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Hyundai Aims to Take on Tesla With Launch of Ioniq 6 First Electric Sedan

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By Reuters | Updated: 14 July 2022

Hyundai Motor Co on Thursday launched its first electric sedan, Ioniq 6, which the South Korean automaker is betting will help it grab a bigger share of the electric vehicle (EV) market dominated by Tesla Inc.

The Ioniq 6 is one of more than 31 electric models that Hyundai Motor Group – including Hyundai Motor, its sister company Kia Corp and premium brand Genesis – plans to introduce through 2030 to secure a projected 12 percent of the global EV market.

Hyundai’s sedan will expand its EV range beyond its current crossovers and SUVs to compete head-to-head against Tesla’s best-selling Model 3 sedan.

Hyundai and Kia were already the second-biggest EV shippers globally excluding China in January to May this year, with a combined 13.5 percent market share that was second only to Tesla at 22 percent, according to industry tracker SNE Research.

The Ioniq 6 will be priced in the range of KRW 55 million (roughly Rs. 33,53,800) to KRW 65 million (roughly Rs. 3,964,200) for the South Korean market.

“The Ioniq 6 will be able to compete with Tesla in the volume EV sedan sector, considering its competitive pricing and long driving range,” said Lee Jae-il, an analyst at Eugene Investment & Securities.

The Ioniq 6 could leverage its pricing in the EV sedan market because Tesla has increased prices several times, he added.

The Hyundai electric sedan will have a driving range of about 610km (380 miles), around 30 percent more than the Ioniq 5 crossover, Hyundai said.

“We are using the same (battery) cell chemistry but … we maximised the amount of batteries per each pack, enhancing energy density significantly,” said Kim Yong Wha, an executive vice president at Hyundai.

It will come in two battery pack options – 53-kilowatt per hour (kWh) and 77.4 kWh – and will begin production at its Asan plant in South Korea later this year, Hyundai said.

The Ioniq 6 will be available in South Korea this year and the U.S. market launch is expected in the first quarter of next year, it added.

Hyundai said the Ioniq 6 launched this year would source batteries from SK Innovation’s SK On and LG Energy Solution’s batteries will be used from next year.

The launch comes after Hyundai announced its plans to build dedicated EV plants both at home and the United States, where the Ioniq 5 and Kia’s EV 6 SUV together became the second-best selling EVs after Tesla cars and ahead of Ford Motor Co’s Mustang Mach-E.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Tesla Safety at Centre of Criminal Trial Over Fiery, Fatal Crash in South Korea

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By Reuters |  Updated: 22 November 2022

In an upscale Seoul neighbourhood two years ago, a white Tesla Model X smashed into a parking lot wall. The fiery crash killed a prominent lawyer – a close friend of South Korea’s president.

Prosecutors have charged the driver with involuntary manslaughter. He blames Tesla.

Choi Woan-jong, who had eked out a living by driving drunk people home in their own cars, says the Model X sped out of control on its own and that the brakes failed in the December 2020 accident.

The criminal trial about to begin in South Korea hangs on questions about the safety of Tesla cars, at a time when the EV maker faces a range of lawsuits and increased scrutiny by regulators.

Choi, 61, is now unable to find work as an independent driver, or what is known in Korea as a “replacement driver”.

He says he suffers flashbacks and depression ahead of a trial that pits his credibility against the world’s most valuable automaker.

“When I wake up, I feel abandoned, floating alone in the middle of the ocean,” said Choi, who underwent surgery after the crash for a ruptured intestine.

Tesla did not respond to written requests for comment about the crash and Choi’s case. A lawyer for the family of Yoon Hong-geun, who owned the car and died in the crash, declined to comment.

Choi’s case has drawn the attention of some safety advocates in South Korea who want to change a provision in the free trade agreement with the United States that exempts Tesla from local standards.

For instance, Tesla is not required to follow South Korean regulations that require at least one front-seat and back-seat door to have a mechanical failsafe because the US-South Korea free trade agreement exempts carmakers with sales under 50,000 vehicles from local safety rules.

Tesla sold 17,828 vehicles in South Korea in 2021, registration data shows.

Park Keun-oh, an official from the Korea-US FTA division of South Korea’s trade ministry, said the exemption clause requires Tesla to abide by American safety regulations, which do not require a mechanical backup latch. Such latches allow doors to be opened even if the car does not have electrical power.

Park declined to comment further. The Office of the United States Trade Representative did not respond to requests for comment about the trade deal or the regulations.

Prosecutors say Choi floored the accelerator as he entered the garage of a Seoul apartment building, hitting 95 kph (60mph) before crashing. He denies that, saying the car’s side mirrors began folding in and out uncommanded just before the car accelerated on its own.

“It felt like the car was swept away by a hurricane,” said Choi, who said he had been driving for more than 20 years and had experience driving Teslas.

The automaker provided prosecutors with data from the Model X that the car transmitted in the moments before the crash, the judge said at a preliminary hearing. The defence team has asked to see the data and is waiting for the court to release it.

Choi and his lawyer are seeking to show that the car’s electrical systems failed and that its design slowed firefighters’ attempts to rescue Yoon.

The Tesla’s battery caught fire after the crash. Smoke and flames filled the car, according to firefighters and a video of the scene, taken by firefighters and viewed by Reuters.

Choi escaped through a broken window on his side. Firefighters were delayed in pulling Yoon out of the back seat, because the Model X’s electronic doors failed to open from outside, a Dec. 31, 2020, fire department report reviewed by Reuters shows. The report does not say how long the rescue was delayed.

Yoon, 60, was pronounced dead after firefighters extricated him from the car and performed CPR. The cause of death was not made public.

Judge Park Won-gyu said that he plans to call Tesla engineers to testify and that the safety of Tesla vehicles would be examined at trial. Involuntary manslaughter carries a potential prison sentence of up to five years.

A fiery scene

The investigation by the fire station that responded found the battery failure slowed the emergency response by disabling seat controls, which prevented firefighters from repositioning the front seats so they could get to Yoon, according to the fire department report.

The electrical outage made it “impossible to secure space for the (rescue) operation”, the report said.

A fire station representative declined to comment.

The report says the exterior door handles on the Model X, which are electronic, did not open from the outside as the battery burned. It also says firefighters could not pull Yoon from the car because they couldn’t move the front seats after the battery died.

A video of the rescue shows firefighters trying but failing to open the Model X’s wing-style doors. They eventually broke through the front windshield and pulled Yoon from the car about 25 minutes after the emergency call came in, according to the footage and the firefighters’ report.

Tesla is the only automaker that does not provide data to the Korea Transportation Safety Authority (TS) from onboard diagnostic systems for safety checks in South Korea, according to the agency and Park Sang-hyuk, a lawmaker with the opposition Democratic Party of Korea, spurred by Choi’s crash, has campaigned for regulators to pressure Tesla to change its door handles and work with regulators.

TS noted that Tesla is not legally required to provide such data, but that all other foreign and domestic carmakers are doing so.

Park and TS said Tesla is working with the agency to allow Korean owners to access their car’s diagnostic data starting in October 2023.

“Tesla has become something of an icon for great innovation, but I think (the company’s issues in Korea) also raise a serious concern for customers here,” Park said, referring to cases in which Tesla’s doors will not open after a collision and the free trade agreement provisions.

A South Korean consumer group, Citizens United for Consumer Sovereignty, said in September that Tesla had not fixed what the group calls “door defects”. The group says it has collected information on about 1,870 complaints involving Tesla doors over the past four years. Data provided to Reuters by another South Korean lawmaker, and TS, confirmed that number.

The consumer group said that it asked police to investigate Tesla over not improving driver and passenger safety after the fatal crash in Seoul, but that police told them in May there was not enough evidence to proceed, according to their report, seen by Reuters.

In a June 29 letter to the consumer group, seen by Reuters, police say that although Tesla’s door latches might violate local safety standards, that consideration was trumped by the terms of the Korea-US free trade agreement.

Tesla doors “could be in violation of the (local) regulations, but it (Tesla) has no obligations to comply with local motor vehicle safety standards in accordance with the Korea-US free trade agreement,” the police letter said.

In South Korean courts, drivers in cases where a crash’s cause is disputed face the burden of proving the car had a defect, three legal and auto safety experts say, and vehicle manufacturers are almost never prosecuted over safety issues.

“Unless you have gone through this, you will never know how it feels,” said Ahn Ho-joon, another “replacement driver” in South Korea, who had a Tesla accident in May nearly identical to Choi’s, police records show.

Tesla did not respond to requests for comment.

Ahn, one of the few to attend all of Choi’s pre-trial hearings, says the Tesla he drove also accelerated on its own and crashed into two vehicles in an underground garage, but there were no serious injuries. Police say the accident was his fault because there were no issues with the vehicle, but did not charge him because the wreck was minor.

Ahn said he has kept his job as an independent replacement driver, but declines to drive Teslas.

Choi, unable to work and nearly out of money, has moved into a 6.6-square-metre (71-square-foot) cubicle he rents for 350,000 won ($243) a month. Financed by state housing subsidies, it includes a shared bathroom and kitchen, and all the rice he can eat. Despite these hardships, Choi takes the long view on Tesla.

“Obviously there’s a process to make products perfect through trial and error. And I am just destined to be part of that process,” he said.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Ather Energy Details Tamil Nadu Expansion Plan, Will Set Up 150 Fast-Charging Grids Across State

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 21 November 2022

Ather Energy on Sunday said it has drawn up plans to set up 150 fast-charging grids in Tamil Nadu by the end of the current financial year. The electric two-wheeler maker recently inaugurated its first experience centre in Salem under its move to expand retail footprint in the state. With the inauguration of the experience centre, Ather Energy has nine retail stores in Tamil Nadu.

“There are plans to expand its retail footprint to 15 stores and add 150 fast-charging grids in the state by the end of current financial year,” the company said in a statement.

“Ather Energy has experienced an encouraging response from across the state for its scooters. With a high rate of EV adoption and growing acceptance for high-end electric two wheelers, Tamil Nadu is an important market for Ather Energy,” chief business officer Ravneet Singh Phokela said.

“We have created an electric vehicle that is efficient, high quality and reliable from the ground up and have invested strategically in the infrastructure needed to support it. We have been expanding rapidly to fulfil the demand for the new and improved Ather 450X and have some exciting plans for Tamil Nadu,” he said.

Tamil Nadu has emerged as a high demand market for electric scooters with Ather Energy registering a 49 percent quarter-on-quarter growth. The ex-showroom price after the FAME-II revision for the Ather 450X Gen 3 is Rs 1.58 lakh while the Ather 450 Plus Gen 3 costs Rs 1.36 lakh, Ather said.

Earlier this month, Mahindra announced that it had tied up with three electric vehicle infrastructure partners — Jio-bp, Statiq, and Charge+Zone — to offer charging solutions for its upcoming range of passenger electric vehicles. With these partnerships, Mahindra EV users will get seamless access to a robust fast charging infrastructure and e-mobility solutions spanning across discovery, availability, navigation and transactions, according to the Mumbai-based automaker.

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Tesla Recalls 3.21 Lakh US Vehicles Over Intermittent Rear Light Issue, Public Filing Shows

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By Reuters | Updated: 21 November 2022

Tesla is recalling more than 321,000 vehicles in the US because tail lights may intermittently fail to illuminate, the company said in a filing made public Saturday. The news follows the company’s recall on Friday of nearly 30,000 Model X cars in the US over an issue that may cause the front passenger air bag to deploy incorrectly, which sent its shares down almost 3% to a near two-year low.

In the filing published Saturday to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the electric vehicle manufacturer said the tail light-related recall covers some 2023 Model 3 and 2020-2023 Model Y vehicles.

Texas-based Tesla said it will deploy an over-the-air update to correct the rear light issue and said it has no reports of any crashes or injuries related to the recall.

The company said the recall followed customer complaints it became aware of in late October, largely from foreign markets, claiming vehicle tail lights were not illuminating.

The investigation found in rare cases the lights may intermittently not work due to an anomaly that may cause false fault detections during the vehicle wake-up process. Tesla said it had received three warranty reports over the issue.

Tesla has reported 19 US recall campaigns in 2022 covering more than 3.7 million vehicles including four callbacks in November, according to NHTSA data.

Meanwhile, the company told US auto safety regulators it has reports of two new crash fatalities in Model 3 cars tied to advanced driver assistance systems in the month ending October 15, data released last week by the US government showed. The NHTSA in June began releasing data provided by automakers on reports of crashes tied to driver assistance systems like Tesla’s Autopilot.

“NHTSA has reviewed these crashes and is conducting appropriate follow-up. NHTSA uses many data sources in its enforcement processes,” the agency said last week.

The regulator issued an order in June 2021 requiring automakers and tech companies to immediately report all crashes involving advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and vehicles equipped with automated driving systems tested on public roads. The safety regulator said Tuesday it uses data submitted by automakers under its 2021 order as part of its investigations.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Elon Musk Defends $56 Billion Salary, Says Some Tesla Decisions Made Without Board Nod

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By Reuters | Updated: 17 November 2022

Elon Musk said in court on Wednesday that he made some Tesla Inc decisions without the approval of the company’s directors, as he defended his $56 billion (roughly Rs. 4,56,800 crore) pay package against claims that he dictated its terms to a compliant board.

Tesla shareholder Richard Tornetta sued Musk and the board in 2018 and hopes to prove that Musk used his dominance over Tesla’s board to obtain an outsized compensation package that did not require him to work at the electric car maker full-time.

Questioned by Tornetta’s lawyer, Greg Varallo, Musk rejected claims that his pay package goals were easy to achieve.

“The amount of pain, no words can express,” Musk said in a near-whisper, describing the effort required to get the company from brink of failure in 2017 to explosive growth. “It’s pain I would not wish to inflict upon anyone.”

Varallo repeatedly sought to portray Tesla as a company under the grip of Musk, the world’s richest person, and tried to show that Musk bypassed Tesla’s board on several occasions.

For example, Musk said he made a unilateral call on ending Tesla’s acceptance of Bitcoin cryptocurrency and acknowledged that the board was not informed before he told analysts in October that Tesla’s board was considering buying back up to $10 billion (roughly Rs. 81,600 crore) of stock.

But the testimony did not definitely prove who developed Musk’s 2018 pay package or establish whether it was a product of his demands rather than negotiations with the board.

The five-day trial comes as Musk is struggling to oversee a chaotic overhaul of Twitter, which he was forced to buy for $44 billion (roughly Rs, 3,58,900 crore) in a separate legal battle before the same judge, Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick, after trying to back out of that deal.

Musk tweeted this week that he was remaining at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters around the clock until he fixed that company’s problems, and said on Wednesday he had come to Delaware on an overnight flight from the social media company.

Musk said his focus on restructuring Twitter would soon wind down and he would find someone else to lead it. He was dismissive of the argument that his pay deal should have obligated him to spend a set number of hours at Tesla.

“I pretty much work all the time,” he said. “I don’t know what a punch clock would achieve.”

While Musk has a history of combative testimony, calling lawyers “reprehensible” or “a bad human being,” he was relatively restrained in Wednesday’s proceedings, though at times expressed frustration with Tornetta’s attorney.

At one point, Musk told the plaintiff lawyer, “your question is a complex question that is commonly used to mislead people.”

Musk acknowledged that he was not a lawyer but added, “when you’re in enough lawsuits you pick up a few things.”

A ‘product genius’

Tornetta has asked the court to rescind the 2018 package, which his attorney said was $20 billion (roughly Rs. 1,63,100 crore) larger than the annual gross domestic product of the state of Delaware.

The legal team for Musk and the Tesla directors have cast the pay package as a set of audacious goals that worked by driving 10-fold growth in Tesla’s stock value, to more than $600 billion (roughly Rs. 48,92,800 crore) from around $50 billion (roughly Rs. 4,07,700 crore).

They have argued the plan was developed by independent board members, advised by outside professionals and with input from large shareholders.

Tornetta’s attorney tried to show Musk was involved from the start. An email from May 2017 appeared to establish that Musk was pushing for the pay plan months before the board negotiated it with him.

“I’m planning something really crazy, but also high risk,” he wrote.

Antonio Gracias, a venture capital investor and longtime friend of Musk who was also a Tesla board member from 2007 to 2021, took the stand after Musk testified.

Gracias said he was prepared to push back on Musk if necessary. “I don’t pull punches with any of my CEOs,” he told the court.

The disputed Tesla package allows Musk to buy 1 percent of Tesla’s stock at a deep discount each time escalating performance and financial targets are met. Otherwise, Musk gets nothing.

Tesla has hit 11 of the 12 targets, according to court papers.

Shareholders generally cannot challenge executive compensation because courts typically defer to the judgment of directors. The Musk case survived a motion to dismiss because it was determined he might be considered a controlling shareholder, which means stricter rules apply.

Gracias described Musk as essential to the company’s success in his testimony, calling him “extraordinary” and a “product genius.”

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Tesla to Assist Police Probe Into Fatal Model Y China Crash That Killed Two After Driver Lost Control

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By Reuters | Updated: 14 November 2022

US automaker Tesla said on Sunday it will assist Chinese police investigating a crash involving one of its Model Y cars after local media reports said two people had died and three were injured when the driver lost control of the vehicle.

The incident on November 5 in the southern province of Guangdong killed a motorcyclist and a high school girl, Jimu News reported, posting a video of a car driving at high speed crashing into other vehicles and a cyclist.

“Police are currently seeking a third party appraisal agency to identify the truth behind this accident and we will actively provide any necessary assistance,” Elon Musk’s electric vehicle maker told Reuters in a message on Sunday, cautioning against believing “rumours”.

China is Tesla’s second-largest market, and the crash was among the top trending topics on the Weibo social media platform on Sunday.

Jimu News quoted traffic police as saying the cause of the incident in Chaozhou city had not been identified and an unnamed family member of the driver who said the 55-year-old had issues with the brake pedal when he was about to pull over in front of his family store.

Tesla said videos showed that the car’s brake lights were not on when the car was speeding and that its data showed issues such as there being no action to step on the brakes throughout the vehicle’s journey.

Calls to police in Raoping, the county where the accident happened, went unanswered on Sunday.

Tesla has faced claims of brake failure in China before.

In its statement to Reuters, the company said a Chinese car owner had been ordered by a court to publicly apologise and compensate the firm after it ruled that comments he had made to the media about issues with his brakes were inconsistent with the facts and had harmed Tesla’s reputation.

Reuters could not immediately verify Tesla’s assertion.

Last year, an unhappy customer caused a social media stir by clambering atop a Tesla at the Shanghai auto show to protest the company’s handling of her complaints about malfunctioning brakes involved with a car accident.

In that instance, Tesla said speeding violations were behind her crash but promised to improve how it addressed customer complaints.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Renault, Google Expand Partnership in Software Services for Future Vehicles

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By Reuters | Updated: 8 November 2022

Renault and Google said on Tuesday that they are expanding their partnership in software services for future Renault vehicles, adding that Google will become the preferred cloud supplier to the French automaker. The partnership with Google will also help Renault accelerate its “end-to-end digital transformation, from the design of the car to its market launch through its production,” Renault Chief Executive Luca de Meo said in a statement.

Automakers and technology companies including Sony, Apple and Google, have been working to develop ways to build future cars into platforms more like smartphones, with billable services where key updates are wireless.

On Tuesday, AFP reported that the automaker will pitch investors on its planned green revamp, with two spin-offs. Renault will announce a new EV unit and a subsidiary for thermal and hybrid assets. The EV market is expected to grow rapidly in response to consumers’ worries about climate change, putting pressure on manufacturers to develop fewer polluting products.

The European Union last month agreed to phase out new CO2-emitting vehicles by 2035, a move set to turbo-charge the production of electric prototypes on the continent, according to the report. The flagship division of the carmaker’s reorganisation is Ampere, a split-off expected to employ around 10,000 staff in France and produce electric vehicles in the north. It plans to invite investment in Ampere but would remain the majority shareholder.

Renault also intends to combine its technological, manufacturing, and research and development activities for its hybrid and internal-combustion vehicles in a subsidiary called “Horse”. The subsidiary is expected to employ an estimated 19,000 people across Europe, China and South America, according to the report.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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