The temperatures are hot and so is the car news! Welcome to this Thursday, July 6 edition of The Autopian’s morning news roundup. On deck today: a new Toyota Land Cruiser is (finally) coming, Stellantis (also finally) has ambitious EV platform plans, China’s car industry has America in a quandary and Rivian’s trying to make new friends. Let’s not waste any more time because we have a lot to discuss.
Get Ready To Cruise Some Land, Baby
For a long time, I haven’t been able to understand why Toyota doesn’t lean more into its heritage—especially for trucks. At a time when the Ford Bronco is blowing up, demand for the Jeep Wrangler shows no signs of slowing down, and more and more people are getting into overlanding, where’s the world’s biggest (or second-biggest, depending on Volkswagen that quarter) car company? The 4Runner sure gets the job done, but the current one will be 15 years old next year—the “How do you do, fellow kids?” of the off-roading park—and people have been demanding a new FJ Cruiser-type SUV since the old one drove off into the sunset.
It’s all a huge missed opportunity, if you ask me. Especially since more and more automakers are adamant that they’ll give up their gas trucks last (or maybe never) in the race toward electrification.
Help is on the way. Toyota has at last confirmed that a new Land Cruiser is coming to the U.S. and today it gave us some teaser pics. They’re pretty clearly CGI and so there’s nothing to really glean from the shape of the truck parked in front of a first-generation Land Cruiser on a fake cliffside.
Here’s what little we know from Automotive News:
Company sources say the next Land Cruiser will be based on the next-generation Land Cruiser Prado, a smaller, less expensive SUV sold in overseas markets, including Europe, and marketed in the U.S. as the Lexus GX.
The body-on-frame GX has been overhauled from top to bottom for 2024 and appears boxier, though still upright.
A full reveal of the next-generation Land Cruiser is expected to take place in early August.
A little backstory helps here. As you probably know, the Land Cruiser isn’t a car so much as it is cars—it’s a whole lineup of vehicles sold in various forms across many different markets, much like the Corolla. In some places with less stringent safety and fuel economy rules, you can still buy a Land Cruiser that’s as old as I am. And why not? It gets the job done and when you’re out in the bush or whatever, accept no substitutes. (I could say the same of myself.)
In the U.S., the Land Cruiser was discontinued amid dwindling sales in 2021. That was always kind of a weird SUV in my mind; it was very plush, very old, very expensive to the point where it had uncomfortable overlap with its sibling the Lexus LX, and its looks never screamed “Land Cruiser.” There was always a big gap between what that vehicle was and what people envisioned a Land Cruiser to be.
There is a new comfort-focused Land Cruiser these days, the 300 series. But we don’t get that truck and the teased model we’re talking about here is going to be different, somehow. We don’t really know what to expect from this U.S.-bound Land Cruiser, but rumors say it’s expected to be cheaper, more retro-looking and more off-road focused than before; my guess is we can expect a hybrid powertrain like on the new Tacoma, which is good to see.
Keep in mind a new 4Runner is also coming and so I’m not sure what that overlap will look like if the Land Cruiser’s cheaper. But sales data indicates people can’t get enough trucks and SUVs these days, so if the looks and price can match the love people have for these nameplates, it won’t matter much. For Toyota, it’s definitely the right truck at the right time.
Stellantis’ EV Platform Aims For Impressive Range
There’s a real and valid environmental argument against making more EV battery than you need, but it kind of falls on deaf ears as early EV adopters still (understandably) fret over range and changing their driving habits. As a result, even when they say they don’t really want to, automakers are working on big-range EVs.
This week we learned more about relative EV latecomer Stellantis’ plans, and I’d describe one platform’s range as both reasonable and impressive. The Franco-Italo-American-Dutch conglomerate showed off STLA Medium, one of four EV platforms it hopes to debut this decade; the others are Small, Large and Frame for trucks and SUVs.
STLA Medium is said to aim for 435 miles of EV range on Europe’s WLTP cycle, which will be something more like 370 miles for us. That’s pretty great if they can pull it off, and it’s not as ridiculous (or concerning) as some of these plans for 700- or 900-mile EV ranges. Here’s Car and Driver to tell us more about STLA Medium:
While the first EV to utilize the STLA Medium platform will be the next-generation Peugeot 3008, which is only sold overseas, the first U.S. model is expected to be a Chrysler. While we think it could arrive sometime in 2026, an official date has yet to be confirmed. The Chrysler Airflow concept teased what this new EV might be like back in 2021, but it’s currently unclear how similar it will be to the production version—or if it will even be called the Airflow.
Like most EV platforms, the STLA Medium is modular, meaning it can be configured with different dimensions, suspensions, and more. Along with wheelbases that range from about 106 to 114 inches, it can be equipped with a single electric motor on the front axle or motors on both axles. The former setup obviously provides front-wheel drive, and the latter provides all-wheel drive. Stellantis says power output will range from about 214 horsepower to up to around 382 horses.
The STLA Medium platform will also offer two battery sizes. Stellantis only revealed details about the larger battery with a 98.0-kWh useable capacity… Stellantis did say the smaller standard battery is expected to provide 310 miles of WLTP-estimated range—or about 264 miles for the likely EPA estimate.
Those ranges put it in line, more or less, with the stuff Tesla and Hyundai and others are currently offering. It’s also built for upgradability:
Not only is the STLA Medium platform designed to switch from a 400- to an 800-volt electrical system in the future, but Stellantis says it will be be able to accept new battery chemistries such as solid-state as well as nickel- and cobalt-free packs. To help with packaging costs and production volumes, the perimeter dimensions of the STLA Medium’s battery packs are both the same and feature common tray and cooling designs.
America And Europe Approach The ‘Chinese Cars’ Quandary Differently
Companies like Stellantis had better get it together on the EV front because they’re about to get their lunch eaten on their home turf. We’ve covered this all year, but the Chinese auto industry is rising fast and rapidly gaining market share in Europe, as well as other Western markets like Australia. Can you blame people? Everyone’s fed up with sky-high car prices and by many accounts, the stuff coming out of China seems quite good these days. Also, they need to expand. Competition at home is so intense that margins are extra-thin. They have to go abroad to grow.
We have stiff 27.5% tariffs on Chinese-made cars in America. That keeps them out of our market for now. In Europe, it’s just 10%. But as U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen makes her first visit to Beijing this week, China’s cars—particularly EVs—are going to be a topic of conversation.
This very thoughtful Detroit News article outlines some of the challenges. Basically, the EU doesn’t love that Chinese automakers could eat the home team’s market share, but they want EVs instead of gas cars so they’re down to accelerate things more.
“The EU has put up more barriers (than in the past), but for them, the environmental emissions issues are really, really of greater salience,” said Susan Shirk, founding chair of the 21st Century China Center at the University of California-San Diego.
The European Union agreed earlier this year to ban the sale of gas-powered cars after 2035, with the exception of synthetic fuels to get car-centric Germany on board.
John Bozzella, CEO of the main U.S. auto lobbying group the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, wrote last month that Chinese EV companies used the coming ban to jump into the market. He said they grabbed 5% of Europe’s EV market share in the first nine months of 2022 and are now projected to reach 20% by 2025 — numbers that automotive consulting firm AlixPartners LLP confirmed are similar to their analyses.
So what will America do?
But […] U.S. policies would significantly slow down Chinese competitors seeking to enter the market. Trump came into office in 2017 on a wave of discontent emanating from hollowed-out manufacturing towns, particularly in the industrial Midwest. He restructured U.S. policy to be more protectionist, including implementing a 27.5% tariff on imports of Chinese-made cars that remains in place.
Biden doubled down on that stance, pushing through the Inflation Reduction Act, which created new electric vehicle tax credits that incentivize domestic production but bars Chinese companies from benefitting.
It’s emblematic of the Biden administration’s goals of accelerating EV adoption, pushing companies to build them (and their components) in the United States, and separating supply chains from China — a strategy experts say is rife with inherent conflict.
“The core question I think Washington and the United States need to grapple with is: Is it important that American transportation is electrified?”
If you’re a policy person in the Biden Administration and you have an admitted environmental bent, what can you do? Do you side with more EVs and give China a break, or stay tough on them amid other geopolitical tensions—and the good of your country’s auto industry? That’s a tough choice to make.
Rivian Wants Friends And Partners
Rivian has had a lot of the typical EV startup production problems but it still managed a great Q2. Compared to the same period last year, it’s 3x’d production and deliveries to customers and saw a subsequent stock price boost after reporting this. Nicely done, Team Rivian.
On the heels of that success, Rivian says its partnership with Amazon is going well but it also maybe wants to keep things open, play the field a bit. Here’s Bloomberg:
Rivian Automotive Inc. is ready to take on more commercial partners beyond Amazon.com Inc. after a recent bout of production success.
“What we saw in Q2 is really the beginnings of the supply chain now running in a healthy way,” Chief Executive Officer RJ Scaringe said Wednesday in an interview with Bloomberg Television.
Rivian sells a consumer pickup truck and sport utility vehicle and manufactures a delivery van for Amazon, its largest shareholder and biggest customer. The deal with Amazon is exclusive, but Scaringe said the carmaker is “in the final stages of negotiating, allowing us to sell the vehicle outside of the Amazon relationship to others.”
[…] During the interview, Scaringe said the company was guiding that around 20% of its overall production volumes would be vans for Amazon. Rivian’s deal with Amazon has it delivering 100,000 electric delivery vans for the e-commerce giant by the end of the decade.
There’s certainly a market for electric delivery vans, right? Who wants in on what Rivian’s doing?
Congratulations! You have been appointed Joe Biden’s Chinese Car Czar, a reward for all your years of shitposting in comment sections and on Twitter. Your expertise in the automotive world has been recognized and you’ve been called up to the show.
Your task is to set policy around how America will deal with Chinese-made EVs. You know that their arrival here is, in some way, probably inevitable. You also want to electrify the market but you also have the automakers here, and the United Auto Workers union, to deal with. Furthermore, years of IP theft, human rights abuses and aircraft carriers parked near Taiwan have led you to trust Xi Jinping about as far as your boss can throw him, which isn’t very far because he’s a guy in his 80s.
How do you handle this problem?
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