Re­nault al­liance bets on spike in elec­tric cars Three car­mak­ers also an­nounce plans to make ‘robo-taxis’

Arab News - - BUSINESS -

PARIS: The Re­nault-Nis­sanMit­subishi al­liance is gam­bling that mass-mar­ket driv­ers are go­ing to pivot soon to elec­tric cars, an­nounc­ing plans Fri­day to pro­duce 12 new elec­tric mod­els by 2022 and to make elec­tric cars 30 per­cent of its over­all out­put.

The car­mak­ers — who col­lec­tively sold more ve­hi­cles than any other com­pany in the world in the first half of this year — also an­nounced plans to make “rob­o­taxis,” driver­less public trans­port ve­hi­cles and au­ton­o­mous cars aimed at mid­dle-class con­sumers.

The an­nounce­ments are part of an over­all strate­gic plan re­leased Fri­day, aimed at tak­ing ad­van­tage of the al­liance’s grow­ing reach af­ter tak­ing over Mit­subishi last year to con­sol­i­date its po­si­tion and make elec­tric and driver­less cars more af­ford­able. They also un­veiled a new logo for the three­way al­liance and re­named it Re­nault-Nis­san-Mit­subishi.

CEO Car­los Ghosn is bet­ting that up­com­ing gov­ern­ment re­stric­tions on diesel and gaso­line cars will push driv­ers to go elec­tric in­stead.

“We don’t know how much time it’s go­ing to take ... but this is com­ing,” Ghosn told The As­so­ci­ated Press in an in­ter­view. Britain and France have de­cided to ban new diesel and gaso­line car sales from 2040 and China is con­sid­er­ing a sim­i­lar move.

“Peo­ple are look­ing a lit­tle bit fur­ther in to the fu­ture, say­ing, ‘I’m go­ing to go elec­tric be­cause I don’t want to have the prob­lem with the car I have to­day three, four years down the road,” he said.

All ma­jor car com­pa­nies are try­ing to po­si­tion them­selves to profit from the ex­pected but un­pre­dictable and chaotic changes over­tak­ing the in­dus­try: Au­ton­o­mous cars, con­nected cars that share data, car-shar­ing where you do not own a ve­hi­cle but or­der one by app, and low-emis­sions ve­hi­cles de­manded by the EU to fight cli­mate change and by China, where many cities are fight­ing ram­pant pol­lu­tion.

At the Frank­furt auto show this week, sev­eral car man­u­fac­tur­ers vaunted elec­tric and other lowe­mis­sions tech­nol­ogy strate­gies. Volk­swa­gen AG no­tably an­nounced a long-term elec­tri­fi­ca­tion cam­paign, say­ing its brands would in­tro­duce 80 new elec­tric ve­hi­cles by 2025.

Re­nault-Nis­san-Mit­subishi aims to in­crease the range of its elec­tric cars to more than 600 kilo­me­ters, with smaller bat­ter­ies and speeded-up charg­ing time. It wants 15 min­utes of charg­ing time to al­low 230 kilo­me­ters (140 miles) of range, up from 90 kilo­me­ters (55 miles) of range now.

Nis­san was at first a leader in elec­tric cars with the Leaf, but it has been over­taken by GM’s Bolt in terms of range and even the new Leaf does not quite catch up.

Ghosn said elec­tric car sales are grow­ing by more than 50 per­cent an­nu­ally in some Euro­pean mar­kets, and that his al­liance is watch­ing China’s emis­sions poli­cies closely.

At a con­fer­ence in Paris, the al­liance an­nounced that through 2022 it will also ex­pand devel­op­ment of ve­hi­cles with dif­fer­ent lev­els of au­ton­o­mous tech­nol­ogy, start­ing with par­tial hu­man mon­i­tor­ing and end­ing with a fully driver­less car that can ride on high­ways.

It said it is seek­ing to be a “key op­er­a­tor” of driver­less ride-hail­ing ser­vices and to pro­vide au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles for public tran­sit and car-shar­ing. It did not pro­vide spe­cific tar­gets or po­ten­tial part­ners.

Ghosn said the al­liance is aim­ing to save €10 bil­lion (about $12 bil­lion) an­nu­ally by 2022, no­tably by shar­ing more pro­duc­tion plat­forms, pur­chas­ing and en­gi­neer­ing, and through “hu­man re­sources.” He did not elab­o­rate on where po­ten­tial job cuts might hit.

He said the car­mak­ers aim to boost an­nual sales to $240 bil­lion and to sell 14 mil­lion cars a year by 2022, up from 10 mil­lion in 2016.

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