Four of Europe’s largest carmakers have joined forces to roll out a charging network for electric cars in an attempt to boost sales of battery-powered vehicles and help avoid missing CO2 targets that would leave them facing billions of euros in fines.
Volkswagen, Daimler, BMW and Ford said they would build 400 charging stations starting next year, with an ambition of having “thousands” available to electric car customers across Europe by the end of the decade before new CO2 rules come into force.
The scheme, which is not conditional on government funding or subsidies, is expected to cost more than €1bn in total. The companies will be equal partners in the joint venture, and hope the project will create the industry standard European charging.
Sales of battery electric cars, which are essential to comply with the new rules, are still very low at less than 1% of new car sales across the EU, held back by consumer concerns around the availability of charging infrastructure and speed of recharging, as well as the price of the vehicles. The proposed new charge points will have 350kW capacity, allowing cars to charge more than twice as fast.
Jaguar Land Rover’s chief executive Dr Ralf Speth has laid out a future vision which could see 10,000 new jobs created in the West Midlands.
He said at an industry event that Britain’s largest carmaker by volume would like to double production from 500,000 to one million cars a year. However, it would depend on the government helping to upgrade power supplies and invest in surrounding infrastructure. The firm would also like a guarantee on access to engineering talent.
The carmaker’s vision comes after the decision of Nissan to move two new next generation models to its Sunderland plant, backed by assurances from the government that it would help to invest in automotive research and development. Nissan produced almost 477,000 vehicles in the UK last year, while just under 490,000 rolled off Jaguar Land Rover’s (JLR) production lines.
The company is looking for help with infrastructure surrounding a 60 acre site based in Coventry and additional power resources to the site.
UK car manufacturing slipped in October for the first time in 14 months amid slower domestic demand, according to the industry’s trade body. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said production dipped 1% last month against October last year, to 151,795 units.
Exports rose for the 15th month in a row, with 122,765 cars built for overseas markets, a 1.7% rise. This offset a 10.9% fall in production for the home market. Exports accounted for 80.9% of UK production in October.
The SMMT said the UK motor industry remained strong, with production up by 9.2% so far this year, and more than 1.4 million vehicles produced.
Volkswagen will no longer offer diesel vehicles in the United States, its global brand chief said, ending speculation the company might return to the technology after its emissions scandal fades from memory.
“Emissions standards in following years are getting tougher and tougher” CEO of Volkswagen Group of America said. Luxury car brand Audi, a subsidiary of Volkswagen still sees a diesel vehicle as possible, its Americas President said. “Once we hopefully are passed everything, I see an opportunity for potentially, probably to offer it on one model, and that model would probably be the Q7 SUV,” Audi of America President Scott Keogh said.
Volkswagen has announced plans to cut 30,000 jobs worldwide with about 23,000 of the losses borne in Germany. VW, still dealing with the aftermath of the emissions-cheating scandal, aims to rejuvenate its core brand, and develop new electric and self-driving cars.
VW says it will create 9,000 jobs as part of investments in new products.
The cuts should bring annual savings of €3.7bn (£3.2bn; $3.92bn) by 2020. Volkswagen chief executive, Matthias Mueller, said it was “the biggest modernisation programme in the history of the group’s core brand”. “The VW brand needs a real shake-up and that is exactly what the future pact has turned out to be,” he added.
The car giant – which employs 610,000 people in 31 countries – wants to increase the brand’s profit margin from 2% to 4% and to do this it will need to improve productivity at its German plants by 25%.
Volkswagen is cutting 23,000 posts in Germany alone. No-one in Germany will be forced out – early retirement is likely to provide a large portion of the cuts. And VW is creating 9,000 ‘future proof positions as part of a major investment in new technologies. Many workers will simply move into new posts.
Volkswagen has confirmed that US and European regulators have been investigating emissions irregularities in petrol-engine cars made by Audi, its luxury unit.
VW said regulators have been examining emissions discrepancies between on-road and test-lab conditions among Audi cars but that the issue was not new and simply needed to be clarified. The company said that Audi had called in the German Federal Motor Transport Authority, a European regulator, to explain “the technical background” behind the discrepancies.
The issue with Audi petrol engine cars concerns not emissions controls but other software used to select gears. Whether that is routine or a way to bypass regulatory tests is not yet clear. Germany’s Siiddeutsche Zeitung ran a report citing evidence that Audi cars were programmed to shift gears in a way that cut emissions when in test mode but to have superior performance when they were on the road.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board, two US regulators, discovered the discrepancies earlier this year.
JLR finally unveiled its first electric car – the Jaguar I-PACE – at the Los Angeles motor show earlier this month.
Britain’s largest carmaker is late to join the fast-developing electric vehicle market, where industry upstart Tesla is threatening the position of established carmakers, including JLR.
Ralf Speth, JLR chief executive, acknowledges the complex issues raised by Brexit, but rejects the idea the company is less innovative than Core Company is less innovative than core competitors, and believes the I-PACE sport utility vehicle is strong evidence of this.
JLR has enjoyed strong growth in revenue and profit since being acquired by India’s Tata Motors in 2008 – partly due to the success of the Range Rover Evoque — but it is now contending with major challenges. The economic slowdown in China JLR’s second most important market after the UK – was a key factor in the company in 2015-16 reporting its first decline in annual pre-tax profit during the Indian group’s stewardship. However, in the first half of 2016-17, JLR recorded a profit of £679m, compared with £418m a year earlier, when earnings were depressed by one-off charges.
In the long term, JLR aims to move the I-PACE assembly to the UK, where the company is considering making batteries.