L.A. Auto Show: Automakers are revving up electric SUVs to solve a sales problem

Automakers have a sales challenge: How can they persuade U.S. car buyers, addicted to gas-guzzling SUVs, to start buying electric vehicles in quantity?

Their solution is on display at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show, which opens to the public today: Build battery electric SUVs.

Despite rollbacks in U.S. emissions requirements and the presence of global climate change deniers in the current U.S. administration, a growing number of the world’s carmakers will arrive at the 10-day automotive marathon sporting SUVS and smaller crossover utility vehicles, or CUVs, that are either pure battery electric vehicles (BEVs) or plug-in hybrids (PHEVs).

This is no anomaly, and isn’t a matter of carmakers building “compliance cars” to satisfy emissions standards. These are production cars, in starkly increasing numbers. Next year, they’ll be bringing far more of them.

“It’s been a dribble, or a trickle, but now it’s turning into a flood,” said Eric Lyman, an analyst for the automotive information and pricing service TrueCar.

Most dramatic among the new arrivals, for most attendees, will be Ford Motor Co.’s Mustang Mach-E, a battery electric crossover based on the automotive DNA of the company’s top-selling sports car.

Powered by an electric motor that produces 459 horsepower and 612 pound-feet of torque in the top-end version, and capable of going zero to 60 miles per hour in less than four seconds and traveling up to 300 miles per charge, the Mach-E is likely to capture a lot of auto-show attention.

It will have plenty of company, and plenty of competition for buyers.

Mercedes-Benz will promote its new EQC, a handsome four-door, all-wheel-drive SUV that will offer 400 horsepower and an estimated range of more than 200 miles per charge.

It’s no accident that Mercedes’ first all-electric vehicle for the U.S. market is in the SUV format.

“This is a very hot segment, and everyone loves this kind of car,” said Jim Edwards, product manager for EQC. “So this is the right size car and the right time to move forward.”

Data compiled by TrueCar show that while automakers offered only four pure battery electric utility vehicles in their combined 2018 lineups, and only eight for 2019, they will have 16 such vehicles for 2020. That number will rise to 30 for the 2021 model year, and 44 for 2022.

Furthermore, according to TrueCar, battery-powered SUVs will be crowding out similarly powered sedans, a body style that auto buyers increasingly ignore. The percentage of SUVs in that category has already risen to about 24%, Lyman said, and the sport utilities will represent 60% of the battery-powered vehicle offerings for 2021.

“EVs have had a problem with profitability, because those small quirky cars just haven’t caught on,” Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell said. “Automakers want to target a larger volume, so trying to build a small SUV, which is the most popular consumer segment, into a BEV or a hybrid is what most automakers are doing.”

Many other battery-powered SUVs and CUVs are on the way.

Volvo’s XC40 Recharge — “Our first pure electric SUV,” a Volvo website says — will be available late next year as a 2021 model year car. Featuring a 400-horsepower motor and a 200-plus-mile range, Volvo representatives said, the XC40 Recharge will retail at “under $48,000 after federal tax credit.”

Volvo’s all-electric performance division Polestar also has its first cars coming, though they will not be at the auto show. The Polestar 2 is a battery electric semi-SUV — a luxury four-door sedan with all-weather and off-road capabilities — that reportedly will be coming to market by the middle of 2020. The Polestar 3, a company representative said, will be a true SUV and will be unveiled in 2021.

Those two European nameplates will join the Audi e-Tron, an all-electric SUV introduced as a 2019 model year car that is reportedly to be accompanied in 2020 by an SUV-like Sportback version. Audi representatives said a plug-in hybrid version of the Q5 SUV is also coming to market, with plug-in hybrid A7s and A8s to follow shortly.

Also on the horizon is something from Volkswagen. The company — not long ago being raked over the coals and paying heavy fines for faking emissions on its “clean diesel” vehicles — will attend the auto show with a nonproduction model of its battery-electric ID Space Vizzion concept vehicle. This sleek vehicle, VW announced, “combines the aerodynamic design of a Gran Turismo with the spaciousness and versatility of an SUV,” and will have a range estimated at 300 miles.

The Volks folks have also confirmed they will bring to market sometime in 2020 a production version of an all-electric crossover known as ID Crozz. VW describes it as “a long-range electric CUV.”

In addition to the SUV and CUV offerings, there will also be electric trucks.

Tesla unveiled its Cybertruck in Hawthorne Thursday night. Tesla representatives did not respond to questions regarding the vehicle’s participation in this year’s auto show. Some analysts think the Model Y sport utility vehicle isn’t far behind.

Electric start-up Rivian, which wowed attendees at the 2018 L.A. Auto Show, has confirmed that it will begin production in mid-2020 on both its all-electric RS1 four-door pickup truck and RS2 seven-passenger SUV. (An auto show spokesperson said Rivian elected not to have a presence at this year’s event.)

Bollinger Motors has returned to L.A. after a one-year absence, and the central New York-based company is showing its boxy, Hummer-esque, all-electric B1 SUV and its B2 pickup truck. Bollinger representative Valentine Oldham said both off-road-optimized vehicles will go into production next year for 2021 delivery.

Many manufacturers that seem to be on the verge of moving into the battery electric range will be coming to L.A. with almost-BEVs. Caldwell and others said these plug-in hybrids are a way for automakers to bridge the gap between the familiar technology of internal combustion vehicles and the futuristic technology, for some, of pure electric vehicles.

Honda will debut its CR-V Hybrid, the first plug-in version of that CUV. (The company will also have its all-electric Clarity sedan on display.) Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will show a concept version of its Alfa Romeo Tonale, a plug-in hybrid reportedly scheduled for production as a 2021 vehicle.BMW will debut plug-in hybrid versions of its X3 SUV and its X33 sedan to add to its current X5 hybrid SUV offering.BMW’s Thomas Plucinsky said a new architecture that will allow every car in the BMW line to be ordered in combustion-engine, plug-in hybrid or pure electric versions is under development for the 2021 model year. The first car out of the blocks featuring the battery electric system will be the i4, Plucinsky said.Kia will unveil a refreshed version of its Niro hybrid SUV, though the improvements for 2020 are mostly cosmetic. (The Korean car company’s new Seltos SUV, for 2021, will be introduced only in a gas-powered version.)The plug-in hybrid category will also include Hyundai’s Vision T, a concept version of which will be presented at the L.A. Auto Show. This plug-in, which bears physical resemblance to both the Mustang Mach-E and the Porsche Cayenne, may or may not become a production vehicle, but it demonstrates Hyundai’s intentions to be a bigger player in the electrified SUV market. (The company will also show off a new version of its Ioniq Electric, with improved horsepower and range figures.)Porsche will add more electrification to its Cayenne line, in the form of a new Turbo S E-Hybrid Coupe version of the popular SUV.

With its new all-electric Taycan sports car heading to market and making its L.A. debut at the auto show, can a battery electric Macan or Cayenne be far behind?

Porsche executives declined to comment. But in announcing this year’s lineup the German sports car company said it would also be exhibiting a new electric race car set to compete in upcoming Formula E competitions. Porsche said its Porsche 99X Electric will “serve as a development platform for future all-electric production road cars.”




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Banking that electric cars can also be cool, Ford introduces an all-electric Mustang

Ford Motor has unveiled the Mustang Mach-E, an all-electric sport utility vehicle that the company claims will have a range of at least 230 miles.


Iran Blocks Nearly All Internet Access

The Associated Press reported that Iran also experienced wide disruptions and outages of internet service on Friday and Saturday, according to the group NetBlocks, which monitors worldwide internet access. By Saturday night, connectivity had fallen to just 7 percent of ordinary levels, NetBlocks said.

“The ongoing disruption is the most severe recorded in Iran since President Rouhani came to power, and the most severe disconnection tracked by NetBlocks in any country in terms of its technical complexity and breadth,” the group said. The internet firm Oracle called it “the largest internet shutdown ever observed in Iran.”

Ahmad, a taxi driver in Tehran who did not want his last name used, said in telephone interview that when he tried to connect to the internet on his mobile phone, a recorded message said that because of a decision by the National Security Council, connectivity had been cut off.

WhatsApp and Instagram, both used widely by Iranians, were also blocked.

Fahimeh, an accountant, said she and her friends relied on WhatsApp to find out the location and time of protests, and in the absence of the internet, it would be difficult for Iranians to plan and spread the word.

The Ministry of Information said Sunday that it had identified bad actors among protesters and warned that those responsible for unrest would be arrested.

Intelligence agents on Sunday arrested Abdoleza Davari, a senior aide to Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a vocal critic of the gas price policy, according to his wife, Elham Salmani. Mr. Davari had posted a tweet a day earlier saying that the people have the right to demonstrate and that parliament must hear their concerns and stand up to the branches of the government imposing this policy.

“They have failed to successfully counter freethinking with ideology so the only tool at their disposal is violence,” said Ms. Salmani, a journalist and political activist, in a telephone interview. She said the prosecutor’s office had threatened to arrest her as well and had accused her of hiding her husband’s mobile telephone and laptop computer.

Mostafa Tajzadeh, a prominent reformist politician, said on Twitter that if elected officials could not listen to the demands of the people, “they should resign and leave the country to its real rulers.”


Stocks head lower over mixed signals on trade negotiations

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks moved lower in morning trading Monday as investors assessed mixed signals from the latest round of trade negotiations between the U.S. and China.

Media reports early Monday suggested that China is pessimistic about a deal because of U.S. reluctance to ease existing tariffs. That conflicted with a report from China’s state media over the weekend that said negotiators had constructive discussions.

Trade negotiations between the world’s two largest economies have become the main focus for the market as the latest round of corporate earnings comes to a close. The broader market has been rallying for weeks and major indexes are still trading near record highs set on Friday.

Energy stocks made some of the biggest declines. Exxon Mobil fell 1% and Chevron fell 1.4%.

Technology and industrial stocks also fell. Broadcom fell 1.4% and General Electric slipped 1.2%.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.80% from 1.83% late Friday.

Investors leaned toward safe-play holdings. Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola both rose 1.2%. Utilities and real estate companies also held up better than the rest of the market.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index fell 0.1% as of 10:55 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2 points to 28,003. The Nasdaq fell 0.2%. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks fell 0.4%.

European markets moved lower and Asian markets made gains.

WEEK AHEAD: Several important retailers will report earnings this week and close out the latest round of corporate results. More than 90% of companies in the S&P 500 have reported their latest earnings.

Home improvement retailer Home Depot will report results on Tuesday. Target and Lowe’s will report results on Wednesday. Macy’s and Gap will release their earnings on Thursday.

Investors will get a more detailed look at the Federal Reserve’s latest decision to cut interest rates when the central bank releases minutes from its October meeting on Wednesday.

LOW INK: Computer and printer maker HP fell 1% after rejecting Xerox’s roughly $33.5 billion takeover offer, saying it was too low.

HP also said it was concerned about Xerox’s debt. Both companies have faced difficulties as the demand for printed documents and ink have waned. Xerox fell 1%.

KEEPING UP: CoverGirl owner Coty rose 2.3% after buying a majority of reality TV Star Kylie Jenner’s beauty business.

Jenner is part of the “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” reality show family. She founded Kylie Cosmetics in 2015, relying on her hundreds of millions of social media followers to promote the brand.


U.S. Drone Strikes Stymie ISIS in Southern Libya

The heightened American counterterrorism operations in southern Libya come against the backdrop of a four-year civil war being fought in the north, a fight in which Russia is now pushing far more directly to shape the outcome.

At least in southern Libya, the recent drone strikes have put ISIS on the defensive. “The group has not conducted attacks, even in its usual area of operations in the center and southwest, since the strikes,” said Emily Estelle, research manager of the American Enterprise Institute’s critical threats project in Washington.

In news releases, the Africa Command cited airstrikes on Sept. 19, 24, 26 and 29 that it said killed a total of 43 militants. The command said, for instance, that the strike on Sept. 19 killed eight ISIS fighters in a compound in Murzuq, Libya, nearly 600 miles south of Tripoli, Libya’s capital. Five days later, the military said it killed 11 more fighters in an airstrike in the same area.

Social media reports in Libya said that among the militants targeted in the strikes was Malik Khazmi, a major ISIS facilitator and recruiter from Bani Walid. Africa Command officials declined to confirm whether Mr. Khazmi had been among the top ISIS fighters killed.

Independent security analysts said that Mr. Khazmi had been an important ISIS recruiter and architect of its clandestine fighter networks since 2014, surfacing in pivotal combat areas like Darnah, Tripoli and Surt, before fleeing into the southern desert.

Taken together, the four missile attacks were the first American airstrikes this year in Libya against Islamic State or Qaeda fighters, after the military conducted six aerial attacks last year, most recently in November 2018.

“We need to make sure we look at ungoverned spaces where versions of ISIS can pop up,” Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, the commander of United States air forces in Europe and Africa, said in an interview at his headquarters at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. “We’re doing good work down there, pressuring them.”


Food, gasoline shortages reported in Bolivian cities

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Residents in several Bolivian cities are reporting food and gasoline shortages because of protests by supporters of ousted President Evo Morales.

Bolivia’s interim government said Monday that its efforts to resupply La Paz face challenges because pro-Morales demonstrators have cut off some transport routes.

Blockades around the major city of Santa Cruz have also disrupted commerce. Producers say fruit and vegetables are rotting on trucks that have been unable to reach markets.

The public defender’s office in Bolivia says at least 23 people have been killed in street violence that erupted after a disputed election on Oct. 20.

Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, claimed victory after the vote, but opponents alleged fraud and massive protests began. An international audit concluded there were election irregularities and Morales resigned Nov. 10.


Czechs to impose 7% tax on global internet giants

PRAGUE (AP) — The Czech government has approved a plan to adopt a tax on internet giants like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple.

Joining France and some other countries, the measure would impose a 7% annual tax on companies’ digital business revenues in the Czech Republic. It would apply to companies with global sales worth more than 750 million euros ($830 million) and Czech revenue exceeding 100 million Czech crowns ($4.3 million).

The finance ministry has estimated the tax could bring in some 5 billion crowns ($216 million) a year, starting in 2020.

The tax still needs parliamentary approval.

Monday’s move comes as some 130 countries try to find a way to more fairly tax global internet giants, with the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development leading the project.


Actor Hal Linden hopes to collar a buyer for his La Quinta golf course home

Actor Hal Linden, known for the title role in the TV series “Barney Miller,” has listed a golf course home in La Quinta for sale at $1.095 million.

The Mediterranean-style one-story, built in 1989, looks out onto the PGA West Stadium Course, a water hazard and the mountains beyond. High beamed ceilings and a fireplace adorn the living room. A formal dining room has a trio of stained-glass windows. A skylight brightens the high-ceiling kitchen, which has a center island and opens to a family room, a bar and an informal dining area.


The golf-course home takes in fairway, water and mountain views. 



The golf-course home takes in fairway, water and mountain views. 



The golf-course home takes in fairway, water and mountain views. 



The golf-course home takes in fairway, water and mountain views. 



The golf-course home takes in fairway, water and mountain views. 



The golf-course home takes in fairway, water and mountain views. 



The golf-course home takes in fairway, water and mountain views. 



The golf-course home takes in fairway, water and mountain views. 



The golf-course home takes in fairway, water and mountain views. 



The golf-course home takes in fairway, water and mountain views. 



The golf-course home takes in fairway, water and mountain views. 



The golf-course home takes in fairway, water and mountain views. 



The golf-course home takes in fairway, water and mountain views. 


There are four bedrooms, four full bathrooms and a powder room within the artfully decorated 3,945 square feet of living space. The master suite has a corner fireplace and two walk-in closets.

The fairway-facing backyard extends the living space outdoors with a fire pit, lounge area and dining patio. A spa sits to one side.

Linden, 88, got his showbiz start as a big band singer and musician before moving on to the stage, Broadway and television. He received seven Primetime Emmy nominations for his role as NYPD Capt. Barney Miller on the sitcom, which ran from 1975 to 1982. He continues to act, appearing this year in an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” and the family film “Grand-Daddy Day Care.”

Karl Detlefsen of Coldwell Banker is the listing agent.


Newsletter: Nike tells Amazon, ‘I’m just not that into you’

I’m Business columnist David Lazarus, with a look today at online sales, particularly those of a certain sneaker maker.

Nike announced last week that it will pull its products — from shoes to jerseys — from Amazon’s site because it wants to create its own direct ties to online shoppers.

“As part of Nike’s focus on elevating consumer experiences through more direct, personal relationships, we have made the decision to complete our current pilot with Amazon Retail,” the company said in a statement.

“We will continue to invest in strong, distinctive partnerships for Nike with other retailers and platforms to seamlessly serve our consumers globally.”

This raises an interesting question, especially for larger, well-funded brands: Do they follow Nike’s lead and also part ways with the House that Bezos Built?

Internet entrepreneur Tim Armstrong, formerly AOL’s chief executive, told CNBC that Nike pulling up stakes is the “tip of the iceberg” of companies deciding to exit Amazon’s cybermall.

“The direct-to-consumer movement will be the replacement for the retail issues and commerce issues that are going on because of the platforms,” he said. “If they have the option to go direct, they are going to go direct.”

I suspect Armstrong is exaggerating. To be sure, many big retailers are concerned about the proliferation of counterfeit goods on Amazon, and they’ve been saying for years that Team Bezos doesn’t do enough to police its digital store shelves.

But let’s be honest — Amazon accounts for nearly half of all online sales in this country, and for good reason. It provides arguably the best e-commerce experience available. And if you’re a Prime member, you’re probably going to make the most of your annual subscription by giving Amazon as much of your business as possible.

So any brand that consciously uncouples from Amazon (as Gwyneth Paltrow might put it) is taking a big chance. Sure, it’s better to have a direct rapport with customers. But if those customers aren’t coming to your digital store, you’re just abandoning potential sales.

Besides, breaking up with Amazon is hard to do. Nike said it will continue using Amazon’s cloud-computing services for its apps and transactions.

In related news, retail sales were higher than expected last month, rising a seasonally adjusted 0.3% from a month earlier, according to the Commerce Department. This is important because consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of total U.S. economic activity.

It also suggests this holiday season will be a merry one for stores.

Now then, here are some recent stories that caught my eye:


Second life: You want a vintage hot rod. But you also want to be environmentally conscious. So why not rip the drivetrain out of a Tesla or a Nissan Leaf and put it inside that classic car of your dreams?

Record report: The unemployment rate in California is at its lowest level in more than four decades thanks in part to growth in the education and health services sectors. At 3.9%, it’s as low as it has been since 1976, when the state adopted the current statistical methodology.

A real problem: Starting Oct. 1, 2020, you won’t be able to board a flight with just a driver’s license. But even though airlines are starting to book flights after that date, they aren’t doing much to warn passengers that they’ll need what’s known as a Real ID (or a passport or military ID).


Fighting fakes?: Speaking of the problem of counterfeiting on Amazon, the Washington Post takes a close look at the issue, and concludes that the e-commerce giant prioritized the scale of its inventory over the authenticity of its products.

How esports works: The New York Times examines the multi-faceted esports organization that is Faze Clan, offering a glimpse inside an operation that focuses as much on gaming as it does on entertainment.

Let me know what you think of the newsletter. My email is, or you can find me on Twitter @Davidlaz. Also, tell all your social media pals to join the party.

Until next time, see you in the Business section.