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  • Sony seeking new partners to support its EV project

    According to a report by Reuters, Sony is looking for new technology partners to support its potential entry into the electric vehicle market. In January this year, the company unveiled the Vision-S 02 prototype, the follow-up to the Vision-S 01, and confirmed it had set up a new entity, Sony Mobility, to explore a commercial entry into the segment.

    “We see the risk of ignoring EVs as greater than the challenge they pose,” said Izumi Kawanishi, who is currently the senior vice president of Sony’s AI Robotics division and will soon head Sony Mobility. He also noted that the current state of EVs is similar to how information technology transformed phones into smartphones.

    So far, the two Vision EV prototypes from Sony were built by Magna Steyr in Austria and involved other companies Bosch, Valeo, and Almotive in their development. Proceeding with mass production will require Sony to make a substantial investment to set up a production facility, so balancing development cost with any partners will be helpful. Established carmakers already present in the space like Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen, Stellantis and others have already thrown a lot of money to develop and build their EVs.

    Partnering with Chinese companies could be a viable option for Sony, but the maker of the PlayStation 5 isn’t revealing much for now. “Sony will pick new partners for its EV project based on the technology they can bring to the project, without regard to their nationality,” Kawanishi said.

    Sony won’t be the only one looking to get in on the EV business, as other tech companies such as Apple, LG, Foxconn, the Alibaba Group, Xiaomi and Huawei have hinted or already announced similar intentions. The high levels of connectivity and other features have attracted newcomers to the idea of making EVs, which are considered easier to build compared to regular internal combustion engine cars.

  • Chery sold 961k cars in 2021, up 31.7% – China’s biggest auto exporter for 19 consecutive years

    The year 2021 was a challenging one for automakers. The Covid-19 pandemic entered its second year and carmakers everywhere were hampered by the semiconductor chip shortage. China’s Chery bucked the trend and recorded big growth, though.

    Last year, Chery sold 961,926 units, which is not only a massive year-on-year increase of 31.7%, but a record for the Wuhu-headquartered company. Chery claims that the strong result means that it maintains the fastest growth rate in China’s automotive industry.

    The nearly-1m total includes exports of 269,154 units, which is 136.3% higher year-on-year. With that, Chery retains its top ranking for the export of Chinese passenger vehicles for 19 consecutive years. The company claims a global user base of over 10 million, including 1.95 million users outside of China. Chery attributes its popularity in global markets to the “Pro” series of models, which is a far cry from the Eastar and Tiggo that some Malaysians might remember from the brand’s first stint here.

    Malaysia will soon contribute to Chery’s sales. Last month, we exclusively revealed that the Chinese automaker is set to make a return to Malaysia, with the brand relaunch with a local partner expected to happen in 2022. Chery is in discussions with the potential JV partner to set up CKD local assembly operations. Details on this, and the identity of the local partner, will be revealed this year.

    Unsurprisingly, potential products for Malaysia are SUVs. The Tiggo 4 Pro, Tiggo 7 Pro and Tiggo 8 Pro are prime candidates, along with new energy vehicles (China’s term for electrified vehicles) such as the tiny eQ1 EV, which would enjoy the tax incentives announced in Budget 2022. Cute Smart fortwo-style EV for well under RM100k? While we’re here, what do you think of the QQ Ice Cream?

    Chery said that it is looking to have its Malaysian CKD operations ultimately providing the basis for exports to other right-hand drive markets, although the carmaker has plans for fellow ASEAN RHD country Indonesia as well.

    GALLERY: Chery Tiggo 4 Pro

    GALLERY: Chery Tiggo 7 Pro GALLERY: Chery eQ1 EV


  • Mercedes-Benz forms partnership with Luminar to develop next-generation autonomous driving systems

    Mercedes-Benz has announced its partnership with automotive self-driving technologies firm Luminar, in order to accelerate development of autonomous driving technologies for its passenger vehicles.

    Through the projected shortening of development cycles and strengthened technology partnership between the two firms, Mercedes-Benz aims to ensure that its products are outfitted with the most up-to-date technologies, the automaker said.

    “Mercedes-Benz’s achievement of SAE Level 3 [autonomous driving] already marked a huge milestone for automated driving and I am absolutely convinced that partnerships will increase our level of ambition for what is possible in the future, [and] cooperation is an essential part of Mercedes-Benz’s strategy. Therefore, I am highly delighted to have Austin Russell and Luminar on board for our journey,” said Mercedes-Benz CTO Markus Schäfer.

    Luminar CEO Austin Russell with Mercedes-Benz CTO and boardmember for development, procurement and supplier quality Markus Schäfer

    As part of the partnership, Mercedes-Benz “will enable Luminar with a data-driven approach” for the continuous updating and improvement of products, the carmaker said in its statement.

    “This partnership is a landmark moment in the industry, demonstrating how substantially increased safety and autonomous driving functions on consumer vehicles are going from science fiction to mainstream. Mercedes-Benz has always been a technological leader and first mover for the industry, with the brand synonymous with automotive innovation, safety, luxury, and quality,” said Luminar founder and CEO Austin Russell.

    Drive Pilot, which is Mercedes-Benz’s semi-autonomous driving system, received approval in December from the German federal motor transport authority (KBA) for being offered on public sale, thus making Mercedes-Benz the first automaker to meet the legal requirements of UN-R157 for a Level 3 autonomous driving system.

    This suite of advanced driver assistance systems by the German automaker was announced with the debut of the W223-generation S-Class. With Drive Pilot now having met German requirements, the earliest units of the S-Class with the system will ship in the first half of this year.

  • 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V set to make its debut soon

    The Cadillac Escalade has been synonymous with luxury for quite a while now, but the latest generation of the model will see the brand enter the performance SUV segment. Recently, the American carmaker announced that the fifth-generation Escalade will receive the V-Series designation, although further details will only be revealed in spring 2022.

    The upcoming Escalade-V will look to take on similar offerings from BMW M and Mercedes-AMG, namely the X7 M50i and GLS 63 4Matic+. It’s expected to get the same LT4 6.2 litre supercharged V8 petrol engine from the CT5-V Blackwing, which serves up 668 hp and 893 Nm of torque in the performance sedan.

    For context, the regular Escalade is available with an L86 6.2 litre naturally-aspirated V8 that makes 420 hp and 624 Nm. The more powerful engine will likely be paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.

    Based on the photos provided, the Escalade-V doesn’t differ that much from the existing Sport and Sport Platinum trims, retaining the same mesh grille and blacked-out accents. There are still unique touches to mark it out as the performance version, including tweaked bumpers, a rear diffuser, quad exhaust tips and beefier brakes. Plenty of V-Series badging too.

  • EVs in Malaysia not yet fully tax-free – why new 2022 prices are still higher than in duty-free Langkawi

    The big news for the Malaysian auto industry this year is the tax exemption for electric vehicles (EVs), announced in Budget 2022.

    As a first push for EVs in Malaysia, it was proposed that they will be completely exempt from import duty, excise duty and sales tax. The battery-powered cars will also enjoy road tax exemption, and there will be an income tax relief of up to RM2,500 for EV charging, whether you’re buying and installing one or subscribing to a plan. The duty exemption for CBU imported EVs will be in place till December 31, 2023 – a two-year window.

    Now, while the Budget 2022 presentation clearly said that sales tax is also exempted, the actual text that detailed the proposal said that only import and excise duty are to be exempted. Those two duties are much bigger components in car pricing than sales tax, but there was some confusion on whether SST is included or exempted.

    We now know that sales tax is not part of the package, as confirmed by the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) in a virtual press conference last week. CBU EVs enjoy waived import and excise duties, but SST still applies, and that’s currently at a 50% rate for all imported cars (at present, all EVs are imported). This isn’t EV-specific – as you would already know, all passenger vehicles are currently enjoying 100% SST exemption for CKD locally assembled models, or 50% for imports.

    For an EV to be truly tax-free, it has to be locally assembled. CKD EVs will get the full import and excise duty exemption, plus full SST waiver till the end of 2025.

    So, if you’re one of those eagle eyes wondering why the new “2022 tax-free” pricing for EVs doesn’t match the true duty-free prices of Langkawi, it’s because of sales tax on the 2022 Peninsular Malaysia prices. Let’s take a look at some examples.

    The MINI Cooper SE facelift was launched here in June 2021, then priced from RM213,461 on-the-road without insurance (with BMW Malaysia’s base two-year warranty). Then, the Langkawi price was RM168,790. A new 2022 tax-free price came out earlier this month and the electric MINI is now yours for RM178,241. That doesn’t match the 2021 Langkawi price, and it’s down to SST, which is 5% (50% off from the standard 10% rate for cars), but hey, it’s still RM35,000 cheaper than what it was last year.

    The BMW iX3 was launched here in October 2021, with a Peninsular Malaysia price of RM317,360 for the entry Inspiring trim level. Then, BMW published prices with SST as they anticipated deliveries in 2022, and that was before SST exemption was extended to June 30 this year. The 2021 Langkawi price was RM270,360.

    The new 2022 tax-free price for the iX3 Inspiring is from RM307,160. We’re told that 2022 pricing for the iX3 is quoted with the full 10% SST, as the first batch has been fully sold and the second batch will arrive after June, which is when the current round of SST exemptions expire.

    Ditto the BMW iX, which was launched here in August 2021. Then, the xDrive40 started at RM419,630, while the Langkawi price was a mere RM313,630. We called the duty-paid mainland price for the electric SUV a bargain back then, and it’s even more of a steal now – 2022 tax-free pricing for the iX starts from RM361,430, which is RM58,200 lower. Once again, it doesn’t match 2021 Langkawi prices due to sales tax.

    But those with a calculator handy would have figured out that the addition of SST alone will not account for the full difference in price. The iX’s 2022 RRP is RM47,800 higher than in duty-free Langkawi, which is a fair bit more than 10%.

    There isn’t an official explanation for this discrepancy, but perhaps BMW Malaysia had initially priced the iX extremely keenly with slim margins as part of its i sub-brand market reintroduction plan, expecting to sell just a handful of units. Bear in mind that this was before the big Budget 2022 announcement. Now that the import and excise duty exemptions are in place, prospects for the iX, and other EVs, have changed drastically.

    In any case, as we’ve established before, the iX was a bargain in Malaysia, and it’s even more of a steal now. Its “true price” of RM313k is over RM100k cheaper (around 25% less) than an X5 xDrive45e PHEV (which is CKD locally assembled, while the iX is CBU), whereas in most other markets, the two SUVs have near identical prices. All relative of course, and a bargain for what it is does not mean it’s cheap.

  • Geely in talks to acquire smartphone maker Meizu

    Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (ZGH) is reportedly planning to buy Chinese smartphone maker Meizu Technology in a bid to expand its footprint in mobile devices as well as accelerate the development of services linking up vehicles and communication.

    According to Nikkei Asia, local media reports that Geely is apparently is discussions with Meizu over a deal. While ZGH – which has Geely Auto, Geometry, Lynk & Co, Zeekr, Volvo Cars, Proton, Lotus, LEVC and Farizon Commercial Vehicle under its umbrella – said that it will not comment on internal decisions, it did say that it is looking to establish a foothold for its recently launched smartphone business.

    Last September, the company announced that chairman Eric Li (Li Shufu) had established a smartphone company called Hubei Xingji Shidai Technology in Wuhan, together with other investors. The new entity is thought to be recruiting talent from Xiaomi and other big smartphone makers, but acquiring Meizu would instantly bring much-needed expertise into the business.

    Founded in 2003, Meizu is a mid-tier smartphone manufacturer located in Zuhai. The company, which started by making portable music players before branching into smartphones, is known as a smaller version of Xiaomi. At its peak, Meizu sold over 20 million of its smartphones, which are known for their affordability and functionality, but sales in recent times have reportedly dropped to around a million units.

    As it strives to develop self-driving vehicles, ZGH has been pouring resources into communications, with an eye on integrating that technology into cars. Adding smartphones to Geely’s product portfolio will help in the creation of a seamlessly connected ecosystem, Li had intimated last year.

    “There is a close connection in technologies within intelligent vehicle cockpits and smartphone software technologies. The major trend in the coming future is to create user ecosystems across borders and provide users with a more convenient, smarter, and seamlessly connected multi-screen experiences,” he said. The company is also building a network of satellites to provide highly precise GPS navigation data to guide autonomous vehicles.

  • Michelin Pilot Sport 5 introduced – Dual Sport Tread Design, better long-lasting performance; 17-20″ sizes

    Michelin has apparently introduced the Pilot Sport 5, which succeeds the well-known and popular Pilot Sport 4. According to the French tyre manufacturer, the fifth generation of its Pilot Sport Series offers “excellent longevity and long-lasting performance,” “high levels of reactivity for precision steering” and “maximise grip and braking on wet and dry roads.”

    As with the Pilot Sport 4, the new Pilot Sport 5 features “Dynamic Response Technology,” where a hybrid belt made of aramid and nylon provides structural reinforcement to the tyre and maintain contact patch stability.

    Meanwhile, the company’s “MaxTouch Construction Technology” evenly distributes the forces of acceleration, braking and cornering, offering a longer tread life. On that mention, the Pilot Sport 5 also has a “Dual Sport Tread Design,” where the outer and inner surfaces of the tyre have different tread patterns.

    The outer tread with rigid blocks serves to maximum dry grip, while the inner tread deals with wet grip. Michelin also highlighted “Groove Clear,” which refers to the large, longitudinal grooves on the that directs water into wide transversal channels and away from the tyre for safety and handling in the rain.

    Much like some of its other tyre products, Michelin also gave the Pilot Sport 5 a premium touch sidewall design to make it aesthetically attractive. Sizes for the PS5 appear to start from 205/40R17 and goes all the way up to 275/45R20, all of which have a maximum speed index rating of “Y” for 300 km/h.

  • 2023 Ford Ranger Raptor spotted testing in Thailand!

    A prototype of the next-generation Ford Ranger Raptor has just been sighted in Thailand, ahead of the market debut of the all-new pick-up truck. This Ford Performance version is obviously skinned with camouflage wrap, but there are already telling differences from the regular models.

    For starters, the plastic body cladding is much more pronounced even on the prototype, with thicker fender arch mouldings and model-specific magnesium side steps. Interestingly, the rear box step is not present on the test mule, but will most likely be available on the production model.

    Other legible features include a 360-degree surround view camera system, blind spot monitoring, and the same LED combination tail lights and 20-inch wheels as the Ranger Wildtrak. The Ranger Raptor is the crowning model for the midsized pick-up truck, so expect it to be kitted out with digital displays and the full suite of advanced driving aids.

    It is not yet known what’s brewing under the bonnet, but reports suggest that Ford may forego the existing 2.0 litre biturbo lump for a larger displacement engine. According to top Ford executives, shoehorning the Mustang’s 5.0 litre Coyote V8 is possible (the Ranger shares much of its underpinnings with the Bronco SUV), but a version of the Wildtrak’s 3.0 litre V6 turbodiesel is clearly the likelier candidate.

    Other engines deployed for the new Ranger are the 2.3 litre four-cylinder EcoBoost mill, as well as the upgraded 2.0 litre EcoBlue diesel engines (biturbo and single turbo guises). Ford says the oil leak issue has been resolved with better gaskets design.

    So far, Ford remains tight-lipped about electrification plans for the Ranger, but made it clear that the reworked T6 platform is future-proofed and can be electrified. Expect more technical details to be revealed next month when the Ranger makes its market debut.

    GALLERY: 2022 Ford Ranger Wildtrak

    GALLERY: 2022 Ford Ranger Sport

    GALLERY: 2022 Ford Ranger XLT

    GALLERY: 2022 Ford Ranger Sketches

  • Didi Automotive Malaysian distributor for Royal Enfield

    Adding to their stable of brands, Didi Automotive has been appointed official distributor for Royal Enfield motorcycles for Malaysia. The appointment is with immediate effect and Didi Automotive takes over the reins from previous distributor SNH Bhumi Corporation.

    Royal Enfield is famed for retro motorycles built upon the Royal Enfield Bullet 350 dating back to 1952 with the selection of a motorcycle for Indian armed forces use. With the design of the Royal Enfield Bullet remaining unchanged for decades, 2015 saw parent company Either Motors acquire Harris Performance Products of UK.

    The acquisition saw the production of the Royal Enfield Continental GT cafe racer and Interceptor and the Himalayan 400 adventure-tourer. The current iteration of the classic Royal Enfield 350 is the Meteor 350, replacing the Thunderbird 350 while others models in the catalogue include the Classic 500 and Bullet 500.

  • Maple Leaf 60S electric sedan to debut in February – 136 hp/230 Nm, 60-second battery swap, 415 km range

    A joint venture between Geely and electric scooter maker Lifan has yielded the Maple Leaf 60S, an electric sedan that offers its users the option of swapping its battery for the fully charged one in just 60 seconds.

    Leaked images emerged on Car News China ahead of its debut that is reportedly scheduled for next month, and the website states that the sedan measures 4,730 mm long, 1,804 mm wide and 1,530 mm tall with a wheelbase of 2,700 mm. For comparison, the 1.8 litre petrol Geely Emgrand GL shares the 60S wheelbase, albeit 5 mm shorter overall, 2 mm narrower and 52 mm lower.

    As for the Maple Leaf 60S, drive is provided by a permanent magnet synchronous motor producing 136 hp and 230 Nm of torque. Its battery offers a claimed range of 415 km on the NEDC test cycle, which, in addition to offering battery swapping in just one minute, can be recharged in 30 minutes via DC fast charging.

    Its battery-swapping capability means that that Maple Leaf 60S isn’t built on the Geely Group’s Sustainable Experience Arhcitecture (SEA), as this platform’s approach was to attain the lightest architecture possible, and the integrated battery solution was deemed the best way to achieve that goal, chief engineer for the SEA architecture at Geely Auto Group Kent Bovellan told us at a group interview.

    The Maple Leaf 60S appears to be the first of five electric vehicle models that Geely has planned to launch by 2023, as part of its wider Smart Geely 2025 strategy towards increasing the automaker’s sales. To that end, the Geely Technology Group has already established around 100 battery swapping stations across China as of last November, with the aim of having 5,000 such station across 100 cities by 2025.

    Dubbed E-Energee, the automaker’s first demonstration of battery swapping was with a Maple 80V, which is a fully electric version of the Geely Jiaji people-mover. The first of these stations went online in China in September 2020, and the network has expanded to reach 10 provinces in China as of last November.


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Last Updated 20 Jan 2022