Good morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the important stories you need to know.
1st Gear: Hyundai Diving Head First Into The Already Crowded CUV Market
Hyundai announced yesterday at its America Technical Center in Michigan that it plans to crank out eight all-new or “re-engineered” crossovers by 2020. The new models will range from an A-Segment offering similar to the Nissan Juke, all the way up to an eight-passenger mid-size CUV like the Honda Pilot, with some getting not just gasoline powertrains, but also diesel, electric and fuel-cell options.
Vice president of Hyundai Motor America says the end result will be “the most diverse CUV powertrain lineup in the industry,” and that this new “product revolution” will begin with the launch of the new Kona (see image above) in March.
This rapid ramp-up of crossover production isn’t entirely surprising, as passenger cars have been falling out of favor for quite some time in the U.S., with Bloomberg citing Autodata Corp as saying that the market share for cars has dropped to 38 percent this year. With passenger cars historically being Hyundai’s “bread and butter” (the company only offers three SUVs today), this has not been good for the Korean automaker, whose third quarter profit dropped substantially in part because of a lack of crossovers in a market yearning for them.
But in the next three years, Hyundai hopes to solve their crossover supply issue, offering people who are looking to get out of compact cars and into crossovers a new A-segment CUV, and also aiming to coax in CUV buyers with the promising fuel economy of a diesel powertrain.
2nd Gear: Speaking Of All-Out Offensives, GM’s Aims To Sell 1 Million EVs Annually By 2026 And Make A Profit
One of the biggest criticisms many auto analysts have about electric vehicles is their lack of profitability. The new technology, especially the batteries and charging station, is expensive, and getting customers to pay for it all isn’t easy.
But Mary Barra spoke yesterday at the 2017 Global Automotive Conference in New York, telling investors the company expects its electric vehicles to become profitable beginning with the next generation EV architecture, which is set to launch in 2021, Automotive News reports.
According to the news site, GM—which last month announced plans to offer 20 all-electric or hydrogen fuel cell cars by 2023 (four all-new by 2020 and two all-new by April 2019, Automotive News confirmed)—aims to sell 1 million EVs annually by 2026, a goal that should be aided by a reduction in lithium-ion battery costs.
According to Automotive News, Barra told investors that GM plans to reduce costs by using its all-new modular EV platform to build vehicles spanning multiple brands and market segments, and that the batteries would be integrated into the architecture. Crucially, those batteries, GM expects, will be much cheaper ($100 per kilowatt-hour versus $145 per kilowatt-hour), contributing to at least a 30 percent reduction in “per-unit” vehicle cost.
Barra told investors how promising the new platform is, saying:
We are working to provide desirable, obtainable and profitable vehicles that deliver a range of over 300 miles...There’s a lot of really creative things we’re doing to achieve that profitability point for that new platform.
As pressure from EV regulations in China, the U.S.’s own emissions standards, and Tesla’s Model 3 mounts, GM appears to be stepping up its electric car game.
3rd Gear: Speaking Of Electric Vehicles, VW Will Spend Nearly $12 Billion On Electrified Vehicle Development For China
China has perhaps the toughest electrified vehicle rules for automakers, requiring a “new-energy vehicle score” (which Bloomberg says is “linked to the production of various types of zero- and low-emission vehicles”) of above 10 percent beginning in 2019.
To comply with China’s policies, German automaker Volkswagen has announced it will spend $11.8 billion developing and producing EV and plug-hybrid vehicles for China with the help of its Chinese joint-venture partners, with Bloomberg reporting:
Volkswagen will make the investments by 2025 and introduce 40 locally produced vehicles, its China head Jochem Heizmann told reporters in Guangzhou Thursday. The European automaker’s venture with Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group will start production of electric vehicles in the first half of next year, while sales will start in the second half.
Fifteen of those 40 cars are expected to be built on VW Group’s MQB platform, while the rest would be based on newly-developed platforms, Heizmann told reporters at the auto show.
So it looks like Volkswagen’s all-electric assault continues.
4th Gear: Ford Submits Patent For Autonomous Off-Road Tech
Ford has apparently submitted a patent for a system that could allow a vehicle to traverse obstacles off-road without the assistance of a driver, Autoblog reports. The website says the patent mentions cameras, radar, ultrasonic sensors, LIDAR, and road-condition detectors as among the types of sensors that the system would rely on. Autoblog describes how it would work, saying:
First, the autonomous tech would decide if it could safely navigate an off-road challenge at all. If so, then it would determine if it could do so with passengers in the vehicle. If the system suspected a rollover risk beyond a certain safety threshold, the system would instruct the passengers to exit the vehicle. A “remote device” could enable some type of manual control while the driver watches the show from outside. Either manned or unmanned, the system would command variables such as an active suspension, body mounts, differentials, and individual wheel position via settings like “rock crawling” and “ground clearance avoidance” to get over the river and through the woods without harm.
Automotive News’ story on the autonomous off-road patent (which used a pickup as an example, but specifically mentioned that the system could be used in “any passenger or commercial automobile”) includes a statement from Ford, which reads:
Patents on innovative ideas as a normal course of business. Patent applications are intended to protect new ideas but aren’t necessarily an indication of new business or product plans.
So who knows if Ford’s “autonomous” off-road tech will actually make it into production (like, say, in the upcoming Bronco or Ranger). But consider me intrigued.
5th Gear: Major Automotive Supplier Lear’s President And CEO Retires
Replacing Simoncini in February will be 52-year-old executive vice president and president of Seating, Ray Scott, who has been with the Southfield, Michigan-based seating and electrical system juggernaut for 29 years.
Reverse: Andrew Riker Sets World EV Speed Record By Reaching 57.1 MPH In His 1901 Riker Torpedo Race Car
Neutral: Diesel Crossovers: Do You Get It?
I’ll admit I was perplexed when Chevy announced the diesel Equinox; why would traditionally conservative crossover shoppers spring for a decidedly not-conservative, niche diesel engine? Now Hyundai is doing the same thing. Do you get it?