+++ BMW is seeing positive signs in demand in China while growth in the United States remains slow, board member Ian Robertson said. “We thought Asia would go in low-to-single digits. It has actually gone a bit stronger than that. It went through a difficult patch for 2 years and is now on a more confident path,” Robertson told journalists at the Paris Motor Show.
“We thought the United States market had peaked in January. We took the decision to destock some of the oversupply. Many manufacturers have not done that. I don’t see the U.S. growing particularly into next year.” Asked whether BMW Group, which owns the Mini and Rolls-Royce car brands, is likely to retain its lead in sales of premium vehicles in 2016, Robertson said: “We are 100,000 vehicles ahead at group level, does that answer your question?” Mercedes-Benz is giving chase to BMW by unveiling a raft of electric cars but Robertson said BMW was prepared for increased competition in premium electric cars. “While a lot of people are unveiling the future we are delivering today. We will continue to develop this segment. You can be assured there is a pipeline of products that we are also working on.” Asked about the impact of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Robertson said demand had not been affected. +++
+++ CHINA ’s drivers will increasingly demand rust-proof cars. That’s good news for the price of zinc, the anti-corrosion fighter that’s already this year’s top performer among base metals. Annual passenger vehicle sales in China will rise to 24 million in 2020, from 19 million last year, McKinsey forecasts. But only about a third of locally-manufactured autos use galvanised panels to prevent corrosion and rusting, according to Sydney-based Heron Resources, one of a number of developers building or reopening zinc mines. “You have got the largest growth market in the world for vehicles and people will continue to push for higher product quality,” said Wayne Taylor, the chief executive of Heron, which is planning to reopen its Woodlawn zinc operation near Goulburn that was shuttered in 1998 on low prices. “It’s difficult to see, without a collapse in general commodities consumption, that zinc is going to back off.” Zinc has rebounded this year on demand growth and a supply crunch, amid production cuts by Glencore and closures including MMG’s Century mine that have curbed supplies from Australia to Irela nd. Zinc market fundamentals are on a strong footing, and likely to sustain the price rally for the next few quarters, according to Hindustan Zinc, Asia’s biggest base metal producer by market value. Domestic automakers in China, where more vehicles are sold each year than in the US and Japan combined, rarely use galvanised steels, according to the International Zinc Association. Switching to the material would require about 350,000 metric tons a year of additional zinc, the association estimated last year. A similar move in India would need an extra 150,000 tons annually, it said. Demand from China’s automakers will support continued zinc consumption growth, while more existing mines are reaching the end of operations as they are depleted, Heron’s Taylor said on Wednesday. “These things ultimately have to be replaced and there isn’t a pipeline of projects that can sensibly cover off what is an ageing production base,” he said. “We also continue to see consumption growth, it may not be quite as strong as it has been in some years, but still Chinese consumption growth is increasing.” The key downside risk to the zinc market in 2017 is a faster-than-expected restart of idled mine capacity, Citigroup warned in a note this month. Nyrstar, Europe’s largest refined-zinc producer, will restart its Middle Tennessee mines in the first quarter of next year. The operations were placed in care and maintenance last December. A zinc market deficit may peak this year at 434,000 tons, though prices will continue to rise through 2018 to $US2580 a ton, according to Citigroup. Zinc for delivery in 3 months rose 0.5 per cent on Wednesday to $US2332 a ton on the London Metal Exchange. +++
+++ FERRARI sold out a $2.1 million open-top version of its LaFerrari supercar before its public debut, underscoring the marque’s allure even as the former unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles widens its line-up with more affordable models. That two-pronged strategy was on display at the Paris Motor Show on Thursday. At one end of the scale, the Italian sports-car maker teased visitors with the aura of the LaFerrari Aperta, which is limited to 200 vehicles and was so sought-after that a collector sued for being left off the buyer’s list. At the other end is the four-seat GTC4 Lusso T, equipped with a smaller V8 motor instead of the standard V12. “For us a limited edition is a way to reward our clients,” Ferrari’s head of sales and marketing Enrico Galliera said at the Paris unveilings. The Lusso, meanwhile, is meant to fill a market gap. “There were a number of clients that were looking for something different. They were looking for the same emotion of driving a Ferrari– which is sporty and versatile — but at the same time is specifically designed to be driven every day.” Ferrari has been under pressure to show that its strategy of wooing the world’s elite can work without the backing of a bigger player. The automaker’s stock has been below the initial public offering price of $52 a share since November, and its ambition to broaden the brand beyond exotic cars and challenge luxury icons such as Hermes and Louis Vuitton has failed to make headway. That puts the focus on Ferrari’s cars to fuel profit growth, which means safeguarding exclusivity with limited-run models such as the Aperta while gradually pushing up volumes with the likes of the GTC4 Lusso T. The company has a target to increase overall production to 9,000 cars annually by 2019 from about 8,000 now. “The equity story of Ferrari is not yet fully known,” said Massimo Vecchio, an analyst at Mediobanca. “The company continues to show visibility, resiliency and price power.” That’s helped the stock erase most of its losses after hitting a low of $32 in the wake of the October initial public offering in New York. The shares have been trading close to $50 for most of this month. In Milan, Ferrari’s shares rose as much as 1.7 percent to 46.23 euros, the highest since the European listing there in January. Demand for the new LaFerrari Aperta, whose engine is derived from Ferrari’s Formula 1 race cars, shows how the brand still excites aficionados, including celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay who is one of the buyers. Ferrari will be keeping nine of the Aperta, which costs about 50 percent more than the original hard-top LaFerrari. In Italy, the car will be sold at about 1.85 million euros including taxes. Requests for the vehicle were triple the planned production run, Galliera said. While Aperta customers can choose between a soft top or hard one made of carbon fiber, not all are so lucky. Florida-based collector Preston Henn, 85, sued Ferrari in August claiming the company refused to sell him one, even after he sent the company a $1 million deposit, Southern district of Florida court documents show. Henn, who owns several Ferraris including a 275 GTB/C Speciale, was seeking damages of more than $75,000, claiming that not being able to buy the car would hurt his reputation. The suit was dismissed this week. Aperta deliveries are set to start in the next quarter. The company also announced it’s producing 350 tailor-made supercars to celebrate its 70th anniversary, in a variety of finishes meant to evoke the manufacturer’s iconic past. Even those cars are already sold-out before being produced. Special editions underpin “the cachet of the brand as there always seem to be far more customers for these vehicles than Ferrari is prepared to build vehicles for,” said Ian Fletcher, an analyst with IHS Markit. +++
+++ JEEP could build a smaller SUV to slot into its range below the Renegade, company boss Mike Manley has confirmed at the Paris motor show. The success of the Renegade has encouraged the company to weigh up a B-segment rival to cars such as the Nissan Juke and Ford Ecosport. Manley said: “I’m pretty confident that it is going to be a viable segment for us in the future.” He wouldn’t be drawn on a date when such a vehicle might appear and said: “The reality is that we have to go through all of the usual business planning processes first.” Jeep’s offering in the class would “still have to be capable” and possess the brand’s go-anywhere DNA. That poses a challenge when it comes to developing a smaller vehicle, said Manley: “When you think of some of the elements that make a vehicle capable, such as ground clearance, the geography of the vehicle makes it more difficult. “You have to be very careful in terms of the geometry of the vehicle, plus the kind of four-wheel-drive system that you employ.” There are existing reports of a B-segment SUV being planned by Jeep India, although it isn’t clear if is a project aimed mainly at the local market. That vehicle, apparently codenamed 526 and less than four metres long, is likely to be follow the rugged design cues of the Renegade and will be the most affordable SUV in Jeep India’s range. It is to be built in the Fiat plant in Ranjangaon, India, which is one of the production sites for the new Jeep Compass. +++
+++ In 2014, no fewer than 1.25 million people filled the PARISMotor Show floor to ogle the latest from Bugatti, BMW, Maserati, and Mercedes-Benz during the first week in October. The biennial show was the industry’s most populated event that year. If those people return, they will likely be disappointed. This year, fewer marques than ever in modern times will devote the time and considerable expense to attend this weekend’s Parisian debuts. To them, in an era when social media and live video feeds disseminate new-car images and information instantaneously worldwide, it just isn’t worth it. And for ultra-luxury brands, their best buyers never really frequented car shows anyway. “At the moment we are revising our strategy at international motor shows, considering the positioning of our brand and the market in which we operate,” said Stefano Domenicali, the chief executive officer of Lamborghini, in an e-mail. “We are choosing thoroughly how to present ourselves to clients, media, and enthusiasts, including the choice of the right locations [where] we want to be.” Stephanie Brinley, an senior automotive analyst for IHS Markit research firm, said it’s a question of fluctuating priorities and timing. The strategy started during the recession when some automakers missed shows to save money—and face, if they didn’t have much to market—because the market was in turmoil. Since then, the internet and social media have created fundamental changes in the way people consume news and content related to their hobbies, which means that the once-temporary trend has continued. “Automakers are beginning to weigh presence at auto shows differently,” Brinley said. “If they do not have big news, they may choose not to spend the effort to hold a press conference simply to be there. If they have big news that they think might be overshadowed by someone bigger, sometimes doing something at a different time may get more media attention.” That doesn’t mean that there will be nothing to see in Paris next week—the consensus this year is that the most hype will surround green energy sources, especially those that will allow consumers to keep their habit of buying crossovers. “Crossovers and vehicle electrification are again expected to be key reveals at the event,” said Ian Fletcher, the principal analyst for IHS Markit. “The key trends are being determined by a combination of consumer demand—in terms of the number of crossovers being revealed—and legislative emissions factors, through a focus on electrification.” To wit: BMW will show its new 3 Series Gran Turismo four-door, the new electric i3 and i8 Protonic Dark Silver special edition model, and a C evolution e-scooter aimed at commuters who want the ultimate battery life and range. It’ll also show an X2 Concept SUV that is expected to go into full production late next year. Mercedes will show the excellent and aggressive AMG GT R, AMG GLC43 Coupe, GLC350e Coupe, AMG GT and GT C Roadster; it’ll also show an EV concept the automaker calls “a concrete vision of a totally new generation of vehicles with battery-electric drive.” Daimler’s Smart brand will reveal the electric drive variants of its ForTwo and ForFour models. German counterparts Porsche will come with a Panamera hybrid variant, while Audi will have an A5 Sportback, S5 Sportback, the high-performance RS variant of the TT, and a Q5 SUV to introduce. Hailing from across the pond, Bentley will show just the new diesel variant of its Bentayga—which won’t be available in the U.S.—and Land Rover will unveil the new Discovery SUV, photos of which it has already leaked to semi-lackluster reception. Tesla, too, will capitalize on the need for green speed, showing P100D editions of its Model X and Model S for European markets. Lexus will show the UX SUV concept it leaked photos of last month, which is expected to have 3D driving and hologram components that would be novel for the Toyota-owned brand. As one of the few high-end brands to show, Ferrari is sure to hog a lot of the spotlight with its new LaFerrari Aperta and GTC4 Lusso slated for the stand. And it should be noted that Lamborghini did send a few reps to the annual Volkswagen Group media reception the evening before the opening of the show. But such big luxury brands as Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, Maserati, Cadillac, McLaren,Fisker, Genesis, Lamborghini, and Bugatti are skipping the show altogether. (That’s in addition to mass brands such as Ford, Mazda, and Volvo, among others, that will not attend.) Instead, they’re doing small consumer and VIP press events in intimate, exclusive, and exotic locales. “For Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, it’s all about engaging our clients on their terms and locations,” said Fintan Knight, the global director of sales and marketing for Rolls-Royce. “We are increasingly engaging our clients and prospective clients in exclusive encounters in places where they live and play, like Porto Cervo, Ibiza, and Pebble Beach. While at times global motor shows and the pageantry that surrounds them may be the proper venue, the 2016 Paris Motor Show is not in our plans.” Those new methods utilize social media and Internet channels to achieve the same effect that auto shows used to provide for big debuts. Plus, the modern-day oversaturation of news coverage of motor shows actually obscures key product activities and announcements—so automakers unveil their models months before the public event at parties such as those at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance—if those important and exciting models aren’t leaked even earlier, that is. It highlights the underlying question to all this, which is whether car shows, which require millions of dollars and months to plan, are even worth attending at all, ever. Or are they becoming like runway fashion shows—an expensive ego boost for a brand but increasingly superfluous and even annoying for those editors, stylists, and buyers whose jobs actually depend on them. Most insiders say it’s not quite to that level yet. But things do seem to be heading that direction. “Auto shows will remain relevant—they are just no longer the only choice and may not always be the best choice, depending on what the automaker is looking to communicate,” Brinley said. “I believe we will increasingly see automakers come in and out, be there in years when it makes sense and sit out other years.” Lamborghini’s Domenicali agreed. “The world is continuously changing,” he said. “Lamborghini as a visionary brand of luxury super sports cars, operating internationally in a niche market, intends to anticipate these changes.” Even, these days, if that means skipping a car show every now and then.+++
+++ The launch of the all-new SEAT Ibiza and Arona (a small SUV) next year will be game-changing for the brand, chief executive Luca de Meo believes. The all-new Ibiza will launch next summer and be the first Volkswagen Group car to utilise the MQB A0 platform that will eventually underpin all of the group’s supermini-sized hatches, saloons and SUVs. As such, Seat will get access not only to the new platform first but also the complimentary powertrain, hardware and infotainment systems. “Seat will have the best, or close to the best, car in the segment,” said de Meo. “The platform gives us access to the latest engines, dynamics tuning, safety equipment, infotainment – the list is long. “That’s a good story for Seat to tell. The Ibiza has long been the backbone of our brand and now we can truly say we have the best foundation in the group and segment.” The Arona will be based on the same underpinnings as the new Ibiza and launch next autumn as a rival to the Nissan Juke. Although de Meo would not be drawn on specifics, he said the Arona would be styled closely to the larger Ateca that recently launched as a Nissan Qashqai rival. “When I park our four cars alongside each other, I see a family,” he said. “When you have 1-2% market coverage like us, you need consistency, not individual models that nobody recognises across our brands. “Like the Ateca, the Arona is entering a segment that is red hot. We have the right ingredients for another success.” +++
+++ TOYOTA has decided to drop diesel engines from its new C-HR compact in the wake of Volkswagen’s emissions scandal and will probably do the same for future model renewals, the carmaker’s second-ranking global executive said.The Japanese automaker decided “within the last 6 to 12 months” not to offer a diesel version of the car, unveiled at the Paris auto show, because demand for the powertrain technology is falling sharply, Executive Vice President Didier Leroy told Reuters in an interview. If faced with a renewal decision today for other models up to and including the larger Auris compact, a Toyota staple, “we would probably do the same thing”, Leroy added. Toyota’s decision is the latest example of how the so-called “dieselgate” scandal is forcing carmakers to rewrite strategic plans that will shape their futures for years to come. Reuters reported this month that Renault expects diesel engines to disappear from most of its European cars after the French automaker reviewed the costs of meeting tighter emissions standards following Volkswagen’s scandal. While the scandal centered on the German carmaker’s cheat software, it also focused public attention on an industry-wide disparity between nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions on the road and those recorded in regulatory tests. Mass-market diesels that meet legal NOx limits in approval tests commonly emit at least five times as much in everyday use. Renault has said it complied strictly with regulations and that its cars were not equipped with emissions falsifying software. From 2019, vehicle approvals will depend on emissions performance during real driving. This is compelling manufacturers to install costlier emissions treatment systems. +++