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0:07 Tesla Getting Into the Utility Business
0:52 Ford Throwing In Towel on India
1:38 Renault Could End Chinese Van Joint Venture
2:11 Toyota Says 3 HEVs = 1 BEV
3:59 Genesis Gives the G80 RWS
4:33 Ford Teases Next-Gen Ranger
5:09 BMW to Enter IMSA’s LMDh Category
5:53 Mercedes-AMG Project One Going Racing?
7:24 Toyota Corolla Cross Impressions
This is Autoline Daily, the show dedicated to enthusiasts of the global automotive industry.
TESLA GETTING INTO THE UTILITY BUSINESS
Tesla continues to break the rules about what a car company is supposed to be. Reuters reports that it’s going to get into the retail and wholesale business of selling electricity. And it could disrupt the utility business as much as it’s disrupted the automotive business. Tesla is getting into what they call distributed energy, where it will create a trading platform for utilities to buy electricity from battery, solar, and wind projects on a wholesale basis. And it applied in Texas to start selling electricity to retail customers. Distributed energy has a lot of appeal because it can be more resilient to disruptions caused by severe weather or cyber attacks.
FORD THROWS IN TOWEL ON INDIA
Just a few years after making plans to make a big splash in India, Ford is throwing in the towel. You’ll probably remember it started building the EcoSport there and it formed a joint venture with Mahindra. But now it’s going to stop selling all the models it currently offers in India once dealer inventories are gone. However, Ford isn’t completely abandoning the market. It will continue building engines for export and it will import models like the Mustang along with its upcoming hybrids and electrics. Ford will also continue its engineering, technology and business operations in the country. Ford says it lost $2 billion over the last 10 years in India, and it isn’t interested in losing any more.
RENAULT COULD END CHINESE VAN JOINT VENTURE
And in somewhat related news, Renault is in talks to end its van joint venture with Chinese automaker Brilliance. The partnership started in 2017 with the goal of introducing electric commercial vans to the Chinese market. But so far, the JV has struggled. Renault also ended a passenger car joint venture with Dongfeng last year because of poor sales. However the French automaker isn’t giving up on the market and has formed a partnership with Geely to sell hybrids.
TOYOTA TOUTS BENEFITS OF HYBRIDS
Toyota is going to start coming out with pure electric vehicles but it’s still touting the benefits of hybrids. It says three hybrids can reduce CO2 emissions as much as one BEV. And they can do that at much lower cost. Toyota says it has sold 18.1 million hybrids globally to date, so using its 3:1 ratio it’s the equivalent of introducing 5.5 million BEVs. It also says that the number of batteries it’s made for hybrids is the same amount needed for 260,000 BEVs. And based on that, Toyota says the amount of batteries it produced for hybrids has reduced CO2 the same amount as if it had sold 5.5 million BEVs. Hopefully that wasn’t too confusing. But what do you think, do you buy Toyota’s logic?
GENESIS UPDATES THE G80 WITH AWS
Genesis is updating the G80 sedan for the 2022 model year. It comes standard with all-wheel drive, a 14.5-inch display screen and a suite of driver assistance and safety technologies. A new 3.5T Sport trim is now available that offers rear-wheel steering. But you’ll have to pay up for it. Base price for the G80 is $48,000 but to get rear steering you’ll have to cough up $70,000. Customers can reserve the new G80 later this month.
FORD TEASES NEXT-GEN RANGER
Ford is starting its teasers for the next-gen Ranger. It’s giving us the usual marketing jargon, like this will be the toughest and most capable Ranger ever. But it also says it will be the most connected, so we expect a better infotainment system and OTAs. The current Ranger in the US was derived from the global version of the truck, which was already deep into its product cycle. So the next-gen U.S. version will get back in sync with the global version. It will be revealed later this year and launch sometime in 2022.
BMW TO ENTER IMSA’S LMDh CATEGORY
BMW and perhaps Mercedes-AMG are getting back into sports car racing. BMW confirmed it will compete in IMSA’s new LMDh category that will use hybrid powertrains. Those cars use a KERS setup similar to what’s used in Formula One. KERS stands for Kinetic Energy Recovery System. Dallara will build the chassis for BMW and Rahal-Letterman-Lanagan will be the team that races it. Interestingly, IMSA LMDh cars will be allowed to run in the 24 Hours of LeMans, which BMW won in 1999, though BMW made no note of competing in that race in its release.
MERCEDES GOING RACING WITH THE PROJECT ONE?
Meanwhile, Mercedes-AMG unveiled this beast at the Munich auto show this week. Mercedes-AMG calls this a “tribute” to its motorsports success, and says it was done for the Forza Horizon 5 video game. But if you ask us, it sure looks like the Project One could become a WEC Hypercar. That’s the new sports car category from the World Endurance Championship. The Project One uses the same hybrid tech from Mercedes-AMG F1 “almost one for one.” That’s an awful lot of development work for a car that supposedly was made for gamers. And it also looks like it spent a lot of time in the wind tunnel. That’s why we think it could actually end up on the race track. And it sure would be terrific to see BMW and Mercedes battling it out at the 24 Hours of LeMans.
TOYOTA COROLLA CROSS IMPRESSIONS
Toyota sure has a robust lineup of utility vehicles. There’s the C-HR, RAV4, Venza, Highlander, 4Runner, Land Cruiser and Sequoia. And now it’s adding an 8th to that list, the Corolla Cross. It slots right between the C-HR and RAV4. And while that does seem like a few too many, Toyota has done a good job, styling wise, of separating the vehicles. For example a Venza buyer is likely not cross shopping a RAV4 or a C-HR customer cross shopping a Corolla Cross.
The Corolla Cross should attract a wider range of buyers with its more mainstream styling. One interesting design element with the Corolla Cross is how the body color cuts into the bottom of the black wheel arches. It kind of helps clamp down the body to the wheels, rather than the wheels looking completely detached from the body. The small crossover is powered by a nearly 170 horsepower 2.0L engine that’s paired to a CVT and after a recent drive in Austin, Texas we can say the setup provides enough power and is not too buzzy in most normal driving conditions. And a physical 1st gear helps cut down on the usual rubber band acceleration feeling of a CVT.
The ride of the Corolla Cross is pretty good for a vehicle in this segment and the body feels nice and solid. We felt like the base level model with AWD drive had the best road feeling because it comes with a fully independent suspension and 17-inch wheels that have a larger profile to soak up bumps. FWD versions feature a torsion beam system in the rear. The new Corolla Cross is priced competitively. It starts at just under $23,500 and goes up to about $30-grand. AWD, which can be applied to any grade, is $1,300.
But due to the chip shortage it’s going to be a slow rollout of the Corolla Cross from Toyota and Mazda’s new joint assembly plant in Alabama. And that’s one of the reasons it’s pushing back its marketing campaign for the new crossover until early next year. The other is because that’s also around the time when the hybrid version of the Corolla Cross will launch. Oh and just in case you’re wondering, there will not be a Mazda version of the Corolla Cross.
How long can traditional automakers hold onto their ICE operations? And what’s it going to take for them to catch up to Tesla? Those are two of the topics we’ll tackle today on Autoline After Hours so join John and Gary later this afternoon for some of the best insights into what’s going on in the automotive industry.
But that’s a wrap for today. Thanks for tuning in.
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Seamus and Sean McElroy cover the latest news in the automotive industry for Autoline Daily.