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Perhaps it’s because I woke up this morning in London, but it seems like everyone wants to talk about the British car industry today. That’s fine with me. First up, let’s talk about the Dacia Spring. It’s a small, cheap EV city car of the time we’ve been begging for lately. Now it’s finally coming to Britain and at a price that’ll leave many chuffed.

Less chuffed and more gobsmacked will be the Jaguar Land Rover press folks this morning, waking up to a viral thread from Car Dealership Guy intimating that Jaguar, the brand, is dead. I have my doubts about this and I’ll see who I can rouse at this hour to provide more details.

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We often think about battery problems as chemistry problems and not, say, a software problem. The UK’s Breathe Battery is approaching it from a software angle and a recent investment from Volvo indicates that the company thinks it can shrink its charging times by 30% with that approach. And, finally, while not a UK-specific story, the popular-over-here Transit Connect van is the subject of a $365 million settlement from Ford.

What’s The Deal With Jaguar?

“Wild if true” is Twitter’s way of saying ‘I really have no idea’ and it usually includes a screenshot from another social media source that can’t easily be tracked backward. That happened last night (I think, time is weird) when Car Dealership Guy tweeted out a screenshot from a Facebook page called “The Car Gays” and then piled on with a lot of other information.

The weird thing here is that, so far as I can tell, nothing in this screenshot isn’t already known, some of it is demonstrably misleading, and all of it makes sense. So I’m not sure that this is true, or even that wild, but there’s probably a small amount of truth in it so it’s worth breaking down.

First of all, I did verify the information did come from The Car Gays. I would not rank The Car Gays as reliable a source as, say, the Associated Press, but car forums can provide good information. Here’s the full post:

Thought some of you might find this interesting. It is from an email I received from a Jaguar dealer regarding my order.
“I’ve got some news for you that I’m sure will disappoint so my apologies. The reason Jaguar did not convert your order is because they are shutting down production of all models by June. I’m sure you had heard that their plan was to go ultra-luxury with an all-new all electric line up in 2025, which currently is now postponed until 2026. New reports suggest that JLR is working towards splitting the brands and it appears that their parent company, TATA Motors, is in the process of spinning Jaguar off to sell it as a separate business unit. My guess is they’ll find a Chinese backer looking to enter the market with some brand recognition. Their plan is for low volume production in the future that doesn’t fully support the existing dealer network. They have been actively pursuing dealers to turn back their Jaguar franchises as they will only be producing around 9,000 vehicles annually. They’ve gone from 187 dealers in 2022 to 141 dealers currently, and are looking to have only 90 in total. With 90 dealers and 9,000 cars that’s only 100 cars per dealer per year, or 8.25 per month. It’s simply not a sustainable business model. And since we are a stand-alone Jaguar dealership, not a dual Jaguar-Land Rover dealership, they are leaving us no choice but to turn back the franchise, which we will do on March 29th, ceasing Jaguar operations… .”

This purports to be an email from a dealership which, huh, this is a weird email to get from a dealer. There are some more details from the poster in that thread, who asked not to be named (it’s in the Tweet, but I won’t add anything here. I did reach out to him):

@everyone hey guys while im tickled pink this was shared on Twitter/X would you mind not sharing my name and photo so publically or at least blurring it? I dont want this bitting my ass with the dealer or my client (who also happens to be their lawyer). Thanks!

The OP seems to be a real person who works in the hospitality industry and lives in California. If this is not just a random dealer email but someone the poster has a relationship with that might explain it a little better. Let’s try to break some of these claims down:

“I’ve got some news for you that I’m sure will disappoint so my apologies. The reason Jaguar did not convert your order is because they are shutting down production of all models by June.

This is well known. Jaguar themselves have said they’re shutting down all production of the XE, XF, and F-Type model lines at Castle Bromwich in the United Kingdom as Jaguar begins converting plants to produce electric cars. Heck, we pointed this out when we drove the last F-Type a couple of weeks ago. Other plants will continue to build or provide other models through the end of 2024. Jaguar has long said the company is going full-EV so none of this is a surprise. Here’s the next bit, which is quite misleading:

I’m sure you had heard that their plan was to go ultra-luxury with an all-new all electric line up in 2025, which currently is now postponed until 2026. New reports suggest that JLR is working towards splitting the brands and it appears that their parent company, TATA Motors, is in the process of spinning Jaguar off to sell it as a separate business unit.

That little bit there about Tata Motors, Jaguar’s parent company, isn’t at all what’s reportedly happening. Jaguar Land Rover is (mostly due to Land Rover) a profitable business. Tata’s commercial unit, which makes big trucks, doesn’t perform as well. Splitting them off is logical and Tata Motors just announced the company was doing just that. Here’s Reuters on the move:

Tata Motors, India’s top automaker by revenue, has seen a turnaround in its business over the past few years, and has been operating its commercial vehicles, passenger vehicles and Jaguar Land Rover segments independently under separate CEOs since 2021.

The company reported its first annual profit in five years in fiscal 2023, helped in part by strong demand for its JLR luxury cars. JLR contributes about two-thirds of Tata Motors’ revenue while commercial vehicles like trucks and buses account for about a fifth.

What we have here is something logical and reasonable being cast as something more lurid and sinister, which leads to the next bit of conjecture from the post:

My guess is they’ll find a Chinese backer looking to enter the market with some brand recognition.

I’m not saying this isn’t going to happen, I’m just saying a “guess” from an unnamed dealer who seems to be missing some pieces of information doesn’t feel great to me. Let’s get to the next bit, again from the OP:

Their plan is for low volume production in the future that doesn’t fully support the existing dealer network. They have been actively pursuing dealers to turn back their Jaguar franchises as they will only be producing around 9,000 vehicles annually. They’ve gone from 187 dealers in 2022 to 141 dealers currently, and are looking to have only 90 in total. With 90 dealers and 9,000 cars that’s only 100 cars per dealer per year, or 8.25 per month. It’s simply not a sustainable business model. And since we are a stand-alone Jaguar dealership, not a dual Jaguar-Land Rover dealership, they are leaving us no choice but to turn back the franchise, which we will do on March 29th, ceasing Jaguar operations… .

It’s long been Jaguar Land Rover’s policy to try and discourage standalone dealerships and pare back its Jaguar offerings. I think most of what you see above is a reading (or misreading) of this Automotive News story:

The number of U.S. Jaguar new-vehicle franchises dropped by one-fourth last year, Automotive News’ dealership census found, as JLR offered dealers extra inventory of Land Rover SUVs for giving up their Jaguar points.

The reduction in Jaguar dealerships is part of JLR’s plan to reposition the brand as ultraluxury, with a smaller footprint akin to that of Aston Martin and Bentley.

Jaguar shed 49 franchises from Jan. 1, 2023, to Jan. 1, 2024, and began this year with 146 franchises, according to the census.

Jaguar said 39 of those new-vehicle franchises that went away are in dealerships that now sell certified pre-owned vehicles and are service centers, and nine are service-only locations.

What I think is going on here is that we have an aggrieved salesperson/dealer from one of the few remaining standalone Jaguar dealerships complaining and making some wild guesses. In particular, this dealer seems to be losing allocations and is trying to explain it to the OP. Yossi (aka Car Dealership Guy) is then following up this thread with “anonymous” bits of detail that are, in fact, pieces of information that were already reported by Automotive News.

Could Jaguar delay its plans, sell the brand to a Chinese automaker, or do something else? Maybe. The Land Rover in Jaguar Land Rover is doing most of the work, even if Jaguar sales have been up year-over-year.

We reached out to JLR and got this response:

Jaguar production at our Castle Bromwich site (XE, XF and F-TYPE) will come to an end in June 2024, followed by our Graz site (E-PACE and I-PACE) in December 2024.

We have yet to announce an end date for F-PACE production at Solihull.

We have curated a range of exclusive specifications reflecting the richest options and engine mix of our XE, XF and F-TYPE models. Clients can find these curated specifications and pricing on our website and can purchase through our retail network. E-PACE, F-PACE and I-PACE are still available to build on the configurator.

Jaguar will be radically reimagined as an all-electric luxury brand by 2025. The first of three new Jaguars is a 4-door GT with a range of up to c. 435 miles, built in Solihull.

Priced from £100k, it will go on sale 2024 with new Jaguars on the road in 2025.

If a new Jaguar goes on sale this year as mentioned above that’ll pretty much answer that. Yossi’s dealership sources often have good information as they’re on the frontlines, but Yossi does not pretend to be a journalist and a group of car dealers will naturally have a specific bias when it comes to information like this.

UPDATE: JLR’s U.S. Head PR person has entered the chat:

It’s (Dacia) Spring Time Here In The UK

New Dacia Spring New

The birds are chirping outside my window, daffodils are blooming on the approach to Buckingham Palace, and a few bold souls are even wearing shorts! It feels like Spring here in London and, even better, the exceptionally cute Dacia Spring EV finally has a price, and that price is great if you live here and want an affordable EV runabout for the city.

If you’re reading this site you probably know Dacia, but just in case, this is the longtime Romanian brand that was acquired by Renault in the late ’90s and turned into the company’s global entry-level offering. In particular, the company makes the super good and super cheap Dacia Duster. Damn, I still want a Duster.

While the Spring isn’t a large car and is definitely made for cities, the five-door hatchback is a few inches longer than a Fiat 500 four-door, but just shy of the last Honda Fit we got here in the United States. For that, you get a small 45 or 65 hp EV that can take you roughly 130 miles on the combined European range test or, more appropriately, about 180 miles on the urban cycle test.

Here’s how Thomas described it:

With just 45 horsepower on tap in base trim, the Dacia Spring doesn’t exactly have the trappings of a brilliant highway car. We’re talking zero-to-62 mph in a claimed sub-20 seconds, and we’re frankly amazed that Dacia bothered to count. Should you wish for a little more pep, a 65 horsepower motor is available, which drops the zero-to-62 mph dash down to a far more sensible sub-14 seconds. It’s still not a rocket ship, but let’s be honest, how often does the average driver open the taps all the way?

Dacia would likely point out that the 0-30 mph times are quicker and that’s what people care about since that’s where Spring buyers will spend most of their time.

So how cheap is it?

Price Sheets

If you convert those to American dollars the entry-level price after VAT (the value-added tax) is $19,200. That’s pretty good, and compares favorably with the BYD Seagull‘s export price. What do you get in these versions? From Dacia’s press release:

Starting from Expression trim, available with the Electric 45 or 65 powertrain, standard equipment includes a 7-inch digital instrument cluster, height-adjustable 3-spoke steering wheel, Media Control system with USB port, speed limiter, cruise control, steering wheel mounted controls, central locking with remote control, electric front windows, rear parking sensors, 12V socket, manual air conditioning and 15-inch wheels (only on Electric 65).

The Extreme trim, exclusively paired to the Electric 65 powertrain, adds copper interior and exterior finishes, electric mirrors and rear windows, the Media Nav Live multimedia system with 10-inch centre screen, two USB ports and wireless connectivity with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus a bi-directional charger allowing you to use the All-New Spring as a power source for external appliances.

Realistically an Extreme 65 is probably the best choice and the best value, and even that’s sub $22,000, which is great for a car in the United Kingdom where the cheapest Ford Fiesta you can build is $25k. Part of the value here comes from the fact that the battery pack is sub-27 kWh, which isn’t that big. This entry-level price also might be to generate headlines and eventually go up, so if you’re awake and reading this you might want to get an order in.

Top Gear reviewed the European version of the car, which seems substantially similar, and considered it to be a new version of the Citroën 2CV:

A latter day Citroen 2CV. That’s what it puts us in mind of. A simple, amusing, unsophisticated but loveable cheap car. Exactly the right car to give the electric era a kick up the wotsits. Because electric cars are heavy, aren’t they? Every single one seems to be over two tonnes, with the laziest SUVs now approaching three.

I’m going to have to give “a kick up the wotsits” a try while I’m out here. The kicker here, of course, is that the car is assembled in China.

Volvo Takes A Breathe-r

Volvo Ex30 Vapourgrey 69 LargeOne of the strengths of the Tesla charging network is that Tesla makes both the cars and the chargers, as well as the software that connects the two of them. Other automakers rely on a mix of public chargers and, therefore, have to contend with a mix of hardware and software that might perform in different ways. With the battery generally being the single most expensive part of an electric car, the default for EVs is to protect the battery at all costs, which can result in slower charging times.

Breathe Battery, based in the United Kingdom, is hoping to address this with software and Volvo is now along for the ride with an undisclosed investment. From Vovlo’s press release:

By integrating Breathe’s software in Volvo Cars in-house developed battery management platform to optimize and improve the performance of our charging technology, we can provide Volvo customers with even faster charging times and an enhanced overall driving and charging experience.

We will implement the new technology in our new generation fully electric cars, where we expect it will reduce the time it takes to charge your fully electric Volvo from 10 to 80 per cent charging state by as much as 30 per cent*, while maintaining the same energy density and range. Even better: the charging time improvements will last across the full battery life cycle without impacting its health status.

That’s a big claim, and the little asterisks is to say that in testing the improvements were 15-30% depending on the model. Still, even a 15% improvement from just software is a big deal and will be felt by consumers if it works.

The Transit Connect ‘Chicken Tax’ Dispute Gets Settled

2010 Ford Transit ConnectThe Ford Transit Connect van was awesome and I’m sad that it’s no longer for sale in the United States (though there are plenty running around the UK). Given the unsure demand, Ford never built the car stateside, instead opting to get cars from existing production in Turkey.

Because of the ‘Chicken Tax‘ the vans probably should have had to pay a 25% tariff, but got around it by putting in fake rear seats and then removing them after importation. Ford didn’t make a secret of this and assumed it would be good enough to make the vehicle a passenger car and not, say, a more truck-like two-passenger van.

Ford has not, and will not, admit that it did anything wrong. The company, however, didn’t want to face a potential $1 billion fine and instead opted to pay a $365 million settlement.

Per the Detroit Free Press:

The Justice Department said the $365 million settlement, about $183,000 of which constitutes lost import duties and the remainder is penalties, is one of the largest customs penalty settlements reached on behalf of the Customs agency in recent history.

“When companies misclassify imports to avoid paying what they owe, they will be held accountable,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin Mizer. “Today’s settlement is a victory for American taxpayers and for our efforts to combat trade fraud and ensure compliance with United States trade laws.”

You win some,  you lose some.

What I’m Listening To While Writing TMD

I’m in the UK so why not a little Sex Pistols, eh?

The Big Question

Do you believe the Jaguar thing is real? Are you excited about a super lux, super exclusive all-EV Jaguar future?

 





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