The enthusiasm about 5G is flowing out of earnings conference calls. The big question is whether it is justified.
Aside from carriers touting their 5G build out, Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf said 5G will be deployed and with devices faster than expected. He said:
We now have over one hundred fifty 5G designs launched or in-development using our 5G chipsets. In addition to core chipsets, virtually all our 5G design wins are powered by our complete RF Front-End solutions for 5G Sub6 and / or millimeter wave.
By the first calendar quarter of 2020, we anticipate reaching the inflection point as our financial results begin to reflect the benefits of our substantial efforts over the years in to bring 5G to the market worldwide.
Qualcomm’s take revolves around China ramping 5G commercial service and US carriers all on track with nationwide 5G coverage by mid-2020. There will be more operators and devices launching with 5G relative to 4G in the same time frame, according Qualcomm.
Samsung’s conference call was also bullish on 5G. Samsung has multiple ways to play 5G with smartphones, networking gear, memory and chips that’ll benefit. Jong Min Lee, vice president of Samsung’s mobile communications unit, said Korea started commercial 5G service last April and has more than 1.8 million 5G service subscribers.
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Lee added that Samsung has been seeing “very good strong performance with our S10 5G model” with plans to roll it out to Europe and Australia in expansion beyond Korea and the US. The Note 10 will also have a 5G model.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere said that his company will continue to build out its nationwide 5G network. Verizon had similar comments about its 5G expansion.
In the end, the 5G euphoria is just starting even though there are real questions among tech buyers. For instance, does 5G really enable much more than 4G does? Is 5G a legit broadband replacement? And when we will get smartphones that have 5G capabilities without paying a hefty premium?
The only relative sour puss about 5G was Apple CEO Tim Cook. He was asked about the iPhone, 5G and competitive worries given a bevy of 5G smartphones are on deck. Cook said:
We don’t comment on future products. With respect to 5G, it’s — I think most people would tell you it’s — we’re in sort of the extremely early, early innings of it and even more so on a global basis. So we couldn’t be more proud of what our lineup is and we’re excited about the great pipeline of both hardware and software, and we won’t trade our position for anyone’s.
Cook’s version of the 5G rollout may be closer to the truth than not. Research firm Gartner said global smartphone sales in 2019 are likely to decline 2.5% with Japan, Western Europe and North America recording the biggest drops.
Gartner’s guesstimate is based on the reality that smartphone upgrade cycles are now longer and there’s a pause ahead of 5G. Gartner expects that smartphone sales will grow in 2020 due to 5G service and devices. Apple’s first 5G iPhone is also likely to land in 2020 and spur upgrades.
Gartner analyst Annette Zimmermann noted:
Although leading mobile manufacturers have started positioning their first 5G smartphones (such as the LG V50 ThinQ, OPPO Reno 5G, Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 5G), and CSPs have started to offer some aggressively priced 5G service packages, 5G smartphone sales are set to remain small in 2019. Sales will start to ramp up in the second half of 2020 as the coverage and availability of 5G hardware services improve.
2022 Kia Carnival priced up as 3-row minivan bucks style trends
Kia has revealed pricing for the 2022 Carnival, the three-row minivan which will replace the Sedona with something a little more stylish. Announced last month, the Carnival will kick off at $32,100 plus $1,175 destination for the entry-level LX trim when it arrives in US dealerships in Q2 2021.
On the outside, you can tell that the Carnival really, really wants to be an SUV. A bigger, bolder grille flanked with LED headlamps, along with bulging wheel arches and a contrast C-pillar set it aside from the Sedona, while at the rear there’s a trunk-spanning light bar and Kia’s new logo.
Still, the name of the game remains practicality. That means sliding rear doors for ease of access to the second and third rows, along with a choice of 7- or 8-seat configurations for the 168.2 cu-ft of passenger space. Drop or remove those two rows, meanwhile, and you’ll get up to 145.1 cu-ft of cargo room.
In the 7-seat models, there’s the option of heated and ventilated second-row VIP Lounge Seating captain’s chairs, with power adjustment, wing-out headrests, and leg extensions. The 8-seat Carnival has a “Slide-Flex” second row center seat, meanwhile, which can be shifted forward and back for easier third-row access, or converted into a table. Third row seats fold into the floor, while in all but the SX-Prestige trim the second-row seats can be physically removed.
The 2022 Carnival LX with Seating Package will start at $31,100 (plus destination), while the EX will be from $37,600. The Carnival SX will be from $41,100, while the flagship Carnival SX-Prestige will be from $46,100.
Regardless of trim, the same 3.5-liter V6 engine will be under the hood. That packs 290 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, and comes with an 8-speed automatic transmission as standard. Kia says it’ll tow up to 3,500 pounds.
What you can’t get is an all-wheel drive Carnival – only front-wheel drive – or a hybrid version, at least for the moment.
Standard across the board Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Blind-Spot Avoidance Assist, and Lane Keeping Assist. Options include Blind-Spot View Monitor, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist-Cyclist, and a 360-degree camera, along with Kia’s Highway Driving Assist and navigation-based Smart Cruise Control-Curve. There’s also Parking Collision Avoidance Assist to help prevent low-speed dings.
I drove Chevrolet’s new Bolt EUV crossover and now I have an EV headache
The 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV has a problem and, embarrassingly for the new electric crossover, the headache is a family affair. Having spent time behind the wheel of the new EV last week, I can tell you it’s perky, affordable, and practical in its own way, as well as that it offers tech you’d previously have needed to splash out on a Cadillac to enjoy.
I can also tell you that the very elements that allow Chevrolet to make the Bolt EUV so attainable are at the root of its biggest issues. For all the new sheet metal – unique from the 2022 Bolt EV hatchback that launches alongside the crossover – there’s only so much that can be altered without pulling out the cards from the very bottom of the pyramid.
For Chevrolet, one of the primary charms of the Bolt platform today is just how familiar it is. The original car was launched in 2017; four years on, the supply base has matured, economies of scale have improved, and generally it’s become cheaper to manufacture. Now, it can reuse that platform for both the 2022 Bolt EV and Bolt EUV.
You can see the Bolt EUV’s recycling as either clever or cynical. While there may be some cannibalization of sales – would-be Bolt EV buyers opting for the 6-inch longer Bolt EUV – Chevrolet seems confident that there’ll be a net-gain overall. It’s also prepared to be flexible: there are enough common components that shifting the production mix between EV and EUV depending on how demand ends up breaking down shouldn’t be too much of a hassle.
That leaves the decision with the buyer, and there it’s harder to make a recommendation one way or the other than I expected. For all the 2022 Bolt EUV promises, its advantages over its cheaper hatchback sibling all seem to come with small print attached.
Picking the crossover would be a whole lot easier, for example, were the Bolt EUV available with all-wheel drive. Sadly, like the regular Bolt EV, it’s front-wheel drive only, despite how Chevrolet brands the body style. That’s a limitation of the underlying platform and, though the engineers probably could revamp it to fit in a rear electric motor if they had sufficient time and cash to spare, right now that’s not on the roadmap and it’s hard to imagine the situation ever changing.
GM’s focus is on Ultium, its new platform for all-electric vehicles. There’ll be Ultium-based models across all of the company’s nameplates eventually, though they’ll kick off with the GMC Hummer EV and the Cadillac Lyriq SUV. Both are, conspicuously, high-price luxury models: a Hummer EV Edition 1 is three times what a Bolt EUV would cost you.
Eventually, assuming everything goes to plan, GM expects Ultium to be cost-effective for more affordable electric cars too. For the next couple of years at least, though, it’ll be the playground of the high end.
As I said in my Bolt EUV first drive, I suspect the absence of AWD as an option will hurt Chevy in some markets. Rivals in the segment, like the VW ID.4 and Tesla Model 3, offer AWD after all. Though a front-wheel drive EV on decent winter tires can be much better than an internal-combustion FWD car with the same rubber, there’s no escaping that for some drivers AWD is non-negotiable.
The Super Cruise situation is similarly complicated. Certainly, for the Bolt EUV to offer GM’s hands-free driver assistance technology – and to be the first outside of Cadillac to do so – is a feather in Chevy’s cap. All the same, it’s the old version of Super Cruise, not the new, “Enhanced” version which launched to great fanfare recently on the 2021 Escalade.
That means it can’t do automatic lane-changes, just keep you centered in the same line and maintain pace with the traffic ahead, without demanding you keep your hands on the wheel at the time. GM’s camera based driver-attention monitoring and Super Cruise’s stability are great, and it would be my assistance-system-of-choice were I planning a highway road trip any time soon, but the limitation is another reminder of how Chevrolet has revamped older technology for another release.
The reality is that the gap between the 2022 Bolt EV and the 2022 Bolt EUV is small. Very small. That extra space in the rear is literally just for legroom: the hatchback actually has a tiny bit more head, shoulder, and hip space, and even a slightly larger trunk than the crossover. Chevrolet’s usability improvements, like the latching one-pedal driving mode button, are for the most part present on both versions.
You can’t get Super Cruise on the 2022 Bolt EV, and it doesn’t come with the fancy dual-voltage charger the crossover includes, but it also starts at just $31,995. That’s $2k less than a base Bolt EUV, though if you want to add the $2.2k Super Cruise option you’ll need the crossover in Premier trim, which is from $38,495 (and throws in leather seats and a 360-degree camera, among other extras).
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Bolt EV, and like a lot of people who cover cars it’s an electric vehicle I often recommend as a solid budget option. Charming as the new Bolt EUV is, and as much as I enjoy Super Cruise, I’m not sure that’s all enough to sway the recommendation from its regular hatchback sibling. If low price without a range compromise are your primary motivators in buying a new electric car, I suspect the 2022 Bolt EV should still be your first port of call.
VW ID.3 Convertible teased as Volkswagen tries new electric strategy
Volkswagen is teasing a new all-electric convertible, apparently considering a more playful use of its EV drivetrain as the ID.4 crossover arrives in the US. The potential VW ID.3 convertible would be an open-top version of the ID.3 hatchback which went on sale in Europe last year, the first production example of the automaker’s MEB electric vehicle architecture.
MEB has been VW’s focus for the last few years, a modular car platform designed to underpin electric models from across its brands. Although multiple concepts using the system have been shown, the ID.3 hatchback was the first to reach production; in the US, the first taste of MEB is the new 2021 ID.4 electric crossover.
Now, though, VW is testing the waters for something more unusual. The VW ID.4 e-convertible would be, as the name suggests, an electric cabriolet based on the ID.3. It would have two doors and seating for up to five, at least based on the concept sketch that the automaker has released today.
“An ID.3 convertible? Sounds quite appealing: enjoying nature with the top down, with the instant, but silent electric punch,” Ralf Brandstätter, CEO of Volkswagen Passenger Cars says of the idea. “This could provide an entirely new, extraordinary feeling of freedom. I admit: a very tempting idea. We are still pondering how to turn this attractive concept into reality.”
It’s not the first time we’ve seen VW flirt with more unusual applications for the MEB platform. Back in early 2019 the company showed off the ID. BUGGY concept, an all-electric dune buggy with beefy wheels, no roof, and a wash-down-friendly interior. There were even plans to put it into production, with VW intending to provide the drivetrain while another company would focus on the rest.
That ended up hitting a wall, however, and though we had a chance to drive the ID. BUGGY prototype, the idea of a production version was shelved. The automaker remains open to the potential for licensing out MEB so that other automakers can bypass the R&D, regulatory, and testing requirements of making a new EV platform of their own, but we’re yet to see anything as playful as the electric dune buggy.
This convertible concept is certainly more mainstream than the ID. BUGGY would’ve been, though Brandstätter says that these sketches are still simply “some initial ideas.” As such, there’s no guarantee that it’s going to reach production stage.
What’s interesting is VW’s approach to testing the appeal of such an idea. The automaker has traditionally been fairly tight-lipped around its design process, preferring the regular cadence of concept cars unveiled at auto shows, and then the big, surprise debut of a production model to follow. This time around, however, VW execs are being more vocal about the possibilities: as well as Brandstätter’s speculative post, VW group CEO Herbert Diess mused on the potential for an electric convertible on Twitter.
It’s a conversational-style approach we’ve seen used to good effect by Tesla, with Elon Musk single-handedly acting as cheerleader for new features, a sounding board for fresh ideas, and a point of contact for those frustrated with their EVs. While Musk’s strategy hasn’t been entirely smooth-sailing – and has seen him clash heads with the US Securities and Exchange Commission before now – it certainly hasn’t hurt enthusiasm among Tesla’s loyal following.
That’s the sort of enthusiasm VW has seen among owners in the past, among iconic models like the Microbus and the Golf GTI. It’s been comparatively absent in more recent years, however. As MEB begins to arrive in dealerships, that motivational homework appears to be something Volkswagen leadership are taking more seriously.
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