Hitachi bus deal, Russia sales surge, Honda Ignition expands - the week - Just Auto
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Hitachi bus deal, Russia sales surge, Honda Ignition expands – the week

18 Jun 2021 (Last Updated June 18th, 2021 14:04)

Just Auto deputy editor Graeme Roberts reviews a busy week of news and analysis.

Hitachi bus deal, Russia sales surge, Honda Ignition expands – the week
Jaguar Land Rover is working on a Defender based hydrogen fuel cell vehicle

Hitachi Europe, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, and Arrival, have partnered to deliver new bus and infrastructure solutions to the European bus industry. The non-exclusive partnership combines Hitachi’s digital and operational capabilities with Arrival’s products that it says are competitive in price with fossil fuel alternatives. Together, both companies say they will work with operators to deploy integrated end to end solutions that incorporate all aspects of owning and operating Arrival vehicles; this includes items such as charging infrastructure and digital tools. It is claimed the deployment of these solutions not only simplifies the transition to electric but when combined with the lower total cost of ownership that Arrival’s vehicles and technologies provide, creates an ‘extremely compelling finance model that will accelerate the transition to electric vehicles for businesses across the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Nordics and the EMEA region’.

Russia May sales of new cars and light commercial vehicles increased 134% compared to the same month last year, or by 84,345 sold units and amounted to 147,378 cars according to the AEB Automobile Manufacturers Committee (AEB AMC). “May, 2021 new vehicle sales growth is on the expected very high level compared to same month of previous year, especially for the volume leaders,” said AEB AMC chairman, Thomas Staertzel. “In this month 147,378 new passenger cars and LCVs were sold, which is [a] 133.8% increase versus [the] same period last year and also 6.7% in comparison to [the] May, 2019 increase (about 10 000 cars up). YTD, May, 2021 is 38.7% higher than [the] previous year period, including the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown effect in 2020. “The same situation we will observe in June, but we will see more realistic YOY monthly comparison from July on. During the summer months, we will also see the effect of limited supply driven by the worldwide shortage of electronic components.

Honda has expanded its Ignition ideas incubator programme to cover most workers in Japan and brought in a venture capital firm to help evaluate innovations. Ignition is a programme that gives shape to the original technology, ideas and designs of Honda workers and contributes to solving social issues and creating new value. The programme was initiated in 2017 by Honda R&D, the research and development subsidiary. Since it began, Ignition has received many applications with new business ideas, and several proposals that have a high degree of compatibility with Honda business are already being pursued with an eye toward commercialisation. There also were proposals that could deliver value more quickly if they were pursued through a startup venture, taking advantage of the unique characteristics of startup companies; therefore, in 2020, Ignition added an option for commercialisation of new business ideas through business ventures, in addition to commercialisation inside Honda.

Continental will close its induction systems factory in Nadab, in Romania’s Arad county, and transfer the work to its heating/cooling rubber hoses unit in Carei, in Satu-Mare, local reports said. The operational transfer from Nadab to Carei will be made gradually, until mid-2022, an announcement from the supplier said. Over 300 workers at Nadab are affected by the transfer and will be offered relocation to Carei while a small number will be relocated to Timisoara, Continental said. It would offer a compensation package in accordance with local laws to employees who did not want to transfer.

The former United Auto Workers (UAW) president Gary Jones has been sentenced to 28 months in a US federal prison after pleading guilty to stealing around $1m of union funds. A court heard accounts of padding expense accounts for lavish vacations at golf resorts, fine whisky and cigars. Jones also pleaded guilty to hiding income to avoid paying tax. “I let my family down, and I let my union down,” Jones said, choking up in court, according to Automotive News. “I pray every day that no harm comes to the UAW and they’re able to be stronger and organised because of it.” Jones’ predecessor, Dennis Williams, was sentenced to 21 months in jail last month. Jones’ evidence helped with his conviction and secured a reduction in his own sentence. He also has to pay back stolen funds. The hearings for both men were delayed due to the pandemic. The UAW said in a statement that that Jones’ sentencing “brings to a close a very dark chapter in UAW history”.

Artists and art collectors are now able to buy a Polestar 1 with art. Geely-owned Polestar says that low volume, hand-built hybrid Polestar 1 production is coming to an end later in 2021. Prospective buyers will be offered the opportunity to pay for the EUR 155,000 vehicle by trading art they already own. Thomas Ingenlath, CEO of Polestar, says: “I love the idea of letting artists and collectors buy a Polestar 1 with art – it is such a special car and we wanted to find a unique way of celebrating it before its production reaches an end. It is hand-made, precious and tangible, much like a piece of art.” Polestar’s initiative comes amidst a recent art boom with new ways of trading art emerging, from non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to a pair of Kanye West-designed shoes selling for $1.8 million at a recent auction – as well as auction prices for classic and contemporary art recently soaring.

Tata-owned Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is developing a prototype hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) based on the new Land Rover Defender, with testing scheduled to begin this year. The FCEV concept is part of Jaguar Land Rover’s aim to achieve zero tailpipe emissions by 2036, and net zero carbon emissions across its supply chain, products and operations by 2039, in line with the Reimagine strategy announced last month.

Toyota Motor aims to make all its global operations carbon neutral by 2035 – bringing forward its previously announced deadline from 2050, according to a senior executive at the company. Masamichi Okada, chief production officer, said in order to meet these targets the company will introduce new technology to its most polluting processes such as painting, coating and casting. He added: “These processes generate high levels of CO2, so we will focus initially on making improvements in these areas as much as possible and even eliminate CO2 emissions altogether.” Okada also confirmed the automaker would also consider using both onsite and offsite power sources to increase its use of renewable energy.

After a rocky 12-18 months, Nissan is trying to find a way forward post-Ghosn. The good news is its strength in China and to a lesser extent, the USA and Japan. In Europe, South America, India, Africa and the Pacific Rim, things remain more challenging. If the R-N-M Alliance can be fortified, the future for the Nissan brand may begin to look much brighter. And when it comes to next generation vehicles, there are many potential sources of success.

Volkswagen is participating, with a contribution of US$620m (EUR500m), in a financing round of its Swedish battery partner Northvolt AB with a total volume of US$2.75 billion. VW said its latest investment will maintain its stake in the company constant at about 20 percent. The funds are to be used for capacity expansion in the fields of production, recycling and research and development. Among other activities, Northvolt intends to expand the capacity of its Northvolt Ett gigafactory in Skellefteå, Northern Sweden from 40 GWh to 60 GWh per year, in order to meet higher demand from automotive OEM customers.

All through the 2010s, things were exceedingly good for Venucia, a joint venture division created by Nissan and Dongfeng Motor. Then in December 2020, it was folded into Dongfeng Nissan Motor Limited (DFL) as a newly separate division. The partners stated they would evolve the brand with more of an emphasis on EVs. Sales shot up right from the launch in 2012 then kept rising year after year. The cars had much appeal due to low pricing, a lot of that thanks to the use of old Nissan platforms and powertrains, plus low wage rates in the PRC. The current line-up is small, the cost of building them has risen and consumers will no longer accept old-tech vehicles unless they are spectacularly inexpensive. So what is Nissan to do, particularly when it must be wary of upsetting Dongfeng?

Have a nice weekend.

Graeme Roberts, Deputy Editor, GlobalData Just Auto