Automotive trends, Auto industry trends, Automotive market research, Automotive market analysis, auto industry news

Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 20th October 2019

Daimler apps overly generous with location data; OEMs that still won’t commit to meeting CO2 targets; and a battery maker with an optimistic outlook. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 14th October to 20th October 2019. A PDF version can be found here.

Before you read the detail, what were my favourite stories of the past week…?

News is arranged by company and topic. Stories that apply to more than one company or topic are duplicated.

Find our archive here.

SIGN UP TO GET THE WEEKLY BRIEFING EMAILED TO YOU

News about the major automakers

BMW (history)

  • CEO Zipse wants to add partners to BMW and Daimler’s joint venture for mobility businesses. (Reuters)

Daimler (history)

  • Daimler’s app reportedly suffered a technical glitch that meant users had access to other people’s data (for a short time). Daimler said it was cached location data so although strangers could see where your car had been, they didn’t know your current location (unless you hadn’t moved).  (TechCrunch)

FCA (history)

  • Will pay $79 million in fines for failing to meet US fuel economy targets in 2017. (Reuters)

Ford (history)

  • Recalling almost 20,000 Ranger pick-up trucks because the air conditioning can catch fire. (Ford)
  • Will make remote connectivity features free for all vehicles, reversing an earlier strategy where users were charged (something many competitors continue to pursue). Ford’s suggestion is that increased customer loyalty will offset the costs of running the infrastructure necessary to enable the service. (Ford)
  • Signed a deal with VW’s Electrify America charging network to allow Ford owners to use their chargers. (Ford)
  • Ford’s forthcoming electric vehicles will only be capable of charging at up to 150 kW, despite Ford being a founder member of the Ionity network that can facilitate 350 kW. (Ford)
  • Ford’s head of mobility said that although the company hopes to meet its declared target of putting autonomous taxis on the road during 2021, there isn’t any pressure being put on the team to scale up after that. (Forbes)

Geely (includes Volvo) (history)

  • Volvo will badge battery electric cars under the Recharge sub-brand. (Volvo)
  • Volvo plans to be carbon neutral by 2040. (Volvo)
  • Volvo’s CEO says that most start-ups “underestimate the challenge” of building a new car. (Telegraph)

General Motors (history)

  • Reached a deal with US unionised workers (who will stay on strike until it is ratified). (GM)
  • Agreed not to close the Detroit-Hamtramck, USA, plant and will build a new electric vehicle there. Factories in Lordstown, Warren and Baltimore will close when their product lifecycle ends. (Detroit Free Press)
  • Rumours swirled that the reprieved plant will build a Hummer badged pick-up and SUV. (Reuters)
  • Working with the US Army on cybersecurity improvements. (GM)

Hyundai / Kia (history)

  • Invested in automotive cybersecurity developer Upstream Security. (Upstream Security)
  • Has developed an adaptive cruise control system that recalibrates itself based on the owner’s behaviour (distance to vehicles in front, rate of acceleration, time to respond to actions of the vehicle in front). Hyundai makes clear that some “unsafe” driver behaviour will be ignored by the system. (Hyundai)
  • Plans to spend $35 billion on new product and M&A by 2023. (Reuters)
  • Kia says that because of shortages of batteries and electric motors it won’t launch the all-electric version of the Soul in the US market until 2021. (Inside EVs)

Mazda

  • Published the detail sustainability report and annual report covering 2018/19. (Mazda)

PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)

  • Sold 674,055 vehicles in Q3 2019, a (4)% decline versus a year earlier. (PSA)
  • Citroën thinks that a hard Brexit would reduce UK industry sales by at least 10%, and up to 25%. The Brand also believes that UK dealers must be multi-franchise to be profitable (Automotive Manager) and “a lot” of UK dealers can only make money with an industry level of 2.5 million units or above. (Car Dealer)
  • PSA’s forthcoming all-electric 1 tonne vans will have larger batteries than some competitors are considering — 50 kWh for base models and a 75 kWh longer range (300km WLTP) version. (PSA)
  • Faurecia announced third quarter revenues of €4.2 billion. (Faurecia)

Renault (history)

  • Renault sold 852,699 vehicles in Q3 2019, a (4.4)% decrease on a year-over-year basis. (Renault)
  • Pre-announced Q3 2019 revenues of €11.3 billion, down (1.6)% on a year-over-year basis and issued a profits warning. Renault say that full year revenues will fall about (3)% – (4)% and operating margin will be around 5%. Even worse, the executive team is re-assessing whether it can meet medium term targets.  Renault said the problem was the economy and higher regulatory costs (less clear was why this was a surprise). (Renault)
  • Reorganising the UK sales network, but doesn’t intend to reduce the number of dealer sites. (Automotive Manager)
  • A French minister suggested it was very likely Renault’s new CEO would be an external candidate. (Reuters)
  • Invested in automotive cybersecurity developer Upstream Security. (Upstream Security)

Tata (includes JLR) (history)

  • Tata’s chairman said JLR would not be sold and that although he was interested in new partnerships, Tata wouldn’t give up operational control because automotive was a core business and his job is to “run companies”. (Live Mint)

Tesla (history)

  • Delivery times for US customers imply that Tesla could be adopting a process of producing vehicles for export early in the quarter and US customers later (so that they can all be delivered before the end of the quarter). (Electrek)

Toyota (history)

  • Unveiled the fourth generation of the Yaris B-sized car. (Toyota)
  • Planning to release an ultra-compact all-electric car in Japan in 2020. (Toyota)

VW Group (history)

  • VW Group delivered 2.64 million vehicles in Q3 2019, a 1.1% rise on prior year. (VW)
  • Extended the deadline for proving that sufficient managerial and cultural changes had been made in the aftermath of the diesel scandal from early 2020 to the middle of the year. VW said the extra time was for testing of the changes made, rather than because it needed to do more. (VW)
  • Said there are “concrete” plans for VW Group’s CO2 emissions to meet EU targets in 2020 and beyond. (VW)
  • Suffered a setback in settling a case with Australian authorities over diesel cheating after the judge took issue with the implication that VW’s senior management hadn’t been aware of the scheme. (The Guardian)
  • CEO Diess expects full year sales of 20,000 Audi eTron SUVs and says that margins won’t be negatively impacted by the application of electric vehicle technology because of the VW Group’s component sharing strategy. (Reuters)
  • Announced an “entry level” Porsche Taycan with a lower power motor and smaller battery. (Porsche)
    • Significance: The model is a strong signal that Porsche believes it will far outstrip initial volume expectations.
  • VW said Turkish incursions into Syria has caused it to put plans for a new factory in the country on hold. Romania claimed that it was being considered as an alternative. (Reuters)

Other

  • Evergrande and Pininfarina announced a strengthened collaboration agreement to jointly develop new electric vehicles. (Pininfarina)
  • Rivian’s manufacturing director revealed that the all-electric trucks being built for Amazon are “significantly larger” than the pick-up trucks the brand has shown so far. (WGLT)
  • Subaru suspended production at several Japanese plants because Typhoon Hagibis damaged some supplier facilities. The stoppage is expected to last around ten days. (Subaru)
  • Faraday Future’s founder has declared bankruptcy in the US and looks set to give up his stake in the firm; the company hopes it won’t be affected. (Reuters)
  • Uniti opened the order book for its electric city car. (Uniti)
  • Mahindra’s Ssangyong brand reported Q3 revenue of 836.4 billion KRW (about $710 million) and an operating loss of (106) billion KRW (about -$90 million), mostly due to a (10)% drop in volume. (Ssangyong)

News about other companies and trends

Suppliers

Economic / Political News

  • European passenger car sales in September of 1,285,494 units rose 12.9% versus prior year, with increases in all markets except Bulgaria and Iceland. On a year to date basis, sales remain about (2)% worse. (ACEA)

Suppliers

  • Piston Group acquired Marion Industries. (Piston Group)
  • Faurecia is buying Continental’s share of the SAS joint venture that makes interior components in a deal worth €225 million. (Faurecia)
  • Hungarian state aid for a Samsung battery factory is under investigation by the EU. (Reuters)
  • Faurecia announced third quarter revenues of €4.2 billion. (Faurecia)

Dealers

  • Used car sales site Cars24 raised $100 million. (Deal Street Asia)
  • Used car sales website AutoScout24 is expected to fetch over €2 billion. (Reuters)

Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)

  • German ride hailing firm Clever Shuttle is ending services in almost half the territories it operates, highlighting the difficulty of running a profitable service — especially with drivers who are employees. (Handelsblatt)
  • In-car advertising start-up StickEarn raised $5.5 million. (Tech In Asia)

Driverless / Autonomy (history)

  • A project called Earth Archives intends to create an open source, lidar-derived, map of the entire earth’s surface, with the promoters claiming a resolution of 20cm. Unfortunately, it looks set to arrive too late to be a serious basis for self-driving vehicle technology. (The Guardian)
  • Although it has long disappeared from the headlines, Uber’s fatal self-driving vehicle crash is still under investigation by US authorities. (Reuters)
    • Significance: As demonstrated by the Boeing 737-MAX debacle, self-driving vehicle fleets could find themselves waiting a long time if bureaucrats need to step in and evaluate accidents in detail. The current standard of “safety reports” — long on jargon and truisms, short on meaningful detail indicate that this lesson has yet to be learned.
  • Hyundai has developed an adaptive cruise control system that recalibrates itself based on the owner’s behaviour (distance to vehicles in front, rate of acceleration, time to respond to actions of the vehicle in front). Hyundai makes clear that some “unsafe” driver behaviour will be ignored by the system. (Hyundai)

Electrification (history)

  • LG Chem executives expect battery costs of $100 / kWh in 2025, by which time the firm believes all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles will account for 15% of total industry sales. (Reuters)
  • Electric platform developer Motiv raised $60 million from investors including recreational vehicle builder Winnebago. (Motiv)
  • Ford’s forthcoming electric vehicles will only be capable of charging at up to 150 kW, despite Ford being a founder member of the Ionity network that can facilitate 350 kW. (Ford)

Connectivity

  • Upstream Security raised $30 million from a group of investors including Renault, Hyundai, Volvo Group and Maniv Mobility’s fund. (Upstream Security)
  • Ford is making remote connectivity features free for all vehicles, reversing an earlier strategy where users were charged (something many competitors continue to pursue). Ford’s suggestion is that increased customer loyalty will offset the costs of running the infrastructure necessary to enable the service. (Ford)

Other

  • Volvo Group (Trucks) created a new division dedicated to autonomous vehicles. (Volvo) The company says that demand for new vehicles is declining. (Volvo)
  • Bicycle sharing firm Wheels raised $50 million. (TechCrunch)

SIGN UP TO GET THE WEEKLY BRIEFING EMAILED TO YOU

Find our archive here.

Automotive trends, Auto industry trends, Automotive market research, Automotive market analysis, auto industry news

Auto Industry Briefing — Our Most Recent Edition

Daimler apps overly generous with location data; OEMs that still won’t commit to meeting CO2 targets; and a battery maker with an optimistic outlook. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 14th October to 20th October 2019. A PDF version can be found here.

Before you read the detail, what were my favourite stories of the past week…?

News is arranged by company and topic. Stories that apply to more than one company or topic are duplicated.

Find our archive here.

SIGN UP TO GET THE WEEKLY BRIEFING EMAILED TO YOU

News about the major automakers

BMW (history)

  • CEO Zipse wants to add partners to BMW and Daimler’s joint venture for mobility businesses. (Reuters)

Daimler (history)

  • Daimler’s app reportedly suffered a technical glitch that meant users had access to other people’s data (for a short time). Daimler said it was cached location data so although strangers could see where your car had been, they didn’t know your current location (unless you hadn’t moved).  (TechCrunch)

FCA (history)

  • Will pay $79 million in fines for failing to meet US fuel economy targets in 2017. (Reuters)

Ford (history)

  • Recalling almost 20,000 Ranger pick-up trucks because the air conditioning can catch fire. (Ford)
  • Will make remote connectivity features free for all vehicles, reversing an earlier strategy where users were charged (something many competitors continue to pursue). Ford’s suggestion is that increased customer loyalty will offset the costs of running the infrastructure necessary to enable the service. (Ford)
  • Signed a deal with VW’s Electrify America charging network to allow Ford owners to use their chargers. (Ford)
  • Ford’s forthcoming electric vehicles will only be capable of charging at up to 150 kW, despite Ford being a founder member of the Ionity network that can facilitate 350 kW. (Ford)
  • Ford’s head of mobility said that although the company hopes to meet its declared target of putting autonomous taxis on the road during 2021, there isn’t any pressure being put on the team to scale up after that. (Forbes)

Geely (includes Volvo) (history)

  • Volvo will badge battery electric cars under the Recharge sub-brand. (Volvo)
  • Volvo plans to be carbon neutral by 2040. (Volvo)
  • Volvo’s CEO says that most start-ups “underestimate the challenge” of building a new car. (Telegraph)

General Motors (history)

  • Reached a deal with US unionised workers (who will stay on strike until it is ratified). (GM)
  • Agreed not to close the Detroit-Hamtramck, USA, plant and will build a new electric vehicle there. Factories in Lordstown, Warren and Baltimore will close when their product lifecycle ends. (Detroit Free Press)
  • Rumours swirled that the reprieved plant will build a Hummer badged pick-up and SUV. (Reuters)
  • Working with the US Army on cybersecurity improvements. (GM)

Hyundai / Kia (history)

  • Invested in automotive cybersecurity developer Upstream Security. (Upstream Security)
  • Has developed an adaptive cruise control system that recalibrates itself based on the owner’s behaviour (distance to vehicles in front, rate of acceleration, time to respond to actions of the vehicle in front). Hyundai makes clear that some “unsafe” driver behaviour will be ignored by the system. (Hyundai)
  • Plans to spend $35 billion on new product and M&A by 2023. (Reuters)
  • Kia says that because of shortages of batteries and electric motors it won’t launch the all-electric version of the Soul in the US market until 2021. (Inside EVs)

Mazda

  • Published the detail sustainability report and annual report covering 2018/19. (Mazda)

PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)

  • Sold 674,055 vehicles in Q3 2019, a (4)% decline versus a year earlier. (PSA)
  • Citroën thinks that a hard Brexit would reduce UK industry sales by at least 10%, and up to 25%. The Brand also believes that UK dealers must be multi-franchise to be profitable (Automotive Manager) and “a lot” of UK dealers can only make money with an industry level of 2.5 million units or above. (Car Dealer)
  • PSA’s forthcoming all-electric 1 tonne vans will have larger batteries than some competitors are considering — 50 kWh for base models and a 75 kWh longer range (300km WLTP) version. (PSA)
  • Faurecia announced third quarter revenues of €4.2 billion. (Faurecia)

Renault (history)

  • Renault sold 852,699 vehicles in Q3 2019, a (4.4)% decrease on a year-over-year basis. (Renault)
  • Pre-announced Q3 2019 revenues of €11.3 billion, down (1.6)% on a year-over-year basis and issued a profits warning. Renault say that full year revenues will fall about (3)% – (4)% and operating margin will be around 5%. Even worse, the executive team is re-assessing whether it can meet medium term targets.  Renault said the problem was the economy and higher regulatory costs (less clear was why this was a surprise). (Renault)
  • Reorganising the UK sales network, but doesn’t intend to reduce the number of dealer sites. (Automotive Manager)
  • A French minister suggested it was very likely Renault’s new CEO would be an external candidate. (Reuters)
  • Invested in automotive cybersecurity developer Upstream Security. (Upstream Security)

Tata (includes JLR) (history)

  • Tata’s chairman said JLR would not be sold and that although he was interested in new partnerships, Tata wouldn’t give up operational control because automotive was a core business and his job is to “run companies”. (Live Mint)

Tesla (history)

  • Delivery times for US customers imply that Tesla could be adopting a process of producing vehicles for export early in the quarter and US customers later (so that they can all be delivered before the end of the quarter). (Electrek)

Toyota (history)

  • Unveiled the fourth generation of the Yaris B-sized car. (Toyota)
  • Planning to release an ultra-compact all-electric car in Japan in 2020. (Toyota)

VW Group (history)

  • VW Group delivered 2.64 million vehicles in Q3 2019, a 1.1% rise on prior year. (VW)
  • Extended the deadline for proving that sufficient managerial and cultural changes had been made in the aftermath of the diesel scandal from early 2020 to the middle of the year. VW said the extra time was for testing of the changes made, rather than because it needed to do more. (VW)
  • Said there are “concrete” plans for VW Group’s CO2 emissions to meet EU targets in 2020 and beyond. (VW)
  • Suffered a setback in settling a case with Australian authorities over diesel cheating after the judge took issue with the implication that VW’s senior management hadn’t been aware of the scheme. (The Guardian)
  • CEO Diess expects full year sales of 20,000 Audi eTron SUVs and says that margins won’t be negatively impacted by the application of electric vehicle technology because of the VW Group’s component sharing strategy. (Reuters)
  • Announced an “entry level” Porsche Taycan with a lower power motor and smaller battery. (Porsche)
    • Significance: The model is a strong signal that Porsche believes it will far outstrip initial volume expectations.
  • VW said Turkish incursions into Syria has caused it to put plans for a new factory in the country on hold. Romania claimed that it was being considered as an alternative. (Reuters)

Other

  • Evergrande and Pininfarina announced a strengthened collaboration agreement to jointly develop new electric vehicles. (Pininfarina)
  • Rivian’s manufacturing director revealed that the all-electric trucks being built for Amazon are “significantly larger” than the pick-up trucks the brand has shown so far. (WGLT)
  • Subaru suspended production at several Japanese plants because Typhoon Hagibis damaged some supplier facilities. The stoppage is expected to last around ten days. (Subaru)
  • Faraday Future’s founder has declared bankruptcy in the US and looks set to give up his stake in the firm; the company hopes it won’t be affected. (Reuters)
  • Uniti opened the order book for its electric city car. (Uniti)
  • Mahindra’s Ssangyong brand reported Q3 revenue of 836.4 billion KRW (about $710 million) and an operating loss of (106) billion KRW (about -$90 million), mostly due to a (10)% drop in volume. (Ssangyong)

News about other companies and trends

Suppliers

Economic / Political News

  • European passenger car sales in September of 1,285,494 units rose 12.9% versus prior year, with increases in all markets except Bulgaria and Iceland. On a year to date basis, sales remain about (2)% worse. (ACEA)

Suppliers

  • Piston Group acquired Marion Industries. (Piston Group)
  • Faurecia is buying Continental’s share of the SAS joint venture that makes interior components in a deal worth €225 million. (Faurecia)
  • Hungarian state aid for a Samsung battery factory is under investigation by the EU. (Reuters)
  • Faurecia announced third quarter revenues of €4.2 billion. (Faurecia)

Dealers

  • Used car sales site Cars24 raised $100 million. (Deal Street Asia)
  • Used car sales website AutoScout24 is expected to fetch over €2 billion. (Reuters)

Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)

  • German ride hailing firm Clever Shuttle is ending services in almost half the territories it operates, highlighting the difficulty of running a profitable service — especially with drivers who are employees. (Handelsblatt)
  • In-car advertising start-up StickEarn raised $5.5 million. (Tech In Asia)

Driverless / Autonomy (history)

  • A project called Earth Archives intends to create an open source, lidar-derived, map of the entire earth’s surface, with the promoters claiming a resolution of 20cm. Unfortunately, it looks set to arrive too late to be a serious basis for self-driving vehicle technology. (The Guardian)
  • Although it has long disappeared from the headlines, Uber’s fatal self-driving vehicle crash is still under investigation by US authorities. (Reuters)
    • Significance: As demonstrated by the Boeing 737-MAX debacle, self-driving vehicle fleets could find themselves waiting a long time if bureaucrats need to step in and evaluate accidents in detail. The current standard of “safety reports” — long on jargon and truisms, short on meaningful detail indicate that this lesson has yet to be learned.
  • Hyundai has developed an adaptive cruise control system that recalibrates itself based on the owner’s behaviour (distance to vehicles in front, rate of acceleration, time to respond to actions of the vehicle in front). Hyundai makes clear that some “unsafe” driver behaviour will be ignored by the system. (Hyundai)

Electrification (history)

  • LG Chem executives expect battery costs of $100 / kWh in 2025, by which time the firm believes all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles will account for 15% of total industry sales. (Reuters)
  • Electric platform developer Motiv raised $60 million from investors including recreational vehicle builder Winnebago. (Motiv)
  • Ford’s forthcoming electric vehicles will only be capable of charging at up to 150 kW, despite Ford being a founder member of the Ionity network that can facilitate 350 kW. (Ford)

Connectivity

  • Upstream Security raised $30 million from a group of investors including Renault, Hyundai, Volvo Group and Maniv Mobility’s fund. (Upstream Security)
  • Ford is making remote connectivity features free for all vehicles, reversing an earlier strategy where users were charged (something many competitors continue to pursue). Ford’s suggestion is that increased customer loyalty will offset the costs of running the infrastructure necessary to enable the service. (Ford)

Other

  • Volvo Group (Trucks) created a new division dedicated to autonomous vehicles. (Volvo) The company says that demand for new vehicles is declining. (Volvo)
  • Bicycle sharing firm Wheels raised $50 million. (TechCrunch)

SIGN UP TO GET THE WEEKLY BRIEFING EMAILED TO YOU

Find our archive here.



Before you read the detail, what were my favourite stories of the past week…?

  • Party In The USA The UAW strike at GM drags on into its fourth week. The upside of being a business focused on the US and China is you don’t have those pesky Europeans dragging your profits down and forcing you to make tiny cars filled with exotic technology. The downside is that when the US business stops, everything does. Is GM’s labour strategy fit for purpose?
  • Time Keeps on Slipping Denso took seven years to develop a new electric power steering system with in-built redundancy. It’s a good reminder of the grind involved in developing components to automotive standard — especially in areas where the technology needs to be made smaller and / or faster without getting more expensive. Something for startups promising clean sheet of paper vehicles within three years to think about?
  • Gone Dyson shut down its electric car program, saying it couldn’t make the business case add up. Whilst it is better to have stopped early than failed gloriously later on, the confusing thing is how it took so long to reach this stage? A £1 billion price tag (excluding batteries) for a car that, in its initial guise, was expected to only sell 10,000 units; a brand-new factory nowhere near a premium car supply base; a development centre with only 10 miles of test track…

News is arranged by company and topic. Stories that apply to more than one company or topic are duplicated.

Find our archive here.

SIGN UP TO GET THE WEEKLY BRIEFING EMAILED TO YOU

Automotive trends, Auto industry trends, Automotive market research, Automotive market analysis, auto industry news

Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 13th October 2019

GM needing US workers as much as they need it; how long it really takes to reach automotive grade; and no more Dyson. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 7th October to 13th October 2019. A PDF version can be found here.

Before you read the detail, what were my favourite stories of the past week…?

  • Party In The USA The UAW strike at GM drags on into its fourth week. The upside of being a business focused on the US and China is you don’t have those pesky Europeans dragging your profits down and forcing you to make tiny cars filled with exotic technology. The downside is that when the US business stops, everything does. Is GM’s labour strategy fit for purpose?
  • Time Keeps on Slipping Denso took seven years to develop a new electric power steering system with in-built redundancy. It’s a good reminder of the grind involved in developing components to automotive standard — especially in areas where the technology needs to be made smaller and / or faster without getting more expensive. Something for startups promising clean sheet of paper vehicles within three years to think about?
  • Gone Dyson shut down its electric car program, saying it couldn’t make the business case add up. Whilst it is better to have stopped early than failed gloriously later on, the confusing thing is how it took so long to reach this stage? A £1 billion price tag (excluding batteries) for a car that, in its initial guise, was expected to only sell 10,000 units; a brand-new factory nowhere near a premium car supply base; a development centre with only 10 miles of test track…

News is arranged by company and topic. Stories that apply to more than one company or topic are duplicated.

Find our archive here.

SIGN UP TO GET THE WEEKLY BRIEFING EMAILED TO YOU

News about the major automakers

BMW (history)

  • Delivered 613,361 cars in Q3 2019, up 3.6% on a year-over-year basis. (BMW)
  • Despite Daimler’s Smart brand going all electric in the next couple of years, Mini will continue with internal combustion engines for the next ten years (although it will also have some all-electric and PHEV models during that time). (Autocar)
  • VDL’s Nedcar plant is shedding temporary labour, indicating that extra Mini volume isn’t moving there in the near future, despite BMW’s warnings to UK politicians. (Dutch News)
  • Said it is committed to meeting European CO2 targets without paying fines. (Bloomberg)

Daimler (history)

  • Delivered 590,514 cars in Q3 2019, a 12.2% increase on a year-over-year basis. On a year to date basis, sales have only just started to climb above 2018’s level, so the quarterly figure represents a significant acceleration. (Daimler)

Ford (history)

  • Started production of the Puma small crossover in Craiova, Romania. (Ford)
  • Launched updated versions of the S-MAX and Galaxy people movers. (Ford)

Geely (includes Volvo) (history)

  • Geely (excluding Volvo) sold 306,430 cars in Q3 2019 (down 17% on a year-over-year basis), of which 33.213 units were from Lynk&Co (down 18% YoY). Geely stopped reporting Lynk&Co’s model line breakout. (Geely)

General Motors (history)

  • Striking UAW members will receive $275 per week in strike pay, $25 more than previously as the union bids to keep them on picket lines. There was also a relaxation of rules around temporary work — as long as they still picket, it’s okay. (Reuters)
  • In official statements, the UAW complained about GM’s bargaining tactics saying employees wanted to be back at work but the company had not been negotiating in good faith. Despite all this it made a counter proposal late on Friday (but didn’t say what was in it). (UAW)
  • GM said it had made an upgraded offer on Monday but hadn’t hear back all week. (GM) Details then started to leak out from people familiar with the matter — $9 billion of investment, guaranteed permanent positions for temporary workers with more than three years’ service and higher signing bonuses all round. (Bloomberg)
  • The UAW strike will reportedly delay the market introduction of the new Corvette as GM will prioritise catching up on missed production. (Detroit Free Press)

Hyundai / Kia (history)

  • Hyundai sold 1.1 million cars in Q3 2019, a (1.5)% drop on a year-over-year basis. (Hyundai)
  • Settled a case brought by US owners over defective engines. The deal will cost about $760 million. (Hyundai)

Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)

  • Announced that Makoto Uchida, the head of Nissan’s operations in China, as the new CEO with Mitsubishi’s COO, Ashwani Gupta, taking the same role at Nissan. Jun Seki, seen as one of two frontrunners was given a new role as deputy COO, the fate of current interim CEO Yasuhiro Yamauchi is unclear. All the changes will be effective from 1st January 2020. (Nissan)
  • Said that a no deal Brexit, with accompanying tariffs on finished vehicles sent between continental Europe and the UK would potentially render the entire European business “unsustainable”. (BBC)
  • Ending the night shift at the Sunderland, UK, plant but beefing up the line rate so that the factory’s output and workforce will remain the same. (BBC)
  •  

PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)

  • Started production of the next generation Corsa in Zaragoza, Spain. (PSA)

Renault (history)

  • Fired CEO Bolloré and installed the CFO as interim chief executive. (Renault) Bolloré was understandably dismayed by the decision, having only officially held the job since January. Before the decision was officially announced, he told reporters that the move was a “coup”. (Reuters)
  • Working on plans for enough electric cars to cover all segments of the portfolio. Executives said it was too early to say Renault would be in competition with Tesla, “Renault plasns bigger electric car to rival Tesla” boomed the headline. (Bloomberg)
  • Renault and Waymo are working with authorities in Paris, France, to start a geofenced robotaxi service that would operate between the airport and city centre. No fixed timeline was given. (Renault)
  • Created a new mobility division to house its various car sharing and ride hailing assets, most of which have been held within the finance company up until now. (Renault)

Tesla (history)

  • Acquired Hibar Systems, a Canadian firm that makes equipment to produce batteries. (CNBC)
  • Revised the pay of US sales staff to increase the regular salary and reduce the sales commission element. (Electrek)
  • Reportedly believes that if it opens stores superficially geared towards sales of energy storage products and solar panels then it will be able to get round laws in many US states restricting opening times for car dealerships. (Electrek)

Toyota (history)

  • Invested in electric moped rental firm Revel. (TechCrunch)
  • Acquired UK leasing firm Inchape Fleet Solutions for £100 million. (Fleet Europe)
  • Even Toyota has a place in its heart for diesel — the latest Japanese market Granace (large MPV) relies on it. (Toyota)
  • The LQ concept car suggests that the name Yui might be adopted for Toyota’s in-car personal assistant. (Toyota)
  • Says that the next generation Mirai fuel car will have a 30% greater range, partly through a bigger tank, but it won’t say exactly how much until a later date. (Toyota)

VW Group (history)

  • Admitted increasing inventories of finished vehicles in the UK ahead of a potential no deal Brexit. (Reuters)
  • Confirmed that VW Groups three passenger car companies in India are now a single legal entity. (VW)
  • Porsche is collaborating with Boeing’s Aurora Flight Sciences subsidiary on air taxis. (Porsche)
  • Denied that it was seriously considering an IPO of the Lamborghini brand. (Reuters)

Other

  • Dyson stopped working on electric cars, saying that the business case didn’t add up. The company apparently tried to sell the vehicle, but couldn’t find any buyers. (BBC)
    • Significance: The Dyson electric car program looked odd in a number of ways: A £1 billion budget for the car itself (part of a larger figure that included batteries), yet a firm plan only for a model with ambitions to sell 10,000 units;  a test track that seemed far too small; ambitions for a 700 strong development team, yet still far below that two years later. Dyson’s automotive squad included many experienced hands (and a few friends of Ad Punctum) and at least the program appears to have been realistic about the potential market reception.
  • Nio reported Q3 2019 deliveries of 4,799 cars, a 35% increase on the year earlier. (NIO)
    • Significance: Although the announcement was taken positively by the markets, volume of around 20,000 units per year at mass market prices is unlikely to sustain the costs associated with a two model portfolio in the longer term.
  • Subaru suffered stoppages at its Indiana, USA, plant after a nearby supplier was subjected to a ransomware attack and couldn’t provide enough parts to keep the assembly line going. (Journal & Courier)
  • US factory workers at Volvo Group’s Mack Trucks division have gone on strike over pay. (Detroit Free Press)
  • BYD started a new technology investment fund in partnership with a property company. (Deal Street Asia)
  • Airbus and Local Motors created a joint venture to 3D print parts for cars. (Local Motors)

News about other companies and trends

Suppliers

  • Schaeffler plans to make further job cuts in Germany, eliminating around 1,300 positions. (Handelsblatt)
  • Michelin will close the La Roche-sur-Yon, France, plant at a cost of €120 million. (20 Minutes)
  • Minda is buying lighting supplier Delvis. (Deal Street Asia)
  • It took Denso seven years to create an electric power steering system with in-built redundancy. (Denso)
    • Significance: This example serves to illustrate that new automotive technologies often take a long time to develop as solutions must be found that advance the concept (in this case, small enough motors that two can fit in what was previously the space for one); preserve quality and meet cost targets. Companies planning aggressive development targets for entire vehicle may want to read about Denso’s experience.

Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)

  • Uber is buying a majority stake in online grocer Cornershop. (Uber)
  • Renault created a new mobility division to house its various car sharing and ride hailing assets, most of which have been held within the finance company up until now. (Renault)

Driverless / Autonomy (history)

  • Autonomous delivery vehicle developer Einride raised $25 million. (TechCrunch)
  • CATL will supply batteries for VW’s South American truck business. (CATL)
  • Abu Dhabi and Dubai unveiled plans to test learner drivers using an array of driver monitoring systems, checking whether they are using mirrors correctly and assessing the quality of their manoeuvring. (The National)
    • Significance: Although there is still uncertain timing over the advent of fully autonomous vehicles, what is already known categorically is that driver assistance systems reduce accident rate and severity. By also acknowledging that computers can be better than humans at monitoring driving (because, correctly calibrated, they miss less), drivers tests under such conditions are likely to be more comfortable that, because they are so good at watching, computers might be better at driving too.
  • Comma.ai has around 1,000 active users for its open source driver assistance product. (Comma)
  • Self-driving truck developer Ike Robotics released a safety report. (Ike)
    • Significance: Ike’s chosen examples demonstrate that there are areas where the firm (and its peers) are presently making their own assessments of safety, such as on page 61 where Ike judge that the vehicle is operating safely provided the localisation error is less than 0.3m. Without a standardised approach (driven by regulatory blessing), Ike and its competitors run the risk that their systems could later be judged unsafe and, if they have followed a neural net learning approach rather than using a rules-based method, it could take a long time to update the driving artificial intelligence to meet the new criteria. This is an acute risk when looking to use the vehicles in new regulatory territories. Ike suggests that it has a substantial rules-based approach by declaring that it can encode laws directly into the vehicle behaviour (page 78). Ike point out that certain existing licensing considerations, such as occupant protection, are irrelevant if there is no truck driver. Reading between the lines, the firm could be implying that it will design its vehicles to crash by leaving the road in certain circumstances rather than risk collision with other road users. (Ike)
  • Chipmaker ARM (owned by SoftBank) created a working group, along with Bosch, Continental, DENSO, GM, Nvidia, NXP and Toyota to develop common architectures for self-driving vehicle hardware. (AVCC)
    • Significance: The creation of this group, the second such entity Toyota and GM have joined this year following an effort spearheaded by the SAE, suggests that either no one involved feels they have a good solution at present, or they are very happy to bin it if someone else has a better idea.
  • Renault and Waymo are working with authorities in Paris, France, to start a geofenced robotaxi service that would operate between the airport and city centre. No fixed timeline was given. (Renault)

Electrification (history)

  • Hanergy Glory says that a car with solar panels fit for 20km of range will virtually never need to be charged (1.6 KWh by their maths). It has developed such a vehicle and hopes to raise $25 million to bring it into production. It says that it already has a contract to supply 140,000 units to a delivery company. (Hanergy Glory)

Other

  • Electric moped rental firm Revel raised $28 million. (TechCrunch)
  • German electric scooter rental start-up Tier raised €55 million. (EU Startups)
  • Flying taxi developer Lilium apparently reckons it will need $500 million to realise its products. (TechCrunch)

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Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 6th October 2019

The electric vehicle brand losing its shirt; Nissan’s artisanal robots; and Volvo and Geely do something very sensible. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 30th September to 6th October 2019. A PDF version can be found here.

Before you read the detail, what were my favourite stories of the past week…?

News is arranged by company and topic. Stories that apply to more than one company or topic are duplicated.

Find our archive here.

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News about the major automakers

BMW (history)

  • Reportedly looking to reduce the hours of thousands of top-graded German hourly paid workers (from 40 to 35 per week) to save money. (Xinhua)
  • Rolls-Royce suffered the loss of a second design head this year. (BMW)

Daimler (history)

FCA (history)

  • Sold 565,034 vehicles in the US during Q3 2019, almost the same as Q2 2018. Whilst Ram sales increased and Jeep held about steady, other brands got pummelled. (FCA)
  • UAW officials said that talks with FCA were proceeding well, although they didn’t sound quite as positive as those underway at Ford. (Detroit Free Press)
  • Employees at the Cassino, Italy, plant went on strike after a workplace death. (Detroit Free Press)

Ford (history)

  • Confirmed the creation of a joint venture with Mahindra (51% Mahindra / 49% Ford) that will absorb most of Ford’s operations in India, excluding some commercial teams and the Sanand Engine Plant. Mahindra will take the lead in running the outfit, which will sell Ford brand cars in India and Mahindra vehicles internationally, which the partners have valued at $275 million. (Ford)
  • UAW negotiators said significant progress was being made in contract talks with Ford, with 18 out of 20 subcommittees reaching tentative agreements whilst awaiting the outcome of GM negotiations to set the pattern for high level pay and conditions. (CNBC)
  • Ford’s head of talent (HR) says the company is developing new ways to listen to its employees in a bid to “hack” the firm’s culture, including quarterly pulse surveys. (Search HR Software)
  • Received a patent for a convertible pick-up cab, sparking speculation that a topless Ranger or Bronco badged vehicle might be offered. (Fox)
  • Sold 580,251 vehicles in the US during Q3 2019, a fall of (4.9)% on a year over year basis. Sales of cars and SUVs were strongly down but Ford said SUV volumes would recover after it new portfolio had ramped up. (Ford)
  • Has created four offices in Detroit, London, Palo Alto (California) and Shanghai to follow the human-centred design method beloved of CEO Hackett. Ironically the press release is full of gobbledegook regular human beings will struggle to understand such as “build confidence and optionality in business decisions”. Oh dear. (Ford)
  • Responding to news reports of job cuts in the mobility division, Ford implied it has a workforce of 2,500 globally working on mobility platforms and products. (Detroit Free Press)
    • Significance: With such a huge team, yet little in the way of product currently available, the size of Ford’s team begs the question: is there something big in the works or is Ford wasting mammoth resources?

Geely (includes Volvo) (history)

  • Volvo and Geely are merging their internal combustion engine activities with a view to creating an independent organisation that can freely supply other car companies. There will be a phased transition: first each brand will put its powertrain operations on a standalone basis; then they will be merged. (Volvo)
    • Significance: With a portfolio that spans value products up to cutting edge mid-size (high power 2.0L) diesel and gasoline engines, the test of whether this is an exercise to ring fence Volvo from legacy liabilities (a la original Delphi / Visteon) or truly create a new global player will be in the acquisition of new business.
  • Lynk&Co plans to have only two permanent display locations in each country, augmented by truck-based roving stores. (Autocar) The only model that will be available in Europe with the much-touted subscription option is the 01 SUV. Lynk&Co’s CEO thinks the brand might sell 140,000 – 150,000 cars in 2019, up about 30% on a year-over-year basis (this would imply a huge sales push in the final months of 2019; up to the end of August the improvement was more like 5%). (Auto Express)

General Motors (history)

  • Delivered 738,638 vehicles in the US during Q3 2019, a 6.3% increase on a year earlier. (GM)
  • As the US strike dragged on, UAW negotiators said GM’s attitude had taken a turn for the worse and published emails berating GM negotiating top brass. (Detroit Free Press)
  • Laid off 6,000 workers in Mexico due to the US strike. (Reuters)
  • Many of the workers picketing GM plants are from Ford and FCA. (Detroit Free Press)
  • The Cruise team published a blog post about their hardware development approach. The short version is that cool sensors have existed for decades in the military, so applying them to cars at prohibitive cost points isn’t clever. GM believe that making the sensors affordable is a massive challenge that only a few companies have the financial wherewithal to conquer — a view that investors in smaller firms will hope is incorrect. (GM)

Honda (history)

  • Acquired app developer Drivemode. (Honda)

Hyundai / Kia (history)

  • Hyundai’s Cradle VC unit invested in driver monitoring firm Netradyne. As part of the deal, Hyundai will get access to data collected by Netradyne’s dashcams, potentially a useful source of information in building datasets for autonomous driving (having covered 350 miles already). (Hyundai)

Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)

  • Nissan has started using an automated process for metal forming that uses two robots applying pressure to a panel from each side, rather than using conventional press tools, essentially recreating artisanal techniques. Nissan says it will use the technology for aftermarket body kits and to produce spare parts for very old cars. (Nissan)
  • Reportedly considering moving production of the Juke and Qashqai out of the Sunderland, UK, plant in the event of a no deal Brexit. Nissan refused to confirm or deny the rumours. (Detroit Free Press)
  • Despite persistent rumours of Nissan pulling out of South Korea, the firm says it will continue there. (Korea Herald)
  • Nissan unveiled the IMk, a concept small MPV that the brand says uses an all-new electric vehicle platform. The vehicle shows Nissan’s interpretation of a near-buttonless cabin. (Nissan)
  • Nissan’s board has reportedly been conducting an analysis of the leadership qualities possessed by the shortlisted candidates for the CEO role and found that the acting CEO is favoured by the old guard whilst the recent head of Nissan’s China operations is better liked by younger managers and is seen as more likely to be revolutionary. (Reuters)

PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)

  • The manufacturing launch of the Grandland X at the Eisenach, Germany, plant is reportedly going badly with only 90 cars per shift being built against a target of 220. Because the car is also produced in France, there is no disruption to sales (although the plan is for Eisenach to become the single source in 2020). (Handelsblatt)

Renault (history)

  • Renault launched a service called Mobility Consulting in France, seemingly an attempt at solution-based selling for fleets by advising them how much Renault electric vehicles could save on their total cost of ownership. (Renault)
    • Significance: European fleets are notoriously disinterested in manufacturer’s assessments about ownership cost, preferring to use their own, or third party, data. It will be interesting to see whether the approach gains any traction.

Suzuki

  • Revealed a series of small cars including an autonomous minibus. (Suzuki)

Tesla (history)

  • Delivered 97,000 cars in Q3 2019, falling short of expectations (stoked by emails from Elon Musk) that the number would be at least 100,000. Tesla chose to concentrate on an increase in Model 3 orders, although it didn’t provide specifics. (Tesla)
    • Significance: Elon Musk’s “leaked” emails yet again proved inaccurate, despite forecasting only near-term figures.
  • Early users of Tesla’s recently released “summon” feature, a first step towards autonomous driving that lets users order their car to find them in car parks posted videos of scrapes. Tesla noted drily that the cars “may not detect all obstacles”. (Reuters)
  • Acquired computer vision company Deepscale. (CNBC)
  • A lawsuit alleges that Tesla made an over the air update to limit battery performance so as to avoid physical battery replacement for some units that might otherwise catch fire and that thousands of owners have seen their driving range reduced as a result. (Reuters)

Toyota (history)

  • Toyota’s Indian manufacturing operations plans to recycle 96% of all plastics used and wants to send zero waste to landfill. (Economic Times of India)
    • Significance: As regulators in the West push for better environmental standards, it is almost easy to forget that the same thing is happening in emerging markets too. Whilst reducing the impact is to be applauded, it puts increased cost pressures on manufacturers as worse emissions have historically been a (little acknowledged) method of reducing spending — not to say that this was right, just pointing it out.

VW Group (history)

  • Bentley’s factory at Crewe has been certified as carbon neutral — the plant generate 7.7MW from onsite solar panels and buys offsets for any net emissions. (Autocar)
  • Executives say VW is already in discussions with other car firms about licencing the premium electric vehicle platform being developed by Audi and Porsche. (Bloomberg)
  • The Traton truck division will spend €1 billion on R&D for electric vehicles by 2025, saying that in 10 – 15 years a third of the heavy vehicles sold will be electrified. (VW)
  • Audi revealed a bit more of its electrification plans. The number of vehicles with significant electrification planned for 2025 has become “more than 30” from “about 30”. 20 of these will be all-electric, up from 12 previously. In addition, Audi confirmed that the forthcoming Q4 e-tron all-electric mid-size SUV will be built in VW’s Zwickau factory, alongside the ID3. (Audi)
  • Porsche is adding 500 new job to the Zuffenhausen factory to increase capacity for Taycans. (Porsche)

Other

  • Aston Martin’s CEO said he was finding it tough being the CEO of a listed company, equating one year of public trading to seven years as a privately-held concern. (The Times)
  • Deutsche Post says it won’t order extra StreetScooter vans just to help the division reach volume targets, confirming the pressure on the division to stand on its own two feet. (Handelsblatt) The CEO says StreetScooter will lose a significant double digit million amount in 2019. (Manager Magazin)
  • Neuron EV showed renderings of the electric chassis cab trucks the firm intends to produce. (Neuron)
  • Some people are still in love with the internal combustion engine. Hennessey say that their GM-based unit can achieve over 1,800 horsepower on a test stand; now they want to see what it can do in a car. (Hennessey)
  • Subaru announced a series of organisational changes, including the creation of a cybersecurity team. (Subaru)

News about other companies and trends

Economic / Political News

  • September US light vehicle SAAR of 17.19 million, a (1.2)% fall versus a year earlier. (Wards)
  • September passenger car registrations in the UK of 343,255 units rose 1.3% on prior year. (SMMT)
  • German September registrations of 244,622 passenger cars rose 22.2% versus prior year. (KBA)
  • Passenger car registrations in France of 173,444 units in September rose up 16.6% on a year over year basis. (CCFA)
  • Spanish passenger car registrations in September of 81,751 units increased 18.3% versus prior year. (ANFAC)

Suppliers

  • AMS withdrew its takeover bid for Osram. (FT)
  • Dana and Valeo will collaborate on 48V systems, using Dana’s transmissions and Valeo’s motors and power electronics. (Dana)
  • Castings supplier Chassix rebranded as Aludyne. (Aludyne)
  • ZF issued €2.1 billion in debt to replace bridge financing used in the WABCO takeover. (ZF)

Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)

  • Malaysia is fining Grab $20 million for restrictive working practices foisted in drivers. (Reuters)
  • Uber’s CEO told employees there could be more job cuts but he thinks the worst of it is over. Long-suffering staff are still trying to overcome the company’s move to swap artisanal coffee with Starbucks. (Washington Post)
  • SoftBank invested in Buser, a Brazilian bus charter firm. (Reuters)

Driverless / Autonomy (history)

  • An IBM survey of consumers says around half of people think that the brand of an autonomous car won’t be important. (IBM) A similar survey by Ansys found that under 20% of people would be so blasé, most having a preference for a brand based on one of luxury, values or technology. The respondents’ knowledge must be called into question however by the low confidence expressed in autonomous trains — already an everyday occurrence in many countries. (Ansys)
    • Significance: The survey results highlight the problems inherent with asking people questions about a technology that they have yet to experience, or are even able to watch a comprehensive review of. The variation between IBM and Ansys’s surveys suggest the survey format has as much to do with the answer as the respondents’ attitude.
  • GM’s Cruise published a blog post about their hardware development approach. The short version is that cool sensors have existed for decades in the military, so applying them to cars at prohibitive cost points isn’t clever. GM believe that making the sensors affordable is a massive challenge that only a few companies have the financial wherewithal to conquer — a view that investors in smaller firms will hope is incorrect. (GM)
  • Hyundai’s Cradle VC unit invested in driver monitoring firm Netradyne. As part of the deal, Hyundai will get access to data collected by Netradyne’s dashcams, potentially a useful source of information in building datasets for autonomous driving (having covered 350 miles already). (Hyundai)

Electrification (history)

  • Executives say VW is already in discussions with other car firms about licencing the premium electric vehicle platform being developed by Audi and Porsche. (Bloomberg)

Other

  • Japanese flying car developer SkyDrive raised $14 million. (Deal Street Asia)
  • Despite recent troubling performance from the bicycle rental arms of Lyft and Uber, scooter rental firm Bird raised $275 million. In a ray of hope for carmakers anxious over whether autonomy will lead to the end of private ownership and a collapse in sales, Bird seems happy to throw away scooters after 12 months of use. (Bird)

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Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 29th September 2019

GM failing to plan; Toyota’s spiderweb; and what counts as insight when it comes to autonomy? Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 23rd September to 29th September 2019. A PDF version can be found here.

Before you read the detail, what were my favourite stories of the past week…?

  • Blame Game GM dealers in the US are complaining that they are running out of parts to repair cars because of the strike. UAW workers walking out is hardly unforeseeable, so what has happened here? A failure of contingency planning by GM or just dealers finding a scapegoat for running behind on repair work? If the former, what else might GM have failed to plan for?
  • Ante Up Toyota upped its stake in Subaru to 20%. Although the firms stressed that this was in no way a takeover, the statistics say once Toyota has built a stake that big in a brand it rarely backs off. Are we waiting for anything other than a recession forcing a weakened Subaru into Toyota’s embrace?
  • Obviously Audi published a survey into consumer attitudes about autonomous vehicles. It discovered that people are wary and don’t like the idea of ceding control to the machines. Is this new insight or simply stating the obvious about a technology that requires customers to take a leap of faith? How is this information being used? To actively plan for building wider awareness of autonomy or to give executives a warm feeling that these products won’t arrive until they are drawing their pension?

News is arranged by company and topic. Stories that apply to more than one company or topic are duplicated.

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News about the major automakers

BMW (history)

  • CEO Zipse told labour representatives there won’t be any big cuts in staff — at least until the end of 2020. (Reuters)
  • Announced senior executive appointments in production and HR. (BMW)

Daimler (history)

  • Said that after agreeing a €870 million fine, German prosecutors had closed the case against Daimler for irregularities in vehicle certification. Daimler had already made a provision for the fine. (Daimler)
  • Daimler’s sales team is experimenting with ways to remove incentives. (Autocar)

FCA (history)

  • Maserati gave a little extra detail on the next product cycle. The all-electric sports car will launch first, followed by the new SUV, and then a gradual replacement of Maserati’s existing line-up. Each program appears to be costing the brand around €800 million. Maserati will also start offering a bespoke service and has altered the Modena plant so that customers can watch their car being painted. (FCA)
  • Will pay $40 million to solve a case over inflated US sales results. (Detroit Free Press)
  • US prosecutors charged an FCA senior manager over emissions cheating. (Reuters)
  • Lost an appeal against a fine given to FCA by the EU for overly-favourable tax breaks. (Reuters)

Ferrari

  • Ferrari signed a new labour agreement that will last until 2023. (Ferrari)

Ford (history)

  • Recalling 322,000 Mondeo, S-MAX and Galaxy vehicles to fix leaking batteries. (Reuters)

Geely (includes Volvo) (history)

  • Buying an additional 21.47% share of Kandi Electric Vehicles from Kandi Technologies for $72 million. After the deal is completed, Geely will own 78% of the business. (Kandi)

General Motors (history)

  • Making Amazon’s Alexa voice recognition software available in vehicles during 2020, the feature will be carried back to 2018 models via an over the air update. (GM)
  • Reversed an earlier decision to cancel healthcare coverage for striking US hourly workers. (Detroit Free Press)
  • Some US dealers are turning away repair work, saying that they can’t get the official GM parts needed because of the UAW strike and they have exhausted their own inventories. (Detroit News)
    • Significance: Since spare part supplies are an obvious casualty of strike action, these reports are either: an over-exaggeration; dealers finding an easy target for other problems; or show a lack of proper planning by GM for the eventuality of a strike

Honda (history)

  • Announced a massive contract to buy zero emission electricity from wind and solar providers. In 2020 and 2021 it will purchase around 530,000 MWh and by 2022 the figure will be 1.012 million MWh annually. At the higher level, Honda says 80% of US manufacturing electricity needs will come from zero emission sources. (Honda)
  • Will stop selling vehicles with a diesel engine in Europe by 2021. Honda has already drastically reduced the number of products available with the fuel type, so confirmation of the end date was merely a formality. (Reuters)

Hyundai / Kia (history)

  • Hyundai and Kia are recalling around 42,000 Tucson and Sportage SUVs because of problems with the diesel particulate filter. (Yonhap)
  • Hyundai has created an urban air mobility team. (Hyundai)
  • Will collaborate with Cummins to develop hydrogen fuel cells. (Hyundai)
  • Creating a small-scale grid storage scheme in partnership with South Korean utility KHNP. (Yonhap)

Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)

  • Recalling 1.23 million vehicles to fix a problem with the reversing camera. (CNN)
  • There are reportedly three candidates in the running to become Nissan’s next CEO, one of whom comes from outside the automotive industry. (WSJ)

PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)

  • Citroën finalised a deal for Axis Bank to provide Citroën-branded financing in India. (Autocar)
  • PSA says that it forecasts European fleet CO2 figures to the nearest 0.1g / km but that the exact method of doing this is a closely-kept secret. (Les Echos)
    • Significance: Ad Punctum can exclusively reveal the special sauce that applies to PSA (and anyone else without an exemption)… The figure is a relatively simple combination of: publicly available figures for NEDC / WLTP performance; vehicle weight; sales figures (excluding certain vehicles such as prototypes) and adjustments for particularly low emitting vehicles or special technologies. The main mystery is whether PSA believes there is a competitive advantage to being able to add this up or the press office simply enjoys pulling journalists’ legs.

Tata (includes JLR) (history)

  • Here is what JLR’s VC team are telling the executives about micro mobility players. (JLR)
  • Executives say that a souped-up performance version of the I-Pace is on the cars. (Autocar)
  • JLR has reportedly told suppliers that it plans to cut production at the Halewood plant. (Coventry Telegraph)
  • JLR is stopping production for the first week of November, just after the (currently) scheduled Brexit date of 31st October. (Reuters)
    • Significance: Although JLR drew attention to the complexity of the firm’s supply chain, the slim likelihood that the problems could be resolved within a week points to weak demand being a factor too.

Tesla (history)

  • In a “leaked” email, CEO Musk told Tesla employees the company might be able to deliver 100,000 cars in the third quarter. Musk also said there had been a net 110,000 new orders in the quarter. (Electrek)
  • The US labour relations board said Tesla had broken laws through the company’s treatment of workers who wanted to unionise the Fremont, USA, plant. Tesla appears likely to appeal the decision. (Bloomberg)

Toyota (history)

  • Toyota will increase its shareholding in Subaru to achieve 20% of the voting rights. At the same time, Subaru will gain enough Toyota shares to have a stake of around 0.3%. (Subaru) Subaru said that there had been no discussions about an ultimate takeover. (Reuters)
  • Toyota’s current localisation level in India is between 60% – 85%, a figure the company hopes to improve on by encouraging more global suppliers to set up shop in the country. (Economic Times of India)

VW Group (history)

  • VW executives confirmed that the company was in the final stages of talks to establish a new plant in Turkey saying that a final announcement could be only a few weeks away. (Handelsblatt)
  • Opened a new low volume battery manufacturing facility in Salzgitter, Germany. (VW)
  • Although VW’s chairman and CEO have been charged by German prosecutors with market manipulation, the company hasn’t asked them to step down, consistent with earlier briefings to the German press. (VW) VW said that it had been consistent with prior approaches to dealing with regulatory concerns and that US authorities had caught the board out by going public whilst still in discussion with VW. (VW)
  • VW will no longer engage in advanced research; all such activities must now be called innovation. (VW)
  • Manufacturing cost savings are ahead of target and likely to deliver a 6% year-over-year improvement in 2019, which VW says is equivalent to €500 million. Cost per vehicle has apparently fallen for the first time since 2013, showing how slippery analytical measures of performance can be (given that VW has trumpeted similar improvements in the past). (VW)
  • Audi published the results of a study into consumer attitudes about autonomous vehicles. (VW)
  • Reportedly has several potential bidders willing to meet a €700 million price tag for heavy vehicle transmissions division Renk. (Reuters)
  • Škoda’s digital assistant is called Laura. (Škoda)
  • VW said the German government should avoid heavier taxes on diesel and petrol, invoking the civil unrest caused by France’s yellow vests as an example of what might happen. (VW)

Other

  • NIO reported Q2 2019 financial results. Deliveries of 3,553 units fell (11)% on a quarter-over-quarter basis whilst revenue fell (8)% to about $206 million. The loss from operations was $(470) million. (NIO)
  • Aston Martin’s CEO says the $150 million in debt the company has raised is enough to get the DBX to production regardless of global uncertainties and that investors should stop worrying about the cash position. (Reuters) Others worried about the cost of the debt — 12%. (The Guardian)
  • Bollinger unveiled the B1 and B2 models and some of the preliminary production-intent specification, including a 4.5 second 0-60 mph time. (Bollinger)
  • Faraday Future says if it can get hold of $850 million then it will be able to launch the FF91 within nine months and will have an IPO within 12-15 months. The vehicle’s sourcing is 92% complete (Faraday Future)
  • The makers of the Polarity electric motorcycle aim to launch an economical electric sports car in 2021. (Autocar)
  • Pix Moving claims that Honda and Volvo have been taking an interest in the company. (Nikkei)
  • BYD would like to start making cars in India, both for the local market and export. (Autocar). The firm is also reportedly thinking about an IPO for a division that makes switches for power electronics. (Bloomberg)
  • Fox Automotive wants to raise between $3 million – $9 million to finish a 12,000 cars per year factory in Hungary to make MIA electric city cars. (Market Screener)
  • Evergrande announced a series of engineering service providers who are working on programs for the company. The Chinese firm says it will release 15 different products and is recruiting 8,000 staff. (Evergrande)
  • Canoo unveiled their launch product, a seven-seat minivan with bench seating that will only be available through a monthly subscription. The plan is for production to begin in 2021. (Canoo)
  • Lightning is in merger talks with an unnamed automotive technology business. (Lightning)

News about other companies and trends

Economic / Political News

  • The UK Labour party said, should they win a majority at the next election, they would offer up £5 billion for electric car development and battery factories — provided the state got a share in the businesses. (Reuters)
  • Japan and the USA unveiled a new trade agreement, but it didn’t cover vehicles. (Reuters)

Suppliers

  • Continental announced a restructuring program aimed at improving profitability and planning for the reduction in workload related to internal combustion engines as the transition to electrification begins in earnest. Continental says 20,000 jobs will ultimately be affected by 2029 — some workers will be made redundant and some retrained — and that the firm aims to have reduced annual costs by around €500 million in 2023. Some of the affected plants have already been identified; the restructuring is set to cost €1.1 billion. (Continental)
  • Visteon’s CFO resigned (Visteon), as did Autoliv’s interim CFO (Autoliv). Lesjöfors got a new CEO. (Lesjöfors)
  • Michelin is closing a factory in Germany. (Michelin)

Dealers

  • Cluno, which offers all-inclusive leasing, raised €80 million of new debt and €25 million in equity. (TechCrunch)

Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)

  • Uber had its licence extended in London… but only by two months. (The Guardian)
  • WhistleDrive, a company providing transport of people and goods for businesses in India, raised around $10 million to fund an expansion. (Deal Street Asia)
  • BlaBlaCar made an offer to acquire ticketing firm Busfor. (EU Startups)

Driverless / Autonomy (history)

  • Mobility evangelists Morgan Stanley cut their assessment of Waymo’s valuation from $175 billion to $105 billion, citing concerns over the length of time it will take for self-driving technology to mature, and how much human supervision will cost operators. (CNBC)
  • Chinese self-driving car developer DeepRoute.ai raised $50 million. (Deal Street Asia)
  • Robosense says its lidar sensors will cost “only hundreds of dollars” once they are in serial production. The company hopes a recent tie-up with Chinese automaker FAW will help them scale up. (Robosense)
  • Self-driving truck developer Embark raised $70 million. (Embark)
  • Bosch invested in off-highway autonomous truck developer Trunk. (Bosch)
  • Hyundai Mobis has developed a back-up braking system for autonomous cars. (Hyundai Mobis)
  • Radar developer Echodyne raised $20 million. (Echodyne)
  • Audi published the results of a study into consumer attitudes about autonomous vehicles. (VW)

Electrification (history)

  • Hyundai will collaborate with Cummins to develop hydrogen fuel cells. (Hyundai)

Other

  • Hongji Bike wants to shake up the electric scooter rental market by offering a new $299 model. (Hongji)
  • Hackers stole data about 4.9 million customers from delivery service DoorDash. (DoorDash)

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Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 22nd September 2019

What price Amazon’s electrification; GM flees its low cost engineering centre; and Golf takes a leaf out of the McLaren P1’s book. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 16th September to 22nd September 2019. A PDF version can be found here.

Before you read the detail, what were my favourite stories of the past week…?

  • Money Changes Everything Amazon want to buy 100,000 all-electric delivery vans, and Rivian is going to build them all. Now I’m not saying Amazon are stingy, but they do have a certain reputation for taking their pound of flesh from supplier and contractor margins. How are Rivian going to take the basic engineering of a truck with a $70,000 price tag and thrift it down to match Amazon’s appetite? Or are Amazon prepared to open their wallets on this one?
  • In And Out Of Love GM is selling its Indian engineering centre to Tata Consultancy Services. In the last decade we’ve become used to executives talking about India’s status as a hub of value engineering, plus the benefit of local market insight. So why does GM want out?
  • Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag The next generation Golf will have two plug-in hybrid variants. The first will be like today’s GTE whilst the new entry will be a more upmarket, performance, version that can drive economically or focus around 240PS on getting somewhere fast. How come the likes of McLaren and Ferrari see the benefit of performance hybrids but so few of the mainstream manufacturers do?

News is arranged by company and topic. Stories that apply to more than one company or topic are duplicated.

Find our archive here.

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News about the major automakers

BMW (history)

  • BMW is telling suppliers of future product components that drive controls must be isolated from the internet to protect the vehicle from cybersecurity attacks. (Reuters)
    • Significance: Although on the surface this sounds reasonable, if correct, it also implies that BMW is creating a system that will make it impossible for much of the vehicle hardware to be changed remotely (it is near-impossible to stop this being done if you can plug in to the vehicle). The effect is that BMW will be unable to send out the type of updates that Tesla have become famous for, even as customers come to see it as the norm.
  • Launched a pilot project, with several other interested parties, to ensure that cobalt mined at “artisanal” Congolese mines (i.e. those not operated by large businesses) has been mined ethically. (BMW)
    • Significance: Although on the surface this could appear to be about fluffy sustainability, it more reflects growing concerns that mainstream supplies of cobalt could prove insufficient in the face of higher usage from electric vehicle batteries. BMW and others are seeking to develop these alternatives in a manner that will not be criticised later.
  • Reportedly considering plans to cut 5,000 – 6,000 jobs by 2022, mostly at headquarters. (Reuters)
  • Invested in Trifacta, a provider of data management software. (BMW)

Daimler (history)

  • Daimler’s development chief gave an interview in which he suggested that the firm was not planning to create any brand new engines after the generation being currently rolled out (although he did not rule out updating them, or even reversing course at some point). (Auto Motor Und Sport)
  • Daimler trucks will use batteries supplied by CATL. (CATL)

FCA (history)

  • Running a pilot with utility company Terna to better understand the potential for vehicle to grid (V2G) technologies in charging large fleets. (FCA)

Ford (history)

  • Replaced earlier plans to overhaul the main US engineering site with designs more suited to CEO Hackett’s vision of Ford’s future than predecessor Mark Fields’s. Despite the revisions, Ford said that the new buildings will be delivered in time with the original announcements. (Ford)
  • Although Ford and VW have already said their collaboration on electric cars could yield a second model, Ford’s European boss said that although only the first project has been approved, it won’t make sense financially without the other one. (Reuters)

Geely (includes Volvo) (history)

  • Lotus’s CEO said the brand was having a “good year” in 2019 in response to a question about whether it was still on track to deliver around 1,700 cars this year. Although he is looking for avenues to increase volumes and see personalisation as important, offering bespoke vehicles doesn’t appear to be a priority. (Bloomberg)
  • Volvo is reducing its use of consultants and “squeezing them a bit harder” to save money. The CEO believes that these measures, allied to more restrictive hiring criteria, will be enough to avoid job losses. (Automotive News)
  • Customers of Volvo’s all-inclusive leasing product (often referred to as subscription) are, on average, 10 years younger than the brand’s “typical” buyers. Volvo’s CEO attributes this to their decent pay but limited savings — although he compared all-inclusive customers to those paying cash upfront, a rarity these dasy. Take-up rates are still low. A recently German scheme is accounting for 2.5% of sales (versus a 5% target). (Automotive News)
    • Significance: His comments suggest that Volvo’s analysis is much of the profit from all-inclusive products lies in the lower financing costs for the OEM versus the consumer (assuming they don’t find themselves being written off by bond rating agencies.

General Motors (history)

  • US Union officials are rumoured to be considering keeping workers out on strike until any new deal with GM has been formally ratified by workers. If true, this would mean prolonging the strike for about a week from the customary return to work date (when the negotiators agree a draft deal). (Detroit Free Press)
  • Striking US workers have forced stoppages at some non-US GM plants, and those of suppliers. (Reuters)
  • GM said that the UAW would have to cover the healthcare costs of workers that had gone out on strike. (Reuters)
  • Selling some of GM’s Indian engineering centre to Tata Consultancy Services with a five year contract for ongoing development, similar to PSA’s sale of non-core Opel research activities to Segula. Over 1,300 employees will transfer over to Tata under the agreement. (Tata)
    • Significance: In an age where many technology companies tout engineering centres in India as a path to innovative value engineering and local market nous, GM’s move to reduce its footprint in the country suggests that it has a pessimistic view of its ability to compete in this emerging market (despite the Government’s proclamations of an all-electric future).

Hyundai / Kia (history)

  • Opened a Beijing office for the CRADLE in-house VC unit, declaring the global network to be complete. (Kia)
  • Announced a joint venture with Aptiv to develop self-driving vehicles that will see Hyundai and Kia contribute $1.6 billion in cash in return for a 50% in the combined entity. There is an explicit target to have a commercially available system by 2022, although not necessarily for retail buyers. (Hyundai)

Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)

  • Nissan expanded an existing relationship with utility company EDF that offered electric vehicle charging and payment services to UK customers. The collaboration will now include France, Belgium and Italy too. (Nissan)
  • Reportedly in talks to sell its spare parts distribution business, with a figure of $1 billion mentioned. (Reuters)
  • Agreed to pay the SEC $15 million to settle charges of misstating director earnings. (Nissan) Carlos Ghosn also settled, paying $1 million for his role in the debacle, and agreeing to a 10 year ban on US directorships. (Sky News)

PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)

  • Held a capital markets day, amongst other nuggets: Citroen said that pricing power versus Ford was now up to 5 pts and the brand thinks it can hold this between 3 pts and 5 pts into 2021 and the DS7 Crossback has the best per unit profit in the entire PSA portfolio. DS says that dealers make their money back on new sites within three years. (PSA)

Renault (history)

  • Renault and Mobivia are acquiring control of spare parts company Exadis, in which Renault already owes a stake, subject to approval by competition authorities. (Renault)

Toyota (history)

  • Toyota’s assembler in Pakistan has shut down for the remainder of September due to weak sales. (Dawn)
  • Investing $391 million in a new program at its San Antonio, USA, factory. (Toyota)
  • Lexus is launching a $4.2 million yacht. (Nikkei)
  • Investing 1 billion BRL (about $240 million) at the Sorocaba, Brazil, plant to launch a new product (the details of which will remain secret, for now). (Toyota)

VW Group (history)

  • Settled a case in Australia related to emissions cheating that will see VW pay upwards of $87 million (the final amount depends on how many owners the lawyers can track down). (The Guardian)
  • Chairman Pötsch and CEO Diess are reportedly safe in their jobs even if German prosecutors charge them with failing to notify shareholders of the diesel scandal quickly enough. (Handelsblatt)
  • Detailed some of the carbon offsetting VW has paid for to earn a carbon neutral badging for the ID3. (VW)
  • Bentley released its most exclusive product. Just 100 jars of honey produced by Bentley’s on-site beehives are available. Some will go to VIP guests, and the remainder will be taste tested by hungry employees. (Bentley)
  • Škoda hopes that the plug-in hybrid version of the Superb will make up around 20% of sales, meaning about 15,000 cars per year. (Automotive News)
  • The next generation Golf will have two plug-in hybrid derivatives. The first will be a near-carryover of today’s GTE specification (around 200PS) whilst the second will have higher performance (around 240PS). (Autocar)
  • Took a 25% stake in Indian online lender Kuwy. (Verna)
  • Audi says the electric car has the best lifetime carbon footprint of all drive systems (in developed markets). (Audi)
    • Significance: Unfortunately Audi didn’t share its workings as the carbon footprint of different powertrain types is a hotly disputed topic.

Other

  • Faraday Future’s new CEO says he left Byton because the investment by Chinese carmaker FAW created too much government interference and had been a de facto takeover. (The Verge)
  • Arrival says it has budgeted £100 million to bring all-electric commercial vehicles to market and that production will begin using a fully automated process at the end of the year. (The Guardian)
  • Ineos confirmed that Bridgend, UK, will be the site of final assembly for the forthcoming Grenadier SUV, but it won’t be the Ford plant. The body and chassis will be built in Estarreja, Portugal. (Ineos)
  • Amazon said it will buy 100,000 electric delivery vehicles and they will be coming from Rivian, with initial vans in Amazon’s hands by 2021. (Reuters)
    • Significance: Given Amazon’s focus on cost control, the deal implies that either: Rivian’s vehicles will be far cheaper to build than contemporary rivals can manage; Amazon is loosening the purse strings; Rivian has a funding model that keeps the vehicles on their books; or that it might do Rivian more harm than good.

News about other companies and trends

Economic / Political News

  • Registrations of 1,074,169 passenger cars in Europe during August dropped (8.6)% versus prior year. (ACEA)
  • The US government changed the rules so that individual states could no longer set their own vehicle emissions standards in a move aimed at ending California’s habit of setting more stringent requirements than those issued by the federal government. California says it will go to court to get the decision reversed. (Detroit News)
  • Germany’s government announced plans to combat CO2 with a range of measures including a tradeable carbon price per tonne. (Climate Change News)

Suppliers

  • AAM is selling its US iron casting business to a VC firm. (AAM)
  • ZF completed its divestment of the stake in Haldex and seemed happy with the price. (ZF)
  • GM is selling some of its Indian engineering centre to Tata Consultancy Services with a five year contract for ongoing development, similar to PSA’s sale of non-core Opel research activities to Segula. Over 1,300 employees will transfer over to Tata under the agreement. (Tata)

Dealers

  • Fair raised $500 million to expand its financing business. (Fair)
  • Online car sales firm Carro invested $30 million in Malaysian website Tukar. (Deal Street Asia)
  • Used car sales site iCar Asia acquired Carmudi in a $3 million deal. (Deal Street Asia)

Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)

  • Indian short-term car rental operators are complaining that peer-to-peer services (illegal in India, despite being okay in other countries) are making it uneconomical to operate. (Economic Times of India)  
  • White label fleet management firm Wunder Mobility raised $60 million. (Wunder)
  • Bicycle rental operator Lime is ending its short term car rental scheme, citing the lack of a suitable partner to create an all-electric offering. (Geek Wire)
  • Uber is challenging in court a New York rule that limits the amount of time drivers can spend cruising around waiting for work in central Manhattan. (Reuters)
  • Bid2Ride is the latest ride hailing app to launch with a business model that sees drivers bid for journeys. (Bid2Ride)
    • Significance: Since Uber and Lyft long-ago adopted a model where drivers are unaware of the trip details until after they have accepted, it remains to be seen whether this counts as an innovation or is an approach that has had its time.

Driverless / Autonomy (history)

  • Waymo’s first monthly report about automated taxi trials with passengers in California was published. The firm carried almost 6,300 people 48,137 miles without a driver present (but monitored by someone remotely). (California)
    • Significance: The average trip length of about 2.5 miles is in line with a normal taxi service, but the average waiting time between jobs of almost an hour suggests the company is yet to test the limits of capacity utilisation. Google said this was because when the cars aren’t in use for the ride hailing service they do other testing work, rather than waiting.
  • TuSimple raised $120 million, aiming to bring a self-driving truck to production by 2023. (Reuters)
  • AutoX raised $100m from a group of investors including Dongfeng. (Deal Street Asia)
  • Uber will start testing driverless cars in Dallas during November, but for the moment the cars will be driven manually with the automated system only operating in shadow mode. (Uber)
  • Hyundai announced a joint venture with Aptiv to develop self-driving vehicles that will see Hyundai and Kia contribute $1.6 billion in cash in return for a 50% in the combined entity. There is an explicit target to have a commercially available system by 2022, although not necessarily for retail buyers. (Hyundai)

Electrification (history)

  • Daimler trucks will use batteries supplied by CATL. (CATL)
  • Audi says the electric car has the best lifetime carbon footprint of all drive systems (in developed markets). (Audi)

Connectivity

  • BMW is telling suppliers of future product components that drive controls must be isolated from the internet to protect the vehicle from cybersecurity attacks. (Reuters)
    • Significance: Although on the surface this sounds reasonable, if correct, it also implies that BMW is creating a system that will make it impossible for much of the vehicle hardware to be changed remotely (it is near-impossible to stop this being done if you can plug in to the vehicle). The effect is that BMW will be unable to send out the type of updates that Tesla have become famous for, even as customers come to see it as the norm.

Other

  • Navistar held an investor day, saying it was recession-ready. (Navistar – page 87)
  • British bus marker Wrightbus is on the verge of collapse. (The Guardian)
  • Navistar and Mack Trucks have been scheduling down days and reduced shifts, with Mack planning an additional two weeks off at one plant this winter. (Morning Call)

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Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 15th September 2019

Vauxhall expects a post-Brexit windfall; how to keep an electric car youthful; and preserving the staircase of talent. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 9th September to 15th September 2019. A PDF version can be found here.

Before you read the detail, what were my favourite stories of the past week…?

News is arranged by company and topic. Stories that apply to more than one company or topic are duplicated.

Find our archive here.

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News about the major automakers

BMW (history)

  • BMW’s Japanese offices were raided by officials looking for evidence of unfair sales practices, namely forcing dealers to buy cars to make their quota (ie pre-registration). (Japan News)
  • Mini’s head designer talked about how electrification and autonomy will change the way cars look. He thinks electrification will bring new proportions and generous surfaces while for autonomous vehicles, it could be possible to do away with conventional headlights altogether. (BMW)
  • Unveiled a hydrogen fuel cell prototype called the iHydrogen NEXT. BMW says that in 2022 there will be a limited series run of a vehicle based on the X5 — the level of differentiation is unclear. BMW thinks 2025 is the earliest that fuel cells will be commercially viable for volume production. (BMW)
  • Showed the Concept 4, a preview of the forthcoming 4-Series (and, by extension, i4). (BMW)
  • Three quarters of BMW’s registrations in Norway are PHEV or BEV. (BMW)
  • The head of BMW’s M tuning division said there were “concrete plans” for a standalone model. (Top Gear)
  • Following recent comments that there might not be a direct replacement for the i3, BMW’s sales head confirmed that there was “no specific plan” for a new car, but it would continue for a several years. (FT)
    • Significance: Although many hoped for a direct successor, BMW has showed a willingness to continually upgrade the i3, particularly in terms of battery capacity and is learning valuable lessons about integration of new battery technology into an existing architecture.

Daimler (history)

  • CEO Källenius said that meeting 2020 / 2021 CO2 targets would be a significant challenge, but admitted that the brand has “all the right vehicles” to meet targets, indicating that the company will incentivise customers to buy more economical models if they are proving reluctant, rather than paying fines. (Reuters)
  • Showed the EQS concept, previewing the next-generation S-Class and a likely all-electric derivative. (Daimler)
  • Around one in seven S-Class models sold are the highest Maybach trim level. (Daimler)
  • Daimler’s AMG tuning division has started work on the first purpose-built all electric models. (Autocar)
  • Will buy batteries from Farasis Energy’s new German factory. (Reuters)
  • Daimler’s CEO thinks flying taxis will help with traffic congestion in cities. (Handelsblatt)
    • Significance: For air taxis to make any significant dent in traffic, hundreds of thousands of units will be required on a regional basis, suggested the comments were either offhand or Daimler genuinely sees this level of demand (but at what price point)?

FCA (history)

  • Renault CEO Bollore said the merger talks with FCA were over and Renault’s priority was helping Nissan. (Reuters)
  • Recalling around 3,400 Jeep Gladiators to make sure their driveshafts don’t fail. (Cars.com)
  • Agreed a temporary contract extension with unionised US workers, but will be nervously watching the outcome of talks and strikes at GM. (Reuters)
    • Significance: The strikes at GM make it more likely that (a) if the UAW were to make another automaker the primary negotiating partner then there would be a very short lead time before strikes there too; and (b) any company that tries to pushback on the template terms, once one company has agreed, could expect swift retaliation.

Ferrari

  • In an interview, Ferrari’s technical head suggested that the company’s first SUV, dubbed Purosangue, will only have four seats and discussed the challenges with applying Ferrari’s DNA to a new segment. (Autocar)

Ford (history)

  • Launch problems with the new Explorer and Aviator SUVs has resulted in finished vehicles being shipped from the Chicago plant (where they are built) to the Flat Rock, Michigan, factory for en masse repairs. (Detroit Free Press)
  • Sold the Canvas short term leading business to Fair. (Fair)
  • Ford’s boss in Europe said the recent ratings downgrade from Moody’s would not result in any new cost cutting actions and the fragile economic outlook was not his biggest concern. (Bloomberg)
  • Believes that by the end of 2022, more than 50% of its European passenger car sales will have electrification (if you include 48V). (Ford)
  • Recalling about 340,000 Explorers to fix sharp metal edges on the seat by covering them up. (Ford)
  • The much rumoured Focus-based pick-up truck has reportedly been testing in Australia. (Which Car)
  • Agreed a temporary contract extension with unionised US workers, but will be nervously watching the outcome of talks and strikes at GM. (Reuters)

General Motors (history)

  • GM’s US hourly workforce went on strike after contract negotiations were not concluded by the union’s deadline. GM said it had made a good offer including: higher pay, a ratification bonus, new products, saving some of the plants slated for closure and extra jobs (GM). The union said GM’s offer was insufficient on almost all fronts. (ABC News)
  • Recalling 3.8 million trucks and SUVs to fix problems with the brakes. (Reuters)

Honda (history)

  • Said that the Honda e all-electric city car will cost more than €30,000 in Germany. This is about in line with peers (e.g. VW e-Up!) but suggests either a limited demand or an untapped market for high priced city cars (something Aston Martin’s Cygnet failed to uncover). (Honda)
  • Confirmed that the next generation Jazz will only be available with a hybrid powertrain (a battery electric version is rumoured too). (Honda)

Hyundai / Kia (history)

  • Hyundai showed off the 45 concept car, with an interior and exterior seemingly inspired by Byton, it isn’t clear which design elements will make it into production soon. (Hyundai)

PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)

  • The head of (UK-only) Vauxhall thinks that the brand’s “Britishness” could add 0.5 points of market share in a post hard Brexit world. (Autocar)
  • CEO Tavares said it was still a challenge to forecast consumer demand for electric cars and repeatedly stressed that electric cars would be expensive for consumers to buy (until and unless OEMs become desperate). He says that PSA has been planning for impending CO2 target increases for several years and thinks his company is well positioned to benefit from a “Darwinian” thinning of the herd. (Bloomberg)

Renault (history)

  • Unveiled the next generation Captur B-sized crossover, saying that a plug-in hybrid version was on the way. (Renault)
  • Although many manufacturers are fleeing the Sub-B (city car) segment due to rising technology costs, Renault says a fully electric version of the product is a must “to address customer needs”. (Autocar)
  • CEO Bollore said the merger talks with FCA were over and Renault’s priority was helping Nissan. (Reuters)

Tata (includes JLR) (history)

  • JLR’s CEO says the firm has a 40-strong team working on nothing but logistics for post-Brexit UK factories however his comments suggested that JLR has taken no actions to deal with Brexit permanently increasing raw material inventories (because of customs delays). (Autocar)
  • JLR participated in self-driving vehicle service Voyage’s $31 million fund raising. (JLR)
  • Unveiled the new Defender. With the re-imagining of the vehicle, JLR have taken the opportunity to hike the technology level of the car — and the price. (JLR)

Tesla (history)

  • After talking for many years about maximum plaid as the speed beyond ludicrous mode, CEO Musk confirmed a new higher powertrain called plaid was under development for Model S, Model X and Roadster. (Electrek)
  • Applications for building permits at Tesla’s Fremont factory suggested that preparations for Model Y were moving ahead in earnest. (Bloomberg)
  • CEO Musk reportedly told employees that Tesla’s current practice had been to hold completed build to order vehicles at the Fremont factory until customers were ready for delivery but the company would now become more proactive. (Electrek)

VW Group (history)

  • CEO Diess complained to journalists that the auto industry was treated unfairly when it came to CO2 emissions reduction. His analysis says that it costs €1,000 to eliminate one ton of CO2 from a car but it would only be €14 to get the same reduction in emissions from a power plant. (Handelsblatt)
  • VW Financial’s boss says that market share growth is near impossible once the 50% – 60% level is reached (as VW has in the large European markets). The company wants to be the largest pan-brand leasing fleet leasing company by 2025. (Handelsblatt)
  • Unveiled a new, yet familiar looking, VW logo. The change is a case study in bureaucracy: 19 internal teams and 17 external agencies were involved in finalising the new design in the “record time” of nine months and it will take until mid-2020 for everyone to have started using it. VW put this down to a “cost-optimized, resource-conserving” approach. (VW)
  • Unveiled the production version of the ID3. Prices start at €30,000 for the base 45 kWh version. (VW)
  • VW’s marketing materials indicate an intention to position the all-electric ID3 above the electric Golf in the range and use the more capable purpose built ID3 to justify continuing with a smaller (cheaper) battery in the Golf in a bid to attract price-conscious buyers. (VW)
  • Audi says that by using robots to apply body sealer (a paste-like substance that seals gaps in the body work before paint and is normally applied with a brush or stick on pads) saves several kilograms of material. (Audi)
  • The Moia ride hailing service in Hamburg aims to serve 10,000 customers per day by the end of 2019. (VW)
  • Said that with “just a few exceptions”, VW’s vehicles had been certified to the latest level of WLTP regulations that kicked in on September 1st. (VW)
  • Running a pilot program that will give customer the option to fit 3D printed customised parts. (VW)

Other

  • Byton showed the production version of the M-Byte SUV saying the car would start at €45,000 with a 72 kWh battery. The firm also announced it was about to close $500 million in new investment. (Byton)
  • Great Wall’s boss says the brand would need to sell more than 50,000 units per year in Europe to consider setting up its own factory on the continent. (Reuters)
  • Rivian received $350 million from Cox Automotive. (Rivian)
  • Start-up electric carmaker e.Go is suffering problems with the waterproofing of the battery enclosure and full year volumes will be around 600 cars, rather than the 1,000 the brand hoped for. (Golem)

News about other companies and trends

Economic / Political News

  • The European trade body ACEA released a report saying that European infrastructure for electric cars wasn’t good enough and politicians needed to do more about it. (ACEA)

Suppliers

  • Plastic Omnium invested $30 million into hydrogen-focused VC funs AP Ventures. (Autocar)
  • ZF wants to sell its stake in Haldex. Haldex said its customers were over the moon. (Haldex)
  • Allison Transmission acquired two of its suppliers, a tool shop and die casting business for $103 million. (Allison)
  • Continental’s boss says the firm can achieve CO2 neutral production by 2040 and thinks that the entire automotive industry could get there by 2050. (Reuters)
  • Michelin and Continental created a joint venture, although initial media reports said it was to make tyres, the truth is more mundane: it is for supply chain transparency. (Michelin)
  • Bosch invested in hydrogen fuel cell truck maker Nikola. (Inside EVs)
  • Calsonic Kansei is set to close four Japanese factories. (Nikkei)

Dealers

  • Mahindra & Mahindra started offering all-inclusive monthly leasing deals to Indian customers with prices starting at around 19,720 INR (about $275) per month. The offering is managed by Revv. (Mahindra)
  • Chinese firm Bitauto received a takeover offer from Tencent. (Bitauto)
  • Ford sold the Canvas short term leading business to Fair. (Fair)

Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)

  • Uber sacked about 8% of the product and engineering team (435 people) saying that a ground-up review of how the organisations should look had revealed staffing levels were too high. (TechCrunch) At the same time, the company intends to hire 2,000 people in its freight arm. (The Verge)
  • Despite recently saying that bicycles were a brilliant idea and had proved popular at attracting new customers to Uber’s platform, the company has been withdrawing from several territories. (TechCrunch)
  • Uber is raising $1.2 billion in debt (earlier in the day the figure had been $750 million but the proposal was over subscribed so Uber decided to give the people what they wanted). (Uber)

Driverless / Autonomy (history)

  • Simulation firm Applied Intuition raised $40 million. (Venture Beat)
  • Open-source driver assistance developer Comma.ai says its customers have collected 13 million miles of driving data. (Comma.ai)
  • JLR participated in self-driving vehicle service Voyage’s $31 million fund raising. (Robot Report)

Electrification (history)

  • Symbio, the Faurecia / Michelin joint venture that produces fuel cells says it will make 20,000 vehicle sets in 2025 and 200,000 in 2030. (Symbio)
  • Pininfarina, Benteler and Bosch announced a jointly-developed electric vehicle platform that they hope other OEMs will licence. (Pininfarina)
  • Volta, operators of ad-supported car charging, raised $35 million. (TechCrunch)
  • BASF, Suez and Eramet are conducting a two-year research project, with €5 million of public funding, to develop new methods for recycling lithium ion batteries. (Suez)
  • BMW thinks 2025 is the earliest that fuel cells will be commercially viable for volume production. (BMW)

Connectivity

  • Denso and Blackberry have developed a digital cockpit based on Blackberry’s QNX. (Blackberry)
  • ZF and Maxion Wheels say that anybody whose anybody will have a car with connected wheels. (ZF)

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Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 8th September 2019

Small electric cars; hoping for a trickle-down effect from Lambo’s supercar; and how to make even more special edition sportscars. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 2nd September to 8th September 2019. A PDF version can be found here.

Before you read the detail, what were my favourite stories of the past week…?

News is arranged by company and topic. Stories that apply to more than one company or topic are duplicated.

Find our archive here.

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News about the major automakers

BMW (history)

  • BMW’s top German union representative said that he expects the luxury car market to continue to grow, albeit slowly and that the firm would need two more factories to fulfil its demand outlook. (Detroit News)
  • Invested in image recognition developer Cartica. (BMW)
  • Mini is rumoured to be planning a small MPV based on the BMW i3. (Autocar)

Daimler (history)

  • German media speculated about the reason behind loads of Daimler vehicles stored on a disused airfield. Daimler said it was all part and parcel of normal business. (FAZ)
  • The CEO of Daimler Trucks has started a podcast. (Daimler)

FCA (history)

  • The UAW said that GM would be the lead company in contract negotiations that will establish the primary terms for the agreements with GM, Ford and FCA. Employees from all three companies approved strikes (should the union deem it necessary) by large majorities. (Detroit News)
  • Says that, by applying best practice ergonomic assessment, factory muscle and skeletal injury rates can be reduced to those of office workers. (Il Sole 24)
  • Stopping production of the 500 and 500e for North America. FCA says there is enough inventory to last into 2020. It was unclear whether this would affect the launch of the next generation car. (FCA)
  • Confirmed union estimates that it will invest around €1 billion in the Pomigliano, Italy, factory to make a new small SUV (rumoured to be the Alfa Romeo Tonale) and Panda hybrid. (Reuters)
  • Transatel will provide the European network for FCA’s connected vehicles. (FCA)

Ferrari

  • Unveiled two convertible versions: the F8 Spider (Ferrari) and the 812 GTS. (Ferrari)

Ford (history)

  • The UAW said that GM would be the lead company in contract negotiations that will establish the primary terms for the agreements with GM, Ford and FCA. Employees from all three companies approved strikes (should the union deem it necessary) by large majorities. (Detroit News)
  • New management in China has put a stop to Ford’s plan for a single sales operation in China that combined products from different joint ventures. Executives said (on the record) that the previous strategy stemmed from a misunderstanding of market conditions and (off the record) that it had angered the various JV partners. (Reuters)
  • Consumer surveys commissioned by Ford showed that many Americans think electric cars will be boring and have low range, admitting that this was in part because of underwhelming first efforts by Ford and its peers. (Ford)
  • Ford used a Medium blog post to explain how the case carrying the firm’s autonomous sensor set has been designed to reduce the number of insects hitting the sensor screens (and chow the ones that do get cleaned off). (Ford)
  • Reached a preliminary agreement to sell the Sao Bernardo, Brazil, factory that Ford has slated for closure to local firm Caoa. (Reuters)
  • Saw its credit rating downgraded by Moody’s to Ba1, the top junk rating. (CNBC)

Geely (includes Volvo) (history)

  • The Polestar 2 all-electric car will cost between €40,000 – €60,000 according to the CEO. (Manager Magazin)
  • Volvo is selling a limited edition XC90 (15 units) in India where the front passenger seat has been removed to create extra legroom and a stowable table for one of the rear seat passengers. The price is almost $200,000. (Autocar)
  • Volvo is achieving around 60% localisation for India-built products. (Autocar)
  • Will form a JV with flying taxi maker Volocopter, in addition to Geely’s Terrafugia stake. (Reuters)

General Motors (history)

  • Will use Google as the basis for infotainment systems and navigation. (GM)
  • The UAW said that GM would be the lead company in contract negotiations that will establish the primary terms for the agreements with GM, Ford and FCA. Employees from all three companies approved strikes (should the union deem it necessary) by large majorities. (Detroit News)
  • GM employees in Korea are striking over stalled wage talks — the workers are apparently okay to forego pay rises but want more assurances over the future of the business. (Reuters)
  • CEO Barra had a face-to-face meeting with US president Trump but wouldn’t say what it was about (although off the record sources suggested it was about jobs, tariffs and fuel economy standards). (Reuters)

Honda (history)

  • Unveiled the production version of the Honda e electric city car. (Honda)
  • Will stop making cars at the El Salto, Mexico, plant (which will still make motorbikes and power products) and transfer production to the Celeya factory, also in Mexico. (Honda)

Hyundai / Kia (history)

  • Despite diesel shrinking to only 10% of sales for some model lines, Hyundai still believes that the fuel type has a future in the Indian market. (Autocar)
  • Hyundai cars in Europe will use Lear’s Xevo marketplace to help customers receive loyalty offers and discounts from 3rd party vendors. (Lear)
  • Kia says it already has 7,000 orders for the Mohave large SUV. (Korea Herald)
  • Hyundai and Kia are buying into the Ionity European fast charging consortium, taking an equal share to the existing OEM owners. The announcement suggested the new money is going towards reducing the investment from the other partners, rather than increasing the network. (Kia)
  • Hyundai will start selling the robotically assisted exoskeletons it has developed for assembly workers. (Kia)

Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)

  • Nissan unveiled the next generation Juke B-sized crossover. (Nissan)
  • After an audit that revealed several Nissan executives, including CEO Saikawa had received inflated compensation, which Saikawa admitted to reporters several days before Nissan published the findings, Saikawa resigned, effective 16th September, the COO will become interim CEO. (Nissan)
  • Nissan reportedly has a list of 10 candidates to succeed outgoing CEO Saikawa. (Reuters)
  • Reportedly planning to pull out of South Korea amid dwindling sales due to heavy competition and consumer boycotts of Japanese products. (Korea Herald)
  • Alliance Ventures invested in design outsourcing company Superside (TechCrunch) and Sanity.io. (Sanity)

PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)

  • Confirmed plans to restructure the Chinese JV with Dongfeng by first shrinking the cost base so the business can break even  at around 150,000 vehicles per year, before increasing sales to 250,000 units in the early 2020s and ultimately reach around 400,000 units by 2025. (Reuters)
  • Executives said PSA isn’t interested in acquiring GM’s Holden brand in Australia, although it hopes that contracts for rebranded Opel C and CD sized cars will be renewed. (Autocar)
  • CEO Tavares said a no deal Brexit would destroy the lives of the next generation in the UK and that if Boris Johnson and Michel Barnier worked for him he would tell them that they were smart enough to do better. (SP Global)
  • Opel has launched the OpelConnect live operator and telematics service, replacing GM’s OnStar which was swiftly axed after PSA took over. (Opel)

Renault (history)

  • CEO Bolloré says that an all-electric car costing €10,000 will be on sale within the next five years. He thinks that diesel is finished as a technology for passenger cars, but that there is a future for commercial vehicles. (Handelsblatt)
  • Alliance Ventures invested in design outsourcing company Superside (TechCrunch) and Sanity.io. (Sanity)
  • Renault Master production restarted late after the summer shutdown because of a fire in the paint shop that took around a week to repair. (Usine Nouvelle)
  • Fired several employees in Morocco after discovery of a fraud. (Morocco World News)

Suzuki

  • Maruti Suzuki says its Indian cars are built with over 90% local content and believes the remainder of the vehicle can only be localised with greater R&D investment from Indian suppliers. (Bloomberg)
  • Maruti Suzuki scheduled further down days at two Indian plants due to weak demand. (India Today)
  • Maruti Suzuki intends to defer around 10% of its budgeted CapEx if demand remains sluggish. (LiveMint)

Tata (includes JLR) (history)

  • JLR will use Blackberry’s software for future vehicles and has engaged the firm’s consulting arm to help with developing artificial intelligence and cyber security. (Blackberry)

Tesla (history)

  • CEO Musk said the pick-up truck unveiling would “most likely” be in November. (Twitter)
  • At the moment, Tesla’s insurance product calculates premiums using standard data of age, driving experience, safety record and annual mileage, bolted together with data about Tesla’s fleet performance versus competitors but the company hopes to create individual profiles, if the owners give permission for the required data collection. (Reuters)
  • The US road safety board is investigating a collision between a Model S and a firetruck where Autopilot was engaged, but the driver was repeatedly taking their hands off the wheel. (Reuters)
  • Tesla owners who had purchased full self-driving were left confused about whether they would be able to beta test updated Autopilot software with CEO Musk suggesting there would be two levels of test users, but without clearly explaining who would be in each group. (Electrek)

Toyota (history)

  • Japan’s prime minister said Toyota will invest a further $300 million in its Russian operations by 2028. (TASS)
  • Invested in image recognition developer Cartica. (Toyota)

VW Group (history)

  • Lamborghini unveiled the limited edition Sián supercar. Badged as a hybrid, the car uses 48V motors for torque infill and a supercapacitor in lieu of a battery for more rapid charge and discharge, plus higher power density (and therefore weight). (Lamborghini)
  • Will start production of a new MQB-based small “urban coupe” (ie style-led crossover) in Brazil in 2020, with European production to start in 2021. (VW)
  • Porsche unveiled the production version of the Taycan all-electric sportscar. (Porsche)
  • Finalised a joint venture with Northvolt that will lead to a 16 GWh capacity factory in Germany. The company estimates that by 2025 it will be using 300 GWh of batteries annually. (VW)
  • Porsche upped its stake in Rimac to 15.5%. (Porsche)
  • VW expects electric cars to have maintenance costs 20% – 30% lower than conventionally powered vehicles. To offset the revenue losses the company hopes to keep customers using official parts and franchised dealers for longer (many drop out of the OEM ecosystem when the vehicle is 3 – 5 years old). VW also has efficiency measures in mind, saying the average workshop job generates 80 minutes of paperwork. VW wants to improve this to 15 minutes. (VW)
  • SEAT showed off a new concept for a dynamically styled all-electric SUV. Based on VW’s MEB platform, SEAT’s concept has a 77 kWh battery pack. It isn’t clear whether this is an indicator of where VW believe battery capacities will head, even for mass market products. (SEAT)
  • Evasive answers from VW’s COO led reporters to the conclusion that VW was paying less than $100 per kWh for batteries used in the ID3. (New York Times)

Other

  • StreetScooter and Chery created a joint venture to build and sell electric vans in China. (Xinhua)
  • Faraday Future has a new CEO, Carsten Breitfeld, formerly of BMW and Byton. (Autocar)
  • Nio raised $200 million in convertible debt from Tencent and Tencent’s CEO. (Nio)
  • An article highlighted the reduced presence of automakers at the Frankfurt show, saying some companies had previously budgeted €60 million – €80 million for show stands. (Manager Magazin)
  • Evergrande will use Benteler’s electric drive system as the basis for its new electric vehicles. (Autocar)
  • The newest limited edition Aston Martin emerged: the Vanquish 25 is a re-skinned Vanquish (itself based on the DB9). It is the second officially sanctioned project by R-Reforged, an offshoot of the company that run Aston Martins in the German DTM race series. (R-Reforged)
    • Significance: The emergence of a second project this year — following a series of new-build V12 Zagatos — implies a new strategy by Aston Martin to create off-the-books limited edition cars to reduce accusations of saturation. It might not work.

News about other companies and trends

Economic / Political News

  • Argentina’s government imposed capital controls. (Reuters)
    • Significance: The impacts for carmakers will likely be similar to those seen when Greece implemented emergency measures, plus some linkage to a harder currency than the peso. With inventory already in the country, and likely cash hoarding by consumers, OEM should have plenty of time before they have to start making tough calls on whether to put incremental cash at risk. Some will dust off operations manuals setting out rules for bartering from the last time (such as Porsche’s cars-for-wine scheme).
  • The European trade body published a document calling on politicians to find ways to ensure cars remained cheap even as emissions technology increases and explicitly asking for an industrial strategy. (ACEA)
  • US light vehicle SAAR for August of 16.99 million units, 2.3% higher than prior year. (Wards)
  • German passenger car registrations of 313,748 units in August, down (0.6)% versus prior year. (KBA)
  • Italian passenger car sales in August of 88,939 units were down (3.11)% on a year-over-year basis. (UNRAE)
  • Spanish registrations of passenger cars in August of 74,490 units fell (30.8)% from prior year. (ANFAC)
  • French passenger car sales of 129,259 units in August fell (14.1)% from prior year. (CCFA)
  • UK registrations of 92,573 passenger cars in August were (1.6)% on a year earlier. (SMMT)
  • Indian ministers said that whilst the government might introduce incentives to encourage uptake of partial and full electrification, it wouldn’t ban purely combustion engine powered cars at any point. (Economic Times of India)
  • US carmakers will install systems to combat child deaths from heatstroke in locked cars, but they won’t become standard until around 2024. (Reuters)

Suppliers

  • Having already separated its powertrain activities into a separate division, Continental said it might completely spin off the new entity, rather than just having a partial listing. (Continental)
  • CATL took an 8.5% stake in lithium mine operator PilbaraMinerals. (Deal Street Asia)
  • Continental invested in image recognition developer Cartica. (Continental)
  • Dana renewed its credit line, it has a $1 billion agreed until 2024. (Dana)
  • Toyota Boshoku lost almost $40 million in an email scam after the payables department were convinced to transfer money to an outside party. The fraud may affect full year earnings. (Forbes)

Dealers

  • UK online used car dealer Spotawheel raised €5 million. (Fleet Europe)

Driverless / Autonomy (history)

  • Zenzic, the UK government-sponsored body encouraging adoption of autonomous vehicle technology unveiled a roadmap for widespread deployment by 2030. Zenzic’s belief is that around 2025 commercial scaling of autonomous vehicles will begin in earnest. (Zenzic)
  • Spy shots of what was claimed to be Apple’s latest effort at a self-driving car emerged, leading to speculation that the company might have abandoned lidar, without any clear proof. (9to5Mac)
  • Ford used a Medium blog post to explain how the case carrying the firm’s autonomous sensor set has been designed to reduce the number of insects hitting the sensor screens (and chow the ones that do get cleaned off). (Ford)

Electrification (history)

  • Bosch will source battery cells for 48V applications from CATL. (CATL)
  • CATL took an 8.5% stake in lithium mine operator PilbaraMinerals. (Deal Street Asia)
  • Germany has reportedly agreed in principle to create a European EV battery consortium. (Reuters)
  • Delta Motorsports showed off an electric vehicle platform it has developed. Unusually, the company has avoided the flat-topped skateboard philosophy of most non-unibody electric vehicles. (Inside EVs)
  • StreetScooter and Chery created a joint venture to build and sell electric vans in China. (Xinhua)
  • Consumer surveys commissioned by Ford showed that many Americans think electric cars will be boring and have low range, admitting that this was in part because of underwhelming first efforts by Ford and its peers. (Ford)
  • VW expects electric cars to have maintenance costs 20% – 30% lower than conventionally powered vehicles. (VW)
  • Hyundai and Kia are buying into the Ionity European fast charging consortium, taking an equal share to the existing OEM owners. The announcement suggested the new money is going towards reducing the investment from the other partners, rather than increasing the network. (Kia)
  • Evergrande will use Benteler’s electric drive system as the basis for its new electric vehicles. (Autocar)
  • Evasive answers from VW’s COO led reporters to the conclusion that VW was paying less than $100 per kWh for batteries used in the ID3. (New York Times)

Connectivity

  • Hyundai cars in Europe will use Lear’s Xevo marketplace to help customers receive loyalty offers and discounts from 3rd party vendors. (Lear)
  • JLR will use Blackberry’s software for future vehicles and has engaged the firm’s consulting arm to help with developing artificial intelligence and cyber security. (Blackberry)
  • GM will use Google as the basis for infotainment systems and navigation. (GM)
  • Transatel will provide the European network for FCA’s connected vehicles. (FCA)

Other

  • CNH will spin off its truck, bus and engine division. The firm also announced a partnership with fuel cell electric truck developer Nikola, taking a $250 million stake. (Reuters)

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Automotive trends, Auto industry trends, Automotive market research, Automotive market analysis, auto industry news

Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 1st September 2019

Ford’s Qashqai rival arriving unfashionably late; self-driving cars that are hard to teach; and learning lessons about all-inclusive leasing. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 26th August to 1st September 2019. A PDF version can be found here.

Before you read the detail, what were my favourite stories of the past week…?

News is arranged by company and topic. Stories that apply to more than one company or topic are duplicated.

Find our archive here.

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News about the major automakers

BMW (history)

  • Spending about $25 million on an expansion to the main parts warehouse in South Korea. (Chosunilbo)

Ford (history)

  • Recalling 550,000 large SUVs and pick-up trucks because the seats might be too weak to protect occupants properly  in a crash. (Ford)
  • CEO Jim Hackett said the average order to delivery time for Ford is an “unacceptable” 81 days. He also wants Ford’s software to take a more expansive role, for instance using the app that can remotely start the car to also control the garage door opening. (Motor Trend)
  • Planning for all new battery electric vehicles to be profitable so that it can sell as many of them as there is customer demand for, pointing at waiting lists for competitor products. The firm’s research says that range is targeted to be 300+ miles. (Autocar)
  • Ford Europe’s boss wants to give more responsibility to talented young managers. (Autocar)
    • Significance: Ad Punctum’s unscientific survey of Ford employees suggests that, by this yardstick, Ford thinks 40 – 45 years of age counts as “young” — a worrying attitude if correct.
  • Working on a Qashqai fighting C segment crossover for Europe, but the product is unlikely to hit the streets until the mid-2020s, presumably to align with the likely next generation C platform. (Autocar)
  • Reportedly will offer a 12 inch touchscreen in the F-150 starting in 2020 to match the Dodge Ram. (Detroit News)

Geely (includes Volvo) (history)

  • Geely is apparently suing WM Motor for stealing trade secrets, asking for almost $300 million in compensation, in a case that goes to trial in September. (China Daily)
  • Volvo is adding more cars to the Care all-in two year lease (“subscription”) offering and will sometimes source cars from dealer inventory, rather than always requiring a new order. The CEO of Volvo in North America says the expansion of the scheme is one of his top three priorities. (Automotive News)
  • Opened the new Polestar factory in China with a press release highlighting the facility’s Aston Martin-ness. (Polestar)

General Motors (history)

  • Cadillac will go all-electric between 2025 – 2029. (New York Times)
  • Removed around 330 jobs (about half of which were permanent positions) in Thailand. (Bangkok Post)

Hyundai / Kia (history)

  • Hyundai unveiled a fold-up electric scooter with a claimed 20km of range. Unlike some competitors, Hyundai’s scooter is a concept without a clear launch date. (Hyundai)
  • Concluded a pay agreement with South Korean unions without a strike, a historical rarity. (Reuters)
  • Rumoured to be in talks to buy the former GM plant in St Petersburg. (TASS)

Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)

  • Nissan’s US operations suffered five days of disruption to IT systems, affecting everything from new car ordering to customers attempting to make monthly payments. (Automotive Logistics)

PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)

  • Completed the transfer of 700 engineering employees to Segula. (PSA) PSA is reportedly providing €190 million to Segula in several instalments to finance the takeover. (Handelsblatt)
  • Told at least 27 holdout employees who didn’t want to take either early retirement or the offer of employment with Segula that their positions had been terminated. Unions took the news very badly. (Handelsblatt)
  • Said that all PSA’s passenger cars now comply with more stringent real driving emissions (RDE) monitoring tests, and that 80% of the products on sale comply with the rules that don’t start until 2020. (PSA)

Renault (history)

  • Will no longer sell diesel vehicles in India beyond 2020. (Times of India)
  • One of the key executives involved in managing the alliance with Nissan resigned, saying he was off to PSA and that CEO Bolloré told him no one liked him anymore. (FT)

Suzuki

  • Maruti Suzuki has commissioned a fleet of mobile service vehicles, saying that customers in India may be either too remote, or live in locations with such heavy congestion, for straightforward visits to the dealership. (India Today)
  • Maruti Suzuki will continue to invest in new products, and expanded capacity, despite the slump in Indian market sales (although if the capacity isn’t required, the company hinted at reduced workforce levels). (Economic Times of India)
  • Toyota is buying 4.94% of Suzuki, and in return the smaller company will take a Toyota stake of around 0.2%. As a net result of the deal Suzuki will end up with 48 billion JPY (about $450 million), which it seems likely to spend on autonomous vehicle research (with Toyota). (Toyota)
  • Withdrew the Celerio and Baleno from the UK market, implying that European sales would cease before 2020 emissions regulations kick in. (Autocar)

Tesla (history)

  • Launched, and then almost immediately suspended, an insurance product for Tesla drivers. The company said the hiatus was in order to fine tune algorithms that, customers said, set premiums too high. (Business Insider) Tesla had said the scheme was “designed to provide Tesla owners with up to 20% lower rates”. (Tesla)
  • Tesla is quietly ramping up marketing events in China, although it still steers well clear of traditional advertising methods — preferring launch parties and trackdays. (Reuters)
  • The Chinese government will exempt Tesla from the 10% retaliatory tariff on US imports. (Reuters)

Toyota (history)

  • Buying 4.94% of Suzuki, and in return the smaller company will take a Toyota stake of around 0.2%. As a net result of the deal Suzuki will end up with 48 billion JPY (about $450 million), which it seems likely to spend on autonomous vehicle research (with Toyota). (Toyota)
    • Significance: This follows a long-running Toyota strategy of buying minority stakes in fellow Japanese carmakers (e.g. Mazda and Subaru). It appears from Toyota’s recent dissolution of its stake in Isuzu that the trend is reversible, but perhaps not for all companies…
  • Recalling 191,000 cars to replace faulty airbags that were themselves replacements for units supplied by scandal-ridden Takata. (Detroit Free Press)
  • Halting production at the beginning of November at the Burnaston, UK, plant to avoid potential problems stemming from Brexit. (The Guardian)
  • Affiliate Toyoda Gosei invested in Tryeting, a firm that uses artificial intelligence to develop new types of, and uses for, materials more quickly than traditional methods. (Toyoda Gosei)
  • Agreed to open a new plant in Ivory Coast, according to the prime minister. (Reuters)

VW Group (history)

  • Settled a series of lawsuits in the US by agreeing to pay owners $96.5 million and restating fuel economy figures to a lower level. (Detroit News)
  • Škoda showed a concept for an electric bicycle — unlike many offerings, it can’t be pedalled and relies on battery power alone, with footrests provided for the rider. (Škoda)
  • Porsche will expand the all-inclusive Passport and Drive schemes to four more US cities. (Porsche)
  • Lamborghini’s CEO said half-jokingly that the company will take care of transporting your luggage between destinations should you find the pint-sized trunk too small. (Bloomberg)
  • Audi is reportedly in talks with BYD about a battery supply contract. (Bloomberg)
  • Appears to be in final negotiations with the Turkish government over a new plant, with VW’s only remaining concern being government agreement to change current tax rules that favour very small cars. (Reuters)
  • Former CEO and Chairman Ferdinand Piëch died. He was a member of the senior management team from 1988 to 2015 and oversaw a massive expansion in sales, products and brands. (VW)
  • Took a stake in 3D holography start-up SeeReal. (VW)
  • Planning to invest around $580 million in its Brazilian operations, according to a local politician. (Reuters)

Other

  • Aston Martin says that the average trip length for luxury cars is 11 miles and daily usage stretches to 25 miles. On this basis, the CEO thinks that the right combination of electric power, battery capacity and charging network availability will make electric cars attractive to customers. (Detroit Bureau)
  • McLaren says it takes 3,000 hours to restore an F1 — fitting the body panels and repainting account for around one third of the time. (McLaren)
  • Sono Motors showed the interior design for its city car, featuring a swathe of moss that Sono says acts as a filter for cabin air quality — less clear was how the material will degrade over time, and how easily it can be replaced. (Sono)
  • Weismann teased a new product with shots of a car under wraps. (Top Gear)

News about other companies and trends

Suppliers

  • LG Chem showed off a new type of LED that emits lights in more directions. The company says it can be used to create supercool shapes, or reduce cost and complexity in rear lights since fewer lenses are needed. (LG Chem)
  • Dana acquired electric powertrain integration specialist Nordresa. Terms weren’t disclosed. (Dana)
  • Benteler shed its distribution division, saying it wanted to concentrate on automotive parts. (Benteler)
  • Marelli (ex Magneti Marelli and Calsonic) entered into a strategic partnership with Shanghai Highly. As part of the deal, Marelli bought into a Highly / Johnson Controls Hitachi air conditioning JV. (Marelli)

Dealers

  • Mobiliti and carsales.com are launching a combined used car offering in Australia that will see customers able to select an automatically-created monthly all-inclusive rental price for cars listed on the carsales website, alongside traditional purchase options. (Mobiliti)
  • All-inclusive vehicle leasing provider Fair raised $100 million in debt and received an investment from traditional financing company Ally. Fair now has around 45,000 customers on the books. (Fair)
  • Porsche will expand the all-inclusive Passport and Drive schemes to four more US cities. (Porsche)
  • Maruti Suzuki has commissioned a fleet of mobile service vehicles, saying that customers in India may be either too remote, or live in locations with such heavy congestion, for straightforward visits to the dealership. (India Today)
    • Significance: Mobile servicing appears to be on the rise, and unless some sharing agreement is put in place, this will be yet another lucrative area of the business where dealers could find themselves losing out to either the OEM or third parties.

Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)

  • Bide launched a ride hailing service, saying the algorithms had gone too far in matching drivers and passengers. Eschewing the two-click system favoured by Uber and Lyft, Bide will let individual drivers set unique bid and will leave the customer to decide what works best for them. (Bide)
  • The Chinese region of Tianjin has created new regulations that will show the driver’s rating (out of five stars) in the light that sits on top of the taxi. (Xinhua)
  • A survey of drivers suggested Uber and Lyft were taking around 30% – 35% of gross trip receipts in US cities, a higher amount than the companies themselves claim. Uber and Lyft said the study was not statistically significant, but declined to provide alternative figures. (Business Insider)
  • On-demand bus service Urbvan raised $9 million. (TechCrunch)

Driverless / Autonomy (history)

  • Autonomous vehicle fleet manager Bestmile raised $16.5 million. (Bestmile)
  • Aurora complained about the “patchwork” of different regulations for self-driving vehicles, and driving rules, across different parts of the USA. (Aurora)
    • Significance: Although Aurora presumably hopes that someone will step in to intervene, it merely highlights an issue that any company hoping to develop safe vehicles internationally will confront — and points to why AI that combines clear rules that can be updated with neural net generated driving decisions is probably the minimum level of control that will be accepted by regulators..
  • A blog by Waymo explained how the firm has developed the passenger user interface. (Waymo)
  • A US mayor, invited to contribute to a blog by Ford, stressed that whilst he found the machinery under development to be impressive, and was excited about the benefits, local governments would quickly lose patience with companies who tried to do things their own way. (Ford)
  • Zenuity says that scientists at the large hadron collider with spare time on their hands whilst the machine is being rebuilt are helping to create new ways of machine learning (supercomputer owners only need apply). (Zenuity)
  • Didi Chuxing’s forthcoming autonomous vehicle pilot in Shanghai aims to deviate from its competitors by using 30 different types of vehicle. (Reuters)

Electrification (history)

  • Aptera plans to make a three-wheeled, two seat, electric car with a 1,000 mile range. (IEEE Spectrum)
  • Mahle announced a new modular engine, purpose built for hybrid use. The firm says that it can fit into vehicles ranging from B cars (e.g. Fiesta) to J segment (e.g. Range Rover Evoque) and claims CO2 emissions of 18 g / km in an optimised small SUV (under WLTP rules), although Mahle didn’t; say what electrical system this assumed. Mahle have reduced the unit’s cost by using lower technology (e.g. single camshaft, port fuel injection). (Mahle)
  • Volta has enlisted the services of Prodrive to help in developing all-electric trucks. (Prodrive)
  • Electric vehicle start-up Neuron EV announced another concept product, the firm envisages a luxury electric bus, which Neuron appears to want to run itself, for long distance travel. With must-visit charging hubs. (Neuron)
  • SK Innovation plans to sue LG Chem, claiming patent infringement on battery technologies. (Reuters)
  • India’s government is working on the assumption that battery cell costs will fall to $76 per kWh within the next three to four years. (Economic Times of India)
  • Deutsche Post says it had received many expressions of interest in StreetScooter as it explores options for the all-electric vehicle maker. (Reuters)
  • Nio will collaborate with ProLogium to develop solid state batteries. (Inside EVs)
  • Nio plans to let owners swap batteries for free, waving the prior $25 per swap fee. (Green Car Reports)
  • South Korea’s president has bought a fleet of fuel cells car to prove how capable the technology is, but will initially only use them for short distance commutes. (Yonhap)
  • LG Chem says it will try to source fewer components from Japan to preserve stability as a trade dispute between Japan and South Korea threatens to boil over. (Reuters)
  • Ford is planning for all new battery electric vehicles to be profitable The firm’s research says that range is targeted to be 300+ miles. (Autocar)
  • After China imposed a new round of tariffs on US imports, president Trump “ordered” US companies to seek alternatives to doing business in China. (Reuters)
  • A report by UK politicians worried that private ownership could be “incompatible” with attempts to decarbonise the economy by 2050, because of all the emissions involved in making new cars for fickle customers. (Autocar)

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Automotive trends, Auto industry trends, Automotive market research, Automotive market analysis, auto industry news

Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 25th August 2019

Volvo makes lots of new friends; Ford’s throwaway autonomous car assumptions; and bad news for unicorns. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 19th August to 25th August 2019. A PDF version can be found here.

Before you read the detail, what were my favourite stories of the past week…?

News is arranged by company and topic. Stories that apply to more than one company or topic are duplicated.

Find our archive here.

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News about the major automakers

Daimler (history)

  • Rumoured to be planning local manufacture of Mercedes trucks in China. (Reuters)

FCA (history)

  • Renault and Nissan are reportedly making progress in discussions that will see Renault reduce its Nissan stake in return for the latter’s approval to a tie up with FCA. (Il Sole 24 Ore)
  • Says that it probably won’t make a successor to the 124 roadster. (Autocar)

Ford (history)

  • Ford executives believe that self-driving cars will only last for four years. (Telegraph)
    • Significance: Since commercial taxis typically reach 500,000 miles in their lifetime (through a combination of heavier duty components, more regular servicing and, normally, careful driving) versus more like 150,000 for a private car, the comments either indicate that Ford believes self-driving cars will travel around 125,000 miles per year, or that the firm has forgotten the current vehicle lifecycle.
  • Reportedly struggling to make progress in the electric car JV with China’s Zotye and is thinking of calling the whole thing off. (China Daily)
  • Ford’s European chairman was announced as the president of its Chinese JV with Changan instead. (Ford)
    • Significance: Although not presented as such, the move is effectively a two-rung demotion.
  • Ford is starting an esports car racing team called Fordzilla. (Ford)
  • Donald Trump attacked Ford for signing up to California’s emissions regime — which features more stringent targets than he is intending to implement — saying Henry Ford would be ashamed of them and declaring the cars to be less safe (without any foundation in fact). (Reuters)

Geely (includes Volvo) (history)

  • Geely reported first half 2019 revenue of 47.56 billion yuan (about $6.7 billion), down (11)% on a year-over-year basis and profit of 4.01 billion yuan (about $560 million), down (40)%. (Geely)
  • Volvo says that a travelling pop-up showroom used in Germany has been to 80 events and attracted 1.4 million visitors. (Autohaus)
  • Some Volvo dealers complained to California’s licencing body that Volvo’s Care subscription program violates laws protecting dealer’s rights to sell cars. (Autoblog)

General Motors (history)

  • GM Korea workers started a series of short strikes, demanding better pay. (Yonhap)
  • Tweaks to the battery chemistry improved the Chevrolet Bolt’s range by almost 10%. (GM)

Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)

  • Renault and Nissan are reportedly making progress in discussions that will see Renault reduce its Nissan stake in return for the latter’s approval to a tie up with FCA. (Il Sole 24 Ore)

PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)

  • Opel is starting a one-make rally series for electric cars, using the Corsa-e. (Opel)

Renault (history)

  • Renault and Nissan are reportedly making progress in discussions that will see Renault reduce its Nissan stake in return for the latter’s approval to a tie up with FCA. (Il Sole 24 Ore)
  • Renault Samsung has apparently told unions it wants to reduce production volume by 25% and plant staffing levels by 20%. (Korea Herald)

Tata (includes JLR) (history)

  • Rumoured to have called off a plan to issue $1.5 billion in debt because of insufficient interest. (Live Mint)
  • JLR has reportedly reduced the size of the new standard showrooms it is telling dealers to create after suffering pushback because of the investments involved. Rather than space for 16 cars to be on display, the requirement will only be eight cars. (Automotive Manager)
  • Tata thinks that a range of 200km – 250km is ideal for electric cars in India and thinks that customers might be prepared to pay a price premium of up to 25% over a car with a combustion engine. (Live Mint)

Tesla (history)

  • Reportedly has agreed a supply deal with LG for batteries to go into Chinese-made cars and is in serious talks with CATL for a similar contract. (Bloomberg)
  • Walmart sued Tesla, saying SolarCity (the company Tesla acquired which then became the solar panel division) had supplied dodgy solar panels that caused fires. (Business Insider) Tesla apparently has an ongoing effort to rectify defective units call Project Titan (not to be confused with Apple’s self-driving car effort). (Business Insider)
  • Tesla’s representatives have apparently been spotted checking out sites for a new factory in the German state of North Rhine Westphalia. (Reuters)

Toyota (history)

  • Lexus is planning to show a concept for an all-electric small car at the Tokyo show. (Autocar)
  • Partnering with Pony.ai to develop driverless cars in China. (Venture Beat)
  • Didn’t deny reports that the Land Cruiser will be withdrawn in Western markets from 2022. (Gear Patrol)

VW Group (history)

  • US VW dealers say that diesel cars repaired following the emissions scandal are flying off the lots — helped by prices that are about the same as petrol versions, and with a better warranty. (New York Times)
  • Porsche released interior shots of the all-electric Taycan’s interior. (Porsche)
  • Sacked 204 staff in Q1 2019 for not obeying compliance standards. (Detroit News)
  • Bentley has spent about four million pounds on Brexit measures, including switching the port used to import components from Porsche’s factory and doubling inventory of high-risk parts. CEO Hallmark says that since he joined, productivity at Crewe has improved 25 percent through changes such as re-processing door production so shopfloor workers only walk six metres for each installation, instead of 54 metres previously. (Handesblatt)
  • Will unveil a new take on the VW logo at the Frankfurt show. (Autocar)
  • Porsche performed an endurance test with the Taycan (on a closed course), driving 2,128 miles in 24 hours, with stops for fast charging and driver changes. (Porsche)
  • FAW-VW opened a new test track in Jilin Province, China. (China Daily)
  • Recalling 679,000 vehicles in the US to fix a problem with the parking brake. (Economic Times of India)
  • Reportedly interested in buying stakes in Chinese suppliers to secure key technologies, with battery developer Guoxuan High-Tech mentioned as a candidate. (Deal Street Asia)
  • Audi is said to be joining BMW and Daimler’s collaboration on advanced driver assistance systems (but not the fully autonomous kind), with an announcement set for the Frankfurt show. (Reuters)
  • After a German magazine article implied that VW was interested in acquiring a stake in Tesla, VW said the rumour was unfounded. (CNBC)
  • Porsche invested in infra-red camera developer TriEye. (Porsche)
  • Audi showed teaser images of the AI:Trail SUV concept it will show at Frankfurt. (Auto Express)
  • Rumoured to be planning to reveal the next member of the ID family, via an almost production-ready concept, at the Los Angeles show in November. (Green Car Reports)
  • VW plans to install 4,000 charging points in Germany by 2025 and says that by then, VW and its dealers will have installed 36,000 charging points across Europe. Note that these are not high powered chargers. (VW)

Other

  • Nio plans to reduce staff numbers by around 1,200 to 7,500 by the end of September, according to leaked emails. The firm says that operations won’t be affected as the cuts will fall in administrative areas. (China Daily)
  • Evergrande plans to unveil the vehicle developed by the NEVS / Koenigsegg JV at Geneva. (SCMP)
  • BYD reported 62.2 billion CNY (about $8.7 billion) of revenue and 1.45 billion CNY (about $200 million) in net profit, selling about 145,000 electric vehicles and capturing nearly 25% of the Chinese market. (Xinhua)
  • Aurus plans to make about 200 of the Senat luxury car in 2020 — some of which will be available for consumers, with a $272,000 starting price. (TASS)
  • Lixiang Automotive (formerly CHJ Automotive) raised $530 million. (Deal Street Asia)

News about other companies and trends

Economic / Political News

  • After China imposed a new round of tariffs on US imports, president Trump “ordered” US companies to seek alternatives to doing business in China. (Reuters)
  • A report by UK politicians worried that private ownership could be “incompatible” with attempts to decarbonise the economy by 2050, because of all the emissions involved in making new cars for fickle customers. (Autocar)

Suppliers

  • Continental is reportedly in talks with German union representatives about slashing capacity in the powertrain division with nine out of the units’s 32 factories (~4,000 jobs) at risk. Union leaders confirmed the discussions but downplayed the extent of the possible cuts. (Handelsblatt)

Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)

  • Uber is opening a new US administrative hub in Dallas, USA, expected to employ 3,000 people. (Xinhua)
  • Grab says it will cost several hundred million dollars to reach maturity in Vietnam. (Reuters)
  • Uber issued a proposal laying out how it hoped to be taxed. The firm wants to continue with the sort of analytical, transfer pricing, method that annoys European politicians. (Uber)
  • Mail.ru acquired a controlling stake in short term car rental firm YouDrive. (Reuters)

Driverless / Autonomy (history)

  • AutoX’s CEO says testing self-driving cars in California is too easy and that the US and China should ensure that they build their own self-driving networks since the amount of data a vehicle needs to collect to properly operate would be a national security issue if handled unscrupulously. (Nikkei)
  • Self-driving vehicle developer PlusAI is hoping to raise $200 million. (Bloomberg)
  • Yandex says a self-driving car costs $98,000 to make and hopes to have a fleet of 1,000 by around 2021. The very first test cars cost the firm about $145,000 each. (Reuters)
  • Lidar developer Oryx Vision has shut down — even though there was enough money to continue for a few more years. In explaining the move, the CEO said that autonomous vehicle technology was not converging at the rate the company had hoped and that no one had wanted to buy the firm. (CTech)
  • Waymo released a dataset of 1,000 different driving situations for researchers to work on. Although that sounds like a lot, it equates to around 5.5 hours of driving time — albeit without any boring bits. (Waymo)
  • Suning Logistics started offering local deliveries with small robotic vehicles in the Chinese city of Nanjing. The robots have a top speed of 15 kmh and are assisted by a remote driver if they get into trouble. (China Daily)
  • Robot delivery firm Starship raised $40 million, saying it had completed 100,000 deliveries. (Starship)
  • Apparently, if you are a data labelling company using humans to help machine learning, Venezuela is the place to be. (MIT Technology Review)
  • Waymo executives poured scorn on rival self-driving vehicle developers who intend to make their own cars, saying it was a distraction, and “really hard”. (Telegraph)
  • Sony and Yamaha showed off an autonomous vehicle built to showcase both firms’ technologies. (Sony)
  • DoorDash bought Scotty Labs, a start-up working on remote control for cars. (TechCrunch)
  • A Lyft blog described some of the challenges involved in calibrating the various sensors on an autonomous car so that they don’t give confusing readings. (Lyft)
    • Significance: As Lyft’s engineers admit, they haven’t yet fixed the problem of calibration without using a fancy rig — demonstrating that test vehicles lovingly maintained in laboratory-like conditions have yet to confront the real world challenges of heavy-duty use and maintenance by less skilled / caring folk.
  • Ford executives believe that self-driving cars will only last for four years. (Telegraph)
  • Porsche invested in infra-red camera developer TriEye. (Porsche)
  • Toyota is partnering with Pony.ai to develop driverless cars in China. (Venture Beat)

Electrification (history)

  • Statkraft agreed terms to acquire German charging network E-WALD. (Reuters)
  • Charging networks EVgo and VW’s Electrify America announced that customers can use both firms facilities without having to create separate accounts. (EVgo)
  • Insurance company Axa said that luxury electric vehicles were being involved in lots of accidents compared to their internal combustion engine powered counterparts, but that the data was preliminary and might not be statistically significant. Surprisingly fast acceleration was mooted as a likely factor. (Reuters)
  • German utility EnBW reportedly plans to order 14,000 electric cars from 2020 onwards. (Handelsblatt)
  • Tesla has reportedly agreed a supply deal with LG for batteries to go into Chinese-made cars and is in serious talks with CATL for a similar contract. (Bloomberg)
  • Ford and Zotye’s Chinese electric car JV is reportedly in doubt. (China Daily)

Connectivity

  • Media started focusing on the amount of conversations that services such as Microsoft, Amazon and Apple monitor to feed back into their various machine learning efforts. (Futurism) Apple recently stopped giving business to one monitoring firm after details about the work they did leaked. (Irish Examiner)
  • Driver monitoring firm Zendrive raised $37 million from investors including BMW. (Economic Times of India)
  • Ford’s Autonomic will provide connectivity services to electric vehicle developer Ayro. (Forbes)

Other

  • Volocopter showed off designs for a two person air taxi. (TechCrunch)
  • Motorbike taxi operator Rapido acquired fleet analytics firm Vahanalytics. (Live Mint)
  • Parking app SpotHero raised $50 million. (TechCrunch)

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