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December 15, 2017 News of the Day: Liang Zhou Named Chief Executive Officer Of Karma Automotive, Geely Set to Buy $4.7 Billion Stake in Mercedes Benz Parent Co. Daimler

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【Summary】December 15, 2017 News of the Day

Eric Walz    Dec 15, 2017 12:05 PM PT
December 15, 2017 News of the Day: Liang Zhou Named Chief Executive Officer Of Karma Automotive, Geely Set to Buy $4.7 Billion Stake in Mercedes Benz Parent Co. Daimler

Liang Zhou Named Chief Executive Officer Of Karma Automotive

IRVINE, Calif., — Karma Automotive announced today that Liang Zhou, currently CEO and President of Beijing Foton-Daimler Automotive, has been named to replace Thomas Corcoran as Chief Executive Officer of the luxury automaker.  Zhou, a veteran executive with over 25 years of experience in the automotive industry, will be based at the company's newly opened global headquarters in Irvine, California.

Zhou began his career as an engineer, progressed into sales and marketing, and then into general management, where he held a number of executive positions. Prior to joining Daimler, he was with Naveco, a joint venture of Iveco of Fiat and Nanjing Auto, where he was General Manager and served on the venture's board of directors.

Zhou holds Bachelors and Masters degrees in Engineering from Northwestern Polytechnical University. He also earned a PhD from Nanjing University of Science and Technology.

"Zhou was selected after a lengthy global search process," said Corcoran. "We were highly impressed with his outstanding record of success in creating new business, driving growth, and over-delivering results. He is regarded within the industry as a strong business leader; results-focused, determined, systematic and pragmatic. We found him to be a strategic thinker, and a creative problem solver."

Corcoran added, "I believe Dr. Zhou possesses the strengths we require to ensure our continued growth and success as a global luxury automotive manufacturer. We are pleased to welcome him to the Karma family."

Geely Set to Buy $4.7 Billion Stake in Mercedes Benz Parent Co. Daimler

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State-run China Central Television has reported that Geely, which also owns Swedish automaker Volvo and Lynk & Co., plus its own car brand, is set to acquire between 3 and 5 percent of Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler in a deal valued at about $4.7 billion.

If completed, the deal would make Geely the second biggest shareholder of Daimler and position it ahead of the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance, which owns a 3.1 percent stake. The single biggest shareholder is the country of Kuwait with a 6.8 percent stake. The rest of the luxury German brand is owned by institutional and private investors.

Geely may be looking to access some of Daimler's technology as well as to establish an electric car joint venture in China. Daimler has already established an electric car joint venture in China with BYD. Established in 2012, the joint venture is responsible for the electric car brand Denza.

Reuters in November reported that Daimler had rejected an offer by Geely to buy a 5 percent stake at a discount, a move which would have diluted the shares of existing shareholders, but told Geely it could buy shares in the open market.

Automakers in China are under pressure to launch electrified vehicles, known locally as New Energy Vehicles (NEVs), to meet tough new standards issued by the government. These include a target for electrified cars to make up at least a fifth of local sales by 2025, with a tier of quotas beginning as early as 2018. In addition, all major Chinese automakers must offer at least one electric car for sale by 2019. The country is also considering a total ban on cars powered solely by gasoline or diesel engines.

Elon Musk's Boring Company Plans to Build Two 12.4 Mile Hyperloop Tunnels Near Baltimore

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Elon Musk's digging company, Boring Co., could start the construction of hyperloop tunnels, terminating near West Pratt and South Paca streets in Baltimore, as early as January, according to documents obtained by Capital News Service.

In a conditional utility permit granted to Boring Co. by the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration on Oct. 16, Musk's company estimates it will begin digging two parallel, 12.4-mile transportation tunnels in January 2018.

The document lists the start location as "immediately north of MD 175" and details a dig to "within 0.25 miles of intersection of W. Pratt and S. Paca" about a block from Oriole Park at Camden Yards, with tunnels running under the approximate route of the Maryland-owned section of Route 295, or the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

Steve Davis, an employee at SpaceX, one of Musk's companies focused on rocket and spacecraft manufacturing, signed Boring Co.'s application for the conditional permit. He was also in email exchanges with Maryland Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn and his staff, where Davis arranged meetings with Maryland officials in September and November.

In those same emails, Rahn touches on some of the confusion surrounding Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan's October announcement in support of Musk's hyperloop. Boring Co., a company started by Musk, envisions tunnels that will cart cars and people underneath major cities on electric sleds at speeds approaching 150 mph.

Musk has already begun implementing his vision near Los Angeles, starting construction of a tunnel underneath the SpaceX facility in Hawthorne, California, and shared a map detailing proposed routes.

This differs from the vision Musk shared in a July tweet, proposing an East Coast hyperloop transporting passengers at speeds of up to 760 mph on air skis, resulting in a 29-minute, New York City-to-D.C. commute, a project that apparently received "verbal government approval," again according to a July tweet by Musk.

How Maryland government and Boring Co. will resolve the conflict of technologies between these two visions, as well as how Musk plans to dig under the remaining two-thirds of Route 295, which is under federal jurisdiction, is yet to be seen; the Maryland State Highway Administration documents indicated it was considering issuing a full utility permit to Boring Co. after receiving more details on the project.

A Maryland Department of Transportation representative on Wednesday told Capital News Service it would not disclose those details citing "confidential commercial information," and also indicated that no public funds were being spent on the project.

Thor Trucks Rolls Rolls Out an Electric Truck to Challenge Tesla

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The Thor ET-One

LOS ANGELES — California Startup Thor Trucks just introduced its battery powered electric truck, the ET-One, with plans to challenge Tesla in the electric truck market.

The ET-One may not be as striking looking as a Tesla truck, but should offer similar performance to Tesla electric truck. Thor promises a 300-mile range and the ability to haul up to 80,000 pounds with a base price of $150,000.

All of those figures match Tesla's estimates for the base-model version of its truck. But Tesla also plans to offer a version with 500 miles of range for $180,000. Both trucks are expected to enter production in 2019.

Thor Trucks also faces the same hurdles as every other startup trying to build vehicles. Tesla faces significant challenges because it's never built a commercial truck before, but Thor Trucks hasn't built anything before either. Vehicle manufacturing is a complex and expensive, and many startups have vanished.

Tesla and Thor Trucks aren't alone in the electric truck market. Cummins, a respected name in the trucking industry, unveiled its own prototype electric truck earlier this year, and Daimler is already selling its Fuso eCanter electric delivery truck. Toyota is testing a hydrogen fuel-cell semi truck in California which it revealed at this year's LA Auto Show.

Thor's ET-One prototype is built on a conventional chassis that's been fitted with an electric motor from TM4 between the cab and the fifth wheel hitch, is powered by a pack of commodity 21700 battery cells. The eye catching grille makes a bold statement, and is used for cooling drivetrain components.

The business plan is to work with established suppliers and manufacturers to develop and build the truck with proven technologies under contract, while Thor designs the power management system. He says discussions are underway with several fleet partners interested in getting on board and scaling up their electrified operations with Thor, which only has 18 employees today but has nearly as many job openings as it gains momentum.

The goal is to offer trucks with ranges from 100 to 300 miles hauling a full load at prices starting at $150,000 in 2019. The ET-One will also be available with a upgraded 500-mile battery pack for $200,000. The electric truck should qualify for up to $110,000 in vouchers from California's zero-emissions incentive program for class-8, heavy duty trucks.

Thor is planning demonstration drives for potential customers next year.

Uber is Under Criminal Investigation

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The U.S. Department of Justice submitted a letter to Judge William Alsup, who is residing over the ongoing Uber Waymo lawsuit, claiming there is more evidence that Uber had not turned over, according to a report from the New York Times. The evidence is reportedly related to accusations that Uber illegally gathered information on competing ride-share companies. As the New York Times points out, the Justice Department rarely gets involved in similar lawsuits, making it an unusual action.

"In the course of a United States' pending criminal investigation, the government interviewed a former Uber employee named Richard Jacobs," the letter said.

Exactly what the DOJ is investigating isn't yet clear. However, it is believed that the Justice Department is looking into Uber's Greyball software which was used to hide its operations from law enforcement in cities that had banned the ride-hailing company. The investigation could also be related to reports that Uber bribed foreign officials and possibly violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Last spring, a report surfaced claiming that the DOJ had opened an investigation into Uber's use of Greyball, but until now there has been no official confirmation of any investigation by the Department of Justice.

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