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The Need For Speed: What’s Really Driving The Transformation Of Manufacturing

A tech at work at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Compressor International facility.

Consumers may love the “click today, deliver tomorrow” culture of online shopping, but it’s forcing manufacturers to react to changing customer needs faster than ever before. The effects are not limited to mass-produced goods; they’re rippling through the highly specialized world of heavy machinery, which is experiencing burgeoning demand for customized products.

While technology’s growing influence on the sector can’t be ignored, the need for accelerated production and delivery is changing heavy machinery manufacturing – reshaping the sector in profound ways and creating new opportunities for growth.

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Going local

The conventional global manufacturing and distribution model is disappearing. Instead of shipping from one large production facility to the rest of the world, manufacturers are searching for more efficient arrangements. For some companies, that means setting up shop closer to customers to gain a deeper understanding of their needs and be able to respond quickly.

Working together is nothing new for Japanese companies. Chowa, as it’s known in Japanese, refers to ‘a spirit of harmonious partnership.’

One company that’s reaping the benefits of proximity is Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Compressor International (MCO-I), a part of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Group. Rather than manufacture machinery at its home base in Japan and ship it to the United States, the company established a Gulf Coast base in 2015, in the heart of the local oil and gas industry – roughly half of the U.S. oil refining and natural gas processing capacity is located along the Gulf of Mexico.

This move has led to MCO-I’s rapid growth in the U.S. over the last four years, allowing the company to better understand the market and adapt its operations to the needs of its customers. Rather than simply shipping pieces of equipment, the company now offers customers whole-life service for its products.

3D printing on the premises

Technologies such as 3D printing are accelerating how companies produce their products. For instance, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Machine Tool Co. (MAT) uses a proprietary additive manufacturing process to print metal components of virtually any size, and a unique monitoring system works in real time, analyzing feedback and automatically adjusting the printing process to guarantee the integrity of the finished product.

Clients have access to a record of the manufacturing, giving them complete traceability. And the process is cheaper than traditional methods, such as casting.

This innovation opens up many possibilities for companies operating closer to their customers. Manufacturers can produce highly specialized components on-site, for industries ranging from auto manufacturing to space travel.

Components produced locally also cut out the carbon dioxide emissions associated with transporting products across long distances, another growing concern for customers.

Growing collaboration

Increasingly, manufacturers are adopting a spirit of collaboration, joining forces to meet the time frames and complex demands of customers.

Some industries are naturally suited to such joint ventures: Mobile phone service providers have been benefiting from shared network infrastructure for years, reducing costs, spreading investment risk and extending their coverage.

Today, deep supply chain integration continues to offer many benefits to both vendor and buyer, especially as the market demands ever faster production and distribution.

Working together is nothing new for Japanese companies. Chowa, as it’s known in Japanese, refers to “a spirit of harmonious partnership.” Harmony can even exist between rivals, where the practical benefits of combining resources outweigh competitive concerns. Mazda and Toyota may compete, for example, but they’re building a joint factory in Alabama – a single facility that will produce cars from both companies for American drivers.

As businesses look to go local, these kinds of collaboration are a strategic way to cut the costs of running multiple global bases.

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Partner companies may also have shared interests despite operating in very different fields. Take Google and Volkswagen, which have joined forces in a quantum computing partnership. Although the companies may apply the technology differently, they share a common goal to advance the field while sharing the resources required to do so. In an increasingly high-tech world, where such breakthroughs could shift the playing field, unlikely collaborations could become commonplace.

For major manufacturers, working with other companies provides an opportunity to offer clients end-to-end solutions – through the power of internal chowa. On the Gulf Coast, MCO-I and Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) have come together to supply customers with compressor and gas turbine packages.

Deepening integration

Greater collaboration has also become an integral part of successful and faster supply chains, as astute manufacturers realize the benefits of developing deeper relationships with their vendors. These suppliers can help manufacturers reduce costs, boost quality and develop new products and processes to outpace and outperform competitors.

This is a proven strategy for Japanese companies. The country’s major auto manufacturers were fostering supply chain integration in the U.S. in the 1980s. This culture of cooperation exported from Japan ran counter to the price-focused interactions between carmaker and supplier that dominated the American automobile market at the time.

Honda and Toyota built long-term, close-knit vendor networks in the States, in which suppliers learned, improved and shared in the parent company’s success. In the 1990s, production costs fell by as much as 25 percent for some Japanese models, lead times to bring new models to market were shorter than those of U.S. rivals, and overall reliability was superior.

Today, deep supply chain integration continues to offer many benefits to both vendor and buyer, especially as the market demands ever faster production and distribution. Sharing expertise and knowledge builds trust between partners, and often mutual success. The spirit of cooperation makes it easier to respond to customer requests for bespoke products and to react to emergencies.

This strategic, and at times physical, closeness can also give customers peace of mind about what they’re buying: MCO-I’s integration with MHI Group companies means customers know the provenance of their machines.

The result is greater speed and greater transparency – chowa at its best.

About the author

Johnny Wood has been a journalist for over 15 years working in different parts of the world – Asia, Europe and Middle East. As well as an accomplished features writer he has edited several prestigious lifestyle magazines and corporate publications.

A leading industrial firm, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Group (40 billion USD annual revenue) is finding new, simpler and sustainable ways to power cities, improve infrastructure, innovate manufacturing and connect people and ideas around the globe with ever-increasing speed and efficiency. For over 130 years, the company has channeled big thinking into innovative and integrated solutions that move the world forward. MHI owns a unique business portfolio covering land, sea, sky and even space across industries from commercial aviation and transportation to power plants and gas turbines, and from machinery and infrastructure to integrated defense and space systems.

Visit MHI Global or MHI Spectra.

Source: The Need For Speed: What’s Really Driving The Transformation Of Manufacturing

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Volvo To Test 5G Automotive Applications With China Unicom

A light colored volvo xc90.

Connectivity is central to the future of transportation, and if self-driving vehicles are going to enter the mainstream market, they’re going to need 5G. Volvo announced it has partnered with state-owned telecom giant China Unicom to explore vehicle-to-infrastructure and other automotive applications using next-generation 5G mobile network technology.

The two companies will research, develop and test ways that 5G connectivity speeds can be used to help improve safety, sustainability, customer convenience and autonomous driving. The upcoming 5G technology is many times faster than current 4G speeds, and its low-latency is critical for vehicles using the network to communicate real-time information with infrastructure, vehicles, and to cloud-based services. Volvo, which is owned by the Chinese Geely Auto Group, will explore how best to leverage the high-speed network to improve the driving experience.

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“Volvo has been a leader in realising the potential of connecting our cars to enable new features and services such as detecting and sharing locations of slippery roads between vehicles,” said Henrik Green, chief technology officer at Volvo Cars. “With 5G, the network performance is improving to allow for many more real-time critical services that can help the driver be safer and get a smoother and more enjoyable ride.”

Applications could help the country improve traffic flow by optimizing speed limits to coordinate with timed lights, or help drivers find open parking spaces. It could also be used to help support Volvo’s “Drive Me” self-driving vehicle pilot program. The auto maker originally planned to put 100 self-driving vehicles on the road in Sweden and China in 2017, but paused testing until 2021. The new 5G connectivity technology will be in the next generation of vehicles built on the SPA2 modular vehicle architecture, which will begin production in 2021.

However, the deployment of v2x technology using state-owned infrastructure could raise privacy concerns. China operates a vast domestic surveillance network that tracks individuals, and is rolling out a nation-wide “social credit” system based on data collected from public and private sources. This credit system can be used to reward citizens with high credit scores, and it can be used to punish those with low scores by limiting their ability to purchase luxury goods or barring them from buying tickets for travel.

Volvo notes that China is “widely expected to implement its own regional standards for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technologies.” This means that vehicle-to-everything applications developed hand-in-hand with the state-owned telecom without individual privacy protections built in could be the same as handing over the keys to the car to the government.

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I’m an automotive technology and lifestyle writer covering alternative powertrains, transportation startups, next-generation infotainment systems, and basically anything could “disrupt” your daily commute. My work has appeared in CNET.com, TheDrive.com, CNN.com, and several print and online publications, including Roadandtrack.com, Popular Mechanics, and Penthouse.

Source: Volvo To Test 5G Automotive Applications With China Unicom

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Here’s Why One Electric Car Is Outselling All The Others Combined

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According to the year-end plug-in vehicle sales scorecard compiled by the website InsideEVs.com, Tesla sold 158,925 Model 3s in the U.S. during 2019. That not only makes it the most-popular plug-in vehicle in America, it’s handily outselling all the other electric cars on the market combined, and by a substantial margin.

The Model 3 quite literally beat the pants off all comers last year, including its own showroom siblings, the older and far pricier Tesla Model Y at 19,225 units and the Model S at 14,100 delivered in 2019. Other top sellers in this segment, though nowhere near the Model 3, include the Chevrolet Bolt EV and the Nissan Leaf, responsible for an estimated 16,416 and 12,365 units, respectively. No other EVs recorded five-figure sales last year.

Tesla reportedly pulled out all the proverbial stops to make fourth-quarter sales before its federal tax credit granted to EV buyers expired. The credits phase out for any automaker that sells more than 200,000 plug-in cars, which is something Tesla accomplished in 2008. Its credits dwindled to $1,875 as of July 1, 2019, and were eliminated altogether on January 1.

But that still doesn’t explain the Model 3’s overwhelming dominance in the still nascent electric vehicle market. A close look reveals that, unlike most other automakers, Tesla seems to be much of everything right with regard to its smallest and least-expensive vehicle.

For starters, it’s priced near, if not in the sweet spot for Tesla intenders, starting at $39,990 for the Standard Range Plus version. The mid-to-upper $30,000 range is a popular price point among mainstream EVs right now. Surveys almost unanimously cite the higher cost of battery-driven vehicles as being one of the biggest barriers to more widespread adoption. That could be one reason why luxury-oriented models like the Audi e-Tron and Jaguar i-Pace, priced in the $70,000 range, have yet to connect with consumers.

Range anxiety is frequently cited as a major concern with potential EV buyers, and the Model 3 largely avoids it. The base version can run for an average 250 miles on a charge. That’s more than enough to meet most motorists’ needs and is roughly on a par with smaller and less expressively styled electric vehicles like the Chevrolet Bolt EV and the Hyundai Kona Electric at 259 and 258 miles, respectively. If you have a bigger budget, the $48,990 Long Range model can traverse an estimated 322 miles with a full battery, which is about as much as anyone could drive in a single day.

Lack of a public charging infrastructure is also frequently mentioned as an issue among consumers with regard to EVs. For its part, Tesla gives Model 3 buyers access to its extensive network of Supercharger quick-charge stations, installed in myriad locations on well-traveled routes across the country. And this is in addition to the ability to charge at other expanding networks like ChargePoint, EVGo, and Electrify America.

Another lingering myth about electric cars is that they’re lacking in terms of performance. In fact the opposite is generally true. The base version of the Model 3 can race from 0-60 mph in a frisky 5.3 seconds, and a downright fast 3.2 seconds in the top Performance iteration. As with all electric cars, having the battery mounted under the passenger compartment in a skateboard-like configuration warrants a low center of gravity, which inherently helps afford crisp handling skills.

Another problem with widespread EV adoption is that many models are only sold via select dealerships in California and one or more states that adhere to its stricter emissions regulations. For example, for 2019 the Kia Niro EV was only available in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. The Honda Clarity Electric was restricted to California and Oregon.

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Though Tesla is barred from establishing a company-owned retail presence in some states or is restricted to the number they can open due to long-established franchise laws, its vehicles remain widely available and the company seems to have developed a cult following. There are company-owned Tesla Stores in 26 states where consumers can see, touch, and learn about the vehicles. Tesla also sells its cars direct to customers via the Internet, though again with exclusions in some states.

At that, the traditional sales model doesn’t seem to be delivering the goods when it comes to EVs. A recent study conducted by the Sierra Club found a disturbing lack of enthusiasm among more-established automakers and their dealers to sell electric cars. The organization sent 579 volunteers out into the field to visit over 900 auto dealerships in all 50 states to assess how well battery powered vehicles are being supported on the retail level. They found disturbing shortfalls in electric car availability, how they were presented and charged for test drives, and salesperson knowledge regarding the products.

How will the Tesla in general and the Model 3 in particular are moving forward, with another model year under its belt?

Though the Model 3 is currently king of the proverbial hill, the electric car market will see several important new models coming to market in the coming months (including some pricey pickup trucks and sports cars). For its part, Ford is generating tons of enthusiasm with its coming Mustang Mach-E full electric crossover SUV, already racking up enough pre-orders (with refundable $500 deposits) to sell out its allotment of First Edition models. The Mach-E will come to market late in 2020 and will compete most directly with Tesla’s new Model 3-based Model Y compact crossover, expected around mid-year. As it is, with consumers shunning sedans in favor of taller crossovers these days, the Model Y will undoubtedly cannibalize Model 3 sales and could fast become the automaker’s top-selling model.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle Tesla will face in 2020 will be the lack of a federal tax credit as a deal sweetener. Congress has yet to extend or amend the current federal incentives that were enacted in 2010 to help spur sales of plug-in vehicles. While Tesla’s spiffs have expired and General Motors are slated to go away on May 1, all other automakers can still offer the full $7,500 credit. Despite lobbying by the auto industry, legislators declined to address the tax credits in a year-end spending bill, with the White House said to be staunchly opposed to their retention.

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I’m a veteran Chicago-based consumer automotive journalist devoted to providing news, views, timely tips and reviews to help maximize your automotive investments. In addition to posting on Forbes.com, I’m a regular contributor to Carfax.com, Motor1.com, MyEV.com and write frequently on automotive topics for other national and regional publications and websites. My work also appears in newspapers across the U.S., syndicated by CTW Features.

Source: Here’s Why One Electric Car Is Outselling All The Others Combined

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Tesla Gigafactory In Nevada Plagued By Worker Injuries: Report

Topline: While states often compete to attract thousands of new tech jobs, a USA Today investigation uncovered a host of issues—from workplace injuries to housing shortages—at Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory in recent years, showing the darker side of big corporate factories.

  • According to the investigation by USA Today, workers at the Tesla Gigafactory outside Reno, Nevada, have been struggling with workplace safety issues for the last few years, with some incidents not even getting reported as required by law.
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had to send inspectors onsite more than 90 times in three years, whereas other factories in the area on average only had to see an inspector once during that same period, the report found.
  • Injuries occurred routinely, at least three times a month, with some—including amputations, one of which USA Today describes in grisly detail—never even getting recorded by Tesla.
  • Emergency responders have been hard-pressed to answer regular calls from the factory in recent years: In 2018, for instance, there was an average of more than one 911 call per day coming from the factory, spanning everything from workplace injuries to medical concerns, according to USA Today’s report.
  • The arrival of 7,000 new workers when the plant opened has also exacerbated an already critical housing shortage and homelessness issue in the Reno area: Gigafactory employees found it hard to find an affordable place to live, with several resorting to living in tents or cars, the investigation found.
  • Traffic has also increased exponentially in the surrounding area, with roads leading to the massive factory—which is only 30% complete—getting routinely congested.

Key background: In 2014, Nevada beat out other states competing to be the new home for Tesla’s ambitious battery factory project, which the company promised would become one of the world’s biggest factories. State officials rushed through a $1.3 billion tax abatement package—the largest in Nevada’s history—to incentivize Tesla to move there. But when complications emerged from the influx of new workers, state and local governments were ill-prepared and had little financial resources to address them.

Today In: Money

Further reading: This isn’t the first time safety issues have been reported at a Tesla factory. A Forbes investigation earlier this year found that Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, had racked up more fines and workplace safety violations than any other car factories.

Tangent: Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced on Tuesday that the company plans to build its fourth Gigafactory in Berlin, Germany.

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I am a New York—based reporter for Forbes, covering breaking news—with a focus on financial topics. Previously, I’ve reported at Money Magazine, The Villager NYC, and The East Hampton Star. I graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2018, majoring in International Relations and Modern History. Follow me on Twitter @skleb1234 or email me at sklebnikov@forbes.com

Source: Tesla Gigafactory In Nevada Plagued By Worker Injuries: Report

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Union organizers say hundreds of construction workers walked off the job at the Tesla Motors manufacturing plant east of Reno to protest the increased hiring of out-of-state workers for less pay.

Tesla Model Y Will Crush The Crossover Competition, Here’s Why

There’s a lot of EV crossover competition coming down the pike but don’t expect established gas-engine automakers to suddenly wrest the EV market from Tesla.

In short: The Tesla Model Y will dominate the EV crossover category because it’s the most recognized EV brand – certainly in the U.S.

With over 500,000 VIN registrations for the Model 3, it’s not a giant leap of faith to see the Model Y – with a starting price of $39,000 for the 230-mile range version – garnering market share and mind share quickly.

Crossover competition has arrived

Yes, the EV crossover competition has already arrived in the U.S., including the Audi e-Tron, Hyundai Kona EV, Jaguar I-PACE, and the Kia Niro EV – not to mention the 2020 Chevy Bolt (with an upwardly revised range of 259 miles), and the Nissan Leaf S Plus.

Today In: Innovation

But, remember, all the above EVs are from traditional automakers. They’re ICE vehicle makers first, EV makers second. And right now EVs are a distant second in sales. Don’t believe me? Go visit the U.S. dealer lots of any of those car manufacturers. It’s wall-to-wall gas-engine vehicles (with a few exceptions in markets like Los Angeles).

Still don’t believe me? Check out this sales chart from InsideEVs for the month of September. The much-vaunted Audi e-Tron sold a whopping 434 copies, the Hyundai Kona EV 190, The Jaguar I-Pace, 160, Kia Niro EV 90 etc.

Even if you allow for lack of availability because the above are just coming on the market, long-established nameplates like the Nissan Leaf (in its current iteration as the 226-mile-range Leaf S Plus) and the BMW i3 are not going gangbusters, with sales of just over 1,000 for the Leaf and half that for the i3 in September.

The only EV really in the running at all in September was the Chevy Bolt* with 2,125 copies sold, according to InsideEVs.

And the Model 3? Over 19,000 sold in September, about 8 times the closest competition. It’s not ludicrous to expect that the Model Y will post monthly numbers certainly higher than, for example, a Bolt EV. And probably much higher.

Model S and X will bow to the Model Y, launch to happen in summer

Meanwhile Tesla is ramping up production of the Model Y earlier than expected.

Regarding Model Y, we’re also ahead of schedule on Model Y preparations in Fremont, and we’ve moved the launch timeline from full 2020 to summer 2020. There may be some room for improvement there, but we’re confident about summer 2020.

Elon Musk, October 24, 2019, third quarter earnings conference call (via Seeking Alpha).

And Tesla’s priorities are pretty clear as the company gets ready for Model Y production. In responding to a question from an analyst on the October 24 call Musk said:

The Model S and X are really niche — they’re really niche products. I mean, they’re very expensive, made in low volume. To be totally frank, we’re continuing to make them more for sentimental reasons than anything else. They’re really of minor importance to the future.

Musk also mentioned that Tesla will “build out more facilities for Model Y production at Shanghai.”

Production glitches are the X factor

Of course, a surge in Model Y deliveries in, let’s say, early 2021 is dependent on Model Y manufacturing being as ready as Musk claims. And the CEO has a tendency for excessive bullishness and exaggeration when it comes to expectations.

Barring an unforeseen event, however, Tesla is more ready now for large-scale mass production than it was back in July of 2017 when it faced a year of production hell and was in the throes of becoming a high-volume car manufacturer.

NOTES:

The Long Range and Performance variants of the Model Y —which you can order now from Tesla’s website – start at $48,000 and $61,000, respectively.

*In the spirit of full disclosure, I drive a 2018 Chevy Bolt.

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I was a founding member of CNET news and hardware editor at CNET, a contributing technology reporter for the New York Times, and a reporter and editor at the Asian Wall Street Journal Weekly — the latter in Japan, where I lived for ten years. Currently a contributing reporter for Fox News.

Source: Tesla Model Y Will Crush The Crossover Competition, Here’s Why

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Electric Truck Unicorn Rivian, Backed By Amazon And Ford, Lands $350 Million Investment From Cox

Rivian, an innovative truck startup planning to produce all-electric pickups and SUVs that’s backed by Ford Motor Co. and Amazon, said Cox Automotive is investing $350 million and may partner with it on future business operations.

Led by 36-year-old founder and CEO RJ Scaringe, Plymouth, Michigan-based Rivian has ginned up excitement in the auto industry with its plans to launch a line of long-range, rechargeable light trucks, including the R1T pickup and R1S SUV, built off a highly functional “skateboard” platform that integrates the battery pack, drive components and suspension system. Ford invested $500 million in April and Amazon led a $700 million round in February.

Cox, which owns an extensive range of businesses related to auto sales and services, including consumer information sites Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader, retailer data services Dealer.com and Dealertrack, and automotive auction business Manheim, will also explore ways to help Rivian with service operations, logistics and digital retailing.

Today In: Business

“We are building a Rivian ownership experience that matches the care and consideration that go into our vehicles,” Scaringe said in a statement. “Cox Automotive’s global footprint, service and logistics capabilities and retail technology platform make them a great partner for us.”

A Clark Kent look-alike with a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from MIT, Scaringe has refined his ideas for electric vehicles over the past decade and could prove to be a major competitor to Tesla’s Elon Musk, who has his own plans for battery-powered trucks, ranging from a pickup to 18-wheel semis.

Rivian aims to begin production and sales of its first two models from late 2020, building them at the former Mitsubishi Motors Corp. assembly plant in Normal, Illinois, that it purchased in 2017 and is renovating. The company already has more than 1,000 employees and wants to begin selling its electric vehicles internationally from 2021.

Both the R1T and R1S are to have electric range of up to 400 miles per charge–well more than any of Tesla’s current EVs–and they are priced from $68,000 and $72,500, respectively.

Rivian’s fundraising in the past year has been prodigious and totals at least $2 billion with Cox’s investment. Still, it declined to provide an estimate valuation or confirm what stake is owned by Scaringe. In addition to the funding from Ford and Amazon, it raised $450 million in an earlier round that included Saudi Arabia-based investment group Abdul Latif Jameel, Su­mi­tomo Corp. of Japan and London’s Standard Chartered Bank.

“We are excited by Rivian’s unique approach to building an electrified future and to be part of the positive impact its products will bring to our roads and the world around us,” said Sandy Schwartz, president of Cox Automotive. “This investment complements Cox Automotive’s own commitment to environmental change through our Cox Conserves efforts.”

Along with its equity stake and potential business operations, Cox Automotive will have a seat on Rivian’s board.

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From Los Angeles, the U.S. capital of cars and congestion, I try to make sense of technology-driven changes reshaping transportation, cities and how we get around. I’ve tracked global automakers, advanced vehicle tech and environmental policy for more than two decades, including 15 years at Bloomberg, and squeezed in stints in the financial and corporate worlds. What’s your story?

Source: Electric Truck Unicorn Rivian, Backed By Amazon And Ford, Lands $350 Million Investment From Cox

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Why A BMW Painted With ‘The World’s Blackest Black’ Is Unlikely To Hit The Road

Topline: BMW rolled out its first vehicle painted with “vantablack”, known as the world’s blackest black⁠—and although the company claims it would like to see the car on the road, it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.

  • The BMW X6 was selected as the first vehicle to receive the inky-black paint job and will debut in September’s Frankfurt Motor Show.
  • Vantablack in its purest form absorbs all light, without reflecting any back.
  • To make sure the X6 didn’t appear completely two-dimensional, the vantablack paint used on it reflects back 1% of light.
  • Although X6 designer Hussein Al Attar said he “absolutely” could see vantablack joining BMW’s lineup of color options for car buyers, the automaker has no immediate plans.
  • According to Ben Jensen, CTO of vantablack developer Surrey Nanosystems, “The limitations of vantablack in respect of direct impact or abrasion would make this an impractical proposition for most people. It would also be incredibly expensive.”

Chief critic: Auto enthusiasts. They question why a car needs to be painted with vantablack, especially since it won’t be for sale anytime soon. And safety studies show that regular black cars are already more dangerous to drive over lighter-colored cars⁠—chances of crashing a black car at dawn and dusk are 47% higher than that of a non-black car.

Key background: Developed by Surrey Nanosystems in 2014, the pigment in vantablack is made from tiny bits of carbon. Originally designed to be used in outer space, vantablack can be applied at temperatures hundreds of degrees below freezing. It has also been used in space cameras to block out light from the sun, letting the devices take clearer photos of distant stars and galaxies.

Surprising fact: The “vanta” in vantablack stands for Vertically Aligned Nano Tube Array.

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I’m a New York-based journalist covering breaking news at Forbes. I hold a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Previous bylines: Gotham Gazette, Bklyner, Thrillist, Task & Purpose, and xoJane.

Source: Why A BMW Painted With ‘The World’s Blackest Black’ Is Unlikely To Hit The Road

Another Alfa Romeo Comeback Story May Be Ending

After a brief surge, Alfa Romeo's comeback plan looks to have stalled, outsold in Europe by Lancia.

Has yet another Alfa Romeo comeback story fizzled out before it ever really got going?

It’s hard to see it any other way, with the fabled Italian sports and premium brand outsold in Europe for the first half of the year by its ignored, underfunded Fiat Chrysler Automobiles stablemate, Lancia.

Alfa Romeo has five models on its books, including the 4C sports car, the dated MiTo three-door hatch, the just-facelifted Giulietta five-door hatch and the expensively developed Giulia sedan and Stelvio crossover.

Lancia, on the other hand, sells just one car – the eight-year-old Ypsilon five-door hatch. It might be a legendary name, with some of the most desirable cars ever built on its books and with multiple World Rally Championships to its name, but its reputation for quality is so bad in Europe that it has retreated to just one market: Italy.

FCA analyst Fiat Group World pointed out that Alfa Romeo sales fell to 29,187 in the first half of 2019, while the Ypsilon, based on the budget Fiat Panda, managed 34,691 sales in Italy alone.

Alfa’s sales fell 42 percent year-on-year in Europe, while Lancia’s rose 29 percent with an ancient product that wasn’t terribly good to begin with.

It has been an across-the-board pummeling for Alfa, with its business sales dropping from 33,400 last year to 19,200 this year, while its private sales fell 40 percent.

It was hammered in France, where its sales fell 61 percent, but the biggest concern will be its collapse in its home market of Italy, where it dropped 47 percent to only 14,700 registrations.

The clunky, one-market Ypsilon is single-handedly embarrassing Alfa Romeo.

The clunky, one-market Ypsilon is single-handedly embarrassing Alfa Romeo.

In a frightening buyer revolt, only 5000 Alfas were privately registered in Italy in the first half of the year.

Even the newest Alfa model, the Stelvio, saw its European sales drop by 18 percent this year to just 13,800 registrations as it was overtaken by updates to rivals like the BMW X4.

The heavily publicized Giulia sedan, which shares its expensively developed rear-drive architecture with the Stelvio, saw its sales fall 44 percent to 5767 registrations across Europe.

There was more bad news in the US, where it sold 9037 cars in the first half; down on the 12,265 it sold in 2018.

Alfa is twinned with Maserati within the company and the Modena-based brand at least has plans to pull its product lineup into the next decade with a range of plug-in hybrids, a Porsche Macan-testing crossover and an all-electric sports car.

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I have been testing cars and writing about the car business for more than 25 years. My career began in daily newspapers and developed into editorship of two automotive magazines. I’ve been based in Italy as a freelancer for more than a decade, covering the European car business, with a focus on product testing and product development for readers around the world.

 

Source: Another Alfa Romeo Comeback Story May Be Ending

Elon Musk And The Mirage Of Tesla In India

Elon Musk smiles while speaking to members of the media outside federal court in New York, U.S., on April 4, 2019. (Natan Dvir/Bloomberg)

Elon Musk smiles while speaking to members of the media outside federal court in New York, U.S., on April 4, 2019. (Natan Dvir/Bloomberg)

© 2019 Bloomberg Finance LP

Will Tesla chief Elon Musk finally bring his much sought after electric cars to India within a year?

That’s what he said while speaking with a team of students from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, who were competing in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition 2019. Suyash Singh, who was taking part in the hyperloop competition with a team called Avishkar, confirmed the comments by Musk through email.

But Musk has said this before, as recently as March this year.

In response to a question on Twitter on when he would bring Tesla to India, he wrote, “Would love to be there this year. If not, definitely next! [heart] India.”

The dangling started in April 2016 when Musk tweeted that India was being added to list of countries where Tesla’s relatively affordable Model 3 would be available. Although its price tag of $35,000 made it out of the reach of most Indians, that didn’t tamp any of the excitement around the idea. At the time Musk also said the company would also bring a “India-wide Supercharger network.” Tesla owners in the U.S. can juice up the depleted batteries of their cars in 75 minutes on a supercharger.

But that soon hit a road bump of prohibitive Indian rules. “Maybe I’m misinformed,” Musk tweeted, “but I was told that 30% of parts must be locally sourced and the supply doesn’t yet exist in India to support that.”

Last year he wrote: “Would love to be in India. Some challenging government regulations, unfortunately. Deepak Ahuja, our CFO, is from India. Tesla will be there as soon as he believes we should.” But then the company announced in January that Ahuja would be resigning from his role.

While it’s anyone’s guess on when Tesla will actually be available for sale in India, if ever, the country’s electric vehicle market is slowly picking up steam. New Delhi has a target that 30% of vehicles sold across all segments will be electric by 2030.

For financial year ending March, India saw sales of 3,600 electric cars, 126,000 two-wheelers, 500 buses and 700 three-wheelers also known as autorickshaws, according to CRISIL, an S&P Global company.

The nascent industry got a boost last week when ride hailing giant Uber announced it intends to launch electric autorickshaws in several cities in the coming months for which it has partnered with battery maker SUN Mobility, a joint venture between solar power company SUN New Energy System and electric mobility company Virya Mobility 5.0.

New Delhi has laid out $1.4 billion in subsidies over three years for electric buses, three-wheelers, four-wheelers that are registered as commercial vehicles as well as private motorbikes and scooters. The majority of Indians still travel by those modes rather than personal cars. It also plans to order Uber and its homegrown competitor Ola to convert 40% of their respective fleets to electric by 2026.

CRISIL Research expects a gradual pick-up in EV adoption in India to be led by three-wheelers and two-wheelers over the next five years.

However, for a real pick up in the sector, the country needs to beef up its charging infrastructure, says Hetal Gandhi, Director, CRISIL Research. India had only 352 publicly accessible chargers in 2018 in comparison to the 275,000 chargers in China, according to International Energy Agency. “Greater availability of charging infrastructure would aid in electrification of buses and taxis,” said Gandhi.

That apart, local manufacturing and assembly of battery packs for the EVs would also go a long way in reducing the cost of these vehicles, she added.

Should those actually kick in, it might make the market attractive enough for Musk to actually make good on those tweets.

I write about business and development in the Subcontinent. In the past I’ve worked at AFP, The Wall Street Journal, Mint, Forbes Magazine and Reuters. You can find me on Twitter: @mbahree or contact me on email: Megha.Bahree@gmail.com.

Source: Elon Musk And The Mirage Of Tesla In India

Hybrid Pioneer Toyota Finally Unveils Its First EV, The C-HR

The C-HR is Toyota's first-ever EV.

The C-HR is Toyota’s first-ever EV.

Some automotive analysts have recently suggested that Toyota missed the boat when it comes to electric vehicles. That could not be farther from the truth.

While not the first to mass-market an EV — that honor went to the Nissan Leaf in 2010 — Toyota has been methodically electrifying its lineup since it pioneered that world’s first hybrid—the Prius—back in 1997. In fact, of the 60 odd models (in Japan) in its range, well over half boast some form of electrification. We should of course note that by electrification, we are referring to vehicles powered by either a pure electric powertrain or a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or hydrogen fuel cell setup.

And electrification is the operative word here. Because while Toyota may not yet have a pure EV on the market, its hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell cars like the Mirai all have electric motors, battery packs and power control units that EVs employ. The technology is there. It’s just that the hybrid powertrains contain a gasoline engine component, which depending on the vehicle, either powers the drive wheels or merely acts as a generator to charge the batteries. Indeed, the Mirai is an electric car with hydrogen as its fuel.

I spoke with a Toyota executive recently who said that, “We might not have an EV in our lineup at this moment, but we have the necessary technology to release one almost immediately when the time is right.” He added that the company has been gauging market reaction to EVs, while it progressively electrified its entire lineup, a task that will be completed by 2025. That’s right. By 2025, every Toyota and Lexus vehicle will be propelled by some form of electric powertrain.

As far as Toyota’s “when the time is right” comment goes, it would seem as though the time to launch a pure electric car is now. At April’s Shanghai Motor Show, Japan’s No 1 carmaker unveiled their first-ever EV in China, the C-HR and Izoa battery-electric crossover concepts. Technically the same car, they are manufactured by different joint ventures. The reason why the same car has two names is because Toyota operates multiple joint ventures in China with GAC calling it C-HR and FAW referring to it as the Izoa.

While the company was not offering up any range details or specifications on its powertrain, we did learn that the concept sits on the same Toyota New Global Architecture that underpins the popular Camry and Corolla. Another thing we can infer from the C-HR is that if Toyota can mount an electric powertrain in this small crossover then there is a fair chance that other models like the RAV4 or Corolla, which also employ the TNGA platform, can also be made into EVs.

What we’re seeing here is just the start of a wave of EVs that Toyota says will number at least ten by 2025.

In a career that spans 30 years, I have written about automobiles, innovation, games, luxury lifestyles, travel and food.

Source: Hybrid Pioneer Toyota Finally Unveils Its First EV, The C-HR

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