Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 18th August 2019

Green bonds for green cars; a rental car’s PR coup; and thinking harder about subscriptions. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 12th August to 18th 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.

SIGN UP TO GET THE WEEKLY BRIEFING EMAILED TO YOU

News about the major automakers

BMW (history)

  • New CEO Oliver Zipse urged employees not to blame the economy for the company’s tough times and said BMW needs to be “far better than our competitors in everything we do”. (Reuters)

FCA (history)

  • Will keep the third shift at Windsor Assembly going until at least the end of the year, rather than ending it in September as previously announced. (Detroit News)

Ford (history)

  • Extending the warranty on older US Fiesta and Focus cars with dual clutch transmissions because of problems that Ford has struggled to fix. (Reuters)
  • Recalling almost 110,000 cars to fix problems with seatbelts. (Ford)

General Motors (history)

  • GM’s OnStar service was criticised after operators refused to unlock the vehicle of a customer with an expired account who had left their baby inside the vehicle. (Detroit News)
  • Leaked shots suggest that GM is set to release a Bolt-based car in China called the Menlo. (CNET)

Honda (history)

  • Will stop making cars at the Campana, Argentina, plant in 2020. (Honda)

Hyundai / Kia (history)

  • Hyundai has taken several down days at the Irungattukottai plant due to weakness in the Indian market. (The Hindu)

PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)

  • Two thirds of the 300 jobs at the Rüsselsheim parts centre are being removed, but Opel says that no layoffs are required and new roles will be found internally. (Handelsblatt)
  • The Astra facelift will be unveiled at the Frankfurt show. (Opel)
  • Opel says that converting a cars lighting to LEDs can save 1.3 g / km of CO2. (Opel)

Suzuki

Tata (includes JLR) (history)

  • Standard & Poors maintained Tata’s credit rating but continued to worry about the firm’s outlook, citing cash burn at JLR as its biggest concern. (Economic Times of India)
  • JLR plans to create a new UK parts distribution hub to take the place of 10 different sites. (Business Live)

Tesla (history)

  • A German rental fleet generated a disproportionate amount of press for its decision to cancel an order for 85 Model 3 cars, citing poor quality. (Detroit News)

Toyota (history)

VW Group (history)

  • Porsche issued a €1 billion green bond. The proceeds will be used for the Taycan. (Porsche)
  • Bugatti unveiled the Centrodieci, a 10 unit limited edition rebodied Chiron with a $10 million price tag. (Bugatti)

Other

  • Aston Martin says 4,500 hours of labour are required for each “continuation edition” car. (Aston Martin)
  • When using a Boston matrix, Aston Martin’s CEO segments the luxury sportscar space with two axes of versatile to focused and emotional to rational. He says GT cars sit in the highly emotional, versatile box. He says the forthcoming DBX SUV will be emotional and versatile unlike the Lamborghini Urus (emotional, not versatile in his opinion) and the Bentley Bentayga (boring but versatile, he says). (Motor Trend)
  • McLaren is making a roadster with a 399-unit run and a price tag (probably) north of £1 million. (McLaren)
  • Rezvani put the Tank, a high-powered SUV, on sale retailing at $180,000. (Revzani)
  • Ecuri Ecosse are planning a 25 unit run of a supercar based on the Jaguar XJ13 racing car. (Ecuri Ecosse)
  • Detroit Electric was revealed as the company behind Aston Martin’s IP-related bad debt. (Bloomberg)
  • The Welsh government remains hopeful that Ineos will choose to build the Projekt Grenadier 4×4 at or near Ford’s Bridgend plant, saying talks are “very advanced”. (Daily Mail)
  • One of Nio’s co-founders is retiring, and the company is cutting 1,000 jobs. (FT)
  • The CEO of Canoo (aka Evelozcity) is leaving. (The Verge)

News about other companies and trends

Economic / Political News

  • Ghana is offering 10 year tax holidays to companies that set up carmaking plants. (Detroit News)
  • UK used car sales fell (2.8)% on a year-over-year basis in Q2. (SMMT)

Suppliers

  • Bharat Forge won’t commit new capital spending for the rest of 2019, and a large part of 2020, as the firm responds to the threat of recession in India. (Economic Times of India)
  • Carbon Fibre supplier SGL fired its CEO and pushed back financial targets after a series of contractual and forecasting errors. (Manager Magazin)
  • Grammer reported first half revenue of €1.05 billion and EBIT of €50.2 million. Although the full year revenue forecast remains the same, EBIT expectations are slightly less rosy than at Q1. (Grammer)
  • Amtek looks set to be wound up after Liberty House pulled out of a rescue bid. (Economic Times of India)

Dealers

  • Malaysian used car website Carsome is hoping to raise $40 million. (Deal Street Asia)
  • Scout24 will investigate options for its car sales arm. (Reuters)
  • Indonesian used car website BeliMobilGue.co.id raised over $30 million. (Deal Street Asia)

Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)

  • Ride hailing service Ola acquired artificial intelligence start-up Pikup.ai. (Autocar)

Driverless / Autonomy (history)

  • After experiments in autonomous cars communicating intent to pedestrians using combinations of flashing lights and computer-generated expressions, one research team is trialling video feeds of remote drivers. (IEEE Spectrum)
  • Velodyne is suing fellow lidar developers Robosense and Hesai for patent infringement. (Velodyne)
  • Delivery firm UPS bought a minority stake in self-driving truck start-up TuSimple. (Reuters)
  • Aurora’s CEO says autonomous driving will phase in over 30 to 50 years. (Velodyne)

Electrification (history)

  • Shado Group hopes to sell 1,000 ultracapacitor powered 3 wheelers each month in India. (Autocar)
  • A quarry operator in Switzerland says they have a dumper truck that never needs recharging. Because it carries a heavy load downhill and returns empty, the regenerative braking apparently harvests more electricity than the uphill drive consumes. (Green Car Reports)
  • Urban Electric, developers of electric charging stations that can be hidden in the ground when not in use, launched a crowdfunding campaign to create a demonstration site. (Industry Europe)
  • Mahle says that a new design of battery pack allows for a 40% reduction in battery size. With the industry currently fixated on kWh as a measurement of performance, it isn’t clear whether any manufacturers will push for the upper end of Mahle’s claims soon. (Mahle)

Connectivity

  • Nvidia says it has discovered a brilliant new way of training artificial intelligence to have conversations with human beings. (Nvidia)

Other

  • SG Bike is buying Mobike’s Singaporean operating licence (for 25,000 bikes) for $1.85 million. (Deal Street Asia)
  • On-demand refuelling app FuelBuddy is hoping to raise $2 million. (Economic Times of India)
  • Ninebot has developed electric scooters that can drive themselves to charging stations. (Reuters)

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Auto Industry Briefing — Our Most Recent Edition

Green bonds for green cars; a rental car’s PR coup; and thinking harder about subscriptions. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 12th August to 18th 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.

SIGN UP TO GET THE WEEKLY BRIEFING EMAILED TO YOU

News about the major automakers

BMW (history)

  • New CEO Oliver Zipse urged employees not to blame the economy for the company’s tough times and said BMW needs to be “far better than our competitors in everything we do”. (Reuters)

FCA (history)

  • Will keep the third shift at Windsor Assembly going until at least the end of the year, rather than ending it in September as previously announced. (Detroit News)

Ford (history)

  • Extending the warranty on older US Fiesta and Focus cars with dual clutch transmissions because of problems that Ford has struggled to fix. (Reuters)
  • Recalling almost 110,000 cars to fix problems with seatbelts. (Ford)

General Motors (history)

  • GM’s OnStar service was criticised after operators refused to unlock the vehicle of a customer with an expired account who had left their baby inside the vehicle. (Detroit News)
  • Leaked shots suggest that GM is set to release a Bolt-based car in China called the Menlo. (CNET)

Honda (history)

  • Will stop making cars at the Campana, Argentina, plant in 2020. (Honda)

Hyundai / Kia (history)

  • Hyundai has taken several down days at the Irungattukottai plant due to weakness in the Indian market. (The Hindu)

PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)

  • Two thirds of the 300 jobs at the Rüsselsheim parts centre are being removed, but Opel says that no layoffs are required and new roles will be found internally. (Handelsblatt)
  • The Astra facelift will be unveiled at the Frankfurt show. (Opel)
  • Opel says that converting a cars lighting to LEDs can save 1.3 g / km of CO2. (Opel)

Suzuki

Tata (includes JLR) (history)

  • Standard & Poors maintained Tata’s credit rating but continued to worry about the firm’s outlook, citing cash burn at JLR as its biggest concern. (Economic Times of India)
  • JLR plans to create a new UK parts distribution hub to take the place of 10 different sites. (Business Live)

Tesla (history)

  • A German rental fleet generated a disproportionate amount of press for its decision to cancel an order for 85 Model 3 cars, citing poor quality. (Detroit News)

Toyota (history)

VW Group (history)

  • Porsche issued a €1 billion green bond. The proceeds will be used for the Taycan. (Porsche)
  • Bugatti unveiled the Centrodieci, a 10 unit limited edition rebodied Chiron with a $10 million price tag. (Bugatti)

Other

  • Aston Martin says 4,500 hours of labour are required for each “continuation edition” car. (Aston Martin)
  • When using a Boston matrix, Aston Martin’s CEO segments the luxury sportscar space with two axes of versatile to focused and emotional to rational. He says GT cars sit in the highly emotional, versatile box. He says the forthcoming DBX SUV will be emotional and versatile unlike the Lamborghini Urus (emotional, not versatile in his opinion) and the Bentley Bentayga (boring but versatile, he says). (Motor Trend)
  • McLaren is making a roadster with a 399-unit run and a price tag (probably) north of £1 million. (McLaren)
  • Rezvani put the Tank, a high-powered SUV, on sale retailing at $180,000. (Revzani)
  • Ecuri Ecosse are planning a 25 unit run of a supercar based on the Jaguar XJ13 racing car. (Ecuri Ecosse)
  • Detroit Electric was revealed as the company behind Aston Martin’s IP-related bad debt. (Bloomberg)
  • The Welsh government remains hopeful that Ineos will choose to build the Projekt Grenadier 4×4 at or near Ford’s Bridgend plant, saying talks are “very advanced”. (Daily Mail)
  • One of Nio’s co-founders is retiring, and the company is cutting 1,000 jobs. (FT)
  • The CEO of Canoo (aka Evelozcity) is leaving. (The Verge)

News about other companies and trends

Economic / Political News

  • Ghana is offering 10 year tax holidays to companies that set up carmaking plants. (Detroit News)
  • UK used car sales fell (2.8)% on a year-over-year basis in Q2. (SMMT)

Suppliers

  • Bharat Forge won’t commit new capital spending for the rest of 2019, and a large part of 2020, as the firm responds to the threat of recession in India. (Economic Times of India)
  • Carbon Fibre supplier SGL fired its CEO and pushed back financial targets after a series of contractual and forecasting errors. (Manager Magazin)
  • Grammer reported first half revenue of €1.05 billion and EBIT of €50.2 million. Although the full year revenue forecast remains the same, EBIT expectations are slightly less rosy than at Q1. (Grammer)
  • Amtek looks set to be wound up after Liberty House pulled out of a rescue bid. (Economic Times of India)

Dealers

  • Malaysian used car website Carsome is hoping to raise $40 million. (Deal Street Asia)
  • Scout24 will investigate options for its car sales arm. (Reuters)
  • Indonesian used car website BeliMobilGue.co.id raised over $30 million. (Deal Street Asia)

Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)

  • Ride hailing service Ola acquired artificial intelligence start-up Pikup.ai. (Autocar)

Driverless / Autonomy (history)

  • After experiments in autonomous cars communicating intent to pedestrians using combinations of flashing lights and computer-generated expressions, one research team is trialling video feeds of remote drivers. (IEEE Spectrum)
  • Velodyne is suing fellow lidar developers Robosense and Hesai for patent infringement. (Velodyne)
  • Delivery firm UPS bought a minority stake in self-driving truck start-up TuSimple. (Reuters)
  • Aurora’s CEO says autonomous driving will phase in over 30 to 50 years. (Velodyne)

Electrification (history)

  • Shado Group hopes to sell 1,000 ultracapacitor powered 3 wheelers each month in India. (Autocar)
  • A quarry operator in Switzerland says they have a dumper truck that never needs recharging. Because it carries a heavy load downhill and returns empty, the regenerative braking apparently harvests more electricity than the uphill drive consumes. (Green Car Reports)
  • Urban Electric, developers of electric charging stations that can be hidden in the ground when not in use, launched a crowdfunding campaign to create a demonstration site. (Industry Europe)
  • Mahle says that a new design of battery pack allows for a 40% reduction in battery size. With the industry currently fixated on kWh as a measurement of performance, it isn’t clear whether any manufacturers will push for the upper end of Mahle’s claims soon. (Mahle)

Connectivity

  • Nvidia says it has discovered a brilliant new way of training artificial intelligence to have conversations with human beings. (Nvidia)

Other

  • SG Bike is buying Mobike’s Singaporean operating licence (for 25,000 bikes) for $1.85 million. (Deal Street Asia)
  • On-demand refuelling app FuelBuddy is hoping to raise $2 million. (Economic Times of India)
  • Ninebot has developed electric scooters that can drive themselves to charging stations. (Reuters)

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

Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 30th June 2019

Renault and Nissan love arguing; buyers are happy with hybrids if they are cheap; and is the start-up bubble deflating? Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 24th June to 30th June 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)

  • Confirmed new targets for electrification (leaked last week) calling for 25 models by 2023 at a special event. From 2020 onwards, BMW will program hybrid vehicles so that only the electric motor powers the car in city centres. Although BMW didn’t say this, it seems likely that BMW will submit the scheme to the EU as an eco-innovation to gain credit for CO2 lowering technologies not fairly represented within the WLTP test cycle. (BMW)
  • Showed a concept called Vision M Next, a likely i8 successor. If the concept carries through to production then the car will remain a PHEV, despite earlier rumours that it would be all-electric. (BMW)
  • Plans to introduce adaptive cruise control that can stop at red lights. (BMW)
  • Believes that diesel engines will continue to be sold for another 20 years and gasoline engines have 30 years left, but not necessarily in all markets. The firm plans to phase out the 1.5 litre diesel used in smaller cars. (Automotive News)
  • Says that, if there were sufficient demand, it could launch 100 electrified cars by 2023 as an illustration of the flexibility of BMW’s engineering platform. BMW also believes that solid state batteries will not reach maturity until the 2030s. (Autocar)
  • CEO Krüger reportedly faces a fight to get his contract extended beyond May 2020, with the board rumoured to be eyeing up two senior executives as potential successors. (Handelsblatt)
  • After BMW pulled out of a sponsorship deal, Bayern Munich football club reportedly plans to sue for between €10 million – €20 million — probably enough for a new centre forward’s right shin. (FAZ)
  • Plans an initial X5 fuel cell powered car in the early 2020s, and might add more offerings by 2025. BMW says that currently the fuel cell stack alone costs €80,000. (Forbes)

FCA (history)

  • Announced a series of launch partners for the information and payments functions of FCA’s Uconnect infotainment system. Only recently-built models will be capable of using it. (FCA)
  • Resurrected the Voyager minivan nameplate, but only to use it in place of Pacifica on the cheapest models. There won’t be any sheet metal changes. (Fox)

Ford (history)

  • Issued a press release mainly rehashing existing announcements into one place. Ford’s manual transmission joint venture (with Getrag, owned by Magna) will sell the Kechnec Transmission plant in Slovakia to Magna — adding about 1,000 people to the list of those “impacted” by Ford’s prior announcements, for about 12,000 in total. (Ford)
  • Plans to offer an electrification option (it isn’t clear if this means PHEV or just 48V) on all European products and will manufacture a range of all-electric vehicles in Europe too. Ford considers itself on track to meet the 2020 and 2021 EU CO2 targets without facing fines. (Ford)
  • Unveiled the Puma, a small crossover to be produced at the Craiova, Romania plant. Although the new entry will overlap with Ecosport in Ford’s line-up, the company believes that the differences in package and styling are big enough to merit a separate product. (Ford)
  • Ford’s marketing team believes that driverless cars are “a little bit in the distance”. (Arabian Business Times)

General Motors (history)

  • Released its latest sustainability report. (GM)
  • Rumoured to have stopped work on a next generation Camaro. (Muscle Cars & Trucks)

Honda (history)

  • Released its most recent sustainability report. (Honda)
  • Issued what Honda says will be the last Takata-related airbag recall in the US — for 1.6 million vehicles. (Fox)

Hyundai / Kia (history)

  • Teaming up with oil giant Saudi Aramco to explore hydrogen production and distribution. (Hyundai)
  • Not going ahead with a £20 million mega vanity dealership on the outskirts of London, UK. Hyundai pointed to the existing dealer network and online sales as areas where the money would be better spent. (Motor Trader)

Mazda

  • Wants to do away with touchscreens because Mazda reckons they are too distracting for drivers, preferring a combination of head up display and menu controllers (the latter is distracting in its own right). (Mazda)
  • Took a 2% stake in the MONET self-driving technology program led by Toyota. (Honda)

Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)

  • Nissan’s CEO said he was postponing talks on further integration between alliance partners, preferring to focus on his firm’s financial recovery, warning the alliance could break apart “quickly” if Nissan wasn’t happy. (Reuters)
  • The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance VC unit invested in The Mobility House, a company that uses batteries from electric cars to provide storage for power grids. (Renault)
  • Mitsubishi is moving US headquarters from California to Tennessee. (Mitsubishi)

PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)

  • Announced (as rumoured) that the next generation Astra will be produced at the Rüsselsheim, Germany factory. PSA said it will make the car at two locations — the other will be Ellesmere Port, UK, if there isn’t a no deal Brexit. (PSA)
  • German unions worry that — even with the new Astra alongside Insignia production — Rüsselsheim will not be safe until there is enough volume to justify three shift production. (FAZ)
  • Opel has written to around 500 German engineers telling them to transfer to Segula’s newly-formed engineering operations or risk dismissal. Employees appear concerned that Segula’s like-for-like job guarantees may not be all they seem, citing a works council made up of workers without an Opel legacy and implied wriggle room for Segula if the new business has fewer employees than expected. (Handelsblatt)
  • New vehicles from the DS brand will have a powertrain option that offers 300 hp or more. (Autocar)

Renault (history)

  • French president Macron said that nothing would justify changing Renault’s ownership stake in Nissan, or the French government’s shareholding in Renault and told managers to get on with running the alliance instead of trying to change it. (Bloomberg)
  • Nissan’s CEO said he was postponing talks on further integration between alliance partners, preferring to focus on his firm’s financial recovery, warning the alliance could break apart “quickly” if Nissan wasn’t happy. (Reuters)
  • The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance VC unit invested in The Mobility House, a company that uses batteries from electric cars to provide storage for power grids. (Renault)

Suzuki

  • Took a 2% stake in the MONET self-driving technology program led by Toyota. (Honda)

Tata (includes JLR) (history)

  • Reportedly planning to confirm production of an all-electric XJ replacement in Castle Bromwich, UK. (Telegraph)
  • Unsure whether there will be any potential to price for Bharat Stage VI emissions standards in India (due to be implemented from April 2020 onwards) to recover technology costs. (Autocar)
  • JLR wants UK dealers to have an average of around 900 sales per site (including fleet) annually once it has completed a program to reduce dealer numbers to about 125. (Automotive Manager)

Tesla (history)

  • News media picked up on a Tesla team dedicated to advanced battery research and questioned Tesla’s commitment to its long-term relationship with Panasonic. It wasn’t clear whether the work in question was any different to the normal type of advanced R&D that most OEMs do, which often overlaps with products that are externally supplied once mass production begins (or indeed, if it relates to cars at all). (CNBC)
  • Tesla’s head of production left (to work down the road for Lucid). (Electrek)

Toyota (history)

  • Plans to spend $2 billion on developing and building electric cars in Indonesia. (Reuters)
  • Let some other automakers buy into the MONET self-driving partnership, including Toyota’s own subsidiary Daihatsu, leaving Toyota with a ~37% stake. (Honda)
  • On a year-to-date basis, 57.5% of Toyotas sold in the UK are hybrids. (Toyota)

VW Group (history)

  • Reportedly will present plans to expand the strategic alliance with Ford at the July board meeting. (Bloomberg)
  • Truck unit Traton had its IPO without much fanfare. (Reuters)
  • Workers at VW’s much-rumoured new plant in Turkey would likely be paid between €1.40 – €2.40 per hour, according to local unions. (FAZ)
  • Launched an all-electric car sharing service in Berlin, Germany, with plans to expand into other European cities during 2020. (VW)
    • Significance: With a 2,000-strong fleet planned for the German capital, plus other cities, the new scheme looks to be a method for creating a used supply of electric cars — especially once the ID3 enters production.

Other

  • Subaru and Isuzu joined the MONET self-driving partnership alongside Toyota, SoftBank, Honda, Suzuki, Mazda and Hino. (Honda)
  • Lightyear unveiled the One, a €149,000 all-electric car augmented with solar panels across much of the body that will help it achieve a claimed range of between 500km and 800km most of the time. (Lightyear)
  • Faraday Future has reportedly undergone another wave of staff cuts. The company now claims 350 US employees — down from around 1,000 — but some of them are on unpaid leave. (The Verge)

News about other companies and trends

Economic / Political News

  • Provisional EU 2018 fleet CO2 data showed an increase in fleet average emissions for both cars and vans. (EEA) The trade body complained that tough rules risked putting carmakers at a major disadvantage, but it wasn’t entirely clear what this meant since the advantage would surely lie with… other carmakers. (ACEA)
  • The EU finalised a trade deal with the Mercosur block. (EU)
  • The European car maker’s body now expects a (1)% year-over-year fall in sales for 2019. The previous forecast was for 1% growth. (ACEA)
  • ACEA published an updated fact book covering the European automotive industry. (ACEA)
  • Sino-US trade talksare back on, according to Donald Trump, and new tariffs are suspended (for now). (Reuters)

Suppliers

  • Cummins is buying fuel cell company Hydrogenics in a $290 million deal. (Cummins)
  • Wabco shareholders approved ZF’s takeover offer. (ZF)

Dealers

  • UK used car site Motorway raised £11 million. (TechCrunch)
  • Remarketing firm KAR is relaunching its recently acquired European arm (formerly CarsOnTheWeb) as ADESA (KAR) and completed the separation of salvage division IAA. (KAR)
  • Chinese online used car site Renrenche is reportedly sacking 60% of staff. (Reuters)
  • Spanish firm Bipi raised €6.5 million to offer all-in monthly vehicle rentals. (Europa Press)

Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)

  • Uber has been talking with regulators in Senegal and Ivory Coast about market entry. (Reuters)
  • Grab invested in UK multi-modal app SPLYT as part of an $8 million round. (Auto Rental News)
  • VW launched an all-electric car sharing service in Berlin, Germany, with plans to expand into other European cities during 2020. (VW)

Driverless / Autonomy (history)

  • Researchers showed that by hijacking the GPS signal sent to a car they could make it perform dangerous manoeuvres (e.g. by telling the car that it was a few metres to the left or right of the real position). The tests were performed using a Tesla but the company said any car using similar technology would be affected in the same way. The attack highlights the important of redundancy through multiple pieces of information, including ground truth (where the car works out its position from data such as the location of kerbs and roadsigns). (Computing)
  • Uber now has 1,300 employees working on advanced technologies (e.g. driverless cars and air taxis). (TechCrunch) This week the firm acquired AI training firm Mighty AI. (GeekWire)
  • Drive.ai collapsed, with Apple picking up the pieces by hiring some of the 90-strong team. (SF Chronicle)
  • Autonomous bus developer Navya raised $20 million in bonds from Korean supplier ESMO, who will gain exclusive distribution rights for selected Asian companies. (Navya)
  • Brightway Vision, developers of an image sensor with claimed benefits in poor weather and low light conditions, raised $25 million from investors including lighting company Koito. (Brightway)
  • Suzuki, Subaru, Isuzu and Mazda joined the MONET self-driving partnership alongside Toyota, SoftBank, Honda and Hino. Each of the new companies will take a 2% stake. (Honda)
  • Starsky Robotics started operating trucks without drivers inside in San Francisco. The vehicles still have people monitoring them to ensure safe driving, but they sit in drone-esque remote locations. (Business Insider)

Electrification (history)

  • Indian delivery firm Flipkart wants electric vehicles to make up 40% of its fleet by March 2020. (Reuters)
    • Significance: This merits attention for two reasons: Firstly, Flipkart is adopting a more ambitious target than most Western companies, despite affordability arguments for electrification surely mattering more in a poorer country (although many of the vehicles in question will not be two wheelers and quadricycles); secondly, Flipkart is owned by Walmart — who might take a close interest in the outcome.
  • Electric car firms in China might need to revisit their cashflow assumptions. Kandi (part owned by Geely) has only just received government subsidies relating to vehicle sales between 2015 and 2017 — a not insignificant figure of almost $130 million. (Kandi)
  • South Korean battery firms welcomed moves by the Chinese government to stop “recommending” native battery suppliers for electric vehicles over foreign rivals. (ET News)
  • Charger supplier Wallbox raised €15 million in a round led by Spanish power firm Iberdrola. (Iberdrola)
  • The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance VC unit invested in The Mobility House, a company that uses batteries from electric cars to provide storage for power grids. (Renault)
  • BMW believes that solid state batteries will not reach maturity until the 2030s. (Autocar)

Connectivity

  • Hyundai Autron and Wind River are jointly developing a connected vehicle software suite. (Wind River)

Other

  • Google’s Sidewalk Labs released a master plan for a section of Toronto, Canada, giving an indication of the way the company believes technology could affect city planning and transport. (Sidewalk Labs)
  • Mobile refuelling service Booster raised $56 million with investments from Total and Enterprise. (Auto Rental)

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

Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 11th August 2019

Continental says good riddance to combustion engines; unusable industry standards; and ways to shake up the used car market. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 5th August to 11th 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

BMW (history)

  • BMW’s planned joint venture for electric vehicles with Great Wall has been facing problems gaining regulatory approval. (Reuters)

Daimler (history)

  • Reportedly took longer to solve GLE launch problems than anticipated because specialist trouble shooters sent over from Germany had problems gaining work permits, but has now largely got on top of things. (Handelsblatt)
  • Working with BAIC on creating stationary storage with used batteries from electric cars. (Daimler)
  • Rumoured to be planning a major reveal of the all-electric EVA 2 platform at Frankfurt. (Handelsblatt)

Ford (history)

  • Recalled around 14,000 to correct improperly built vehicles. (Ford)
  • Already sees 3D printing as a “legitimate alternative” to traditional methods on some parts. (Automotive News)

Geely (includes Volvo) (history)

  • Lynk&Co still plans to launch products in Europe during 2020 and says that the decision to only produce cars in China (superseding an earlier scheme to make Europe-bound vehicles in Belgium) was taken because of the runaway success of the Volvo XC40 (made in the Belgian plant). The brand believes that the sweet spot for all-in subscription pricing is around €500 per month (but hasn’t decided on ideal contract length) and wants 500,000 global sales per year by 2021 (currently at around 110,000). (Automotive News)
  • Kandi received approval from Chinese authorities to become an electric car maker. (Kandi)

General Motors (history)

  • Reducing Equinox SUV production by removing a shift at the San Luis Potosi, Mexico, factory and having a week of shutdown at the CAMI, Canada, plant. GM said sales of the model were still “very strong”. (Detroit Free Press)
  • Applied for membership of the South Korean importers association (GM is already a member of the manufacturer’s association), leading to speculation that local production could stop altogether. (Korea Times)

Hyundai / Kia (history)

  • Hyundai’s Frankfurt show stand will include a concept for a vehicle with a customisable interior. (Hyundai)

Mazda

  • Recalling about 22,500 Mazda 3 cars to fix rearview mirrors that might fall off. (Fox)

PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)

  • Reportedly slashing capacity at its Chinese joint venture with Dongfeng through a plan to close one plant, sell another and halve the workforce. PSA board sources said that the next step would be to withdraw from China entirely if things didn’t improve. (Reuters)
  • Dongfeng is rumoured to be exploring options for its stake in PSA. (Bloomberg)

Suzuki

  • Announced Q2 2019 (fiscal first quarter) revenue of 908 billion JPY (about $8.6 billion), down (8.1)% on prior year. Operating income of 72.4 billion JPY (about $700 million) fell (46)%. Suzuki blamed production stoppages to improve inspection methods and weakness in the Indian market. (Suzuki)

Tata (includes JLR) (history)

  • Reporters speculated that rumoured new small SUVs for Jaguar might be built on the BMW platform that underpins Mini and 1-Series. (Autocar)

Toyota (history)

  • Isn’t worried that the Prius is associated with private hire brands such as Uber in many European cities, seeing taxi drivers as “fantastic ambassadors” and confirmed intent to remain in the sub-B segment in Europe although many other brands are dropping their models. (Automotive News)
  • Will collaborate on development of customer-facing robots with Preferred Networks. (Toyota)
  • Recalling around 18,000 RAV4 SUVs to correct problems with the rearview camera. (Toyota)

VW Group (history)

  • Pininfarina reckon that VW’s forthcoming PPE platform for all-electric premium vehicles (being developed by Audi and Porsche) is no good for SUVs. (Automotive News)
  • Bentley’s boss says he is relatively unconcerned about Brexit because of the brand’s pricing power, although he called the prospect of no deal “annoying and painful”. (Telegraph)
  • Lamborghini says that 70% of Urus SUV buyers are new to the brand and that no firm decisions have been taken on a fourth model, although some discussion has clearly taken place since a 2+2 GT is “one possibility”. The CEO remains open-minded on whether to install turbocharged engines. (Autocar)
  • Audi has designed an electric scooter that users can ride with only one hand on the controls. It will be on sale at the end of 2020 and cost “about €2,000”. (Audi)
  • Audi is reportedly sub-contracting much of the next generation (all-electric) R8 powertrain to Rimac. (Car)

Other

  • EDAG says it has developed a scalable electric vehicle floor (i.e. what others call a skateboard, minus the parts that make it a rolling chassis) that it will offer to OEMs under licence. (Autocar)
  • Subaru reported financial results for Q2 2019 (fiscal year Q1). Revenue of 833 billion yen (about $7.9 billion) rose 16% on a year-over-year basis and operating profit of 92 billion yen (about $880 million) rose 48%. (Subaru)
  • A new Malaysian car brand headed by DreamEDGE and supported by Daihatsu is aiming to launch in 2021. The government is supporting the company through non-financial methods. (Bloomberg)
  • Kalashnikov revealed the UV-4 electric taxi. (TASS)
  • BAIC’s chairman says the business needs to build up non-vehicle revenue. (China Daily)
  • Russian officials said that in 2020 they will announce a collaboration with a major international automaker to build an all-electric car in Russia. (TASS)
  • Fisker showed a teaser image of the rear of a pickup truck. (Inside EVs)
  • Mahindra & Mahindra released financial results for Q2 2019 (fiscal year Q1). Revenue of 12,997 Cr INR (about $1.8 billion) fell (4)% on a year-over-year basis. PBT of 918 Cr INR (about $128 million) fell (26)%. Mahindra blamed market weakness saying the Indian industry “de-grew” (12.3)%. (Mahindra)

News about other companies and trends

Economic / Political News

  • The USA labelled China a currency manipulator, leading to threats of retaliation. (Reuters)

Suppliers

  • Despite tough times, Continental’s union leaders don’t expect any job cuts at German plants. (Handelsblatt)
  • Continental has been making components with too much lead content under EU rules. (Manager Magazin)
  • Continental says it is cutting back on research for combustion engine components and won’t try that hard to win new business for parts like fuel injectors and pumps in future. (Continental)
  • Magna reported Q2 2019 revenue of $10.1 billion and gross income of $595 million. (Magna)
  • Varroc Engineering acquired a majority stake in OBD dongle maker CarIQ. (Autocar)
  • China Automotive Systems reported Q2 2019 earnings and reduced full year outlook. (CAS)
  • Adient reported Q2 2019 (fiscal Q3) revenues of $4.2 billion and a net loss of $(321) million. (Adient)
  • Leoni is reportedly facing a liquidity crunch and has hired external advisors. (Reuters)
  • Hella reported fiscal year end (June 2018 – May 2019) results. Revenue was €7 billion and adjusted EBIT was €585 million. (Hella)
  • Bridgestone reported first half revenue of 1.7 trillion JPY (about $16.6 billion) and operating income of 158 billion JPY (about $1.5 billion). (Bridgestone)
  • Schaeffler reported Q2 2019 revenue of €7.2 billion and EBIT of €483 million. (Schaeffler)
  • Bosch and Hella invested in holographic display maker Light Field Lab’s $28 million round. (Venture Beat)

Dealers

  • Singaporean used car website Carro raised another $30 million and acquired Indonesian rival Jualo. (TechCrunch)
  • Chinese used car website Uxin has begun exporting second hand cars from China to Europe. (Uxin)
  • Brazilian used car website Volanty raised almost $18 million from investors including SoftBank. (Reuters)
  • 38% of UK dealers responding to a survey intend to stock fewer diesel powered used cars. (Motor Trader)

Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)

  • Lyft reported Q2 revenue of $867 million, up 72% on a year-over-year basis. The net loss was $(644) million. Lyft said that “active riders” had increased from around 15.5 million in Q2 2018 to 21.8 million now. (Lyft)
  • Uber reported Q2 revenue of $3.2 billion, up 14% on a year earlier and an operating loss of $(5.5) billion, $3.9 billion of which was compensation. Uber says it has 99 million active users across all services. (Uber)
  • Uber is on the lookout for M&A opportunities but will turn them down if they aren’t the “right deal”, citing a recent decision not to buy deliver company Caviar. (Business Insider)

Electrification (history)

  • Mushashi Seimitsu invested in KeraCel and the two companies will collaborate to develop 3D printed solid state batteries for motorbikes. (3D Printing Industry)
  • Continental says that electric technology doesn’t make the firm any money at the moment and that solid state batteries won’t be commercially viable until after 2030. (Handelsblatt)
  • Canada’s government says that a $5,000 per vehicle grant increased electric vehicle sales by 40% — but only from 2% of total sales to 3%. (Green Car Reports)
  • NSK says that by 2030, it is aiming for annual revenues of 4 billion JPY (about $38 million) from bearings for electric vehicle powertrain. (NSK)
  • Daimler is rumoured to be planning a major reveal of the all-electric EVA 2 platform at Frankfurt. (Handelsblatt)
  • Daimler is working with BAIC on creating stationary storage with used batteries from electric cars. (Daimler)
  • EDAG says it has developed a scalable electric vehicle floor (i.e. what others call a skateboard, minus the parts that make it a rolling chassis). That it will offer to OEMs under licence. (Autocar)

Connectivity

  • Journey tracking firm Teralytics raised $17.5 million from investors including Bosch. (Teralytics)
  • Varroc Engineering acquired a majority stake in OBD dongle maker CarIQ. (Autocar)

Other

  • EHang hopes to begin trials of air taxis in Guangzhou, China. (EHang)
  • Motor scooter rental firm Bounce is reportedly about to receive $200 million in funding. (Tech Circle)
  • Gogoro’s announced that other manufacturers including Yamaha and PGO will start to use its scooter battery swapping network. (TechCrunch)
  • Nikola says it has 14,000 orders for its trucks. (Nikola)

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Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 4th August 2019

Proving yourself as a carmaker; the rise of the Porsche Taycan; and contingency plans full of holes. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 29th July to 4th 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

BMW (history)

  • Reported financial results for Q2 2019. Automotive revenue of €22.6 billion rose 1.9% on a year-over-year basis whilst EBIT of €1.47 billion fell (23.4)%. (BMW)
  • Lost the final appeal in a case that limited the amount of subsidy BMW was allowed to receive from the German government for a factory upgrade. (Reuters)
  • Outgoing CEO Krüger offered to meet new British prime minister Boris Johnson to tell him to his face that a no deal Brexit would be a bad idea. (The Guardian)
  • Invested in autonomous vehicle vision technology company Recogni. (FINSMES)
  • Although executives refused to be drawn on the exact profitability at Rolls-Royce, they described it as “very, very pleasant”. (Seeking Alpha)

Daimler (history)

  • Recently departed former CEO Zetsche said that engines are now less of a differentiator, but that there remain “lots of engineering proof points” where commoditisation would harm brands. (Top Gear)
  • Invested in car price comparison site Carwow. (The Times)

FCA (history)

  • Reported Q2 2019 revenue of €26.7 billion, down (3)% on a year-over-year basis and net profit of €793 million, up 14%. North America performed strongly, despite lower sales resulting from a reduction in dealer inventory. Maserati performed poorly, losing €(119) million due to residual value misses and lower dealer stocks. (FCA)
  • Expects that 5% of European sales mix in 2020 will be BEV or PHEV and that customers will absorb about 60% of the cost. Overall, FCA says the cost of compliance will absorb about half a percentage point of operating margin. CEO Mike Manley also told analysts that 2019 year end emissions will fall significantly as the company introduces new engines. (Seeking Alpha)
  • FCA remains hopeful that Renault will reignite merger talks, but doesn’t want to make the first move, and has struck up a broader range of partnership talks with European competitors. (Seeking Alpha)

Ferrari

  • Sold 2,671 units in Q2 2019, an increase of 8.4% on a year-over-year basis. Revenue of €984 million rose 9% and EBIT of €239 million also increased 9%. (Ferrari)
  • Will unveil three new models by the end of 2019 — two at an event in September and one at an undisclosed point after that. (Seeking Alpha)
  • Said that initial customer feedback on the SF90 hybrid in electric drive mode was very positive because the lack of noise would be less antisocial in crowded neighbourhoods. The CEO says however than pure electric vehicles are “beyond 2022”. (Seeking Alpha)
  • CEO Camilleri pushed back strongly against suggestions that Ferrari might be interested in any form of M&A, after being asked specifically about other car companies and non-automotive luxury brands. (Seeking Alpha)

Ford (history)

  • Acquired two companies to boost Ford’s mobility division — transport app developer Journey Holding and robotics company Quantum Signal. (Detroit News)

General Motors (history)

  • Reported Q2 2019 revenue of $36 billion, down (1.9)% on a year-over-year basis, and income of $2.4 billion, up 1.6%. GM said that a strong performance from North American trucks was to responsible for the higher profits, even as sales fell (particularly in China). (GM)
  • CEO Mary Barra said customer feedback about the Super Cruise driver assistance system was amongst the best she had ever experienced (85% of owners said it would affected their next purchasing decision), but GM wants to put it into all Cadillac products before it will start introducing the feature into other brands (but also that this would be done “as quickly as we can”). (Seeking Alpha)
  • GM wouldn’t be drawn on a new timeline for the launch of robotaxi services operating by Cruise, but did confirm that from GM’s perspective a market launch meant no safety drivers in the vehicles. (Seeking Alpha)
  • Closed the Warren Transmission factory. (World Socialist Web Site)

Honda (history)

  • Honda reported Q2 2019 (fiscal Q1) revenues of 3.996 trillion yen (about $37.6 billion) and operating profit of 252 billion yen (about $2.4 billion), both down on the prior year. Despite the year over year drops, Honda said it was still confident in full year targets because of improvements being made to the business. (Honda)
  • Produced 2,692,175 units in the first six months of 2019, a 0.4% increase versus prior year. (Honda)
  • A security researcher found an unprotected file listing all of Honda’s computers and what was installed on them, something he says could have been used with malicious intent. (TechCrunch)

Hyundai / Kia (history)

  • Kia says it will definitely meet 2020 and 2021 CO2 targets, but since the brand reckons that will mean it has to sell 40,000 battery electric vehicles each year (up from about 15,000 now), there are several contingency plans in place that could force a higher mix if the retail demand doesn’t emerge. These include: making its car-sharing business all-electric, forcing the company service fleet and dealer demonstration cars to be electric-only and fitting low resistance tyres to all vehicles. (Automotive News)
    • Significance: Kia’s approach is reflective of the challenge facing many carmakers in the European market in the early 2020s. CO2 emissions compliance is not a matter of technology, it is one of cost and consumer demand, and many companies have openly said that they don’t want to sell any more electric cars than necessary. Expect all the other major manufacturers to have similar ideas for emergency mix forcing but, although this solves the new car sales challenge, how can they be confident that nearly new second hand values will hold up for a flood of electric vehicles?
  • A sales campaign run by Hyundai in the US where customers receive $50 if they take a test drive apparently ends up with half of participants buying a car. (Automotive News)
  • Hyundai now offers a solar roof on Sonata hybrid cars. According to Hyundai, between 30% – 60% of the hybrid’s 1.76 kWh battery capacity can be charged over a six hour period. (Hyundai)

Mazda

  • Announced financial results for Q2 2019 (fiscal Q1). 353,000 units were sold, a drop of (12)%. Revenue of 849 billion yen (about $8 billion) fell (3)% and operating profit of 7 billion yen (about $66 million) was down (79)%. (Mazda)

Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)

  • According to leaked emails, Nissan and Renault are in the middle of intense negotiations to see whether Nissan would approve the proposed FCA / Renault merger if the French company reduced its current 43.4% stake in Nissan. (WSJ)

PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)

  • PSA’s CEO says the company’s worst case scenario for European fleet CO2 is a sales mix of 10% diesel and 7% electric or hybrid vehicles. He also told reporters that he plans to leave sometime in the next few years, and certainly before 2030. (FT)
  • Citroen executives hinted that the next generation C4 would have an all-electric version and promised that the design would “shake the market”. (Auto Express)

Renault (history)

  • According to leaked emails, Nissan and Renault are in the middle of intense negotiations to see whether Nissan would approve the proposed FCA / Renault merger if the French company reduced its current 43.4% stake in Nissan. (WSJ)

Suzuki

  • Produced 1,610,174 units in the first half of 2019, an (8.8)% drop on a year-over-year basis. (Suzuki)

Tata (includes JLR) (history)

  • Tata Motors’s chairman said partnerships are “the only way” to cope with the additional capital spending demands of mobility services and electrification, and that Tata was looking at both tactical and strategic options. (Autocar)
  • Tata is setting up a 300 station charging network in India with Tata Power. Planned charging speeds are modest, with power levels between 15 kW – 50 kW planned. (Economic Times of India)
  • Feedback from US customers suggest that Jaguar dealers are offering firesale prices on electric I-Pace models, despite the car having only recently launched. (Inside EVs)

Tesla (history)

  • Tesla’s Chinese factory lease depends on selling enough vehicles to raise 2.2 billion yuan (about $320 million) in annual tax revenues by 2023. (Bloomberg)
  • Reinstated free supercharging for Model S and Model X buyers. (TechCrunch)
  • Announced a new battery product for power grids called the Megapack, essentially a much larger version (up to 3 MWh) of the existing powerpack. (Tesla)

Toyota (history)

  • Reported financial results for Q2 2019 (fiscal Q1). Revenue of 7.65 trillion yen (about $72 billion) rose 3.8% on a year-over-year basis whilst operating income of 741.9 billion yen (about $7 billion) was up 8%. Nevertheless, Toyota cut full year forecasts, citing adverse exchange movements. (Toyota)
  • Says that shared platforms reduce development headcount and investment by 25%, whilst saving 10% of the vehicle material cost too. (Toyota)
  • Invested in autonomous vehicle vision technology company Recogni. (FINSMES)

VW Group (history)

  • Porsche says that 30,000 customers have paid a €2,500 deposit for a Taycan electric car. (Handelsblatt)
  • Acquired “nearly a quarter” of charging station management company has.to.be and will help fund an expansion of the European network. (VW)
  • Porsche’s digital team is around 120-strong and will grow further with the addition of a second US office. (Porsche)
  • Audi’s former CEO has been charged with fraud relating to the dieselgate scandal. (BBC)
  • Audi will sell a cheaper version of the e-tron with a 71 kWh battery, but not in the USA. (Electrek)

Other

  • Aston Martin sold 2,442 cars in the first half of 2019, up 6% on a year-over-year basis. Despite this, revenue fell (4)% to £407 million and there was a £(38) million operating loss — about half of which related to an IP sale gone wrong. (Aston Martin)
  • Human Horizons revealed the HiPhi1, an all-electric large SUV with claimed L3 self-driving capability and rear doors reminiscent of the Rolls-Royce 103EX concept. Although the car was said to be production ready, the launch date is unclear. (Human Horizons)
  • Russian’s first locally developed electric car, from Zetta, is on target for a 2019 production launch. (TASS)
  • VinFast will use battery packs developed by Austrian firm Kriesel (it seems likely that the batteries themselves will come from LG Chem). (Kriesel)
  • Atlis Motors claims to have 11,000 reservations for its forthcoming electric pick-up truck. (Core77)
  • Fresco Motors plans to start building its Reverie electric sedan in 2021 and says 70 people have already made reservations. (Inside EVs)

News about other companies and trends

Economic / Political News

  • Donald Trump joked about 25% tariffs on German car imports. (Detroit News)
  • Trump gave a deadline of 1st September for increased tariffs on imports from China, urging Chinese government officials to pick up the pace on agreeing a trade deal. (Reuters)
  • The UK automotive trade body said member companies spent £330 million on Brexit contingency plans, but since this figure includes increases in inventory (a method adopted almost universally), it is likely that the bill for remaining items (training, warehousing and the like) is far smaller. (SMMT)
  • UK passenger car sales in July of 157,198 units fell (4.1)% compared with a year earlier. (SMMT)

Suppliers

  • ZF reported first half financial revenues of €18.4 billion and adjusted EBIT of €650 million and lowered the full year outlook, citing the “difficult” environment. ZF said the CFO “appears” confident that there won’t be any problems getting financing to complete the acquisition of Wabco. (ZF)
  • Eaton is buying Souriau-Sunbank for $920 million. (Autocar)
  • Toyo Tire is building a new 5 million capacity tyre factory in Serbia. (Toyo)
  • Delphi reported Q2 2019 revenue of $1.1 billion and operating income of $56 million. Citing the tough external environment, the company lowered full year guidance. (Delphi)
  • AAM reported Q2 revenue of $1.7 billion and net income of $52.5 million and lowered full year outlook. (AAM)
  • Manufacturing engineering supplier Eisenmann filed for insolvency. (Reuters)
  • Stonebridge reported Q2 revenue of $222 million and maintained full year guidance, but only by focusing on earnings per share and including favourable tax rate and buyback effects (revenue and margin are both expected to be worse than prior forecasts). (Stonebridge)
  • Meritor reported Q2 2019 (fiscal Q3) revenue of $1.166 billion and net income of $86 million. (Meritor)
  • Dana reported Q2 revenue of $2.3 billion and a net loss of $68 million. (Dana)
  • Denso reported Q2 2019 (fiscal Q1) revenue of $12.3 billion and profit of $641 million. (Denso)

Dealers

  • Although many UK car sales professionals have long said that retail-like experiences are the future, one Hyundai dealer is handing back the keys at one site in a well-trodden shopping centre. (Motor Trader)
  • UK car price comparison site Carwow raised £25 million from Daimler and other investors. (The Times)

Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)

  • Uber fired 400 members of the marketing team, saying that the teams had become too big. (Business Insider)
  • Lyft’s COO is leaving. (TechCrunch)

Driverless / Autonomy (history)

  • Self-driving developer Wayve is reportedly set to raise $20 million. (Telegraph)
  • GM CEO Mary Barra said customer feedback about the Super Cruise driver assistance system was amongst the best she had ever experienced (85% of owners said it would affected their next purchasing decision), but GM wants to put it into all Cadillac products before it will start introducing the feature into other brands (but also that this would be done “as quickly as we can”). (Seeking Alpha)
  • GM wouldn’t be drawn on a new timeline for the launch of robotaxi services operating by Cruise, but did confirm that from GM’s perspective a market launch meant no safety drivers in the vehicles. (Seeking Alpha)
  • Autonomous vehicle vision technology company Recogni raised $25 million from investors including BMW, Faurecia, Osram and Toyota. (FINSMES)

Electrification (history)

  • VW’s Electrify America charging network is trialling automated chargers from Stable in preparation for self-driving cars. (VW)
  • India slashed tax rates on electric cars to 5% (from 12%), conventionally powered vehicles remain at 28%. (Reuters)
  • BP and Didi Chuxing have teamed up to create a Chinese network of charging stations. (BP)
  • Transition-One says it can convert cars with internal combustion engines into fully electric operation for €8,500, and it will only take a day. The economics aren’t completely clear since that isn’t much more than carmakers are saying a battery pack and motor costs. (Bloomberg)
  • Sumitomo believes that it can develop tyres that harvest electricity. (Inside EVs)
  • Nidec and GAC are working on a Chinese joint venture that will produce electric motors. (Nidec)
  • VW acquired “nearly a quarter” of charging station management company has.to.be and will help fund an expansion of the European network. (VW)
  • Ferrari said that initial customer feedback on the SF90 hybrid in electric drive mode was very positive because the lack of noise would be less antisocial in crowded neighbourhoods. The CEO says however than pure electric vehicles are “beyond 2022”. (Seeking Alpha)

Connectivity

  • Avis will sell data from over 100,000 connected vehicles on Otonomo’s platform. JD Power has signed on as an early customer to supplement its quality surveys. (Reuters)

Other

  • ParkMobile now has 15 million registered users. (ParkMobile)
  • Electric scooter rental firm Charge says the answer to the woes of dockless scooters (e.g. trouble charging them and unused scooters cluttering pavements) is to have docking stations — just like bicycle rental schemes of yore. (Charge)

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

Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 21st July 2019

Nothing to see at Tesla; affordable car subscriptions; and inventive Japanese car sharing users. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 15th July to 21st July 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)

  • Announced production chief Oliver Zipse as CEO effective 16th August 2019. German press had forecast the appointment with unnerving accuracy. (BMW)
  • Said it had developed a versatile error checking machine learning algorithm that can be taught to spot errors (whether faulty parts or incorrectly applied name badges). All the examples mentioned were from a single factory so it remains to be seen whether the advance is as great as BMW claim. (BMW)
  • Partnering with Tencent to create software that can train self-driving cars. BMW implied that the announcement was nothing to do with Chinese intellectual property concerns and instead was down to unspecified unique driving conditions in China. (BMW)
  • Rumoured to be finalising a deal to supply four and six cylinder engines to JLR. (Autocar)

Daimler (history)

  • Sources say that Daimler plans to drop the Nissan-based X-Class pickup truck. (Automotive News)
  • Held a press briefing about Mercedes’s forward-looking retail strategy which bundled together several separate prior announcements into an over-arching explanation of the approach. (Daimler)

FCA (history)

  • Extended the term of the joint venture finance company FCA operates in Europe with Crédit Agricole to the end of 2024. (FCA)

Ford (history)

  • Ford’s European sales of 346,800 units in Q2 2019 fell (3.4)% versus a year earlier, almost all explained by Fiesta. Ford said that commercial vehicles were doing well (although the brand still lost share because industry also rose) and 73.8% of passenger vehicles were high series. (Ford)
  • Increasing production of the Ranger pickup truck due to the product’s success in the European market. (Ford)
  • Union officials said that Ford was cutting a shift at the Oakville, Canada plant that makes large SUVs. (Reuters)

Geely (includes Volvo) (history)

  • Volvo’s CEO thinks the brand portfolio might need an even bigger car than the XC90 and smaller one than the XC40 to achieve sales targets, promising a surprise in the future. (Auto Express)
  • Lotus took the wraps off the Evija supercar, an all-electric offering with a claimed 2,000 PS output. The production run will be limited to 130 examples priced at £1.7 million plus taxes. (Lotus)
  • Volvo’s Q2 2019 revenue of 67.2 billion SEK (about $7.1 billion), rose 2% on a year-over-year basis but to keep pace with the increase in unit sales, up 5% YoY. EBIT of 2.6 billion SEK (about $280 million) dropped (38)%. (Volvo)
  • Volvo is recalling over 500,000 cars to fix problems with the engine intake manifolds. (Sky News)
  • Volvo said it was in the midst of a job cutting exercise to reduce fixed costs by 2 billion SEK (about $210 million). 750 staff have already gone since the start of 2019 and more could follow by the middle of 2020. (Volvo)
  • Volvo announced investments in MDGo, a firm creating software that automatically contacts medical personnel with data about occupant health after a crash and UVeye who are developing technology that can automatically check a vehicle for quality problems. (Volvo)

General Motors (history)

  • Revealed the next generation Corvette, with a mid-engined layout and “generous use of real metal”. (GM)
  • Rumoured to be developing an all-electric version of the Escalade large SUV with a 400 mile range. (Cadillac Society)

Hyundai / Kia (history)

  • Hyundai reported Q2 2019 revenue of 26.97 trillion won (about $23 billion), up 9.1% on a year-over-year basis and operating profit of 1.24 trillion won (about $1 billion), 30.2% better YoY. (Hyundai)
  • Hyundai’s VC unit invested in parking location and payment app AppyParking. (Hyundai)

Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)

  • Showed off a new version of the Skyline. (Nissan)
  • Renault’s chairman said the alliance with Nissan was back on track, there were no plans to restart merger talks with FCA and that no one talks about Carlos Ghosn anymore. (AP)

PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)

  • Sold 1,013,968 units in Q2 2019, a drop of (10)% on a year-over-year basis. (PSA)
  • Citroen’s CEO suggested that the 30 inch wheels used in the 19_19 concept were being considered for production, partly because they provide a large ground clearance for the battery pack of a skateboard layout (implying the use of some trick suspension to lower the car enough for people, other than Olympic high jumpers to get in). (Autocar)
  • Opel will enter the Israeli market using a distributor. (PSA)

Renault (history)

  • Renault sold 1,030,231 vehicles in Q2 2019, a drop of (8)% on the prior year. (Renault)
  • Linked up with Nigerian firm Coscharis to begin local production of two Renault (re-badged Dacia) models and sell those, and two imported products. (Renault)
  • Confirmed a stake of 50% in the electric vehicle joint venture it is creating in China with Jiangling Motors. The prior press releases had only spoken of a “significant part” of the JV. (Renault)
  • Renault’s chairman said the alliance with Nissan was back on track, there were no plans to restart merger talks with FCA and that no one talks about Carlos Ghosn anymore. (AP)

Tata (includes JLR) (history)

  • JLR received a £500m loan guarantee from the UK government to assist electric vehicle development. The guarantee will enable JLR to receive a low interest rate on £625 million of commercial loans it intends to raise. (JLR)
  • JLR said it would like to produce more cars and SUVs in India but effective tax rates of around 50%, including VAT and surcharges, are restricting the market size. (Economic Times of India)
  • Rumoured to be finalising a deal to buy four and six cylinder engines from BMW in preference to in-house units so that JLR can re-direct development spending to electric vehicles. (Autocar) An earlier rumour was that BMW might supply JLR with V8 engines.
  • Executives reportedly told staff that the Halewood plant will soon lose its third shift. (Liverpool Echo)

Tesla (history)

  • Further tinkered with the line-up and pricing, offering only two derivatives of the Model S and Model X. (Reuters)
    • Significance: Tesla is changing options and pricing so frequently at the moment that it isn’t possible to gauge whether (1) the sales department is completely chaotic; (2) the changes are a reaction to short term manufacturing bottlenecks, that are then reversed; (3) Tesla is rationing certain derivatives for re-release at a later date (a la Disney’s video strategy of the 90s and 2000s) or; (4) the changes are a manufacturing simplification ahead of an updated model (normal practice and denied by Tesla)
  • Disgruntled employees said that Tesla had cut corners with Model 3 production, citing several quick fixes applied lineside to keep production moving, such as using sticky tape to keep parts in place. (CNBC)
    • Significance: Whilst the examples cited by the employees horrified journalists, most mass production veterans will have seen a similar litany of patches and many of us unwittingly drive vehicles with such measures in place.

Toyota (history)

  • Teaming up with BYD to develop battery electric vehicles for the Chinese market. (Toyota)
  • Toyota Tsusho invested in inspection startup UVeye alongside Volvo. (Forbes)

VW Group (history)

  • CEO Diess sees the MEB platform becoming the “industry standard for electric vehicles”. (Automobil Sport)
    • Significance: Although he claims MEB will deliver significant economies of scale, this certainly isn’t being reflected in lower list prices (although perhaps it will be in profits) and financial figures released at the joint Ford / VW press conference suggest a rolling chassis only price of ~$16k, not cheap for a mass market car.
  • Dropping estate car (station wagon) bodystyles from the US line-up because SUVs have “assumed the mantle of family haulers”. (CBNC)
  • Said that vehicles produced in India will have around 90% local sourcing, a slight climbdown from targets of 95% that VW earlier announced for vehicles on the MQB platform. (Economic Times of India)
  • Reckons that the latest generation of manual gearbox can reduce CO2 emissions by five grams per kilometre in some cars, equivalent to about 3% – 4%. VW said that until now “nobody took much notice of manual gearboxes” as a way of improving fuel economy. (VW)
  • Reportedly considering an offer for the MAN Energy Solutions (large engines) unit, from Cummins. (Reuters)

Other

  • VinFast executives say the brand is losing money on the first vehicles on sale but the plan is that operational efficiencies from ramping up to larger scale, and some headroom to increase pricing, will see the carmaker reach profitability. VinFast claimed 10,000 firm orders ahead of product launch. (Bloomberg)
  • SAIC’s MG brand says the Hector SUV has been such a runaway sales success in India, with 21,000 orders so far, that is has stopped letting customers order the car whilst it clears the backlog. (India Today)
  • Early Xpeng customers protested at the firm’s headquarters after a new model was released, claiming to have been mis-sold the original car by sales people who said it would be a sound financial investment. (Caixin)
  • Seres (aka SF Motors) said it made fewer employees redundant than media reports claimed. (China Economic Net)
  • Former JLR design boss Ian Callum opened a new firm and intends to create some sort of car, but won’t say what it is… yet. (Top Gear)

News about other companies and trends

Economic / Political News

Suppliers

  • Autoliv announced Q2 2019 sales of $2.155 billion, down (2.6)% and a (26)% drop in operating income. The firm says it has already begun cost saving actions and shed over 1,200 jobs this quarter. (Autoliv)
  • Lear gave a preliminary earnings release for Q2 2019 and lowered full year revenue and profit guidance. Revenue of $5 billion dropped (10)% from prior year. (Lear)
  • Bearing maker SKF thinks there might be “some light in the tunnel” for the Chinese automotive industry. (Reuters)
  • Eaton is buying Innovative Switchgear Solutions. (Eaton)
  • Samsung SDI will supply batteries for Volvo trucks. (Volvo)

Dealers

  • Australian subscription service CarBar raised $16.8 million. The company reduces prices by offering cars that are several years old, and have quote high mileage. (Deal Street Asia)

Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)

  • A subset of short-term car rental users in Japan aren’t driving the cars at all, preferring to use the vehicles for activities such as eating takeaway food or short naps during the workday. (The Guardian)
  • Short term car rental operator Turo raised $250 million in a round valuing the firm at over $1 billion. (Turo)
  • Rickshaw ride hailing service SmartE raised $14 million. (Live Mint)
  • Yandex and Uber’s Russian joint venture announced a takeover of local rival Vezet, although there were murmurs from some stakeholders that they might not be happy with the deal. (Reuters)
  • Uber suffered a payment mishap that saw some customers overcharged by 100 times the correct fare. (BBC)
  • Didi Chuxing plans to raise another $2 billion. (WSJ) and wants to get back into the carpooling game, but says it will hold a public consultation on improved safety measures first. (Reuters)

Driverless / Autonomy (history)

  • Open source driver assistance technology developer comma.ai announced a changed strategy, the company now hopes to become an insurance provider. (Comma.ai)
  • Uber proposed a structure for defining how to implement sufficient safety measures in self-driving vehicles. (Uber)
  • Compact lidar developer Voyant Photonics raised $4.3 million. (TechCrunch)
  • Self-driving vehicle developer AutoX has partnered with NEVS for a European robotaxi service that the pair hope can be launched by 2020. (TechCrunch)
  • A Navya self-driving bus had a low speed collision with a pedestrian in Vienna and trials were halted. (The Verge)
    • Significance: Collisions between vehicles and pedestrians are (unfortunately) an everyday occurrence. As self-driving fleets increase in size, the attitude of local authorities to accidents will begin to have a measurable effect on development if trials have to be totally suspended whilst an investigation takes place — as is the practice currently.
  • BMW is partnering with Tencent to create software that can train self-driving cars. BMW implied that the announcement was nothing to do with Chinese intellectual property concerns and instead was down to unspecified unique driving conditions in China. (BMW)

Electrification (history)

  • Evergrande is partnering with the state-owned Chinese power grid in a 50/50 joint venture to create a charging network called Guoheng Smart Energy. (Caixin)
  • A new estimate of electrification infrastructure in China reckons there are over 1 million charging points across the country, about 40% of which are open to the public. (Economic Times of India)
  • ZF says a two-speed gearbox on an all-electric car will improve range by 5% compared with a single speed. (ZF)
  • Toyota is teaming up with BYD to develop battery electric vehicles for the Chinese market. (Toyota)

Connectivity

  • Blockchain collaboration MOBI, with support from several carmakers, said it had created a way to log vehicle VINs and was now working on ways to capture information about how it was used through its life. (MOBI)

Other

  • Emoji lovers were gratified by news that blue-chip companies were finally waking up to society’s wish for them to muscle in on the act. Ford said it was sponsoring a pickup truck, whilst VW-owned charging network Electrify America offered a car plugged in to a charger.
  • Indian logistics firm Rivigo may have recently raised $65 million, but it is having to cut staff and rescind job offers. (Economic Times of India)
  • Bicycle rental service Hellobike raised $400 million. (Deal Street Asia)
  • Bus and train operator and ticketing website FlixMobility raised €500 million and said that it will put some of the money towards starting a short-term car rental service. (Reuters)
  • Air taxi developer Karem raised $25 million. (TechCrunch)

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Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 14th July 2019

Musk says price will skyrocket; managing the decline of combustion engines; and why are factories for electric cars so expensive? Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 8th July to 14th July 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)

  • Sold 647,504 cars globally in Q2 2019, an increase of 1% on a year-over-year basis. (BMW)
  • Said that it had moved production of engines destined for South Africa out of the Hams Hall, UK, plant to ensure that EU-South Africa rules of origin requirements continue to be met. (The Guardian)
  • Invested in Maniv Mobility’s new $100 million fund. (Economic Times of India)
  • Unveiled the all-electric version of the Mini, saying there had been 40,000 expressions of interest. (BMW)

Daimler (history)

  • Sold 607,126 globally cars in Q2 2019, a drop of (3)% on prior year. (Daimler)
  • Issued a profit warning for Q2 2019, having only just issued a profit warning a few weeks ago, saying it had lost €(1.6) billion, down from a profit of €2.6 billion last year. Daimler blamed higher recall costs, likely fines relating to diesel vehicles and a mysterious product planning decision concerning vans. (Daimler)

FCA (history)

  • Investing €700 million to produce the all-electric Fiat 500e in Mirafiori, Italy. (FCA)
  • FCA said that it withheld some of its US sales chief’s pay packet because he was implicated in a scheme to exaggerate sales figures, not because he cooperated with the investigating authorities, as he alleges. The lawsuit implies that up to 90% of senior executive compensation at FCA comes in bonuses and stock grants. (Detroit News)

Ferrari

  • There is a five year waiting list of customers who want to commission a one-off from Ferrari, and unless you are in the top 250 customers globally — however that is defined — you don’t have a chance. (Autocar)

Ford (history)

  • Recalling around 58,000 Focus cars to correct problems that can deform the fuel tank. (Ford)
  • Ford and VW announced the terms of a tie-up for autonomous vehicles. VW will merge its autonomous driving efforts (with a claimed value of $1.6 billion) with Argo AI and stump up a further $1 billion in cash, plus hand over $500 million to Ford to buy into the project. After the transaction is complete, Ford and VW will hold an equal share in a business, they say, worth $7 billion. (VW)
  • Has agreed to build up to 600,000 MEB-based electric cars and could “almost double” that figure if a second product, currently under discussion between the two parties, gets the go ahead. (VW) Ford will pay licensing fees on a vehicle-by-vehicle basis. (Reuters) with implied ~€15,000 per vehicle of revenue for VW. (Ford) Ford’s electric vehicles will be made in European Ford factories, but which one stays a secret for now (hint: there are impending capacity crunches in Saarlouis and Valencia). (Seeking Alpha)
  • Ford and VW’s collaboration on commercial vehicles saves “several hundred million euros”. (VW)
  • Ford and VW might share some of the behind the scenes infrastructure related to autonomous cars but haven’t decided yet. (Seeking Alpha)
  • Argo AI will “continue to seek new partners” after VW buy-in. (Argo)
  • Recalling around 58,000 Focus cars to correct problems that can deform the fuel tank. (Ford) Ford will also recall about 7,500 Rangers because of seat belts that weren’t fitted properly. (Ford)

Geely (includes Volvo) (history)

  • Issued a profit warning saying the net profits in the first half would be about (40)% down on 2018. (Geely)

General Motors (history)

  • The head of artificial intelligence at Cruise thinks it might take a lifetime to get self-driving cars to work properly in all locations and driving conditions. (IEEE Spectrum)

Hyundai / Kia (history)

Mazda

  • Recalling 262,000 US vehicles to fix problems with engines stalling. (Fox)
  • Toyota will now make an SUV at the new US joint venture plant with Mazda (still under construction), rather than the previously planned car. The impact on Mazda’s production plans is unclear. (Toyota)

Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)

  • Mitsubishi will invest in ride hailing firm GoJek (the Mitsubishi trading company had already been announced as an investor but this is the first time the motor company has come on board). (Mitsubishi)
  • Nissan and Mitsubishi merged their Japanese finished vehicle logistics operations. (Mitsubishi)
  • Alliance Ventures invested in Maniv Mobility’s new $100 million fund. (Economic Times of India)

Renault (history)

Tata (includes JLR) (history)

  • JLR sold 128,615 cars in April to June 2019 (fiscal Q1), a drop of (11.6)% on prior year. (JLR)

Tesla (history)

  • A leaked internal email suggested further production increases at the Fremont, USA, factory and a full year 2019 production target of far more than 400,000 cars. (Bloomberg)
  • CEO Musk said that customers shouldn’t expect a refreshed Model S or Model X and that only a series of “minor ongoing changes” were planned. (Business Insider)
    • Significance: With Model S and X sales falling fast, Tesla may find that it is less immune to product ageing than the company thinks, despite Musk’s belief that the Model S remains an unparalleled product.
  • Seeking a restraining order from a researcher aligned to a group of Tesla short sellers. Tesla say the man, who tries to count car deliveries and shadows autonomous test vehicles, puts their employees at risk. (Detroit News)
  • A Tesla supplier is reportedly preparing to double shipments to Tesla, setting tongues wagging about an explosion of Model 3 volume. The other possibility is that it has won some work from other suppliers (or the whole thing is an inaccurate rumour). (Digitimes)
  • Elon Musk said prices for Tesla cars would rise “significantly” when the company has cracked the self-driving problem because they would be capable of functioning as robotaxis and would thus be far more valuable. (Electrek)
    • Significance: Musk’s comments imply that although he believes the cost of self-driving is already included in current production (as yet unproven because Tesla doesn’t actually have a self-driving suite that works), the market would allow the company to reap outsize profits — this is known colloquially as price gouging and normally fails because of competitive pressure (a phenomenon already encountered by Tesla and responsible for setting transaction prices at a level too low to make profits).

Toyota (history)

  • Created a sub-brand called “Toyota Professional” to sell commercial vehicles in Europe. (Toyota)
  • Will now make an SUV at the new US joint venture plant with Mazda (still under construction), rather than the previously planned car. (Toyota)
  • Selling all of Toyota’s interest in driveline supplier Yutaka Seimitsu to JTEKT. (Toyota)
  • Toyota and Denso will establish a 49% / 51% joint venture to develop advanced semi-conductors. (Toyota)

VW Group (history)

  • Delivered 2,759,700 vehicles in Q2 2019, a drop of (2.8)% versus prior year. (VW)
  • Bentley unveiled the EXP 100 GT concept, an all-electric GT with (intended) self-driving capability that represents the product Bentley hopes to sell in 2035. The sleek design implies that Bentley believe all sensors required for autonomous driving will be integrated into the bodywork by then. (Bentley)
  • VW has set a target to become “balance sheet CO2 neutral” by 2025, implying extensive use of renewable energy and carbon offsets. The move may be partly aimed at EU CO2 regulations which imply that the emissions from the entire vehicle lifecycle will be considered. (VW)
  • VW highlighted how much of the forthcoming ID3 electric vehicle components are made in-house. (VW)
  • CEO Diess said VW preferred Ford / Argo to other options because he wanted an American technology partner and to work with a strong OEM. It wasn’t clear how this was different to (US-based) Aurora and their OEM partners Hyundai / KIA and FCA. (Seeking Alpha)
  • VW’s parking subsidiary PayByPhone acquired Mirada Connect. (FINSMES)
  • VW’s head of procurement says that the automotive industry is “obliged” to find a way to consolidate internal combustion assets without uncontrolled insolvencies. (Reuters)
    • Significance: These comments further show that the industry is waking up to the need for radical solutions to the decline of internal combustion engines. Pre-planned consolidation was the route Ad Punctum and Evercore ISI championed in a 2018 research piece titled E-FIRST.
  • Ford and VW announced the terms of a tie-up for autonomous vehicles. VW will merge its autonomous driving efforts (with a claimed value of $1.6 billion) with Argo AI and stump up a further $1 billion in cash, plus hand over $500 million to Ford to buy into the project. After the transaction is complete, Ford and VW will hold an equal share in a business, they say, worth $7 billion. (VW)
  • Ford agreed to build up to 600,000 MEB-based electric cars and could “almost double” that figure if a second product, currently under discussion between the two parties, gets the go ahead. (VW) Ford will pay licensing fees on a vehicle-by-vehicle basis. (Reuters) with implied ~€15,000 per vehicle of revenue for VW. (Ford)
  • Ford and VW’s collaboration on commercial vehicles saves “several hundred million euros”. (VW)
  • Ford and VW might share some of the behind the scenes infrastructure related to autonomous cars but haven’t decided yet. (Seeking Alpha)

Other

  • Aston Martin’s CEO worries about requirements for tens of kilometres of electric-only range, saying plug-in hybrids are a “bad solution” for sports cars because of the additional weight of the larger electric engine. V12 engines will last “at least until the next generation”, but can easily imagine it going longer. (The Drive)
  • Seres, aka SF Motors, has reportedly made around one third of US staff redundant and is postponing the US market launch (and potentially abandoning plans to manufacture locally), citing difficult conditions in China. (The Verge)
  • Chinese automaker JAC was fined 170 million RMB (about $25 million) for excessive real world emissions compared to test results. (Caixin)
  • NIO delivered 3,553 cars in Q2 2019. (NIO)

News about other companies and trends

Economic / Political News

  • The US government is removing the escalation of financial penalties for exceeding fuel economy standards. (Reuters)

Suppliers

  • Dana’s CEO thinks people are underestimating the staying power of the internal combustion engine — although he admits that this view is contingent on hybrids, rather than fully electric vehicles — ruling the roost. (Reuters)
  • ZF says it is providing the entire electric powertrain for the Mercedes EQC, including controls. (Xinhua)
  • Weber Automotive declared insolvency amid a fight over funding between its owners. (Reuters)
  • Bosch invested in on-demand manufacturing start-up Xometry. (Bosch)
  • Denso and Metair subsidiary Smiths set up an aftermarket parts joint venture in South Africa. (Autocar)
  • Toyota and Denso will establish a 49% / 51% joint venture to develop advanced semi-conductors. (Toyota)

Driverless / Autonomy (history)

  • Lidar developer Luminar said it has now raised $250 million and that its sub $1,000 sensor will be on production vehicles from 2022 onwards. Luminar claims to be “working with… 12 of the world’s top 15 automotive companies”, but this does not imply firm production contracts. (Luminar)
  • Hyundai Mobis and Yandex said they had produced a prototype self-driving car in six weeks. (Korea Times)
    • Significance: The speed with which the prototype was built underlines that the challenge isn’t fitting a car with sensors and linking the steering, power and brakes to a central control unit, it is developing software that uses the sensor set to drive the vehicle safely.
  • Volvo Trucks says that in commercial trials of self-driving vehicles, it is already trialling a cost per tonne moved revenue model and exploring the possibility that it might not sell the trucks outright. (Reuters)
  • Waymo says it has now simulated 10 billion miles of driving. (TechCrunch)
  • Pony.ai’s CEO thinks there will be “thousands or tens of thousands” of autonomous vehicles on the road within the next three to five years. (Time)
  • The head of artificial intelligence at GM’s Cruise division thinks it might take a lifetime to get self-driving cars to work properly in all locations and driving conditions. (IEEE Spectrum)
  • Elon Musk said prices for Tesla cars would rise “significantly” when the company has cracked the self-driving problem because they would be capable of functioning as robotaxis and would thus be far more valuable. (Electrek)
  • Argo AI will “continue to seek new partners” after VW buy-in. (Argo)

Electrification (history)

  • Chinese battery maker SVOLT is reportedly planning a European factory. (Reuters)
  • REE emerged from stealth mode saying it had developed a highly flexible vehicle platform using in-wheel motors and steer by wire that was already interesting Mitsubishi and FCA amongst others. (REE)
  • LG Chem is reportedly looking to build a second US battery factory. (Reuters)

Connectivity

  • Niu has collected 85 terabytes of journey data from the 710,000 scooters the company has sold — which have collectively covered 3 billion kilometres. (CNBC)

Other

  • Refraction is building an autonomous delivery robot with a target price below $5,000, partly enabled by a 15 mph top speed which reduces the need for expensive sensors. (TechCrunch)
  • Electric bike maker Pure EV raised $25 million. (Economic Times of India)
  • Bicycle sharing network Yulu is reportedly in talks to raise $15 million. (LiveMint)
  • Scooter rental firm Bird is establishing a European headquarters in Paris. (The Verge) The CEO says that, with the latest scooters, Bird can make $1.27 on every ride. (TechCrunch)

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Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 7th July 2019

Hypercars for all; jobs for the masses; and are Norwegians making everyone else look silly? Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 1st July to 7th July 2019. A PDF version can be found here.

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

  • You Wanted MoreAston Martin’s CEO says he could have sold 900 Valkyrie hypercars, and regrets limiting production to 150 units. If correct, that would be nearly 50% more than LaFerrari, despite a far higher price tag. Do enough buyers really exist? If so, can we expect to see the next Aston Martin hypercar (Valhalla) nearing four figures?
  • Paper ThinA coalition of car companies and suppliers released what they termed a framework for autonomous driving. It’s a whopping 157 pages long, but don’t hold out hope that all your questions will be answered, most of them are simply acknowledged by the report, with no firm answers provided beyond. To carry out tests, the authors recommend simulations with human drivers controlling other simulated vehicles. Thing is, if we test self-driving cars that way, lots of human will have to drive lots of computer-generated miles. Will simulated driving become the new content moderation, employing tens of thousands across the globe?
  • The World’s Greatest Almost half the cars sold in Norway over the past six months are capable of zero emission travel. Not only that, but the fleet average CO2 emissions registered 59 g / km, meaning that Norway is already compliant with 2030 European targets many are labelling as near impossible! Okay, there are incentives involved and, yes, Norway’s citizens are richer than most, but why not look on the bright side… if the Norwegians are there now — with today’s technology at today’s prices — surely other countries can get there with the technology of the future (as yet unrealised scare stories about battery raw material costs notwithstanding)?

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)

  • CEO Harald Krüger will not seek a second term as CEO (the current term was due to end in 2020). (BMW)
  • German media reports on the main candidates for the CEO position speculated that senior executive departures are likely after the decision has been made. Sharp elbows have reportedly been out for months. (Handelsblatt)
  • BMW and Daimler finalised an (already announced) agreement to jointly develop L4 self-driving systems (i.e. the owner doesn’t need to concentrate, but the car may only be capable in a limited number of environments). The two companies will pool a team of 1,200 development engineers and hope to launch the first products in 2024. (Daimler)

Daimler (history)

  • BMW and Daimler finalised an (already announced) agreement to jointly develop L4 self-driving systems (i.e. the owner doesn’t need to concentrate, but the car may only be capable in a limited number of environments). The two companies will pool a team of 1,200 development engineers and hope to launch the first products in 2024. (Daimler)
  • Spent €50 million on a new electromagnetic compatibility testing centre. (Daimler)

FCA (history)

  • Announced some changes to the team heading up Maserati. (FCA)
  • Will buy 8 speed automatic transmissions from ZF. (ZF)

Ford (history)

  • Releasing a track-only version of the GT. Just 45 examples will be built, at a cost of $1.2 million each. (Ford)
  • Although Ford celebrates the success of the F-150’s all-aluminium body, the experience of the next-generation Explorer, which uses the material only sparingly, suggests it is still too expensive for vehicles where manufacturers cannot claim a hefty premium for fuel economy. (Detroit Free Press)
  • Highlighting the difficulty of pricing in the UK market, despite the need to recover from sterling devaluation, Ford launched a “scrappage scheme” offering customers £2,000. (Autocar)
  • Sold 650,336 vehicles in the US during Q2 2019, down (4.1)% on a year-over-year basis. (Ford)
  • Ford and VW are reportedly close to an overarching deal that will see Ford sell a share of self-driving unit Argo AI to VW in exchange for access to the MEB electric vehicle platform. The value of the self-driving technology is apparently lower than Ford hoped because VW reckons it won’t be commercially available in large numbers for such a long time. (Handelsblatt)
  • French unions won a court judgement against the company saying it had failed in a duty to employ 1,000 workers at the site under the terms of a grant. However, the judges stopped short of condemning Ford’s decision to close the plant, saying they weren’t qualified to rule on the economic merits. (Usine Nouvelle)

Geely (includes Volvo) (history)

  • The Geely and Lynk&Co brands sold 285,092 units in Q2 2019, a fall of (25)% on a year-over-year basis. (Geely)
  • Volvo sold 179,506 cars in Q2 2019, a 5% increase on the same period a year earlier. (Volvo)
  • Volvo has a new CFO. (Volvo)
  • Lotus’s new hypercar (previously known as Type 130) will be called Evija. (Lotus)

General Motors (history)

  • Reported US sales of 746,659 units in Q2 2019, a drop of (1.5)% on a year earlier. (GM)

Honda (history)

  • Developing one and two seat electric cars, believing them to be the best way to transport the elderly. (Japan Times)
  • Creating a retrofit kit that will allow some features of Honda’s driver assistance suite even on older vehicles. (Honda)

Hyundai / Kia (history)

  • Hyundai says that continuously variable valve duration (CCVD) technology provides a 5% improvement in fuel economy. (Hyundai)
  • Might enter NASCAR when new rules come into force for 2021. (Autoweek)

Mazda

  • Recalling tens of thousands of Mazda 3 cars to stop their wheels falling off. (The Guardian)

Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)

  • Renault and Nissan might stop publishing their customary annual cost saving declaration. (Reuters)

PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)

  • Continuing the recent trend of removing national sales companies in lower volume locations, Opel announced a distributor had been selected for Ireland. (Opel)
  • The EU said it would take a closer look at €20.7 million in aid from the Spanish government to support further investment in the Vigo factory. (Europa Press)

Renault (history)

  • French Police raided Renault’s headquarters apparently looking for dirt on Carlos Ghosn. (Reuters)
  • Renault and Nissan might stop publishing their customary annual cost saving declaration. (Reuters)

Suzuki

  • Maruti Suzuki’s woes continue with a fifth consecutive month of production cuts. (The Hindu)

Tata (includes JLR) (history)

  • Confirmed plans for an all-electric replacement for the XJ large saloon at the Castle Bromwich, UK, factory and a “range” of other electric products. Whilst making the announcement, JLR’s CEO said that unless battery factories are built in the UK, car plants will have to be relocated to wherever they are made (JLR)

Tesla (history)

  • Reported Q2 2019 deliveries of 95,200 cars, up 34% on a year-over-year basis. Tesla said orders were being placed more quickly than they could build cars but declined to provide specifics (although the balance sheet contains clues). Tesla will stop reporting the number of cars in transit inventory. Model S and X remained weak. (Tesla)

Toyota (history)

  • Says that a new generation of solar panels has increased charging rate by a factor of four. Toyota has a Prius test vehicle that generates around 860 W (in Japanese sunshine), good for a claimed 44.5 km of highway driving (the old system provided just over 6km). (Toyota)

VW Group (history)

  • Aims for 50% of Chinese sales to be electric vehicles by 2035. (VW)
  • VW expects solid state batteries to become cost competitive in the late 2020s and says that most of the production equipment and 60% of the tooling is the same as lithium ion cells, so newly built factories won’t become obsolete even if the technology changes. (Reuters)
  • Bentley’s boss wants to build an all-electric car but says that current technology (specifically the battery energy density) won’t allow him to create a vehicle with long range that isn’t too heavy, and that he might have to wait until 2025 for the right batteries to come along. (Autocar)
  • Ford and VW are reportedly close to an overarching deal that will see Ford sell a share of self-driving unit Argo AI to VW in exchange for access to the MEB electric vehicle platform. The value of the self-driving technology is apparently lower than Ford hoped because VW reckons it won’t be commercially available in large numbers for such a long time. (Handelsblatt)

Other

  • Borgward has lost the site of its planned factory in Bremen, Germany due to inactivity. (WirtschaftsWoche)
  • Aston Martin’s CEO says he wishes he hadn’t limited the Valkyrie hypercar to a production run of 150 cars because demand is so great that he could have sold 900 of them. (carsales)
    • Significance: Given the £2.5 million price tag, a 900 unit run would be unprecedented (La Ferrari sold 649 cars and the relatively cheap F40 reached just over 1,300 — albeit when the addressable market was smaller). Since Ferrari’s newest special editions will only have 499 examples at €1.6 million, the remarks look like hyperbole. Aston Martin will have another chance when they release the Valkyrie’s successor.

News about other companies and trends

Economic / Political News

  • US light vehicle SAAR in June of 17.29 million units was down (0.5)% on prior year. (Wards)
  • German passenger car registrations for June of 325,231 units fell (4.7)% versus a year earlier. (KBA)
  • French June sales of 230,965 passenger cars, dropped (8.4)% from prior year. (CCFA)
  • Passenger car sales in the UK during June of 223,421 cars fell (4.9)% on a year-over-year basis. (SMMT)
  • Italian passenger car registrations for June of 171,626 units, fell (2.1)% versus the prior year. (UNRAE)
  • Spanish sales of passenger cars in June of 130,519 units fell (8.3)% on a year-over-year basis. (ANFAC)
  • Norwegian sales of new passenger cars in the first half of 2019 reached 78,209 units. 35,200 (45)% of these were zero emission vehicles. The average CO2 emissions of passenger cars sold was 59 g/ km. (BIL)
  • Bulgaria’s government reportedly plans to ban imports of diesel cars which do not meet the Euro 4 emissions standards (i.e. pre-2005 vehicles). (Novinite)

Suppliers

  • Teijin is acquiring composites supplier Benet Automotive. (Teijin)
  • Inzi Controls is building a $50 million battery plant in Hungary. (Budapest Business Journal)

Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)

  • Didi Chuxing said that it had dropped over 300,000 drivers after a safety review. (TechCrunch)

Driverless / Autonomy (history)

  • Self-driving car developer Tier IV raised over $100 million from investors including Yamaha. (VentureBeat)
  • Valeo said it had orders for €500 million worth of lidar sensors. (Reuters)
  • Testing equipment firm AB Dynamics acquired simulation company rFpro. (Autocar)
  • A coalition of carmakers and suppliers published a shared white paper on safety in autonomous vehicles. The paper places a heavy emphasis on the role of sensor fusion algorithms (loosely, taking data from several sensors and combining it into a single worldview), a catch-all term that will mean different things to different people. It does lay down a marker by talking about a “degraded mode” (a back-up system) and calling for a mixed sensor suite that includes lidar. (BMW)
    • Significance: The study does a better job of highlighting the problems verifying the roadworthiness of self-driving systems than it does in providing clear answers about how it can be performed. For instance, whilst discussing the difficulties of simulation, about the same about of space is given to considering gravitational forces as modelling the reaction of other drivers to the car’s decisions. A driver in the loop model (e.g. use human drivers to drive the other cars, as if it is a great big computer game) is the get out of jail free card — could being a simulator driver become the next big gig — tens of thousands could be required if this is really how we are going to test self-driving cars.
  • Visiblezone says it can detect pedestrians that self-driving cars aren’t able to directly see by monitoring signals from mobile phones and other electronic devices the people are carrying. (TechCrunch)
  • Driver assistance developer ZongMu raised $14.5 million. (VentureBeat)
  • BMW and Daimler finalised an (already announced) agreement to jointly develop L4 self-driving systems (i.e. the owner doesn’t need to concentrate, but the car may only be capable in a limited number of environments). The two companies will pool a team of 1,200 development engineers and hope to launch the first products in 2024. (Daimler)

Electrification (history)

  • Continental showed off a hybrid vehicle with a 30 kW (40 PS) motor powered by a 48V system. These type of hybrid set-ups promise lower costs than (traditional) high voltage equipment. (Continental)
  • Ola Electric raised $250 million from SoftBank. (Business Standard)
  • Toyota says a new generation of solar panels has increased charging rate by a factor of four. Toyota has a Prius test vehicle that generates around 860 W (in Japanese sunshine), good for a claimed 44.5 km of highway driving (the old system provided just over 6km). (Toyota)
  • VW expects solid state batteries to become cost competitive in the late 2020s and says that most of the production equipment and 60% of the tooling is the same as lithium ion cells, so newly built factories won’t become obsolete even if the technology changes. (Reuters)

Connectivity

  • Amazon keeps customer voice recordings, transcripts and details of their discussions with Alexa devices forever, unless the user manually deletes them. (ZDNet)
  • Samsung says people won’t be using smartphones in five years, preferring multiple displays connected wirelessly to each other instead. (ZDNet)
    • Significance: If Samsung are right (and they know a thing or two about electronics), car makers need to be thinking more seriously about how the car can interact with external devices — beyond CarPlay and Android Auto — and how customers can mount and power different screens in the car without a proliferation of ugly plastic add-ons.

Other

  • Electric scooter rental service Dott raised $30 million. (TechCrunch)
  • Electric bus maker Proterra is reportedly exploring an IPO. (Reuters)
  • A profile of bicycle sharing firm Ofo’s failure suggested that the root cause was getting on the wrong side of too many big investors. (Technode)
  • Electric scooter rental start-up Wind Mobility raised $50 million. (TechCrunch)

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Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 23rd June 2019

New cars for old people; self-driving brains that use modular decision making; and VW’s blockbuster plant closure plan. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 17th June to 23rd June 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)

  • Rumoured to be planning a more aggressive electric vehicle strategy that would see 25 models on sale by 2023 (the current target is 25 by 2025) and an annual growth target of 30%. (FAZ)
  • Recalling about 560,000 5 and 6 series models to fix corrosion problems. (Der Spiegel)
  • The Quandt family representatives on BMW’s board gave an interview where they explained the great burden of their family wealth. (Manager Magazin)
  • Doesn’t plan to replace the 2 Series and is developing a plan to get customers to choose SUVs in future. (Autocar)
  • Enlisted the help of synthesiser guru Hans Zimmer (Beverley Hills Cop / Miami Vice theme tunes) to help develop sounds for BMW’s all-electric vehicles. (BMW)
    • Significance: Competitors need to get on the phone to Ramin Djawadi’s (Iron Man / Pacific Rim / Game of Thrones) agent if they want to have any hope of besting the aural sensation Zimmer must have lined up for us.

Daimler (history)

  • Issued a profit warning saying that Group EBIT in 2019 would not be higher than the previous year, blaming a “high three digit million” euro cost for actions related to diesel vehicles. (Daimler)
  • Ordered to recall 60,000 diesel powered vehicles by German regulators because of claimed defeat devices. Daimler maintains that it hasn’t done anything wrong. (Reuters)
  • Signed an MoU for an Egyptian assembly plant with the national government. There will also be an, as yet unnamed, local partner involved. (Daimler)

FCA (history)

  • A close confidante of FCA’s Chairman has reportedly been spotted in Tokyo making overtures to Nissan about a potential merger with Renault. (Les Echos)

Ford (history)

  • A long puff piece suggested Jim Farley is still very much in contention for the CEO position when Jim Hackett leaves and sought to make a virtue of his outsider’s perspective. Seasoned Farley-watchers will be interested to discover that he has switched from suede loafers to brogues (for reasons that the article did not explore). (Detroit Free Press)

General Motors (history)

  • Comments by GM’s president sparked rumours of an electric Hummer. (Fox News)
  • GM’s electric bikes have gone on sale. (Cycling Weekly)
  • Reportedly wants the UAW to agree to a greater amount of temporary workers in order to control costs and preserve benefits for the permanent staff members. Experts believe that the unions may be reluctant to cede to GM’s demands in the light of the plant closures / unallocation. (Bloomberg)

Honda (history)

  • Wants to cut about 35% of the UK dealer network over the next two years, seeking a minimum of 200 retail sales annually per site. The company is also changing how sales targets and bonuses are set, relying more on historical data and the dealer’s view than Honda’s sales team. (Automotive Manager)

Hyundai / Kia (history)

  • Unveiled the new Kia Seltos compact SUV. (Kia)

Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)

  • Announced plans to add Renault’s chairman and CEO to two of the new oversight committees. (Nissan)
  • Renault and Nissan signed an “exclusive” deal with Waymo for mobility services in France and Japan. (Renault)
  • Nissan is being sued by its partner in a Middle East distribution joint venture, who claims that Nissan didn’t maintain the level of exclusivity it had initially promised. (WSJ)

PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)

  • Started production at the new factory in Kenitra, Morocco. (PSA)
  • Opel expressed satisfaction with new order levels for the forthcoming electric Corsa but said that exact figures wouldn’t be released until a later date. (FAZ)
  • Workers at the Kaiserslautern, Germany, plant agreed a series of efficiency actions that will see more early retirements and some new press shop facilities. (PSA)
  • PSA’s Free2Move brand has started trials of a monthly rental service. Customers can switch cars each month and all running costs are included. Prices seem more reasonable than schemes run by premium brands — around €300 per month for a B segment car. (PSA)
  • Iran Khodro believes it has the right to use Peugeot logos on locally produced cars because the French manufacturer abruptly pulled out of the country, even though PSA disagrees. (IFP)

Renault (history)

  • Renault and Nissan signed an “exclusive” deal with Waymo for mobility services in France and Japan. (Renault)
  • CEO Bollore dismissed recent rumours that Renault could reduce its stake in Nissan. (Reuters)
  • Nissan plans to add Renault’s chairman and CEO to two of the new oversight committees. (Nissan)

Tata (includes JLR) (history)

  • Moody’s downgraded Tata Motor’s debt rating, with a negative outlook. (Economic Times of India)
  • JLR’s CEO said the brands are not for sale, scotching recent rumours of interest from PSA. (Auto Express)

Tesla (history)

  • Leaked documents apparently show that Tesla won’t meet the quarterly production targets CEO Musk set for employees in May, Musk’s recent comments imply he still has faith. (Business Insider)
  • Reportedly restructuring its Asia Pacific sales operations so that China, Hong Kong and Taiwan will be a distinct division and the other markets will report into head office. (Bloomberg)
  • Tesla’s Grohmann (manufacturing engineering) division is developing a “giant, giant, giant” machine that will revolutionise manufacturing as we know it, according to the head of automotive. (Clean Technica)

Toyota (history)

  • Reportedly concluded that a factory in Saudi Arabia would need a government subsidy covering half the manufacturing costs to be viable. (Reuters)
  • Brought forward the date that the Japanese dealer network will be integrated to May 2020. (Toyota)

VW Group (history)

  • Plans to write 60% of the software in the car, up from 10% today by forming a team of 5,000 software engineers who will write a “vw.os” that all VW Group cars will use. (VW)
  • CEO Herbert Diess says that about half of VW’s engine and gearbox plants will need to close in the next 10 years, but expects battery production to compensate. (Autocar)
    • Significance: It is a startling admission by VW, one very much in line with the findings of the E-FIRST report co-authored with Evercore ISI in late 2018. Diess’s expectation that redundancies will be offset by increases in electric powertrain production seems to be based on Tesla and Panasonic’s labour usage at the Gigafactory, but for this to soak up VW’s surplus labour, the company would need to build a far greater proportion of battery cells in-house than it is currently planning.
  • VW’s German car sharing brand WeShare will charge its electric vehicles through exclusive overnight use of the facilities in supermarket car parks. (VW)
  • VW’s newest car factory will reportedly be in Turkey, beating rival bids from Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria. The Turkish government has apparently agreed a three digit million euro support package. A firm decision is expected soon, with Bulgarian officials on standby to scupper the deal if they get a chance. VW’s underperformance in the local market seems a partial justification for the move. (Handelsblatt)
  • CEO Diess has reportedly told the team delivering the new Golf that he will be very unhappy with them if they don’t start delivering vehicles before the end of 2019. (Automotive News)
  • Porsche will offer a three-pronged portfolio of all-electric, hybrid and combustion engine only powertrains for at least the next 10 years. (USA Today)
  • Opened a new data centre in Norway that uses hydropower, letting VW claim it is carbon neutral. (VW)

Other

  • SAIC intends to start manufacturing cars in Egypt through a joint venture. (China Daily)
  • Thai firm Energy Absolute says there have already been 4,500 orders for the Mine Mobility all-electric hatchback, 3,500 of them came from a group of taxi drivers in Bangkok. (Electric Drive)
  • Aston Martin’s forthcoming hypercar, thus far dubbed the 003, will be called the Valhalla. CEO Andy Palmer says his company is learning about mid-engined cars from a variety of methods, one of which is osmosis-by-lunchtime-conversation. (Auto Express)

News about other companies and trends

Economic / Political News

  • European passenger car registrations in May of 1,443,708 units were up 0.04% on a year earlier. (ACEA)
  • The Spanish government intends to review a law passed by the Balearic Islands (a group of islands in the Mediterranean Sea) which bans diesel vehicles by 2025 and all internal combustion engines by 2035. Carmakers hope that the law is found unconstitutional. (ANFAC)
  • Japan intends to introduce measures that will reduce the number of accidents caused by older drivers after a series of high profile crashes, and might force them to only drive cars with emergency braking. (Economic Times of India)
    • Significance: Carmakers have always struggled to market cars to older owners because although the group have specific needs that feature-rich (higher revenue) cars could solve, they simply don’t like being reminded that they are old. Could government action make a virtue of expensive added equipment and boost margins, or will they encourage people to drive less (and buy fewer cars)?

Suppliers

  • Johnson Matthey’s boss says that diesel will be around for ages. (The Telegraph)
  • Zenuity will be the preferred supplier of autonomous driving technology to Geely — not a massive surprise since Zenuityis part owned by Volvo. (Zenuity)
  • Axalta announced a “strategic review” of its business. (Axalta)

Dealers

  • Wholesale auctioneer BCA is reportedly the target of a £1.9 billion takeover offer. (FT)
  • Used car website Droom raised $10 million. (Deal Street Asia)

Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)

  • Via says it has much better utilisation rates than all other competitors in New York because the company’s cars have passengers in them 87% of the time, whilst the nearest rivals are 58% utilised. (Via)
  • Careem’s CFO suggested that even after the firm is acquired by Uber in early 2020, both brands might coexist because it is better for competition — although it isn’t clear what evidence the logic is based on. (Reuters)
  • Ride hailing start-up OnTime is launching in Southern China with backing from Tencent. (Tech In Asia)
  • Ride hailing network Micab has a new CEO. (Tech In Asia)
  • Didi Chuxing started offering rides by third party rivals within its app. (Tech In Asia)
  • VW’s German car sharing brand WeShare will charge its electric vehicles through exclusive overnight use of the facilities in supermarket car parks. (VW)

Driverless / Autonomy (history)

  • Lidar developer Velodyne has reportedly recruited investment bankers to prepare for an IPO, with a target valuation in excess of $1.8 billion. (Business Insider)
  • Insurance underwriters Lloyds of London expect driverless car technologies to change motor insurance within the next five years. (Bloomberg)
  • Innovusion’s new lidar unit has a claimed detection range of 200 metres and a $35,000 price tag. (Innovusion)
  • SafeAI came out of stealth mode, after raising $5 million, as a developer of self-driving software for off-highway vehicles. (TechCrunch)
  • ArgoAI is releasing a public dataset containing map data, object classification and movement patterns of various road users. Since the data covers only 1,000 hours of driving it is unlikely to have a great commercial value. (ArgoAI)
  • Humanising Autonomy raised $5 million to develop software that predicts the movements of pedestrians, with the results being fed into a self-driving vehicle’s decision making process. (TechCrunch)
    • Significance: Given the complexity of the task of developing self-driving vehicle brains, it seems possible that companies which become specialist in identifying particular elements of the driving environment could have a role, both because they can sell their technology to multiple platforms and also because, as companies start to think about redundancy, alternative ways of processing the data could be advantageous.
  • Renault and Nissan signed an “exclusive” deal with Waymo for mobility services in France and Japan. (Renault)

Electrification (history)

  • The German government plans to support three battery making alliance. (Reuters)
  • Charging operator ChargePoint has been acquired by Engie. (Fleet Europe)

Connectivity

  • Clavister and Tieto will collaborate to offer cyber security products for connected vehicles. (Telematics News)

Other

  • Scooter rental firm Vogo apparently wants to raise $50 million. (Live Mint)
  • Motorbike rental firm Bounce raised $72 million. (Deal Street Asia)
  • SoftBank’s CEO says most of the investors in the firm’s $100 billion Vision fund are ready for more and want to join the second mega fund. (Reuters)
  • Bicycle rental firm Yulu wants to raise about $20 million and Bajaj Auto might become an investor. (Times of India)
  • Bajaj Auto took a 27% stake in Maharashtra Scooters. (Autocar)

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Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 16th June 2019

Phantom “production-ready” self-driving cars; electric car start-ups struggling to raise money; and why have VW dropped Aurora? Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 10th June to 16th June 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)

  • Said that competition was a more powerful motivator than money in persuading drivers of plug in hybrid vehicles to use electric only mode in city centres. (Automotive News)
  • Ansys and BMW are developing software that will assess the capabilities of self-driving systems and allow various sensors to be compared against one another using example real world data collected by BMW. Ansys will then offer the system to third parties, where they have “exclusive rights” — presumably BMW will still bank some form of royalty fees. (Ansys)

FCA (history)

  • Signed a deal with charging networks Enel and Engie to provide coverage for FCA customers with electric vehicles in Europe. (FCA)

Ford (history)

  • Opening a new research centre in Tel Aviv, Israel, mainly to house existing subsidiary SAIPS. (Ford)
  • Lyft rebranded the Ford GoBike scheme in San Francisco as Bay Wheels. (Lyft)
  • Issued a series of recalls, including 1.2 million Explorer SUVs (and a smaller number of other vehicles) to correct suspension fatigue; plus 123,000 pick-up trucks to correct an earlier recall for powertrain calibration. (Ford)
  • VW’s CEO reportedly told managers an autonomous vehicle partnership with Ford was almost complete. (Reuters)
  • Workers at the Bridgend engine plant voted in favour of being prepared to strike but didn’t pull the trigger. (BBC)

Geely (includes Volvo) (history)

  • Geely and LG Chem created a joint venture to produce batteries for electric vehicles. The initial investment is $188 million, implying that either operations will start out small or more money will quickly be needed. (Geely)
  • Volvo said it had developed a production vehicle “ready” for self-driving in collaboration with Uber. (Volvo)
  • LEVC revealed the long-awaited van based on the London Taxi. The firm claims best in class ownership costs, implying a price point substantially below that of the taxi, given the size of the load bay. (LEVC)

General Motors (history)

  • Investing $150 million at the Flint, USA, plant to increase annual capacity for heavy duty pick-up trucks by 40,000 units. (GM)
  • GM’s VC unit invested in Spring Labs, who are developing a blockchain-based method for sharing and tracking financial transactions. (Spring Labs)

Hyundai / Kia (history)

  • Deepened an existing partnership with Aurora to develop driverless cars by making an investment of an undisclosed amount (rumoured to be sub-$30 million) in the firm. (Kia)
  • As rumoured, Kia will stop producing cars at one of the three Chinese joint venture plants at the end of June, the factory will instead be used to make electric cars for a domestic brand (said to be Human Horizons). (Yonhap)
  • Hyundai’s chairman called on G20 energy ministers to support the creation of a hydrogen economy that could support zero emission vehicles. (Hyundai)
    • Significance: Japanese and Korean car makers seem particularly convinced of the potential for hydrogen powered vehicles but it seems as though they have not yet done enough to make others feel the same.

Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)

  • Appeared to back down from an earlier stance that Renault executives shouldn’t be on the new oversight committees Nissan intends to establish. (Les Echos)
  • Off-the-record sources said new Renault chairman Senard has decided that the CEOs of both Renault and Nissan are “irritants” impeding good relationships between the alliance partners. (Reuters)

PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)

  • Opel has supposedly been told by German regulators to recall Adam and Corsa models fitted with oxygen sensors that can give faulty readings under some conditions and lead to excessive emissions. (Bloomberg)
  • PSA say that electric motors require only about 30% to 40% of the workforce that a comparable small internal combustion engine needs. (Les Echos)

Renault (history)

  • Off-the-record sources said new Renault chairman Senard has decided that the CEOs of both Renault and Nissan are “irritants” impeding good relationships between the alliance partners. (Reuters)
  • Renault Chairman Senard told shareholders that he was confused about the French government’s attitude towards the proposed merger with FCA because it had been the finance minister’s idea in the first place. (WSJ)
  • Agreed terms of a wage deal with Renault-Samsung workers in South Korea. They will get a $10,000 bonus but no pay rises. Union bosses wouldn’t agree to Renault’s request to stop striking until at least 2021. (Yonhap)

Tata (includes JLR) (history)

  • Recalling I-Pace electric vehicles to fix problems with the regenerative braking. (Inside EVs)

Tesla (history)

  • CEO Musk told shareholders that Tesla had a “decent short at a record quarter on every level” and stressed that there was absolutely no demand problem for the firm’s cars. None whatsoever. The steep drop in Model S and X volumes is not relevant. (CNBC)
  • In off the cuff remarks, CEO Musk suggested that at very high production levels it could make sense for Tesla to own mines and guarantee supplies of raw materials. (TechCrunch)
    • Significance: Whilst Musk’s comments should be taken with a pinch of salt, they imply that somehow the supply chain logic of every other part of the vehicle is wrong and vertical integration is best — why don’t car companies own iron mines and steel companies?
  • Will enter the insurance market soon, pending an unspecified acquisition that Tesla needs to make. (CNBC)

Toyota (history)

  • Announced a reorganisation, mainly affecting the engineering team structure. (Toyota)
  • Planning to announce more partners for the Monet self-driving vehicle venture this month (currently Toyota, SoftBank, Honda and Hino Motors have stakes). (Reuters)
  • Reportedly intends to reduce the bonuses of top managers by around 5% because of rising spending. (Japan Times)

VW Group (history)

  • Ended the self-driving vehicle development partnership with Aurora. (FT)
    • Significance: Since FCA’s deal with Aurora (alongside BMW and Waymo) implies non-exclusivity, it is odd to see VW abandon the relationship — even with Ford waiting in the wings — unless it believed that Aurora’s technology was greatly inferior.
  • CEO Diess reportedly told managers an autonomous vehicle partnership with Ford was almost complete. (Reuters) He also said that an alliance with Ford was a wise move because the company was becoming too China-oriented in its thinking and a US perspective was a useful counterbalance. (Manager Magazin)
  • Audi recalled about 540 e-tron all-electric SUVs in the USA saying it needed to repair seals that could allow water into the battery compartment. (Inside EVs)
  • VW’s partner in Algeria is reportedly under investigation for corruption. (Economic Times of India)
  • Hopes that an IPO of truck unit Traton will raise about €1.9 billion. (VW)
  • VW’s plant in Tennessee, USA, voted against unionisation, but given the closeness of the vote (712 to 626), it seemed likely that this won’t be the last try. (Reuters)
  • Invested €900 million in battery producer Northvolt for about 20% of the firm and confirmed plans to create a joint venture that will have a 16 GWh factory. (VW)

Other

  • Xpeng’s CEO said the poor share price performance of publicly traded electric car companies (i.e. Tesla and NIO) was making it more difficult for him to raise money, and even harder for anyone not planning to launch a product in the next few months. (CNBC)
  • Ultima says its new RS model can go faster than 250mph. If you want one, there is a two year waiting list, unless you are prepared to build it yourself in which case that can be cut to a mere six months. (Ultima)
  • Evergrande is reportedly finding it difficult to bring electric cars into production. (Caixin) but apparently intends to spend $23 billion building three factories that collectively can build vehicle components, 500 GWh of batteries and 1 million cars annually. (Global Times)
    • Significance: Unless I’ve got my maths wrong, the 500 GWh of battery capacity number either doesn’t make sense or implies that 80% – 90% of the capacity would be for third parties.
  • Electric vehicle start-up Aiways invested $253 million in a Changan subsidiary, reportedly in order to get production permits for its new range of cars. (China Daily)
  • Ares Design showed the production version of the Panther ProgettoUno with 650hp on tap and a €615,000 price tag. The car’s technical specifications are very similar to the Lamborghini Huracán. (Ares Design)
  • Workhorse raised $25 million, saying it has enough to bring the N-Gen truck to production. (Workhorse)

News about other companies and trends

Economic / Political News

  • Outgoing UK prime minister Theresa May said the UK would commit to a plant that would see almost nil greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. (BBC)
  • French ministers said the government would go ahead with plans to end sales of (purely) gasoline and diesel powered vehicles by 2040 via a new mobility law. (Reuters)
  • The penny is starting to drop in Germany that more expensive emissions legislation and (non-mandatory) safety tests are forcing manufacturers out of smaller, cheaper, car segments. (FAZ)

Suppliers

  • The head of the Spanish dealer association says a drop in sales of 100,000 units annually equates to around 3,000 staff losing their jobs. (Coche Global)
  • Continental showed a prototype dashboard that uses clever displays to create a 3D image that doesn’t require special glasses. The new technology will be in production from 2022. (Autocar)
  • Toyoda Gosei invested $1 million in QBIT Robotics, gaining a 7.6% stake. (Toyoda Gosei)
  • Yanfeng might soon start making interiors that use materials produced as a by-product from paper making instead of oil-based plastics. (Yanfeng)
  • Veoneer will buy Nissin Kogyo out of their US joint venture and the two agreed a clearer formula for funding the remaining non-US plants. (Veoneer)
  • Denso and Honeywell agreed to collaborate on engines for electric air taxis. (Honeywell)

Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)

  • Short term rental firms Zoomcar and Drivezy are said to be in merger talks. (Deal Street Asia)
  • The CEO of Bolt (formerly Taxify) said the ride hailing service had demonstrated “a few profitable quarters”, but didn’t explain how he was measuring it. (Business Insider)
  • Citymapper is shutting down its bus routes in London, blaming regulation and the poor economics of offering ridesharing with only a few vehicles. (Citymapper)
  • French firm Ucar is offering users cars for €105 per month if they agree to rent them out (with some leg work involved for the owner to ferry the car around) and says that if they maximise the service, the net monthly rental could fall to €49. (Ucar)
  • Go-Jek acquired recruitment start-up AirCTO to help it bring in new staff faster. (Deal Street Asia)

Driverless / Autonomy (history)

  • Uber says that self-driving cars will probably still have accidents but that they will never have another crash like the other than killed a pedestrian last year and let journalists tour its test site. (CBS)
  • Innoviz said it raised $170 million in its latest round ($132 of it was already announced). (Innoviz)
  • Other road users “bully” autonomous cars, according to Uber which has recorded numerous incidents of drivers cutting across and abusing right of way. Given that these are situations regular drivers are likely to frequently encounter, Uber didn’t offer any statistics about how much worse it is for a driverless vehicle. (V3)
  • Sense Photonics raised $26 million to develop lidar sensors. (Sense Photonics)
  • Uber (Volvo XC90) and Argo AI (Ford Fusion / Mondeo) unveiled updated versions of their self-driving cars, claiming to be one step closer to production. Uber drew attention to the integration of Volvo’s underlying safety features so that the car comes to a safe stop if the software (or human driver) disengages. (Uber) / (Argo AI)
    • Significance: This idea of a third generation car seems to have been popularised by GM’s Cruise division but notion of cleanly packaging all the sensors to make something look production ready seems slightly odd when set against the absence of a self-driving AI that works. Companies are in effect implying that they have perfected the sensor suite without knowing if it is actually true.
  • Yandex outlined the differences local weather and traffic signs made to training a self-driving car. (Yandex)
  • Luminar plans to sell a lidar sensor that enables driver assistance functions such as emergency braking and steering for $500, less clear is whether manufacturers will plump for it over camera based systems. (Reuters)
  • Ansys and BMW are developing software that will assess the capabilities of self-driving systems and allow various sensors to be compared against one another using example real world data collected by BMW. Ansys will then offer the system to third parties, where they have “exclusive rights” — presumably BMW will still bank some form of royalty fees. (Ansys)
  • Hyundai and Kia deepened an existing partnership with Aurora to develop driverless cars by making an investment of an undisclosed amount in the firm. Aurora said it raised $600 million in total Series B funding. (Aurora) and made no mention of losing VW as a partner. (FT)
    • Significance: Since it was earlier rumoured that Aurora had rebuffed VW’s offers of investment, this seems like a change in strategy.

Electrification (history)

  • Ford’s ex-CEO Mark Fields said electric vehicle demand would only grow slowly and lots of carmakers were going to look silly in the next 2 – 3 years for making investments in cars no one wants. (Automotive News)
  • Charging network Fastned filed for an IPO hoping to raise €27 million. (Fastned)
  • VW invested €900 million in battery producer Northvolt for about 20% of the firm and confirmed plans to create a joint venture that will have a 16 GWh factory. (VW)

Other

  • Air taxi start-up Lilium says a flight from Manhattan  to JFK airport (about 20 miles) will take six minutes and cost about $70. Commercial flights are slated for 2025. That works out at about 8 times faster than a taxi for around 1.5 times the price. (CNBC)
  • Scooter rental firm Bird confirmed that it acquired smaller rival Scoot. The Scoot brand will remain (presumably to prevent regulators re-appraising Scoot’s operating permits in San Francisco). (Bird)
  • Uber displayed a mock-up of the interior for its forthcoming air taxi. (Futurism) and says that although at launch per mile costs will be above $5 they will fall to around $2 in the “near term” and match car ownership (e.g. sub $1 per mile) in the “long term”. (TechCrunch)
  • Uber and AT&T are experimenting with the use of 5G networks for air taxis and drones — in particular they are studying at what altitude the signal becomes unreliable. (ZDNet)
  • CATL, Hellobike and Alibaba’s Ant Financial are creating a joint venture to build batteries for electric bikes and operate a network of battery swapping stations. (Reuters)
  • Boeing is buying aerospace interiors company EnCore. (Reuters)
    • Significance: The supply chain of aerospace, where companies buy an empty tube (save for some wiring) and use third parties to fit it out to fulfil brand-specific needs likely has some parallels for a world of ubiquitous on-demand transport. This move by Boeing to integrate aircraft supply and fitting could be a hedge against recession (fewer new planes, more refits) or be based on a belief that a firm with combined expertise can offer more; or both.

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