Biden expected to pick FTC's Chopra to steer CFPB

WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate Federal Trade Commission member Rohit Chopra to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, according to two people familiar with the new administration’s plans.
Chopra, whose consumer advocacy views align with Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, had been considered a top candidate for the job running the agency created after the 2008-09 financial crisis.
Separately, former Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler will be nominated to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Both appointments could be bad news for the banking industry and other lenders, which have been bracing for the prospect of stiffer rules since Biden was elected in November.
“Our administration will hit the ground running to deliver immediate, urgent relief to Americans; confront the overlapping crises of COVID-19, the historic economic downturn, systemic racism and inequality, and the climate crisis; and get this government working for the people it serves,” Biden said in a statement to Bloomberg News. “These tireless public servants will be a key part of our agenda to build back better — and I am confident they will help make meaningful change and move our country forward.”
The CFPB, championed by Warren, has been beloved by Democrats as a watchdog to help level the financial playing field for middle-class Americans but reviled by Republicans as too powerful and unaccountable. Millions of Americans who lost jobs and income due to the coronavirus pandemic are turning to help from the financial institutions the CFPB seeks to regulate.
The Trump administration, which ends on Wednesday, weakened the agency’s enforcement powers and won a Supreme Court ruling to allow the president discretionary authority to fire its director.
That could backfire now. Chopra’s expected nomination suggests that Biden intends to fire current CFPB director Kathy Kraninger, a Trump appointee whose term officially ends in 2023.
One reason Chopra, 38, was picked, supporters say, is that he could start overturning some of Trump’s policies on Day One, ensuring that the CFPB returns to its focus on helping consumers deal with the complexities of the financial system.
Because he is already a Senate-confirmed official, Chopra could immediately become acting CFPB chief under a federal law for filling temporary vacancies. He would be able to stay at the FTC while keeping the CFPB post for about 300 days.
Chopra helped Warren set up the CFPB and served as the agency’s first student loan ombudsman. Progressives have sought to return it to a tougher stance, reversing Trump’s rules on payday lending and debt collection agencies as well as scrapping proposals that could prevent low-income Americans from getting mortgages.
Other liberal priorities include stamping out exorbitant lending rates, addressing the student debt burden and gaps in minorities’ access to credit as well as overhauling the credit reporting system. As a presidential candidate, Biden proposed letting the CFPB offer its own credit ratings for consumers.
“Rohit has a proven record of challenging corporate abuse on behalf of everyday families who don’t want to be cheated,” said the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a liberal advocacy group that had promoted Chopra, on Twitter.
Chopra’s appointment would take a key advocate for strong regulation of big technology companies off of the FTC.
Chopra backed a lawsuit last month by that agency that accused Facebook Inc. of using a “buy or bury” strategy with competitors that may force the company to sell off WhatsApp and Instagram.
In 2019, he voted against a $5 billion fine against Facebook for privacy failures, saying that while it “sounds like a lot,” the settlement did not go far enough to prevent repeated abuses. He has also pressed social media companies for more information on how they use personal data and warned lawmakers that consumer data posed a threat to competition.
Bloomberg contributed to this report.

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Rivian hires industry outsider as next CFO

With production of Rivian’s first saleable units less than six months away and the startup EV maker pivoting to becoming a revenue-generating enterprise, CEO RJ Scaringe has recruited an industry outsider as CFO, Claire McDonough, from J.P. Morgan.
Ryan Green, Rivian’s CFO since 2018, will stay with the company “in a leadership role,” Rivian said in a statement, without elaborating on what his duties will entail.
McDonough has more than a decade of experience in finance; Rivian’s CFO position will be her first in the auto industry.
She began at J.P. Morgan in 2014 as vice president of retail and consumer investment banking. In April 2019, she became managing director, co-head of the firm’s Disruptive Commerce Group, a joint venture between consumer retail and technology investment banking, Rivian said in a news release. Prior to J.P. Morgan, she held finance positions at the Fairway Market grocery chain and Credit Suisse, according to her LinkedIn profile.
McDonough has a bachelor’s degree in public policy and visual art from Duke University. She earned an MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Rivian has been building its leadership team as the company’s first vehicle, the battery powered R1T pickup, nears production. In the past year, the company has made the following hires:
Rod Copes as COO, formerly of motorcycle manufacturers Royal Enfield and Harley-Davidson.
Laura Schwab, formerly of Jaguar Land Rover and Aston Martin, as vice president of sales and marketing.
Matt Horton as executive vice president of energy and charging solutions, from electric bus maker Proterra.
Noe Mejia, a veteran of Tesla and Lucid Motors, as senior director of service operations.
Charly Mwangi, a former Tesla engineering executive and Toyota and Nissan veteran, as executive vice president of manufacturing.
Georgios Sarakakis, an Apple, Waymo and Tesla veteran, as vice president of reliability engineering.
Beth Harrington, a veteran of Volvo and Tesla, as director of strategic programs.
Deliveries are slated to begin in early June. Now is a critical time as Rivian works to convert hand-raisers who put down deposits into paying customers. The R1T has a starting price of $67,500.

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Stellantis shares rise in first day of trading after FCA-PSA merger

Shares in Stellantis rose as much as 7.5 percent on their first trading day on Monday after the company was created on Saturday with the completion of the merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Peugeot maker PSA Group.
“We have the scale, the resources, the diversity and the knowhow to successfully capture the opportunities of this new era in transportation,” Stellantis Chairman John Elkann said in a video on the Borsa Italiana website on Monday.
Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares said the merger would add 25 billion euros ($30 billion) in value for shareholders over the years, thanks to projected cost cuts. “I can tell you that the focus from day one will be on the value creation that is the result of the implementation of those synergies,” Tavares said in the same video.
Milan-listed shares of Stellantis started trading at 12.758 euros and at 1000 GMT were up 7.5 percent at 13.51 euros. The Paris-listed shares traded around the same level. That compares with Fiat Chrysler’s (FCA) close on Friday at 12.57 euros.
The stock will debut in New York on Tuesday.
The listings of Stellantis are the culmination of talks then-PSA CEO Tavares initiated with his counterpart at Fiat Chrysler in late 2018.
Tavares, 62, will lead an automotive giant with about 400,000 employees and 14 brands into an uncertain future, where cars increasingly run off of batteries and software and the combustion engine meets its demise.
Tavares will hold his first press conference as Stellantis CEO on Tuesday, after ringing NYSE’s bell with Elkann.
Fiat Chrysler and PSA were worth a combined 39.4 billion euros ($47.6 billion) at the close of trading last week, a fraction of the $783 billion market capitalization of Tesla, the world’s most valuable automaker.
Over the weekend, PSA shares were exchanged into new FCA shares. All FCA shares were then renamed as Stellantis.
Intesa Sanpaolo analyst Monica Bosio said she expected markets would start pricing in synergies at Stellantis only once their impact becomes visible starting from the second half of this year.
“However, even excluding synergies, we continue to view Stellantis as underappreciated on all metrics in comparison with its most direct peers,” Bosio said in a note.
Fiat Chrysler and PSA have said Stellantis can cut costs by more than 5 billion euros a year without plant closures.
Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report

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The Dealer's Guide to Implementing a Digital Sales Experience

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China auto sales set to grow in '21, trade group predicts

The world’s biggest auto market is set to resume growing after a three-year slide capped by the pandemic.
China’s new-vehicle sales will grow 4 percent to more than 26 million in 2021 as the world’s No. 2 economy continues to recover from disruptions caused by the coronavirus, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers predicted last week.
China was the first country battered by the coronavirus and is expected to be the only major economy to have grown in 2020.
Car and light-truck deliveries are forecast to rise 7.5 percent to 21.7 million in 2021 while new commercial-vehicle demand will slip 10 percent to 4.6 million, said Xu Haidong, an official at the industry trade group. Sales of new electrified vehicles including plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles will jump 40 percent to 1.8 million, he added.
New-vehicle demand in China grew for the ninth consecutive month in December, rising 6.4 percent to 2.83 million, as consumers and government spending rebounded in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Still, 2020 sales fell for the third straight year, dipping 1.9 percent to 25.3 million.
Deliveries of light vehicles — sedans, crossovers, SUVs, multipurpose vehicles and minibuses — shrank 6 percent to 20.18 million.
Behind a rebound that began in July, sales of new electrified vehicles, spurred by new entries from Tesla, Nio, Xpeng and others, totaled 1.37 million in 2020, an increase of 11 percent from 2019.
Deliveries of full-electric vehicles advanced 12 percent to 1.12 million while plug-in hybrid deliveries rose 8.4 percent to some 251,000.
Volkswagen Group remained by far the largest foreign automaker in China last year, even as sales fell 9.1 percent to 3.85 million, with declines at the VW and Skoda brands eclipsing gains at Audi and Porsche. It was the first sales decline the German auto giant recorded in China since 2016.
Deliveries at General Motors, China’s No. 2 foreign automaker, dropped 6.1 percent to 2.9 million last year. Buick sales rose 4.1 percent to exceed 885,000 and Cadillac deliveries rose 7.9 percent to top 230,000. Deliveries at Wuling, a major minibus maker, grew 8.8 percent to nearly 1.1 million.
By contrast, sales slumped 30 percent to 291,000 at Chevrolet and 34 percent to 402,000 at Baojun, a market-entry car brand.
SAIC Motor Corp., which has partnerships with VW Group and GM, saw sales drop 10 percent in 2020 to 5.6 million.
SAIC, China’s biggest automaker, aims to boost sales 14 percent to 6.4 million this year, the most in more than a decade, behind a push into key EV segments. The company is targeting a 140 percent increase in new-energy-vehicle deliveries, to 768,000, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

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A faster track to owning an AV?

Aspirations to place self-driving technology in the hands of ordinary vehicle owners had largely been relegated to the back burner.
As automakers and technology companies better understood the enormity of that challenge in recent years, they’ve chosen to focus on simpler tasks in the shorter term, concentrating on building virtual drivers for niches such as geography-constrained taxis, last-mile delivery and high-way travel.
With the exception of a certain billionaire who pitches “full self-driving capability” different from the rest of the industry, most companies have considered the real deal something far off in the fuzzy future.
That’s changing. Global supplier Mobileye unwrapped plans last week to make self-driving technology available in personally owned vehicles in 2025. The Intel subsidiary made the announcement during CES.
“Robotaxi will be somewhat of a game- changer when it’s ubiquitous, because you are eliminating the driver. But having a consumer AV? That is completely disruptive; that is completely game-changing,” said Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua.
Few competitors have even broached the subject. Waymo has an agreement to work with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on self-driving tech for personally owned vehicles, but that remains a “longer-term opportunity,” according to a Waymo spokesperson.
Tesla’s Elon Musk has touted plans to release a “full self-driving” feature in 2021. But Tesla defines “full self-driving” as still requiring a human driver who’s responsible for vehicle operations — much to the consternation of safety advocates and competitors.
Industry analysts don’t foresee self-driving vehicles that are defined by SAE International as Level 4 and above reaching dealerships for another decade. Brian Collie, global leader of automotive and mobility at Boston Consulting Group, forecasts self-driving cars will begin to reach consumers as personally owned vehicles by the early 2030s, with 1 million sold by 2033 or 2034. Even then, he expects technical challenges will persist.
“In a Level 4 operation, that will be available where there’s very, very detailed localization and high-definition mapping, where environmental conditions are updated on a very, very, very frequent basis,” he said.
That’s exactly where Mobileye intends to succeed.

What may enable Mobileye to expand autonomy into the realm of the car-owning masses is the collective insight of that crowd itself. For the past five years, Mobileye has been harvesting data from approximately 1 million vehicles on the road that contain its cameras and computer-vision systems.
Each day, the company collects nearly 5 million miles of driving data via this method and uses it to create high-definition maps, which give self-driving vehicles precise knowledge of their location in the world and an additional layer of information with detailed knowledge about their surroundings.
It’s an unusual approach. Most companies use lidar sensors to make these maps. By using cameras, Mobileye says it can make a big impact with just a little data — about 10 kilobytes per kilometer, which lowers the cost. By harnessing the crowd, the company can move beyond geography constraints and build maps from any roads its crowd drives.

“We can build maps of the entire globe, and this is where we are going,” Shashua told Automotive News. “The issue of scale maybe is not that critical right now. You do a robotaxi in maybe Phoenix or San Francisco, and update that map when things change. … But if you want to drive everywhere, we need the high resolution to be at scale, and you can sell this kind of function.”
How much consumers will be willing to spend remains a question.
Collie estimates that a self-driving system will cost approximately $9,000 per vehicle for manufacturers to make. By the time it’s marked up, he expects it would cost consumers $15,000 for self-driving capabilities, and that may be a reach for buyers.
“We think that’s a pretty significant uptick, even for folks in the premium range,” he said. “There’s a strong economic opportunity for robotaxis and in trucking, but in personal vehicles, the overall value proposition isn’t as great in something less than a Level 5 environment.”
But Mobileye believes a much lower price point is possible, starting with a “bill of materials” cost of $3,500 for the components of a self-driving system. Savings are possible, in part, because the company is developing its own sensors. Mobileye will use Luminar’s lidars in vehicles intended for commercial robotaxi operations, which are slated to begin in Israel in 2022. But for personal vehicles, Mobileye will use Intel’s expertise in manufacturing silicon photonics products to develop its own lidar system-on-chip starting in 2025.

No automaker has yet contracted with Mobileye to fit its self-driving systems on personally owned vehicles. But last summer, Geely said it would add the supplier’s SuperVision hands-free driver-assist system. Mobileye has crafted SuperVision as a foundational block in a steppingstone approach; it’s a camera-only system capable of Level 4 operations but is utilized for driver assistance.
When Mobileye begins Level 4 operations in robotaxi and personally owned vehicles, it intends to add lidar and radar on a second, redundant subsystem that cross-checks the actions of the camera-only system. By developing them separately and running them in parallel, Shashua says, the chance of failure is reduced by an order of magnitude.
Beyond Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the company opened test beds in Munich and Detroit in 2020. Last week, it announced that additional test deployments in Shanghai, Paris and Tokyo will commence this year. Depending on the regulatory climate, Shashua hopes New York City will be added to the list.
In each location, Mobileye wants to showcase its system’s ability to evolve from a driver-assist feature to fully autonomous driving, with operations underpinned by the crowd-source maps that make both possible.
“That ability to have the high-resolution map everywhere, simultaneously, is critical, because you cannot sell a self-driving system to a consumer that will only be activated in San Francisco,” Shashua said. “So it’s not just thinking about the scientific experiment of proving to yourself or someone else, ‘Here, I can take a territory like San Francisco and drive there without a driver.’ If you want to build a business, not only now, but three or four years from now, being able to have high-resolution maps at scale is crucial.”

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New Cox boss sees a future of innovation

One thing Steve Rowley said he noticed when he joined the auto industry last summer after more than three decades in telecommunications was how similar the two industries are.
New technology is creating innovation, he said. The industry is competitive. And it’s in growth mode.
Rowley, 55, will draw on skill sets developed in the similarly innovative and growing telecom business in his new role as president of Cox Automotive. in the role in August, after Schwartz was appointed to lead the Cox family’s investments as CEO of Cox Family Office, part of the Cox Enterprises parent company.
Rowley, who previously was executive vice president of the Cox Business unit, inherits a dealership software company focused on digital development and data insights as auto retailers increasingly embrace e-commerce.

He said the company will continue to pursue growth. Cox Automotive this month acquired Fyusion, a San Francisco-based imaging technology company, and Dickinson Fleet Services, an Indiana-based mobile maintenance provider for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. Terms were not disclosed.
Rowley, who was born in Kalamazoo, Mich., and now is based in Atlanta, described himself as a car enthusiast with a family connection to the industry, through relatives who worked in auto plants. He spoke with Staff Reporter Lindsay VanHulle about his career, his vision for Cox Automotive and emerging trends in auto retail. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: Tell us about your career.
A: I’ve spent 33 years in telecommunications. I started off in the traditional wireline voice, video, data side of the business, spent a lot of time in the wireless side of the business and then evolved into mobility. And then the last several years, really into the IoT, or the Internet of Things.
What is your vision for Cox Automotive?
I really believe in our core. It’s our customers. It’s our dealers. It’s our OEMs. It’s our financial partners. And how do we continue to grow that in a very fast environment, but always making sure we’ve got a great communication loop and an eye, a lens, on the customer and everything that we do.
So core is critical to us.
I talk about our adjacency — so as we look at the fringe areas of where we can edge out and continue to delight our customers and create value and growth for both of us, that is critical.
And then as we think about the big picture, new growth areas or [the] future, it’s really around that mobility space.

What trends are on the horizon?
It looks as though this pandemic has probably accelerated technology and digital by maybe five or 10 years or so — somewhere in that magnitude, but it clearly accelerated it. Over a very short period of time, we went from a low percent of digital transactions in our Manheim [auction] business to 100 percent overnight.
So it’s those type of examples that you’ve got to be prepared [for] and you’ve got to be ahead of the curve. We see that same phenomenon with digital retailing. What I would tell you is that is an area that I think we will clearly be a leader in.
We clearly understand that customers are looking to have a multitude of options when it comes to digital retail, so we may see some customers that want a full turnkey operation, be able to sit at their home, browse, order a car, purchase the car, have it delivered and have a total seamless transaction. We may see other customers use e-commerce to check that car out and then eventually go into the dealership themselves, so we’ve really focused on an omnichannel approach — meeting the customer in the channels of choice, working with our dealers to make sure that we provide them those areas.
The other areas that I see a lot of trends going on [include] what we call our mobility space. And it’s the electric vehicles — the tens of billions of dollars that are going to be spent between now and 2025 by the OEMs is amazing to me, and we really are thoughtful about that process.
What do you think will be Cox’s role with electric vehicles?
The electric vehicles and the batteries themselves, we want to play a big role in that. And as we think about cars that have been driven for two or three years coming off lease or people trading them in and going to Manheim, how do we create value? And how do we use data so that our customers that are purchasing those cars through Manheim know the value of that car, which is going to be different than the way we value cars today?
So we do want to understand that battery and what are all the components that go into grading those batteries.
The pandemic had an impact on Cox Automotive last year, including employee furloughs and job cuts. Has the business stabilized?
I feel like it’s stabilized. I feel like you’re seeing us back to normal. When you’re able to come out and make two acquisitions at the beginning of the year, it speaks to the fact that things are moving in a cadence that you want them to. So I think we’re running at full speed ahead. The industry is running very hard. We actually have to run faster in certain areas, because as we talked about, this pandemic has created a much deeper focus on the whole digital environment.

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Genesis' delayed relaunch back on track with new crossovers, upcoming EV

LOS ANGELES — One year ago, Genesis was throwing a big party in Miami to show off its first crossover for the U.S. market, the GV80. The upstart Korean luxury brand was also previewing a Super Bowl ad featuring celebrity couple John Legend and Chrissy Teigen and targeting established brands with a new marketing theme, “Young Luxury.”
Genesis and its new U.S. chief executive, Mark Del Rosso, had much to look forward to beyond the elegant midsize crossover and marketing push. A second crossover and a fully electric vehicle were deep in development, and the brand’s existing three-sedan lineup was getting a heavy freshening to reflect a bolder design language.
But 2020 would have none of it.

While corporate siblings Hyundai and Kia were able to leverage inventory from their U.S. factories and South Korea to soften the national sales crash from the coronavirus pandemic, Genesis got stuck with dwindling supplies of existing products in a market that was turning even further against luxury sedans.
Now Genesis will try again to relaunch. And there is good news that bodes well for it: The GV80 finally arrived on dealership lots in December. The GV70 compact crossover is due midyear. The brand’s still-secret EV should be unwrapped by year end. And the last of its sedan freshens, for the compact G70, is set for the first quarter.
“When the pandemic hit, there were some very dark days,” said Peter Lanzavecchia, owner of Genesis of Cherry Hill in New Jersey and chairman of the national dealer council. “March and April, we were basically staring into the abyss. There were so many unknowns; we just went into survival mode.”
The arrival of the GV80 and its platform mate, the second-generation G80 sedan, were delayed. Genesis dealers were not only denied their first crossover after years of waiting but also saw inventory for the outgoing G80 dwindle over the course of the year. Brand sales fell 23 percent in 2020 to just 16,384 vehicles — a number divided among 350 dealers.
Genesis is now promising a big comeback from that — and quickly.
Del Rosso, who was named CEO of Genesis Motors North America in October 2019 after working at Audi and Bentley, predicts sales will double this year compared with 2020.
“We’re seeing a whole new customer base and audience that we haven’t seen before with the GV80,” Del Rosso told Automotive News last week. Trade-ins for the GV80 have come from Audi, BMW, Lexus, Mercedes and Rolls-Royce. Bystanders approach him on the street, Del Rosso said, to ask about the stylish new crossover he’s driving.

Indeed, the brand’s 2020 sales would have been even worse were it not for the late-year arrival of the GV80 and the new-gen G80 that reached dealerships last month. Genesis said sales of the GV80 hit 1,459 in December, which nearly matched the volume of the three sedans combined. The redesigned G80 notched 613 sales last month, the brand said, compared with just 55 in November as inventory fell to near zero.
Lanzavecchia, who is also co-owner of Burns Hyundai and Burns Buick-GMC, said Del Rosso’s estimate for 2021 Genesis sales might be conservative.
“I think there is upside to that number, and here’s why: We’ll have a partial year of GV70 on top of the GV80 sales momentum, and we’ll have a full year of the new G80 sedan rather than just a few weeks in 2020,” he said in an interview last week. “I think there are many retailers that are goal setting to triple their Genesis sales in 2021.”
Indeed, with Genesis dealers still operating out of Hyundai stores until standalone dealerships are built, juggling the expected volume gains for both brands could be complicated. Hyundai has a new electric crossover coming this year as part of its new Ioniq subbrand, along with the new Santa Cruz compact pickup.
“Quite frankly, it makes it challenging for the retailer,” Lanzavecchia said. “Right now, we’re finding so much interest and demand for both the G80 sedan and the GV80, it’s stretching the capacity of many Genesis retailers who were just scaling up their exclusive Genesis staffing. It’s a great problem to have.”
And some good came from the challenge of the coronavirus sales experience, Del Rosso and Lanzavecchia agree.
Genesis was already fully engaged in valet maintenance service, with pickup and drop-off being used by 85 percent of its buyers. Dealers extended that concept to their sales process and learned lessons from it to address customers’ demand for at-home services.
Lanzavecchia also gives Genesis credit for suspending its Keystone facility program for six months. The New Jersey dealer supports the program and is building a standalone store.
But the program remains controversial. Some dealers say that tying incentives compensation to store upgrades, especially given the brand’s low volume, is coercive. The focus should remain on digital retailing, they say.
The new product wave is less divisive.
The redesigned G80 sedan and the new GV80 crossover were finalists for the 2021 North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year awards. The compact G70 won the car award in 2019. The G90 large sedan, before its freshening a year ago, was a finalist in 2017. The acclaim includes every Genesis product so far.

The young brand, which has struggled to gain a sales foothold during its first five years, is finally ready to take off, said Hyundai Motor America CEO Jose Muñoz, who is also global COO of Hyundai Motor Co. Genesis is part of Hyundai, while Kia is a separate unit.
“This is a pivotal moment in the history of Genesis,” Muñoz said in a presentation this month. “For sure in 2021, Genesis is going to be on the radar and is going to be one of the fastest-growing luxury brands in America.”
Muñoz, who joined Hyundai in May 2019 to deliver on its ambitious North American growth goals, said Genesis will be a key contributor to Hyundai’s larger mission of reaching 1 million combined U.S. sales by 2025. Together, Hyundai and Genesis sold 638,653 vehicles last year and just over 710,000 in 2019.
But Hyundai’s aspirations for Genesis go beyond volume, Muñoz said. As Hyundai’s only luxury brand, Genesis is an important part of the automaker’s effort to raise its reputation among consumers.
“Genesis is going to be, without a doubt, the biggest pillar of growth within the group,” Muñoz said. “Genesis is going to be at the forefront of everything: in design, electrification, performance, quality, customer satisfaction, growth, profit. Everything.”

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Electrification, AV delivery among trends to watch

From electric vehicles to delivery to self-driving technology, the industry is anticipating a rapidly evolving mobility landscape.
Electrification is well on its way despite some cost and charging challenges. So are the processes by which the auto industry is looking to deliver the services and products that customers are increasingly expecting. And the road to autonomous vehicles might start with delivery applications, rather than robotaxis or even personal vehicles.
Regardless of the trend, there will be lot of change in the industry moving forward, experts said during the Automotive News Shift Mobility Forum as part of CES last week.
These changes will also all be bolstered by great partnership.
“As the pressures of bringing this new technology to bear, along with the normal competitiveness of the market, continue — and whatever other geo, political or economic challenges that may arise — it’s going to be more important for each part of the industry to really understand what they do well, and then learn to leverage the components and the solutions that the other parties bring to the table,” said Marques McCammon, president of engineering and environmental consultancy Ricardo Inc.

Industry leaders are bullish about the possibilities for electric drivetrains.
“The tools are there, the range is there and the charging rates are there to make people more comfortable, and it’s only going to get better from here,” said Kelly Helfrich, manager, electric vehicles and charging infrastructure at General Motors.
However, range anxiety may have been replaced by a different challenge: cost.
“Things have got to get a lot cheaper,” said Craig Renneker, vice president, driveline product engineering at supplier American Axle.
Charging infrastructure also poses its own challenges, said Michael Berube, acting deputy assistant secretary for transportation in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
“It’s going to take not just the number of chargers that are out there, but it’s also going to take a focus on smart charge management,” he said. “It’s going to take the ability for utilities to be working with OEMs and manage large numbers of EVs on the grid overall.”

Delivery needs are driving the near-term future of autonomous vehicles, especially as a result of COVID-19.
Logistics companies are looking to capitalize on the industry’s advancements in automated-driving technology given today’s accelerated demands for delivered goods.
The shortage of truck drivers, consumer demand for contactless delivery and convenience, as well as concerns related to the environment and safety, will bolster this trend.
But, “We must be careful to make sure that the cost of the service and the cost of the equipment does not offset the benefits of removing the driver,” said Daniel Laury, CEO of self-driving delivery company Udelv.

Panelists also discussed how a digital transformation in manufacturing can help automakers fulfill consumers’ steady desire for new in-vehicle products and services — even after the car leaves the factory floor.
Working to address what consumers want presents an “opportunity to think about the experience of a consumer in the vehicle itself and what does that architecture need to be in the vehicle in order to ensure that the experiences are not just rich, but also updated over the lifetime of the vehicle,” said Tara Prakriya, general manager for Azure IoT Mobility at Microsoft.
Data is a key component to that. With that comes the need to target, collect and analyze the right data from the right sources, which can help automakers meet their goals.
“The automotive industry has been trying to capture new services for quite a while, but I think now is the time to really look and understand what the consumer wants,” said Ken Obuszewski, general manager, automotive vertical, at data-management company NetApp.
For some across the industry, the future of mobility and autonomous vehicles are synonymous. But regulatory barriers, the amount of capital the technology requires and consumer wariness could prevent its quick adoption and deployment.
While some consumers seem ready for AVs, Nadeem Sheikh, vice president of self-driving at Lyft, said he ultimately anticipates a hybrid driving ecosystem.

“We think having this blend or hybrid network of both human drivers working alongside AVs, that’s going to be critical to making AV adoption really seamless, easy and just as good or better than human-driven rides for consumers,” Sheikh said.

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Dealer anniversaries

40 with BMW
Jay Wyatt, left, dealer principal of Valley Auto World BMW in Fayetteville, N.C., receives a 40-year award from Neil Ashton, area manager for BMW of North America.

25 with Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick
Mike Molstead, left, president of Mike Molstead Motors in Charles City, Iowa, receives a 25-year award for Chevrolet, Cadillac and Buick from Craig Bailey, General Motors zone manager.

25 with Toyota
Ken Ganley, right, dealer principal of Ganley Toyota in Akron, Ohio, receives a 25-year award from Shane Sizemore, general manager of Toyota Motor North America’s Cincinnati region.

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