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Tesla & Toyota Mashup, Voltswagen, EV Charging Network Mess - SAI Newsletter 12



Just some announcements up top. It’s going to be a pretty hectic next couple of weeks as a few projects close and I travel for some product launches that I’ll share with you over the next few newsletters.

I am pleased to join my friend and colleague Paul Krake on Zoom this Thursday night 9pm EST as part of his US-China series where he has amazing experts across many different verticals to have thoughtful discussion on how the US and China are competing & cooperating with each other.

Paul and I will discuss the impact of the China EV companies gaining influence and ambition on the global stage. We’ll touch on the financial, technological, and market implications of the evolving sector. Also, with an administration change in the US and some very pro-clean energy advocates heading up the transportation and energy departments in Buttigieg and Grandholm, is the US ready to compete with China in the EV and mobility space? So far, Tesla seems to be the only organization that’s showing up for the US.

To register for the Zoom call, click here.

Also, join Lei Xing and me as we host our ‘China EVs & More…’ Clubhouse room and go over the week’s most impactful EV news on Thursday 9am EST. For those that would like to join Clubhouse, please DM me and I will sort you out. Again, still only on iOS with a non-Chinese mobile number.

I am also pretty excited about being invited by the China Institute to sit on a panel “Getting to Zero: How the US-China Race for Electric Vehicles is Changing the World” scheduled for Tuesday, April 6th, 7:30 – 8:30pm EST. More details and sign up are here: https://www.chinainstitute.org/event/getting-zero-us-china-race-electric-vehicles-changing-world/

Now, onto the news.


TESLA IN THE NEWS

- We could be getting close to a Tesla & Toyota tech sharing partnership and it seems to make a lot of sense on paper. Think about this, I’d mentioned that Elon is ALL ABOUT install base right? What if he and Tesla NOW get to plug their OS into >9M cars every year! That’s literally a TON of data and that HAS to be driving some of his thinking for this partnership. AND the fact that Tesla has worked with Toyota in the past there’s already trust built-in. Finally, this implies that Tesla ran the numbers and they themselves couldn’t get to the <$25K car, at least in the timeframe they wanted, without some serious help. Toyota to the rescue. It’s not true until it's true so we will keep a close eye on this. IN THE NEWS

- Rebranding for Volkswagen in the US, I mean Voltswagen. New name, same ol’ VW? We shall see. I haven’t decided whether this is brilliant or absolutely comedic, perhaps it’s both. Dieselgate has really left VW with a tarnished reputation and they already struggled a bit in the US market so this name change isn’t likely to move the needle much, but good product certainly will. Could it be an April Fool’s joke? Taking a step back, this is actually the PERFECT opportunity for each of the legacies to take stock of their positioning in each of the markets they operate in and determine whether or not they should reposition themselves in the era of EV. This is a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ to do this while everyone is scrambling to put product on the road. Rather than create new brands or play games with names and flattening icons, how about redefining what your brand stands for especially the ones that haven’t historically been that successful like VW in the US? If this name change is the first step in a meaningful market pivot, then I applaud the effort. - Tony Fernandes, going from planes to ride-hailing and food delivery. Malaysian Indian Tony Fernandes, who founded Air Asia, a low-cost Malaysian airline in the vein of Southwest Airlines and Ryan Air, is expanding his mobility footprint by moving into food delivery and ride-hailing to compete directly with Grab, the current 800lb. mobility gorilla in much of Southeast Asia. Grab won’t take this sitting down since they’re prepping for an IPO so expect some pricing wars to try to capture / protect share and more, varied offerings to attract and keep users on their platforms. Indeed, a little competition between businesses is normally very good for the customer. - The Made for Didi BYD D1 goes on sale to private customers in China. As most of their EV competitors battle for headlines, BYD just keeps chugging along with innovative battery tech and low-cost, high sales vehicles that target the mass market. This particular vehicle was designed in partnership with Didi Chuxing, China’s Uber, and has some cool little features including being able to set the temperature of the vehicle from the Didi app prior to getting inside. Speaking of which… - Waymo One maturing into a full-featured service. This includes improving the way a rider can track what Waymo Driver is doing and importantly what it’s seeing. Similar to the BYD D1, Waymo now allows the rider more control and customize the ride. For instance, the rider can control the audio and add stops if their original plans get blown up or changed. Companies like Waymo and BYD are providing a roadmap to the 2nd movers when it comes to ride-hailing but also for those OEMs that are exploring ways to make their riders feel more comfortable and safe inside their cars as more of them have ADAS and autonomous features that still need some getting used to. An important consideration for those still not 100% comfortable with the fact a computer is making decisions on how to keep the vehicle on the road and the rider from getting injured! They are also upping the ante and distancing themselves further from those companies already struggling to keep up. - Let’s stop using the phrase ‘EV charging network.’ It implies that there is compatibility with the charging stations across vehicle brands and that’s just not the case. Currently, in the US, China, and the EU there are Tesla charging stations and charging stations for everyone else. Tesla’s chargers are proprietary and can only be used by Tesla owners. Great for them, but not so for other EV owners. On top of that, the charging network for ‘others’ is a disparate mishmash of plugs that, depending on manufacturer, your EV may or may not be able to use. That means it’s actually pretty tough to travel long distances in an EV because there is no universal standard on EVs again unless of course, you own a Tesla. You can carry a dongle to try and make the plug fit your vehicle but then, the charging provider may be different so you may need to sign up for multiple services in order to travel outside of your daily commute. The US has one chance to get this right and I hope Secretary Pete is looking at this strategically to determine the best way to work with the OEMs, and third parties to create an optimal, truly compatible nationwide charging network otherwise this already slow EV adoption isn’t going to gain any momentum during his tenure. - Hesai and Baidu partner on next-gen LiDAR for Apollo robotaxi. Pretty much any company working on autonomous driving has bet their SW / HW stack on LiDAR being lynchpin to their robotaxi’s being able to generate a ‘complete’ picture of the road and its 360-degree surroundings, well everyone except Tesla. But that’s for another day. Baidu seems to be hedging its bets with investments in both Velodyne and Hesai two of the leading LiDAR developers in the US & China. How I see it, LiDAR could become a technology that gets bifurcated in the future between the US & China and I know that there are more than one or two AV startups that have sourced their particular LiDAR hardware providers because of that. - This number was so large - $7.25B BIG that it needed to be up in this section. That’s how much Evergrande Auto has invested in designing and developing EVs since being established in 2018. Further, there have been 9 of 14 vehicles revealed with goals to sell 1M of them by 2025 and 5 million by 2035. That would mean that within 14 years of JOB #1 rolling off the line, they’d sell more cars annually than GM, Ford, and MANY other legacies that have been here a lot longer. TRENDING ON SOCIAL MEDIA - Is this what the Ferrari SUV is going to look like when it launches in 2023? I am not a huge fan of this rendering and it’s not likely going to look like this but let more of the renders start to fly as the debate goes on about whether or not Ferrari should even be in the SUV business. - Great Wall Motors is trying to give hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles their day by launching a hydrogen-powered SUV this year. People ask me from time to time what my thoughts are on hydrogen fuel-cells and my answer has always been ‘I think it’s more applicable to commercial vehicles..’ but let me add a caveat to that. If the Chinese govt. wants to make the technology a priority then it will be a viable technology to power vehicles in the future, at least in China anyway. Right now, the only major OEMs I can think of that even make hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles are Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai. There is still a ton of investment, like 5-7 years’ worth, in order to make this a viable competitor to BEVs. We know two things, the Chinese govt. plays the long game, and when they want to prioritize something, they normally put their money where their mouth is. Great Wall must see a chance to add significant sales volume with very little competition, and of course curry favor with the Chinese govt., and that’s why they’re investing in FCEVs. - Those helicarriers from the Avengers could be a reality if DARPA has anything to say about it. #thefutureofwar - Looks like Porsche is getting flamed for not being able to update the software on their Taycan without having their owners bring it ‘to the shop’ for a couple of days. This too shall pass soon but man, that seems like there should be a module that can be purchased ‘off the shelf’ that could give their vehicles OTA capabilities. If it’s not that easy, they’re making it too hard! JUST THE NUMBERS - Merc, it seems, had some screen size envy that they just had to deal with. With a 55” screen that’ll be the heart of their new EQS sedan’s dash, I’d say that they’ve solved the envy problem for now. ‘EQ’ is the nomenclature for their EV platform while ‘iX’ = Bimmer, ‘Iq’ = Cadillac, and of course e-tron = Audi. The EQS will be the flagship EV sedan and is poised to compete with Tesla and the other luxury automakers’ most opulent offerings. In the pictures, it looks great and the specs are quite impressive. But, and you always knew there was going to be a ‘BUT,’ can their SW team pull this off? I think it’s likely a bit of overkill and will be bug-ey when launched is my guess since they’re going from 5mph to 100mph with this redesign. This is also going to be a manufacturing nightmare since there can’t be any easy way to ship or install that thing. I hope they poached some of the Byton guys that worked on the 48” screen although Byton never got any of them on the road. - $7B valuation for Cazoo, a UK-used car platform that was founded in just 2018! It plans to reverse merger with a SPAC on the NYSE. Absolutely mind-blowing, with still no let-up in sight on the SPAC craze. - >1 Trillion photos we take / year. Most of them, we never take the time to even look at once! The digital age has made photo-taking a pastime not worth remembering. I posted this because I, having two young boys, am guilty of this myself so I thought it would resonate with most of you. PRODUCT & SERVICE INTRODUCTIONS - Introducing the Vinfast VF e34. Vinfast is Vietnam’s first domestic automotive brand located in Haiphong near Hanoi. They’re already selling ICE vehicles but this is their first EV for sale in Vietnam. In order to reduce the price of the vehicle and reduce anxiety about the battery’s quality and reliability, Vinfast will lease the battery to the owner but unlike NIO, they aren’t currently looking at battery swapping as an option. Also, if you recall from a previous newsletter, Vinfast is also in talks with Foxconn to have Foxconn help them build electric vehicles as well, perhaps for the US market. - This Jeepster Beach concept is on FIRE. No, it isn’t an EV. Yes, it is something I want in my garage. Although that interior doesn’t meet the same levels of design or quality of that exterior. - Ninebot seems to be coming after Niu with their latest electric mopeds. If you squint, they kinda favor the look of the Niu mopeds. So should Niu be flattered? Niu is the 800lb gorilla in China so it’ll be hard to wrestle away too much share here but since Niu isn’t as established yet in the west, should they begin to worry? Finally, if I were Xiaomi I may try to lean into this type of mobility rather than flush, sorry I mean invest all that money into a smart EV. I think this one has more legs for them.

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This weekly newsletter is a collection of articles we feel best reflect the happenings of the week or important trends that have effects on the automotive and mobility sectors here and in the US, we also provide a point of view that we hope educates and sparks debate.

The Sino Auto Insights

Sino Auto Insights is a Beijing, China-based market research and advisory firm that specializes in assisting companies analyze, strategize, and develop products and services that will shape the future of mobility and transportation. Members of our team have experience working in Detroit, Silicon Valley as well as here in China across multiple sectors and functions as entrepreneurs as well as working at larger companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, GM and FCA, and many others.

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