/Review of 2019 – Part 2 | Automotive Industry Comment (via Qpute.com)

Review of 2019 – Part 2 | Automotive Industry Comment (via Qpute.com)


The years gamechanging product? Volkswagens all-electric Golf-sized ID.3 will be available at under EUR30,000

The year’s gamechanging product? Volkswagen’s all-electric Golf-sized ID.3 will be available at under EUR30,000

2019 was quite the year and threw up one or two surprises in the automotive business. Editor Dave Leggett’s month-by-month review picks out some highlights as seen through the prism of just-auto’s industry coverage. This second part covers the second half of the year.

Review of 2019 – Part 1 – Jan-June

July

In early July news emerges that BMW CEO and chairman of the board Harald Krueger has given notice that he will not seek a second term of office when his contract expires. BMW AG is a company performing pretty well, but it is one facing a deteriorating outlook. Seems harsh, but such is the territory for a big company CEO. Oliver Zipse moves into the hot seat as next BMW CEO. I recall interviewing him at Plant Oxford a long time ago and I thought then: this guy knows his onions.

There’s some good news for UK Automotive to lift the Brexit gloom when Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) confirms plans to manufacture a range of new electrified vehicles at its manufacturing plant in Castle Bromwich. The first vehicle in the plan is confirmed as the next-generation all-electric Jaguar XJ in a move the company said would safeguard thousands of jobs in the UK.

Solar power is a nice renewable source of energy. What about solar photovoltaic cells to power cars? Toyota reveals that it is investigating the possibilities. Early days, of course.

Ford and and Volkswagen Group announce an expansion of their alliance to include electric vehicles – and will collaborate with Argo AI to introduce autonomous vehicle technology in the US and Europe. The two companies also said the expanded collaboration allows both companies to better serve customers while improving competitiveness and cost and capital efficiencies. Makes sense. Guessing that it was not easy for Volkswagen to agree to let Ford use its MEB toolkit.

I am reminded by a colleague that it’s now ten years since I drove a not-for-sale electric Mini involved in field trials (good heavens, there’s a clip). Finally, BMW announces an electric Mini is indeed going into series production.

BMW sparks up the Mini Electric

Electric vans are something to watch out for in Europe in 2020 – a number of manufacturers are bringing them out and Toyota announces it will join the party. We also got a close look at an electric Fiat Ducato. Watch that e-LCV space next year.

When is a car company not a car company? Answer: When it is a mobility provider. There’s plenty of PR spin on the changing auto industry and changing firms’ emphasis. This is a fairly typical example. Toyota says it is aiming to build on its partnership with Softbank and the Monet JV to transform from vehicle manufacturer to mobility services provider. Okay, we get it. Good to have an eye on the long-term future. But you still have a big business manufacturing vehicles, right?

Toyota also announces that it will work with BYD to jointly develop BEVs aimed at the Chinese market. The two companies sign an agreement to jointly develop sedans and low-floor SUVs as well as the onboard batteries for these vehicles and others with the aim to launch them in the Chinese market under the Toyota brand in the first half of the 2020s. And Toyota also secures a supply relationship with CATL for batteries.

Saab kinda lives on with NEVS, an electric car company in Sweden. There is an intriguing announcement from NEVS-owned Protean Electric on in-wheel motor tech and an electric drive corner module aimed at urban mobility pods. It’s yet another sign of the embryonic tech that is coming together for the brave new future that isn’t quite with us, just yet.

And we interviewed Spanish suppliers association (Sernauto) CEO, José Portilla and got an interesting two-parter perspective on how he sees the big picture. Plenty going on in Spain. This is the second part.

Geely/Volvo’s Polestar is an intriguing brand (the 2 is a delightful design). We take a look at the future for the brand in terms of product rollouts. And speaking of large, luxury saloons, we also took a look at the thinking behind the latest makeover for the BMW 7 Series (there’s more to it than THAT grille).

And Denza? A near forgotten JV between Daimler and BYD. Maybach still going? Yep. Must admit to cringing on the very few occasions when I spot one of the not-very-subtle land yachts on the road.

What is this ‘4D’ printing? Skylar Tibbits, MIT and BMW can enlighten us a little bit.

August

What’s in a word, or to be precise, how is the word ‘car’ formally defined? August is known as the ‘silly season’ for news when half the northern hemisphere is on the beach and the other half wishes it was. Creative PRs can indulge themselves. With that in mind, it’s hats off to JLR for pulling up the OED for their out-of-date dictionary definition of the ‘car’. C’mon guys, there’s an e-mobility revolution on the way…

The Skoda brand’s reinvention under VW Group is one of the auto industry’s long-established case studies of effective brand management. Do they risk cannibalising Golf sales with the Scala?

There’s a light moment at our newsdesk when one of the press images supplied in a release from JLR about next-gen 3D cockpit displays leaps off the page (and out of the dashboard display). I’m reminded of Esso’s ‘tiger in the tank’.

I have done my stint playing games on consoles and PCs over the years and it is quite amazing how ‘esports’ have come on. Is it something for car companies to take seriously from a promotions and marketing point of view? Ford thinks so.

And, it being August, there’s a story involving Suzuki and lunar exploration (not words that normally go together) that we cannot quite resist. Some notable sentiment is expressed here: “As Suzuki’s core value is to contribute to a prosperous society through making small cars, we will continue our partnership with HAKUTO-R, which began in 2016, and support the expansion of human society to the Moon.” Very well said.

Toyota and Suzuki also announce that they are to strengthen their technology alliance and take small stakes in each other. There’s a gorilla and a chimp here. Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey…

What impacts will Brexit have on the UK economy? That may not be a question that can easily be answered for another ten years, but much will depend on the nature of the changes to the UK’s relationship with its biggest trading partner next door. A report from the analysts at GlobalData quantifies the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the UK’s auto industry sector.

Amid the flurry of partnerships announced between companies in the automotive business, not all collaborations are successful. Ford and Zotye is definitely not one of the more successful ones.

Airbags are something that we (well, me anyway) tend to take for granted. We know they are there, but don’t give them a lot of thought. It is certainly  interesting how the technology is being refined though and well done to Honda for this innovation.

September

September 2019 means Frankfurt (September 2020 means Paris; Europe’s big autumn car shows alternate) and this year the VW ID.3 is the big debut (and the car will be priced under EUR30,000). Here’s our list of the IAA world premieres. Our Frankfurt coverage, news and interviews, is gathered together here.

‘Coast-to-Coast’ rear lighting? It’s a term that has us smiling. Jaguar’s XJ replacement rear end image is flashed up during the IAA Defender presentation – it has full-width tail lights (or to use SEAT’s term, ‘Coast-to-Coast rear highlights’). Which reminds me, I met someone who won the ‘cannonball run’ once, but that’s another story…

UAW contract negotiations in the US are not something to take for granted. This year it’s GM’s turn to experience problems. The UAW calls a strike. Yikes. It doesn’t end quickly either.

It emerges that Amazon is planning to buy 100,000 electric vans. That’s not a bad contract to have in your back pocket as a start-up.

Chemicals company Ineos reveals that it is planning to build a plant in Wales to make a utilitarian 4×4 in the tradition of the Land Rover Defender (the new Defender a bit, how can we put it, tarted up – creating the space for a more basic workhorse). It’s good news for Bridgend – which is facing big job losses after Ford’s restructuring – and we wish the project well.

What3words? Imagine a grid map of the world in which each 3-metre square grid has three words randomly assigned that form a unique identifier. That’s actually a pretty powerful basis for a navigation tool.

A Ferrari PHEV is coming and SK will supply the battery. The car will be pretty quick.

September also sees Tesla roll out what it says is its biggest software update ever. ‘Smart Summon’ is an element that provokes a bit of controversy and discussion over liability. Tesle is also busy with its Shanghai factory.

October

Renault announces it has started a public trial of its on-demand car service using autonomous, electric and shared Zoe cabs on the Paris-Saclay urban campus.

The UAW’s GM strike in the US eventually ends in a compromise contract settlement, but not before significant damage being done to GM’s finances.

Hyundai reveals that it has integrated artificial intelligence (AI) into its Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) system, allowing it to adapt its self-driving patterns to the owner’s prevailing driving behaviour – including preferred distance from the vehicle in front while traveling at different speeds selected by the driver. Smart stuff.

The Tokyo Motor Show is well known for its wacky concepts and this year’s is no exception. Here’s our list of world premieres – waku, waku!

In another sign of automotive value chain restructuring, Brose announces job losses in Germany.

The big news of the month hits at the end when PSA and FCA announce plans for a merger that they say opens a path to the creation of a new group with global scale and resources owned 50% by Groupe PSA shareholders and 50% by FCA shareholders. These two have been rumoured to be talking for some time and the plans look well developed, with Tavares earmarked for the CEO role and Elkann as chairman. The industrial rationale is strong.

Nissan appoints Makoto Uchida as its new CEO. He has a big job to do, that’s for sure. Makoto Uchida took over from Hiroto Saikawa who was forced to resign earlier this year after admitting to being overpaid by the company (quite ironic given what happened to his predecessor Carlos Ghosn). The main task set by Uchida is to restore the profitability of the Japanese carmaker by moving away from the high volume discounting model of the previous management and focusing on launching new high value vehicles. And there’s a relationship with Alliance partner Renault to sort out…

November

There’s a big restructure announced in Japan involving Honda and Hitachi.

Quantum computing is an area of tech that could, just could, be very transformative indeed if practice lives up to a theory that allows a big step-up in computing capacity. It’s early days, but boffins at VW and ‘D-Wave’ are working on traffic optimisation modelling using a quantum computer. The mind boggles.

Volkswagen starts ID.3 production in Zwickau at a ceremony that Angela Merkel attends. Yes, that’s how important this model is.

BYD and Toyota announce that they have signed an agreement to establish a joint company to research and development for battery electric vehicles (BEVs).

Tesla announces ‘Gigafactory 4’ for a site near Berlin. There are reports circulating that it will be very big, with production capacity around 500,000 units a year – which probably says something about the company’s lofty ambitions for future models in Europe. The German site makes a lot of sense and certainly amounts to a statement of intent that the German OEMs would do well to take note of.

At the LA auto show (here’s our LA premieres list), Ford reveals that there will be an electric Mustang. Yes, a green ‘stang (Mach-E) and it will be made in Mexico. It shows how serious Ford is about electrification and it provokes thoughts on Ford’s car product strategy: Bullitt versus Ford Mustang Mach-E.

Daimler reveals plans for an EUR1bn jobs axe, blaming the transformation of the auto industry. It also says profitability will be dented by tougher CO2 emissions rules. Later in the month the company says it plans to axe at least 10,000 jobs worldwide to improve profit margins squeezed by heavy investments in electric and self-driving vehicles, a move that follows rivals BMW and Volkswagen’s Audi division.

Continental announces a restructuring to its manufacturing footprint over the next decade as it says an accelerated transition to electric mobility necessitates adjustments and the phasing out of production for combustion engine components at several locations worldwide. Over 5,000 jobs will be affected by the changes over the next ten years.

Skoda shows off its new Octavia model in Prague. The estate/wagon accounts for almost two-thirds of the range’s sales. Quite a staggering stat, that.

Bushfires in Australia are very much in the news and impacts the debut of the Toyota GR Yaris when Rally Australia is cancelled. Our thoughts are very much with the communities affected down there (and especially with the volunteer force of firefighters).

Aston Martin launches its DBX. Impressive stuff, but I’d go for a DB11 if I were paying.  It has cost a pretty penny to develop (with its own dedicated production facility, too) and Aston Martin confirms plans to raise more capital.

Mazda starts selling its first electric car, the MX-30 and PSA opens its electrified powertrain assembly line at Tremery. The powertrains will go into all group fully electric vehicles – both passenger cars and light commercial vehicles.

December

Volkswagen signs an agreement with the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) to bring a fleet of self-driving Level 4 electric shuttles to Doha in 2022.

FCA says it is to consolidate its new product engineering and development units into a new global unit that it says will lead to faster speed to market and boost technological innovation.

Vitesco (Continental’s powertrain tech unit) claims big cost cuts for PHEV powertrains. High-voltage, it seems, is the way to go.

The demise of GM Europe models in favour of PSA-based product at Opel/Vauxhall continues.  Opel confirms that Mokka X production ceased at the end of June, with dealerships across Europe now running out of stock. No reason for the model’s demise was given. The successor to this B-SUV will not appear until 2020, Opel said, noting the previously announced electric version “will be available from the start of production”. We also gleaned some interesting Corsa development background at a media event.

Nissan’s new CEO says he is to axe Datsun and focus on new technology. So much for that brand revival.

One of the model reveals of the month is a look at Tesla’s Cybertruck (pickup) concept. It is a VERY striking design, all lines and sharp angles. Is it a styling mis-step? At first glance, I thought so, but now I am not so sure. The production vehicle will probably be toned down a bit, but it is futuristic looking (even if that future looks a bit early 1980s Bladerunner inspired), of that there is no doubt.

We applaud recycling and this catches our eye. A by-product of coffee bean roasting at McDonald’s will soon be used by Ford to make vehicle parts such as headlamp housings. Nice one Ronald.

From all of the team at just-auto, we wish you a Happy Christmas and a peaceful, prosperous and successful 2020.




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