More blockchain speed required; massive money for advanced research; and the start of a big move in online retail. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 7th September to 13th September 2020. A PDF version can be found here.
- Frozen — Renault is testing a blockchain-based supply chain management tool created by a group of leading suppliers. The bad news is that at the moment it can only process 500 transactions a second. Slow speeds are a criticism often levelled at the bitcoin blockchain and can sometimes be difficult to eliminate, but with a single engine line needing around 10 transactions per second, you can’t add too many before the system runs out of steam. Have the architects got their sums right?
- I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing — Toyota’s research arm announced a new $800 million fund to invest in new technologies. At a time when rivals are clamping down on spending as far as possible, Toyota is keeping its foot on the accelerator. Will the competition come to regret that they didn’t bet on the future, or will Toyota just splurge on the wrong things?
- Follow You Follow Me — Toyota announced that it is starting a Japan-wide online store for used cars, with plans for new car sales in the pipeline. Before you start yawning, consider this: Toyota holds a market share of close to 50% in Japan (with a population north of 120 million), so this single move, if well executed and well received, could be transformative and potentially the largest single bet on online retail we’ve yet seen. How seriously will Toyota apply themselves?
News is arranged by company and topic. Stories that apply to more than one company or topic are duplicated.
Find our archive here.
News about the major automakers
- Chose a new agency group to lead marketing communications for Europe. Unusually, the team will not be entirely marketing specialists and will include strategy consultants from Berylls. (BMW)
- Cut the ribbon on a new battery plant in Tiexi, China, doubling local capacity. (BMW)
- Invested in 3D printing marketplace Xometry. (FINSMES)
- CEO Källenius says that coronavirus has made him question the firm’s competitive strengths and that he is willing to eliminate underperforming models. (FT)
- Lost a patent infringement case brought by Sharp. Daimler says it will appeal. The ultimate sanction could be a stoppage of sales in Germany but Daimler considers this unlikely since a sub-supplier is now paying a licence fee and the case is about historic royalties. (Handelsblatt)
- Collaborated with Off White, who have helped Nike to make several ranges of extraordinarily expensive trainers, to make a concept G-Class that explores future interpretations of luxury. Apparently this means abandoning materials that damp noise, vibration and harshness. (Daimler)
- Maserati unveiled the new MC20 sports car. The design has been in development for only 2 years. (Maserati)
- In detailing the organisation for the MC20’s Italian launch, Maserati made the unbelievable claim that 7,500 meals were served, yet only 4,000 cups of coffee were drunk. (Maserati)
- Selected by the Canadian autoworkers’ union as the lead company in pattern bargaining. (Detroit News)
- Said in an investor presentation that logging data from connected cars was helping to choose what content to delete from cars to make them cheaper to build. Ford gave a specific example of showing how often owners locked the car using the rear doors — where it found the answer varied by vehicle line. (Ford P10)
- The forthcoming Mustang Mach E will identify drivers based on the signature of their key fob and mobile phone, so that individual settings are applied before they even settle in. The car’s infotainment system will learn all sorts of regular habits, such as regular routes and phone calls, assuming owners don’t find it creepily effective. (Ford)
- Took an 11% stake in hydrogen electric truck company Nikola and agreed to supply battery and fuel cell technology, plus engineer and build the already announced Nikola Badger pick-up truck. GM received the equity, worth around $2 billion at current levels for free in return for unspecified in kind consideration (e.g. the technology transfer). The forecast value of the supply contracts is another $2 billion. Since the Badger was announced in 2020 and is planned to launch in 2022, GM’s engineering team will have to get a move on, even if it runs of the forthcoming all-electric platform that will be used for the new Hummer. (GM)
- Sold the Lang Lang, Australia, test track to VinFast. (Economic Times of India)
- Says that using a next generation battery management system from supplier Analog Devices will reduce wiring within the battery pack by up to 90%, reducing weight, and increasing pack density. (GM)
- Announced a fleet supply deal with Uber that will offer substantial discounts (the same level that employees receive) to Uber drivers if they buy a GM electric car. (GM)
- Hyundai’s marketing department need to start saying potential names out loud before committing to them. The brand’s latest camper van conversion is called the “Porest” — seemingly a clever combination of the donor vehicle (Porter) and the idea of leisure (rest). (Hyundai)
- Nissan’s COO says the tipping point for electrification will be when battery cost falls below $95 / kWh, but that Europe is already in the midst of a change despite prices still being above that level. (Autocar)
- The Japanese government has reportedly provided massive loan guarantees for banks giving Nissan credit, and would be on the hook for around $1.2 billion if the company failed. (FT)
- Nissan plans to raise $8 billion is US dollar bonds after Japanese bond issues raised less than hoped. (Nikkei)
- Has now produced half a million Nissan Leaf all-electric car (over two generations). (Nissan)
- Nissan’s COO confirmed that the next generation Micra will be developed and built by Renault. (Reuters)
- Opel continued its clear out of national sales companies in smaller European markets, announcing an importer had been chosen for Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Albania. (Opel)
- In a memo to staff, new CEO de Meo said that the company would probably need to increase cost saving targets for the restructuring plan announced before he started to escape the “red zone”. He called the cashflow projections he has seen “alarming” and suggested that there was scope for 25% price increases in mid-size cars, whilst cutting the portfolio by around one third. (Reuters)
- Renault and Nissan are hoping to bag a sizeable slice of Uber’s demand for electric vehicles in the near term, signing a fleet deal with the ride hailing operator to sell vehicles to drivers. (Renault) A separate release by GM about a similar scheme in the USA indicates that drivers will be entitled to heavy discounts. (GM)
- Testing a blockchain-based parts tracking system called XCEED sponsored by several major suppliers. Methods to increase the current capacity of 500 transactions per second must be found if the system is to be used across the supply base. (Renault)
- Dacia unveiled new Sandero and Logan models. (Dacia)
- Slightly increased its shareholding in Maruti Suzuki, from 56.28% to 56.37%. (Economic Times of India)
- Reportedly exploring the sale of stakes in Tata Technologies and a construction machinery joint venture with Hitachi to raise cash. (Live Mint)
- Once Tesla’s Chinese plant is running at full steam, the plan is reportedly to export cars to Europe and Asian markets. (Reuters)
- Toyota’s advanced research institute — to be rebranded as Woven — is launching a venture fund with an $800 million war chest. (Toyota)
- Announced an online store selling used cars across Japan. The company hopes to expand the offering into new cars in future. (Toyota)
- The Traton truck unit increased its takeover bid for Navistar. (Navistar)
- The head of Škoda’s Czech organised labour complained that the company plans to move too much production out of the Czech Republic, calling it a campaign against the brand. His comments could bring him into conflict with VW’s union leader in Germany who has applauded such moves in the past. (Reuters)
- Highlighted the challenges of procuring ethically sourced batteries by revealing that 134 suppliers and 18 mines are used to produce component parts for VW Group’s batteries. (VW)
- Significance: With VW forecasting battery electric vehicle production rising by an order of magnitude in the next few years, keeping tabs on suppliers threatens to become a substantial bureaucratic overhead.
- Former CEO Winterkorn will face trial in Germany, charged with fraud over the diesel emissions scandal. (Reuters)
- Showed off the station wagon and rugged estate versions of the new Golf. (VW)
- Lucid revealed the production version of the Air, with the brand’s CEO saying it was aiming squarely at the Mercedes S-Class (which sold 71,300 units globally in 2019 including 12,500 in the USA). The car boasts a massive 113 kWh battery (good for almost 520 miles) and a price tag well north of $100,000. Lucid says cheaper versions with lower range will become available post launch. (Lucid) Executives announced at the launch event that the second product – already confirmed as an SUV – will be called Gravity. (TechCrunch) The company also intends to launch a range of stationary storage products. (Economic Times of India)
- McLaren is contemplating a sale and lease back of its headquarters in a bid to raise cash, despite recent statements from the Formula 1 team that there was no longer a problem with liquidity. (The Guardian)
- VinFast acquired GM’s Lang Lang, Australia, test track. (Economic Times of India) There was also a new limited edition SUV announced: The President, which has a $164,000 price tag and of which only 500 will be built. (Nikkei) The brand’s parent denied that it was interested in selling off some of the non-automotive businesses in its portfolio to raise money. (Reuters)
- After the high of announcing a tie-up with GM, Nikola had to vehemently deny claims made in a research note that the company’s technology was sub-par. (Nikola)
News about other companies and trends
Economic / Political News
- Under the recently-signed Formula 1 commercial contract, new teams will have to pay $200 million to enter the championship, with the money going to existing teams. Good news for the likes of Daimler, Ferrari, McLaren and Renault should anyone have a big enough chequebook. (Autosport)
- Schaeffler announced a new restructuring plan aimed at saving €250 million – €300 million annually. The firm is looking to cut around 5% of the workforce. (Schaeffler)
- The CEO of German steel supplier Salzgitter is not interested in a merger with Thyssenkrupp’s ailing steelmaking division. (Reuters)
- Kongsberg’s CEO stepped down. The firm appointed interim co-CEOs whilst a replacement is found. (Kongsberg)
- Battery supplier Envision is reportedly hunting around for a new site in France. (Reuters)
- KCC Glass is acquiring all of the Korea Autoglass joint venture it operates with AGC. (Yonhap)
- Uber’s target is for 100% of trips to be in all-electric vehicles by 2040, with an earlier target of 2030 for US, Canada and Europe. The company is creating an $800 million fund to help drivers buy new cars. (Uber) The company is negotiating large discount programs with OEMs such as GM, Nissan and Renault.
- Indian all-electric ride hailing business BluSmart Mobility raised $7 million. (Live Mint)
- Rental operator Europcar is in talks with lenders over a debt restructuring. (Auto Rental News)
- Lidar developer Ouster raised $42 million. (Ouster)
- A Cruise blog post gave an overview of the complexity involved with machine learning for self-driving vehicles – and demonstrated that the group have no intention of writing detailed rules for coping with extreme manoeuvres, seeing the task as “impossible”. (Cruise)
- Waymo published a blog explaining how it combines real world data with scenarios for rare problems it stages at a test track called Castle. (Waymo)
- ZF has teamed up with Aeva to bring the latter’s lidar technology into production. It is unclear how this affects ZF’s existing relationship with Ibeo, which it part-owns (the rumour is that the stake is up for sale). (Aeva)
- A study of British car buyers found half of those asked will NEVER buy an electric car because of a shortage of charging points. The disconnect between a transient number of charging points and a supposedly absolute level of disinterest didn’t stop headline writers from seizing on the news. (The Telegraph)
- Charging provider Wallbox acquired Spanish firm Electromaps. (Europa Press)
- GM says that using a next generation battery management system from supplier Analog Devices will reduce wiring within the battery pack by up to 90%, reducing weight, and increasing pack density. (GM)
- Nvidia is acquiring chip designer ARM from SoftBank in a $40 billion deal. (BBC)
- Parking app SpotHero is acquiring Canadian rival Rover Parking. (FINSMES)
- AYLI says that it has letters of intent from a buyer who wants lots of the electric motorcycles the company has under development. (AYLI)
- Ad-funded bicycle rental firm HumanForest raised £1.8 million. (TechCrunch)
Find our archive here.