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The Chinese automaker GAC has been a regular at the Detroit Auto Show since 2013 and signaled in October 2017 that it intends to venture into the US auto market. This week during the 2018 Detroit Auto Show GAC clarified its strategy around the entry into the US market. GAC is partnering with FCA to use its dealer network as a springboard into the USA from 2019. Unfortunately, the first model to land in the USA will not be an EV but a mid-sized SUV, the GAC Trumpchi GS8. GAC, however, unveiled a vision of the first EV it intends to launch in the country targeted at the young buyers. The GAC Enverge Concept is a compact crossover packed with technology and equipped with a 71 kWh battery providing it a range of 600km (375miles). The 350kW GAC Enverge has a fast charging system allowing it to charge 400km (250miles) in 10 minutes, just as long as it takes to stop and fill-up at a gas-station. At first impression, the GAC Enverge Concept leaves you confused as it seems from the outside not to have side windows in its giant clamshell doors. The mysterious pod on the roof houses a Segway scooter for the “last 100-meter” commute from your car to your final destination making legs a thing of the past in the Enverge future.
Chinese automakers are generally risk-averse making GAC’s foray into to the tough US market significant. GAC already exports to 14 countries but cracking it in the US with its strict technical requirements and high standards will boost the image of the Chinese automaker. GAC is not among China‘s top EV producers, it only sold 5,259 units of its 3 plug-in and 1 pure electric models in 2017. There is already talk that GAC might face obstacles from Washington as both sides of the aisle have a problem with allowing Chinese carmakers access as auto imports to the US only carries a 2.5% tax compared to US models which attract a 25% tariff in China. GAC is yet to announce a name for its US brand as its Trumpchi brand will obviously create issues due to the similarity with the controversial US President. GAC made its intention clear to target the European market after the US excursion.
INFINITI, Nissan’s luxury brand sees that EVs will contribute more than half of its global sales by 2025. Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa announced at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit today this week that the Japanese automaker will launch its first EV in 2021. It is strange that Infiniti sees EVs to be such an important contributor to its sales yet its entry into the market only in 2021 makes it one of the latecomers to the sector signaling that it was not geared for the market change in the first place.
According to a press release by the company, INFINITI will offer a mix of pure electric vehicles (EV) and e-POWER vehicles, demonstrating the full range of low-emission vehicle technology. Infiniti unveiled the Q Inspiration Concept at the Detroit Auto Show as a future vision of what customers can expect from its new level of electrified driving performance. Other than announcing that the Infiniti Q Inspiration will have Nissan’s ProPILOT autonomous drive technology no specifications were released around the electrified drivetrain.
In related news, French PSA Group which include Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Opel, and Vauxhall also explained its electrification plans at the Detroit Auto Show during the Automotive News World Congress. According to PSA CEO, Carlos Tavares, the company aims to electrify its full line of cars and light-truck by 2025 and nearly all its models will have self-driving capabilities by 2030. The result is that PSA will launch 40 electrified models across its brands by 2025.
A year ago I reported on a stealthy EV-startup, Rivian Automotive acquiring a mothballed Mitsibushi assembly plant in Illinois. The past week Rivian Automotive lifted the veil slightly on its plans through a launch of a marketing campaign. Rivian announced that it will come to market by 2020 with two EV models, a seven-seater SUV, and a five-seater pick-up. Appart from looking more than an extreme sports site the automaker’s website does not provide more information other than that the AWD vehicles will be connected and equipped with advanced self-driving, accelerating to 60mph in under 4 seconds and have a wading depth of 3 feet. The site also mentions that the vehicles will have a massive lockable storage capacity and innovative cargo management solutions. Judging from the team of experts available to the company which includes Dodge Viper designer Tom Gale and former McLaren engineer Mark Vinnels the start-up has a fighting chance.
Toyota announced on the 18th of January at the start of the Montréal International Auto Show that it will expand sales for its Mirai FCEV to Québec Canada this year. Isabelle Melançon, Minister of Sustainable Development, the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change said at the announcement “The arrival of the Mirai in Quebec is perfectly in line with the adoption of the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) standard last December, which aims to substantially increase the number of electric cars on Quebec roads. This standard will give Quebecers access to a wider range of electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids.”
Last year Isuzu unveiled its N Series electric truck, late December the Japanese automaker announced that it intends to launch the light delivery truck based on its Elf range by the end of the year in answer to the Fuso eCanter. The Isuzu electric LDV will have a range of 100km and two 40kWh lithium batteries. The batteries are located between the right front and rear wheels and between the left front and rear wheels, respectively. and is for powering the vehicle and cold-storage. The small truck has a maximum loading capacity is 3,000kg.
To diversify its economy and develop its automotive sector the Saudi Government entered into its first EV pilot project according to Reuters. The State-controlled Saudi Electricity Co (SEC) partnered with Japanese Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), Nissan Motor Co and Takaoka Toko supply fast chargers and three Nissan EVs. Although the EV pilot is an acknowledgment that EVs is a reality the country still sees that it will take decades before it has a significant impact on their main export. Suppliers of electric vehicles are spreading their wings to new untapped markets and we are seeing more and more of these initiatives to partner with governments to secure a front row seat to benefit from subsidies to promote the adoption of EVs. This week Mitsubishi and the Vietnamese government also entered into a partnership to increase the adoption of electric vehicles. Mitsubishi presented one Outlander PHEV and quick charger to the Vietnamese Government. Mr. Tran Tuan Anh, the Minister of Industry and Trade of Vietnam said “We are delighted to conclude the MOU with Mitsubishi Motors as our important partner. This joint study is very important milestone to promote the transition of a low carbon economy.”
In related news Toyota, which also don’t see a significant change to EVs in the next decade acquired a 15% stake in Australian lithium miner Orocobre for an approximate AUD292 million (USD232 million) through its subsidiary Toyota Tsusho. Toyota is not the first automaker to buy into lithium mining to secure supply. In 2017 the Chinese Great Wall Motors acquired a stake in another Australian lithium miner Pilbara Minerals.
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#1 – VW Strategy – The future is electric, long live the combustion engine
The VW shareholders this week approved the automaker’s electric vehicle strategy, “TOGETHER – Strategy 2025” and accompanying budget at the AGM held in Hamburg. Unpacking the VW CEO, Matthias Müller’s, statements the VW strategy is – “The future is electric, long live the combustion engine.
The VW board recently upped its €3bn investment in alternative drive engines from the previous five years to €9bn by 2022. The company, however, will spend €10bn on cleaner combustion engines over the same period. VW sees conventional engines to be between 10% and 15% cleaner and efficient by 2020.
Mr. Muller was quoted as saying “We intend to be the No. 1 in e-mobility by 2025”. He went further elaborating how the company will achieve its strategy. “This is how the Group will be rolling out more than 10 new electrified models by the end of 2018. By 2025, we will be adding over 30 more BEVs.” The newly-established Center of Excellence in Salzgitter will bundle Group-wide competence in battery cells and modules. “At the same time, we are conducting intensive negotiations to establish partnerships in the field of battery cells in Europe and China. You will soon be hearing more about this”, the CEO added.
According to Müller, modern internal combustion engines will nevertheless be indispensable for the foreseeable future: “This applies also and especially to the Euro 6 diesel, despite the current heated debate.” In total, the Volkswagen Group will be investing around 10 billion euros in these technologies by 2022, Müller: “The internal combustion engine primarily is part of the solution, not part of the problem.”
The German automaker decided to use partnerships as a tactic in achieving its goal. Müller referred to several examples such as the plans to enter the economy segment with Tata, the envisaged joint venture with JAC in China to develop attractively-priced electric cars, and numerous cooperation projects in the field of mobility services.
The e-mobility sector is going to become very crowded for VW as most automakers have already embarked on the same strategy. See the reference to Ford later in this week’s newsletter. Daimler has already accelerated its strategy and brought forward its $11Bln investment from 2025 to 2022 this year. read our blog of this week where we compare the Daimler and BMW strategy.
#2 – Electric MotoGP from 2019
MotoGP enthusiast with a preference for electric bikes can finally look forward to their own Formula E-type event. The MotoGP franchise this week made it official that a support class, consisting of five races would be held from 2019 onwards. The races would initially only be held in Europe, with four manufacturers supplying 18 bikes on the grid. Similar to the Formula E the racing bikes would all be the same and is expected to reach speeds of 124mph (200km/h), which is slightly slower than their combustion counterparts.
While on the topic, the Formula E, which is now in its third season will host a race in Monaco this weekend. The franchise will also host an event in Paris next week.
#3 – GAC breaks ground on $6.5 bln electric industrial park
China’s Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC), a Top 10 Chinese automaker and voted as the “2016 BEST CHINESE CAR BRAND” in the official customer satisfaction survey broke ground on its $700 million 200,000 EV plant. The plant which forms part of a larger $6.5 industrial park which focussed on purely on the EV sector. GAC has international ambitions for its electric vehicles and this year introduced the GE3 BEV at the North American International Auto Show. The GE3 follows on the GAC GS4 concept EV introduced in 2015 at the Guangzhou Auto Show. The GE3 is expected to be market ready by 2018. The company launched its GA3S PHEV in July 2016. The GA5 PHEV, based on the Alfa Romeo 166 came to market in 2015 and had sold around 5,000 units by the end of 2016. The GAC Trumpchi GS4 SUV EV is available since mid-2016.
Guangzhou is a city in Guangdong Province, which also includes the city of Shenzhen where EV manufacturer Denza, Changan, and Future Mobility are present. Click on our interactive map to click through to the various Chinese EV manufacturers.
#4 – Bollinger teases electric pickup
While most auto companies are trying to play catch up with Tesla, pinning their hopes on producing a luxury electric SUV. While the auto companies race to capitalize on the popular vehicle class to carve out a lead in the sector, a huge gap is open in the form of electric SUTs (Sports Utility Trucks). Now history is repeating itself with start-ups rushing to fill the gap. This week Bollinger Motors, started in 2014 in Hobart NY State USA teased the Bollinger SUT. The tease in the form of a picture of the interior cabin follows on a rendering earlier this year of the outside reflection of the pickup. The company is taking $1,000 refundable deposits to secure a SUT that could be configured to your use requirements. Bollinger plans to unveil the vehicle by July 2017. The powertrain is said to be revolutionary. Last week Workhorse unveiled its W15 concept range extended electric pickup truck. The Workhorse W-15, by the Ohio-based company with the same name, is set to sell for $52,000 and have a 60kWh (40kWh nominal rated) battery pack, promising a range of 320 miles.
#5 – Think Tank predicts 95% of miles will be shared and autonomous by 2030.
CNBC ran an article on the prediction by the US thinktank RethinkX that 95% of miles traveled will be in electric powered autonomous cars by 2030. The controversial prediction is way above that of Boston Consulting which predicted that only 25% of such trips would be in self-driving or shared vehicles. Looking at the website of Tony Seba, a co-author of the RethinkX study, “Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030: The Disruption of Transportation and the Collapse of the ICE Vehicle and Oil Industries.” the report also predicts that only 20% of Americans will own cars by 2030.
The predicted shift in mobility leads into other news this week where Ford’s CEO was challenged on his strategy for the company, resulting in its performance lagging its competitors. Mark Fields, CEO since 2014, embarked on what is the auto sector icon’s biggest strategy shift in history by investing heavily in self-driving technology. The challenge for the Ford CEO’s strategy is that he has one foot in the future and one in the present, resulting in an earnings decline of 42%.