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JLR prepares for electric future

In preparation for an electrified future, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is replacing its director for manufacturing, the firm said today.

JLR operates three factories in its home market but is building its first electric car, the I-PACE, in Austria.

The Indian-owned automaker’s Chief Executive Ralf Speth told Reuters earlier this year he is waiting for more information on trading conditions after Brexit before he decides whether to make electric cars in Britain.

On Thursday, he said Executive Director for Manufacturing Wolfgang Stadler is retiring from the business, to be replaced by Director of Quality and Automotive Safety Grant McPherson from July 1.

“He will oversee the ongoing investment into our UK and global manufacturing, transforming our plants to enable Jaguar Land Rover’s exciting electrified future,” Speth said in a statement to Reuters.

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Tesla beats expectations

Tesla’s Fremont factory

Tesla reported its Q1 2018 earnings today, posting adjusted losses of $3.35 per share with revenues of $3.4 billion (NZ$4.86 billion).

This is a win for Tesla, as analysts polled by FactSet expected Tesla to report a loss of $3.48 a share with revenues of $3.22 billion, up from $2.7 billion a year ago. Last quarter, Tesla reported revenues of $3.29 billion. Tesla also ended Q1 with $2.7 billion in cash.

However, the electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer posted a record US$709.6 million (NZ$1.014 billion) net loss in the first quarter and burned through US$745.3 million (NZ$1.065 billion) in cash while struggling to crank out large numbers of its Model 3 mass-market electric car.

The loss raises questions about the company’s future and whether it will be able to pay all of its bills by early next year without more borrowing or another round of stock sales.

Tesla also provided some updates to its Model 3 production, stating that they have managed to produce 2,270 cars per week for three straight weeks in April.

“Even at this stage of the ramp, Model 3 is already on the cusp of becoming the best-selling mid-sized premium sedan in the US, and our deliveries continue to increase,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk and CFO Deepak Ahuja wrote in a letter to investors.

“Consumers have clearly shown that electric vehicles are simply more desirable when priced on par with their internal combustion engine competitors while offering better technology, performance and user experience.”

Tesla expects to hit its ideal production rate of 5,000 Model 3 units per week within two months and plans to increase that goal to 10,000 shortly after that.

“In the end, this is all about having factories that are producing the world’s highest quality cars as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible, and with as close to zero injuries as we can possibly get,” the investor letter states. “Our automation strategy is key to this and we are as committed to it as ever.”

Assuming Tesla hits its 5,000 Model 3 cars produced per week goal, Tesla expects to be profitable in Q3 and Q4, excluding non-cash, stock-based compensation. Tesla also expects to achieve full GAAP profitability in Q3 and Q4 as well.

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Incoming stock surge

Ports of Auckland

VIA, (the Imported Motor Vehicle Industry Association), wants to remind the auto industry to work together to ease port congestion at Ports of Auckland.

The monthly total of cars into Auckland for April was around 30,000, with the same or more expected for the month of May. This surge in stock means that wharves are still considerably pressured.

To avoid demurrage (currently $60 per car, per day), vehicles ideally need to be moved from the port seven days a week, Monday through to Sunday.

VIA ask that compliance shops work with transport companies to ensure that transporters have access to deliver vehicles from the port into safe storage. This is simply to avoid port congestion and should not place undue pressure on the compliance KSDPs.

For any questions, please contact VIA Technical Manager Malcolm Yorston on 0800 VIA VIA (842 842) or email technical@via.org.nz. 

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BMW linked to fatal accident

An electrical fault with a range of BMWs has been linked to a fatal accident after a British man crashed and subsequently died after he was forced to avoid a broken-down BMW with no lights or power on a dark A-road.

The ongoing inquest into the death found that BMW was aware of the issue, which involved overheating battery cables leading to a loss of power and lights. The fault affected some models of BMW 1 Series, 3 Series and Z4, and prompted a recall in 2013 of over 500,000 vehicles in the USA, Canada, South Africa and Australia.

The court heard that BMW didn’t initially issue a recall for the fault in the UK, as it was not felt to be “critical” because drivers would still be able to brake and steer if their cars were affected, however, their brake, head and hazard warning lights would not function.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), the government organisation responsible for monitoring car safety recalls, told BMW at a meeting in 2016: “we do not want a fatality”. In February 2017, two months after Mr Gurung’s death, BMW recalled 36,000 affected cars in the UK. 

The lawyer representing Mr Gurung’s family at the inquest told Mark Hill, BMW’s supplier quality engineer that: “If someone’s vehicle suffers a total electrical failure on a motorway or on an A-road they lose the ability to use their brake lights or hazard lights and that gives rise to serious injury or death. No lights are the biggest concern. Another road user cannot see the powerless car.”

Hill said: “It is not a safety defect because a prior warning [such as the car not starting] is given to the user in the majority of cases.” He added the fault: “Is deemed not critical because the driver is still able to steer the car and brake the car. The car is still under control.”

A statement released by BMW said: “We are deeply saddened by this tragic incident and we extend our heartfelt sympathies to the family of Mr Gurung. As this matter is still the subject of court proceedings, we are unable to comment specifically on it.”

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Tesla hit with lawsuit

Tesla vs. Nikola – Source: Teslarati

Nikola Motor Company has filed a lawsuit against Tesla alleging they copied patents from their all-hydrogen truck. Nikola is seeking NZ$2.8 billion in damages in return.

“It’s patently obvious there is no merit to this lawsuit,” a spokesperson for Tesla told The Verge. 

A representative for Nikola Motors said in a statement to The Verge that “[w]e are not commenting because it is in the courts. The lawsuit speaks for itself.”

Nikola was founded in 2014, and the company showed off its first a hydrogen-electric semi truck in May 2016. 

The complaint filed by Nikola lays out a number of claims that viewed together, the company says prove Tesla copied from the startup’s patents. Nikola points to the trucks’ front fenders, wraparound windshields, mid-entry doors, aerodynamic fuselage for similarities.

Nikola also claims that a recruiter for Tesla, Aaron Hoyos, tried to poach Nikola’s chief engineer just a few months after the startup unveiled its hydrogen semi truck and that this is evidence that Tesla was aware of Nikola’s unique design features.

Nikola says that Tesla’s truck is causing “confusion in the market,” and claims that “Tesla’s infringement has harmed Nikola’s ability to attract investors and partners because investors can now partner with Tesla to have an alternative fuel semi-truck.”

Nikola announced that it will refund all current reservation-holders’ deposits, without changing their place in line for its hydrogen fuel-cell semi trucks.

The company said deposits would be refunded within 60 days, and noted that “we have never used a dollar of deposit money in the history of our company.” New reservations won’t require a deposit, the company said.

 

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Respite for Zeanz clients

Two weeks ago, Zeanz Cloud Solutions announced they would be terminating their services, impacting companies in the auto industry that use Zeanz Cloud Solutions for their online hosting services.

This was followed on Tuesday this week with news that Kim S Thompson had been appointed as liquidator to settle the affairs of Zeanz Limited.

NetValue, a Hamilton-based business providing web, software, app and hosting services, has today announced that they have acquired the Zeanz business and that there will be no immediate disruption to service, and absolutely no termination of services as previously announced by Zeanz.

“The products and services offered by Zeanz were a perfect fit for our existing business model and the capabilities and resources of our team of over 45 staff,” said NetValue CEO, Graham Gaylard.

NetValue’s message to Zeanz customers right now is ‘Your business operations will not be affected in any way – it’s business as usual’.

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New vehicle registrations steady

David Crawford, Chief Executive Officer of the Motor Industry Association says “April new vehicle registrations of 10,423 vehicles were down 2 per cent (212 units) in April 2017 reflecting a stable market. Year to date the market is marginally up by 1.4 per cent (704 units) compared to the first four months of 2017.”

David Crawford, chief executive officer of the MIA

Registrations of 6,848 passenger and SUV vehicles for the month of April were down 2.1 per cent (148 units) on April 2017 and registrations of 3,575 commercial vehicles was marginally down by 1.8 per cent (64 units) on April 2017.”

Toyota remains the overall market leader with 13 percent market share (1,310 units), followed by Ford with 11 per cent (1,115 units) and Mazda with 9 per cent market share (893 units).

Mazda was the market leader for passenger and SUV registrations with 11 per cent market share (760 units) followed by Toyota with 10 per cent (712 units) and Holden with 8 per cent market share (540 units).

In the commercial sector, Ford regained the market lead with 22 per cent market share (803 units) followed by Toyota with 17 per cent (598 units) and Holden with 9 per cent market share (312 units).

Four of the top five selling models for the month of April were light commercial vehicles with the Mazda CX-5 (SUV) splitting the list in the third spot. The Ford Ranger was back at the top of the bestselling vehicle model table with 745 units. This was followed by the Toyota Hilux with 457 units and the Mazda CX-5 with 317 units.

The Pick Up/Chassis Cab 4×4 segment came in as the top segment for the month of April with 15 per cent market share. This was closely followed by the SUV Medium segment also with 15 per cent of the market, and the SUV compact with 14 per cent market share. The top five segments were all light commercial vehicles and SUV’s, reflecting the ongoing popularity of these vehicles.

“The market for new vehicles remains at historically high levels with registrations underpinned by a range of economic factors. Net immigration, while reducing is still elevated based on long-term trends, new vehicle prices remain competitive and the economy is stable” said Mr Crawford.

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Hybrid VW golf confirmed

48-V belt-integrated starter generator, 48-V battery and DC/DC converter

Volkswagen has confirmed an upcoming hybrid model of the eighth-generation Golf. 

Due to be revealed in 2019, the next-generation Golf will be offered with an all-new 48-V mild hybrid option that will work alongside Volkswagen’s current 12-V system.

Volkswagen already offers a completely electric e-Golf, which is currently one of New Zealand’s best selling electric vehicles (EVs), however, the next-generation Golf will be the first time Volkswagen use the new hybrid option, which will be utilised in further models.

Volkswagen will combine a combustion engine with a new 48-V belt-integrated starter generator and a 48-V battery. The mild hybrid system will enable the new Golf to ‘coast’ while the combustion engine is completely switched off, saving up to 0.3 litres of fuel over 100 kilometres while promising improved dynamics and convenience with an “electric boost.”

“Electrifying conventional drives will enable us to further reduce consumption and emissions while also increasing dynamics and convenience”, says Dr Frank Welsch, Member of the Board of Management for Volkswagen Passenger Cars with responsibility for Technical Development.

Welsch continues: “We are starting this extensive electrification campaign with Volkswagen’s best-selling vehicle to date – the Golf. Our newly developed, cost-effective 48-V mild hybrid will pave the way for introducing this type of technology to the mainstream”.

Volkswagen states that the 48-V system enables a considerably higher amount of energy to be saved than the 12-V system, e.g. via recuperation when the vehicle brakes. This high level of voltage enables a number of operations, including the actuation of the 48-V belt-integrated starter generator.

The generator performs the role of alternator and starter. At the same time, it functions as a small, lightweight electric motor that immediately increases drive torque upon start-up by means of an electric boost. The power of the generator is transferred via a belt. The generator also starts the combustion engine – which is switched off as much as possible while the vehicle is moving.

Welsch continues: “The basic interaction of different energy sources – electricity, petrol, diesel and natural gas – represents a paradigm shift at Volkswagen. For the first time, the company will simultaneously offer product lines such as the Golf with conventional, electrically assisted drives as well as product lines such as the I.D. with purely electrical drives in the future.”

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Tesla police vehicles deployed

Source: Christophe Olinger

The Luxembourg police have announced that they are now using the Tesla Model S for two of their police patrol cars and have fitted them with police equipment, reports local news site Luxemburger Wort. 

Luxembourg regulators took a long time to approve the vehicles. There were apparently problems with the new light systems and they had yet to complete high-speed tests, which were later performed at a test track in Germany.

The Model S vehicles needed to be tested at 250 km/h, which is the top speed of the performance versions of the Model S. It shouldn’t be a problem to reach it, but sustaining it for a long period of time is going to be an issue. It’s not clear what the nature of the test is other than achieving the top speed.

The two vehicles are now in operation as of last week, according to Luxemburger Wort.

One of the vehicles is used “a motorway patrol vehicle” and the other is used as part of the “Service Escortes et Contrôles (SEC)” fleet, which performs police escort duties.

In terms of range, the country is ideal for electric cars since it’s only 82 km long and 57 km wide. As for speed and acceleration, all of the latest versions of Tesla’s Model S are now quicker and faster than conventional police cars.

In Canada, Ontario Provincial Police got a Model X and Swiss Police added 7 Tesla Model X 100Ds to their fleet. In the US, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Denver Police Department are both using Model S sedans as part of their fleets. In Europe, Scotland Yard says that it is considering the vehicle as a police cruiser.

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Funding boost welcomed

The NZ Automobile Association is welcoming the Australian government’s decision to continue funding the work of independent vehicle safety consumer organisation ANCAP for another five years.
Stella Stocks

Stella Stocks, the AA’s general manager of motoring services

Stella Stocks, general manager of motoring services at the AA, which sits on ANCAP’s board, has welcomed the funding announcement. She says the money from Australia’s federal government is a welcome boost to the funds ANCAP receives from state-government agencies across the Tasman, the New Zealand government and motoring clubs in both countries. “The extra funding is a big boost for vehicle safety,” says Stocks.

The Government’s $6.64 million commitment to fund ANCAP for another five years will assist ANCAP to continue the role it plays in testing and assessing new cars, providing information for consumers about vehicle safety and general advocacy about safety on roads.

ANCAP Chief Executive James Goodwin noted the important role safer vehicles play in reducing road trauma. “Continued emphasis to elevate the safety of new vehicles – as well as to reduce the overall age of the nation’s registered vehicle fleet – are critical to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by serious crashes,” says Goodwin.

The Australian Government joined as a member of ANCAP in 2010 and is one of 23 member organisations including the Australian and New Zealand automobile clubs, all State and Territory Governments and the New Zealand Government.

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Drive Happy Project on target

Toyota’s new way of selling vehicles, the Drive Happy Project, is on target despite its relatively quiet start in April, with 1362 sales recorded to date since launch. 

“We expected a significant dip in sales for April,” said Toyota New Zealand’s CEO Alistair Davis. “Transitioning to a new way of doing business is not going to happen overnight, or even in one month. We are in this for the long term.”

Davis said introducing the Drive Happy programme in April was partially by design.

“We had a good March, with Toyota stores contributing to this as they increased their demonstrator fleets as part of the Drive Happy Project.”

The first month of the new financial year – April – is also slower for the fleet, rental and lease business, said Mr Davis. “This has allowed us to fine-tune some of our system changes without the pressure of the usual larger sales volumes.”

He said customers had to get used to the idea of a Toyota Driveaway Price (TDP) – considerably lower than the previous recommended retail prices – with no haggling.

“People can still buy a new Toyota at their local store, with or without doing online research,” said Mr Davis.

However, most customers are making use of the improved online features with Toyota confirming a 10 per cent increase in visitors to their website on the previous month, with 15% of those making use of the online car builder.

The Toyota Driveaway Price includes delivery costs, number plates, registration, a full tank of fuel, floor mats, 1000kms of road user charges on diesel vehicles and a seven-day money back policy if the customer is not happy with the vehicle.

“Customers have more options to get the exact model in the colour they want from the large pool of vehicles held in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch,” said Mr Davis.

Toyota New Zealand expected and planned for slower sales with the introduction of Drive Happy, said Mr Davis.

“There’s a transition period for us as our network of stores and customers to get used to the improvements we’re making. We’re excited about the future and the opportunities these changes have opened up for us.”

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