News: Nissan IMx Electric CUV One of Eight New EVs

News: Nissan IMx Electric CUV One of Eight New EVs

Nissan Targets 1 Million Electrified Vehicle Annual Sales By 2022

With more than 300,000 global sales, the Nissan Leaf is the bestselling electric car in history. The 2018 Nissan Leaf has launched with an EPA-rated 151-mile driving range. A second version for 2019 is coming with more than 200 miles of range. The big question now is, where will Nissan go from here?

One of the missing pieces of the electric car portfolio is the crossover. Most current EVs are sedans with Tesla’s Model X and Jaguar’s I-Pace the only electric crossovers available, although others are coming from luxury automakers Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

Given the popularity of crossover SUVs, an electric crossover utility based on the IMx concept shown at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2017 will be added in 2020, according to an interview published last week in the British magazine Autocar. It will stay true to the striking concept.

Stylish and More Than an EV

“Of course, we have the new Leaf, but I think the [production version of the] IMx concept will become a breakthrough model,” Mamoru Aoki, Nissan’s European design chief told Autocar.

Nissan IMx concept

Nissan previews future EV design in the IMx

Aoki told Autocar that the exterior of the IMx is a clear indication of Nissan’s next-generation design language and the intention is to be closer to the company’s Japanese roots. He said the IMx “does not have a masculine look or a heavy appearance” of the type that is now common for mainstream combustion-engine CUVs. “It has a light feel and sheer surfaces,” he said. “The exterior is very Japanese in its details–expressive, but with purity and an expensive feeling.”

Aoki added: “The interior is notably bigger than with a conventional vehicle and there’s much more usable space, thanks to the totally flat floor allowed by the [underfloor] battery pack. The dashboard is also pushed right back [towards the windscreen] because the HVAC [heating, ventilation and air-con] unit is under the bonnet.”

The overall cabin concept reflects Japanese architecture and interior design, he said, because traditional Japanese houses are tiny, and some rooms have to be multi-purpose in their use.

Aoki was also keen to point out the unusual interior trim in the IMx, which is an alternating laminate of wood and translucent plastic that can be illuminated from behind—a hint, perhaps, that the finish is heading for production.

The IMx Concept offers a sleek crossover utility shape and a pair of motors, one per axle, to provide all-wheel drive. Combined power of the two drive motors is quoted at 430 horsepower and a substantial 516 pounds-feet of torque. Its quoted battery range on the Japanese test cycle was more than 370 miles, although we’d expect that to be closer to 250 miles in U.S. EPA testing.

But there’s more! The IMx is the “future of mobility,” according to Nissan. It features a future version of ProPilot, Nissan’s autonomous car technology. When engaged, it will retract the steering wheel, recline the seats and take over control of the car. The featureless (no knobs or switches) dash is designed to respond to gestures, eye movement and spoken commands. Whether this advanced ProPilot will appear in the 2020 production car is at the moment questionable.

One Million Electrified Vehicles Annually by Fiscal Year 2022

Nissan pledged to maintain its leadership in electric vehicles as the automaker outlined plans to launch eight new EVs and hit annual sales of 1 million electrified vehicles by March 31, 2023. The eight new EVs will come on top of Nissan’s current offerings, the Leaf and eNV200 van. One will be the all-electric crossover based on the iMx concept, while four of the new EVs will be directed to China.

The automaker’s sales goal of one million EVs, includes pure electrics and plug-in hybrids. The tally will get a boost from the introduction of Nissan’s new e-Power setup, a range-extender hybrid system it is already selling in Japan and will bring to other markets. Sales of vehicles equipped with e-Power will account for more than half the total.

The components of Nissan’s goals were presented last Friday at the company’s global headquarters, offering details of the M.O.V.E to 2022 midterm plan unveiled by CEO Hiroto Saikawa last fall for six years running through the fiscal year ending March 31, 2023.

Nissan’s luxury arm, Infiniti, won’t be left in the dark, either. All Infiniti models will be electrified starting in 2021. Chief Planning Officer Philippe Klein said, “This electrification trend will be deeper and quicker for Infiniti. Our objective is to position Infiniti as the No. 1 challenger brand in the premium segment.”

“We have more EV customers than any other automaker,” Klein said. “You can count on us to defend our EV leadership.”

 

 

 

Green Motorsports: Formula E Hong Kong Begins New Season

Green Motorsports: Formula E Hong Kong Begins New Season

Hong Kong Hosted Two Days of Wild Racing

FIA Formula E kicked off its 2017-2018 electric car racing series over the weekend on the city streets of Hong Kong. The two days of racing on Saturday and Sunday provided fans of the Formula E Hong Kong ePrix plenty of excitement. This is the forth season for Formula E and the second time the opening race was staged in Hong Kong.

Sam Bird Snags Surprise Saturday Victory

At the half-way point of the Hong Kong ePrix, when drivers change race cars, all bets were off that the Virgin Racing driver had a chance to win the opener. Bird entered the pit lane anxious to retain the advantage he’d built over Techeeta’s Jean-Eric Vergne, but attacked his marks too aggressively on the dusty surface and slid to a halt outside the front of his garage.

Formula E Hong Kong

Racing was tight to kick off the season

He managed to jump out and into his second car without losing too much time. However, Bird didn’t make his mandatory car change in the box allocated to the driver — picking up a drive-through penalty in the process. But it wasn’t enough to stop him.

There were several contenders in a hotly-contested battle as Bird faced his former team-mate Vergne for the majority of the opening stint. Vergne led the way from Julius Baer’s pole position, fending off the fast-starting Mahindra of Nick Heidfeld.

As the cars filtered through the tight chicane of turns 3 and 4, Formula E rookie Andre Lotterer collided with the wall—blocking a gaggle of cars behind. Lotterer was avoiding the bottleneck and pitched into the barriers on the outside, holding back Mitch Evans, Nico Prost, Edoardo Mortara and Neel Jani. The ePrix came to a halt as the incident brought out the red flags. After a 30-minute delay, the race got back underway.

On the restart, Vergne was in the lead but found himself immediately under pressure from Bird. Vergne’s mirrors were filled with Bird’s car and couldn’t hold him back after a lunge up the inside of the turn 6 hairpin. Bird then cruised to a 1.1-second win over Vergne, with Mahindra Racing’s Nick Hatfiesl placing third.

Felix Rosenqvist Spins and Wins on Sunday

Mahindra driver Felix Rosenqvist started in the pole position for Sunday’s race, then spun out of the lead at the first corner. That put rookie driver Edoardo Mortara, driving for Venturi, in the lead. The Swiss driver then led every lap and had the win in hand with a three-second advantage. But, with three laps remaining, he spun just as he turned into the right-hand hairpin in a mistake from pushing too hard to earn the extra point for the fastest lap. He quickly recovered after pirouetting into the run-off area and re-joined to finish in a disappointing third.

Formula E Hong Kong

The Audi e-Tron was fast, but ultimately not legal

This allowed Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler driver Daniel Abt to sail past and take the checkered flag on his 25th birthday. Rosenqvist had made his way back through the pack after his spin to place second, followed by Mortara in third place. But, “it’s not over until the fat lady sings,” or in this case until the race cars go through post-race inspection.

An inspection of Abt’s car revealed that the FIA security stickers on the inverters and motors did not correspond with those declared on the car’s technical passport. The breach of technical and sporting regulations meant Abt was disqualified, ending his victory celebration and handing the win to Swedish rival Felix Rosenqvist, the second victory of his Formula E career.

Abt’s exclusion moved Mortara to second place, and New Zealand’s Mitch Evans was promoted to third to give Jaguar their first podium finish in the all-electric series they joined last year.

Saturday’s race winner Sam Bird now heads the drivers’ standings for DS Virgin Racing, with 35 points, as they head to the next Formula E race in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh on Jan. 13.

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News: 2018 Lexus LS 500 and 500h World Debut

News: 2018 Lexus LS 500 and 500h World Debut

Out with the Old, In with the New

The words “all new” can’t be thrown around casually in the automobile industry. Legally, for a car to be advertised as “all new,” well, it has to be “all new.” Not a little, but a lot. For Lexus, meeting this legal standard was a breeze as the 2018 LS 500 and LS 500h are really and truly all new compared to the previous year’s models.

Lexus gathered members of the international press in San Francisco in September to introduce the all-new 2018 Lexus LS 500, 500 F Sport and 500h. The final all-new “L” model is the LC hybrid, which Clean Fleet Report will review in December.

2018 Lexus LS 500h

Lexus pays attention to the details

The “L” designation from Lexus is all about luxury, something they deliver with the new LS models. Dictated by the Lexus philosophy of Takumi (“artisan” in Japanese), the attention to detail is shown throughout the cars’ designs. Starting with the signature chrome-trimmed grill, which has up-to 7,000 individual surfaces, Takumi continues through the supple and comfortable interior that includes handmade origami-inspired pleating on the door panels.

The fifth generation LS, which first came out in 1989 and is the flagship in the Lexus line, is bigger, sleeker, more powerful, fuel efficient, luxurious and has a more modern exterior design and an interior that is unique to Lexus and far different from its European competitors.

Lexus says the 2018 LS 500 delivers a “new level of flagship luxury in every aspect.” A strong statement in a segment that abounds with very fine cars from manufacturers doing their best, through design and marketing, to outdo each other.

This introduction to the all-new 2018 Lexus LS line is an overview. Full reviews on each model will appear soon on Clean Fleet Report.

Drivetrains

The 2018 Lexus LS 500 and 500h each have a new engine and transmission. The 500 goes from being powered by a V8 to a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6. The hybrid 500h has a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 and two electric motors and generators. The 500 gets a new 10-speed automatic transmission while the LS 500h has a multi-stage hybrid transmission coupled to a four-speed automatic. Both cars come standard with rear-wheel drive (RWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) as an option.

As a result of these drivetrain changes, both cars have increased fuel economy while also achieving more horsepower and torque. The specs and EPA mpg ratings are:

LS 500 RWD – Twin-Turbo 3.5-liter V6

416 horsepower (HP) – 442 pounds-feet (lb.ft.) torque

19 city/29 highway/23 combined


LS 500 AWD – Twin-Turbo, 3.5-liter V6

2018 Lexus LS 500h

The new LS is more of a driver’s car

416 HP – 442 lb.-ft. torque

18 city/27 highway/21 combined


LS 500h RWD – Non-aspirated, 3.5-liter V6

354 HP – Torque Not Reported

25 city/33 highway/28 combined


LS 500h AWD – Non-aspirated, 3.5-liter V6

354 HP – Torque Not Reported

23 city/31 highway/26 combined


First Drive: On the Road

Based on the all-new Lexus global architecture for their luxury cars (internally known as GA-L), the balance on the cars was excellent: 53 percent front/47 rear on the LS 500 and 51/49 on the LS 500h. This balance was apparent when diving into sharp corners, especially where a downward curve demanded the front end not compress on the inward wheel or the rear end slip out. The AWD models we drove added additional grip and confidence in the tightest-of-tightest corners. It was a pleasure being able to toss around cars that weigh just a tick under 5,000 pounds, have a 123-inch wheelbase and measure at 17 feet.

2018 Lexus LS 500, interior

Tech and safety features reside here

Acceleration in the 2018 Lexus LS 500 with the 3.5-liter twin turbo was smooth and quick. There was no perceptible turbo lag, which has much to do with twin water-to-air intercoolers, mounted directly on top of the engine, that reduce the air pressure in the intake tract, and, in turn, the lag.

Zero to sixty times of 4.6 seconds are achieved by using the driver-controlled drive modes of Normal, Sport S and Sport S+. Whether using the paddle-shifters or leaving it in Drive to go through the 10-speed automatic, Normal was fine for highway cruising, but we tended to select Sport S+ and leave it there. Driving enjoyment with instant acceleration? Yes, you, too, will leave it there!

Driving Experience: Exterior

Longer and lower than the outgoing LS, the all-new 2018 LS 500 has a ground-hugging look and even an optional air suspension that refines the ride further. The LS 500 has been redesigned with more pronounced wheel arches. The Lexus signature chrome-trimmed, spindle grill is even bolder. The new grille mesh, under certain lighting, sparkles, reflects and shows-off those thousands of surfaces.

2018 Lexus LS 500

A thousand points of chrome–and a coupe-like silhouette

Framing the grill are sleek LED projector headlamps. Integrated LED fog and daytime running lamps in the form of an “L” wrap the front edges.

Lexus has designed the LS 500 with a coupe-like silhouette that offers excellent visibility, but also does not compromise rear passenger headroom. The roofline has a downward sweep that ends at a comparatively short trunk lid, leading to very attractive LED tail lamps that wrap gently around the fenders. It’s all finished-off with dual, rectangular chrome exhaust tips.

Driving Experience: Interior

Road noise? “What road noise?” is the proper and only response. Wind whooshing by was nonexistent, thanks in part to the low 0.27 coefficient of drag.

The interior (nine choices of color and trim levels) is beautifully designed and outfitted in top-shelf materials. Leather abounds, with the laser-cut wood inlays playing off each other nicely. Legroom is excellent throughout the cabin and, in the rear, the ride experience surpasses premium and edges on true luxury. The rear seat can only accommodate two passengers, as the center seating area has been replaced with a console that is only missing a Cappuccino machine to cap-off the sit-back-and-relax environment.

All seating surfaces feature soft, supple leather. The center console has remote and button controls for audio, video, seat heating, cooling, massage and vibrate, and seat adjustments such as recline and lumbar, as well as for the headrest adjustments. A nice touch are the power rear and side door sunshades. The rear shade automatically retracts when putting the car in reverse.

2018 Lexus LS 500,interior

Bringing up the rear–to the First Class Flight level

The rear legroom equals that of First Class at 30,000 feet, so after adjusting the power seats, choosing heat or cold, setting the massage and vibrating levels, using the remote for the video monitor and selecting your desired media, it is time to put on the headphones and instruct your driver to take you wherever you need to go—but in no rush, of course!

The infotainment (entertainment and information) system (with navigation) features the excellent, home-quality, 23-speaker, 2,400 watt-equivalent, 3D Mark Levinson surround sound system. The system includes all the expected apps and entertainment sources and is what Lexus says is an “audio experience unparalleled in any Lexus.”

The cockpit design is driver-friendly, featuring a dual-zone automatic climate system with dust and pollen filters, digital and analog clocks with the digital clock being GPS connected, lighted vanity mirrors front and rear, a center console storage box and cup holders. The interior also has a power tilt and sliding moonroof, power windows with one touch up/down, power door locks, Smart Access with push button stop/start, 12V power outlets, folding and electrochromic heated, outside rear view power side mirrors.

Safety and Pricing

The LS line-up is well equipped with all the latest active and passive safety features, advanced safety technology and driver support systems.

The 2018 Lexus LS 500 has a base starting around $75,000.

Observations: 2018 Lexus LS 500 and LS 500h

The value of attending a launch event, such as the one Lexus had for the 2018 LS 500 and 500h, is that the automotive writers have the opportunity for one-on-one time with the engineers, product planners and designers. Between one of them riding shotgun on a test drive and talking over breakfast or dinner or even a few drinks, it became crystal clear Lexus is very proud of the all-new 2018 Lexus LS 500, LS 500 F Sport and 500h. Clean Fleet Report will have the chance over the next few months to drive and review all the new Lexus models, so look for our reviews throughout 2018.

2018 Lexus LS 500

Our first impressions–this is real luxury

Until then, we will leave you with the observation that any of the 2018 LS are a true pleasure to drive or ride in. They have a level of luxury—plus sophisticated and advanced driver technology systems—that are second to none.

The Lexus “L” series is all about luxury. But performance and the hybrid fuel economy were not forgotten in the process. Go see for yourself at a Lexus dealer in February 2018, and keep checking back with Clean Fleet Report for our reviews on what we know are excellent cars.

Whatever you end up buying, Happy Driving!

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

News: Second Generation Nissan Leaf Introduced

News: Second Generation Nissan Leaf Introduced

More Dynamic Design, More Range & Tech, Cheaper Price

The 2018 Nissan Leaf was unveiled to the world today and it marks a strong competitive move in a market full of new rivals. Context is everything. Leaf 2.0 launches in a world with two key competitors that have shaped Nissan’s flagship eco-car. The Chevrolet Bolt has been on the market since December. While not tearing it up in sales, it has sold steadily (and outsold the Leaf) this year and this month is available across the U.S. Last month the first of Tesla’s Model 3 rolled off the line, posing another mid-market challenge (and that model has almost a half-million reservations).

2018 Nissan Leaf

Nissan’s new Leaf takes a sport sedan stance

Those two models frame the new Leaf’s announcement. The Bolt’s appeal is an affordable mid-$30,000 price tag with an abundance of advanced technology. The Model 3 has more cache and more of a luxury and performance appeal. Both boast 200+ mile ranges in entry-level models.

The 2018 Nissan Leaf undercuts the price of both the Bolt and Model 3, sacrificing the extended range of both of those models, but strives for an image aligned on one hand with performance and the other with technology. Looking more like a performance sedan than the upright, pragmatic design of the original Leaf, the 2018 model will start at $29,990, below the price of the 2017 Leaf.

Although the Leaf model introduced in Japan touted a 400 kilometer (250-mile range), the U.S. model only claims 150 miles. That’s still twice the range of the 2010 Leaf. The new model will have Nissan’s ProPilot autonomous technology, which will allow for hands-free freeway driving. Also added is ProPilot Park, a parking-assist app and an e-Pedal, which allows for one pedal driving (you don’t have to use the brake as lifting on the accelerator dramatically slows the vehicle. While not unique to the Leaf, having all these features on a sub-$30,000 EV is a great move forward.

The 2018 Leaf goes on sale in early 2018 calendar year in all 50 states. It will carry an enhanced powertrain compared to the previous model, improving energy efficiency and delivering more torque and power. The announced numbers for the new car are 147 horsepower (110 kW, up 38 percent from the previous generation) and 236 pounds-feet of torque (up 26 percent).

The Heart of the New EV

The heart of the car is its new battery 40 kWh design. While delivering extended range, the laminated lithium-ion cells’ packaging remains the same as the first generation battery, but has a 67 percent increase in energy density.

2018 Nissan leaf

The rear hatch offers function and styling

Nissan is also teasing a “high-performance” version of the Leaf for next year.

The 2018 Nissan Leaf’s exterior design takes it out of the realm of the quirky and makes it closer to a mainstream sedan. The front end adopts the corporate Nissan look while overall the shape is closer to a sport sedan. The new model now has a Cd (coefficient of drag) of .028.  It retains the functional hatchback and appears to have similar interior dimensions to its predecessor, though with an interior with more luxury aspirations.

When the Leaf become the first mainstream EV on the market in 2010, the automotive world was quite different. As the model moved through the years to become the best-selling plug-in car in the world (almost 300,000 sold), times have changed. We can’t wait to get behind the wheel to get a better feel for this second generation EV.

Here are some stats to compare with those offered by Tesla for its Model 3.

Vehicle Dimensions

Wheelbase: 106.3 inches (compared to Model 3’s 113)

Overall Length: 176.4 (185)

Overall Width: 70.5 (73)

Overall Height: 61.4 (57)

Storage Space: 23.6 cubic feet (15)

GM’s Maven Moves into the Gig Economy with Bolt EVs

GM’s Maven Moves into the Gig Economy with Bolt EVs

Turning Cars as a Service into an Auto Business

General Motors has rebounded nicely from its brush with bankruptcy less than a decade ago, but new challenges outside the traditional automotive industry are putting new stresses on GM and the rest of the automakers. The challenge is to the fundamentals of the car business. Where it used to be good enough to create a popular model and market it successfully, the basics appear to be shifting. The younger generation doesn’t seem to have the same attachment to cars as its parents. Driver’s licenses are being obtained at later dates. Car purchases are delayed as car sharing programs and ride-hailing services fill the gap for short trips and air travel and discounted bus services take the place of what used to longer car trips. It may not be a groundswell, but a shift has definitely been registered as companies like Lyft go from giving one million trips a year to one million a week in a few years’ time.

GM Maven Features Bolt

GM tries selling cars by the week

Every car company that expects to continue to be around is crafting a response to these changes, but GM appears to be forging new ground. It has launched a subsidiary (it’s first since Saturn) called Maven, which has the three-pronged mission of creating a car-sharing service (for cities, residential communities or commercial entities) while also developing what it calls a “mobility platform” (Maven Gig) that provides short-term car rentals to individuals engaged in the new gig economy.

The Maven on-demand car sharing service operates in 17 cities. Maven Gig is launched in three West Coast cities with more coming later this year.

Interview with the Chief Growth Officer

Rachel Bhattacharya, chief growth officer for Maven, in a recent interview with Clean Fleet Report, said her portion of the company (Maven Gig) is a business-to-business operation that includes:

  • Lyft Express Drive,
  • an Uber partnership and
  • future business cases.

She characterizes her business unit as “a start-up inside a major corporation.” She adds that Maven in integrated to GM where it needs to be, but not anywhere “where it slows down our business.”

GM Maven Features Bolt

The Bolt EV in its natural habitat, the city

Unlike short-term Silicon Valley investors, GM is looking at a 10-year investment horizon, giving Maven time and room to grow and find its way to provide a new revenue stream for the corporation. “There’s no substitute for real world experience,” Bhattacharya added.

Maven is “distinct from the core (GM) business,” Bhattacharya said, “very, very different.” That helps explain how a self-proclaimed non car person (“I am a mobility person,” she clarified) with experience at Starbucks and Bain & Co could end up here.

The trends are clear. Estimates quoted by Maven have 43 percent of the U.S. workforce as freelance workers by 2020. While the car-sharing side of Maven may provide a car for an hour to go to a meeting for those freelancers, Maven Gig aims to rent cars (five models initially with inclusive packages that include insurance and maintenance and, in the case of the Bolt, free fast-charging) to those gigging for GrubHub, Instacart, Roadie or ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber (or, more likely, those engaging in multiple services).

Bolt EV Gets Big Push

The big push at Maven Gig has been with the new Bolt EV. With a 238-mile range and free charging, unlimited miles, maintenance and insurance thrown into the mix for $229 a week, the new business is getting regular takers. The Maven Gig program started with 150 Bolts in San Diego and just launched in San Francisco and Los Angeles and expands to other urban areas soon.

Maybe hitting on one of the other hallmarks of the new economy, Maven Gig emphasizes flexibility and the lack of commitment and the ability to try out something with its weekly rentals. By letting drivers have that flexibility, GM gets several things in return:

  • Revenue from the weekly rentals
  • Exposure of the vehicles to new potential customers (both the renters and riders)
  • Rapid real-world feedback on vehicle performance (particularly critical for a new model like the Bolt and may play a significant role in future models)
  • Avenue to increase revenue on vehicles coming back from leases or daily rental use
GM Maven Features Bolt

Free charging comes with the Maven Gig Bolt

Bhattacharya said that while she sees a desire in cities to be “autonomous ready,” she doesn’t see it as a big Maven push. “Our (current) customers are drivers,” she noted. As autonomous cars become part of the mix, she looks to integrate with mass transit, using Maven as a learning experience with autonomous in the same way its’ been with electric cars (Bolt).

This software-based business is on a 12-18-month update cycle compared to the two and four-year (or more of the traditional auto industry, but it also syncs up with the traditional industry. Maven drivers and cars provide a quick feedback loop to GM product development, something not seen in traditional daily car rental services.

Maven also is driving infrastructure development. It has a partnership with EVgo for fast-charging and is giving input into where to expand infrastructure based on Gig users.

As for future expansion—Bhattacharya said Maven is city-oriented, but looking to pursue a partnership model with universities and employers, working on a case-by-case basis to deliver “what kind of solution is needed, finding where is there value for Maven to add.” The Maven business case is based on volume, Bhattacharya said (much like the larger auto industry), “but it’s easy to meet.”

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