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Ford ups investment in self-driving and electric cars to $29B

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Jim Farley

Ford plans to spend up big in the areas of electric vehicles and self-driving technology, CEO Jim Farley said Thursday during a conference call detailing the automaker’s 2020 financial results.

Key measures mentioned by the new Ford CEO include an increase in spending on EVs to $22 billion through 2025, up from a previously announced $11.5b. The figure includes investments already made in EVs since about 2016.

“We are accelerating all our plans, breaking constraints, increasing battery capacity, improving costs and getting more electric vehicles into our product cycle plan,” he said.

Deliveries of the Mustang Mach-E have just started and electric versions of the Transit van and F-150 pickup truck are coming in late 2021 and mid-2022, respectively. Ford is also known to be developing an EV based on Volkswagen Group’s MEB modular platform for sale in Europe. It’s due in 2023 and the automaker is currently studying a second MEB-based vehicle.

Farley also said EVs would be “fundamental” to Lincoln in the coming years during the call.

Jim Farley

In the area of self-driving tech, Farley said Ford will increase its investment to $7 billion through 2025. The figure includes investments of about $2 billion that Ford has already made, particularly in self-driving technology startup Argo AI which Ford is a key investor in together with VW Group.

Argo AI is developing a system rated at Level 4 on the SAE scale of self-driving capability and recently started testing a fourth-generation prototype. Level 4 cars can operate without the need for a human behind the wheel, though only in set conditions, the main one typically being a geofenced area.

Ford is expected to be the first company to offer a commercial service using Argo AI’s self-driving system, currently targeted for deployment in 2022.

Ford is well-suited to make these major investments. The automaker ended 2020 with almost $31 billion in cash and is on track to generate between $8b and $9b in EBIT in 2021.

In related news, Ford also said Thursday that it had canceled plans for a joint venture with Zotye to develop EVs for the Chinese market. It follows Ford’s decision in January to end a similar deal with Mahindra & Mahindra to develop EVs and SUVs for the Indian market.

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iPhone maker Foxconn tapped to build Fisker electric vehicle

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Fisker Ocean

Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn, famous for building iPhones for Apple, has been tapped by Fisker to build a new electric vehicle starting in 2023.

The news comes only a month after Foxconn announced it is establishing a new company with Geely to build cars and car parts under contract. However, specific production plans for the new Fisker EV haven’t been detailed.

The deal between Fisker and Foxconn, announced Wednesday, will see the two companies jointly develop a vehicle for what they claim is a breakthrough new segment. Code-named Project PEAR, an acronym for “Personal Electric Automotive Revolution,” the vehicle is being developed with global sales in mind and projected annual volumes of more than 250,000 units. The rough teaser sketch above hints at what’s to come.

Project PEAR isn’t the Ocean SUV that Fisker has tapped Austrian contract manufacturer Magna Steyr to build. The Ocean is being developed on a platform supplied by Magna and will start production at Magna’s plant in Graz, Austria, in late 2022. Fisker said it has already garnered 12,000 deposits for the Ocean and will reveal a production-intent prototype later this year.

Fisker Ocean

Foxconn also has a modular EV platform of its own, which the company unveiled in 2020. It isn’t clear if this platform is related to the deal with Fisker.

As for Project PEAR, Fisker said it will now work closely with Foxconn to finalize design and technology requirements before entering a formal partnership in the second quarter of 2021. By relying heavily on information technology, the two companies are looking to go from initial R&D to production within the space of 24 months, or about half the traditional time it takes to launch a new vehicle.

“We created our company to disrupt every convention in the auto industry,” Henrik Fisker, chairman and CEO of Fisker, said in a statement. “We will create a vehicle that crosses social borders, while offering a combination of advanced technology, desirable design, innovation and value for money, whilst delivering on our commitment to create the world’s most sustainable vehicles.”

There could be even more Fisker vehicles arriving in quick succession. The company in January showed an image of a lifestyle pickup truck, and in the past it has hinted at a coupe-like crossover and a super sedan based on a 2018 concept.

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Next generation of driver’s coupe spotted

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2023 BMW M2 spy shots - Photo credit: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

BMW is working on a redesign for its 2-Series coupe—the current one dates back to 2014—and the plan is to stick with rear-wheel drive. This means that our favorite 2-Series variant, the M2, won’t lose its hardcore edge.

Prototypes for the new 2-Series coupe have been spotted for a while and now we have our first look at the new M2.

All the signature BMW M styling cues are present on the prototype, like the center-mounted quad-exhaust tips, flared wheel arches, and aerodynamically shaped side mirrors. The front is heavily camouflaged but we can expect the same aggressive design seen on the latest M3 and M4, including the tall kidney grilles. Yes, BMW wants its vehicles to stand out, especially the sportier variants.

The new 2-Series coupe is expected to ride on the platform underpinning the Z4 and Supra twins—a design related to the CLAR platform underpinning BMW’s whole lineup from the 3-Series up. This is an excellent base from which to build the M2.

2023 BMW M2 spy shots – Photo credit: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

Power is expected to come from a detuned version of the 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-6 found in the M3 and M4, as well as the X3 M and X4 M. Look for about 420 hp in the M2, which is up considerably on the 365 hp of the current M2. The rating will provide a healthy gap with the 473 hp of the M3 and M4.

The redesigned 2-Series coupe is expected to debut in 2021 as a 2022 model (it isn’t clear at this point of a repeat of the 2-Series Convertible will happen). The M2 should trail the regular coupe by about a year.

This means we might not be looking at a new M2 until the 2023 model year. To help tide things over, there are rumors that an extra-hardcore CSL version of the current M2 could be launched. The car would be aimed at track enthusiasts in a similar fashion to 2016’s M4 GTS.

Interestingly, there have also been rumors that the front-wheel-drive 2-Series Gran Coupe and related 1-Series hatchback sold overseas will get their own dedicated M models. These are rumored to come with all-wheel drive and peak outputs registering over 400 hp, likely from a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4. BMW M boss Marcus Flasch has previously said that such cars weren’t possible due to the lack of a suitable engine. Given the interest in rival offerings from Audi Sport and Mercedes-Benz AMG, the situation could change.

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2022 Land Rover Defender adds V-8 to powertrain portfolio

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2022 Land Rover Defender

Ever since the modern Land Rover Defender’s reveal in 2019, fans have been eagerly awaiting the announcement of a V-8 option.

Well, we can confirm that Land Rover will finally deliver with the 2022 Defender which will offer up Jaguar Land Rover’s familiar 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 as the range-topping powertrain. Here, it will be rated at 518 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque.

Buyers seeking more performance may want to wait as the SVO division is rumored to be planning a more potent version of the V-8 for the Defender, possibly in an SVR-badged model, though Land Rover remains quiet on the matter.

2022 Land Rover Defender

The current V-8 still offers plenty of grunt and will be offered on both the two-door Defender 90 and four-door Defender 110. It will come hooked to an 8-speed automatic and should see the Defender deliver 0-60 mph acceleration in about five seconds and a top speed approaching 150 mph.

Numerous chassis tweaks were also added to suit the extra grunt. The list includes stiffer anti-roll bars, unique spring and damper rates, as well an electronic active rear differential.

2022 Land Rover Defender

2022 Land Rover Defender

The Defender’s off-road driving mode selector known as Terrain Response has also been augmented with a special Dynamic mode exclusively for the V-8. It helps to optimize power delivery whether on a smooth or rough surface. It also improves throttle and steering response to deliver a sharper and more agile driving experience, and dials in the exhaust note for a spicier sound.

Apart from the noise it makes, it will be hard to tell the V-8 Defender from those with lesser engines. There will be some unique visual cues, though. The list includes quad-exhaust tips at the rear, model-specific 22-inch wheels, and 15-inch brake rotors with bright blue calipers.

Other powertrains offered on the 2022 Defender will include a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 with 296 hp and 295 lb-ft and a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 mild-hybrid setup with 395 hp and 406 lb-ft. Buyers outside the U.S. will also have the option of a plug-in hybrid setup that uses the 2.0-liter engine.

The 2022 model year also sees the Defender receive Defender XS and Defender Carpathian editions. The latter gets its name from its exclusive Carpathian Gray paint finish (with a contrasting black roof) and will come exclusively with the V-8.

2022 Land Rover Defender

2022 Land Rover Defender

Other changes for 2022 will include an available 11.4-inch infotainment screen instead of the standard 10.0-inch unit, along with a standard wireless charging pad for mobile devices, over-the-air update capability, and a navigation system that optimizes route guidance using AI and real-time traffic updates.

The 2022 Defender will arrive at dealerships later in the year. Pricing information will be announced closer to the market launch.

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