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

Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 13th January 2019

Opel names a van after a car; Daimler’s unclear sharing strategy; and a real vehicle data scare. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 7th January to 13th January 2019. A PDF version can be found here.

Favourite stories of the past week…?

  • Changingman Opel unveiled the new Zafira. What was previously a purpose-built compact people carrier is now just a reworked van with a nicer interior. Sounds jolly sensible — the segment is shrinking but why lose all that hard-won brand equity just because it isn’t a standalone product anymore? What sounds better, Zafria or Transit Connect Tourneo?
  • On My OwnDaimler’s incoming CEO says the company is open to sharing, but not where they think the parts or technology are key to the brand. Sounds totally sensible, unless the brand criticality is just left to the gut feel of the executive team — who rule everything out whilst maintaining an open for business message. So how are they intending to objectively measure customer impact and what is the threshold for important enough to keep distinct? The one example mentioned isn’t too promising: Daimler sees the MBUX infotainment interface as an area where it needs to be different. Really? Loads of smartphone companies can all share Android but carmakers need their own unique programming?
  • Where’d You GoPoorly set up security meant that real time location data for 11,000 Indian buses was accessible online for ages until the problem was stopped. Whilst perhaps no one is that interested in the number 35 bus route, the same (human) errors could recur — exactly the sort of thing privacy experts are scared of. Will this become a powerful case study that the industry strives to never repeat, or just the first of many incidents?

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 2.49 million vehicles in 2018, an increase of 1.1% on 2017. (BMW)
  • Rolls-Royce say 90% of customers request customisation so great that the cars can be considered one-offs (adding an average 40% to the purchase price) — up from 80% in 2016, for the Cullinan SUV it is 100%. About 5% of the Rolls-Royce workforce is dedicated to vehicle personalisation. (Bloomberg)

Daimler (history)

  • Sold 2.44 million cars in 2018, a 0.9% increase on 2017. Whilst BMW said it was the largest premium manufacturer, Daimler claimed the brand specific crown for itself (basically, because Mini sells far more than Smart). (Daimler)
  • Spending half a billion euros on automated truck technologies and intends to develop level 4 (substantial eyes off but bound by geography and environmental conditions) after mastering level 2 because in Daimler’s view the technology cost of level 3 brings insufficient benefit to operators. (Daimler)
  • Incoming CEO Kallenius said he is opening to sharing components and technologies with other companies but that is something is key to the brand he wants Daimler to go it alone. (Bloomberg)

FCA (history)

  • Reached a deal to settle claims of emissions cheating in the US with a total of $800 million to be paid out in fines and compensation to customers. FCA said the amount had already been reserved in Q3 2018. Although it will pay fines, FCA says that there was no “deliberate” intention to cheat. (FCA)
  • Lost a US Supreme Court bid to prevent a civil suit from owners seeking to sue FCA for vehicle security flaws, regardless of whether any damage has been caused. (Economic Times of India)
  • Appointed a new global purchasing boss. (FCA)

Ford (history)

  • CEO Hackett declared himself unhappy with Ford’s 2018 performance, placing a lot of the blame on product age (a self-inflicted problem). Hackett said Europe had been a problem “for a number of decades” but that it was possible to make money with the right “industrial system” and suggested that VW could build cars for Ford in Europe as the company looks to cut costs in the region. The option of leaving Europe was “never on the table”. (Bloomberg)
  • Launched a new Explorer large SUV, adding a sporty ST model and a (non plug-in) hybrid. (Ford)
  • Announced another new strategy for the European business, lowering long term profit targets from a 6% – 8% range to 6% EBIT margin in the longer term (the last turnaround plan — announced in February 2016 can be found here). The business will be organised around commercial vehicles, European built cars and imported cars, with a suggestion that any one of the three business lines could be closed in future if the returns were not better than the cost of capital. The firm is reviewing the JV in Russia with Sollers, with a decision to be announced in Q2 2019. A round of redundancies is also underway, with Ford re-announcing: the closure of the Bordeaux transmission plant; consolidating the UK administrative footprint into a single HQ; and the cessation of C-MAX and Grand C-MAX production. (Ford)
    • Significance: Given Ford of Europe’s current (unprofitable) condition at a very healthy industry volume, the actions that Ford has announced appear to downplay many of the business’s key challenges: a majority Western European footprint; poor portfolio fit with the rest of the World; and a reliance on the UK market with little natural hedging resulting in Ford fighting over half a billion dollars in annual foreign exchange losses.
  • UK unions say they were told by Ford that it intends to cut 1,000 jobs at the Bridgend engine plant (already expected with the loss of a JLR engine contract and reduction in capacity for small Ford petrol engines) and 150 in other operations, primarily logistics. (The Guardian)
  • Might close further plants to improve the profitability of Europe. (Reuters)
  • The European CEO said Ford was only remaining in the region because of the commercial vehicle business. The head of markets said Mahindra’s approach to cost control was “eye-opening”.  (Detroit News)
  • Shutting the Chariot on-demand bus service by 1st February citing the changing needs of customers. (Ford)
    • Significance: Ford has now shut down the most visible of its bets on consumer-facing mobility services. Unfortunately, Chariot’s business model was always questionable: make money by running bus services, an operation normally so unprofitable that public subsidies of around 50% of costs are normal — and only run services where demand is so low that public buses don’t schedule any routes.
  • Ford’s head of autonomous vehicles implied the company would not budge from the 2021 target for putting a driverless car on the road saying “at some point before 2021, we have to have no driver”. (TheStreet)
  • VW and Ford will reportedly announce specifics of their new alliance at the Detroit show with sources suggesting that press releases will concentrate on commercial vehicle ties ups and rumoured plans for VW to buy into Ford’s Argo autonomous technology unit and Ford licencing VW’s MEB platform will remain unconfirmed. (Reuters)
  • Building on an earlier commitment to make 100% of US vehicles connected by 2019, Ford will install vehicle to everything technology in vehicles launched from 2022 onwards. (Ford)
  • Will stop sponsoring bicycle rental in San Francisco. (Axios)
    • Significance: Ford said that a massive benefit of the bicucle sharing scheme was access to travel data. The implication is either that sufficient data has been gathered, or the data wasn’t particularly useful.

Geely (includes Volvo) (history)

  • Bloomberg said that Geely had sold half its stake in Daimler. Geely said it had not. (Geely)
  • The (taxi-making) LEVC division has delayed the development of a van derivative to the early 2020s. (Reuters)

General Motors (history)

  • Held a capital markets day where it forecast improved 2019 returns, when many analysts had feared a drop. GM said Cadillac will be the “lead” electric vehicle brand and that, following restructuring, South American operations had reduced the breakeven point by 40% and GM Korea was on a “path” to profitability. (GM)
  • Launching a set of battery electric vehicles for Cadillac beginning with a crossover codenamed BEV3. (Detroit News)
  • Oshawa plant workers continue to hold work stoppages in protest at the plan to close the plant. (Detroit Free Press)
  • Agreed that GM owners could access the stations of three US charging networks and pay through GM’s app. (GM)

Honda (history)

  • Will close UK facilities for the first six days in April to sit out any potential Brexit disruption. (Reuters)
  • The launch of Honda’s all-electric city car has reportedly been delayed from 2019 to 2020. (Electrek)

Mazda

  • Developed a new technique for pressing high strength steels that Mazda says allows it to make thinner (and therefore lighter) body parts. Since no additional equipment is apparently required, it seems likely that other companies can replicate the feat with sufficient experimentation. (Mazda)

Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)

  • Carlos Ghosn’s said in court that the foreign exchange contracts at issue had cost Nissan nothing and that he had been offered much more money by Ford and Gm to join them. (Nikkei)
  • Released a Nissan Leaf (dubbed e+) with a 62 kWh battery pack. (Nissan)
  • After a short leave of absence related to the Ghosn scandal, Nissan’s chief performance officer resigned. (Reuters)
  • Nissan’s board said it was committed to the alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi and would claw back control over some business decisions from executives. (Nissan) An executive has been appointed to improve governance, slightly odd in the context of an executive team where certain elements had supposedly gone rogue. (Nissan)

PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)

  • Launched the new Zafira people carrier. Rather than create a like-for-like replacement in the shrinking segment, Opel has renamed the passenger carrying version of the Combo van. (Opel)
    • Significance: This looks like smart marketing by Opel. Rather than losing the brand recognition, an already existing vehicle has been renamed. Opel have spent a bit of money on the interior to make the vehicle more comfortable than the van — far cheaper than a unique vehicle.

Renault (history)

  • Said that an internal probe had concluded payments to the executive team for 2017 and 2018 were lawful and had been properly disclosed. The investigation will continue to look at previous years. (Renault)

Tata (includes JLR) (history)

  • Confirming earlier rumours, JLR announced plans to shed about 4,500 jobs, hoping to save over £1 billion (of which it says £500 million is already on the way). JLR will start making electric motors (at the Wolverhampton engine plant) and assembling battery packs at a new site in Hams Hall (where BMW have an engine factory). (JLR)
  • JLR sold 592,708 vehicles in 2018, a drop of (4.6)% versus 2017. (JLR)

Tesla (history)

  • New car buyers can reportedly still pre-order the fully self-driving feature by emailing Tesla directly but sales advisors are warning anyone who does that it could be a “very long time” before the feature is usable. (Electrek)
  • CEO Musk suggested the forthcoming Roadster would have a hover function going so far as to outline a potential power mechanism and package. But nobody was sure why. (Electrek)
  • Will only offer Model S and Model X with 100 kWh battery packs, dropping the 75 kWh version. (Elon Musk)
    • Significance: As sales of Model S have already plateaued for some time, it will be interesting to see what the effect on demand is.

Toyota (history)

  • Hopes to offer “Toyota Guardian” driver assistance features to other car companies. (Toyota)
  • Recalling an additional 1.3 million vehicles in the US to replace airbags. (Toyota)
  • Helping to develop a new type of strawberry through DNA analysis. (NRGene)

VW Group (history)

  • VW Group sold 10.83 million vehicles in 2018, a 0.9% increase on a year earlier. (VW)
  • Creating a subsidiary called Elli that will provide charging services. (VW)
  • VW and Ford will reportedly announce specifics of their new alliance at the Detroit show with sources suggesting that press releases will concentrate on commercial vehicle ties ups and rumoured plans for VW to buy into Ford’s Argo autonomous technology unit and Ford licencing VW’s MEB platform will remain unconfirmed. (Reuters)

Other

  • Aston Martin has activated Brexit contingency measures, including the use of alternative ports (with longer shipping times but hopefully less traffic) and airfreight. It has also built up an inventory of finished vehicles on the continent, potentially a risky move with a customer base that values personalisation. (Reuters)
  • Karma announced a call for suppliers and the start of car sharing operations. (Karma)
  • McLaren sold 4,806 cars in 2018, an increase of 43.9% versus 2017. (McLaren)
  • Byton wants to raise another $500 million, after being given a similar sum by investors last year. (Reuters)

News about other companies and trends

Economic / Political News

  • Chinese passenger car sales of 28.1 million units in 2018 were down (2.8)% on 2017. (Reuters)
  • The UK government tested whether there was a good system for managing slower freight movements in the event of Brexit by driving 87 trucks in convoy across Kent, an exercise derided by critics. (Reuters)
  • UK car registrations of 2,367,147 units for 2018 were down (6.8)% on the prior year. (SMMT)

Suppliers

  • Delphi appointed a new CEO, an external hire. (Delphi)
  • Lear launched an in-house VC fund. (Lear)
  • Denso is launching a new R&D site in Montreal, Canada to work on mobility applications. (Denso)
  • Continental released preliminary 2018 full year results showing revenue of €44 billion and an EBIT margin of 9.2%. Revenue in 2019 is expected to be slightly better but profit margin is likely to fall to 8% – 9%. (Continental)
  • Autoliv’s CFO is resigning to take on the same role at former subsidiary Veoneer. (Autoliv)
  • Bosch settled US claims relating to faulty emissions control software in FCA vehicles for $131 million. (Reuters)
  • ZF is buying Romanian engineering services provider BeeSpeed to beef up the brake controls team. (ZF)

Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)

  • Ola’s latest fund raising paperwork indicates the business is now valued at $5.7 billion. (TechCrunch)
  • Uber’s CEO said the firm might delay the planned 2019 IPO citing market volatility. He believes the company does not need to go public yet, thanks to a strong balance sheet. (WSJ)
  • Gotcha launched an on-demand bus service in Florida using electric vehicles. (Gotcha)
  • Go-Jek’s application to open a ride hailing business in the Philippines was rebuffed but the setback is likely to be temporary, assuming a deep-pocketed local partner can be found. (Reuters)
  • Ford’s Chariot on-demand bus service is shutting by 1st February citing the changing needs of customers. (Ford)

Driverless / Autonomy (history)

  • Aurora is reportedly looking to raise $500 million in a round that will value the company at $2 billion. (Recode)
  • Navya published a safety report. Because the company is developing autonomous buses, it still envisages having an operator on board who can take control if necessary, whilst normally functioning as a conductor. (Navya)
  • WeRide welcomed Ai developer SenseTime as an investor and plans to deploy a fleet of 500 self-driving vehicles in 2019, with a target of 5 million cumulative test kilometres. (WeRide)
  • Blackmore’s new lidar has a claimed range of greater than 450m and a $20,000 price tag. (Laser Focus World)
  • AEye had to buy a visitor to CES a new camera after the company’s lidar sensor damaged his camera, resulting in lines permanently across the field of view. AEye said there were no implications for eye safety because cameras were far more sensitive, and that it might have been coincidence anyway. In response to concerns for the cameras that feature in car safety systems and encounter such vehicles, competitors pointed to wavelength (Ouster) and pulsing (Blackmore) as potential culprits and declared themselves immune. (Ars Technica)
  • Harman and Innoviz have partnered to deliver integrated lidar to OEMs. (Innoviz)
  • Waymo’s CEO said autonomous vehicles “will always have some constraints” and that even in several decades a degree of “user interaction” will be required. (Auto Express)
    • Significance: Although at first sight, the comments appear to call into question the future of autonomous cars, they are a reflection of what could become infrequent problems, the solution to which might be controlled by remote operators, rather than a driver inside the car.
  • Bose claims to have mastered the art of cabin noise cancellation, moving beyond engine noise to road noise stemming from the vehicle suspension and tyres. (The Verge)
    • Significance: although the technology is likely too expensive to see much mainstream use in the next future, systems that focus on comfort will become a more significant factor in purchase choice as vehicles become less driver-oriented.
  • Ford’s head of autonomous vehicles implied the company would not budge from the 2021 target for putting a driverless car on the road sying “at some point before 2021, we have to have no driver”. (TheStreet)
  • Daimler is spending half a billion euros on automated truck technologies and intends to develop level 4 (substantial eyes off but bound by geography and environmental conditions) after mastering level 2 because in Daimler’s view the technology cost of level 3 brings insufficient benefit to operators. (Daimler)

Electrification (history)

  • Panasonic demonstrated a concept electric vehicle that uses a 48V electric drive (probably fine for relatively low speed applications) and features removable modules for different job types. (Panasonic)

Connectivity

  • Amazon said it received one million pre-orders for the Echo Auto aftermarket personal assistant. (TechCrunch)
  • An incorrect password setting reportedly led to the real-time GPS location of 11,000 Indian buses being available online. The site apparently included identifiable information such as licence plates and routes. (ZDNet)
  • Toyota will use technology from KDDI and AT&T to provide connected vehicle services in the USA. (Toyota)
  • MobilEye is providing technology to the UK government’s Ordnance Survey map making unit that will help maps update more quickly. (OS)
    • Significance: Whilst map-making for cars is assumed by many to be an entrepreneurial endeavour that will impact the rollout of autonomous vehicles to the advantage of a particular company, the Ordnance Survey’s work shows the possibility of an alternative model in some markets: government-mandated and controlled HD maps.
  • Otonomo is supplying the technology used by Daimler to provide data to third parties. (CTech)
  • Building on an earlier commitment to make 100% of US vehicles connected by 2019, Ford will install vehicle to everything technology in vehicles launched from 2022 onwards. (Ford)

Other

  • Ojo launched an electric scooter rental scheme with a (small) difference — there is a seat to sit on. (Ojo)
  • Electric scooter rental firm Bird is looking to raise a further $300 million. (Axios)
  • Lime was forced to cease operations in Switzerland after scooters stalled without warning, throwing hapless hipsters to the floor, sometimes at high speed. (TechCrunch)
  • iOttie is offering a mobile phone mount with motorised jaws that engage the device automatically. (The Verge)
    • Significance: At a retail price of $54.95, while the phone mount may not ultimately be a raging success, it begs the question of why the coolest currently available feature is Tesla’s pop-out door handles.

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

Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 6th January 2019

Smart cars for smart homes; sales planning the old way; and docking driverless pods on the move. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 31st December 2018 to 6th January 2019. A PDF version can be found here.

Favourite stories of the past week…?

  • These Words Amazon has sold 100 million Alexa-enabled devices. These are products that customers have chosen specifically because they want to talk to them. Whilst the user experience often leaves something to be desired, many users already find it acceptable for basic tasks. How much longer will customers accept that their cars are not part of this ecosystem — even for simple functions like checking the fuel level? OEMs proudly point to commitments to make new cars connected in the coming years, but what about the legacy fleet?
  • This is How We Do ItRenault’s head of sales planning outlined the approach his team uses. The overriding impression is of art rather than science as the central team try to reconcile market forecasts, factory flexibility and breaking news that could render all previous information obsolete. Without wishing to criticise Renault (other OEMs follow the same approach), it does serve to highlight the fragility of a model that is wholesales led (i.e. sales to the dealers, rather than the end consumer).
  • Plug In BabyAprilli dreams of an autonomous vehicle that plugs into a hotel when it reaches a new city, expanding the space available. I find the idea of purpose build structures a bit clunky, but what about a roving fleet of autonomous amenities that can dock with your pod as you speed between locations? What productivity savings could be in store if the service station came to us, on the move?

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 product development head hinted that a PHEV supercar was in the works. He also said that, for the foreseeable future, the brand prefers hybrid vehicles to pure electric ones for sporty models because the weight penalty of larger batteries compromises dynamic performance.  (Autocar)

Daimler (history)

  • Renaming the NuCellSys fuel cell subsidiary to Mercedes-Benz Fuel Cell. (Daimler)

FCA (history)

  • Sold 2,235,204 vehicles in the US during 2018, an increase of 9% over 2017. The outlook for the Fiat brand is bleak, with sales down (41)% year-over-year. The Chrysler Pacifica and Dodge Journey and Caravan people carriers, bucked the trend for falling car registrations, with over 364,325 units sold, a rise of 9% on the prior year. (FCA)
  • Italian unions called for FCA to take back control of the Termini Imerese plant from Bluetec, which took on the plant with (so far unfulfilled) promises to provide work for the nearly 700 Fiat employees. (Il Sole 24 Ore)

Ford (history)

  • Sold 2,497,318 vehicles in the US in 2018, down (3.5)% from 2017, explained by an (18.4)% fall in car sales. (Ford)
  • Issued two recalls for around 953,000 vehicles, mainly to correct further Takarta airbag problems. (Ford)
  • Will only report sales figures quarterly, as opposed to monthly, going forward, citing GM’s experience that monthly sales are too short a snapshot to draw meaningful conclusions about market conditions. (Reuters)

Geely (includes Volvo) (history)

  • Volvo sold 642,253 cars in 2018, an increase of 12.4% on 2017 with sales increasing in all major regions. (Volvo)
  • Geely and Lynk&Co sold 1,500,838 cars in 2018, some way short of the 1.58 million target for the year — the 2019 target has been lowered to 1.51 million. Sales of Lynk&Co appear to have stumbled badly in December with the 01 model mysteriously dropping over (80)% from October and the 02 seemingly selling no units at all. (Geely)
  • Showed a silhouette of the first Geely-badged model to come from the CMA platform shared with Volvo. (Geely)

General Motors (history)

  • Appointed the PD chief as company president; it seems that he will continue in his existing role. (GM)  
  • Sold 2,954,037 vehicles in the key US market in 2018, with 785,229 in Q4. GM is “bullish” about 2019 sales. (GM)
  • Cruise vehicles will trial home food delivery in partnership with DoorDash. (GM)
  • One Maven user reports that he is receiving $800 a month for renting out his car on the platform. Since the owner gets 60% of the total fees, that implies $1,330 in monthly gross revenues. (Detroit News)
  • The UAW union is suing GM, complaining that it is using temporary workers in preference to full-time employees who are out of work at other plants. (Reuters)
  • The CTO (and ex-CEO) of Cruise continued to play down rumours that GM might spin-off the self-driving unit saying that it was better to develop the technology alongside vehicle engineers. (Bloomberg)

Hyundai / Kia (history)

  • Unveiled a Hyundai concept vehicle featuring wheels on the end of articulated legs. Hyundai says the vehicle offers unparalleled mobility over rough terrain (without explaining the shortcomings of caterpillar tracks). (Hyundai)
  • KIA sold 2,812,200 vehicles globally during 2018, a year-over-year increase of 2.4%. The 2019 sales target for the brand is 2.92 million units. (KIA)
  • Hyundai reported 2018 sales of 4,586,775 units, an increase of 1.8% versus 2017. The company set a 2019 sales objective of 4.68 million vehicles. (Hyundai)
  • Hyundai and KIA aim to have a level 4 vehicle on sale around 2025 and a level 5 car by 2030. The two brands will “commercialise” self-driving vehicles in smart cities from 2021 onwards. (Hyundai)
  • Increased long term targets for electric vehicles, between Hyundai and KIA, 44 models are planned for 2025, up from 38 previously, expecting them to account for 1.67 million sales annually. (Hyundai)
  • KIA demonstrated a concept cockpit at CES that will analyse the driver’s facial movements to determine the appropriate cabin lighting, smell and temperature, all through a yet-to-be-created AI algorithm. KIA presented no evidence from existing vehicles that vehicle inhabitants frequently change these settings today. (KIA)

Mazda

  • Dealers will upgrade infotainment systems on cars up to five years old to integrate Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, for around £300. (Motoring Research)

Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)

  • Carlos Ghosn’s son said the former Nissan CEO will mount a vigorous defence. (Detroit News)
  • Created a concept car that features augmented reality to show information that is either in a blind spot or beyond the driver’s visual range. (Nissan)
  • Released images of the Infiniti QX concept car to be unveiled at the Detroit show which promises to show the brand’s future direction with an all-electric portfolio. (Nissan)
  • Abruptly placed two more senior executives on a leave of absence, apparently related to the probe into Carlos Ghosn’s financial affairs. (Financial Times)

Renault (history)

  • Renault’s head sales planner outlined the volume forecast process. Ultimately, because Renault do not work on the basis of a retail customer “pull” (in common with virtually all other brands), the method is a series of checks and second-guessing as market demands are compared to central production flexibility and overlaid with changes in the market between the time the process kicked off and when it ends. (Automotive Logistics)

Tata (includes JLR) (history)

  • Recalling 68,828 JLR vehicles in China to fix problems with the crankshaft bearings. (Xinhua)
  • The R&D head of Tata Technologies described in an interview how the company approaches material choice for optimum weight reduction and cost optimisation. (Autocar)

Tesla (history)

  • Q4 deliveries were 90,700 vehicles, of which 61,394 were Model 3. Model S sales continued to fall on a trend basis as the product ages and, possibly, customers opt for the cheaper Model 3. Model X continues to grow. Tesla also announced a $2,000 per unit price reduction in the US to partially offset the $3,750 drop in federal tax credits. The company said the year-end production rate was around 350,000 units annually, implying current Model 3 production of around 5,500 cars per week. (Tesla)
  • Tesla’s public relations team appears to be shifting towards the same kind of media-grooming expected of mainstream automakers, recently inviting selected journalists to the Alaskan cold weather testing facility it uses in exchange for glowing reviews. (CNET)
  • Broke ground on the new Shanghai factory. (Bloomberg)

Toyota (history)

  • Showed photographs of the latest-level Toyota self-driving test vehicles. (Toyota)

VW Group (history)

  • Said that proposed hardware retrofits in Germany would reduce reliability and change the driving characteristics of vehicles. VW believes that some vehicles will be impossible to retrofit and that even those that can be modified may fall short of the envisaged emissions levels. (VW)
  • The Porsche and Piech families, majority owners of VW Group, have declared the performance of Bentley to be unsatisfactory and want a turnaround to yield results within two years. (FAZ)

Other

  • Faraday Future settled a legal wrangle with major investor Evergrrande and said the firm’s value had actually increased, to $3.25 billion, during the disagreement. (Faraday Future)
  • Aspiring electric car maker Laureti said is has identified a manufacturing location in India that will have an annual capacity for 10,000 cars by 2021 and 20,000 by 2023 and will launch the DionX vehicle in 2019 with a 6,000 km trip between 7 cities. (Laureti)
  • Volvo Trucks said it will make a provision of 7 billion SEK (about $780 million) to repair exhaust systems that will degrade over time and ultimately fail to meet emissions rules. The company has yet to work out how to fix the problem. (Volvo)
    • Significance: Without further clarity, it is dangerous to draw firm conclusions but it remains possible that the issue Volvo has could affect other companies that have followed a similar design direction.

News about other companies and trends

Economic / Political News

  • Despite reporting mixed year-end US market sales, major brands expressed confidence in the market outlook saying that consumers still had a healthy appetite for car purchases. (Reuters)
  • US light vehicle sales for 2018 totalled 17.2 million units. (Wards)
  • German passenger car sales of 237,058 in December were down (6.7)% on a year earlier, the full year total of 3.44 million was (0.2)% worse than 2017. (KBA)
  • Passenger car sales in France fell (14.5)% in December versus a year earlier to 165,390 units. For 2018 overall, sales of 2,173,481 cars was up 2.6% on a like-for-like basis with 2017. (CCFA)
  • December passenger car sales in Italy of 124,078 units were up 2% on a year-over-year basis. 2018 sales of 1,910,025 cars dropped (3.1)% versus 2017. (UNRAE)
  • Spanish passenger car registrations came to 99,291 in December, a (3.5)% fall on a year earlier. On a full year basis, sales were 1,321,438 units, up 7% on 2017. (ANFAC)

Suppliers

  • Samsung will supply the chips used in Audi infotainment system. (Autocar)

Dealers

  • India used car site CarDekho raised $110 million. (Economic Times)
  • US new car transaction prices at the end of 2018 were up versus 2017 but trending lower month-over-month. (Kelly)
  • Youche Yihou, a website providing car news, purchase information and discounts, raised $29 million from investors including Tencent. (Deal Street Asia)

Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)

  • Changes in ride hailing permit regulations in China may cause a reduction in vehicles available. (TechCrunch)

Driverless / Autonomy (history)

  • Ouster said it would start selling a 128 line lidar unit for $18,000 in mid-2019 and implied that rival devices are currently retailing at over $100,000 each. The new unit is claimed to have equal power consumption to the existing 64 line model, thanks to improvements in the electronics. (Ouster)
  • Velodyne launched new short range, low resolution lidar units aimed at driver assistance applications that currently use cameras and radar. No price was mentioned but a “quantum leap” in performance is claimed. (Velodyne)
  • Robosense said its M1 model would retail for $200 and five units would be enough to provide 360o visibility with a range of 200m for autonomous cars. (Robosense)
  • Uber has reportedly commissioned McLaren to provide back-up safety systems for the firm’s autonomous driving program. (Telegraph)
  • Start-up Imagry is developing a driverless vehicle that does not require HD mapping. (Imagry)
  • Design firm Aprilli showed a concept autonomous vehicle that boasts a lounge-like interior that could function as a valet vehicle and hotel room extension. The idea is that the pod would be provided for travellers, moving them between cities and then docking into purpose-built hotel rooms for a more comfortable sleep. (Futurism)
    • Significance: Although the footprint of the proposed vehicle seems outlandish, could this be the start of an idea for autonomous vehicles that dock in transit to provide greater space or additional amenities?
  • Lidar developer Baraja raised $32 million. (Baraja)
  • GM’s Cruise vehicles will trial home food delivery in partnership with DoorDash. (GM)
  • Toyota showed photographs of their latest-level self-driving test vehicles. (Toyota)

Electrification (history)

  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Singapore was not supportive of electric vehicles. (Straits Times)
  • BMW prefers hybrid vehicles to pure electric ones for sporty models because the weight penalty of larger batteries compromises dynamic performance.  (Autocar)

Connectivity

  • Data analysis firm Carmen Automotive raised $730,000. (Deal Street Asia)
  • Delphi and TomTom will work together to integrate real-time mapping data into vehicle controls so that the system can provide feedback and advice to the driver. (Delphi)
  • Continental has won its first customer project for a 5G vehicle to everything network that uses both existing mobile phone communications and dedicated infrastructure. (Continental)
  • Upstream Security and Arilou will partner to create cloud-based cyber security for connected cars. (Upstream)
  • Hyundai has joined the Automotive Grade Linux group. (Linux)
  • Amazon has sold 100 million Alexa devices. (The Verge)
    • Significance: Although the user experience of Alexa – in common with other voice activated assistants – remains patchy, the sales volume implies that large numbers of consumer will expect to have at least basic levels of voice interaction and connectivity with their vehicles (e.g. “tell the car to warm up” or “how much fuel is left in the tank?”). Sales of Alexa are more significant in this respect than mobile phones with personal assistant because these are devices where the customer has explicitly chosen voice activation capabilities.

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Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 30th December 2018

Pick-up truck drivers hate electric cars; and BMW has a worry-free outlook on battery costs. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 24th December to 30th December. A PDF version can be found here.

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)

  • Does not think there will be any supply risks for batteries, even if demand grows, thanks to the long term contracts it has signed with “reliable” suppliers. BMW says that it is working to reduce dependence on hard-to-source raw materials and has already eliminated the use of rare earth metals in the latest generation of electric motor. (BMW)
  • Says its battery technology is equal or superior to the competition, when all characteristics are considered, and believes that electric motors are more important to make in-house than batteries. (BMW)
  • South Korean regulators fined BMW $10 million, saying the company had delayed recalls for engine fires and referred the matter to prosecutors. (Reuters)

Hyundai / Kia (history)

  • Expects the Russian market to grow by 5% to 6% in 2019. (Reuters)

Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)

  • Nissan’s US operation said that it had learned several things about marketing electric vehicles: customers really want a decent range (200 miles+); because there is less of an existing infrastructure for electric cars than gasoline and diesel vehicles the customer needs to be provided with additional services; people want a wide choice of bodystyle; cultural and other factors mean that response is different across markets. (Green Car Reports)
  • Will reduce production in China by 30,000 units between December and February because of slow sales. (Reuters)

PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)

  • CEO Tavares believes that electrification will benefit cars more than SUVs because they have better aerodynamic efficiency and will therefore require smaller batteries to accomplish the same range. He also said PSA’s strategy for re-entering the US market is not based on sharing with other OEMs, but he remains open to the idea. (Automobile)

Renault (history)

  • One of the main French unions has called upon the company to be more transparent about the financial dealings of the Dutch registered entity that carries out some of Renault and Nissan’s joint business. (Reuters)

Suzuki

  • Maruti Suzuki is looking for a new site to move the Gurgaon factory to because the fields that once surrounded the plant have given way to urban sprawl which has made logistics far more challenging. (Bloomberg)

Tata (includes JLR) (history)

  • Tata Motors has reduced its tier 1 supplier list from 1,100 to 800 in the last 12 months. (Autocar)

Tesla (history)

  • CEO Musk promised 100% supercharger coverage for European customers. (Futurism)
  • According to leaked internal emails, Tesla has stepped up its internal testing program for a new level of self-driving software and plans to retrofit new computers to existing cars but will not need to adjust the sensor set. (Inverse)
  • Increased the number of independent board directors to fulfil Tesla’s settlement with the SEC. (Reuters)

VW Group (history)

  • Reported a set of newly-discovered “abnormalities” with the upgraded emissions control software of 1.2 litre diesel engined cars to the German regulator. VW has stopped updating vehicles and hopes to find a resolution during January. (Handelsblatt)
  • Porsche says the Taycan is sold out in the US for a year if all reservations turn into firm orders and that the biggest cohort of buyers are defecting from Tesla. (CNET)
  • According to US sales representatives, the all-electric Porsche Taycan (formerly Mission E) will have three models, the base version will retail in “low $90,000” range, the 4S will have a “high $90,000” price tag whilst the range-topping Turbo will be “over $130,000”. (Green Car Reports)
  • According to Audi’s new chief, getting a CEO spot should be on more new year’s resolution lists. He claims the new job has helped him shed 10 kilos. (SZ)
  • Showed off a prototype charging station that uses the same batteries as MEB platform vehicles (either new, or more likely, used) to provide high capacity and fast charging, regardless of local infrastructure. The 360 kWh unit can provide charging rates of 100 kW. (VW)

Other

  • Great Wall launched an electric city car under the Ora brand in the Chinese market. The R1 will have ~150 miles of range thanks to a 33 kWh battery but a starting price of $8,860 (after incentives). (Electrek)
  • GAC announced the completion of a new 200,000 unit capacity plant for electrified vehicles (to be expanded to 400,000 at a later date) and a 400,000 unit capacity automatic transmission plant (a joint venture with Aisin). (GAC)

News about other companies and trends

Economic / Political News

  • Germany’s government has reportedly finalised technical specifications for diesel emission upgrade retrofits and will publish them in the new year. (Manager Magazin)

Suppliers

  • Following GM’s announcement that it will (probably) shut the Lordstown, Ohio plant, Magna said that it will cease production at its nearby seat factory. (WTOL)
  • ZF will have a €100 million charge in Q4 2018 due to likely EU-imposed fines against TRW for being in a cartel of safety systems suppliers, before it was acquired by ZF. (ZF)
  • Denso announced a restructuring (Denso) and that joint ventures announced earlier in the year have been formally agreed for control software (Denso) and electric drive modules. (Denso)
  • BASF is building a new plant in China to produce components for exhaust systems. (Autocar)

Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)

  • After raising almost $3 billion in 2018, Grab seems to have upped its target by another $2 billion. (TechCrunch)
  • Careem launched a bike messenger service. In addition to providing a simple way to order couriers, customers will be able to order the rider to spend up to $80 on an item for them and then pay when it arrives. (Careem)

Driverless / Autonomy (history)

  • Nikon invested $25 million in Velodyne and the two will collaborate on ways to use Nikon’s optics know-how in lidar units. (Velodyne)
  • Self-driving start-up Ottopia raised $3 million. (Ottopia)

Electrification (history)

  • Groups of pick-up truck drivers in the USA have started an odd trend of blocking Tesla supercharging stations, leading to speculation about their motives. (Green Car Reports)
  • BMW does not think there will be any supply risks for batteries, even if demand grows and says its battery technology is equal or superior to the competition, when all characteristics are considered, and believes that electric motors are more important to make in-house than batteries. (BMW)
  • Nissan’s US operation said that it had learned several things about marketing electric vehicles: customers really want a decent range (200 miles+); because there is less of an existing infrastructure for electric cars than gasoline and diesel vehicles the customer needs to be provided with additional services; people want a wide choice of bodystyle; cultural and other factors mean that response is different across markets. (Green Car Reports)

Connectivity

  • NEC is buying Danish IT firm KMD saying the acquisition will help it create better solutions for connected cities to provide services such as public transport. (Deal Street Asia)

Other

  • Despite market conditions hobbling rival bicycle rental firms, Hellobike has raised more money. (TechCrunch)
  • Mobile refuelling start-up Filld is struggling to get fire department permits for kerbside refuelling in some cities, undermining its business model. (Geekwire)

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Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 23rd December 2018

Merry Christmas! Here’s hoping you get everything you’ve wished for! The power of self-driving hardware; possible BMW and Daimler parts sharing; and VW trash-talking GM. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 17th December to 23rd December. A PDF version can be found here. 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)
  • Received regulatory approval for the mobility joint venture with Daimler. (BMW)
  • BMW’s works council chief criticised the company for relying on external partners for battery cells saying that BMW was “dependent” on its suppliers and should have made Tesla bankrupt by now. (Manager Magazin)
  • BMW iVentures invested in AI chipmaker Graphcore as part of a $200 million funding round. (Graphcore)
  • Showed off its latest state of the art self-driving hardware, giving an insight into the power demands of current prototypes. BMW’s L3 chip draws a respectable 25W but the L4 (200W) and L5 (600W) chips probably need a fair bit of work before they are production ready for long range or high utilisation roles. (Autocar)
  • Reportedly in talks with Daimler on a component sharing agreement that will potentially cover batteries, autonomous driving technology and vehicle platforms. (Bloomberg)
  • Currently operating a test fleet of 80 autonomous cars globally. Believes that a new working practice called large scale scrum has improved the efficiency of technology development. (BMW)
Daimler (history)
  • Received regulatory approval for the mobility joint venture with BMW. (BMW)
  • Dropping prices in China for US-built vehicles after import tariffs were reduced. (Handelsblatt)
  • Reportedly in talks with BMW on a component sharing agreement that will potentially cover batteries, autonomous driving technology and vehicle platforms. (Bloomberg)
Ford (history)
  • Recalling 874,000 pick-up trucks in North America to fix corrosion problems that can cause fires. (Ford)
  • Announced a limited edition run of 80 Lincoln Continentals that have been modified to have suicide rear doors. The price tag is described as “north of $100,000”. (Detroit Free Press)
    • Significance: In addition to being an interesting test case about whether limited editions could have an appeal in the mass-market (albeit in this case at uninterestingly low volumes), the cost compares favourably with the multi-million pound special editions launched by the likes of Aston Martin, Jaguar and Ferraru and reveals the extent of price gouging in this resurgent sector.
  • Developed a noise cancelling dog kennel that it won’t sell just to prove that it has the technology to solve problems no one has. (Detroit Free Press)
Geely (includes Volvo) (history)
  • Geely-controlled Saxo Bank plans to buy Dutch lender BinckBank. (Deal Street Asia)
  • Forming a joint venture with CATL to produce car batteries. (Geely)
General Motors (history)
  • Laying off 50 workers at the Brownstown battery plant, suggesting that the cessation of Chevrolet Volt will not see an increase in sales of other hybrid vehicle types. (Detroit Free Press)
  • Although the Lordstown, Ohio plant is “unallocated”, GM said the “next steps” will be part of the 2019 negotiations with the UAW union. (Reuters)
Hyundai / Kia (history)
  • Launching fingerprint recognition to unlock and start cars in Q1 2019, starting with the Santa Fe SUV in China. The system has an error rate of one in 50:000; better odds than playing the lottery. (Auto Express)
  • Will build a 250,000 unit capacity car plant in Indonesia, with electric cars set to be amongst the products built, according to government ministers. Hyundai said no firm decisions had been taken. (Reuters)
  • Created a joint venture to build commercial vehicles in Algeria from 2020 onwards, aiming to capture around 25% market share. (Hyundai)
Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)
  • Eliminating 1,000 jobs at two Mexican plants due to falling demand. (Reuters)
  • Mitsubishi strengthened strategy oversight at a board level, with a bias towards external directors. (Mitsubishi)
PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)
  • Faurecia invested in user experience assessment firm ESP Consulting. (Autocar)
  • Reportedly shrinking the executive committee of Opel so that fewer areas are not integrated with the rest of PSA. CEO Tavares is said to be still contemplating how to best balance visible independence for Opel with the desire for maximum operational efficiency. Falling sales of Zafira and Insignia have caused a surplus labour problem estimated at 600 people. (Handelsblatt)
Renault (history)
  • Will take a “significant” stake in JMCG’s electric vehicle subsidiary JMEV and will elaborate more on plans for the Chinese market once the deal is approved by Chinese authorities. (Renault)
  • CEO Ghosn was released and then re-arrested on addition charges meaning that he may be in prison until the new year. (Reuters) Ghosn’s lawyer said that he believes his honour will be restored in court. (Reuters)
  • Internal company documents allegedly show Renault and Nissan trying to create executive pay schemes that would not be subject to full public disclosure. Renault said none of the proposals mentioned went ahead. (Reuters)
Tesla (history)
  • Will refund US customers who receive lower tax rebates because of delivery delays (Tesla owners will be entitled to less money after 31st December because the company has made so many electric cars). (Reuters)
Toyota (history)
  • Published the 2018 environmental report for its North American operations. (Toyota)
  • Toyota AI Ventures invested in Sea Machines, a start up working on autonomous ships. (Toyota) The company also put money into Elementary Robotics. (Toyota)
  • Released a new offering aimed at ride hailing companies that bundles telematics with the vehicle to more effectively scheduled maintenance and keep vehicles on the road for longer. The telematics suite also enables usage based insurance through a third party partner. (Toyota)
VW Group (history)
  • VW’s initial analysis of EU CO2 target reductions of 30% by 2030 had reportedly settled on a figure of 1.2 million pure electric vehicles per year being needed across the group. The final figure of a 37.5% reduction has supposedly increased this by a further 600,000 units — or seven additional vehicle lines. CEO Diess said that the company would still be able to achieve the tougher 2030 target but would have to revisit its footprint plan. (Handelsblatt)
    • Significance: Absent a mandate to sell a fixed number of pure electric vehicles (currently unclear but presumed not to be in the final agreement), the number of electric cars required by an OEM is a factor of their mix and efficiency of plug-in hybrid and conventionally powered vehicles. In fact, many carmakers have plug-in hybrid vehicles on sale today emitting less than 50g / km CO2, implying that a firm could meet the new targets without selling a single battery electric vehicle (so long as they only offered vehicles with impressive CO2 performance — and were immune to consumer demand for electric-only models).
  • Rumoured to be planning a one third reduction in manning levels at plants in Emden and Hanover over the next ten years as electric vehicle sales increase. VW is said to hope that natural attrition, early retirement and redeployment to other factories will be enough to meet the target. (FAZ)
  • The head of VW’s in-house self-driving unit, AID, has a “high opinion” of Waymo but thinks GM’s Cruise is “hyping a bit”. He says that 90% perception accuracy is now standard but things get tough at 95%. (The Verge)
  • Said to be planning to write off the investment in ride hailing provider Gett (VW’s stake is apparently only valued at €16 million versus the $300 million+ VW has given the business — we shall see in the 2018 FY accounts). (Reuters)
  • Acquiring a majority 75.1% share in telematics firm WirelessCar. VW plans to use the company’s technology for vehicle to cloud data exchange in its forthcoming services. (VW)
  • Implemented a new executive pay scheme. There will be no personal performance bonus and incentives will be geared towards success of the entire group, rather than brands. There is also a clawback provision. (VW)
  • Porsche is recalling 74,585 Panameras to fix problems with the power steering. (Porsche)
Other
  • GAZ is in talks to have US sanctions removed. (Reuters)
  • Chinese electric car start-up CHJ Automotive is buying Lifan Motors for 650 million RMB (~$94 million), rather than outsourcing production to the company as had been originally intended. (Nikkei)
  • Maruti Suzuki’s chairman says that pure electric small cars will be an infrastructure and cost challenge for many years in India and prefers compressed natural gas for cutting emissions. (Autocar)

News about other companies and trends

Economic / Political News
  • The UK automotive trade body called for a no deal Brexit to be taken “off the table” saying that there was no way that it would be an impossible event for most companies to manage. (SMMT)
  • Detailed rules for the EU’s proposed 2025 and 2030 CO2 targets for cars (37.5% lower by 2030) and vans (31% lower by 2030) will be drawn up and submitted in the “coming months”. (EU)
  • The EU car making trade body reacted with predictable anger to the 2025 and 2030 CO2 targets, saying employment was under threat but not explaining why non-EU carmakers were being handed a competitive advantage given that all have to offer fleets with the same overall efficiencies and are all subject to the same technology costs. (ACEA)
  • Germany’s transport minister said that diesel’s image needed to be rehabilitated to achieve future emissions targets, but that it was the job of the manufacturers to convince consumers. (Manager Magazin)
Suppliers
  • Grammar and AllyGrow opened a jointly-operated research facility in India, mainly aimed at boosting Grammer’s in-house R&D efficiency. (Grammer)
  • Veoneer’s CFO is leaving. (Reuters)
  • IAV agreed to pay a $35 million fine to settle charges it helped VW cheat on US emissions tests. (Reuters)
  • Tower’s COO is stepping down and will not be replaced. (Tower)
  • Goodyear is expanding production capacity at its Slovenian plant by 25%. (Goodyear)
  • Samsung is reported to be the source of Tesla’s next-generation driver assistance hardware. (Green Car Reports)
  • Continental has automated cars that test tyre durability. (Continental)
  • South Korea’s government is starting a $3 billion rescue fund for suppliers struggling to cope with Chinese competition and falling orders from Hyundai and Kia. (Nikkei)
Dealers
  • Augmented reality developer Blippar shut down. The firm had been working on car sales applications. (Blippar)
  • Online used car retailer Shift agreed to use part-owner Lithia Motors’s physical infrastructure to store and deliver vehicles, saying it is now positioned to reach one billion dollars in annual revenue soon. (Shift)
  • Mitsubishi says a dealer site needs to generate an average of 30 kW each day through renewable energy to be self-sustaining. (Autocar)
  • US used car prices are up on a year-over-year basis but down versus the prior month. (JD Power) UK used car prices have continued to grow, but the rate of increase is slowing, to 4% year-over-year in November. Electric car prices have risen by almost 12%. (Motot Trader)
    • Significance: Higher used car values are supporting cheaper leases. As growth in new car sales fall off, OEMs need used car values to hold up well otherwise profitability will be adversely affected.
Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)
  • Short term rental firm Fair raised $385 million in a round led by SoftBank. The company provides cars to ride hailing drivers and partners with Uber. (Fair)
  • Ride hailing firm Ola will invest $100 million in Indian electric scooter rental start-up Vogo. (Reuters)
  • Lyft has gone on a hiring binge, snapping up senior design talent. (Lyft)
  • Researchers think they have cracked the problem of modelling taxi demand in unusual scenarios. (IEEE Spectrum)
  • Driveitaway, a car rental firm aimed at ride hailing drivers acquired peer-to-peer rental app Whip and ended a partnership with HyreCar. (Driveitaway)
  • VW is said to be planning to write off the investment in ride hailing provider Gett (VW’s stake is apparently only valued at €16 million versus the $300 million+ VW has given the business. (Reuters)
Driverless / Autonomy (history)
  • Lidar developer Luminar announced that it is partnering with Audi’s autonomous driving subsidiary AID. AID said that the Luminar product was “clearly above the pack in terms of range and density”. (Luminar)
  • Uber received approval to restart self-driving vehicle tests in Pittsburgh. (Uber)
  • Zoox released a safety report about the company’s approach to self-driving vehicles. Zoox detailed their chic-looking remote operations centre, suggesting they believe cars can easily be driven from large screen iMacs. (Zoox)
  • ai head Anthony Levandowski said he had sat in a self-driving car on a car cross-country trip lasting four days. He apparently did not have to take control of the vehicle at any time and the whole journey was accomplished with a basic set of maps and cameras. (The Guardian). Levandowski says the demonstration served to show how a driver assistance feature will be more than capable. (Pronto)
  • Leddartech will collaborate with French light shaping firm Cailabs to improve lidar performance. (Leddartech)
  • Rinspeed is working with Luxoft on an autonomous version of the microSNAP reconfigurable vehicle. (Luxoft)
  • The head of VW’s in-house self-driving unit, AID, has a “high opinion” of Waymo but thinks GM’s Cruise is “hyping a bit”. He says that 90% perception accuracy is now standard but things get tough at 95%. (The Verge)
  • BMW showed off its latest state of the art self-driving hardware, giving an insight into the power demands of current prototypes. BMW’s L3 chip draws a respectable 25W but the L4 (200W) and L5 (600W) chips probably need a fair bit of work before they are production ready for long range or high utilisation roles. (Autocar)
  • Ouster detailed the robustness tests it has devised for its lidar units — with short videos of the rigs in action. (Ouster)
Electrification (history)
  • Solid state battery developer 24M raised $22 million. (Inside EVs)
  • Geely is forming a joint venture with CATL to produce car batteries. (Geely)
  • Engie and Arval have launched a combined vehicle and charging infrastructure leasing scheme aimed at European businesses to help them adopt electric vehicles without a high upfront cost. (Engie)
Connectivity
  • Driver monitoring developer Cambridge Mobile Telematics raised $500 million from SoftBank. (Bloomberg)
  • Haas Alert and Zenuity formed a strategic partnership to feature real-time infrastructure data in driver assistance systems. (Haas)
  • Grab has run into problems with crowdsourced mapping initiative OpenStreetMap because it has been making a series of inaccurate map updates that are replacing (better) user generated content. (TechCrunch)
  • VW is acquiring a majority 75.1% share in telematics firm WirelessCar. (VW)
Other
  • Shell bought 49% of renewable power firm CleanTech Solar. (Deal Street Asia)
  • Elon Musk’s Boring Company showed off a one mile stretch of underground test track that Musk says will whisk specially adapted cars around at 155 mph. Since test runs were limited to around 50 mph at the press day, there was no way to verify the claims at present. (Business Insider)
  • Electric skateboard brand Boosted raised $60 million. (TechCrunch)
  • Bicycle rental firm Ofo is under “immense cash flow pressure” according to the CEO. (Reuters)
  • Uber’s Jump bicycle rental division is using swappable batteries in new models of electrically assisted bikes and has created a retrofit kit for older versions. (TechCrunch)
    • Significance: One of the problems faced by dockless electric bike and scooter operators has been recharging, leading to schemes such as paying users to take custody of scooters and charger them privately. Removable batteries will make it easier to maintain the fleet centrally and ensure better uptime.
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Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 16th December 2018

Waymo’s reliability in Arizona vs California; European CO2 targets; and what does it take to give up your car? Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 10th December to 16th December. A PDF version can be found here. 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)
  • Invested in cyber security firm Claroty. (BMW)
Daimler (history)
  • Said it has signed up for battery purchases worth €20 billion and will have 130 electrified vehicles (including 48V) on sale by 2022. Daimler reiterated the 15% – 25% mix of total sales target for Mercedes by 2025. (Daimler)
  • Will let third party repairers access remote diagnostics from Mercedes vehicles, but only where the owner has given permission and only for the types of data Mercedes deems relevant. (Daimler)
FCA (history)
  • Threatened to review future Italian production plans if the country raised taxes on gasoline and diesel cars. (Reuters)
  • Planning extra downtime at some US factories in January. (Detroit News)
Ford (history)
  • After Ford followed-through on earlier suggestions that it would reject alternative plans for the Bordeaux automatic transmissions plant, French president Macron called the move “hostile” and vowed to find a recovery plan. (Reuters)
    • Significance: During an earlier closure attempt in 2009, the French authorities talked Ford into funding a buyer for the site, who subsequently collapsed. Ford was then obliged to take back the plant and seems determined to avoid a repeat.
  • Confirmed that it was in talks with German unions about ending production of the C-MAX in Saarlouis. The loss of the product will mean the cessation of the night shift and about 1,500 redundancies. (Reuters) The move is slightly tricky for Ford since at the start of the year it gave assurances that the 3 shift pattern and C-MAX were not under threat. (Saarbrucker Zeitung)
    • Significance: The future for C-MAX looked dim once the Focus was replaced without an accompanying new product and Ford would need to make substantial investment to keep the product running beyond 2020 when EU rules on CO2 emissions become tighter. Ford’s communications with suppliers indicate a similar fate for Mondeo, S-MAX and Galaxy.
  • Stopped production of Fiesta and Ecosport in Russia until at least the start of 2019. Ford said it was because it had completed the production plan for 2018. Some analysts blamed slow sales. (Wards)
  • Moving employees out of transmission production at Van Dyke into SUV factories. (Detroit News)
  • Released the 2019 Ford Trends Report. (Ford)
  • Worked with a third party to design an algorithm-based tool designer for positioning jogs used by line workers. (TCT)
Geely (includes Volvo) (history)
  • The first Proton vehicle to use Geely underpinnings, the X70 SUV was launched by Malaysia’s prime minister who made a series of apparently supportive comments about Geely’s role but may still harbour ambitions for an independent Malaysian car company. (ABC News)
General Motors (history)
  • Said that 1,100 employees at plants facing “unallocation” have taken up offers to fill some of the 2,700 vacancies GM has across the US. (CNBC)
Honda (history)
  • Developed an off-road autonomous vehicle based on a quad bike chassis. (Honda)
  • Will show a concept wireless vehicle to grid charging system at CES 2019. (Inside EVs)
Hyundai / Kia (history)
  • Plans annual fuel cell production capacity of 700,000 units by 2030 for Hyundai and Kia, of which half a million will be used for vehicles and the rest will go to off-highway and industrial applications. Hyundai says an investment of 7.6 trillion KRW (~$6.7 billion) will be required and 51,000 jobs will be created. (Hyundai)
    • Significance: Apart from the statement of intent, the productivity of 51,000 employees being required to design and build fuel cells seems remarkably poor versus the supply chain of an internal combustion engine or battery electric vehicle.
  • Announced a series of executive moves, including the first non-Korean R&D chief. (Hyundai)
Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)
  • Opened a new software development centre in Kerala, India. (Nissan)
  • Journalists said that Nissan was making unusually large cash transfers from its Chinese subsidiary to the Japanese parent to build a war chest for a potential fight with Renault. Nissan said it was business as usual. (Bloomberg)
  • Sources said Nissan plans to appoint more external directors. In addition to providing oversight, the move could have the (useful?) side effect of diluting Renault’s board presence (but not its shareholder voting rights). (Reuters)
  • Mitsubishi is moving to a new headquarters in Tokyo. (Mitsubishi)
Renault (history)
  • A Board review found no issue with Carlos Ghosn’s Renault but did not pass comment on his Nissan remuneration, saying the firm’s lawyers are still looking into the matter. (Renault)
  • At present, Renault is not considering a permanent replacement for Ghosn. (Renault)
  • Reportedly called for an extraordinary meeting of Nissan shareholders following the Carlos Ghosn scandal. The French government is said to be pushing the appointment of Michelin’s CEO as Ghosn’s replacement. (Reuters)
Tata (includes JLR) (history)
  • Rumoured to be working on a JLR recovery plan that will see the loss of 5,000 jobs. (FT)
Tesla (history)
  • Sending a message to those who might be tempted to mess with the company by suing a former employee, who CEO Musk called a “saboteur” for $167 million. (CNBC)
  • An unflattering expose into Elon Musk’s behaviour suggested he was rude to people and sometimes ordered that they be made redundant with only minor provocation. (Wired)
    • Significance: Perhaps Tesla is less Auto 2.0 than it hopes. Musk’s behaviour wouldn’t be out of place in a 1980s car factory. The firm may want to prepare for what comes next though: the shopfloor reaction. One of Ad Punctum’s more publishable anecdotes is the time a senior executive interrupted some poor operative with an inane comment about the production process only to be brushed off and told (impolitely) that they were a distraction. The executive’s response of “do you know who I am” triggered the line workers to cry in unison “Can anybody please help!? We’ve got some bloke over here who doesn’t know who he is”.
Toyota (history)
  • Recalling around 65,000 vehicles in the US to replace Takata airbags that have already been previously upgraded with new ones from a different supplier. (Toyota)
VW Group (history)
  • Audi will show a concept next-generation in car entertainment at CES 2019. (Audi)
  • Moia’s CEO said the approval processes required to launch the ride hailing service in Hamburg and Hanover had been tedious and that without change, they were a risk to Germany’s competitive position. (FAZ)
  • Audi appointed the interim CEO on a permanent basis. (Audi)
  • VW’s employees in Germany are in a 70.8% good mood, up from 70.6% last year. They are concerned about the firm’s public perception but think it is a fantastic employer. (VW)
  • Has reportedly tasked the Seat brand with developing a small BEV to be sold to car sharing fleets. (Europa Press)
  • Will brand all driver assistance and automated driving technologies for VW vehicles as IQ.Drive. (VW)
Other
  • Aston Martin are reportedly developing an inline six-cylinder gasoline engine, with hybrid elements, aiming to replace the Daimler-sourced V8 sometime in the 2020s. (Autocar)
  • Subaru announced a series of executive changes. (Here), (Here) & (Here)
  • StreetScooter won an order for 500 electric vans from German car sharing provider Uze Mobility, which aims to offer the vehicles free of charge to users because they will be emblazoned with advertising. (Handelsblatt)
  • VinGroup, owner of VinFast, set up an in-house VC fund. (Deal Street Asia)
  • XPENG launched sales of the all-electric G3 and plans to open 70 dealer stores in around 30 Chinese cities and have 200 super charging stations by the end of 2019. (XPENG) XPENG’s CEO says the company needs annual sales of over 100,000 units to breakeven and that it has 3,000 R&D staff, 98% of whom are based in China. (Bloomberg)
  • Pininfarina’s PF0 supercar will be called the Battista and will sport 1,900 hp with a range of 450km. (Autocar)
  • NIO launched the ES6 all-electric SUV at an event named NIO day that the firm hopes will catch on. It also said that so far it has delivered 9,726 of its ES8 model and opened 26 stores so far. (NIO)
  • Gordon Murray Design and Shell unveiled the final design of the flat-pack OX utility vehicle that the two companies believe will find widespread application in rural India. (GMD)
  • A company developing microwave ignition technology for internal combustion engines says it can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 30% and be retrofitted to existing products. (Energy Live News)
  • CH-Auto and Mullen Technologies signed a cooperation agreement that will see Mullen co-develop, manufacture and sell the Qiantu K50 electric sportscar in North America. (Mullen)
  • Lightyear will offer its solar powered car via a leasing scheme offered by LeasePlan. Although Lightyear’s original launch timing has slipped (from 2019 to 2020), the high level attribute targets remain the same. (Lightyear)
    • Significance: Given the initially low residual values of pure electric cars, due to misplaced concerns about the durability of the batteries, it will be interesting to see what steps Lightyear and LeasePlan take to establish and protect used values ahead of launch.

News about other companies and trends

Economic / Political News
  • The Chinese cabinet agreed to return car import tariffs to their prior level of 15%. (BBC)
  • A European court overturned part of the 2016 real world testing rules, saying that it has set excessively high limits for nitrogen oxide. The EU now has one year to re-write the regulations. The effect on customers who have already purchased vehicles is uncertain (but diesel owners would be most affected). (Economic Times of India)
  • European trade body ACEA got into a spot of bother by playing down the difference between two systems being considered by the EU to combat speeding. One limits the vehicle’s speed based on known local speed limits, whereas the other (which ACEA prefers) simply displays the limit to the driver. ACEA said the accident rate was about equal, its technical advisors said about 1,300 more lives would be saved annually with automatic limiters. (The Guardian)
  • After initially failing to reach a deal on new 2025 and 2030 emissions targets, the EU parliament and member states agreed on a 37.5% reduction versus 2021 levels. For 2025, the improvement required is 15%. (Bloomberg)
  • European passenger car registrations for November of 1,158,300 units were down (8.1)% on a year earlier. (ACEA)
Suppliers
  • Continental published a study into consumer attitudes towards a variety of automotive technologies. (Continental)
  • Textiles supplier UTT has been acquired by a subsidiary of Indorama Ventures. (Indorama)
  • Knorr-Bremse purchased the commercial vehicle steering business of Hitachi Automotive. (Autocar)
  • Continental is offering an automatic door opening system that will detect collisions and open when the owner walks near. Whether the system is a luxury that customers can afford is less clear. (Autocar)
  • Brose and Plastic Omnium are partnering to create lightweight doors. (Autocar)
  • After Goodyear said it would close a plant in Venezuela, the government announced it would reopen and all 1,160 jobs would be saved. (Reuters)
  • Motherson Sumi and Leoni are rumoured to be in merger talks. (Reuters)
  • Continental is building an automotive interiors plant in Pune, India that will start production in 2020. (Continental)
Dealers
  • Used car sales website Vroom raised $146 million from investors including US dealer AutoNation. (TechCrunch)
  • German online car listings firm Scout24 may be the subject of a private equity bid. (Bloomberg)
  • US online used car wholesaler BacklotCars raised $8 million. (Startland News)
Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)
  • Uber lost a court case in Germany where it argued that EU transport rules should take precedent over German regulators. The loss means that ride hailing operators in the country will have to operate to (what they sometimes consider arcane) regional rules. (Reuters)
  • Taxify is rebranding as Hopp. (Business Insider)
  • Hertz has created a scheme where customers can rent a car using biometric data, but rather than improving the service for all, it is only available to members of their rewards program. (Hertz)
  • Yamaha will invest $150 million in Grab. (TechCrunch)
  • Firefly, a start-up that sells digital advertising on ride hailing cars, raised $21.5 million. (FINSMES)
  • Grab opened a new research facility in Malaysia. It now has over 1,800 technical staff working in seven development centres across Asia. (ZDNet)
  • Public transport route planning start-up Optibus raised $40 million. (VentureBeat)
  • Lyft’s scheme to get car owners to leave their cars at home for a month apparently attracted 130,000 applicants for 2,000 places. (Lyft)
    • Significance: Although it is dangerous to draw too many conclusions from a scheme that was free and lasting only one month, it indicates that there are a substantial number of cash-strapped car owners who are open to alternative modes of transport if the price is right.
Driverless / Autonomy (history)
  • The 2018 AI Index report was published. Much of the publication is given over to statistics on paper publishing and university course entry but the pages on technical performance help quantify the latest state of the art. For instance, in object recognition in context, an essential component for self-driving vehicles, the highest average precision is 72%. The expert opinion “what’s missing?” section also makes for interesting reading (AI Index)
  • Waymo’s test fleet in Arizona has been attacked 21 times according to local police, with offences ranging from pointing a gun at the cars to a Jeep driver who repeatedly brake-tested them. With 400 Waymo cars roaming the streets and the low severity of some of the incidents it was unclear whether vehicles were being “targeted” as headlines suggested or this is a normal amount of problems over a two-year period. (Telegraph)
  • BASF has a paint in development that reflects lidar better but it is unclear how performance will benefit unless all legacy cars are resprayed. (Cnet)
  • Although self-driving vehicles still can’t identify black ice, one team has shown a possible path towards a solution: lidar is used to gauge how much sunlight is falling on a patch of road and this is combined with weather and other data to guesstimate how likely it is to develop icy conditions. (Digital Trends)
  • Bosch will unveil its own autonomous vehicle concept at CES 2019. (Bosch)
  • Continental published a consumer survey around driving habits and opinions on driver assistance and automated driving, conducted in several countries. There is considerable scepticism on the benefit and timescale for autonomous vehicles — something that is unlikely to change whilst the technology is not widely available. (Continental)
  • First-hand feedback of Waymo’s driverless ride-hailing service in Phoenix surfaced (seemingly by mistake). A repeat customer said that they had been generally impressed but noticed that the vehicles often took longer routes to avoid difficult manoeuvres and the pick up and drop off points were restricted meaning that on one occasion they were set down a block away from their intended destination. Their experience of disengagements (one in four trips) was substantially higher than Waymo’s reported figures from testing in California. (Ars Technica)
  • A group of companies including Toyota, Velodyne, Intel and ARM have joined an open-source initiative for autonomous driving called the Autoware Foundation. (Autoware)
  • Further adding to the fragmentation of SAE levels 0 – 5 for driver assistance, BMW executives talk about level 2, 2+, 3 and 3 minus. (Automotive News)
Electrification (history)
  • Electric car maker Picchio has developed a battery swapping station which takes two minutes to complete the operation. The company believes that this will be a good solution for car sharing. (Picchio)
  • California will only buy zero emission buses from 2029 onwards and thinks it will retire the final fossil-fuel powered bus by 2040. (Economic Times of India)
  • A Bavarian consortium including BMW and Porsche unveiled a 450kW charger. (Porsche)
  • Honda will show a concept wireless vehicle to grid charging system at CES 2019. (Inside EVs)
Connectivity
  • Daimler will let third party repairers access remote diagnostics from Mercedes vehicles, but only where the owner has given permission and only for the types of data Mercedes deems relevant. (Daimler)
  • BMW invested in cyber security firm Claroty. (BMW)
Other
  • Electric scooter rental start-up Dott has raised €20 million for a European launch starting in 2019. (TechCrunch)
  • McLaren have become a 50% partner in a professional cycling team. It isn’t yet clear whether this is a precursor to launching a bicycle rental scheme. (BBC)
  • Parking provider ParkJockey announced an investment from SoftBank and the acquisition of Impark, which has over 3,600 locations in North America. (ParkJockey)
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Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 9th December 2018

The shifting electric vehicle landscape; cars past their best; and thinking harder about the future. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 3rd December to 9th December. A PDF version can be found here. 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)
  • Executives said BMW was in talks with two or three large carmakers about joining its consortium to develop technology for driverless vehicles. (Bloomberg)
  • Daimler and BMW’s joint mobility company will start operations in 2019, later than planned, because talks with US regulators are not yet complete. (Daimler)
Daimler (history)
  • Daimler and BMW’s joint mobility company will start operations in 2019, later than planned, because talks with US regulators are not yet complete. Daimler said this will adversely affect the financial division’s 2018 profits because the partnership will allow Daimler to recognise a higher valuation on its books, but overall profits will be okay. (Daimler)
  • Reportedly working on a plan to take a majority share in the Chinese joint venture it runs with BAIC by increasing its stake from 49% to 65%. (Reuters)
FCA (history)
  • Expected to announce the reopening of the Mack Avenue Engine II plant, which FCA will use to build the forthcoming Jeep Grand Cherokee from 2020 onwards. (Detroit Free Press)
  • Announced a series of executive appointments. (FCA)
  • Saw the Fiat Panda receive a score of zero stars (out of five) in the most recent Euro NCAP crash tests. (NCAP)
    • Significance: Since the tests become harder each time, this shows the Panda falling back in relative terms, rather than performing worse than it did in 2011 (when it won four stars) and reflects the downside of extending a vehicle lifecycle with minimal updates.
Ford (history)
  • Ford’s operation in Venezuela is rumoured to be offering buyouts of $150 for each year of employment to factory staff because orders have fallen to less than 50 vehicles per month. (Reuters)
  • VW might build some vehicles in US Ford plants rather than installing capacity for itself. (Reuters)
  • Ford is letting employees in the US bring their dogs to work to show it can look after talented people just as well as Silicon Valley rivals. (Detroit Free Press)
  • Announced several executive moves. Incoming heads of product development in Europe and Asia will have a lower grading than their predecessors and there will be a new role for a global product development vice president. (Ford)
  • Announced new executive directors to head transformation in the UK and Germany, revealing that the new European plan will be called “sprint to 6” (presumably % operating margin). (Business Motoring)
  • CEO Hackett foresees a future where people own one vehicle and share one, rather than owning both. He believes that an increase in travel will offset the lost volume from lower ownership. Despite the advent of electric cars, he says the sound of a Mustang is not going away. (Newsweek)
Geely (includes Volvo) (history)
  • Lotus is rumoured to be planning a £2 million all-electric supercar codenamed Omega. (Autocar)
  • Within Geely’s November 2018 sales, there was a first month-over-month drop for Lynk&Co sales, despite a third product only recently launching. It remains to be seen whether this is an aberration. (Geely)
  • Volvo’s Californian dealers have reportedly asked the brand to end its “Care by Volvo” two-year flexible leasing (subscription) model saying it is in direct competition with them. (Automotive News)
General Motors (history)
  • CEO Barra faced questioning by US lawmakers over the company’s recently announced factory closures. She said that she understood worker concerns but that GM had over capacity and would not resort to taking work away from non-US plants as it would be costly to move products during their production cycle. Her comments seemed to also imply that some or all of the US plants could remain open in return for unspecified sacrifices by the UAW union at a national level. The UAW says GM is violating the current contract if it closes US plants during 2019. (Reuters)
Honda (history)
  • Has been developing a new fluoride-ion battery chemistry that Honda claims has up to ten times the energy density of lithium ion. (Honda)
  • Investing in four VC funds to funnel cash to early stage start-ups. (Honda)
Hyundai / Kia (history)
  • Suffered a half day strike in protest at Hyundai’s plan to form a non-union joint venture with an outlying South Korean regional government. (Reuters)
  • Hyundai is reportedly looking to open a plant in Croatia. (See News)
Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)
  • Conspiracy theories about Carlos Ghosn’s ouster continued to swirl with rumours that he was about to replace Nissan’s CEO. (WSJ)
  • Announced a new series of inspection procedure problems in Japanese plants that require around 150,000 vehicles to be recalled and re-tested because the methods used were not strenuous enough. (Nissan)
  • Carlos Ghosn, another director and Nissan were all charged by Japanese prosecutors for falsely reporting Ghosn’s income. (Nissan)
  • The Nissan GT-R50 by Italdesign will go into production. 50 will be built and the price tag is €990,000. (Nissan)
PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)
  • Confirmed a series of all-electric vehicles for the Opel and Vauxhall brands: There will be electric versions of the Corsa, Mokka and Vivaro van. All we be available in 2020, but you can order the Corsa in 2019. (Opel)
  • Citroën’s sales head in Spain and Portugal criticised incentives for electric vehicles saying the technology is not mature and few customers want them. He thinks the money should be spent on scrappage incentives. (Europa Press)
Tata (includes JLR) (history)
  • JLR will not attend the 2019 Geneva motor show. (Autocar)
Tesla (history)
  • CEO Musk said Tesla would possibly be interested in taking over idled or closed plants from other carmakers. He also commented that despite his settlement with the SEC, he does not respect the market regulator and no one checks his tweets before he sends them, although he clarified that he would need to if he was sending any messages that could be market moving. He expects that the $35,000 Model 3 could be available in five or six months (but said it wasn’t a promise). (CBS)
  • Documents that Tesla called “outdated” reportedly called for the forthcoming Model Y to reach production volumes of 12,000 vehicles per week by 2021 from two factories in the US and China. (Business Insider)
    • Significance: Since Tesla didn’t deny the authenticity of the documents, the company appears to believe that annual sales north of 550,000 units is possible for the Model Y.
Toyota (history)
  • Toyota AI Ventures invested in Parallel Domain, a company that develops simulations to test driverless cars. (Toyota)
VW Group (history)
  • Recalling about 6,000 vehicles because they have been built with non-standard parts, such as updated components that had not been fully approved at the time of sale. (Handelsblatt)
  • Increased its forecast for the “first wave” of MEB-platform sales from 10 million units to 15 million units. VW remains unclear about the timescale. (VW)
  • Having previously talked about 23 battery electric models for the VW brand by 2025, the company now talks of “around 20”. Since automotive OEMs tend to round up for PR purposes (e.g. 23 = “more than 20” or “almost 25”), this indicates that VW may have dropped some vehicles from the plan. (VW)
  • Targeting further profitability actions at the VW brand, with an expectation of at least 6% operating margin by 2022. VW said that the 2020 cost saving target had almost been achieved already and further savings are therefore being sought from the business. Amongst the improvements, VW are eliminating all powertrain combinations in the bottom quartile for customer demand. (VW)
  • Audi will spend €14 billion out of a planned €40 billion from 2019 to 2023 on electric vehicles, digitalization and autonomous driving. (VW)
  • VW might build some vehicles in US Ford plants rather than installing capacity for itself. (Reuters)
  • Executives said that working back from a final sale date for combustion engine only vehicles in 2040, VW was forecasting for there to be no new diesel and gasoline vehicle launches after the early 2030s, meaning that the final development cycle would begin in 2026. (Handelsblatt) Another executive said afterwards that the comments were about Europe and internal combustion engine development would continue for other markets. (Autocar)
  • Working towards CO2 neutral production of the all-electric ID vehicle range. Initially, VW will accomplish this through a combination of renewable methods and purchase of carbon offsets (e.g. tree planting). (Handelsblatt)
  • Production of the Audi A3 and Q2 began at VW’s joint venture plant in Algeria. (VW)
Other
  • Aston Martin will begin offering retrofit electric powertrains for historic models. The concept is somewhat unique in that Aston Martin will attempt to engineer a solution that means the internal combustion engine, transmission and exhaust could be re-installed at a later date if the owner wished. (Aston Martin)
  • Mahindra’s chairman said the turnaround at Pininfarina is ahead of schedule, but still not complete. (Bloomberg)
  • DHL’s StreetScooter received type approval for the small electric van it produces, meaning the company can sell more than 1,000 per year. It says there is annual production capacity for 20,000. (Post and Parcel)
  • Pininfarina have already confirmed that Rimac parts will underpin the PF0 supercar but the next model, an SUV called PF1, is rumoured to use components supplied by Rivian. (Autocar)
  • Rivian plans to sell vehicles direct to customers but have dealers for aftersales and servicing (but it might be willing to let dealers handle sales in US states where manufacturers are forbidden from doing so). (Green Car Reports)

News about other companies and trends

Economic / Political News
  • The UK government said, via the department of health, that it was assuming a no deal Brexit would create up to six months of chaos at British ports and that a previously advised six-week emergency stock of essentials may be insufficient. Medical supplies will be prioritised in the event of problems. (UK Government)
  • UK warehouse operators say the price of storage is rising due to concerns over Brexit: in September it was £1.85 per pallet per week, now it is in excess of £2. (Reuters)
  • US light vehicle SAAR in November was 17.4 million, slightly up on a year-over-year basis. (Wards)
  • November passenger car sales in Germany of 272,674 units were (9.9)% lower than a year earlier. (KBA)
  • UK passenger car sales in November of 158,639 units were down (3)% on a year earlier. (SMMT) but there was a ray of sunshine from light commercial vehicle sales where November 2018 was 9.6% better than a year ago. (SMMT)
  • November passenger car sales in France came to 171,611 units, down (4.7)% on the prior year. (CCFA)
  • There were 91,063 passenger cars sold in Spain in November, a drop of (12.6)% on a year earlier. (ANFAC)
  • Italian passenger car sales during November totalled 149,991 units, down (6.3)% on the prior year. (UNRAE)
  • The CEOs of BMW, Daimler and VW met US president Trump, who pressed them to increase investments in the country. (Reuters)
Suppliers
  • Autoliv is making a $210 million provision to reflect likely fines for participating in a cartel. (Autoliv)
  • Continental is looking at further acquisitions (potentially more than one) in the software domain and could spend up to €5 billion if the target was sufficiently attractive. (Handelsblatt)
  • ZF will spend €800 million at the Saarbrucken plant for production of transmissions for electric vehicles. (ZF)
Dealers
  • Price comparison and lead generation service TrueCar acquired dealer software provider DealerScience. (TrueCar)
Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)
  • Lyft filed for an IPO set to take place in 2019. (The Guardian)
  • Uber also reportedly filed for a 2019 IPO in secret and may even be hoping to beat Lyft to market. (WSJ)
  • New York regulators set minimum pay standards for ride hailing drivers in the city so that those driving high mileages will see earnings of at least $17.22 per hour after expenses. (NY Taxi Commission)
  • Didi announced a series of organisation changes to improve passenger safety. (Reuters)
  • Luxembourg’s new government announced that all public transport in the country will be free at point of use by the middle of 2019. (Futurism)
Driverless / Autonomy (history)
  • Waymo launched the Waymo One driverless ride hailing service. The initial service seems much like the trial the company has already been running in Phoenix: it even has the same customers. Waymo promises that in time a wider group will be able to use the vehicles. (Waymo)
  • Lidar developer Ouster announced a tie-up with data labelling firms Playment and ai to offer embedded data labelling software that the partners say could reduce workload by 50%. (Ouster)
  • Leddartech secured a $24 million credit facility. (Leddartech)
  • Cleveron showed off autonomous cars with arms that allow it to place deliveries outside the vehicle. It hopes to begin testing in 2020. (Futurism)
  • Toyota invested in Parallel Domain, a company that develops simulations to test driverless cars. (Toyota)
Electrification (history)
  • President Trump’s top economic advisor said the administration wants to end subsidies for electric cars by around 2021 but such a move needs support from Congress. (Bloomberg)
  • CATL expects that battery cells on sale in 2020 will have an energy density of 300Wh/kg (up from 160 today), which will translate to 240 Wh/kg at a pack level. (CATL)
  • Aston Martin will begin offering retrofit electric powertrains for historic models. The concept is somewhat unique in that Aston Martin will attempt to engineer a solution that means the internal combustion engine, transmission and exhaust could be re-installed at a later date if the owner wished. (Aston Martin)
Connectivity
  • Automated vehicle dispatch software developer Wise Systems raised $7 million. (FINSMES)
Other
  • Singaporean electric scooter start-up Neuron Mobility raised $3.7 million. (TechCrunch)
  • Chinese bicycle rental operator Ofo said it might have to abandon the free floating docking model in some cities and insist that users park bikes in designated areas. (Technode)
  • The Bloodhound supersonic land speed attempt has ended after administrators failed to find a buyer. (Autocar)
  • Google offshoot Wing will start deliveries of small packages using drones in Finland during 2019. (TechCrunch)
  • Madrid scared electric scooter rental companies by ordering them off the streets with 72 hours’ notice. (TechCrunch)
  • Lime launched rentals of electrically-assisted bicycles in London. (Engadget)
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Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 2nd December 2018

Rivian’s unbelievable specification; Volvo wants data to be free; and could Brexit mean more work for the UK? Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 26th November to 2nd December. A PDF version can be found here. 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  

Our Latest Research

  Last week, Evercore ISI published a report that was written in collaboration with Ad Punctum. It exposed OEM future spending forecasts as highly unrealistic. At the same time as OEMs are seeking to invest in electrification, mobility and autonomous vehicles, they are promising to cut spending and boost profits. The maths doesn’t add up. Concentrating on powertrain, we recommend two actions vehicle makers can take to address the gaps and improve their resilience to external shocks:
  • Commoditise the internal combustion engine. Really. This needs to be a multi-lateral venture that helps the participating companies truly exit the business of developing conventional powertrain. There are upfront costs involved, but these are quickly recovered by the savings in variable cost and investment. Would there be job losses? Yes. Lots. But our argument is that this is an inevitability anyway, a managed exit from combustion engines is preferable to a chaotic one from the perspective of both the human costs and the cold hard cash.
  • Re-think the way electric vehicles are being designed. At present, car companies are finding that when they make an existing internal combustion engine vehicle fit an electric powertrain, the result is a vehicle with too many compromises. As a result, most are choosing to develop purpose-built EVs. So far so good, but this quickly leads to duplication of the kind we are already seeing with large SUVs (e.g. Mercedes GLE and EQC). We think the problem needs to be approached the other way around: develop the electric vehicle first, then fit an internal combustion engine with a fuel tank as an alternative to a larger (and more expensive) battery. Doing things this way means the transmission can be deleted, the savings from which help pay for the electric drivetrain.
It was a very interesting project and we expect to be met with a frosty reception from those with too much invested in the old way of doing things.  

News about the major automakers

  BMW (history)
  • Considering building an engine plant in the US. (Greenville News)
  • Might order connected BMW cars to use electric-only mode in polluted city centres, potentially putting the wishes of regulators above those of owners. (Reuters)
  • Showed off several in-house factory automation projects that BMW says are helping make considerable productivity improvements. For instance, automated trailer shunting robots could carry out over 1,000 manoeuvres daily at the busiest plants. (BMW)
FCA (history)
  • Fitch upgraded FCA’s credit rating to BB (from BBB-) with a stable outlook. (FCA)
  • Reportedly believes it could realise €1.5 billion to €2 billion from a sale of robotics unit Comau and could begin a sale process in early 2019. (Bloomberg)
  • Announced to Italian unions that it will build the forthcoming Fiat 500 BEV in Italy and is increasing engine production in Termoli. FCA plans to spend €5 billion in Italy between 2019 – 2021. (FCA)
Ford (history)
  • Ford’s European boss said a no-deal Brexit would spell “catastrophe”. The company is considering whether to import more vehicles end of the March deadline to help ride out teething problems with the new customs arrangements — given that any affected vehicles would need to be quickly added to the production plan, it isn’t clear how much time Ford has left before it needs to make a firm decision. (Reuters)
  • Re-assigning workers in Kentucky and Michigan to other factories nearby that have higher demand. As part of the measures, Flat Rock will go down to a single shift. (CNBC)
  • Issued a press release in response to GM’s restructuring plans reiterating the announcements Ford had made about its recovery plan, and highlighting the lack of detail provided to investors so far. (Ford)
  • Ford has no plans for “anything like” plant closures in Canada. (Reuters)
  • Ford sold three of its UK dealers to Pentagon. (Motor Trader)
  • Published a series of insights gathered from a fleet of 160 connected commercial vehicles in London. Ford said it showed the power of big data and enabled hidden accident blackspots to be revealed for the first time. (Ford)
    • Significance: Since the test fleet was only 160 vehicles, was Ford saying the real insight was not many connected vehicles were required to unlock a world of possibilities — in which case, why not begin a rollout to all major cities now since the cost is clearly minimal? Or was Ford over-hyping the findings?
Geely (includes Volvo) (history)
  • Volvo’s CEO called plans by rivals to make money from selling customer and vehicle data the “wrong approach”. The firm instead plans to make money from the cars themselves. (Bloomberg)
  • Volvo is not currently looking at an IPO for Polestar and sees the future relationship between the two as affiliates rather than fully arm’s length. (Bloomberg)
  • Malaysia’s prime minister called for Proton to make cars for export saying Malaysians would not believe the vehicles were any good until they saw them being sold on international markets. (Malay Mail)
  • Issued a press release about Volvo’s collaboration with lidar developer Luminar in which Luminar’s CEO said the company’s lidar units repeatably demonstrated 250m range, allowing highway speeds. (Volvo)
  • Geely signed a cooperation agreement with China Telecom to work on future mobility projects. (Geely)
  • Volvo will use Ericsson’s connected vehicle services for the next five years. (Fleet Europe)
General Motors (history)
  • Announced GM President Ammann would leave the car business and become CEO of the Cruise self-driving unit. The current CEO (and founder) will become the CTO. GM will eliminate his role. (GM)
  • Donald Trump was unimpressed by GM’s restructuring plans and suggested that they cease making vehicles in China or alternatively put cars that are selling well into the factories slated for closure. (Reuters)
  • Tried to soften the blow of its restructuring announcement by saying “many” of the workers at the factories that will close would have the “opportunity” to work in other locations. GM also thanked the current US government and summarised the number of plants in Ohio that would remain open. (GM)
  • Showed off some of the data insights it has gained from customers using the Marketplace app. GM knows that owners mostly order takeaways on Wednesday night and go to the petrol station after 3pm on a Thursday. Less clear was whether this information has any revenue-raising potential. (Detroit Free Press)
Hyundai / Kia (history)
  • Unveiled the new Kia Soul EV with a 64 kWh battery pack. (KIA)
Mazda
  • Unveiled the new Mazda 3 in both saloon and hatchback forms. (Mazda)
  • Mazda’s European design boss said some competitor electric vehicles looked like “fridges” and the company would do far better with its own effort, due in 2020. (Autocar)
Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)
  • There was a joint Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi press release saying that the boards of the three companies “emphatically” reiterated the importance of the alliance between them. The press release was only necessary because executives from Nissan and Mitsubishi had openly questioned the sustainability of the present arrangement. (Renault)
  • Nissan’s CEO reportedly told staff that the alliance with Renault was unequal and needed to be reviewed. (Reuters)
  • Illustrated how Nissan’s various pilot projects about an electrification ecosystem link together and should ultimately result in a broad customer offering. (Nissan)
PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)
  • Purchased a stake in Chinese aftermarket supplier UAP. (PSA)
  • Confirmed the already-leaked plan to sell its share in the Kolin, Czech Republic plant to Toyota. (PSA)
Renault (history)
  • There was a joint Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi press release saying that the boards of the three companies “emphatically” reiterated the importance of the alliance between them. The press release was only necessary because executives from Nissan and Mitsubishi had openly questioned the sustainability of the present arrangement. (Renault)
  • French president Macron and Japanese prime minister Abe discussed the importance of preserving the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance during a G20 meeting. (Reuters)
  • Will stop building the Nissan Rogue at the Renault Samsung factory in Busan during 2019. (Chosun)
  • Commissioned two wind powered cargo ships for transatlantic routes to be in operation by 2020. (Renault)
Tata (includes JLR) (history)
  • JLR’s InMotion VC fund invested in WeTrip, a travel agent aimed at group “adventures”. (JLR)
  • Slowing production at the i54 engine plant by stopping one shift per week until Christmas. At Solihull, 200 jobs will be lost through a combination of fewer agency staff and a voluntary redundancy scheme. (Express and Star)
Tesla (history)
  • CEO Musk said Tesla was “single digit weeks” from bankruptcy earlier in 2018. Since there were no concerns raised about the firm’s ability to continue as a going concern in SEC filings over the same period, investors are left to speculate whether this was hyperbole or there is a problem with Tesla’s reporting standards. (Business Insider)
  • Announced that Tesla owners have now driven a cumulative 1 billion miles with Autopilot driver assistance systems active in the vehicle. (Detroit Free Press)
  • Disputed reports that October sales in China plummeted (70)%. (CNBC)
Toyota (history)
  • Confirmed the already-leaked plan to buy out PSA’s share in the Kolin, Czech Republic plant. (PSA)
  • Announced a series of executive changes to take effect from January 2019, including the elimination of some lower level executive grade bands. Toyota will also adopt a less functional approach to development of senior leaders to give them a more rounded experience. (Toyota)
VW Group (history)
  • Audi released pictures of the electric drone concept is has been developing with Airbus. The drone carries a passenger pod which can be installed onto a car base so that passengers can take a trip that involves flying and driving without having to get out of the vehicle. At present the companies are testing a 1:4 scale model. (Audi)
  • VW’s head of HR said the brand expected electric cars to require 20% to 25% less productive labour and that there would not be a second “future pact” German labour agreement beyond 2025. (Handelsblatt)
  • Executives said VW was “100% deep in the process” of choosing a site in North America to build all-electric vehicles, although they might just end up selecting their existing Tennessee plant. (Reuters)
  • Setting up a charging scheme in the UK in partnership with supermarket group Tesco. The plan it to provide around 2,500 chargers in 600 locations. There will be a free 7 kW service and a pricier 50 kW offering. (BBC)
  • Said that via a reorganisation of media agencies it will improve “marketing efficiency” by 30% without increasing the budget and increase the share of spending on digital media to 50% of the total by 2020, up from 25% in 2015. (VW)
  • VW’s head of compliance said 2019 would be the most difficult for the carmaker’s legal team to manage because of the number of ongoing court cases and complexity. (FT)
  • Signed an agreement with JAC to form a joint venture that will produce and market SEAT cars in China. (VW)
  • Unveiled the Audi e-tron GT concept, previewing an A5-type vehicle that will be presented in 2020. (VW)
Other
  • Rivian showed off a pick-up and SUV that will form the initial line-up. There will be three different battery packs on offer, including a whopping 180 kWh unit (with an accompanying claimed 400+ mile range). The vehicles will also have a lidar fitted. Despite the high specification, Rivian say pricing will start at around $60,000 (including US tax credits) for vehicles with the “base” 105 kWh battery pack. (Rivian)
  • Faraday Future lost a court case against its primary investor, prompting questions about whether it can now survive bankruptcy. (The Verge)
  • TVR’s chairman said it was “virtually impossible” to give delivery dates for the first cars from its new factory as the company does not know when the site will be handed over. (Autocar)
  • Byton showed the K-Byte concept, previewing a sedan it hopes to launch in 2020. (Byton)
 

News about other companies and trends

  Economic / Political News
  • Qatar is leaving OPEC in January 2019 because it wants to concentrate on natural gas rather than oil. (Reuters)
  • China and the US have agreed to pause implementation of new trade tariffs for 90 days. (Reuters)
  • A survey by the UK automotive trade body of its members found that more businesses were planning to invest in and expand UK facilities than intend to withdraw or relocate from the UK. (SMMT)
Suppliers
  • Schaeffler acquired Elmotec Statomat, a supplier of production machinery to make electric motors. Schaeffler seems to have been particularly attached to the technology for winding (Schaeffler)
  • Hella and Faurecia formed a strategic partnership that will see Hella’s interior lighting integrated into the Faurecia cockpit of the future offering. (Faurecia)
Dealers
  • Used car auction company KAR acquired CarsOnTheWeb in a deal worth around €155 million. (KAR)
  • Ford sold three of its UK dealers to Pentagon. (Motor Trader)
Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)
  • Sixt denied that it was in talks to buy US rival Hertz. (Bloomberg)
  • China’s ministry of transport severely criticised Didi’s safety and driver recruitment processes. (Reuters)
  • The Lyft-owned bicycle rental scheme in New York will expand to 40,000 bikes, a significant portion of which will be electric models. (Fortune)
  • Uber’s rumoured takeover bid for Deliveroo appears to have hit a snag; Uber wants to pay $2 billion but Deliveroo believe they are worth double that. (FT)
  • Uber reportedly wants to expand its electric scooter offering by buying either Bird or Lime. (Telegraph)
  • Uber has stopped offering car rentals to its drivers in San Francisco but didn’t rule out the return of a similar scheme in future. (Quartz)
  • Following in the footsteps of its rivals, Via is planning to launch scooter services. (TechCrunch)
  • Indian short-term scooter, motorbike and car rental firm Drivezy raised $20 million from investors including Yamaha. Drivezy will use the money to increase the car rental fleet. (TechCrunch)
Driverless / Autonomy (history)
  • The CTO of Starsky Robotics claimed in a blog post that “many” of the lidar markets currently on the market fall apart in less than six months and that cameras and radar alone (backed up with on-demand remote human operators) were enough for the kind of highway only driving the company intends to carry out. (IEEE Spectrum)
  • Volvo issued a press release about a collaboration with lidar developer Luminar in which Luminar’s CEO said the company’s lidar units repeatably demonstrated 250m range, allowing highway speeds. (Volvo)
Electrification (history)
  • Charging network ChargePoint raised $240 million from investors including Daimler and BMW. (TechCrunch)
  • Chinese battery developer Qing Tao (Kushan) announced the start of a solid-state battery production line. The company claims 0.1 GWh capacity and to have spent $144 million on the technology. Its says that by 2020, when some big production contracts start, it will have 0.7 GWh of capacity. (Xinhua)
Connectivity
  • Volvo’s CEO called plans by rivals to make money from selling customer and vehicle data the “wrong approach”. The firm instead plans to make money from the cars themselves. (Bloomberg)
  • Phiar raised $3 million to develop augmented reality navigation software. (TechCrunch)
  • Didi said it collects 100 terabytes of data about user vehicles daily, or about 30MB per trip. (CNBC)
  • The amount of data China collects about individual vehicles, and the acquiescence of Western OEMs in handing it over were scrutinised in a news article. (AP)
    • Significance: Whilst the OEMs defend themselves on the basis that data sharing is a government-mandated scheme, the inconsistency with statements made by several CEOs about not releasing data without the customer’s permission is clear (none of whom ever clarify that the remarks are aimed at a regional rather than global audience).
  • Volvo will use Ericsson’s connected vehicle services for the next five years. (Fleet Europe)
Other
  • Electric vehicle developer Workhorse has received an order from a company that hopes to launch air taxi services in Los Angeles. (Workhorse)
  • Scooter rental firm Bird started a new scheme called Bird Platform where individuals can buy their own fleet of Bird-branded scooters and place them on the Bird app for a cut of the fees. (TechCrunch)
    • Significance: Since a major selling point of the scooter business (allegedly) is the crazily high return on investment, with payback periods of only a few weeks being mentioned, shouldn’t this be a business that would always favour debt as a route to growth rather than allowing others to muscle in?
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Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 25th November 2018

Maybe Ghosn wasn’t so bad after all; Toyota’s mysterious appetite for capacity; and GM’s mega job cuts. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 19th November to 25th November. A PDF version can be found here. Favourite stories of the past week…?
  • Two Tribes With Ghosn out, Renault and Nissan executives are already at each other’s throats. Despite the vast column inches from armchair pundits claiming to have sensed something rotten with Ghosn long ago, his ex-underlings seemed hell bent on proving his genius by instantly disagreeing in public about the very basis of the alliance. How will they be brought back under control?
  • You Can Go Your Own WayToyota and PSA seem set to drop their collaboration on Sub-B cars, with Toyota buying out PSA’s share in the Czech factory. Seems weird that Toyota would want a European plant with capacity for 300,000 units annually when two thirds of that was going PSA’s way… unless there was a certain macropolitical event playing out in farcical fashion that might render circa 200,000 units worth of capacity in the UK economically unviable? By the way, PSA are going to vacate the plant in 2021…
  • The First Cut Is The DeepestGM announced a massive restructuring plan. At least that’s what I assume “unallocating” plants means (just as we were getting used to “rightsizing”). Closing plants at this stage of the cycle is unusually bold, as executives normally worry about worker protests disrupting wholesales. It also seems GM are unphased by Donald Trump’s threats — is it because they are vital to national security?
  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)
  • Plans to launch a ride hailing service in the Chinese city of Chengdu. (Reuters)
Daimler (history)
  • Invested in on-demand bus service Rally. (Rally)
FCA (history)
  • Unions said Maserati’s Grugliasco plant has been shut down for 102 of the 214 working days in 2018. (Torino Oggi)
Ford (history)
  • A document given to workers at the Bridgend Engine plant suggested Ford will run a voluntary redundancy program in Britain in 2019. (Wales Online)
Geely (includes Volvo) (history)
  • Postponed the production of Lynk&Co cars at the Volvo Ghent plant, citing economic volatility. (Reuters)
General Motors (history)
  • Announced the “unallocation” – GM-speak for almost certain closure – of three vehicle plants (Oshawa, Detroit-Hamtramck and Lordstown), two transmission plants (Baltimore and Warren) and two additional plants outside of North America. GM expects the redundancies to cost around $2 billion with an additional $1.8 billion in write downs. GM will also reduce the salaried workforce by 15% (program already underway) and cut 25% of the executives. (GM)
  • Reportedly will have to make more than 3,000 salaried employees forcibly redundant after too few signed up for voluntary severance packages. (World Socialist)
  • Increases in production at the Cami Assembly plant in Canada will likely have reduced the workforce on layoff to zero by the end of 2019. (London Free Press)
  • Cruise will open a new office in Seattle. (GeekWire)
  • The NHTSA is looking into braking problems that could affect 2.7 million vehicles in the US. (Detroit Free Press)
  • GM Ventures invested in MapAnything. (Venture Beat)
Honda (history)
  • Launched the all-electric Everus in China, built with JV partner GAC. (Electrek)
Hyundai / Kia (history)
  • The US Department of Justice has reportedly opened an investigation into engine failures in Hyundai vehicles but declined to comment on the story. (Reuters)
Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)
  • Nissan’s board voted unanimously to terminate Carlos Ghosn’s role as chairman and set up a committee to review governance but held off naming a direct replacement. (Nissan)
  • Mitsubishi deeply apologised for Ghosn’s alleged offences and said it would remove him as chairman. (Mitsubishi), then chose the CEO to become CEO and chairman. (Mitsubishi)
PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)
  • Held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new PSA-AVTEC joint venture powertrain plant in Tamil Nadu, India. The plant will have initial capacity of 300,000 transmissions and 200,000 engines. (PSA)
  • Announced further job cuts at the Ellesmere Port factory, in the past year about half the workforce have been made redundant. Workers walked out in protest. (BBC)
  • Reportedly agreed to sell its share in the joint venture Kolin, Czech Republic, factory that makes the 108, C1 and Aygo to Toyota. PSA will then not commission successor vehicles after the current generation ends in 2021. The two companies will also partner on new small light vans. (Les Echos)
Renault (history)
  • Appointed Thierry Bolloré as interim “deputy” CEO. (Renault)
  • Carlos Ghosn has lost the confidence of the French state, who are trying to defend the status quo of Renault having voting rights in Nissan, but not the other way around. Following Ghosn’s sacking from Nissan there has been speculation that the Japanese company could increase its Renault stake to a level that would see Renault lose its Nissan votes. (Reuters)
  • Mitsubishi’s CEO said it would be hard for anyone other than Ghosn to run Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi at the same time, calling into question the fate of the three-way alliance. (Reuters)
  • Ghosn has denied any impropriety, saying that the problems lie with Nissan’s regulatory reporting. (Reuters)
Tata (includes JLR) (history)
  • Unveiled the new Range Rover Evoque SUV. Although externally very similar to its predecessor, JLR believe that a series of detailed changes will attract customers to the new model. The car offers 48V augmentation for both gasoline and diesel models and a plug in hybrid will be available in 12 months. (JLR)
  • JLR will test driverless cars in London through a partnership with taxi firm Addison Lee as part of a scheme funded by the UK government. (City AM)
Tesla (history)
  • CEO Musk set off speculation of a tie-up with Daimler on electric vans by saying on Twitter than he would enquire about sharing the Sprinter electric model. Musk seemingly made no mention of Tesla’s earlier stated plan to build its own vans on the Model S / X platform. (Reuters)
  • Rolled back much of a Chinese price increase imposed to recover higher tariffs. Tesla said it wanted to keep the cars affordable, an alternative explanation is that the company exceeded the limits of its pricing power. (Business Insider)
Toyota (history)
  • Reportedly agreed to buy out PSA’s share in the joint venture Kolin, Czech Republic, factory that makes the 108, C1 and Aygo. PSA will not commission successor vehicles after the current generation ends in 2021. The two companies will also partner on new small light vans. (Les Echos)
  • Toyota’s MD in Ireland complained about the distortion caused by the weaker UK pound, saying that it encouraged excessive imports of used cars from Britain. He believes Sterling/Euro partity would be “disastrous”. (Independent)
VW Group (history)
  • Reportedly settled a lawsuit brought by Broadcom alleging VW had infringed its IP. (Reuters)
  • CEO Diess does not believe that individual ownership is on its way out, saying “people will continue to be fascinated by driving”. (VW)
  • Porsche’s electric offerings will have material cost increases of between €6,000 to €10,000 compared to equivalent combustion engine cars, according to offer the record sources. In response, Porsche intends to enact a profit improvement plan to yield €750 million annually over the next eight years. (Bloomberg)
  • Complexity was such that, in 2017, although VW sold 84,000 Golfs in Germany, the largest group of identical vehicles numbered only 400. (VW)
  • Acquired a 49% stake in software developer Diconium. (VW)
  • Restructured the management of its operations in India to put Škoda executives in charge. (VW)
  • Trademarks filed by VW have led to suggestions that the ID range will be branded as ID 1, ID 2 etc rather than being given names as the concept vehicles — which VW executives still refer to — have. (Green Car Reports)
  • Confirmed the Audi e-tron SUV will be localised in China from 2020 onwards. (VW)
  • Recalling around 75,000 cars to fix problems with seatbelts. (BBC)
Other
  • Leap Motor has so far raised $290 million of a targeted $360 million Series A round. (Deal Street Asia)
  • VinFast unveiled the Fadil, a rebadged version of Opel’s Karl Rocks beefed-up small MPV. (Auto Times)
  • BYD has put plans for a Canadian factory on hold until the “business case makes sense”. (Reuters)
  • McLaren’s CEO pronounced himself satisfied with the terms of the draft Brexit (Reuters) So did the UK’s car industry trade body. (SMMT)
 

News about other companies and trends

  Economic / Political News
  • The CEOs of Daimler, VW Group and BMW have probably signed up for impromptu hand shaking lessons after reportedly being invited for a summit at the White House about car imports. (Detroit News)
  • An environmental lobby group called for combustion engine cars to be withdrawn from sale in Europe by 2035 and for all legacy vehicles to be banned by 2050. (Business Green)
Suppliers
  • Tower is selling its European operations to French supplier FSD. (Tower)
  • ThyssenKrupp won’t be hiring Daimler’s CFO as chairman after all, becuase the board decided that he wanted to be paid too much. (Handelsblatt)
Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)
  • Careem is reportedly trying to raise a further $200 million from Chinese investors. (Reuters)
  • Zipcar complained that London local councils and the mayor’s office were not aligned in how badly they wanted electric vehicles on the streets and this was delaying the roll-out of more electric shared cars. (Inside EVs)
  • Didi Chuxing launched a new development centre in Toronto, Canada. (FINSMES)
  • Daimler invested in the $5 million seed round of on-demand bus service Rally. (Rally)
  • BMW plans to launch a ride hailing service in the Chinese city of Chengdu. (Reuters)
Driverless / Autonomy (history)
  • AEye said it had raised $40 million in new funding from a group of yet-to-be-announced investors including “multiple global automotive OEMs, Tier 1 and Tier 2s”. AEye says it has developed a lidar that can track large trucks over 1 kilometre away “without difficulty”. Since the test was of a single vehicle on an isolated airstrip, competitors may question how representative this is of the real world. (AEye)
  • Commercial self-driving bus services will start on the Forth Bridge crossing in Scotland in 2021. (Independent)
  • GM’s Cruise division will open a new office in Seattle. (GeekWire)
  • JLR will test driverless cars in London through a partnership with taxi firm Addison Lee as part of a scheme funded by the UK government. (City AM)
Electrification (history)
  • Porsche’s electric offerings will have material cost increases of between €6,000 to €10,000 compared to equivalent combustion engine cars, according to offer the record sources. (Bloomberg)
Connectivity
  • Mitsubishi Electric and NTT DoCoMo said they had achieved world record vehicle to network data transmission rates of 27 Gbps (at 10m) and 25 Gbps (at 100m). (ZDNet)
  • Nuance will spin off its automotive voice recognition and personal assistant business into a separate unit called Nuance Auto. (ZDNet)
  • Driver monitoring telematics system developer Lightfoot raised £3 million. (TechCrunch)
Other
  • Swedish scooter rental start-up VOI raised $50 million, whilst German firm Wind raised $22 million. (TechCrunch)
  • Meituan, owner of bicycle rental service Mobike said it was reducing fleet sizes to avoid oversupply. (TechCrunch)
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Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 18th November 2018

VW building factories they don’t need; a smoother path to electrification; and is Uber on borrowed time? Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 12th November to 18th November. A PDF version can be found here. Favourite stories of the past week…?
  • Seriously VW wants to build a new car factory in Eastern Europe because of all the new products they are going to launch. With the European industry already looking a bit ropey and storm clouds brewing because of Brexit and tariffs, this already seems like a prime candidate to become a white elephant. Surely there is a better way?
  • Smooth Operator Nissan says that series hybrid (E-Power) models account for 40% of Serena minivan sales. If you aren’t familiar with the technology, the car has electric drive but the power comes from a plain old combustion engine creating the electricity as a generator, rather than having an expensive battery, so it drives like an electric car, with a faint hum of a petrol motor somewhere in the background. It’s a technology that might really help the transition to electric vehicles, looks like Japanese consumers quite like it too.
  • I Need A Dollar Uber reported headline financial results for Q3. Net losses are about $ 1 billion (again), but with gross revenue growth plateauing (now at 30% YoY versus over 100% YoY in 2017 — which would still be amazing if it were an auto OEM), perhaps this demonstrates the reality of price elasticity (i.e. limited further growth without price drops); and that Uber can say goodbye to significant market growth in future without autonomous vehicles? And if robotaxis are many years away, can Uber stick around long enough to get there?
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News about the major automakers

  BMW (history)
  • Has made one million components using additive manufacturing techniques in the last ten years and plans on making 200,000 in 2018. For instance, guide rails for the i8 Roadster are manufactured using an HP Multi Jet Fusion machining rather than mass manufacture, but it isn’t quick — 100 parts in 24 hours. (BMW)
Daimler (history)
  • Opening a second Chinese R&D centre in 2020 at a cost of around €150 million. (Daimler)
  • Launched the GLC F-Cell fuel cell vehicle. Daimler touted the larger-than-normal battery which allows an electric only range of about 30 miles if the vehicle has been plugged in to charge. (Daimler)
Ford (history)
  • After billing Joe Hinrichs’ appearance at an investor conference as a chance to get greater detail on the firm’s recovery plan, attendees were left underwhelmed and gave Hinrichs a grilling. He protested that he couldn’t reveal further details because of the commercial sensitivity. (Detroit Free Press)
  • Gave journalists test rides in autonomous vehicles. Journalists could pick from one of four destinations in a six square mile area and reported that vehicles almost continuously return to base for sensor calibration. Dust thrown up by other vehicles are currently still an issue for Ford’s sensor set. (The Verge) Other journalists also reported manual interventions over the carefully chosen five mile test routes. (Detroit News)
  • After previously rejecting the potential buyer of the Bordeaux transmission plant, Ford gave them until the 28th November to make a better offer. (Usine Nouvelle)
  • Will use its existing test fleet in Florida to trial delivery of Walmart goods, building on experiments with Postmates and Domino’s. The tests remain very low in volume — so far Ford has competed only 1,000 deliveries. (Ford)
    • Significance: If Ford can prove to itself and partner companies that a larger fleet of vehicles can be justified by using them for a variety of delivery purposes, subject to suitably efficient design, then autonomous delivery businesses could quickly scale without requiring whole-hearted commitment from customers.
  • Issued recalls for around 38,000 vehicles that might have seat belts with insufficient restraint. (Ford)
Geely (includes Volvo) (history)
  • Unveiled the new Geely Jia Ji MPV. (Geely)
General Motors (history)
  • GM’s Marketplace payment and advertising app has been judged a success internally and a version 2.0 is under development. GM says that for fuel stations the click through rate on offers is 20% and companies such as office equipment suppliers are finding it a useful source of customers. (Wards)
  • By around the middle of 2020, GM expects the Maven car sharing scheme to have annual revenues of around $200 million and be in a position where an IPO would be plausible. GM detailed a number of operating metrics about Maven, such as: current acquisition cost for new customers is “below $100”; and utilisation of car sharing vehicles is around 35%. (Seeking Alpha)
Hyundai / Kia (history)
  • Announced a partnership with drone start-up Top Flight to look at business areas where lightweight drones might be applicable, such as inspection and transport within industrial areas. (Hyundai)
  • Came under renewed pressure from an activist investor to return cash to shareholders. (FT)
Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)
  • In a shock announcement, Nissan said that an investigation started by a whistleblower discovered that Chairman Carlos Ghosn had under-reported income and used company funds for personal use, and was aided in a cover up by one of the directors. Nissan took steps to dismiss both and has cooperated with Japanese authorities. (Nissan)
    • Significance: As the key stakeholder in Alliance discussions, Ghosn’s rejection by Nissan is likely to have far-reaching consequences for the cooperation between Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi, and puts his job at Renault at risk.
  • The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi VC fund invested in lithium ion battery developer Enevate. (Alliance Ventures)
  • 40% of Nissan Serena minivan buyers in Japan are choosing the series hybrid option. (Nissan)
PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall) (history)
  • Closing the stamping plant at Saint-Ouen by 2021. (Les Echos)
  • Reducing production at the Vigo plant due to falling sales of 301 and C-Elysée by removing a shift. (Europa Press)
  • Reportedly considering the closure of the Ellesmere Port plant if the UK market declines considerably. (Bloomberg)
  • Announced that preliminary agreements for Segula to take over part of the Rüsselsheim engineering centre had been completed, and stressed how vital the site was to PSA in the longer term. (Opel)
Renault (history)
  • The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi VC fund invested in lithium ion battery developer Enevate. (Alliance Ventures)
  • CEO Ghosn was accused by Nissan (where he is chairman) of gross misconduct related to reporting of personal income and use of company assets. Nissan plan to remove him as chairman. (Nissan) Renault expressed no support for Ghosn directly, pledging only to look after the company’s interests. (Renault)
  • Acquired peer to peer used car sales platform CARIZY. (Renault)
Tata (includes JLR) (history)
  • JLR’s InMotion fund invested in Festicket, a company that offers packages tailored to music festivals. Although seemingly unrelated to the carmaking business, JLR pointed to the services popularity amongst the same type of customers it aspired to serve. (JLR)
Tesla (history)
  • Bought “some trucking companies” to ensure it has enough capacity to deliver vehicles in the USA before the 31st December cut off for more generous purchase incentives. (TechCrunch)
  • CEO Musk used an internal email to motivate his employees to produce a consistent rate of 50 Model 3 cars per hour from the end of November onwards. (Electrek)
  • Stopped offering (limited) free Supercharger access for Model S and X buyers. (Electrek)
  • Increased the price of Autopilot after the car has been purchased. It now costs $7,000 ($5,000 when new), but Tesla seems to be offering a series of time-limited discounts where the price can fall to $5,500. (Green Car Reports)
Toyota (history)
  • Reducing US production of the Camry in response to falling sales. (Bloomberg)
VW Group (history)
  • Announced a series of decisions taken under the latest planning round. VW committed to reduction in capital expenditure and R&D as a percent of revenues to 6% from 2020 onwards. CEO Diess is seeking a 30% improvement in productivity by 2025 saying that a chunk of this will come by increasing the number of multi-brand plants. (VW)
  • The Emden plant will become dedicated to electric vehicles and Hanover will convert “gradually”. Comments that the “main speciality” of Hanover will be the ID Buzz family of vehicles seem to confirm that Transport production is likely to move to a Ford plant. (VW)
  • The partnership with Ford “offers potential” for a profitable Amarok (pick-up truck) and “robust” SUVs. Whilst there are further joint projects that VW foresees, the company stressed that marketing and pricing (i.e. the sorts of things that would require a level of M&A) were out of the question. (VW)
  • Expects pure electric vehicles to be profitable, even in the first generation, and that VW Group’s economies of scale would make it the most profitable electric car manufacturer. (Reuters)
  • CEO Diess believes that Waymo are one to two years ahead in autonomous driving technology but that it is possible for VW to catch up. (VW)
  • Looking to build a new plant in Eastern Europe. (VW)
  • Gave employment guarantees lasting to 2028 to permanent workers at the three plants that will become dedicated electric vehicle factories but said temporary workers would have to move to other group locations if they wanted a permanent role. (VW)
  • Changed the management structure of the China business so that it reports straight into CEO Diess. (VW)
  • Said it could produce up to 50 million vehicles from the MEB platform over its lifetime, a statement that implies an upper end scenario of mass transition to pure electric vehicles since in September VW talked about 10 million vehicles from the “first wave”. (Reuters)
  • Announced a fourth battery supplier — SK Innovation — for MEB platform products. VW says the firm will supply all its needs for the US market and some of the European volume, which it will share with LG Chem and Samsung. VW says the four suppliers will collectively share around 150 GWh of capacity by 2025. (VW)
    • Significance: Given that VW has already made public some cost data points for battery cells, this announcement suggests all the four suppliers are prepared to make cost commitments around the same level (raw material inflation potentially notwithstanding.
Other
  • McLaren’s CEO said it would be “insane” for politicians in the UK and EU to allow a no deal Brexit. (CNBC)
  • Rivian released teaser images of two pure electric vehicles: a pick-up truck and an SUV, that it was reveal fully at the LA show. (Green Car Reports)
  • Henrik Fisker said he would like for his company to have facilities in India but his present focus is on China because the government is “more forthcoming and moves significantly faster”. He also said there would be more details about a second Fisker vehicle before the end of 2018. (Autocar)
  • Ineos will decide on the production location for its new vehicle by the end of 2018, indicating that the UK and continental Europe were both under consideration. (Reuters)
  • Subaru revised its first half revenue and profit figures. (Subaru)
  • Zotye plans to enter the US market in partnership with HAAH. The initial portfolio will be two SUVs and the plan calls for a network of 325 dealers across the country. (Detroit News)
  • McLaren opened its new composites manufacturing facility in Sheffield. Test runs will now take place until volume productions starts in 2020 (McLaren)
  • XPENG unveiled the G3 electric SUV. Prices start at 200,000 RMB (about $29,000). (XPENG)
  • Mahindra and Mahindra reported financial results for Q2 of the 2018/19 financial year. (Mahindra)
 

News about other companies and trends

  Economic / Political News
  • European passenger car registrations in October of 1,118,882 units were down (7.4)% versus a year earlier. (ACEA)
  • France will increase purchase incentives for low income buyers — they can now claim €4,000 on new cars. The government said the more generous scheme will cost €500 million. (Economic Times of India)
  • The draft Brexit agreement was published, along with a much shorter statement of the aims for the ongoing relationship, which the two hope to have resolved by the end of 2020. (UK Government)
Suppliers
  • Johnson Controls agreed to sell its power business to Brookfield in a $13.2 billion deal. (Johnson Controls)
  • Motherson Sumi reported financial results for the second quarter of the financial year. (Motherson Sumi)
  • Gestamp’s JV with BHAP opened a new €50 million press shop in Tianjin, China. (Gestamp)
Dealers
  • Renault acquired peer to peer used car sales platform CARIZY. (Renault)
Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)
  • Uber reported Q3 2018 financial results. There was a net loss of $(939) million on $2.95 billion of net revenue, growth in gross revenue continued to slow (up 34% on a year-over-year basis) and a considerable amount of the increase comes from Uber Eats rather than the ride hailing service. (CNBC)
  • Ride hailing service Gett is reportedly looking for buyers. (Deal Street Asia)
  • BlaBlaCar will buy Ouibus from SNCF, who will take a stake in BlaBlaCar as part of the deal. (TechCrunch)
  • Fleet management platform provider Ridecell increased the size of its Series B to $60 million. (Ridecell)
  • Daimler’s Beat ride hailing service said it would re-enter the Mexican market
Driverless / Autonomy (history)
  • Waymo’s CEO said, “autonomy will always have some constraints” and that widespread usage is decades away. (CNET)
  • Long range infra-red camera developer AdaSky raised $20 million. (Deal Street Asia)
  • Continental and EasyMile are setting up a joint research team in Singapore. (Continental)
  • Self-driving operating system developerai emerged from stealth mode with $15.5 million. (TechCrunch)
Electrification (history)
  • Hot on the heels of its new VW supply contract, SK Innovation said it was looking at four sites for a new battery plant in the US and could build a second European plant. (Yonhap)
  • Panasonic executives said that solid state battery technology will not mature for another decade. (Business Insider)
  • The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi VC fund invested in lithium ion battery developer Enevate. (Alliance Ventures)
  • 40% of Nissan Serena minivan buyers in Japan are choosing the series hybrid option. (Nissan)
Connectivity
  • Rinspeed announced a partnership with Bamboo Apps to build a series of applications that will enable users to control the microSNAP reconfigurable autonomous vehicle. (Virtual Strategy)
  • Blackberry acquired cyber security firm Cylance. (ZDNet)
  • Hyundai and Kia will use Vodafone for connected vehicle infrastructure in Europe. (KIA)
Other
  • Parking platform ParkWhiz increased its Series D round to $25 million. (ParkWhiz)
  • Mobile car servicing provider Zippity raised $2.6 million from investors, including BP. (Zippity)
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Automotive trends, Auto industry trends, Automotive market research, Automotive market analysis, auto industry news

Auto Industry Briefing — week ending 11th November 2018

GM planning in a vacuum; lidar companies opening up; and when is it a good idea not to give the customer what they want? Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 5th November to 11th November. A PDF version can be found here. 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)
  • Released financial results for Q3 2018. BMW delivered 592,303 vehicles, up 0.3% on a year-over-year basis. Revenue increased 3.3% YoY to €21.1 billion but group profit before tax fell (26)% to €1.8 billion. (BMW)
  • Started selling battery packs and electric motors to Turkish bus maker Karsan, who will use them to make a small bus for urban use. BMW also supply Deutsche Post’s StreetScooter with batteries. (BMW)
  • When asked about the possibility of more cooperation with other industry players, BMW executives stressed the difficulty in coordinating timing of new products so that all participating companies benefitted from them at similar times. They were happier to share mobility services. (Seeking Alpha)
  • Already planning the localisation of a further product in China after X2, but didn’t say which. (Seeking Alpha)
  • The EU approved the merger of BMW and Daimler’s car sharing assets, subject to measures to protect competition in six cities. (Reuters)
Daimler (history)
  • Daimler will launch a driverless ride hailing pilot in San José, California in partnership with Bosch. The service will use modified S-Class limousines and be offered to “a selected user community”. (Daimler)
  • The EU approved the merger of BMW and Daimler’s car sharing assets, subject to measures to protect competition in six cities. (Reuters)
  • Said that new facilities at the Kamenz, Germany battery plant were ready to produce parts for EQC. (Daimler)
FCA (history)
  • An investor called for FCA to sell its European operations, spin off Alfa Romeo and Maserati and then merge its US operations with Ford or GM. (Detroit Free Press)
Ferrari
  • Reported financial results for Q3 2018. Revenue of €838 million was almost unchanged from a year earlier although shipments of 2,262 units were 11% higher. Adjusted EBIT of €203 million was 0.4% higher. (Ferrari)
Ford (history)
  • Acquired bicycle and scooter rental firm Spin. (Ford)
  • Will present updates to its “fitness” initiatives at a conference on 13th November, focusing on complexity management; capital equipment reuse and; yield management. (Ford)
  • Closing the Warley, UK site by the end of 2019 and consolidating administrative functions at the Dunton location. Ford hopes that 350 new homes will be built on the location. (BBC)
  • Redesigned the entire “soundscape” of the new Lincoln Aviator to create 125 sounds recorded by concert musicians to replace the “dings and beeps” regular Ford customers must contend with. These were then whittled down to 25 through focus group testing. (Detroit Free Press)
Geely (includes Volvo) (history)
  • Geely Holding is working on a joint research project that aims to create supersonic trains. (Geely)
  • Volvo’s subscription service is proving so popular that the brand has starting rationing vehicles and there is now a waiting list into 2019. Although Volvo hasn’t disclosed figures, it says the scheme beat its first year target within four months and has been capped at 10% of vehicle sales (against around 15% demand). (Automotive News)
General Motors (history)
  • GM believes air transport will become integrated with autonomous vehicles and leverage similar electric power technology but that in the near future (and the next “couple of decades”) gasoline will dominate North America sales. The firm is not intending for there to be “any AV/EV pickups”. (Detroit Free Press)
    • Significance: GM might find that if Tesla successfully execute the pick-up truck Elon Musk has promised for the early 2020s, it has no choice but to revisit these statements.
  • Moving three quarters of the employees at the Pontiac propulsion development centre to the main technical campus in Warren, Michigan, raising speculation over the future of the site. (Detroit Free Press)
  • Transferring 200 workers from the Lansing plant (cars) to Flint (pick up trucks). (ABC12)
Hyundai / Kia (history)
  • Invested a further $250 million in Grab and agreed a series of joint projects to better use electric vehicles in providing ride hailing services. (Hyundai)
  • Invested in machine vision company allegro.ai. (ai)
  • Senior Kia executives called on employees to “overcome the crisis of today” through “self-help”. (Yonhap)
  • Hyundai’s forthcoming large SUV will be called Palisade and is set to feature eight seats. (Hyundai)
Mazda
  • Intends for future powertrain developments to improve driving performance as well as fuel economy. (Reuters)
  • Recalling 640,000 vehicles because of problems with the valve springs in the engine. (Reuters)
Nissan (includes Mitsubishi) (history)
  • Nissan reported financial results for the second quarter of the financial year (Q3 2018). Revenue of 2.8 trillion yen (about $24.7 billion) fell (2.7)% on a year-over-year basis. Operating income of 101 billion yen (about $890 million) fell (21)% YoY. (Nissan)
  • Nissan will make a new small van, called the NV250, based on Renault’s Kangoo and produced in Maubeuge, France. Mitsubishi will launch a 1 ton van based on the Renault Trafic to be manufactured in Sandouville. (Renault)
  • The Alliance Ventures VC unit invested in Canadian multi-modal app Transit. (Renault)
  • Mitsubishi reported financial results for the second quarter of the financial year (Q3 2018). Revenue of 1.2 trillion yen (about $10.2 billion) was up 23.4% on a year-over-year basis whilst operating income of 56.9 billion yen (about $500 million) was up 28.6% YoY. (Mitsubishi)
  • Mitsubishi believe that plug-in hybrids will not be cost effective for a few years and that 60 miles EV-only range will be the standard in the next generation. (Autocar)
  • Magazine tests suggested that Infiniti’s new variable compression engine wasn’t having quite the fuel economy benefit that was hoped for. (Green Car Reports)
  • Opened a new technical centre in St Petersburg, Russia, that houses 120 staff. (Nissan)
PSA (includes Opel/Vauxhall)
  • Declared that Opel was “back on course” following its restructuring plan. Opel has reduced senior management ranks by one quarter, cut fixed costs by 28% and says that sharing platforms with PSA has reduced the cost of new models by up to 50%. (Opel)
  • Peugeot’s scooter plant will shut down until the end of the year. (Usine Nouvelle)
Renault (history)
  • Will make two new products for Nissan and Mitsubishi, improving plant utilisation and return on IP and manufacturing facilities. Nissan will get a Kangoo-based small van called NV250 from Maubeuge and Mitsubishi will have a Trafic-based one ton van from Sandouville. (Renault)
  • The Alliance Ventures VC unit invested in Canadian multi-modal app Transit. (Renault)
Tata (includes JLR) (history)
  • CEO Speth called for better cooperation between governments and industry to create standards for self-driving cars, especially in the domain of keeping information private whilst enabling connected services. (Reuters)
  • InMotion Ventures invested in Transit, the multi-modal app also backed by Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi. (JLR) It also backed Arc, an early stage start-up hoping to bring an all-electric motorbike to production. (JLR)
Tesla (history)
  • Announced that existing director Robyn Denholm has been appointed as Tesla’s new board chair. Once she has served the six month notice period with her current employer, she will take on the role full time. (Tesla)
  • A survey of electric car owners suggested that Tesla has a customer loyalty rate (i.e. a Tesla owner who intends to buy a Tesla as their next car) of over 80% in North America and Europe. (Clean Technica)
Toyota (history)
  • Reported financial results for the 2nd quarter of the financial year (Q3 2018). Sales of 2.18 million units were up marginally on a year-over-year basis. Revenue of 7.3 trillion yen (about $64.3 billion) was up 2% and operating income of 579 billion yen (about $5.1 billion) rose 11%. Toyota increased the full year outlook to an operating income of 2.4 trillion yen (about $21 billion). (Toyota)
VW Group (history)
  • Unveiled the Tarok, a near-production car based pick-up destined for South American markets. (VW)
  • Having previously referred numerous times to a price target for its ID car that was comparable to an “equivalent” diesel, the company is reportedly planning an entry level BEV that will retail at under €20,000. (CNBC)
  • Reportedly planning to cease production of Passat in Germany by 2022 and manufacture electric cars at the Emden plant instead (having only recently moved Passat there). (Bloomberg)
  • Porsche Consulting published a “success formula” for cultural transformation. Since two of the steps are “decision making” and “risk taking”, could this be a bid for VW group’s much heralded transformation? (Porsche Consulting)
  • SEAT is going to start selling an electric scooter (a rebadged Segway model) that will retail at €599. (SEAT)
Other
  • Aston Martin’s CEO thinks “the internal combustion engine and, in particular, the gasoline engine still has a lot of life left in it”. (CNBC)
  • Danish firm Biomega unveiled the SIN electric car. The targeted release date is in the 2021 – 2023 timeframe and will include 20 kWh of battery power (of which 6 kWh is removable) for €20,000. (Biomega)
  • Subaru reported financial results for the first half of the financial year (Q2 & Q3 2018). Sales volumes, revenue and profits were all down versus a year earlier and the company reduced its full year guidance. (Subaru) The carmaker also expanded an existing recall to cover 530,000 vehicles. (Subaru)
  • Workhorse reported Q3 2018 financial results. Revenue was $11,000. (Workhorse)
  • VinFast announced a pricing policy that includes zero depreciation, zero financing costs and zero interest rates on all electric motorbikes and cars, in effect discounting come products by 40%. (Vietnam News)
  • The Nedcar plant suspended several employees after random drink and drugs tests showed they were in no state to work. (Dutch News)
 

News about other companies and trends

  Economic / Political News
  • Brazil re-established incentives for ethanol powered vehicles and local production that had expired in 2017. (Reuters)
  • BMW, VW and Daimler each agreed to offer €3,000 for hardware that will improve emissions of existing diesel vehicles, although BMW positioned it as compensation rather than a contribution to the cost of the updates. None of the companies intends to develop the solutions themselves. (Bloomberg)
  • UK passenger car registrations in October of 153,599 units fell (2.9)% on a year earlier. (SMMT)
Suppliers
  • Faurecia invested in wireless charging supplier PowerSphyr. (PowerSphyr)
  • Delphi reported financial results for Q3 2018, including revenue of $1.2 billion. (Delphi)
  • Schaeffler announced the closure of two UK plants. The company said that although Brexit wasn’t the only deciding factor, it hadn’t helped. (BBC)
  • Magna reported Q3 2018 revenue of $9.6 billion and operating profit of $674 million. (Magna)
  • Continental released financial results for Q3 2018 and said that it would be sticking with the recently downgraded forecast for the rest of the year. (Continental) The firm is investing in new equipment at the Winchester, Virginia, fabrics factory. (Continental)
Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)
  • Taxify’s CEO hopes to grow by ten times in the next two years, with much of the growth coming from operations in Africa and believes it can become the European market leader. (Reuters) He also said that he believes the company can become 100 times larger than it is today. (CNBC)
  • Lyft removed an option that lets users split a far between them, saying an improved version would be coming along in a while (but for some reason stopping the current system now). (Business Insider)
  • Hyundai and Kia invested a further $250 million in Grab and agreed a series of joint projects to better use electric vehicles in providing ride hailing services. (Hyundai)
  • Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi and JLR invested in Canadian multi-modal app Transit. (Renault)
  • The EU approved the merger of BMW and Daimler’s car sharing assets, subject to measures to protect competition in six cities. (Reuters)
Driverless / Autonomy (history)
  • Ouster published a blog post arguing the merits of the 850 nm wavelength and saying that its lidar had been designed to scale with improvements in chip technology, meaning a 640 line system is “extremely likely” in future. (Ouster)
  • One of Waymo’s cars crashed into a motorcyclist. The company blamed the human driver and that the automated system would have avoided the incident, even though the safety driver had only recently taken over because they were concerned that the actions of a car in front were too difficult for the automated system to deal with. (Waymo)
  • Optimus Ride said it would use Nvidia’s hardware for self-driving vehicles, starting immediately. (Optimus Ride)
  • ComfortDelGro will start trials of driverless vehicles using equipment supplied by EasyMile. (Channel News Asia)
  • The inaugural season of Roborace seems set to use human drivers for half of each race. (Engadget)
  • Luminar says it now has contracts with 16 OEMs and is in detailed discussions with 16 more. (TechCrunch)
  • Velodyne published a blog post highlighting what they see as a number of drawbacks with the 1550 nm wavelength for lidar units, much-vaunted by some companies because it allows higher powered lasers to be used whilst remaining eye-safe. Velodyne argue 1550 nm can have worse impacts on eyes in some circumstances; are worse in rain, fog and snow than 905 nm lidars (Velodyne’s chosen wavelength) — a weakness that is offset by increasing power. Finally, Velodyne argues that 1550 nm units are inherently more costly due to the componentry required, something not all lidar developers accept as fact. (Velodyne)
    • Significance: Whilst the main audience of the article appears to be investors who are being wowed by the claims of Velodyne competitors operating at 1550 nm, there seems to be something of a change of heart going on in the lidar community at present with companies (e.g Ouster, Velodyne and Quanergy) becoming more and more willing to discuss their technical solutions. Next stop, performance benchmarks?
  • Daimler will launch a driverless ride hailing pilot in San José, California in partnership with Bosch. The service will use modified S-Class limousines and be offered to “a selected user community”. (Daimler)
Electrification (history)
  • Mitsubishi believe that plug-in hybrids will not be cost effective for a few years and that 60 miles EV-only range will be the standard in the next generation. (Autocar)
  • Nikola showed off a European version of its fuel cell truck saying that it was planning to have 700 North American hydrogen (production and) filling stations by 2028 and was sitting on an order bank worth $11 billion. (Nikola)
  • Further to previous announcements that it would use existing telecoms infrastructure to create electric charging stations, Deutsche Telekom said that its stations could support 11kW charging and would also build fast charging stations that provided 150 kW charging. (Economic Times of India)
  • Battery developer TIAX says its technology can reduce the amount of cobalt needed for batteries by four-fifths and a major automaker has already committed to use it. (Bloomberg)
  • GM believes gasoline will dominate North America sales for the “next couple of decades”. The firm is not intending for there to be “any AV/EV pickups”. (Detroit Free Press)
Other
  • Panasonic announced a collaboration with Kent to adapt its Japanese e-bikes to the US market. (Panasonic) The firm is also looking into making IoT connected bikes with Mobike. (Panasonic)
  • SoftBank is reportedly considering an investment in HelloChuxing. (Deal Street Asia)
  • Lime is retiring scooters made by Chinese supplier Okai because they are susceptible to stress fractures. (The Verge)
  • Harley-Davidson showed off the production version of the LiveWire electric motorbike. (TechCrunch)
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