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CEO of Tesla rival Lucid Motors on partnership with Amazon for Alexa

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Lucid Motors has collaborated with Amazon to bring its voice assistant software into its debut electric vehicle, and CEO Peter Rawlinson dismissed concerns about the e-commerce giant serving as a threat in the auto market. 

“I don’t think there’s a competition there. We’re happy to have Amazon Alexa as part of our technology suite,” Rawlinson said Thursday on CNBC’s “Squawk Alley.”

Rawlinson’s appearance came a day after the Tesla rival unveiled its all-electric Air sedan, which will cost roughly $80,000 for a base model and go up to $169,000 for a limited-volume “Dream Edition.” Rawlinson was the vice president of engineering at Tesla from 2009 to 2012, where he worked on the development of the company’s Model S. 

There has been speculation about the extent of Amazon’s ambitions in the auto market. In late June, the Jeff Bezos-led company announced it would be acquiring self-driving vehicle start-up Zoox in a deal reportedly worth over $1 billion. The Seattle-based firm said Zoox would continue to operate as a standalone business within Amazon. 

In September 2019, Amazon said it had ordered 100,000 electric vehicles from Rivian Automotive as part of its push to get its delivery fleet running entirely on renewable energy. Amazon previously took part in Rivian’s $700 million investment round that was announced in early 2019. 

Lucid’s tie-up with Amazon will allow drivers “to enjoy the full Alexa experience on the go …. all while keeping their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel,” according to a press release from Lucid Motors, which received a $1 billion investment from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund in 2018. 

Rawlinson emphasized the benefits of the collaboration between Lucid and Amazon after he was asked whether the company took steps to protect its technology from the cloud software and online retail titan. 

“I see that natural voice recognition is just perfect for the automobile,” said Rawlinson, who also serves as Lucid Motors’ chief technology officer. “It is just the perfect application, and what better than Amazon Alexa? So I don’t see any conflict there at all.” 

Lucid expects to begin producing the Air early next year at its plant in Casa Grande, Arizona; the company’s timeline was pushed back due to the coronavirus. 

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EV target: OEMs stare at Rs 3.5 lakh crore capex in 7 years to meet govt’s EV target: Report

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Mumbai: Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will require a massive capex to the tune of around Rs 3.5 lakh crore for electric vehicles (EVs) in the next five to seven years to meet the government’s target of 30 per cent of the total vehicles on road being EVs by 2030, a report said on Tuesday. However, it seems unlikely that OEMs will be able to incur such significant capital expenditure (capex) as the business environment has been badly hit due to the pandemic and larger OEMs are expected to take the inorganic growth path and acquire smaller, but specialised, players in the EV space, boutique advisory company Brickworks Analytics (BWA) said in the report.

OEMs currently have a capex of around Rs 25,000 – 30,000 crore per year in terms of enhancing their capacity for model launches and upgradation of existing models, according to BWA.

Recently, the auto sector started showing gradual recovery signs after facing disruptions due to the lockdown, which is largely attributed to pent up demand which materialised particularly during the festival season, the report said.

However, what’s much more worrisome is that the investments have taken a backseat, that too at a time when the government is increasingly supporting the adoption of EVs through various policy initiatives, with the vision of EVs constituting 30 per cent of the overall vehicles on road in India by 2030.

The total EV sales, across segments (two-wheelers, passengers vehicles and buses) stood at 1.56 lakh units last fiscal as compared to 1.30 lakh EVs sold in 2018-19, as per the report.

According to BWA, to boost the adoption and manufacturing of EVs by creating manufacturing capacities of a global scale and competitiveness, the firms’ capex requirements are crucial at the initial stage.

Apart from multiple factors such as price, charging infrastructure, mass acceptability and evolving technology, setting-up manufacturing units for EVs is a significant requirement for the EV market, it said.

In line with rising customer demand, many auto manufacturing companies have already increased their capital expenditure to widen the scope of proposed EV businesses. However, the current crisis situation might lead them to rethink their proposed capital expenditure, said the report.

As per BWA, OEMs will have to incur capex to the tune of around Rs 3.5 lakh crore exclusively for EVs in the next five to seven years to meet the government’s vision.

However, it seems unlikely that OEMs will be able to incur such significant capex as the business environment has been badly hit due to the pandemic, it said.

Vehicle sales were already at their decadal low when the pandemic hit, and the sector is one of the worst hit during the pandemic as well.

The cash accruals of OEMs were badly impacted during FY20 and FY21, and will take more time to return to pre-COVID levels, it said, adding that these two years of continuous slowdown and the subsequent capex already incurred to meet the BS-VI emission norms will restrict firms from committing significant capex towards EVs.

However, BWA expects larger OEMs to take the inorganic growth path and acquire smaller, but specialised, players in the EV space, especially in the relatively lower value two-wheeler space, considering that this segment accounts for 80 per cent of the domestic auto sales.

The report also said that given the expectation of an about 10 per cent contraction in the domestic economy in full year FY21, demand for EVs is also likely to slow down.

Pitching for more government support, BWA said the Centre needs to come up with a scheme similar to the Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (TUFS) in the textile sector to help OEMs upgrade towards EV technology.

The amended TUFS envisages interest reimbursement on the loans taken for technology upgradation and provides one-time capital investment subsidy of 10 to 15 per cent on eligible machines for different segments with a subsidy cap.

Such a subsidy, if proposed for the automobile sector, will take away some burden from the OEMs and help them achieve the EV vision, it added.


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Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza: 2020 Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza review: Uncrowned king of B-SUV segment

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NEW DELHI: Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza set foot in the Indian market back in 2016 and fast forward to 2020 and the dream run of this compact SUV is far from over as it managed to top the B-SUV sales charts throughout the lockdown. Hyundai Venue, Kia Sonet and many others took turns to try their luck and overtake the Brezza but the 5-lakh sales milestone stands as an example of how the compact SUV has struck the right chords with the Indian audience and how it has positioned itself as a good family car.
Although the sales of the car are far from disappointing, TOI Auto still took a closer look at the Brezza to see if the BS6 version of the chart-topper deserves a similar response as its predecessor.

Same old design, same old craze
The BS6 Brezza doesn’t get a drastic cosmetic update but it does feature the redesigned chrome front grille, new LED headlamps with DRLs, and slightly tweaked signature tail lamps. The new features do accentuate the look of the BS6 version but the older features like roof end spoiler, chrome garnish backdoor, floating roof design, wheel arch extension, skid plate with silver garnish, alloy wheels, side under protection garnish do get their share of credit for the distinct look of the SUV. The Brezza might not be the sportiest looking out of all the new-age rivals but it looks quite suffice for a decent urban B-SUV.

New powertrain banking on the SUV’s success
The 1st-generation of the Brezza only sported a BS4-compliant 1.3-litre diesel engine. But as the SUV made its transition to the BS6 era, it sported a 1.5-litre petrol engine and it happens to be the only mild hybrid engine in the segment. The engine manages to produce 104 PS of power and 138 Nm of torque while paired to a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic.
Refreshed character with vibrant performance
The 2020 Maruti Suzuki Brezza’s character has changed quite a bit compared to the outgoing model. Even after discarding the diesel unit, the compact SUV manages to keep up a brisk pace in urban spaces, all thanks to the strong slug of torque in the low to mid-range. But you will definitely miss the diesel unit when you take it out on the highways, however, the refined engine and a quieter cabin are something you get in the bargain.

Smooth handling and decent fuel economy
Our test run clearly suggested that one full tank can take you around 700 km comfortably. If you avoid revving the engine, you would definitely achieve better FE numbers. The ride quality is supple and SUV flattens out road undulations at low speeds. The steering well is a balanced unit that is neither too heavy nor too light. That said, body roll around the corners is evident and expecting sedan-like handling would be a myth.
Refreshed interiors and practical features
The BS6 Brezza comes with all-black themed interiors, leather-wrapped steering wheel chrome finish on inside door handles and AC vents which slightly accentuate the cabin’s character. In terms of entertainment, the SUV boasts a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, steering mounted audio controls, and two tweeters. Some of the practical convenience features include auto headlamps, keyless entry, dust and pollen filter, auto AC, adjustable driver’s seat, cruise control, and rain-sensing auto wipers. The roominess and the spaciousness of the cabin are also a big plus and make the SUV an instant choice for family buyers.

Enhanced safety features that keep up with the times
The Brezza boasts a decent safety package with features like dual front airbags, front seat belt pre-tensioners, ABS with EBD, high-speed warning alert, reverse parking sensor with dynamic display, pedal release system, side-impact protection beam, reverse parking camera, and hill hold feature. Built with Suzuki’s TECT body, the Brezza tries to offer optimum safety to the occupants of the car.
Price difference
Though the prices of the BS6 and the BS4 can’t be directly compared due to the different powertrains, the 2020 Brezza is a tad bit more affordable by Rs 28,000. While the outgoing BS4 model ranged between Rs 7.62 lakh – Rs 10.59 lakh (ex-showroom), the BS6 Vitara Brezza ranges between Rs 7.34 lakh – Rs 11.15 lakh (ex-showroom). The BS6 Brezza is offered in 7 trims in total.

What does it miss out on?
The Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza BS6 does seem like a complete package but it does miss out on a few things here and there. The first thing that misses out in the Brezza is a solid cosmetic upgrade. It is not because the Brezza has a boring design but because we have its rebadged version, the Toyota Urban Cruiser running on the roads too. The Brezza has clearly lost its distinct road presence and you can only differentiate between the Urban Cruiser and the Brezza if you look closely at the badging, the logo, and the front fascia. Secondly, discarding the diesel engine could prove to be a problem for the SUV, maybe not now but in the longer run. And with much younger competitors making their way to the market with new tech and versatile engine options, it is not long until the Brezza loses its upper hand. Thirdly, when the entire industry is inclined towards new-age tech upgrades, the Brezza sticks to the same old-school tech and setup and the difference is significant when it is compared to the rivals. The fourth flaw we found with the B-SUV was that its safety package could have been a bit more comprehensive rather than sticking with the basics.
Verdict
We have to overlook all the flaws of the SUV owing to its exceptional performance in the market. The Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza is definitely a good family car and a decent urban SUV that is still reliable, spacious, and economical. A factotum in the B-SUV segment, the Brezza manages to top the charts and remain the uncrowned king because of its efficiency and the fun-to-drive character and it can still give the rivals a run for their money.


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Toyota Kirloskar again suspends work at Bidadi facility

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NEW DELHI: Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) on Tuesday said it has again suspended operations at its Karnataka –based manufacturing plant after opening it briefly last week.

Based on the directions of the Karnataka government, the company’s management had decided to lift the lockout at its two plants in Bidadi (near Bengaluru) from November 19.

The company had announced to shut operations at the facility on November 10 following worker union members resorting to a sit in strike at the factory premises to protest against the suspension of a worker.

“Even after the withdrawal of the lockout by TKM management, only few team members have reported to work as on date, as per their shift schedule and majority of the team members are continuing their illegal strike,” the auto major said in a statement.

For the plant operations to run smoothly and effectively, a minimum workforce of 90 per cent in each shift is required and in view of the current situation, it is not viable to carry on with manufacturing activity with such a small number of workmen reporting to work, it added.

Moreover, few members are also instigating the illegal strike and disrespecting other members who want to return to work or those who are already working and taking on additional burden caused by the strike, TKM said.

“Post the withdrawal of lockout by TKM management, every day around 400 to 500 union members are trying to barge into the company forcibly at unscheduled times beyond their designated shifts. Such hostile activities of these team members have created a volatile situation around the factory premises and unsafe conditions for the other employees of the company,” it added.

This has led to a lack of congenial and safe atmosphere at the plant, and as a result of which, TKM management is left with no choice but to once again re-institute a lockout at its plant in Bidadi starting November 23, the company said.

“TKM would like to find a quick resolution to this ongoing situation through mutual trust and respect, and with thorough communication with the members. Unfortunately, the same isn’t being respected or reciprocated by some members who have been vitiating fundamentally expected behaviour required for seeking an end to this illegal strike. The company intends to initiate necessary actions in accordance with the law,” it added.

The company has an installed capacity to produce 3.10 lakh units per annum across its two facilities in Bidadi.


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