As the pace of electrification accelerates in the global automotive market, and various governments worldwide implement subsidy policies that encourage consumer EV purchases, sales of new energy vehicles（NEV, which includes BEV/PHEV/FCV）are continuing to rise as well. NEV sales for 2021 are projected to reach 4.35 million units, a 49% increase YoY.
Due to the vast scale of the Chinese market, as well as domestic policies favorable for the growth of BEV/PHEV/FCV, various NEV brands have quickly emerged in China in recent years, such as BYD Auto, Aion（formerly GAC NE）, and BAIC BJEV. At the market’s peak, NEV manufacturers in China once numbered in the hundreds, although that number has since dwindled somewhat, as the intense competition resulted in declining sales and market shares for many automakers, including BAIC and JAC.
Four rising stars among emerging NEV manufacturers in China include NIO, XPeng, Lixian（or Li Auto）, and Weltmeister, all of which have been shipping tens of thousands of mass production vehicles each year. In particular, while NIO, XPeng, and Lixiang registered significant growths in the past few years, Weltmeister also ranked number two in terms of sales in 2019, though it fell to fourth place in 2020 as it delivered fewer vehicles compared to the top three competitors last year.
In light of the aforementioned four automakers’ current expansions, TrendForce has summarized several key aspects of their growths, including the following:
1. Autonomous Driving Technologies: Autonomous driving is not only part and parcel of these automakers’ core competencies but also a reflection of what consumers and investors expect of the automotive industry. In pursuing advanced autonomous driving technologies, the four automakers have been adopting increasingly powerful processors and computing platforms, with Nvidia being the most common partner among emerging NEV manufacturers. Remarkably, XPeng stands out as the only player making a noticeable effort to develop in-house chips.
2. LiDAR: LiDAR is integrated into an increasing number of vehicles in response to the growing demand for advanced self-driving functionalities. Although LiDAR remains out of reach for vehicles in certain price segments, autonomous driving sensors including LiDAR are no longer limited to flagship models since new NEV models’ E/E architectures are expected to be compatible with OTA updates.
LiDAR sensor demand from NEV manufacturers has significantly increased because only by pre-installing hardware ahead of time in their vehicles can automakers enable autonomous driving functionalities as a paid subscription service through OTA updates later on.
3. Battery-swapping: Battery-swapping are relatively attractive for the Chinese NEV industry for several reasons: First, battery-swappable vehicles are excluded from China’s NEV subsidy limits*; second, automakers can now afford to lower the retail price of vehicles by turning batteries into a subscription service; finally, it’s much convenience for driver because battery swapping is faster than battery charging.
For instance, NIO’s entire NEV lineup is compatible with both battery charging and battery swapping. NIO has been pushing its BaaS（battery as a service）and second-gen battery swap stations since 2020. On the other hand, Weltmeister and XPeng are also making their respective battery-swapping strategies.
4. Capacity Expansion and Overseas Strategies: The aforementioned four automakers all place a heavy emphasis on both expanding their production capacities and growing their overseas market shares. Their capacity expansion efforts include building in-house production lines, acquiring other facilities, or jointly funding automotive production with OEMs/ODMs. Regarding overseas expansion, their primary destination is the European market, which is relatively favorable to NEVs.
For instance, NIO and XPeng choose Norway as their first target market in Europe. However, while the European automotive market is conducive to the growth of NEVs in terms of both policies and cultures, competition among automakers is also correspondingly intense. In addition, most European countries prefer either domestic brands or other European brands. Therefore, Chinese automakers must prioritize gaining consumer trust via establishing a trustworthy brand image.
*China’s subsidies for NEV purchases are restricted to NEVs with a retail price of CN¥300,000 and under. However, NEVs with swappable batteries do not fall under this restriction.
This year, the US and Europe, which are Apple’s main markets for iPhone devices, are seeing an easing of the pandemic and expecting an economic recovery. Furthermore, Apple is expected to benefit from Huawei’s abandonment of some market share for high-end smartphones, and the sales of the new iPhone devices in 2H21 will likely be boosted thanks to this development. On the whole, the outlook on Apple’s performance in the smartphone market for the whole year is positive, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Although the ongoing capacity crunch in the foundry industry will have a constraining effect on Apple in terms of ramping up its iPhone production and growing its market share in the future, TrendForce is still maintaining a cautiously optimistic view and forecasts that the annual total iPhone smartphone production for 2021 will grow by around 12.3% YoY to 223 million units, with additional room for a slight growth going forward.
Apple will prioritize the optimization of existing functions with the iPhone 12s series, while retail prices are expected to remain on par with last year’s release of iPhone 12 models
Apple plans to unveil the next generation of iPhones, tentatively called the iPhone 12s series (official name has yet to be revealed), in September 2021, and the smartphone market has placed the spotlight on the new handsets’ physical appearances as well as retail prices. Regarding the general outward appearance of the upcoming iPhone devices, the notch on top of the screen will shrink due to the decreased size of their sensor housings. Apart from this, other upgrades will mostly relate to the optimization of existing functions and features. All in all, the degree of innovation is not particularly significant in terms of appearance, and the four new models can be regarded as an extension to the iPhone 12 series. Because of this, TrendForce also believes that Apple will continue the proactive pricing strategy that it adopted in 2020 so as to maintain its market share for high-end smartphones. Even though prices of some key components have risen due to tightening supply, Apple is taking into account of the growth in the revenue of peripheral services in relation to the growth of iPhone sales. This means that the starting price of the upcoming iPhone series will likely be relatively on par with the starting price of the iPhone 12 series.
For the latest iPhone models, Apple has made certain upgrades to the handsets. TrendForce here summarizes the key components of the latest iPhone models, including the processor, display, memory, and camera. The iPhone 12s series will feature the A15 processors manufactured at TSMC’s 5nm+ node. Regarding the display, the new models will be equipped with flexible AMOLED panels with On-cell touchscreen technology; the two Pro models will also feature a 120Hz refresh rate. Judging by the iPhone 12s series’ starting prices as well as the differences among various models’ retail prices, TrendForce expects the new handsets’ memory capacities to remain the same as their iPhone 12 counterparts. On the camera front, Apple has upgraded all iPhone 12s handsets’ main cameras to include sensor-shift image stabilization technologies. For the Pro models, not only are their ultra-wide cameras now equipped with 6P lens (which is an upgrade over the previous generation), but they are also capable of autofocus functions. Notably, it should be pointed out that LiDAR scanners are available in the Pro models only.
On the whole, TrendForce expects the latest iPhone devices to account for about 39% of Apple’s total annual production volume for 2021. As all iPhone 12s handsets contain 5G modems, the share of 5G models in the overall iPhone production is projected to expand massively from 39% in 2020 to 75% in 2021. Furthermore, Apple is expected to focus on driving sales of the three non-mini models in the iPhone 12s series in view of the fact that the iPhone 12 mini (which reached End-of-Life ahead of time in 2Q21) suffered disappointing sales performances compared to other models in the iPhone 12 family.
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As software and hardware technologies improve in the automotive industry, cars now have an increasing number of smart features in response to the demand for user friendliness; for instance, the Car2Home ecosystem was created as a natural extension of V2X (vehicle-to-everything) technology. Advances in automotive systems and technologies, however, do little to assuage prospective car buyers’ fears of instant depreciation and maintenance fees, which are both justified and frequently parroted by existing owners.
Recent years, however, have seen the emergence of a new technology known as OTA (over-the-air) that can at least address car buyers’ maintenance-related worries. Automakers can fix software issues in the car with OTA updates, thus saving the driver the time and effort it takes to perform a factory maintenance. Simply put, OTA is a cloud-based service that allows automakers to perform a host of actions, including software/firmware updates, OS upgrade, issue fixing, and security patches, through a cloud-network-car connection.
As such, OTA technologies are highly dependent on data encryption, decryption, and transmission, meaning OTA services involve not only software and cloud services vendors, but also cybersecurity companies as well. According to TrendForce’s investigations, about 72% of new cars sold in 2025 will be OTA-enabled vehicles thanks to advancements in V2X, automotive electronic/electrical architectures, and intra-vehicle communications.
OTA pioneer Tesla kicked off its OTA strategies in 2012
Tesla is perhaps the impetus responsible for the surge in OTA viability in the automotive industry. Elon Musk believes that cars should be appreciated, as opposed to depreciating, assets for the consumer. As part of that belief, all Tesla models are capable of OTA updates of software and firmware, reflected in Tesla’s revenues from “service and other”, which saw yearly growths from 2016 to 2020 (Tesla’s 2020 earnings from “service and other” alone surpassed US$2.4 billion). Therefore, Tesla’s sales volume will remain the key to the market size and penetration rate of OTA technology.
Other automakers, such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz, GM, Ford, Toyota, and Volkswagen, also began rolling out OTA updates in their models from 2015 to 2020, although it wasn’t until the year 2020 did most of these companies perform OTA updates on any appreciable scale. Furthermore, most OTA updates were software updates as opposed to firmware updates (for ADAS and powertrain functionalities), since issuing firmware OTA updates still remains a major issue for automakers at the moment.
TrendForce also indicates that, should automakers wish to improve automotive functionalities with OTA updates, they would need to completely overhaul their cars’ electronic and electrical architectures. In this light, one of the prerequisites of performing functional OTA updates is the availability of compatible hardware in cars.
For instance, in order to activate LiDAR functionality, automakers must first equip a car with LiDAR hardware. Once self-driving technology matures to the point when it is deemed appropriate to be enabled on a given car, then automakers can activate the necessary LiDAR functionality with OTA updates.
Of course, all of this hinges on whether automakers are willing to bear the cost of preemptively equipping their cars with the necessary hardware, as well as whether they have any faith in the success of new services/functions to be activated by OTA in the future. Most importantly, however, if consumers were uninterested in these services and functions, then automakers would have no way of recouping their preemptive investments in the aforementioned hardware.
On the whole, despite most automakers’ planned to roll out the capability of OTA updates to their vehicles, they still face bottlenecks in performing OTA updates safely and providing useful upgrades for users. Only by overcoming these hurdles will automakers effectively improve the driving experience and convince car owners as well as prospective buyers that OTA is a worthy investment.