Series hybrid gets its big break; battery swapping: the impossible dream; and Ford’s hidden plant closure announcement. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 15th February to 21st February 2021. A PDF version can be found here.
- Copycat — Nissan launched the new Qashqai, which comes with an optional motor as generator (series) hybrid set up, “e-power” in Nissanspeak. Nissan says the engine sells well in Japan and Renault, who use a similar system, claim that around 30% of European customers are choosing it. The French firm also believes that it is the only way to go for entry level products that comply with Euro 7 rules (which are still a bit fuzzy). The Qashqai is perhaps the biggest selling model to adopt the technology. If it catches on, will others respond?
- If I Ruled The World (Imagine That) — Lotus showed off a concept all-electric racing car called the E-R9. It was mostly standard attention-grabbing fayre, but I was interested in the mention of hot-swapping battery packs, which Lotus believes could be a reality by 2030. The technology doesn’t seem to be in question. Does the industry want it badly enough to create the standards and shared infrastructure to make it a reality?
- My Sad Captains — Ford of Europe will only sell all-electric passenger cars by 2030, and forecasts that most commercial vehicles will be either battery electric or plugin hybrid by then too. The clear implication is that Ford’s European engine and (jointly owned) transmission manufacturing footprint is consigned to oblivion (which would include all UK manufacturing), yet none of the news reports I read even mentioned the possibility. Did Ford manage to bury the bad news?
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
- BMW has created a captive brand communication agency, called TheGame Group. (BMW)
- Invested in machine vision company Recogni. (FINSMES)
- Reported full financial results for 2020. Revenue of €154 billion fell (11)% on a year over year basis and adjusted EBIT of €8.6 billion dropped (17)%. Daimler says that it is spending less on new products (as measured by capital expenditure and research and development and thinks 2021 will be a good year financially. (Daimler)
- CEO Källenius says that his company has to plan on making both electric and internal combustion engine vehicles by 2030 because it is too early to make a definitive call on sales mix. (FT) Yet sources suggest he is pushing for an end to fossil fuel powered models as soon as possible. (Handelsblatt)
- Daimler’s Torc Robotics unit will use Amazon’s cloud computing services. (Reuters)
- Won’t launch the all-electric EQC SUV in the US market. (Green Car Reports)
- Ford of Europe will go electric only by 2030 (for passenger cars). All cars will have either PHEV or BEV varieties by 2026. Ford’s commercial vehicle range will have either PHEV or BEV models by 2024 and by 2030, Ford believes 60% of van sales will come from zero emission capable vehicles. Although the move appears to spell doom for Ford’s European engine and (jointly owned) transmission facilities, and therefore all UK manufacturing, headlines concentrated on the headline commitments. (Ford)
- Significance: In Europe, Ford jumps from an electrification laggard (and fleet CO2 non-conformist) to one of the most aggressive advocates of the battery electric vehicles. The open question is whether Ford has firm plans to back up its aspirations, or the move is born more of a desire to improve the company’s image. The current cadre of executives are unlikely to be around to see whether the promise is delivered.
- Recalled 1,666 brand new Bronco Sports because the rear suspension might not be bolted on properly and 153,107 Rangers because after they had their Takata air bags repaired Ford noticed that it had lost track of some faulty parts and isn’t sure whether they were used or not. (Reuters)
- Ford has sold its stake in lidar company Velodyne. (Detroit News)
- Production of the F-150 at Kansas City was disrupted again. This time the problem was cold weather that shut down the plant for over a week. (Reuters)
- Lotus showed off a concept all-electric racing car call E-R9. Whilst the car was primarily designed to bring attention to Lotus’s engineering arm, the company suggested that battery swapping could be a coming force by 2030. (Lotus)
- Geely apparently plans to set up a separate unit to plan and market electric vehicles, having decided that they are too different to internal combustion engine powered models to let the incumbents handle it. (Reuters)
- Cruise intends to build its own charging network. (GM)
- Significance: It is unclear whether Cruise is effectively duplicating GM’s own plans to support charging networks (where it has previously partnered with EVGo), or if it will become the company’s trailblazer for charging in addition to autonomy.
- Honda appointed a new CEO. R&D head Toshihiro Mibe takes over from CEO Hachigo in April. (Honda)
- Honda is changing its governance structure so that the board has three primary committees (nominating, audit and compensation), each with a majority of external directors. (Honda)
- Unveiled the next generation HR-V SUV. (Honda)
- Appears set to recall all units of the Kona electric produced between 2017 – 2020 to replace batteries. (ET News)
- Unveiled the next generation Nissan Qashqai crossover. The vehicle will launch with a motor as generator system, badged “e-Power” by Nissan. Given the sales record of the outgoing model, this could become the largest application of this type of powertrain globally. If it is successful, expect others to take notice. (Nissan)
- Mitsubishi revealed the next generation Outlander. (Mitsubishi)
- Significance: Despite the apparent sales success of the plugin hybrid model, Mitsubishi continues to market an internal combustion engine only derivative, indicating that the company does not yet feel confident in the market reaching an inflection point.
- Reported financial results for the second half of 2020. Revenue of €25 billion fell (9)% on a year-over-year basis and operating profit of €866 million fell (14)%. Renault blamed drops in volume, including sales to Nissan, for the bad news. Renault’s overall 2020 net income was a loss of €(8) billion, more than half of which is attributable to Nissan, the company burnt through €4.6 billion of cash. Renault thinks that up to 100,000 vehicles could be lost because of semiconductor shortages. (Renault)
- CEO de Meo says that hybrid cars are already more profitable than ICE-only models and the technology will be around for at least another ten years. (Seeking Alpha)
- CEO de Meo has challenged his team to reduce the time for build to order cars from two to three months today to less than one month in future. (Seeking Alpha)
- Renault executives believe that motor as generator hybrids (which the firm badges as E-Tech) are the most effective way to reach Euro 7 emissions legislation in entry level products. (Seeking Alpha)
Stellantis (formed via the merger of PSA and FCA)
- Peugeot unveiled the Landtrek pickup truck for emerging markets. (Peugeot)
- Maserati chose a series of poorly shot, officially endorsed, spy shots of the Greycale SUV to go viral via employee social media accounts. (Maserati)
- CEO Tavares has created a task force to understand why the various Stellantis brands have failed to gain traction in China (under both FCA and PSA ownership). He suggested all options are on the table. (Automotive News)
- JLR plans to cut 2,000 non-manufacturing jobs through its turnaround plan. (Sky News)
- Toyota is part of a group studying hydrogen needs in Japan which has concluded that industrial need for hydrogen is so large that the country might as well invest in enough infrastructure to provide fuel for vehicles too. (Toyota)
- Invested in machine vision company Recogni. (FINSMES)
- VW increased prices for its vehicles in Germany — in line with normal custom — except for all-electric models. (VW)
- Amid persistent rumours that VW plans to spin off the sportscar company, Porsche’s boss says the brand has stepped up cost saving efforts and aims to save €10 billion over the next five years, up from €6 billion. (Manager Magazin)
- Porsche’s CEO said that Rimac could “play a role” in the future of Bugatti. (Reuters)
- Bentley’s CEO says that brand’s order bank is 50% higher than at the same point in 2020, mainly thanks to demand from China. (Reuters)
- McLaren unveiled the Artura, a plugin hybrid electric sportscar. The model is also the debut for a new V6 engine (hitherto, McLarens have been powered by V8s). (McLaren)
- Foxconn plans to launch three vehicles this year (one of which will be a bus) for unnamed brands. (Nikkei)
- Lucid will reportedly list via a merger with a special purpose entity at a valuation of around $12 billion. (Reuters)
- Rivian is rumoured to be contemplating a factory in Germany. (Manager Magazin)
- McLaren executives say the brand can’t make an electric car today because the technology isn’t sufficiently developed to create the product attributes the company wants. (Reuters)
News about other companies and trends
Economic / Political News
- Several Japanese auto makers had to stop production after an earthquake disrupted parts supply. (Toyota)
- Uncharacteristically cold weather in the USA stopped output at several factories. (Reuters)
- Allison Transmission is getting a new chairman: its CEO. (Autocar)
- BorgWarner is acquiring battery pack maker AKASOL. (BorgWarner)
- Following on from VW’s announcement last week, Bosch said it would use Microsoft’s cloud computing to develop vehicle software. (Bosch)
- Schaeffler’s CEO rejected suggestions that the firm should split. (Handelsblatt)
- Goodyear agreed terms to acquire Cooper Tire. (Reuters)
- Magna reported Q4 2020 revenue of $10.6 billion and net income of $738 million. (Magna)
- Martinrea is investing more in NanoXplore to reduce dilution from a separate rights issue. (Martinrea)
- TI Fluid Systems is getting a new CEO. (TI)
- Faurecia is selling its soft trim and acoustics business to Adler Pelzer. (Faurecia)
- Akebono admitted falsifying quality reports but said there was no practical impact of part performance and vehicles will not be recalled. (Nikkei)
- Visteon reported Q4 2020 revenue of $787 million and net income of $18 million. (Visteon)
- ZF reported preliminary full year 2020 revenue of €33 billion and adjusted EBIT margin of 3.2%. (ZF)
- Kakao Mobility raised $200 million at a valuation of just over $3 billion. (Deal Street Asia)
- UK Supreme Court judges ruled that Uber drivers are workers. What this means in practice will be decided in a forthcoming tribunal hearing. (Business Insider)
- Lidar developer AEye is listing via a merger with a special purpose entity. (AEye)
- Intrigue over Apple’s car plans continued with news that the company had called up lidar suppliers about possible contracts to provide components (one of the first steps, rather than one of the last). (Detroit News)
- Machine vision company Recogni raised $49 million from investors including BMW and Toyota. (FINSMES)
- Battery developer Enovix is listing via a merger with a special purpose entity. The company is focused on batteries for smaller devices but says it wants to create products for electric vehicles. (Enovix)
- Battery management start-up AMP raised an undisclosed amount. (AMP)
- REE announced a new engineering centre in the UK. (REE)
- The UK city of Coventry hopes to go ahead with a battery factory and has identified suitable land. It isn’t yet clear who will operate the facility. (The Guardian)
- IPT Technology acquired wireless charging technology company Primove. (IPT)
- Battery start-up TruSpin claimed a breakthrough in battery technology. It turned out to be a test that supposedly proved the firm’s technology could achieve a battery energy density of 400 Wh / kg, about in line with targets from Romeo Power, Solid Power and others. (TruSpin)
- The former founder of British battery start-up Britishvolt is starting an Italian rival called Italvolt. (Italvolt)
- Northvolt says that about one quarter of the capacity it is targeting will be used to supply stationary storage providers, rather than electric vehicles. (Bloomberg)
- Indian on-demand mobility service Bounce has reportedly laid off most of its staff. (Economic Times of India)
- Didi’s bicycle rental unit Qingju raised $600 million. (Deal Street Asia)
- Ride hailing motorbike firm Vogo raised $12 million. (Deal Street Asia)
Find our archive here.