Chinese Auto Makers Bet Big on Indian Hybrid Vehicles

By dancurranjr On December 19th, 2010

Increased investment by Chinese automobile manufacturers in the market here is likely to feature in Premier Wen Jiabao’s talks with industry bodies on his visit to India.

Sources indicate apart from BYD Auto, which is known as Build Your Dreams, a well-known electric and hybrid car maker, Beiqi Foton, a leading commercial vehicle maker and many small and medium sized auto ancillary companies will be looking at making investments in the country. China’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturer, Beiqi Foton, is understood to be considering setting up a greenfield facility in India shortly. Industry sources informed Foton Motors has already done a feasibility study for its foray into the Indian market.

The company has made enquiries regarding growth prospects in the Indian commercial vehicle industry and has also held talks with components manufacturers to determine the supplier base available for manufacturing vehicles locally. A final decision, however, has not been taken on whether the company would look at entering the country independently or through a joint venture.

Foton is likely to be the second Chinese automobile company to enter the Indian market after Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC). SAIC, present through a partnership with General Motors in the Indian market, is working on introducing five new models in the country by 2013.

GM is jointly developing two light commercial vehicles of one tonne capacity with SAIC for the Indian market. Besides, on the cards are two mid-size sedans and a larger utility vehicle.

The commercial vehicle segment in the country grew nearly 41 per cent between April and November, to 460,482 units from the 326,641 units produced during the corresponding period last year. The segment is dominated by Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra, who together account for 47 per cent of the market.

Foton Motor, a subsidiary of Beijing Automobile Group Co Ltd, is the world’s second largest commercial vehicle manufacturer after Daimler. The company sold 602,021 vehicles in 2009, exceeding sales of Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicles for the first time since its inception in 1996.

Till October this year, the company had produced 558,000 vehicles, an increase of nine per cent as compared to the corresponding period last year. Its sales grew 15 per cent from a year earlier to 571,100 units during the period. The company is also working on developing a sedan, its first product offering in the passenger vehicle segment.

BYD Auto, on the other hand, has sold 440,000 passenger cars in China and is expected to make a major entry in the US market in 2011 with its plug in hybrid and electric cars. After coming into the limelight, BYD got the attention of maverick investor Warren Buffet who has forked out $230 million to pick up a 10 per cent stake in this company. The company is a subsidiary of a rechargegable battery maker.

SOURCE: Business Standard

Electric-Car Maker Fisker Strikes Distribution Deal In China

By dancurranjr On December 18th, 2010

Fisker Automotive, a maker of high-end electric cars says it entered a partnership with China Grand Automotive Group, or CGA, a large dealership group, to have its vehicles distributed, marketed and serviced in China. The move is part of the company’s strategy to take advantage of China’s rapidly growing luxury-car market and its push to reduce emissions.

The Irvine, Calif., car maker says it formalized the non-exclusive agreement with executives from CGA during a ceremony near the Chinese company’s headquarters in Shanghai today. Fisker says CGA has a network of more than 200 retail stores that sell 40 auto brands including BMW, Lamborghini, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. In 2010 the company’s sales totaled about $7.5 billion.

Henrik Fisker, CEO, Fisker Automotive, says the CGA agreement gives his company ”an instant and credible footprint in the region” and ensure that Fisker customers will get the kind of service they expect from a luxury brand.

Fisker’s first car, the Karma, will make its Chinese debut at the Shanghai Motor Show in April 2011. The company says the Karma represents responsible luxury and is the world’s first true electric vehicle with extended range. The car can travel 50 miles on battery power and 250 miles on hybrid-electric power. It uses a gasoline engine as a generator to run its electric motors, similar to the way diesel-electric railway locomotives work.

Fisker says it plans to sell 15,000 Karma vehicles per year globally and has received 3,000 pre-orders. The company expects to begin delivering the Karma to customers in China next fall. Fisker is also developing a higher-volume line of premium electric vehicles with extended range, scheduled to start production in the fourth quarter of 2012.

SOURCE: WSJ

BMW Seeks 2,600 New Employees by End of 2011 on Electric, Hybrid Systems

By dancurranjr On December 7th, 2010

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, the world’s larger maker of luxury vehicles, is increasing hiring as the company expands its lineup to meet environmental regulators’ demand for cleaner-running cars.

The manufacturer plans to add 1,300 employees this year and at least 1,300 in 2011, Michael Rebstock, a spokesman at Munich- based BMW, said today by phone. The maker of BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce models aims to add expertise in electric vehicles, hybrid powertrains and cleaner combustion engines to develop models with lower carbon-dioxide emissions, he said.

BMW scaled back the workforce through buyouts and early retirement programs to 96,230 employees at the end of 2009 from 107,539 in 2007 after Chief Executive Officer Norbert Reithofer initiated a cost-cutting drive to boost profitability. The company is developing an electric city car and a hybrid-powered sports car for introduction in 2013.

The company took on about 1,000 new workers on average in 2008 and 2009, Rebstock said. In addition to research and development employees, BMW is recruiting purchasing and sales specialists, he said.

The automaker is seeking to increase sales this year by about 10 percent to more than 1.4 million deliveries, with further growth to 2 million deliveries by 2020.

Daimler’s Rastatt Plant

Other German automakers are also hiring. Daimler AG added 400 workers this year at its factory in Rastatt, Germany, where it builds Mercedes-Benz A- and B-Class compacts, said Nicole Kicherer, a spokeswoman at the Stuttgart-based manufacturer. Mercedes-Benz also intends to hire 2,500 more employees at a new small-car plant in Hungary.

Volkswagen AG, which owns the Audi luxury brand, may create 50,000 jobs globally by 2015, with about 10 percent of the positions in Germany, its second-biggest market after China, Personnel Chief Horst Neumann told Handelsblatt newspaper in an interview confirmed by Stefan Ohletz, a spokesman at the Wolfsburg-based carmaker.

SOURCE: Bloomberg

Toyota to Offer Hybrid Technology to Chinese Partner

By dancurranjr On December 6th, 2010

Toyota recently ruled out the possibility to start building hybrid cars in China so, in order to be able to compete against powerful names such as Volkswagen and General Motors, the Japanese company is planning to offer hybrid technology to a local partner. A report by just-auto.com hints that the name of Toyota’s future Chinese buddy is FAW Group, which could start production of hybrid models based on Toyota’s resources as soon as 2013.

Toyota will thus supply the know-how, as well as motors, batteries and several other components to the Chinese group, but specific details are yet to be revealed. Still, Kyodo News claims negotiations are still under way, so more information is likely to emerge in the near future.

And although Toyota doesn’t intend to produce cars in China, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the company will ignore the local market. Back in August, Japanese representatives announced that Toyota wants to open its first wholly owned research and development site to increase quality of the vehicles it sells in China.

The announcement was made by Masahiro Kata, the head of Toyota China, during a quality seminar that was recently held in Japan. The executive didn’t offer any additional details regarding the future quality center, but added that the site’s project is currently being analyzed by the country’s authorities and that it will be located near Shanghai.

Of course, an R&D center would be mainly aimed at vehicle recalls, as Toyota still struggles to repair its image after the nightmare it had to deal with this year.

SOURCE: AutoEvolution

Toyota Readies 3 Electric Cars for 2012 Dealer Sales

By dancurranjr On December 4th, 2010

600 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrids are now being driven daily in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. Commercial, government, and university fleets and individual drivers are putting this advanced Prius through its paces. Toyota is targeting 50,000 unit commercial sales in 2012 of this PHEV with a 14-mile electric range. Toyota is discussing a price of over $30,00 for the Prius Plug-in, even though it has only 5 kWh lithium battery pack in comparison to 16 kWh in the Chevrolet Volt with its 40 mile electric range and 24kWh in the Nissan LEAF with its 100 mile electric range.

The RAV4 EV Powered by Tesla was Toyota’s center stage announcement here at the Los Angeles Auto Show. In 1997, 1,484 RAV4 EVs were sold. Remarkably half of these early EVs are still in use and their owners love them. Toyota, which owns 2 percent of Tesla, is bringing back this popular SUV in a stylish new body. It will have an electric range of 80 to 110 miles using 30 to 40 kWh of Panasonic battery cells integrated into a Tesla pack – impressive for an SUV. The body will be built by Toyota in Canada, the drive system by Tesla in California, and the final assembly site has yet to be determined.

In 2012, a stylish city car iQ-based EV will also be introduced in the U.S., Japan and Europe. Launch preparations call for road trials in Japan, U.S., and Europe starting in 2011. Launch in China is also being considered, with road trials planned for 2011.

Toyota’s Future Advanced Energy Storage

Toyota is putting 100 electric SUVs on the road each with a range of over 400 miles. Fleets will include the Port Authority of New Jersey, San Hydro, my Alma Mater University of California at Irvin and other fleets that have 10,000 psi hydrogen fueling stations. TMC is continuing development of a sedan-type fuel-cell hybrid vehicle (FCHV), with sales aimed to start in around 2015 in Japan, the U.S. and Europe. I was impressed with my test drive of the previous generation Toyota FCHV.

TMC is researching development of next-generation secondary batteries with performance that greatly exceeds that of lithium-ion batteries.  Such research is aimed to help bring about the revolutionary advances in battery performance that will be necessary for the broad adoption of electric-motor-propelled eco-cars.

  • Solid-state batteries: TMC has successfully reduced what is known as particle resistance and has made progress toward creating full solid-state batteries in a promising compact package.
  • Metal-air batteries: TMC has determined the reaction mechanism of lithium-air batteries and has clarified its research policy regarding the batteries as rechargeable secondary batteries.
  • TMC established a division charged with studying production of next-generation batteries.  The division, with a staff of approximately 100 researchers, is accelerating its research.

TMC believes that eco-cars can have a positive impact on the environment only if they are widely used.  TMC will continue to improve the fuel efficiency of its conventional combustion-engine cars, which account for the majority of its sales, while raising performance, reducing costs and expanding the company’s product lineup.

Within these efforts, hybrid technologies—consisting of the basic technologies necessary for development of various eco-cars—are positioned as key technologies to achieve both high fuel efficiency and driving performance, and to facilitate the use of various fuels with the aim of creating a low-carbon society through response to the need to diversify energy sources.

Toyota plans to extend its leadership with 11 new hybrids from Toyota and Lexus.