Broadband providers charging cars; a slightly random battery milestone; and a cheap and cheerful way to delight buyers. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 18th May to 25th May 2020. A PDF version can be found here.
- Pack The Pipe — Media company Liberty Global is launching a charging network in the UK based around supplying electricity from its broadband telecoms infrastructure. Way back (!) in 2017, Deutsche Telekom tested the water with something similar. Across the world, companies with pipes or cables in the ground are realising that they might be just as well-placed as traditional utilities to supply charging points. When will utilities start taking this threat seriously?
- A Million Dreams — GM says it is on the cusp of a battery that lasts a million miles, following similar claims by Tesla. Everyone got very excited, but I’m still trying to figure out what this really means. If it means that the battery stays at automotive standard for one million miles (i.e. it can hold an extremely high state of charge compared to original capacity over that time), doesn’t that make it over-engineered when cars typically last well below 500,000 miles?
- Girls On Film — Porsche has put up some cameras in its factory to take pictures of the cars as they pass along on the conveyor (a bit like the log flume at a theme park) in various stages of build. The shots are then forwarded on to the expectant owners-to-be, making them feel embedded in the process. Total set-up cost? Probably about £500. Seems like a cheap way to build brand loyalty. Why isn’t everyone doing this?
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
- Mercedes’s design chief says the all-electric EQS will look radically different to the forthcoming next-generation S-Class with which it shares many of its parts. He says that the brand’s production intent concept cars (such as the EQS) always herald 80% to 90% of the road-going design. (Autocar)
- Mercedes does not believe that synthetic fuels are viable in the medium term and, if it does become a reality, the fuel will become widespread in aviation before it reaches the mass market for vehicles. (Autocar)
- A cybersecurity researcher said he had downloaded the source code used for the Mercedes Van connectivity suite. In a classis blunder, Daimler’s software team were using an online tool to store and check code and although people needed to register to access the code, access was automatically granted without checks. (ZDNet)
- Reportedly plans to invest in battery developer Farasis Energy’s impeding IPO. (Reuters)
- Geely wants to explore deeper collaborations with Daimler. (Reuters)
- FCA’s chairman brushed off suggestions that the intended special dividend payment to shareholders might be at risk, given the large sum the company hopes to borrow from the Italian taxpayer. (Reuters) Government ministers said FCA would need to invest more in Italy to fully justify the money. (Reuters)
- Raised €650 million in debt at an interest rate that will make Ferrari the envy of automotive treasurers. (Ferrari)
- Geely has commissioned a new design centre in Sweden dubbed the “chamber of secrets” by its architects. New cars can be viewed in natural light via a rooftop courtyard, safe from prying eyes boast the designers, unless would-be spies are equipped with low-cost drones. (Deezen)
- Volvo raised around $1.3 billion in new credit lines, net of extensions. (Volvo)
- Volvo has now implemented the unilateral 180 km/h speed restriction for all cars in production. (Volvo)
- Geely wants to explore deeper collaborations with Daimler. (Reuters)
- GM says that its engineers stand on the cusp of a million-mile battery. (Reuters)
- Honda’s Chinese vehicles will use an infotainment and connectivity suite developed with Tencent. (Nikkei)
- Mitsubishi reported financial results for the fiscal year ended March 2020. Net sales of 2.27 trillion JPY (about $21 billion), down (9.7)% on a year-over-year basis. Operating Income of 13 billion JPY (about $120 million), down (89)% versus prior year. (Mitsubishi)
- American officials arrested two men in connection with Carlos Ghosn’s flight from Japan (which is seeking their extradition). It isn’t clear whether the move will affect Ghosn himself. (Economic Times of India)
- Unveiled the production version of the limited-edition GT-R 50, produced with ItalDesign. (ItalDesign)
- Further rumours of Nissan’s turnaround plan emerged; 20,000 jobs will apparently be lost. (Reuters)
- Spanish authorities reckon it would cost Nissan €1 billion to close the Barcelona factory. (Reuters)
- France’s finance minister worried that Renault might “disappear” without state help. He desperately wants for the firm to improve productivity, provided it doesn’t affect French jobs. (Reuters)
- Rumours swirled that Renault’s restructuring plan will see the closure of three small plants and that the recently unveiled Mégane won’t be replaced. The future of the Flins plant supposedly hangs in the balance. (Autocar)
- Jaguar’s one-make electric I-Pace racing series (which supports Formula E) will stop at the end of 2020, one year earlier than planned. (The Verge)
- Reportedly hoping to receive a loan of around £1 billion from the UK government. (Sky News)
- Expects that the Shanghai factory will reach output of 4,000 vehicles per week by the end of June, implying an installed capacity of around 185,000 units — higher than the 150,000 announce by Tesla. (Xinhua)
- Panasonic said it was in talks with Tesla to expand capacity at the Nevada Gigafactory. (Reuters)
- Recalling 9,500 RAV4 SUVs in the USA because the suspension arms might break. (Toyota)
- Unveiled the all-new Sienna minivan (for North American markets) (Toyota) and Venza crossover. (Toyota)
- PAVE published a Toyota-sponsored study into attitudes about autonomous vehicles. The main takeaway was, that with no mature examples of autonomous vehicles on the road, respondents are scared of them. (Toyota)
- Found itself at the centre of a social media storm over an Instagram advert that carried several racist cues. After initially prevaricating, VW apologised and withdrew the offending video. (Handelsblatt)
- Porsche has installed some cameras in non-sensitive areas of the factory so that anxious owners can receive a theme park-style photograph of their car in various stages of production. (Porsche)
- Porsche says that publicity from the online launch of the 911 Turbo S (arranged instead of the Geneva show) was far higher than products using press conferences at the show received in 2019. (Porsche)
- Agreed terms with German dealers for the launch of VW sales: dealers will get a flat commission, regardless of whether they or VW found the customer and VW will set all transaction prices and arrange all financing. The brand also appears to have granted infinite floorplan financing. (VW)
- A German court ruled that VW will have to pay damages over dieselgate in a case that was separate to the recently concluded class action suit. (Reuters)
- Aston Martin’s CEO Palmer is leaving with immediate effect, to be replaced at the beginning of August by Tobias Moers, a recruit from Mercedes’s AMG division.
- McLaren’s recovery efforts hit a problem when existing bond holders complained that assets underpinning a proposed new debt issue was already security for their loans. (FT) The firm subsequently announced 1,200 job losses across the car making and racing divisions. (Sky)
- Faraday Future’s founder agreed a bankruptcy plan that saw him hand over his stake in the company to creditors, a move the firm hopes will help it raise further funding. (Faraday Future) Faraday’s CEO says the firm is in talk with several car makers about sharing technology. (Bloomberg)
News about other companies and trends
Economic / Political News
- European passenger car registrations in April of 1.345 million vehicles fell (78)% versus prior year. (ACEA)
- A leaked document purporting to outline a massive EU stimulus programme — with up to €80 billion targeted at clean mobility (split between vehicle purchases and grants) — set tongues wagging. (EURACTIV)
- The UK government set out proposed tariffs on imports to apply after the transition period with the EU ceases at the end of 2020. It confirmed that cars will attract a 10% tariff, the same as non-EU imports without a trade deal attract today. Tariffs for parts are still present, although reduced in some cases. The parts attracting zero tariffs (e.g. wing mirrors) suggest a degree of industry lobbying has been considered. (UK Government)
- Significance: Although the government said it was protecting the automotive sector, the mix of vehicles produced locally (mainly luxury cars) doesn’t reflect the wider market, so the tariffs, if they came into force on EU imports, would be likely to have a distorting effect on sales. The published tariffs suggest a producer of vehicles using knock-down kits would save ~7% of the vehicle value over importers. Contact us for more details.
- Benteler reckons that plans by many European OEMs to have output at pre-lockdown levels by the summer are “ambitious”. (Autocar)
- Battery producer Exide entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy. (Exide)
- Gestamp reported Q1 2020 revenue of €2.17 billion and EBIT of €110 million. (Gestamp)
- Hertz filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy after lenders would not agree to extend re-payment deadlines. (Detroit News)
- Uber cut a further 3,000 jobs, brining the total to almost 7,000 in the last few weeks (about 25% of the global workforce). The CEO says the firm needs to become profitable and will withdraw from non-core activities, without fully describing what they are. (Business Insider)
- Ride hailing operator Ola cut 1,400 jobs, saying revenue fell (95)% in the last two months. (TechCrunch)
- Ride hailing service Bolt raised €100 million. (Reuters)
- The owner of ride hailing firm Tada raised around $5 million. (Deal Street Asia)
- The CEO of Intel’s Mobileye reckons there will be massive consolidation amongst companies developing self-driving technology because (he thinks) specialists will find it too hard to collaborate. (Reuters)
- Lumotive says it will have a new lidar sensor in customer’s hands by the end of 2020. With a range of around 120 metres — far less than some boast — the main selling point will be “competitive” cost. (Lumotive)
- Labelling company Scale AI and lidar developer Hesai launched an open source dataset of lidar traces that can be used to train systems on object recognition. (TechCrunch)
- Autonomous technology developer Hongjing Drive said it had raised millions of dollars. (TechNode)
- British battery start-ups AMTE Power and Britishvolt want to build a factory with a capacity of 30 GWh (or more), which would make it one of the World’s largest facilities. The scheme appears to have government backing. (AMTE)
- SVOLT says 2021 will see the debut of its cobalt-free batteries in vehicles made by Great Wall. (Autocar)
- Suspension supplier KYB signed a deal with in-wheel motor developer REE, enabling REE to develop packages incorporating wheel hub, power, braking and suspension. (REE)
- InoBat acquired a site in Slovakia for a low-volume battery production line and R&D centre, with plans to expand to a 10 GWh facility by mid-decade. (Green Car Congress)
- Media behemoth Liberty Global plans to start a high speed charging network in the UK using power from the kerbside cabinets that house its broadband equipment. (Bloomberg)
- HERE signed deals with address database Loqate and parking provider APCOA to embed its maps in other software (HERE) and map out European parking lots. (HERE)
- Alpine and Telenav are launching a usb stick that will upgrade an infotainment unit with smartphone integration so that it can access media streaming services and send vehicle data to the cloud. The device sounds in principle like a smartphone without a screen. (Telenav)
- University researchers in Japan are trialling an inflatable electric scooter which bears a passing resemblance to a child’s Trunki rideable suitcase. Although the prototype has several drawbacks, the idea could develop into something that would be suitable for integration into a vehicle’s boot space. (IEEE Spectrum)
- Electric rickshaw developer Euler Motors raised an additional 20 Cr INR (about $2.7 million). (Autocar)
- Electric scooter rental service Tier has launched foldable helmets stored within the scooter. (Tier)
- By Miles, a mileage-based insurance company backed by JLR’s InMotion VC fund raised £15 million, but JLR did not participate. (By Miles)
- Autonomous drone developer Xwing raised $10 million. (Alven)
- A majority stake in bicycle rental service CityBike was sold to a private equity firm. (PE News)
Find our archive here.