Siemens named as VW cloud integration partner

After VW and Amazon Web Services (AWS) said yesterday (28 March) they would develop the Volkswagen Industrial Cloud together and had agreed a multi-year, global deal to jointly carry out the project, VW said on Friday Siemens was joining as an integration partner.

The automaker said Siemens would play a key role in ensuring that machinery and equipment of different manufacturers at the 122 Volkswagen plants were networked efficiently in the cloud.

The resulting data transparency and analysis would lay the technological foundation for further productivity improvements at the plants.

Siemens and machinery and equipment suppliers would also make applications and apps from the MindSphere Internet of Things system available in the cloud.

The two companies would develop new functions and services for the cloud together with machinery and equipment suppliers; these would then be available to all future partners.

"We intend to make our Volkswagen Industrial Cloud a partner network with digital functions bringing benefits to all the participating companies. In Siemens, we have secured a strong partner with outstanding digitalisation and industry expertise," said VW production chief Oliver Blume.

"We will network machinery, production systems and equipment more effectively using MindSphere and our automation platforms. This way, VW, suppliers and machinery producers will be able to leverage the potential of production data even more effectively. It will be possible to make production more efficient and flexible as well as further improving product quality," said Siemens board member Klaus Helmrich.

Production data will be processed directly by equipment and machinery or in the production process before transmission to the cloud. This will allow further optimisation of complex production processes and also improve the data quality in the cloud.

Siemens and MindSphere partners offer applications for predictive maintenance of machinery with optimised maintenance cycles calculated in advance.

Via the cloud, these can then be rolled out to all the VW plants. It will be possible to control the production environment and supply chain even more efficiently because the connected suppliers and machinery producers will also benefit from the knowledge gained from data analysis.

Eventually, VW will integrate global supply chain with more than 30,000 locations of over 1,500 suppliers and partner companies. In future, its cloud will also be available as a platform for other partners.

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Ford confirms Russia JV plant closures

Ford Sollers has confirmed the closure of three passenger car assembly and engine plants in Russia as part of a restructuring which will refocus the venture on the Transit light commercial vehicle model line.

In a statement, Ford said the joint venture would stop selling passenger vehicles in Russia and concentrate on the Transit which is the best selling non-domestic commercial vehicle model.

This would "help deliver a more competitive and sustainably profitable business going forward and support the company's commitment to exit less profitable segments", the automaker said.

Passenger vehicle production would stop by the end of June 2019 with closure of two vehicle assembly plants – Naberezhnye Chelny and St. Petersburg – and an engine plant in Elabuga.

St Petersburg builds the Focus and Mondeo, Tatarstan in Naberezhnye Chelny makes the Fiesta and Ecosport and the engine plant is on the same site as a third assembly plant in Elabuga, Tatarstan region, which produces the Kuga, Explorer and Transit.

Ford had announced in January it was putting the business under review as part of a broader restructuring of its loss-making Europe region while a Reuters report at the beginning of March said the automaker was considering closing two plants in Russia as part of its global plan to restructure operations in unprofitable regions. A similar report from Bloomberg on Tuesday (26 March) accurately predicted Ford's official announcement today.

Ford said it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on a significant restructuring of the Ford Sollers joint venture, following a strategic review by the partners to improve the joint venture's near-term profitability and investment efficiency in a challenging business environment. The MOU is expected to be finalised in coming months.

"This represents an important step towards Ford's target to deliver improved profitability and a more competitive business for our stakeholders," said Steven Armstrong, president, Ford of Europe.

"The new Ford Sollers structure supports Ford's global redesign strategy to expand our leadership in commercial vehicles and to grow the business in Europe in those market segments that offer better returns on invested capital."

Ford said the Russian passenger vehicle market had "been under significant pressure in recent years, with recovery slower than expected and a shift to lower priced passenger vehicle segments".

This had resulted in the underutilisation of the JV's manufacturing plants and inadequate returns on invested capital.

In contrast, sales of the Transit 2.0 tonne commercial vehicle in Russia continue to grow, with the model "acclaimed as Russia's top-selling, non-domestic commercial vehicle nameplate with a segment market share of 15%".

In the agreed new structure for Ford Sollers, Ford and Sollers PJSC continue in partnership, with Sollers PJSC taking a 51% controlling interest in the restructured joint venture.

"We look forward to starting the next chapter of our long-term partnership with Ford in Russia," said Vadim Shvetsov, CEO Sollers.

"We believe our decision to focus on the Russian light commercial vehicle market will result in a stronger performing joint venture, and enables us to benefit from future market growth in this segment."

"Significant employee separations are required and will be delivered through voluntary programmes to the fullest extent possible," the statement said.

"While the actions we are announcing today are difficult, they are critical to ensure the long-term viability of the Ford Sollers business. The Transit line-up is the leader among foreign commercial vehicle brands in Russia, and has tremendous potential for further profitable growth in the years ahead," said Adil Shirinov, CEO Ford Sollers.

Ford Sollers also confirmed it would continue to meet warranty and service requirements for existing and future owners of all Ford branded vehicles purchased in Russia.

Ford currently expects to record pre-tax special item charges of about US$450m to $500m in connection with the restructure.

The charges will include approximately $250m to $300m of non-cash charges, primarily for accelerated depreciation and amortisation, inventory and deconsolidation adjustments. The remaining charges of about $200m will be paid in cash and are primarily attributable to separation and termination payments for employees and suppliers.

Most of these pre-tax special item charges and cash outflows will be recorded in 2019 and are part of the previously announced $11bn in EBIT charges with cash related effects of $7bn Ford expects to take in the 'redesign' of its global business.

Ford's 50-50 joint venture with Sollers dates back to 2011 and currently manufactures seven models.

There is capacity for 360,000 vehicles a year but it sold only 53,234 vehicles in Russia last year, up 5.7% from 2017 but well behind the 12.8% growth in Russia's overall car market, while market share fell to 3% from 3.8% in 2013, according to a recent Reuters report.

Key competitors in Russia - Avtovaz, Volkswagen, Kia, Hyundai and Toyota - are seeing their share increase, and their sales outpace the market.

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Honda Europe accelerates electrification target

Honda has announced that it intends to make 100% of its European automobile sales electrified (includes hybrids) by 2025. The announcements coincides with the Geneva Show unveiling of the Honda e Prototype battery electric vehicle.

The new ambition builds on the brand's 2017 aim of two-thirds of its sales to be electrified by 2025.

Speaking at a press conference in Geneva, Tom Gardner, Senior Vice President, Honda Motor Europe, said, "…since we made that first pledge in March 2017, the shift towards electrification has gathered pace considerably. Environmental challenges continue to drive demand for cleaner mobility. Technology marches on unrelenting and people are starting to shift their view of the car itself."

The Honda e Prototype shown for the first time at Geneva previews Honda's first production battery electric vehicle for the European market. Positioned as an urban commuter, the car features a competitive range of over 200km and a 'fast charge' functionality providing 80% range in just 30 minutes, Honda says. It also features a sporty rear wheel drive configuration.

The production version of the Honda e Prototype will be unveiled later this year but customers can register for updates on the Honda website now, and will be able to place a reservation for the car in selected European markets in early summer.

Early in 2019, Honda successfully launched the all-new CR-V Hybrid, featuring its two-motor i-MMD full hybrid technology. Honda expects full hybrid technology to play a key role in meeting its aims of 100% electrification by 2025.

Honda also shared the first details of its developing energy management solutions business for Europe. This announcement builds on the Power Manager bi-directional charging concept first shown at Frankfurt motor show in 2017.

Honda intends to 'build a portfolio of energy management products and services offering a comprehensive solution for both EV customers and service operators in Europe'.

Tom Gardner said, "This is a significant move for Honda, our intention is to deliver industry-leading innovation by launching energy services…to create additional value for power system operators and EV customers alike."

Honda has been working with EVTEC to further develop its bi-directional Honda Power Manager technology (compatible with battery-electric vehicles, such as the Honda e Prototype) and will plan to offer a commercial version in the coming years.

Honda has also announced an agreement with two external partners:

  • Moixa, a company who specialise in 'resource aggregator' technology, allowing customers to benefit from sharing the control and capacity of their EV battery
  • Ubitricity, a leading supplier of charging solutions, including an innovative approach to on-street charging in urban areas

Honda says the next step is to embark upon feasibility studies for its technologies in London, UK and Offenbach, Germany. Further developments are expected to be announced later this year.

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BMW and Daimler outline mobility services JV plan

BMW Group and Daimler have provided more detail on their planned urban mobility services joint ventures. The two companies say they are investing more than EUR1bn in total to 'develop and more closely intermesh their offerings for car-sharing, ride-hailing, parking, charging and multimodal transport'.

The cooperation comprises five joint ventures: REACH NOW for multimodal services, CHARGE NOW for charging, FREE NOW for taxi ride-hailing, PARK NOW for parking and SHARE NOW for car-sharing.

"Our mobility services have developed a strong customer base and we are now taking the next strategic step. We are pooling the strength and expertise of 14 successful brands and investing more than EUR1bn to establish a new player in the fast-growing market for urban mobility," said Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.

"By creating an intelligent network of joint ventures, we will be able to shape current and future urban mobility and draw maximum benefit from the opportunities opened up by digitalization, shared services and the increasing mobility needs of our customers. Further cooperations with other providers, including stakes in startups and established players, are also a possible option."

"We are creating a leading global game changer. The 60 million customers we already have today will benefit from a seamlessly integrated, sustainable ecosystem of car-sharing, ride-hailing, parking, charging and multimodal transport services. We have a clear vision: these five services will merge ever more closely to form a single mobility service portfolio with an all-electric, self-driving fleet of vehicles that charge and park autonomously and interconnect with the other modes of transport," said Harald Krüger, Management Board Chairman of BMW AG. "This service portfolio will be a key cornerstone in our strategy as a mobility provider. The cooperation is the perfect way for us to maximize our chances in a growing market, while sharing the investments."

The two companies' mobility services have a combined total of over 60 million active customers to date. Building on their current product range and costumer base in the key regions of Europe and America, the companies will grow their global footprint as their existing mobility services combine to form five joint ventures:

  • REACH NOW offers more than 6.7 million users simple, direct access to a range of mobility services through a single multimodal platform. The REACH NOW apps will offer a range of options for getting from A to B, allowing users to book and pay directly for public transport and various other mobility options, such as car-sharing, ride-hailing and bike rentals. REACH NOW will be managed by Daniela Gerd tom Markotten as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), with Johannes Prantl as Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
  • CHARGE NOW is a service by Digital Charging Solutions GmbH (DCS), and its comprehensive charging network is a key contributor to zero-emissions driving. CHARGE NOW makes public charge points quick and easy to locate, use and pay for, both at home and abroad. Digital Charging Solutions GmbH develops simple, standardised access to public charge points for car manufacturers and fleet operators. With over 100,000 charge points across 25 countries, its white-label solutions are helping OEMs and fleet operators to realise their strategies for electric mobility. Customers benefit from cross-border access to one of the world's largest and fastest-growing charging networks, with over 250 charge point operators (CPOs) to date.
  • PARK NOW makes parking easier, on-street or off. The innovative digital parking service offers users the best possible parking solutions at a glance, allows them to reserve parking slots and manage their parking times, and enables ticketless entry and exit in public garages as well as cashless payment of parking fees. In addition, with the search for parking currently accounting for about 30 percent of the traffic on urban roads, PARK NOW is helping towns and cities to reduce traffic volumes, thereby helping to make city centres cleaner, healthier and more liveable. In Europe and North America over 30 million customers are already using the service in more than 1,100 cities. CHARGE NOW and PARK NOW are headed by Jörg Reimann as CEO, with Thomas Menzel as CFO.
  • FREE NOW offers a variety of mobility services including taxis, private chauffeurs with rental vehicles, and state-of-the-art e-scooters, all at the tap of a finger. One of the largest ride-hailing services in Europe and Latin America, FREE NOW already serves more than 21 million customers and over 250,000 drivers, who make a valuable contribution to the reduction of traffic in city centres. FREE NOW is headed by Marc Berg as CEO, with Sebastian Hofelich as CFO.
  • SHARE NOW is a free-floating car-sharing service that allows customers to rent and pay for vehicles by smartphone — anytime, anywhere. Its fleet will now be extended to incorporate a wider range of models and increase market coverage. More than 4 million customers in total currently use the fleet's 20,000 vehicles in 31 cities around the world. Car-sharing increases vehicle utilization rates, helping to cut the overall number of cars on the roads in urban areas. Olivier Reppert has been appointed CEO of SHARE NOW, with Stefan Glebke as CFO.

"We are steering very clearly towards growth, and together we will continue to invest consistently in our joint mobility services. As well as linking in additional transport options, we want to reach out to even more people in towns and cities across the world, thereby improving the quality of urban life," Krüger said.

The two companies say the new mobility portfolio will be easy to access, intuitive to use, and will cater to customers' needs. Its seamlessly integrated, sustainable ecosystem will make mobility more convenient it is claimed — because cities are where the future of mobility will be decided. This is confirmed by the choice of Berlin as the base for the organisation's headquarters. A hub of creativity and innovation, the German capital is described as an attractive location for employees and upcoming talents.

The next few years will see up to 1,000 new jobs created worldwide – including in Berlin and Germany. After an initial phase of investment and growth, the new joint venture group will offer attractive profitability, which will be crucial to its success.

"As premium manufacturers, we have long been setting standards in the automotive industry and for our customers. In the premium vehicle business, we will continue to compete for customers. But our new portfolio for individual urban mobility on demand represents a logical extension to the value chain.

Ultimately, we want to offer our customers as many options as possible for getting from A to B. In short, this is about driving, riding or being driven," said Zetsche.

Over time, the two companies say customers will be able to use and experience additional mobility options from all-electric autonomous fleets that are available on demand, charge and park themselves, and connect with other modes of transport beyond road and rail. In the competition for the best urban mobility solution, the promise of safety and comfort by the two leading German premium OEMs provides the basis for this to happen.

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BYD launches "world's longest electric bus"

BYD says it has launched the K12A, described as the world's first 27-metre pure electric bi-articulated bus. With a passenger capacity of 250 people, BYD claims it is the longest pure electric bus in the world and can travel at a maximum speed of 70 km/h.

Additionally, BYD says it is also the world's first electric bus equipped with a distributed 4WD system, which can switch between 2WD and 4WD smoothly to meet the demands of different terrains, while also lowering the vehicle's overall energy consumption.

The BYD K12A features an all-aluminium alloy body and BYD's core technologies of batteries, electric motors and electronic controls.

"Today, BYD once again uses its core technology, reliable products and innovative solutions to solve the two great urban ills of congestion and pollution," said Stella Li, Senior Vice President of BYD. The "The K12A will bring zero emissions to BRT systems, allowing passengers to enjoy quiet, pollution-free travel, while at the same time saving significant maintenance costs for operators."

The bus is equipped with DC and AC charging ports that can be switched freely to meet customers' every need. One charge can last almost 300kms, and can therefore respond to the demands of a full day's operation, BYD says.

"I'm confident that BYD's super-long pure electric buses are the future of BRT systems, and that the company's strength is a measure of China's solid industrial strength," said Luis Carlos Moreno, CEO of Express, one of the BYD' s major clients in Colombia. "On this trip to Shenzhen, I've seen that the city's public buses are already 100% electrified, and I firmly believe that electrification is a future global trend."

To date, BYD says it has delivered a total of more than 50,000 pure electric buses to its global partners.

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Daimler strikes deal to make Smart EVs in China

Daimler has struck a deal with Chinese automaker Geely for a 50:50 joint venture based in China to develop and operate the Smart brand globally as an all-electric carmaker.

From 2022 onwards all Smart models for global markets will be produced in China. Until then, the Smart Hambach plant in France will continue to make Smart cars; after that date it is repurposed to make a compact electric car for the Mercedes EQ brand.

Under the joint venture agreement, a new generation of Smart electric models will be assembled at 'a new purpose-built electric car factory in China with global sales due to begin in 2022'.

Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, said: "For more than 2.2 million customers, Smart represents a pioneer in urban mobility. Based on this success story, we look forward to further enhancing the brand with Geely Holding, a strong partner in the electric vehicle segment. We will jointly design and develop the next generation of Smart electric cars that combine high-quality production and known safety standards for sale both in China and globally. In the future, we are looking forward to working with all partners to sustain our success in China and worldwide. Separately, Mercedes-Benz will produce a compact electric vehicle at the Hambach plant, sustaining employment with further investment in the facility."

Li Shufu, Geely Holding Chairman, added: "We fully respect the value of smart. This brand has a unique appeal and strong commercial value. Geely Holding and Daimler look forward to this challenging and exciting new project, through which we will further push the introduction of premium electric products to give a better mobility experience to our customers. As equal partners, we are dedicated to promoting the smart brand globally; we will leverage our experience and global competencies in brand management, R&D, manufacturing, supply chain management and other areas. The synergies from this cooperation will lead to mutual benefits, at the same time we will further develop technologies for smart including connectivity, to continue to lead in the industry as it undergoes a wider transformation."

The board of directors of the new smart joint venture will be made up of six executives with equal representation from both parties. Daimler AG board representatives will include Hubertus Troska, Daimler AG Board of Management member responsible for Greater China, Britta Seeger, Daimler AG Board of Management member responsible for Marketing and Sales of Mercedes-Benz Cars, and Markus Schäfer, Member of the Divisional Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Production and Supply Chain and designated Board of Management Member responsible for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development. Geely board representatives will include Geely Holding Chairman Li Shufu, Geely Holding President, Geely Auto Group President and CEO An Conghui, Geely Holding Executive Vice President and CFO Daniel Donghui Li.

The joint venture partners have agreed that the new generation of Smart vehicles will be styled by the worldwide Mercedes-Benz Design network with engineering from Geely global engineering centres.

As part of the vehicle-development program, the Smart product portfolio is also planned to be extended into the fast-growing B-segment.

Prior to the launch of new models from 2022 onwards, Daimler will continue to produce the current generation of smart vehicles in its Hambach plant France (Smart EQ fortwo) and at Novo Mesto (Slovenia, Smart EQ forfour).

In parallel, the Hambach plant will assume an additional new role in the Mercedes-Benz Cars production network and will produce a compact electric vehicle by Mercedes-Benz under the new product and technology brand EQ in the future. Mercedes-Benz is investing €500 million on the Hambach plant and will use the expertise of its experienced and motivated smart workforce.

The joint venture is expected to be finalised by the end of 2019. Financial terms of the smart joint venture have not been disclosed.

This joint venture follows the separate agreement between Daimler Mobility Services and Geely Technology Group announced last year, in which the companies agreed to cooperate on a new premium ride-hailing service in China.