Our regular analysis of automakers’ upcoming new models continued this week with scrutiny of Maserati. To quote our futurist: “It’s going to be a big year for Maserati, with one, perhaps two new models coming, then others in ’23 and ’24.” As is the case with Alfa Romeo, possibly due to the numbers being less than ideal, Stellantis is yet to announce Maserati’s global sales data for 2021. The year before wasn’t anything special either. It isn’t just Covid-19 and microchips though; similar to Alfa, new models have been either delayed or programmes cancelled. That era is about to end. There’s loads more details including what we know of the delayed second SUV model line and the article is well worth a read. Pull up a coffee and enjoy.

How soon will the chip shortage end? we asked this week. You’ll know the background to this, of course: While rumblings of shortages within the world’s chipmaking industry began before the pandemic, the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus significantly exacerbated the problem. As more countries locked down, forcing consumers to stay at home and factories to sit idle, automakers cancelled chip orders with suppliers to reduce their costs and avoid having lots of surplus parts just sitting in their inventories. This meant that chipmakers pivoted to supplying industries such as personal electronics where demand remained stable. In addition, auto players generally prefer slightly older chipmaking technologies that have proven reliability records but, with the pandemic forcing chipmakers’ hands, they mostly chose to focus on newer technologies that are common in consumer products such as smartphones and games consoles, but not typically deployed in vehicles until later in their lifecycle. Without access to strong supplies of semiconductor products, automakers have had to prioritize what supply they have available to models that either represent a strong profit margin such as SUVs and pickups, or older models that use fewer semiconductor products. Companies including Tesla and Stellantis have made adjustments to their vehicles’ equipment ranges to account for the more limited semiconductor supply. With vehicle sales nosediving in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was hoped that 2021 would see a strong recovery in the sector, minimizing the financial damage of the previous year. However, in practice, few automakers were able to build as many vehicles as they would have originally planned despite healthy demand from consumers, causing a significant drag on 2021’s sales and muting the recovery over the previous year. The question on many lips now is “when will automotive chip supply recover?”. Read on, for the results of our exclusive GlobalData survey.

Another great interview was published here on Just Auto this week: We caught up with Sue Ozdemir, CEO of Exro Technologies to learn how its Coil Driver and energy storage technology can make e-mobility smarter and more efficient.

A big announcement from Stellantis’ Alfa Romeo brand this week heralding the upcoming Tonale SUV – an electric future beckons for the famous Italian marque. Cue our future models expert again: “Alfa Romeo finally has a new model. Others are promised but can the marque be successfully reinvented? Will Stellantis put the big money into Alfa Romeo that’s been needed for decades? Only time will tell. Just as much as cash, corporate attention and some realism about the sales potential of all models combined is needed too.” Read on for more.

Covid has sure shown up the supply chain fragilities in automotive. This week we took a close look at current trends and supply chain issues for the sector.

Plenty of M&A and deals in the Just Auto news this week. Samsung Electronics subsidiary Harman has acquired Apostera, a German automotive technology company. Harman said Apostera’s augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) software products would expand its automotive product offerings and “position the company at the forefront of automotive AR/MR experience design”. Apostera’s mixed reality product combines augmented reality, machine learning, computer vision and sensor fusion in a “hardware-agnostic” software platform. “Combined with Harman’s digital cockpit product portfolio, these new software products will bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds,” the supplier said.

Basemark said it had “contributed significantly to the development of new groundbreaking augmented reality applications” for BMW’s new iX model, claiming the new features “help to increase the driving experience, comfort, and safety to a new level”. The Finnish company specialising in automotive software, implemented augmented reality (AR) applications for the German automaker. AR over-video application is the first and is now available in some of the latest BMW models. The work has resulted in claimed “cutting-edge” AR applications for new electric models which use vehicle sensor data and computer vision functionality. These enable AR-enhanced information to be shown on the car’s central information display while navigation is enabled. Basemark said augmented reality-powered information displays help the driver with vehicle interaction and to be more aware of their surroundings.

Qualcomm Technologies and Ferrari announced a “strategic technology collaboration” aimed at “helping accelerate the digital transformation” of the automaker. Qualcomm Technologies would be Ferrari’s systems solutions provider for its upcoming road cars, as well as a ‘premium partner’ for the Scuderia Ferrari Formula 1 team and Ferrari eSports team. The automaker will work with Qualcomm Technologies to use the Snapdragon Digital Chassis to bring the latest automotive technology advancements to road cars. The digital chassis is comprised of open and scalable cloud-connected platforms needed for next generation vehicles which includes telematics and connectivity, the digital cockpit, as well as ADAS functions and uses a unified architecture to deliver enhanced safety and immersive digital experiences that are updateable throughout the lifetime of the vehicles. As a part of the agreement, Qualcomm Technologies and its partners will also work with Ferrari to design, develop and integrate digital cockpits.

We put the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s EV goals under the microscope this week. Despite strains between members, the alliance is seeking competitive gains from more collaboration in EV technology and manufacturing. Traditional automakers have been gearing up themselves against the disruption caused by new technology companies in vehicle electrification such as Foxconn, Sony and others. Automakers globally are forming alliances, getting in global partnerships, making vertical integrations through M&A to enhance their electric vehicle (EV) development capability, secure adequate supply and share the costs of development. The alliance has said it will spend EUR23bn in the next five years on electrification, leading to 35 new EV models by 2030. That’s on top of EUR10bn invested so far. Continuing the ‘leader-follower’ scheme defined in May 2020, select technology is developed by one leading team with the support of the followers, thereby allowing each member of the alliance to access all the key technology. The alliance has also defined a common 2030 roadmap on pure-EV and intelligent & connected mobility, sharing investments for the benefits of its three-member companies and their customers. The investment will be aimed at developing a common EV platform for all member companies, which will be an addition to the existing four common EV platforms namely CMFB-EV, CMF, Mini Cab, and P1 as per GlobalData records. These existing platforms are categorised as low-cost/economy and the next platform to be developed is also anticipated to be focused on compact EVs – which is a key focus area for the alliance.

Staying with EVs, we also eyed Geely owned Volvo Cars’ big plans for Torslanda plant investment. The automaker will spend SEK10bn for the production of next generation fully electric cars and will introduce a number of new and more sustainable technologies and manufacturing processes in the plant. These include the introduction of mega casting of aluminium body parts, a new battery assembly plant and fully refurbished paint and final assembly shops. The investments follow on a recent announcement by Volvo Cars and Northvolt to invest SEK 30 billion in a new battery plant at Gothenburg. The automaker said both investment plans represent new steps towards its ambition to be a fully electric car company by 2030 and reflect the company’s commitment to a long-term future in its hometown of Gothenburg.

Have a nice weekend.

Graeme Roberts, Deputy Editor, Just Auto