+++ AUDI delivered around 156,150 cars to customers worldwide in April; a decrease of 5.0 percent compared to the 2016 record-breaking figure. In China, where business is currently impacted by extraordinary effects associated with Audi’s strategic alignment in the market, sales in the past month were 11.6 percent higher than in March. Year-on-year, April results in China were still 6.9 percent down. Global deliveries since the start of the year amount to around 578,750 units, 6.7 percent below the 2016 figure. In Western Europe (+1.0%) and North America (+7.3%), Audi achieved further growth despite the ongoing model changeover for the Q5 and the A5 family. “We are shaping a challenging phase of transformation, which is temporarily impacting our operating business”, says Dietmar Voggenreiter, Member of the Board of Management for Sales and Marketing at Audi. “To us, it is decisive to achieve an even stronger setting for the future with structural alignments and new models. Today we are laying the foundation for the coming years”. In China, Audi continued productive talks with its local partners in April about expanding joint business activities in the market. During the extensive negotiations on the future setup of collaboration, sales in the first 4 months of the year totaled 154,873 units and remained 18.1 percent below the same period in 2016. In April, deliveries were still down 6.9 percent on the record-breaking figure from 2016; Chinese dealers reported 46,166 cars sold for the past month. In the same time, the redesigned Audi A3 was launched in China, adding the latest generation of the model that is particularly popular among young Chinese customers to the lineup. Additionally, the new edition of the A5 family is due to go on sale in China in mid-2017. In Germany, 28,211 customers decided for an Audi last month, 2.2 percent less than in 2016 when April included 3 more selling days. Overall, the sales balance in Germany remains positive for the 4 Rings, with sales increasing by 1.0 percent since January to the new record of 111,179 automobiles. In the month of April, France (+3.1% to 6,001 cars), Spain (+7.4% to 5,182 cars) and the Netherlands (+15.6% to 1,156 cars) reported growth among the large European markets. In Europe as a whole, the ongoing generation changeover for important volume models such as the Q5, and the continued downturn in Russia (-23.1% to 1,630 cars) had a negative impact on overall results. As such, European sales fell by 3.2 percent to around 75,750 automobiles in April. By contrast, cumulative sales since the start of the year expanded to around 302,500 units, exceeding the 2016 figure by 0.6 percent. In the United States, Audi bucked the negative market trend with a 7.7 percent increase in deliveries to 64,358 customers in the first four months of the year. The sales balance for April reflects 18,711 automobiles sold and growth of 5.1 percent. The Q7 (which is highly popular among U.S. customers) beat its 2016 reference figure by almost a quarter (+22.2% to 3,022 cars). Following the U.S. launch of the new Q5 in April, Audi of America is continuing the largest product cadence in its history. From May on, the A5 Sportback is on sale for the very first time in the market, further expanding the Audi portfolio in the U.S.. In Canada, the Four Rings also keep recording continued success. In April, Audi sales rose by 7.6 percent to 3,608 units; 10,495 Canadian customers over the four months period translate into a cumulative increase of 14.0 percent. In North America as a whole, Audi closed the previous month with 4.3 percent sales growth to about 23,350 del iveries. Cumulative growth for the region of 7.3 percent takes the total to around 79,100 customers since January. +++

+++ BMW Group sales achieved a new all-time high for April, with sales in the month totalling 192,494, a 7.4% increase year-on-year. The first 4 months of the year also set a new record, with sales of the BMW Group’s 3 premium brands, BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce, increasing by 5.8% to 779,736. “Thanks to the strength of our model line-up, the BMW Group continues to achieve sustainable, profitable sales growth month after month”, commented Ian Robertson, Member of the BMW Board of Management with responsibility for Sales and Brand BMW. “Customer demand is high across the range with a number of stand-out models, including the X1, the 5 Series and the 7 Series. As availability of the new 5 Series ramps up, demand for this new generation is twice as high as for the previous model at this point in the market launch”, he continued. “With demand for our electrified vehicles up over 80%, I’m confident that we’ll achieve our target of delivering 100,000 electrified cars on the road this year, underlining our industry-leading position in the field”, he added. BMW brand sales in the year-to-date increased 6.2% compared with the same period last year, with a record total of 668,095 vehicles delivered to customers around the world. The brand achieved its best-ever April with global sales totalling 164,641 units, an increase of 9.4% on the same month last year. Many models throughout the range contributed to this growth: April deliveries of the X1 increased 80.9% (22,147), sales of the X3 were up 17.3% (12,440) while deliveries of the flagship 7 Series grew 33.7% (5,376). The 5 Series, of which the new generation sedan had its first full month on sale in most markets, was delivered to 27,572 customers worldwide. Customer demand for the Group’s innovative BMW i and BMW iPerformance models increased by 43.4% in April (6,466 vehicles) and is up 82.7% in the year-to-date (25,883 vehicles). With 8 models on the market, the BMW Group offers customers the broadest electrified range of any premium manufacturer. +++

+++ The CEO of FORD is taking the heat over slumping stock. Mark Fields is facing questions from the board. The Ford CEO is coming under fire from the company’s board of directors over the automaker’s slumping stock prices. It remains unknown if Fields’ position at the company is in jeopardy. Since Fields took over as CEO in 2014, Ford’s stock has declined by about 35 percent. That’s in sharp contrast to Fields’ predecessor, Alan Mulally, who successfully steered Ford through the Great Recession. An inside source told that the board scheduled a meeting with Fields ahead of this week’s annual shareholders meeting. The board reportedly grilled Fields over his decision to continue funding future products while the company’s traditional automotive business continues to whither. Ford declined to comment on the alleged meeting between Fields and the board. Under Fields’ leadership Ford has expanded into areas like robotic taxis and ride hailing services. Although that strategy could pay off over the long haul, the board is concerned about short- and medium-term profitability. “They’re in a tough position because they have to focus on selling products today, making money, paying dividends”, Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst with Cox Automotive, told. “And yet they’ve got to position themselves for the future and there’s not going to be a payback on that anytime soon”. Ford’s first quarter adjusted earnings declined by 42 percent this year. +++

+++ At the 2017 Detroit Auto Show, Chinese automaker GAC Motor showed the world 3 vehicles (2 with electric powertrains) under its Trumpchi brand as it prepares to enter the US market. While the Trumpchi name may not survive, GAC is dedicated to building electric vehicles and selling them around the world. To that end, the company has announced that it has begun construction of a $6.5 billion industrial park dedicated to electric and “intelligent” (read: autonomous) vehicles in Guangzhou, China. Within the park, GAC will invest $679 million in an electric vehicle plant. Expected to be finished in 2018, the plant will be able to produce up to 200,000 electric vehicles every year. That total $6.5 billion investment for the park will be shared with other companies that will be located there. From the image, it looks like there are plans for some solar rooftops as well. The automaker plans to launch at least seven new electric vehicles over the next five years. It previewed a few of these models, with the EnSpirit plug-in hybrid concept and GE3 electric vehicle in Detroit, and the GA3S and GS4 plug-in hybrids at Auto Shanghai. GAC plans to sell its cars around the world, including the US, and is planning to build a research and development facility in North America. The company says it is recruiting talent from Detroit, Silicon Valley, and Boston in order to “enable GAC Motor to better compete in the global market and to succeed on the world stage as an international auto brand with sustainable development capacity”, says GAC Motor General Manager Yu Jun. +++

+++ HYUNDAI is developing a rugged, body-on-frame truck. The pickup isn’t related to the Santa Cruz concept. One of the many new models Hyundai has in the pipeline is a brawny, body-on-frame pickup truck aimed at the Toyota Hilux and the Ford Ranger. The yet-unnamed model is being developed for global markets, though it’s too early to tell whether that includes the United States. It’ll be an important product in places like Australia and South East Asia where relatively compact pickup trucks are immensely popular. Hyundai is also turning the Santa Cruz concept into a production model developed largely for the United States. However, the brand explained it can’t simply move the steering wheel to the right side of the dashboard and put the truck on a freighter to Australia because it’s not rugged enough. “The Santa Cruz is a different proposition. We don’t have any interest in it, even if it happens at all, and in right-hand drive. We’re focusing on proper 4×4 and 4×2 trucks”, Scott Grant, the COO of Hyundai’s Australian division, told. The Santa Cruz is expected to make its debut before the end of the decade. When it lands, it will occupy the same leisure-oriented niche as the Honda Ridgeline. The body-on-frame model that Hyundai’s Australian division is waiting for won’t arrive until after 2020, according to Grant. +++

+++ In an effort to make up lost market share, LINCOLN is trying desperately to differentiate itself from other luxury automakers. The automaker is offering and expanding a number of services aimed at setting itself apart not only from Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, and Audi, but also the Fords that so often share showroom space. One such offering, the Lincoln Chauffeur, is expanding beyond its initial rollout in Miami, Florida, across the country to San Diego, California. The concept is simple. For $30/hour, a chauffeur will drive you around in your own vehicle, stopping at the store, the gas station, or even at school to pick up the kids. The chauffeur can do these things with or without you present, meaning the driver can drop you off at the airport and return the car home, allowing others to use the car rather than leaving it parked at the airport. The service is available to old and new Lincoln owners, though the former get eight free hours to try the service. San Diego was part of a planned expansion. If things continue to go well, look for further rollouts in cities across the country. +++

+++ MERCEDES wants to draw a clear line between the upcoming A-Class Sedan and the next generation CLA. And it will do so by launching the latter with a fastback styling, which will give it a similar feel to the AMG GT Concept that was presented in Geneva this year. Despite its upscale design, the brand’s luxury subcompact four-door coupe will remain front-wheel drive, and will be based on a new platform, which will spawn eight models, including the hatch and sedan derivations of the next A-Class, and the replacements of the B-Class and GLA, among others. Due to arrive in US showrooms in late 2019, as a 2020MY, the next generation Mercedes-Benz CLA will be preceded by the A-Class Sedan, which is believed to go on sale on this side of the pond late next year or early 2019. The latter should be similar to the concept presented in Shanghai last month, sources with knowledge on the matter confirmed, saying it will keep the Panamericana grille on the powerful AMG model(s), whereas regular versions will get a different one. +++

+++ Year-to-date sales of MINI brand vehicles are up 3.6% compared with the same period last year with a total of 110,643 delivered to customers around the world in the first 4 months of the year. The brand’s main growth drivers so far this year are the Cabrio (10,871 / +86.2%) and the Clubman (19,203 / +16.9%). April sales at Mini were down 3.0% (27,588) on last year’s extremely high level. +++

+++ The PSA Group may have bought the loss-making OPEL off General Motors, but this doesn’t mean that the French company isn’t aware of the financial situation of the German brand. Carlos Tavares, CEO of PSA, said to shareholders of the company that he expects Opel to lose more money in 2017. “A certain number of good achievements have been made under General Motors’ leadership”, Tavares said. “But we must recognize that the losses are real and probably will be again in 2017”. Back in March, PSA agreed to acquire Opel and its UK-based Vauxhall unit from GM, with the deal valued at 2.2 billion euros. Merging Opel with PSA will create the second-biggest car company in Europe, with Volkswagen Group remaining the biggest in the region. PSA shareholders also approved the issue of share warrants forming part of the payment to GM for Opel. These share warrants were valued at 670 million euros when the deal was struck and will maintain a financial incentive for the continued cooperation between GM and PSA. +++

+++ After 54 years, the 1 millionth PORSCHE 911 rolled off the assembly line. At an event to celebrate the car’s storied history, August Achleitner, head of 718 and 911 development, confirmed that development of a plug-in hybrid 911 has been canceled. In fact, the project was scrapped sometime late last year. It seems the car brought with it too many compromises, which is a shame for those looking for a production version of the 911 GT3 R Hybrid racecar. Last year, Porsche said it was working on a hybrid version of each one of its models. I expected a plug-in variant of the upcoming 992 generation 911. It seems that the weight, packaging, and price of a hybrid system was insurmountable without severely compromising what makes a 911 a 911. The focus now is to make the current model even more efficient. The backlash from enthusiasts may have been another factor. The move to turbos still doesn’t sit well with many Porsche fans. Then again, people have been complaining for nearly 2 decades about the move to water-cooled engines. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN is getting ready to reveal the final production GTI version of the Up minicar, and just by reading the specs, it should be a proper hoot. The range-topping version of the Up (and the smallest member of the GTI family) will be powered by a 115 hp version of the 1.0-litre TSI 3-cylinder unit, mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox. Following the known GTI recipe, VW has added to the Up’s bodywork things like bigger wheels, aggressive bumpers all around, fatter side sills, a rear wing and probably some graphics to let people know that this minicar has a better sense of humor than others. The interior will be trimmed in the trademark chequered cloth upholstery and feature a sportier steering wheel with a more sculpted rim and other design details for the necessary GTI vibe. Volkswagen brand CEO Herbert Diess told that they will keep their smallest model around for more years, since it remains the benchmark in the segment. Production of the new Up GTI is expected to start later this year. “The Up still wins practically every comparison test”, Diess said. “It was just refreshed last year with new, turbocharged engines and we can announce that we will be bringing an Up GTi to add more emotional appeal”. Volkswagen is also planning to offer an updated version of the all-electric Up, featuring a bigger-capacity battery pack for longer driving range. The current model comes with a 18.7kWh battery pack that gives it just 160 km of certified driving range. “We certainly will have to think about a range extension for the electric Up”, Diess said. +++

+++ VOLVO revises its strategy to fit society’s ‘appetite for change’. The brand is making ‘sustainability’ an integral part of its corporate strategy. Volvo has reworked its business model to better fit a “changing world” driven by new consumer demands and political forces. Chief executive Håkan Samuelsson plans told that sustainability is both “business-critical” and a significant opportunity for automakers. “We recognize the limitations of the internal combustion engine and the appetite for change in society”, he says. “That is why we have such an ambitious target when it comes to electrification. Our commitments will not only help protect the environment and make people’s lives better and safer. They also make perfect business sense”. The company is aiming to put up to a million electrified vehicles on the road by 2025, the same year its manufacturing operations are expected to become climate-neutral. CO2 emissions from Volvo’s European manufacturing facilities have already fallen by 70 percent from 2004 to 2016. The company also currently offers 6 plug-in hybrids, making progress in its plan to make every new model available as an electrified vehicle. “Our customers want safer, more sustainable and convenient cars”, Samuelsson says. “We can meet that demand, be a force for change and grow our business at the same time”. +++

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