Newsflash II

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+++ China’s state-backed Beijing Automotive Group ( BAIC ) will take its electric vehicle unit public by injecting it into another listed subsidiary, boosting its financial muscle as the battle for the country’s hotly contested green car market heats up. The de facto backdoor listing values the unit, Beijing Electric Vehicle, at 4.5 billion dollar and comes as the government engineers a dramatic shift away from conventional gasoline cars with strict quotas for electric and hybrid vehicles set to come into effect next year. The shift has prompted major investment and a spate of deals between global automakers, tech firms and local rivals as companies rush to bring out new vehicle models and set up local ventures and facilities in the world’s biggest car market. The deal is also a rare listing for China’s green car sector and marks the first time that a state-owned manufacturer of so-called new energy vehicles (NEVs) will debut on one of the country’s main stock exchanges. Beijing Electric, established in 2009, said this month that sales jumped 98 percent in 2017 to 103,199 vehicles. That puts it just behind BYD which said its NEV sales last year totalled 113,669; up around 13.5 percent. Under the deal, ChengDu QianFeng Electronics, one of the listed arms of BAIC, will buy the electric car unit and then sell 761.1 million shares at 37.66 yuan per share. Beijing Electric will become the listed entity. China’s automotive market slowed sharply in 2017, but new energy vehicles have been a bright spot. An industry body said this month NEV sales would likely grow 40 percent this year, topping 1 million vehicles. Car makers, however, are worried about the rapid pace of the shift to fully electric vehicles and some have called for Beijing to maintain financial support for the auto market to help drive consumer demand. +++

+++ CHEVROLET is working on a facelifted Camaro and the car will be offered with the 7-speed manual transmission from the Corvette. In total, there will be 3 transmission options. The first 2 choices carryover and include a 6-speed manual and an 8-speed automatic. The 3rd and final choice is a 7-speed manual which is also available on the Corvette. Corvette chief engineer Tadge Juechter has previously touted the benefits of the transmission by saying “The 7-speed gives the driver the control of a true 3-pedal manual transmission with perfect shifts enabled by Active Rev Matching”. The gearbox also features a dual-mass flywheel and a dual-disc clutch which delivers “greater shift quality and feel through lower inertia”. Little is else is known about the updated Camaro but officials have previously said they are looking at “ways to repackage and reprice” the car and this will likely result in a more affordable model which can be equipped with a V8 engine. The company has also hinted they are going to focus on the car’s turbocharged 2.0 liter 4-cylinder engine which currently produces 275 hp and 400 Nm. That’s significantly less than the 2.3 liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder in the Mustang which develops 310 hp and 474 Nm. +++

+++ A federal bankruptcy judge in the U.S. has tossed out a settlement that would have required GENERAL MOTORS to pay 1 billion dollar in stock to owners suing the company over its faulty ignition switches. Judge Martin Glenn of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York determined that the agreement which car owners claimed to have reached with the ‘Old GM’ trust was invalid without signatures. The owners claimed that Old GM had acted in bad faith and indicated the agreement was binding without a signature. Car owners suing the automaker reportedly reached an agreement in August and that General Motors would be forced to contribute 1 billion dollar in stock as part of the settlement. Shortly after, Old GM walked away from the deal and accepted an offer from General Motors to help pay for its defense against car owners. In his ruling, Judge Glenn pointed out Old GM’s “dishonesty, or bad faith” but said that the law didn’t permit the enforcement of an unexecuted agreement. In response, a lawyer representing the car owners, Steve Berman, said they saw a small victory in the ruling. “Judge Glenn clearly thought the trustee and law firm Gibson Dunn acted in bad faith and we see therefore they both must be removed as trustee”, Berman said. General Motors has paid roughly 2.5 billion dollar to settle its ignition switch-related claims. +++

+++ MAZDA ’s new Skyactiv-X engine, which combines the spark ignition combustion of a petrol engine with the compression ignition of a diesel, “will be 20-30% more economical” than an equivalent 2.0 litre, according to the firm’s powertrain manager Eiji Nakai. The Spark Controlled Compression Ignition engine will cost somewhere between the price of a conventional petrol and a diesel, said Nakai. A number of manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz and General Motors, have been developing compression ignition petrol engines, but Mazda believes it will be first to market. Several breakthroughs were required to enable the engine to switch from the 14.7:1 air-to-fuel mixture of a conventional petrol engine to the 29.4:1-plus lean-burn mixtures. One is the continuous use of spark plugs. These ignite the mixture conventionally when the engine is cold or operating at high revs but, in lean burn mode (about 80% of the time), the spark ignites a pulse of richer fuel. The resultant fireball lights the ultra-lean mixture as it’s compressed. Even and sustained burning ensues and the piston is pushed down further and longer. The key to transitioning between spark and compression ignition lies with cylinder sensors that determine when the engine can run lean. Detection is “very difficult”, said Nakai. The engine also uses a supercharger that pressurises intake air. In current form, the SCCI engine produces 190 hp and 220 Nm. +++

+++ Electrification is auto industry’s latest favorite buzzword and a number of companies have recently announced plans to offer an assortment of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles. A number of these models will be sold alongside conventionally-powered counterparts but NISSAN is taking a gamble as it has announced plans to make one of its mainstream models available exclusively with an electric powertrain. There’s no word on which model will make the switch but Nissan North America’s vice president of product planning, Michael Bunce, recently told the vehicle will arrive sometime between 2023 and 2025. Bunce was coy on specifics but said “At some point you have to say: ‘Okay, my technology’s mature enough, I’ve learned enough, it’s ready enough, consumer acceptance is there,’ and we’re willing to take the risk on some major nameplates and transition them over”. While the company is obviously optimistic, it remains to be seen whether customers will be willing to accept a mainstream vehicle that is now available exclusively with an electric powertrain. The switch won’t happen overnight but Nissan should get an idea how consumers respond to electrification as the company is planning to bring its ePower range-extending technology to America. The system mimics models such as the Chevrolet Volt and BMW i3 REx as it uses a small engine which acts as a generator. When the battery becomes low, the engine activates to recharge it and extend the vehicle’s range. This gives the vehicle all of the benefits of a conventionally-powered model while also increasing its performance and efficiency thanks to electric power. Nissan’s chief planning officer suggested the technology could be offered on some on the company’s higher-end models as they can better absorb the costs associated with the powertrain. +++

+++ TESLA said its Chief Executive Elon Musk will receive no guaranteed compensation of any kind, and that he will be paid only if Tesla and all of its shareholders do extraordinarily well. The compensation will be based on a performance award, which will be based on a combination of market capitalization and operational milestones, Tesla said in a statement. +++

+++ 3 out of 5 new cars and vans sold in the United Kingdom will need to be ULTRA LOW EMISSION VEHICLES (ULEVs) by 2030 if the Government is to meet emissions targets, a new report has claimed. The ‘Independent Assessment of the UK’s Clean Growth Strategy’, a report by the Committee on Climate Change, says that if emissions levels are to fall in line with EU targets, three fifths of new cars and vans sold by 2030 must emit less than 75 gram/km of CO2. The targets call for a 44 percent reduction on 2016 emissions levels by 2030 and the report suggests hitting this will necessitate a major shift to low emissions vehicles. ULEVs currently available on the UK market include hybrids like the Toyota Prius and pure EVs like the Nissan Leaf. The report’s authors refer to the Government’s ambition that 30-70 percent of new car sales should be made up of ULEVs by 2030, but argue that it “will be necessary to deliver towards the upper end of the range for cars”, highlighting a 60 percent minimum as ideal. The document also says “it may be necessary for the sales of petrol and diesel vehicles to end by 2035”, bringing forward the much-publicised ban on conventional petrol and diesel cars that are not hybrids by 5 years. The report warns, meanwhile, that “greater ambition” is needed for lowering emissions from light commercial vehicles and vans, which currently have a 40 percent ULEV target by 2030. It goes on to caution that: “There is little concrete action on emissions from HGVs”. It’s not just electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars that hold the possible answer to the future air quality issue: one scenario postulated imagines hydrogen as “the dominant energy carrier across the economy by 2050”, powering “all cars and vans”, though this would require “extensive development” of infrastructure. The report’s authors praise the Government’s “strong commitment” to meeting climate targets, but warn that “risks of under-delivery” must be addressed. Previous policy from Whitehall has held it as the Government’s ambition “for almost every car and van on the road to be a zero emission vehicle by 2050”. +++

+++ Following the introduction of the T-Roc last year, VOLKSWAGEN is now putting the final touches on an even smaller crossover, called the T-Cross. The new SUV that was previewed by the topless T-Cross Breeze Concept is expected to go on sale by the end of the year, after making its debut a bit earlier, possibly this fall at the 2018 Paris Auto Show. Although nothing is official yet, Volkswagen appears to have settled for the T-Cross name for the new crossover, which will share the MQB platform with a host of other VW Group cars, including the latest Polo. It will share some parts with the supermini and Seat’s Arona, and will be marketed against rivals such as the Nissan Juke and Peugeot 2008. It will be available with a variety of petrol and diesel engines, including the 1.0-liter turbo’d three-cylinder unit with outputs ranging between 95 hp and 115 hp, along with a possible plug-in hybrid powertrain, mated to 6-speed manual or dual-clutch automatic transmissions. It seems that that an all-wheel drive system won’t be offered, as the automaker wants to keep the T-Cross’ price competitive, so the T-Cross will be front-wheel drive only. On the outside, the T-Cross will probably incorporate some design elements of the larger T-Roc, while getting several personalization options, such as a contrasting roof. Before the baby SUV, though, Volkswagen will unveil the new generation Touareg this spring. The large SUV is coming with different styling and new powertrains, and it is expected to make its debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March. +++

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