Automakers roll out new battery-powered cars at Geneva show

The Audi Q8 sport concept. Global automakers are rolling out more production-ready electric vehicles at the Geneva International Motor Show as they try to challenge Tesla and get ahead of looming disruptive shifts in transportation toward lower-emission and autonomous vehicles. (AP)
Updated 06 March 2018

Automakers roll out new battery-powered cars at Geneva show

GENEVA: Global automakers are rolling out more electric vehicles at the Geneva International Motor Show as they try to challenge Tesla and get ahead of a disruptive shift in transportation toward lower-emission and autonomous vehicles. 
For the European carmakers, the mood at the event could be unsettled by US President Donald Trump’s threat this weekend to slap tariffs on the region’s manufacturers in a potential trade war. And the three big German manufacturers — Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW — will grasp the opportunity to highlight their high-tech creations amid their continued trouble with diesel technology, such as the legal attempts to ban diesel in German cities and the scandal over exposing monkeys to exhaust in lab tests.
The carmakers will show off their wares through Wednesday; the show opens to the public Thursday and runs through March 18.
The biggest trend in autos is the race to make new technologies affordable and functional.
Some of the vehicles on show — such as Volkswagen’s autonomous and battery-driven I.D. Vizzion — will be concepts not yet ready for production. Others will have vehicles that are ready to go on sale in coming months, such as Jaguar Land Rover with the Jaguar I-Pace, a battery-driven SUV advertising 310 miles (498 kilometers) of range and rapid-charging capability.
Mercedes-Benz will have an addition to its EQ electric brand. Hyundai will show its Kona Electric, with either a 300-kilometer (186-mile) or 470-kilometer (292-mile) range. Luxury carmakers such as BMW and Jaguar are eager to grab back some of the sales of high-end vehicles taken by Tesla with its electric Model S high-performance sedan and Model X SUV.
When it comes to technological change, there will be more than vehicles to talk about. The German automakers and Ford are working to build a network of fast-charging stations across Europe through their joint venture, Ionity. The idea is to make electric vehicles more appealing by enabling longer trips. Currently, many electric models are charged over several hours at home at night and used for short commutes, limiting their use. Ionity’s 350-kilowatt-per-hour charging capacity could cut charge times to 15 minutes or less.
Automakers are under pressure to come up with vehicles propelled by something other than internal combustion engines to comply with government efforts to reduce air pollution and emissions of greenhouse gases blamed by scientists for global warming. The issue became even more pressing after a German court said last week that polluted cities can ban older-model diesels. Diesel sales had already slipped after Volkswagen’s 2015 scandal over cheating on emissions tests.
Autonomous vehicles could herald a shift to transportation as a service with less incentive to own a car. Analysts at IHS Markit estimate that autonomous cars will have their first significant sales volume with 51,000 units in 2021 and surpass 33 million per year by 2040.
All three German automakers have condemned the 2014 experiment in which Volkswagen had macaque monkeys exposed to diesel exhaust at a lab in New Mexico. The tests were commissioned through a now-disbanded organization whose board had representatives from BMW, Volkswagen and Daimler. They have said they are investigating how the tests happened.
The show will not erase public indignation or media questions but at least offers a chance to talk about something other than a PR disaster.
Some of the more important vehicles at the show have already been revealed as companies use stand-alone events to show off their new cars rather than putting them on display in a crowd of other vehicles. That is the case with Mercedes-Benz A-Class, its small entry-model hatchback that was unveiled on Feb. 2 in Amsterdam. The car features voice-activated control of navigation, phone, music and heating and air-conditioning somewhat like Amazon and Google’s devices for home use. The Jaguar I-Pace had a digital unveiling from Graz, Austria on Thursday ahead of the show — showing it beating two Tesla models in a race.
Geneva is typically a place to show off gorgeous, extremely fast and very, very expensive vehicles. A taste: Luxury sports carmaker McLaren offers the low-slung Senna, named after the race driver Ayrton Senna. Its 800-horsepower turbocharged V8 engine takes it to a top speed of 340 kph (211 mph). Just 500 of the sleek, carbon-fiber vehicles will be built, hand-assembled at the company’s production center in Woking, Surrey, England. The price: £750,000 including tax, which translates to $1.03 million at today’s exchange rate.
Want one? Sorry. The company said it has buyers for all of them.


Analysts urge Canada to focus on boosting the economy

Updated 06 July 2020

Analysts urge Canada to focus on boosting the economy

  • Canada lost one of its coveted triple-A ratings in June when Fitch downgraded it for the first time

TORONTO: Canada should focus on boosting economic growth after getting pummeled by the COVID-19 crisis, analysts say, even as concerns about the sustainability of its debt are growing, with Fitch downgrading the nation’s rating just over a week ago.

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau will deliver a “fiscal snapshot” on Wednesday that will outline the current balance sheet and may give an idea of the money the government is setting aside for the future.

As the economy recovers, some fiscal support measures, which are expected to boost the budget deficit sharply, could be wound down and replaced by incentives meant to get people back to work and measures to boost economic growth, economists said.

“The only solution to these large deficits is growth, so we need a transition to a pro-growth agenda,” said Craig Wright, chief economist at Royal Bank of Canada. The IMF expects Canada’s economy to contract by 8.4 percent this year. Ottawa is already rolling out more than C$150 billion in direct economic aid, including payments to workers impacted by COVID-19.

Further stimulus measures could include a green growth strategy, as well as spending on infrastructure, including smart infrastructure, economists said. Smart infrastructure makes use of digital technology.

“We have to make sure that government spending is calibrated to the economy of the future rather than the economy of the past,” Wright said.

Canada lost one of its coveted triple-A ratings in June when Fitch downgraded it for the first time, citing the billions of dollars in emergency aid Ottawa has spent to help bridge the downturn caused by COVID-19 shutdowns.

Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and DBRS still give Canadian debt the highest rating. At DBRS, Michael Heydt, the lead sovereign analyst on Canada, says his concern is about potential structural damage to the economy if the slowdown lingers too long.

Fiscal policymakers “need to be confident that there is a recovery underway before they start talking about (debt) consolidation,” Heydt said.

Fitch expects Canada’s total government debt will rise to 115.1 percent of GDP in 2020 from 88.3 percent in 2019.

Royce Mendes, a senior economist at CIBC Capital Markets, said the economy still needs more support.

“Turning too quickly toward austerity would be a clear mistake,” he said.