The extra Russian mile

Updated 28 March 2015
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The extra Russian mile

WHILE MOST car manufacturers have fled the meltdown of the Russian economy, Ford has decided to soldier on. Ford has gone the extra mile in Russia by not abandoning its dealers, suppliers and employees.
There is no doubt that Ford is losing money in Russia at the moment. The Russian difficulties are political and outside the scope and control of commercial companies. There is no end in sight for the Ukraine crisis or the lifting of Western sanctions. Other companies decided to cut their losses and run away from the sinking Russian market.
But Ford calculated that by taking losses in the short term, it would be in a better position to capitalize on the departure of competitors. In order to do so, Ford has adopted a strategy of joint ventures with local partners; reducing reliance on imports and producing products more suitable to the Russian market.
Ford is launching four new models in Russia this year, including the Fiesta. Four of Ford’s models in Russia are crossovers which are more suitable to the country’s severe weather and road conditions. Ford will also open one engine factory and three plants which would allow it to meet Russian government’s target of local capacity.
These moves may indicate that everything is going well for Ford in Russia. The truth is far from it. Ford sales have plummeted 70 percent to around 3,200 cars. This fall is similar to what happened to other companies too. As the local ruble collapsed, car companies had to hike their prices to cover their losses and demand for cars vanished overnight. By contrast Opel is exiting the Russian market and GM is abandoning its local Russian production by the end of this year.
Ford’s shrewd move to soldier on in Russia may cost it a lot in the short term but if political conditions change in Russia — and they eventually will — Ford will be in the driving seat to lead the Russian in sales and market share.

Adel Murad is a senior motoring and business journalist, based in London.
Email: [email protected]


Audi launches electric SUV in Tesla’s backyard, with assist from Amazon

Updated 18 September 2018
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Audi launches electric SUV in Tesla’s backyard, with assist from Amazon

SAN FRANCISCO: German luxury car brand Audi on Monday staged the global launch of a new electric sport utility vehicle on the home turf of rival Tesla Inc, and highlighted a deal with Amazon.com Inc. to make recharging its forthcoming e-tron models easier.
The Audi e-tron midsize SUV will be offered in the United States next year at a starting price of $75,795 before a $7,500 tax credit. It is one of a volley of electric vehicles coming from Volkswagen AG brands, as well as other European premium brands including Daimler-owned Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volvo Cars and Jaguar Land Rover.
All aim to expand the market for premium electric vehicles and also to grab share of that market from Palo Alto, California-based Tesla, which has had the niche largely to itself.
“I want Audi to be the number-one electric vehicle seller in America over the long term,” Audi of America President Scott Keogh told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who is also head of rocket company SpaceX, planned to mark the e-tron launch occasion by staging a SpaceX event in Los Angeles at roughly the same time on Monday evening as Audi’s unveiling.
Audi and parent Volkswagen are using the US launch of the e-tron SUV in mid-2019 to take aim at one obstacle to expanding electric vehicle sales — the lack of convenient ways to recharge their batteries.
Audi will partner with online retailer Amazon to sell and install home electric vehicle charging systems to buyers of the e-tron, the companies said on Monday. Amazon will deliver the hardware and hire electricians to install them through its Amazon Home Services operation.
Amazon’s partnership with Audi to provide home charging systems is the first time the online retailer has struck such a deal with an automaker, and signals a new front in Amazon’s drive to expand its reach into consumers’ homes beyond the presence of its Alexa smart speakers in living rooms and kitchens.
“We see charging installation as a very important business,” Pat Bigatel, director of Amazon Home Services, told Reuters at Audi’s launch event in San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Center.
Audi executives said home charging stations would cost about $1,000, depending on the home’s electrical system.
Tesla offers wall connectors for home charging at a $500 list price, and will arrange for installation, according to the company.
At the same time, Electrify America, a company funded by Volkswagen as part of its settlement of US diesel emission cheating litigation, plans to launch next year the next round of installations of public charging stations, Electrify America executives told Reuters.
Tesla has developed its own network of Supercharger charging stations with more than 11,000 chargers in North America. Electrify America plans to have 2,000 chargers installed by mid-June next year. Those will be open to any vehicle, and customers can swipe a credit card to recharge.
“We want to work with all” automotive brands, said Giovanni Palazzo, Electrify America’s chief executive.

Lifting the Curtain

Audi has been heralding the launch of the e-tron SUV for some time, but until Monday it had not shared many details of the vehicle.
The e-tron is electric, and has two electric motors — one in the front and one in the rear — driving all four wheels. The Hungarian factory building motors for the e-tron will start with a production pace equivalent to 200 vehicles a day, Audi officials said.
In Europe, the vehicle will use cameras instead of conventional mirrors to give drivers a view to the rear. That feature is still not approved by US regulators.
However, in many other respects the e-tron is a conventional, mainstream luxury SUV. It offers seating for five, and its length and wheelbase position it in the center of the market for midsize, five-passenger luxury SUVs such as the BMW X5. The e-tron is 5 inches (13 cm) shorter than the Tesla Model X, and it has conventional doors. The Model X uses vertically opening “falcon wing” doors.
The e-tron will have an advanced cruise-control system that can keep the car within a lane and maintain a set distance behind another vehicle, but the system will be designed so that drivers must keep hands on the wheel.
Audi officials said they do not have official range estimates for the e-tron SUV under US testing procedures. The e-tron’s 95 kWh battery has less capacity than the 100 kWh battery used in the Tesla Model X 100D model, but more than the base Model X 75D.
The Model X 100D is rated at 295 miles (475 km) of range by the US government.