Toyota debuted its new all-electric SUV concept car on Monday at the 2021 Shanghai Auto Show.
The Toyota bZ4X is the first electric car under the company’s new Beyond Zero (bZ) lineup of cars with zero carbon emissions. It is the first of 15 fully electric cars the company plans to make by 2025 and one of seven under the bZ badge, according to a statement from CTO Masahiko Maeda.
The car is a compact SUV that looks similar to Toyota’s RAV4, but rides lower to the ground and features a longer wheelbase.
It’s the first car to be built on Toyota’s new electric e-TNGA BEV platform that the company created jointly with Subaru. Subaru is expected to unveil its own electric car on the platform shortly.
The new car has several distinctive features, including a system that can use solar power to alleviate the impact of cold weather on the vehicle’s range, as well as yoke instead of a typical steering wheel. The car’s interior also has a large touchscreen.
The car company plans to manufacture the car in Japan and China. It should be available globally by the middle of 2022, according to the company.
Toyota has not announced how far the car will be able to travel on a full charge, but it will likely be competitive with other EVs on the market, including the Ford Mustang Mach-E which has a range of over 300 miles.
Toyota also did not attach a price estimate to the car, but CarandDriver.com reported the vehicle may sell for about $40,000 – a similar price to Toyota’s RAV4 hybrid.
The Model 3, its cheapest sedan, has been hit by the most price changes this year. In the latest change, Tesla raised the price of the Standard Range Plus from $37,990 to $38,490, and the Long Range AWD from $46,990 to $47,490. The Performance version had an even bigger increase, from $55,990 to $56,990.
The automaker also raised the price of its Model Y Long Range AWD from $49,990 to $50,490.
Electrek also noted that the Model 3 price hike was accompanied by a small design update, adding a new wooden door trim, which Tesla had already rolled out on Model 3 vehicles produced at its Shanghai, China Gigafactory.
A Tesla customer, Terry Oelschlaeger, told Insider’s Kate Duffy he was double-charged for a Tesla Model Y costing nearly $54,000 on March 25, and that a Tesla service center employee told him the error had affected “many” buyers.
The company has since refunded the customers, including Oelschlaeger, and offered them $200 in credit at its online store.
Tesla posted record sales in the first quarter of 2021 despite a worldwide shortage of semiconductor chips. It sold 184,800 vehicles in the first three months of 2021, and Wall Street now expects the electric-vehicle company to sell more than 800,000 cars this year.
The customers said they received the money back on their double charges on or before April 1, but that they also had to pay for overdraft fees from their large bills.
Elon Musk’s car company sent the overcharged customers an email, which they shared with CNBC, that apologized and gave them $200 in credit. Tesla said the credit must be used in a single transaction, would expire on January 30, 2022, and couldn’t be spent on Tesla Tequila.
Tesla didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Three California-based Tesla customers first shared their stories with CNBC in March. CNBC’s journalists reviewed their purchase agreements, correspondence with Tesla, and bank statements.
Clark Peterson, Tom Slattery, and Christopher T. Lee initially told CNBC they had purchased Teslas ranging from $37,000, the price of a Model 3 sedan, to $71,000, the cost of a Model Y crossover SUV with premium features.
A former banking executive from North Carolina, who wanted to remain anonymous for privacy reasons, also told CNBC he was charged twice for a new Model Y costing about $54,000.
These buyers all authorized the payment of their brand-new electric vehicles through ACH direct debit, but the next day found that the money had been taken from their account twice, meaning in total they had spent between $74,000 and $142,000 on the cars.
Now they’ve been refunded, they said Tesla customer service needs to improve.
Peterson told CNBC: “While happy to have the whole situation sorted, I still feel that the response time was inadequate. It took days before Tesla had any kind of response, and they were holding our significant funds the whole time. And it took them five minutes to take those funds from our account.”
Another Tesla customer, Terry Oelschlaeger, told Insider he was also double-charged for a Tesla Model Y costing $53,993.70 on March 25. He shared his bank statement with Insider, showing a duplicate charge for a new car.
Oelschlaeger said he phoned the company three times to complain and drove to a Tesla service center in California, where an employee told him the error had impacted “many” buyers.
The company told him the refund would arrive in his bank account in one to three business days. He eventually received a payment in full from Tesla on March 31.
Ford’s electric Mustang Mach-E appears to be cutting into Tesla’s comfortable lead in the electric-vehicle market right out of the gate.
The Mustang Mach-E was the third highest selling electric car model in the US in its first full months of sales, according to a report from Morgan Stanley on Thursday. The car trailed behind Tesla’s Model 3 and Model Y in February.
While Ford has only sold 6,614 units of the new SUVs to date, Tesla’s share of the US electric-car market fell to 69% in February, down from 81% in the prior year, an earlier Morgan Stanley report dated March 3 found. What’s more, the Mustang accounted for nearly all of Tesla’s market-share losses, the bank said.
Ford’s first-quarter vehicle sales were up over 23% year-over-year, the automaker said Thursday, with electrified vehicle sales rising 74%, thanks mainly to the Mustang Mach-E and F-150 PowerBoost Hybrid sales.
Tesla’s first quarter numbers are expected to be released as soon as Thursday afternoon.
Despite the new competition – of which Ford is far from the only source – Morgan Stanley’s analysis found that Tesla’s US sales are still on the rise, with more car buyers continuing to look into purchasing an electric vehicle. EV sales in the US climbed 34% in February from the previous year, while traditional internal-combustion-engine-car sales dropped 5.4%.
One-fifth of the Mustang Mach-E’s sold in February were in California, Ford said, a key market for the industry. In 2019, the state accounted for nearly half of Tesla’s Model 3 sales.
“We do not aim to argue that one vehicle is necessarily superior to the other (many consumers will continue to prefer the Model Y’s greater availability of semi-autonomous driving features and Tesla brand, while others will be attracted to the Mach-E’s styling and availability of a $7,500 federal tax credit),” they said.
In March, Tesla CEO Elon Musk seemed to compliment Ford’s role in the electric-car market.
“Tesla & Ford are the only American carmakers not to have gone bankrupt out of 1000’s of car startups,” he tweeted in response to a reporter’s post about the high-risk nature of the automobile industry. “Prototypes are easy, production is hard & being cash flow positive is excruciating.”
“One could argue this indicates that, while Tesla’s appeal is clearly formidable, it’s not absolute and could be displaced by a worthy alternative,” said Stewart Stropp, senior director of automotive retail at J.D. Power, in the survey.
“China is the linchpin of growth for EV market,” Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush, told clients in March. “We believe China could see eye-popping demand into 2021 and 2022 across the board, with Tesla’s flagship Giga 3 footprint a major competitive advantage.”
Elon Musk hinted on Twitter that the Tesla Cybertruck will not have any door handles, which would be one of the most concrete design changes to the electric truck aside from the slight reduction of the vehicle’s overall measurements.
The original prototype of the Cybertruck had the same door handles as other Tesla models.
Handles on Tesla’s cars are already unique, as they remain flat against the car until the car key comes close to the vehicle, or if an individual pushes against a corner of the door handle when the car is already unlocked.
While Musk did not give any details on the technology that the car company may use to make a vehicle without door handles, Tesla has been studying self-opening and closing doors for a number of years.
Several Tesla vehicle models, including the Model 3 and Model Y, record and transmit video footage of drivers and passengers via in-car cameras. The cameras are designed to help Tesla develop its full-self driving software, but present a serious privacy risk, according to Consumer Reports.
John Davisson, senior counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), told Consumer Reports the footage opens Tesla drivers up to a whole host of privacy concerns, including the potential for outside parties to gain access to the data for malicious purposes, as well as Tesla itself using the data for its own gain.
“It may later be repurposed for a system that is designed to track the behaviors of the driver, potentially for other business purposes,” Davisson told Consumer Reports.
Jake Fisher, senior director of Consumer Reports’ auto-test center, told Insider the most concerning aspect of their investigation into the cameras was that Tesla was not being entirely transparent about how the cameras were being used.
“Tesla could be using these cameras to stop crashes and they’re using it for studies, to help Tesla develop more things,” Fisher told Insider. “Tesla is the only automaker that has hardware that could help stop crashes, but isn’t using it for the driver’s safety.”
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter that Tesla has used the in-car cameras to remove its full self-driving software from drivers that “did not pay sufficient attention to the road.”
Other car companies, including BMW, Ford and General Motors have elaborate driver monitoring systems, but they have focused the systems on driver safety over collecting data. Consumer Reports notes the car companies do not record, save or transmit the data and use infrared technology to identify a driver’s eye movements or head position instead of video cameras.
While Tesla does not use the in-car cameras to alert the driver to potential safety concerns, the company does use a real-time driver-engagement tool via steering wheel inputs that analyze the amount of pressure put on the wheel to keep drivers alert.
Consumer Reports said the steering wheel inputs can be easily tricked. “Just because a driver’s hands are on the wheel doesn’t mean their attention is on the road,” said Kelly Funkhouser, program manager for vehicle interface testing at Consumer Reports. Fisher told Insider in-car cameras could help save a lot of lives.
Tesla drivers can opt-out of sharing the in-car videos via their control settings and the Cabin Camera is disabled by default. According to Tesla’s site, the camera will only turn on before a crash or automatic emergency braking (AEB) activation.
Ford is also looking to get into autonomous cars. In March, the automaker announced that its new Active Driver Assist program would be available for the Mustang Mach-E later this year for a $600 activation fee.
The software enables hands-free driving and would have level 2 autonomy, similar to Tesla’s current self-driving capabilities.
This is not the first time Tesla’s self-driving software has been criticized
After Tesla’s beta software was released, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said: “No vehicle available for purchase today is capable of driving itself.”
Tesla launched the software beta in October and has since offered it as a $10,000 add-on. Tesla plans to release a more advanced version as a subscription offering this summer.
As a luxury car brand, Tesla’s self-driving software is designed to allow cars to park themselves, change lanes, and identify stop signs as well as potential obstructions. The program still requires a licensed operator. Similarly, Tesla’s autopilot system assists drivers by braking and steering for them when enabled.
Kia released the first full images of the interior and exterior design of its new electric car – the EV6 – on Monday.
The images were shown off ahead of the electric car’s online world premiere later this month.
The car has a crossover-inspired design and represents the next generation of electric cars for Kia. The EV6 has a sleek and more rounded design that rides lower to the ground than other Kia cars.
Kia says the car’s design represents the company’s shift toward electrification.
“We strongly believe EV6 is a compelling and relevant model for the new EV market,” Karim Habib, Kia’s senior vice president and head of global design center, said in a press release. “With EV6 we aimed to create a distinctive, impactful design by using a combination of sophisticated, high-tech features on pure and rich volumes, while providing a unique space as a futuristic EV.”
The EV6 was built on its parent company Hyundai’s Electric-Global Modular Platform. The car is the second one to be built based off the platform, after Kia unveiled its Ioniq 5 in February.
The car’s interior is simple but high-tech. The inside boasts a curved high-definition audio visual and navigation screen.
The E-GMP platform helps give drivers and passengers more space, according to Kia. The slim seats and curved screen, which is designed to give the driver an immersive view, adds to the car’s spacious interior.
“We want our products to deliver an instinctive and natural experience that improves the daily lives of our customers,” Habib said.
Kia said the company based the car’s design off its new design philosophy, “Opposites United.”
The car company has not yet released any specs for the EV6, but the car will likely be similar to the Ioniq 5, as they were both built of the E-GMP platform.
If it decides to go that route, the tech company would be employing a similar strategy to its approach to iPhone manufacturing, and one that would leave out big-name car companies, which Apple has been talking to in recent years.
Over the past few months, there has been a lot of speculation regarding which company Apple could choose to partner with in the development of its first car, which is codenamed Project Titan.
In December, Reuters reported Apple was planning to release an electric self-driving car by 2024, but Apple car speculation dates back to 2014.
This year, Apple’s talks with major automakers appear to have reached a stalemate so far, but Bloomberg says contract manufacturers Foxconn and Magna International are top contenders for a potential Apple car partnership.
Apple has been in talks with several companies including Hyundai and Kia. Bloomberg reports the company even met with Ferrari last year, but that the talks didn’t lead anywhere. A deal with a major automaker would require Apple to convince a big-name car company to manufacture a product that could end up being a major competitor to the carmaker’s own offerings, which Bloomberg reports has been a tough sell.
If the tech company employed a similar tactic to its iPhone manufacturing process, it would be able to avoid building its own factories and would be able to source its own material, all while avoiding relying on a potential competitor.
Magna was reported to have been in talks with Apple when the company first expressed interest in creating a car years ago. The manufacturing company also assembles cars for several car companies, including BMW.
If the tech company launched an electric car it could cut into other automaker’s margins, including Tesla. The car, entitled “Project Titan” would allow Apple a slice of a $10 trillion market, according to Morgan Stanley.