Listen to “AD #3026 – Chevy Bolt EUV Impressions; Honda Signs Swappable Battery Deal; VW’s 2020 Earnings Hammered” on Spreaker.
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0:08 Renault’s EV Sales Tumble in January
0:49 Hyundai Sees High Demand for IONIQ 5 In Europe
1:23 VW’s 2020 Earnings Hammered
3:31 Honda Signs Swappable Battery Deal
4:21 VW Plans to Put AV Technology in ID Buzz
5:18 ZF Developing Autonomous Shuttle
5:42 High Manual Take Rate In 911 GT3 Surprises Porsche
6:50 Chevy Bolt EUV Impressions
9:26 Bridgestone Celebrates 90th Anniversary
This is Autoline Daily, the show dedicated to enthusiasts of the global automotive industry.
RENAULT’S EV SALES TUMBLE IN JANUARY
We start today in Europe, which as you know, is a hot bed for electric cars. In fact, last year it was the Number One market for EVs. The Renault ZOE was one of the best-selling electric vehicles there last year, but sales just took a tumble. They fell 62% in January, to just under 3,800 units, which is a sharp drop from the 16,000 sold in December. As a result, Renault’s total EV sales were down nearly 50% in January. Who knows if this is a blip or a sign of things to come but it’s not good to see such a sharp drop-off.
HYUNDAI SEES HIGH DEMAND FOR IONIQ 5 IN EUROPE
Yet, while Renault is struggling with EV sales, Hyundai says it’s IONIQ 5 electric is getting tons of hand raisers in Europe. Since it was unveiled last week, it generated 236,000 inquiries from potential customers. Within 24 hours of opening reservations for a limited-edition version, nearly 9,000 reservations poured in, even though Hyundai will only make 3,000 of them. Deliveries of the IONIQ 5 to customers in Europe start in the second quarter.
VW’S 2020 EARNINGS HAMMERED
Volkswagen reported its earnings from last year, and while they were hammered from the Covid pandemic, there is a silver lining in the numbers. Sales of cars and trucks fell 16% to 9.2 million vehicles, and it fell behind Toyota in the race to be the biggest car company in the world. VW brought in €230 billion in sales, down about 12%. But its operating profit of €10 billion, was down a staggering 45%. By the way, one third of VW’s profit comes from China. It turned a net profit of nearly €9 billion which was down 37%. So where’s the silver lining we were talking about? VW took a pretty big hit from the pandemic, but it was still solidly profitable. That bodes well for this year–as long as that chip shortage doesn’t do another number on its numbers.
|Volkswagen AG 2020 Earnings|
|Operating Profit||€10.6 Billion||-45%|
|Net Profit||€8.8 Billion||-37.3%|
HONDA SIGNS SWAPPABLE BATTERY DEAL
Swappable batteries for electric vehicles aren’t a new idea but instead of cars, Honda wants to use them in motorcycles. The company signed a letter of intent with Yamaha, KTM, an Austrian motorcycle and sportscar manufacturer and Piaggio, an Italian scooter maker, to form a swappable battery consortium for vehicles in the L category which includes motorcycles, mopeds, three-wheelers and quadricycles. The companies say the consortium will help promote more widespread use of electric vehicles and help create a more sustainable life-cycle management of batteries. While it’s not as practical to swap batteries in cars, it would be a lot easier for customers to swap a battery in a scooter or motorcycle at home or work.
VW PLANS TO PUT AV TECHNOLOGY IN ID BUZZ
Volkswagen must like Waymo’s idea of turning minivans into autonomous vehicles. It’s going to do the same thing with the ID Buzz. The plan is to come out with a fully autonomous van in 2025 to be used as a robo-taxi for ride hailing and carpooling. All that is going to be done with autonomous technology developed by Argo AI, the AV startup based in Pittsburgh that both VW and Ford invested in. VW sees commercial vehicles as the best place to launch autonomous technology. And the autonomous ID Buzz and others to follow are being developed by its Commercial Vehicle division. Yet, Volkswagen is also forging ahead with an in-house effort to develop self-driving technology up to Level 4. That’s being done with its Car.Software Organization, and those vehicles will be sold to regular customers.
ZF DEVELOPING AUTONOMOUS SHUTTLE
German supplier ZF is also getting in on the AV action. It’s developing this autonomous shuttle called RABus with L4 technology. Top speed is about 25 miles an hour and it can hold 22 people. The idea is to use it on urban routes and it will be tested in Friedrichshafen and Mannheim in Germany.
HIGH MANUAL TAKE RATE IN 911 GT3 SURPRISES PORSCHE
The automatic transmission may have been popularized in North America, but we’re not letting manuals go away without a fight. And that’s especially true of sporty cars, like the Porsche 911 GT3. While it also offers an automatic, 70% of Americans opted for the manual in the GT3. And don’t think that’s the norm for the car. Global take rate for the manual in the GT3 is only 30%. Even Porsche was surprised by the manual in the GT3. The Brands head of motorsport said, “We lost several bottles of wine by betting on the take rate when we reintroduced the manual option. We were surprised by how high it was.” Other cars like the Subaru WRX and BRZ, Mazda MX-5 Miata and Volkswagen Golf also have high manual take rates.
CHEVY BOLT EUV IMPRESSIONS
The Chevy Bolt EV is a difficult vehicle to label. Is it a high-riding car or is it a crossover? While that debate can rage on, it hopes the all-new Bolt EUV won’t have that same confusion. Although, after seeing it in person, I’ll say the EUV is a bit smaller than I was expecting. The focus seems to be more on the added length, which increases rear seat legroom and cargo space. And I’m here to tell you, even at 6’4”, I had a good amount of legroom in the back seat. However, the headroom, whether in the front or rear, was a little cramped for me. Overall, the interior has a nice look, but what looks good in pictures doesn’t always look good in person. And the Bolt EUV falls into the latter category. It’s very plastic-y, which I thought made it look cheap. Some better materials would make the interior feel much more inviting. Compared to other EVs that I’ve been in, like the Tesla Model 3 & Y, Ford Mustang Mach-E and BMW i3, the Bolt EUV has a suppler ride. It soaks up the bumps in the road much better, but feels way less rigid. I’m sure suspension tuning has something to do with it, but those other vehicles mostly use a dedicated EV platform, which I think plays a role as well. Now let’s talk about the Bolt EUV’s biggest technology feature, Super Cruise. This is the same system that Cadillac originally launched on the CT6, but with a few upgrades. It improved the driver monitoring system, added 70,000 more miles of highway where the system will operate and put in notifications that explain why Super Cruise is not engaging. So, that means it has the same limitations as the CT6. The system kicks off at any major freeway exchange, even if you’re staying on the same stretch of road, and there’s no lane justification. It always tries to keep you in the center of the lane. That’s good most of the time, but can be a bit unnerving when passing a big truck. The upgraded system with new features, like the ability to change lanes, will only be available on vehicles with GM’s new electrical architecture. The Bolt EUV goes on sale this summer with a starting price of $34,000, including destination charges.
BRIDGESTONE CELEBRATES 90TH ANNIVERSARY
Be sure to join us for Autoline After Hours this Thursday when we’ll be taking a deep dive into the all new Acura MDX. And before we go we’d like to wish a very happy birthday to Bridgestone. The tire maker is celebrating its 90th anniversary, which was founded today back in 1931. It created a commemorative logo for the anniversary and it has a special webpage to provide information on the company’s DNA, history and vision. Wow. 90 years. That’s a lot.
And with that we wrap up today’s show, thanks for watching.
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John McElroy is an influential thought leader in the automotive industry. He is a journalist, lecturer, commentator and entrepreneur. He created “Autoline Daily,” the first industry webcast of industry news and analysis.