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Sony begins testing its electric car concept on public roads

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This image, taken in Tokyo, Japan on August 7th 2020, shows a prototype of Sony’s Vision-S electric vehicle.

Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Sony has started testing its Vision-S electric car on public roads, with the Japanese tech giant stating that the development of the prototype vehicle has “reached the next stage.”

In an announcement made at the tech event CES 2021 this week, the firm said testing of the vehicle began in Austria last month for what it described as “technical evaluation” as it looks to improve its safety.

Looking ahead, Sony says it plans to continue development work on the vehicle and carry out tests in other regions.

According to the business, two 200 kilowatt motors — located at its front and rear — power the four-seater car, which weighs 5,180 pounds, or 2,350 kilograms. The vehicle uses 40 sensors to monitor safety and undertake a range of tasks such as autonomous parking.

Given that the vehicle is only a prototype, and Sony is not known for making cars, it remains to be seen what the company’s overarching plans for the Vision-S are.

On a website outlining the project and its specifications, it describes both the content and prototype vehicle as being “intended to illustrate our future concepts in the area of mobility.”

Sony has, however, worked with some significant players on the project. These include vehicle manufacturer Magna Steyr.

Indeed, in another video published by Sony on Monday, Frank Klein, the president of Magna Steyr, described the Vision-S as “just the starting point of our joint cooperation.”

Sony’s foray into mobility comes at a time when established players in the sector are looking to ramp up their electric vehicle offerings and challenge Elon Musk’s Tesla, which delivered 499,550 vehicles in 2020.

On Tuesday, the Volkswagen Group said its Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand had sold almost 134,000 battery electric vehicles in 2020, up from 45,117 in 2019. In addition, it also sold 78,000 plug-in hybrids last year, compared to 37,053 in 2019. To put these figures into some sort of perspective, Tesla says it delivered 180,570 vehicles in the fourth quarter of 2020. 

In a statement, Ralf Brandstätter, the CEO of Volkswagen Passenger Cars, was bullish on the company’s prospects going forward. “We are well on track to achieve our aim of becoming the market leader in battery electric vehicles,” he said.

In a sign of how things are changing, last week saw the CEO of Daimler emphasize the importance of low-emission technologies and innovation.

Speaking to CNBC’s Annette Weisbach, Ola Källenius said the automotive industry was “in the middle of a transformation.”

“Next to the things that we know well — to build, frankly, the world’s most desirable cars — there are two technological trends that we’re doubling down on: electrification and digitization,” he added.

Källenius’ comments came on the same day Daimler announced its Mercedes-Benz Cars division had sold over 160,000 plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles in 2020.


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GM warns Maharashtra government’s move to block its exit could hit investment

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Maharashtra’s move to block General Motors (GM) from shutting a plant and exiting the country defies the state’s business friendly image and sends a “concerning message” to potential future investors, the US automaker has said.

GM’s comments came after authorities in Maharashtra earlier this week rejected the automaker’s application to cease operations at its plant in the western state amid protests by workers who demanded GM continue production or keep them on the payroll indefinitely, according to local media.

The decision runs counter to Maharashtra’s business-friendly reputation, a GM spokesman said in a statement. “It sends a concerning message to any potential future investors who want to bring jobs and investment to the state.”

GM stopped selling cars in India, the world’s second most populous nation, at the end of 2017 after years of low sales. It sold one of its two factories in the country to China’s SAIC Motor Corp and continued to build vehicles for export at its second plant until Dec. 24.

In January 2020, it agreed to sell its second factory in the state’s Talegaon district to Chinese automaker Great Wall Motor Co, but tensions between India and China have delayed completion of that deal.

GM said it planned to seek a reversal of the state’s order as soon as possible.

“Effectively, the state’s decision amounts to a requirement that GM either produce vehicles for which there are no customer orders, or pay workers indefinitely for doing no work. We reject both suggestions,” the spokesman said, adding production would not resume.

GM is offering higher than the statutory severance pay to its roughly 1,500 workers at the plant, amounting to nearly two years of salary and is willing to negotiate further, said a source with knowledge of the matter.


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Maruti Suzuki’s premium hatchback Swift India’s ‘best-selling’ car model in 2020

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New Delhi: Maruti Suzuki India on Saturday said its hatchback Swift has emerged as the best selling car model in India in 2020 with 1,60,700 units. In 2020, the model has also crossed the cumulative sales milestone of 23 lakh units since its launch in 2005. It crossed the 5 lakh milestone in 2010, 10 lakh in 2013 and 15 lakh in 2016, the company said in a statement.

Commenting on the milestone, Maruti Suzuki India Executive Director (Marketing & Sales) Shashank Srivastava claimed that “Swift has been the best-selling premium hatchback in the country for the past 15 years with over 2.3 million delighted customers.”

He further said, “Despite the adverse impact of COVID-19, brand Swift sold over 1,60,700 units in CY 2020, emerging as the top brand in the pecking order.”

The company said more than 53 per cent of Swift customers are below the age of 35 years, thus establishing the model as “the ‘coming of the age’ car with its tech-savvy features, value-for-money offerings and sporty design”.


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Tata Motors launches i-Turbo petrol variant of premium hatchback Altroz

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New Delhi: Tata Motors on Saturday launched the i-Turbo petrol variant of its premium hatchback Altroz at an introductory price increment of Rs 60,000 above the existing petrol variants of the model. The company has also added a new top of the line XZ+ variant in petrol and diesel fuel options to the Altroz range. It is priced at Rs 8.26 lakh for the petrol variant and Rs 9.46 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) for the diesel option.

The Altroz i-Turbo is launched at an introductory ex-showroom price increment of Rs 60,000 above the Altroz Revotron petrol variants, the company said in a statement.

At present, the petrol variants of the Altroz are priced between Rs 5.7 lakh and Rs 8.86 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi).

The i-Turbo variant of the Altroz comes with iRA-connected car technology which has 27 connected car features along with natural voice tech, through which the car understands commands not only in English or Hindi, but also in Hinglish, Tata Motors said.

The car is powered by a 1.2-litre turbocharged BS-VI petrol engine delivering power of 110 PS at 5,500 rpm.

Commenting on the launch, Shailesh Chandra, Tata Motors President – Passenger Vehicles Business Unit, said since the launch in January 2020, in FY21, the company’s market share in the hatchback category has increased by 5.4 per cent compared to last fiscal.

“…we have captured 17 per cent market share in the premium hatchback segment. We are confident that the new Altroz range will cater to the evolving needs of the Indian customer, all while creating benchmarks in the segment,” he added.

The Altroz is the first product on the ALFA architecture and the company has sold more than 50,000 Altroz within its first year of launch.


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