Tesla scouts for showroom space in India – Sources

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Tesla Inc is scouting for locations to open showrooms in three Indian cities and has hired an executive to lead its lobbying and business efforts ahead of its planned entry into the country, sources familiar with the discussions told Reuters.

The electric-car maker in January registered a local company in India, where it is expected to import and sell the Model 3 sedan by as early as mid-2021, seeking to target rich customers in a niche market.

The world’s most valuable automaker by market capitalisation is looking for commercial properties as large as 20,000-30,000 square feet each to open showrooms and service centres in the capital New Delhi, financial hub Mumbai in the west and tech city Bengaluru in the south, three sources said.

Separately, Tesla has recruited Manuj Khurana, a former executive of India’s investment promotion body Invest India, in the first major hire to lead its policy and business development efforts in the country, two other sources said.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment, while Khurana declined to comment.

In October, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter the company will enter India in 2021 “for sure”, though the billionaire had issued similar tweets in the past.

The search for showroom space and Khurana’s appointment signal Tesla is moving faster.

Global property consultant CBRE Group Inc – hired for the showroom searches by Tesla – has been surveying places for several weeks and is focussing on locations which will give the company easier access to affluent customers, sources said.

Some luxury car showrooms in upmarket areas of metro cities are typically between 8,000-10,000 square feet, but most showrooms are far smaller in India where high-end real estate space is usually in short supply and property prices in New Delhi and Mumbai are among the highest in the world.

“If you look at Tesla’s showrooms globally, they are like experience centres. It would look at replicating that with some modifications for the Indian market,” said one of the sources, all of whom declined to be identified as the talks are private.

CBRE said it does not comment “on work we may be doing on behalf of our clients”.

Khurana has previously been on a government panel on the future of transportation led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s top scientific adviser. In his new role, he is also handling Tesla’s market-entry process in India, two sources said.

But India isn’t likely to be an easy market to crack for Tesla.

The country has negligible charging infrastructure and high taxes on imported cars, as well as low adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).

India recorded just 5,000 EV sales out of the total 2.4 million cars sold last year, while in China new energy vehicle sales touched 1.25 million.

However, analysts say India’s rising number of affluent consumers makes it a market the automaker can’t ignore as the government increases its focus on promoting clean cars.

While Tesla plans to import cars at first, India’s road minister told Reuters last month that the government is ready to offer incentives to ensure the carmaker’s production cost would be less than in China if it commits to local manufacturing.

Toyota unveils new cars with advanced driving assist technology

TOKYO (Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corp on Thursday unveiled its new Lexus and Mirai models in Japan, equipped with the company’s latest advanced driver assistance that enables safe driving and wireless software updates.

The carmaker’s new driving assist technology, or Advanced Drive, is a level 2 autonomous system that helps drivers with driving conditions such as keeping the car in its lane, maintaining the distance from other vehicles, changing lanes on expressways or other motor-vehicle only roads.

“This is really an important first step on our journey towards software-first development,” said Toyota executive James Kuffner, who is also the head of Toyota’s research unit Woven Planet, at an online briefing on Thursday.

The luxury sedan Lexus LS will be put on sale on Thursday costing from 16.3 million to 17.9 million yen, while the second generation Mirai hydrogen fuel cell car will be offered later on April 12 at the price between 8.4 million-8.6 million yen.

The new models will also be equipped with an advanced parking assistance system that allows drivers to park safely.

($1 = 109.7000 yen)

Tesla: Cameras in cars not activated outside North America – Weibo post

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc said on Wednesday that cameras inside its cars are not activated outside of North America, in a statement published on its Chinese social media page.

Tesla faces scrutiny in China where the military in March banned Tesla cars from entering its complexes, citing security concerns over cameras in its vehicles, sources told Reuters.

“Even in the United States, car owners can freely choose whether to turn on its use. Tesla is equipped with a network security system with world-leading security levels to ensure user privacy protection,” the company wrote on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media site.

Tesla shares surge after electric carmaker posts record deliveries

(Reuters) – Shares of Tesla Inc were up about 7.5% in pre-market trading on Monday, after the world’s most valuable carmaker posted record deliveries as a solid demand for its electric cars offset the impact of a global shortage of auto parts.

Tesla delivered 184,800 vehicles globally during the first quarter, above estimates of 177,822 vehicles, according to Refinitiv data.

Tesla files a petition against U.S. labor board order

(Reuters) – Tesla Inc has filed an appeal on a U.S. National Labor Relations Board ruling that the electric-car maker had violated U.S. labor law, and on the agency’s order that Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk delete a tweet from the account.

The electric-car maker filed a petition on Friday with the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals to review the NLRB’s decision and order issued on March 25.

In the petition, Tesla asked the court to review the order and grant Tesla “any further relief which the Court deems just and equitable.”

Last month, the NRLB ordered Tesla to direct Musk to delete the tweet and to post a notice addressing the unlawful tweet at all of its facilities nationwide and include language that says “WE WILL take appropriate steps to ensure Musk complies with our directive.”

In the 2018 tweet, Musk wrote: “Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing? Our safety record is 2X better than when plant was UAW & everybody already gets healthcare.”

The NLRB also directed Tesla to offer one former employee reinstatement as well as to rescind 2017 rules that prohibited distributing union literature in its parking lot on non-work time and rules that barred distributing union stickers, leaflets, and pamphlets without first obtaining permission.

Joint venture: Aurora & Volvo invest in self-driving heavy trucks

(Reuters) – Global heavy truck manufacturers are lining up technology partners to help build out self-driving systems for long-haul freight that could see widespread commercial service well before self-driving robotaxis.

The latest alliance was announced Tuesday between Sweden’s Volvo Group and California-based Aurora Innovation, building on a working relationship that dates back several years, the partners said.

Analysts expect more such partnerships, as relatively young technology firms such as Aurora connect their autonomous vehicle systems knowledge with the deep manufacturing experience of legacy companies such as Volvo Trucks.

“You can’t go at it alone in autonomy,” said Grayson Brulte, president consultancy Brulte & Company. “The trucking industry is a completely different personality” than the passenger vehicle business, with different requirements.

Most of the larger truck manufacturers have turned to self-driving tech partners, driven in part by a chronic shortage of drivers and a boom in e-commerce, fueled by the global pandemic.

In January, Aurora announced a strategic partnership with U.S. truckmaker PACCAR, whose brands include Peterbilt and Kenworth.

Aurora’s founders include self-driving veterans from Tesla and Alphabet’s Waymo. Aurora last year said its first commercial product would be in trucking “where the market is largest (and) the unit economics are best.”

In 2020, Waymo Chief Executive John Krafcik told Reuters that “goods delivery is a bigger market than moving people” as Waymo expanded its focus to include heavy trucks.

Germany’s Daimler has formed a self-driving truck alliance with Waymo, while China’s largest heavy truck maker, FAW Jiefang, has partnered with Plus AI.

Volkswagen’s Traton truck group is an investor in TuSimple, as is U.S. truckmaker Navistar.

In a January earnings call, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said the long-delayed Semi electric truck is highly likely to be the first of the company’s vehicles to achieve full self-driving capability.

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi to make EVs – Sources

China’s Xiaomi Corp plans to make electric vehicles (EVs) using Great Wall Motor Co Ltd’s factory, said three people with direct knowledge of the matter, making it the latest tech firm to join the smart mobility race.

The tech firm’s stock price was up more than 9% in afternoon Friday trade after Reuters reported the plan. Great Wall’s Hong Kong stock rose more than 15% and its Shanghai shares gained by their maximum 10% daily limit.

Xiaomi, one of the world’s biggest smartphone makers, is in talks to use one of Great Wall’s plants in China to make EVs under its own brand, said two of the people, who declined to be identified as the information is not public.

Xiaomi will aim its EVs at the mass market, in line with the broader positioning of its electronics products, the two people said.

Great Wall, which has not before offered manufacturing services to other companies, will provide engineering consultancy to speed up the project, said one of the people.

Both companies plan to announce the partnership as soon as early next week, said another person.

Xiaomi and Great Wall declined to comment.

SMARTER VEHICLES

The plan comes as Xiaomi seeks to diversify its revenue streams from the smartphone business which accounts for the bulk of its income but carries razor-thin profit margins. It flagged on Wednesday rising costs from a global chip shortage and reported quarterly revenue below market estimates.

The move also comes against the backdrop of automakers and tech firms working closer together to develop smarter vehicles with technology such as smart cabins and autonomous driving.

Chinese search engine provider Baidu Inc said in January it plans to make EVs using an auto plant owned by Geely – an automaker with aspirations to offer engineering consultancy and contract manufacturing.

Reuters has also reported Apple Inc and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s respective auto ambitions.

Xiaomi’s founder and chief executive, Lei Jun, believes the firm’s expertise in hardware manufacturing will help accelerate the design and production of its EVs, one of the people said.

“Xiaomi wants to find a mature automobile manufacturer to provide model infrastructure, enabling its own advantages in mobile internet technology,” said Alan Kang, senior analyst at LMC Automotive.

“Xiaomi’s advantages in operating systems and home furnishing also bring a lot of imagination for such cooperation in the future.”

Alongside smartphones, Xiaomi makes dozens of internet-connected devices including scooters, air purifiers and rice cookers.

The firm plans to launch its first EV around 2023, one of the people said. It will enable its cars to connect with other devices in its product eco-system, the people said.

Baoding-based Great Wall, China’s biggest pickup truck maker, this year launched a standalone brand for electric and smart vehicles. It is also building an EV factory in China with Germany’s BMW AG.

The automaker sold 1.11 million vehicles last year helped by the popularity of models such as the P-series pickup truck and Ora EVs. It is currently building its first factory in Thailand.

Chip shortage to hit March production at Volvo Cars in China, U.S

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Volvo Cars, which is owned by China’s Geely Holding, will temporarily stop or adjust production in China and the United States for parts of March due to a global shortage of semiconductor chips, it said on Wednesday.

“We expect the situation to become critical during the second quarter and have therefore decided to take measures to minimize the impact on production while working daily to improve the situation,” Volvo Cars said in an e-mailed statement.

“Volvo Cars will temporarily stop or adjust production in some of its car factories (in the United States and China) during the month of March,” it said.

The Swedish firm said last month it had so far not lost volumes due to the chip shortage, but added there was a “big risk” it could happen during the first quarter.

The shortage has hit automakers globally and stems from a confluence of factors as carmakers compete with the consumer electronics industry for chip supplies.

Truckmaker Scania, part of Volkswagen AG’s commercial vehicle arm Traton SE, said earlier this month it might have to stop production due to the shortage.

Sweden’s AB Volvo, a rival to Scania, said last month the shortage had hit production at its factory in Ghent, Belgium, and warned of further stoppages.

Volkswagen overtakes SAP to become Germany’s most valuable blue-chip

(Reuters) – Volkswagen overtook software maker SAP on Wednesday as the most valuable company in Germany’s blue-chip DAX index, as investors warm to the carmaker’s plans to take on Tesla.

Volkswagen shares rose as much as 12%, giving the company a market valuation of more than 136 billion euros ($162 billion), compared with SAP’s 127 billion.

Volkswagen shares have gained 47% year-to-date, supported by a raft of announcements on its electric vehicle expansion strategy, which culminated in a “Power Day” this week including plans to build six gigafactories in Europe by 2030.

Chief Executive Herbert Diess said on Tuesday he thought Volkswagen, the world’s second-largest carmaker after Toyota, was worth 200 billion euros, still a far cry from Tesla’s $650 billion market value.

($1 = 0.8401 euros)

Exclusive: Honda temporary cutting some production at all U.S., Canada plants

WASHINGTON – Honda Motor Co said late Tuesday it will temporarily suspend some production next week at all U.S. and Canadian plants citing a number of supply chain issues.

A spokesman for the Japanese automaker said it would halt production for the entire March 22 week at a majority of U.S. and Canadian plants citing “the impact from COVID-19, congestion at various ports, the microchip shortage and severe winter weather over the past several weeks.”

The company declined to specify the volume of vehicles impacted but said “purchasing and production teams are working to limit the impact of this situation.”

Honda said “the timing and length of production adjustments could change” and added when production is suspended Honda workers “will continue to have the opportunity to work at the impacted plants.”