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By unpacking press statements from the world’s top luxury carmakers, BMW and Daimler, over the last eight months it is clear that the Daimler EV strategy will trump that of BMW over the next decade. Up to now, BMW has led the race between the two companies in the EV sector, but the German automaker is failing to capitalize on its position. BMW was first to market with a pure electric vehicle, the BMW i3, which success even surprised itself. This week BMW released its sales data for the first quarter 2017, showing that EVs now constitute 3% of its total sales as EV sales jumped 50%. The Chairman of the Board, Mr. Harald Kruger was quoted saying “We are therefore well on course to delivering more than 100,000 electrified vehicles for the first time in 2017”. The news from the top seems very bullish on face-value but therein lies the problem. BMWs management has been flip-flopping on finding a consensus view on where they see electric vehicles in the future. This week’s news from BMW is in stark contrast from news only six months earlier when the Board grappled with if it should pursue EVs at all.
In September 2016 Reuters reported that the executive of BMW would not attend the 2016 Paris Auto Show as it grappled with its electric car strategy. At the time the company lost momentum against Mercedes and VW who is chasing Tesla. The lack of momentum caused the head of the BMW i8 project to jump ship to Future Mobility, taking most of the core team with him. The executive team remained split on the future of electric vehicles and investing in what is initially a loss making exercise. The top executive team traditionally attend the Paris Auto Show, which is one of the most prestigious events in the industry, highlighting the significance of the board’s action.
The pro-EV block prevailed but despite BMW reaffirming its strategy to pursue the development of electric vehicles the company remained downbeat on the sector. BMW’s Chief Financial Officer, Frederick Eichner, was quoted by Bloomberg saying “We’ve learned that people aren’t prepared to pay a higher price for an electric vehicle. I don’t see some kind of disruptive element coming from electric cars that would prompt sales to go up quickly in the next five to six years.” So its seems that BMW changed its wait-and-see approach to a go-it-slow approach and remained cautious when it came to investing aggressively in the new technology. Where at first the company was a leader in developing the new proprietary technology it now joined most of the other laggards in producing PHEV variants of existing models, with no clarity on when BEV models will be available and how many.
In early March 2017, Mr. Harald Krüger was quoted by Reuters as saying “The fully electric drivetrain will be integrated into our core brands. To achieve this, we are now gearing our architectures toward combustion engines and pure battery electric drivetrains,” as the company plans to include EV manufacturing in its mass production line. Currently, the company’s electric vehicles are assembled at its low-volume plant in Leipzig. BMW will also expand the capacity of its PHEV drivetrain plant in Thailand and fund the cost of the investment in its electric vehicle infrastructure through a production increase in its profitable SUV segment. To ramp up production to meet expected demand for the new Mini Countryman PHEV the company is considering manufacturing facilities for the Mini in Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK. The company also announced that it would start producing its iNext autonomous brand at its Dingolfing plant form 2021. Other models expected from the German automaker is the i8 Roadster PHEV (2018), a BEV Mini (2019), and a BEV X3 (2020). BMW‘s long-term electric vehicle strategy is to have EV’s contribute to between 15% and 25% of its sales by 2025.
Daimler, on the other hand, had the foresight at the start of the cycle to be an early investor in Tesla. The company invested $50 million in the Series E round in May 2009, and have been hailed by Elon Musk for saving the company from bankruptcy in the early years. Unfortunately, Daimler failed to follow the same daring approach it invested in in its own business model and fell behind BMW and Tesla.
Daimler’s passive stance changed in July 2016 when its CEO, Dieter Zetsche acknowledged the technology’s importance and expected an increase in EVs market share of the total vehicle market. The German automaker shifted its strategy to accelerate its efforts to stay abreast of its competitors, Tesla and BMW‘s push to ramp up production in the luxury electric vehicle segment. Within a short space of time, the company announced a massive $11Bln investment to support its electric vehicle strategy up to 2025, unveiled its new all-electric car brand, the EQ (Electric Intelligence) and unveiled a fully electric semi-truck. The EQ brand will develop a host of EV related services and products, not just cars, such as charging stations and battery packs. The first vehicle to come from the brand is targeted at the highly popular SUV segment, a clever move to differentiate the brand in this hotly contested sector. The EQ SUV is said to have a battery capacity of 70kWh providing a range of over 250miles powering two electric motors providing 300kW of power. The production version is expected to be launched in 2018.
In early April 2017 Daimler announced that it would accelerate its $11 billion investment in electric vehicles by bringing it forward with three years from 2025, to 2022. Reuters reported that the automaker’s aggressive stance are the result of it not being able to cut fleet emissions of 123gm CO2/km from 2015 to 2016 in Europe. Europe has set a very stringent target of 95gm CO2/km by 2020. Daimler’s own target for 2020 is 100gm CO2. The German automaker cites the popularity of SUV’s as the reason for it not cutting its emissions for the first time since 2007. Daimler’s success in the SUV segment helped it to regain its dominance over archrival BMW for the first time since 2005.
In May 2017 Automotive News interviewed Mercedes-Benz head of production and supply chain management, Markus Schaefer. When asked how the company is preparing to assemble the EQ brand Mr. Schaefer responded – “We believe the EQ family will represent 15 to 25 percent of our sales in 2025, but at the end of the day, no one can say with certainty how high the share will be. Therefore, we need maximum flexibility, meaning we will integrate the EQ models into the same assembly line as the combustion engine models they will potentially replace. Preparations are on schedule, so our plants should be capable of operating at stable output levels whatever the EV take rates may be. But in order to facilitate this greater flexibility, we also had to adapt our manufacturing.” The capacity to mass produce EVs efficiently through the full-flex plant manufacturing strategy is set to help the company recover the massive investment it will make to get ahead in the EV sector.
Daimler is also investing heavily in charging infrastructure in Europe to facilitate the adoption of electric vehicles. The final proof of Daimler’s strategy will be the early release of a full electric SUV. 2018 is certainly going to be an exciting year for the electric vehicle market.
Note to data: The BMW i3 is listed as a BEV but includes sales for the BMW i3REx, a range-extended vehicle, a PHEV.
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The Chinese Government released its long-term development plan for the automotive sector on the 25th of April 2017, setting out the China EV strategy. The plan, presented by the Ministries of Science and Technology and Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in conjunction with National Development and Reform Commission, sets out how the country will ramp up the local EV sector and dominate the world market.
If successful the Chinese auto sector can leapfrog the dominance of the big auto companies, such as Toyota, VW, BMW, Daimler, Ford, and GM. Big Auto has missed the boat on electric vehicles and therefore continue to downplay the technology as only a niche sector. Management boards of big auto companies are flip-flopping strategy as they try and come to grips with how to enter the market and to what extent they should invest in research in technology. BMW last week announced that EVs constituted 3% of its total sales for the first quarter of 2017 after a jump in EV sales of 50% (Top 5 EV News Week 18). With the release of the data, the company set out how it will introduce more models. The news from BMW is in stark contrast from news only six months earlier when the Board grappled with if it should pursue EVs at all (Top 5 EV News Week 49 2016). In the USA we have recently seen how newcomer Tesla is valued above Ford and GM by investors. The response by Big Auto and other detractors of EVs was that this is a temporary phenomenon, arguing that Tesla hardly produces one tenth of the vehicles any of the top brands does. If one look at total sales of Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), it seems investors on the other hand value companies on their future ability to produce electric vehicles. If the same apply for Chinese brands, we can very quickly expect a Chinese brand to ascend the list of top auto brands.
According to the plan by the Chinese Government, it set a short-term target of EV sales of 2 million units locally by 2020 and at the same time elevate Chinese auto brands to be seen amongst the top ten electric vehicle brands globally. The medium term target is that EVs contribute 20% of the total annual fleet by 2025, which is a huge amount of cars. Measuring the movement in sales by brand in the table below we can already see the top Chinese EV brands, BAIC, SAIC, Geely Zhidou and JMC moving higher and two brands, BAIC and BYD in the top ten list for the first quarter 2017. Other evidence of Chinese companies investing heavily in the sector includes Chinese IT company, Tencent acquiring a significant stake in Tesla, sparking a rally in the stock.
Measures by the Chinese Government to achieve the targets above include:
China already has experience of setting itself to dominate a sector and achieving set goals. Less than a decade ago the Chinese Government plotted to dominate the PV panel market and in the process brought down the price of energy production from renewables, killing some western PV manufacturers in coal plants in the process. Already we are seeing a deluge of battery cell plants being planned by the end of the decade in China. We can, therefore, expect the same domino effect as in the energy markets, taking out auto manufacturers that were slow to embrace electric vehicles.
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Detractors of EV startups might claim press releases for intentional models potentially available two to three years down the line, such as the FF91, Lucid Air and lately the NIO EVE, means nothing until they are brought to production. But hell man, isn’t it just inspirational to see these companies trying to push the envelope of imagination, technology, risk financing and the stale products beautified by big auto’s marketing departments? It makes the heart swell and brings tears to your eyes (at least mine). This week at its world premiere event at the SXSW event in Austin Texas NextEV unveiled its vision for its Level 4 Automated NIO EVE for the USA market in 2020. The brain and heart behind the NIO EVE are Nomi, the driver companion through autonomy and artificial intelligence. NIO USA partnered with Mobileye, NVIDIA, and NXP to bring its vision to life.
Along with the release of the NIO EVE, U.S. CEO Padmasree Warrior showed a video of the NIO EP9 completing the first historical feat of racing around the America‘s Track in Austin Texas without a driver, reaching a top speed of 160mph. The vehicle also broke a lap record with a driver.
Lucid Motors this week placed a shot across the bow of luxury automakers such as Volvo, Audi, Mercedes, BMW and even Tesla by announcing the pricing for the Lucid Air. The San-Francisco based startup introduced a starting price for the base model at $60,000 before Federal and State incentives. Read wattEV2Buy’s blog post on the press release to see what is included in the competitive pricing.
President Donald Trump may be a good thing for electric vehicles. In the same week as the President acted to review the emission standards set by the EPA on automakers, as a sign of defiance as much as 30 US cities jointly asked automakers indications on providing 114,000 electric vehicles. Bloomberg reported that the move, coordinated by Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti, requested vehicles which included police cars, street sweepers, and trash haulers to prove the demand for EV’s. The move by President Trump was part an election promise and part a request by Big Auto to slow the march of electric vehicles which caught them unawares. Big Auto in a letter to President Trump, claimed the demand for electric vehicles were not sufficient enough to justify the EPA emission standard. It has become a national past time to defy the new President. wattEV2Buy first reported on the attack on electric vehicles in a blog post, called controversial by some, on the 1st of March.
Intel acquired the Israeli autopilot company, Mobileye for an incredible $15.3 billion. Mobileye partnered with Tesla on its first generation Autopilot but had a very public fallout round about the time of the first fatal crash in a Tesla Model S using Autopilot. At the time the CEO of Mobileye criticized Elon Musk for being too aggressive with the implementation of autonomous systems.
Tesla retires its Model S P60 while the company raises $1.4billion to fund the manufacturing of the Model 3. Tesla announced this week that it would retire the 60kWh battery and upgrade all existing orders to the 75kWh model. Filings with the SEC showed the capital raising for the Tesla Model 3 was done through a stock sale for $350 million at a price of $262 per share. The balance of $850 million was raised through the issue of convertible notes.
The disruption caused by the threat of electric vehicles is finally hitting home, and in no other week has pushback by the proxies of the affected parties been so prominent than the past week. The efforts to block the march of electric vehicles has reached new heights as old foes Big Corn, and Big Oil agreed to work together in defending the transportation fuel sector. Reuters reports the Renewable Fuel Association (AFR) and American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) will target electric vehicle incentives to “level” the playing fields. We hope the AFR and AFPM remember all the subsidies and support they received over the years to “level” the playing fields.
In the USA report by the Sierra Club, a respected environmental association, reported on the drive by various States to penalize electric vehicle owners. The report speculates that the efforts, already successful in ten States and considered in a further six, is backed by the Oil Industry. Only four States have been successful in blocking the attack. Penalties in the form of fees varying between $50 and $300 per year are levied on drivers. In a separate effort, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers asked the newly Trump appointed Environmental Protection Agency Tsar, Scott Pruitt, to withdraw the Obama era agreed on 54.5MPG emissions benchmark required by 2025. The AAM’s reasoning is that achieving the standard is too costly and that the consumer’s demand is not there to support such a stringent rule. Really? Our question to the AAM is how can the consumer demand something if the supply of something else is stuffed down their throats?
In Hong Kong, a mainstay market for Tesla, the Financial Secretary in his budget announced that the 20-year-old tax incentive for first time EV registrations would be scrapped, and the tax discount on electric vehicles be capped at around $12,500. The result is that the cost of a Tesla Model S could nearly double in price. The move is in a bid to limit overall car ownership.
Following on the news three weeks ago that Scotland Yard would acquire electric vehicles for operational purposes the Swedish Police announced the testing of electric vehicles to phase out all fossil fuel use by 2030. Ten cars are tested in three cities in the country. The test would be to utilize the cars as administrative vehicles.
Porsche will unveil a powerful Panamera E-Hybrid; Various auto manufacturers this week teased their hybrid and electric vehicle lineup for the Geneva Auto Show to be held from the 9th to 19th of March 2017. The vehicles include:
SEAT, the Volkswagen-owned auto manufacturer will display an electric vehicle prototype at this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. The vehicle includes it’s Digital Access technology, replacing a key with a mobile phone. The first pilot will kick-off at its factory in Spain, using employees. Connectivity and the Internet of the Vehicle are bringing the world of mobile ever closer to the auto sector.