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ACCC starts breaking out Vodafone NBN customer connections

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(Image: ACCC)

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has provided some insight into what technologies customers on Vodafone are using to connect to the National Broadband Network.

The latest Wholesale Market Indicators Report to the end of March shows Vodafone has just under 17,000 fibre-to-the-premises customers, 2,650 on fibre-to-the-basement, and just over 10,000 on hybrid coaxial-fibre.

For fibre-to-the-node, Vodafone Australia numbers were lumped into the Other category, which sits at just over 2% of all customers at 54,000.

In its latest yearly earnings, Vodafone disclosed having 33,000 NBN customers.

Overall, more than half of all NBN customers are now on a 50Mbps plan, after the network crossed the threshold of having a majority of customers on 50Mbps and 100Mbps plans last quarter.

Between the December and March quarters, over 166,000 people moved off 12/1Mbps plans with the total dipping just below 1 million, while 220,000 more have 25/5Mbps plans taking the total to 1.14 million, and 336,000 premises now have 50Mbps plans that puts the most popular plan at 2.62 million customers.

“Although the number of consumers on [12Mbps] plans has dropped, they still account for a significant number of NBN users,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.

“We would be concerned if the options to acquire entry level plans declined, either through availability or higher prices. Indeed, we continue to have concerns about the impact of NBN pricing changes on affordability of entry level plans for those consumers who only require a basic service.”

According to the ACCC, Telstra holds 49.2% of the NBN market, TPG has 21.6%, Optus is on 14.2%, while Vocus sits on 8.3%, and the others category is 6.8%.

Earlier this month, TPG continued its run of taking out the top spot in the ACCC’s speed-monitoring report.

Behind TPG were Aussie Broadband, Optus, Exetel, TPG-owned iiNet, Telstra, and MyRepublic.

The ACCC also recently announced it was opposing the prospective merger between TPG and Vodafone Australia.

The consumer watchdog said it believed the merger would substantially lessen competition, and that TPG had the commercial incentive to roll out a mobile network.

“TPG is the best prospect Australia has for a new mobile network operator to enter the market, and this is likely the last chance we have for stronger competition in the supply of mobile services,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.

“Wherever possible, market structures should be settled by the competitive process, not by a merger which results in a market structure that would be subject to little challenge in the future. This is particularly the case in concentrated sectors, such as mobile services in Australia.”

In explaining its decision, the ACCC pointed to Australia’s concentrated mobile services market, with the three network operators, Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone, boasting over 87% market share. Similarly, it said the fixed broadband market is concentrated, with Telstra, TPG, and Optus having approximately 85% share.

The announcement was posted earlier than was intended on the ACCC site, with the Commission pointing the finger at its content management system.

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Honda’s 2024 Prologue EV targets are difficult to believe

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Honda is setting aggressive sales goals for its upcoming all-electric Prologue SUV, though limited availability and concerns around EV subsidies could hamper those ambitions. A collaboration with GM, the Honda Prologue will be based on the Ultium battery-electric platform, though isn’t expected to go on sale until 2024.

Honda has been fairly miserly with details about the SUV, though the general promise is a distinctly Honda-esque vehicle that distinguishes itself from GM models based on the EV platform. An Acura version will follow shortly after that. Beyond Prologue, meanwhile, the automaker plans more EVs using its own e-Architecture platform.

That’s still in development, but Honda needs to get it right. The automaker is aiming for 70,000 annual sales of the Prologue when it arrives in 2024; by 2030, though, it’s anticipating BEV sales of 500,000 each year. Come 2040, Honda insists, it should only be selling electric vehicles. That’s a huge jump from where Honda is today, without a single all-electric model on sale in the US.

Demand for electrified vehicles, Honda insists, has been solid. Vehicles like the CR-V Hybrid and Accord Hybrid have helped make the first half of 2021 its best so far for electrified models, the automaker claims.

Still, it’s fair to say that Honda’s electric transition hasn’t been a straightforward one. Expectations were high for the Clarity series, a broad range of electrified vehicles that included pure-electric, plug-in hybrid, and hydrogen fuel cell models. All have since been discontinued, however, with questions in each case about the market competitiveness of each model.

In contrast, Honda has pushed ahead with regular hybrids: vehicles that combine combustion engines with battery-electric drive that is charged via excess ICE engine power or when the vehicle is braking. These can have a positive impact on fuel economy – the 2022 Insight, for example, is rated for up to 55 mpg in the city – but are far from zero-emissions.

Honda’s argument is that such hybrids offer drivers a reassuring taste of electrification. “We know customers who have a good experience with a hybrid vehicle are more likely to buy a battery electric vehicle in the future,” Dave Gardner, executive vice president of National Operations at American Honda Motor Co., Inc, points out. “Our strategy is focused on introducing a higher percentage of hybrids in core models in the near term, making a committed effort to achieve higher volume leading to the introduction of our Honda Prologue.”

The 2024 Prologue, though, won’t be a golden bullet to Honda’s EV problem. For a start, it’s going to be limited in availability, at least to begin with: just California and the ZEV states. The automaker argues that those regions would comprise the bulk of sales anyway, and that a broader release will follow later on.

Honda’s stance that the buying public needs that sort of convincing is at odds with many of its rivals. GM itself has been pushing ahead with Ultium, with the Cadillac Lyriq already opening for reservations, the GMC Hummer EV over-subscribed, and the promise of a Chevrolet Silverado EV in the relatively near future. Ford, meanwhile, has been even more aggressive, with the Mustang Mach-E proving a hit in the electric crossover segment, and the F-150 Lightning bringing an all-EV version of the best-selling pickup to market in spring 2022.

Even Honda management has conceded that its roadmap may not be as forceful as is required. The European Green Deal, revealed in July, paves the way for zero-emissions-only sales of vehicles in the EU by 2035; that’s five years ahead of the transition on Honda’s all-electric timeline. In the US, it also sees worrying implications around the proposed changes for EV subsidies.

Where the current federal incentive for electric vehicles promises up to $7,500, new proposals could increase that to as much as $12,500. However, in order to qualify for the full amount, automakers would need to not only produce their EVs in the US, but in unionized factories. Honda ticks the first of those boxes, but not the second.

“As with other automakers, Honda’s initial zero emission vehicle sales goals of 40 percent by 2030 are contingent upon fair and equitable access to state and federal EV incentives intended to encourage American consumers to purchase electric vehicles,” the automaker said today. “Honda has urged Congress to ensure that all vehicles made in America are treated equally.”

Tesla – which also operates US factories, but without a union workforce – has also been critical about the possible update to the incentives system. Final changes for the US EV tax credits have not been confirmed at this point.

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Tesla kills Referral program on all vehicles

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Tesla has announced that as of September 18, 2021, the referral program for all of its electric vehicles and solar panels has ended. Previously, the Referral program was a sales tool that Tesla used that gave those who referred buyers for Tesla vehicles or solar panels credits good for free Supercharging miles and opportunities to win an electric vehicle. The Referral program would also award users between $100 and $500 while giving those who referred buyers for solar products the opportunity to get Powerwall energy storage systems.

The elimination of the Referral program is happening globally, and the only product that is still eligible for the program is the Tesla Solar Roof. The referral award for that product is $500. For the Solar Roof, Tesla says that friends and family who order the product via the Referral link can earn $500 when they gain permission to operate.

The person who referred the Solar Roof buyer will receive $500 per referral. Tesla’s Referral program was a key sales tool to generate demand and sell its cars and other products because it relies on word-of-mouth. However, it is easy to imagine that it no longer needs the referral program to generate sales with the popularity of Tesla vehicles.

According to reports, some popular influencers were able to earn millions of miles of free Supercharging from the Referral program. Currently, Tesla is struggling to meet the demand for many of its vehicles, like many automakers. Interestingly, the message received by Referral program members indicates that the program has ended “until further notice.”

The “until further notice” statement seems to indicate there’s a chance the program could return in the future. Perhaps the program will return when Tesla has a new vehicle model it wants to promote. Reports have indicated that Tesla has its eyes on producing a smaller electric vehicle that could sell in the $25,000 range.

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Lotus Emira V6 First Edition starts at £75,995

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Lotus has confirmed the specifications and pricing for its new sports car called the Emira V6 First Edition. Pricing for the car is £75,995. It features a supercharged 3.5-liter V6 engine making 400 horsepower and 420Nm of torque when fitted with the manual transmission or 430 Nm with the automatic.

The standard transmission is a six-speed manual, but there is an option for a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters. Lotus is offering the First Edition in six different colors, with additional colors coming next year. Buyers get several options packs as standard.

The First Edition cars will arrive next spring, with the four-cylinder powered First Edition landing next fall. The Lotus Emira is a mid-engine premium sports car. It promises dynamic performance with best-in-class ride and handling along with aerodynamics and a driver-focused experience.

The car uses a new lightweight bonded aluminum chassis. The First Edition uses 20-inch ultra-lightweight V-spoke forged alloy wheels that are diamond cut with a two-tone finish. Buyers can choose silver or gloss black wheels at no additional cost. First Edition buyers also get two-piece brake discs, and Lotus branded calipers. The six available colors include Seneca Blue, Magma Red, Hethel Yellow, Dark Verdant, Shadow Gray, and Nimbus Gray. All versions get LED lights all around, titanium exhaust finisher, heated power-folding door mirrors, and rear parking sensors.

Lotus fits the cars with the Lower Black Pack as standard. Buyers can choose from seven interior color choices at no cost, with options in leather or Alcantara. The car includes heated seats with 12-way adjustability, climate control, cruise control, and keyless entry. Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are supported. Also standard are the Drivers Pack and Design Pack. Lotus also confirmed the entry-level Emira will launch sometime in 2023, priced starting at £59,995.

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