport outfit Multimatic, which built the Ford GT supercar, the new arrival is effectively a road-legal reworking of the Mustang GT3 that will race at Le Mans next year. It has been named for the IMSA Sportscar Championship’s GTD classification, for cars built to the FIA’s GT3 specifications. A targeted output of more than 800bhp from the supercharged V8 makes the GTD the most powerful Mustang yet created, outpunching even 2019’s snarling 700 hp Shelby GT500. It’s even more powerful than the £1.4 million, track-only Ford GT MK IV revealed in 2022. The bespoke 5.2-litre engine is larger than that fitted to the standard road-going Mustang and packs a suite of motorsport-derived modifications, including dry sump lubrication, dual air inlets and a titanium active-valve exhaust system (which generates “exceptional notes”) in pursuit of Lamborghini-aping performance figures. Drive is taken directly from the back of the engine to a rear transaxle gearbox by a carbonfibre propellor shaft. The material reduces weight overall, but also reflects the fact that because it’s taking the drive directly from the engine rather than a gearbox, it spins at engine speeds of over 7500 rpm. So too is the chassis radically different to that of the standard Mustang. Up front, the GTD’s suspension set-up is a sophisticated take on the classic unequal-length double-wishbone design, with a single triangular wishbone at the top and two individual links at the bottom. The 2 front coilover suspension units also incorporate Multimatic’s Adaptive Spool Valve (ASV) damper technology, which can select from an array of damper settings on the fly in milliseconds under software control. The coilovers have 2 coil springs each rather than the usual single spring. One is softer than the other, and for track mode, completely compressing it with a hydraulic mechanism increases the spring rate by leaving only the single, stiffer spring in play. Doing so also reduces the ride height by 40 mm compared with the road setting. The steering is rack and pinion and a hefty anti-roll bar runs across the front of the V8. The 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox and rear suspension are mounted on a tubular steel frame in an altogether more race-like set-up, with horizontal in-board coilover units hooked up to the rear, integral-link double-wishbone suspension by pushrods and rocker arms. Like the front coilover units, the rears are based on ASV technology and are linked to the front. They are also fitted with 2 coil springs each. Thanks to the rear-mounted transaxle, weight distribution is 50% front, 50% rear and there’s a variable traction control system the driver can adjust without moving their hands from the wheel. The GTD has a track that’s nearly 100 mm wider than that of the standard Mustang, which together with massive 325 mm-wide front tyres (wider than the rear tyres of the GT) boosts grip and cornering stability substantially. Stopping power is from Brembo brakes with carbon-ceramic discs all round (engineered to resist fade under repeated loads) and the rears are cooled by ducted air. Buyers are offered a choice of 20 inch forged aluminium wheels or optional magnesium items modelled on those worn by the GT3 racer. The aero package is obviously lifted nearly wholesale from the GT3 racer, with a massive hydraulically adjustable rear wing, a vented bonnet, chunky air scoops, a beefy front splitter and a wind-cheating rear diffuser boosting downforce at speed and stability through bends. Inside, the GTD is closer to the standard Mustang than the race car, retaining digital displays and the standard infotainment system with over-the-air software-update functionality. Notably, though, the rear seats have been removed in the name of weight-shaving, the front seats are swapped for track-ready Recaro buckets and the rotary dial, build plaque and paddle shifters are all 3D-printed using titanium recovered from retired F22 fighter jets. Ford hasn’t given a weight figure for the Mustang GTD, but the carbon body panels and stringent lightweight methods mean it’s likely to tip the scales at substantially less than the 1.768 kg Dark Horse version. +++

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+++ JAPAN is strengthening its efforts to get automakers to develop smart cars whose safety and entertainment systems can be managed by cloud technology, an area where they are falling behind Chinese and U.S. rivals. The government has set a goal of Japanese companies accounting for 30% of the market for what are known as “software defined vehicles”, or SDVs, in 2030, when it estimates global sales will reach 35 million to 41 million units. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will provide financial support and help nurture workers such as information technology engineers by partnering with universities and launching reskilling courses, it said. While driving assistance technology and map navigation features are installed in Japanese cars, they still lack more advanced features. The government wants to build an ecosystem where companies can share data and profit from after-sale services as the auto industry’s business model evolves. Global revenue from robo-taxi services, for example, is estimated to grow to ¥80 trillion ($503 billion) by 2035; 80% of which will come from services other than vehicle sales, according to the ministry. “We expect the major part of the profit for these businesses will not come from sales of new cars, but the business model will change, and the larger amount of profit will be derived after the sale of the car”, said Takeru Ito, director at the ministry’s mobility digital transformation office. Among Japanese automakers, Nissan is planning an autonomous vehicle ride-share service to start in 2027 to address a dearth of taxi drivers. Honda is aiming to start a self-driving taxi service by the end of the decade, after walking back initial plans to deploy a robot taxi in central Tokyo by early 2026. Last month, Japan established the Automotive and Battery Traceability Center Association, a platform to ensure secure and safe data circulation among companies in the auto and battery supply chain, aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of the country’s car industry. +++

+++ TOYOTA shareholders voted in support of all the company’s proposals, including keeping Akio Toyoda, grandson of the Japanese automaker’s founder, as chairman on the board. The company confirmed the majority voted in support of its positions. A shareholder proposal requesting that Toyota issue an annual report on its climate-related lobbying activities was rejected. The annual meeting, held at company headquarters, has drawn attention because Toyota and other major domestic makers have been embroiled in a scandal centered around fraudulent certification tests for vehicles. The cheating did not result in recalls or safety problems. A shareholder proposal requesting that Toyota issue an annual report on its climate-related lobbying activities was rejected. Still, it’s a major embarrassment for a manufacturer with a reputation for quality whose production methods are studied around the world. Some individual shareholders asked about the scandal during the meeting. Toyota is at times seen as dragging their feet on climate change. Under Toyoda, it has pushed a “multi-pathway” approach to ecological vehicles, emphasizing hybrids, which have both a gasoline engine and electric motor, and using hydrogen for fuel instead of focusing on battery electric vehicles. “The group considers climate change measures to be one of its important management tasks and is fully concentrated on realizing carbon neutrality by 2050”, Toyota said in explaining its recommendation on the shareholders’ vote. It stressed its multi-pathway strategy and argued it was transparent and sincere about various environmental efforts. The results were expected because Toyota’s biggest shareholders among nearly 1 million are Japanese companies such as banks, insurers and financial institutions that would be unlikely to challenge the automaker, at about 39% ownership of the total shares. Other corporate entities make up 25%, foreign corporate entities nearly 22% and individual shareholders about 14%. Toyota Industries Corp, a group company, is the No. 2 shareholder. Parts maker Denso Corp is the sixth biggest shareholder. Last year, Toyoda won re-election with nearly 85% of the vote. That was down from 96% in 2022. How much he received this year is still unclear. Toyota officials have repeatedly apologized for the fraudulent vehicle testing, and chief executive Koji Sato reiterated the apology at the shareholders’ meeting. Among proxy groups that wanted a vote against Toyoda was Institutional Shareholder Services, majority owned by the German capital market company Deutsche Borse Group, which advises investors. ISS said in its proxy report that Toyoda “should be considered ultimately accountable” because his promises for change did not involve reshuffling of the board, which it believed was needed to prevent a recurrence of errant tests. It did not oppose the appointments of other board members, including Sato. Another major shareholder, proxy advisory company Glass Lewis & Co, recommended voting against the reappointments of Toyoda and Shigeru Hayakawa, another top executive, citing similar reasons over the faulty tests that it said raised doubts about the company’s governance and corporate culture. Hayakawa oversaw appointments of board members, and more independent board members should be added, according to Glass Lewis, based in San Francisco. In the fiscal year that ended in March, Toyota’s profits doubled from the previous year to 4.9 trillion yen ($31.9 billion), exceeding its own projections, as vehicle sales surged and a weak Japanese yen inflated its overseas earnings. Toyota remains the world’s leading automaker, with sales of 9.4 million vehicles in the fiscal year that ended in March. Toyota’s stock prices had tripled over the last five years to nearly 3.800 yen before cascading downward amid its latest troubles. Its shares are now trading at above 3.000 yen. The improper checks on vehicles, including collision tests, started surfacing last year and were found at Toyota group companies Daihatsu, which makes small models, truckmaker Hino and Toyota Industries, a manufacturer of forklifts and other machinery. The violations were also at Japanese automakers that aren’t part of the Toyota group, such as Honda, Mazda and Suzuki. “The issues we are facing today, including carbon neutrality, are challenges that everyone on earth needs to join forces in mind and spirit to tackle together”, Toyoda said ahead of the meeting. “If we simply don’t know the right answer, let’s start by doing what we think is best”. +++

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