Newsflash II

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+++ ASTON MARTIN will cap production of its upcoming DBX crossover to 5.000 units annually to make sure the vehicle remains desirable. The introduction of the British car manufacturer’s will drastically increase its production and sales figures, but Aston Martin is looking to ensure that demand for the vehicle will outstrip supply. “I purposefully restrained production to 5.000 units for exactly that reason. There’s always a tendency when you’ve got an order book to turn everything up”, company boss Andy Andy Palmer told. “And when you do that, you start making mistakes in my experience. The plant is capable of 5.000 units on a single shift basis and we’ll build to that. No more”. The DBX is set to attract new customers to the brand but according to Palmer, the company is also seeing strong demand from existing owners looking to purchase the carmaker’s luxurious and sporty SUV. “It helps that 72 % of our existing customers already have an SUV in the garage, so getting to our existing customers who are already in love with Aston Martin is not a bad starting place”, Palmer said. Once the DBX hits the market, Aston Martin will put the final touches to its new Lagonda model and put it into production alongside the DBX. No more than 7.000 examples of these 2 vehicles will be manufactured each year and combined with the company’s current GT models and forthcoming supercars and hypercars, it won’t build any more than 14.000 vehicles annually. According to Palmer, building more vehicles than that risks degrading the company’s premium status. So Aston Martin’s first crossover, the DBX, is right around the corner. It will join the Rapide as the second 4-door model in the company’s portfolio, but the 2 models won’t co-exist for very long. The British firm confirmed the DBX will replace the Rapide as its family-friendly model until more luxurious models arrive. “We’re not planning to replace the Rapide in its current form. The Rapide will basically be replaced by the DBX in the Aston Martin range, while the Lagonda SUV and sedan will replace the new, pure-EV Rapide E”, said Palmer. Aston Martin’s decision makes sense; buyers in key markets like the United States and China are increasingly trading in their sedans for high-riding SUVs and crossovers. The company is confident it can make the DBX feel like a true Aston Martin, so motorists currently driving a Rapide shouldn’t notice a huge difference in terms of straight-line performance. There’s no word on when Aston Martin will end Rapide production. The sedan was introduced in 2010, and it received a mid-cycle update that brought a more powerful V12 plus small visual tweaks for the 2014 model year. The Rapide E will enter production in 2019, but we don’t expect the sedan to live beyond 2020. +++

+++ AUDI SPORT is fighting to ensure the V10 remains an integral part of the next-generation R8, despite the increasing likelihood the flagship supercar will go all-electric in its next generation. Audi Sport managing director Oliver Hoffmann suggested there was a strong desire to see the free-revving, naturally-aspirated engine live on in the third-generation R8. However, increasingly stringent emissions regulations and a broader move towards electrification make such an engine increasingly difficult to justify. Hoffmann explained there is a need to not only identify what type of drivetrain will be most appropriate for such cars, but also which engines would be best suited to electrification. “The V10 is an icon and a USP within the segment”, he said. “With the current R8, our customers love this car. We are fighting for the V10, but for the next-generation it’s more or less a question of a internal combustion engine or electrification, and which kind of engine is useful for it”. Previously it was reported that the third generation R8, understood to be arriving in 2022 will be all-electric, and would potentially mark the end for the use of the V10 by the firm. However, with other brands within the Volkswagen Group (most notably Lamborghini) reportedly committed to continued use of the V10, most likely in hybrid form, it’s possible we’ll see limited-run V10 versions of the new R8 offered alongside a mainstream electric model. Hoffmann said: “We are working very close with the guys from Sant’Agata. The only way to develop such kinds of cars is to share the cost for development work and to have a very, very tough platform strategy. The current Lamborghini Huracan is based on the R8 platform, and this helps us, together with Lamborghini, with Porsche, with all the sporty brands in our group, to share the development costs”. Audi is also tipped to release a hardcore race-inspired version of the R8, previewed by a ‘GT2’ spec customer racing car to be revealed at next week’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. Hoffman suggested that more “extreme” versions of the current R8 were a likelihood. “We have some good ideas for a more extreme R8”, he said. “We know the powerful exterior design of our racing car is amazing. People want to drive this on the street”. He added that “pedestrian safety” issues, as opposed to any lack of internal support, were one of the challenges his engineers would need to overcome before such a model can roll into production. +++

+++ Despite just participating in a flurry of hyped, electrified car reveals, BMW isn’t convinced that the end is nigh for the internal combustion engine. The diesel engine still has oodles of time left in the world, and the shift to electrification is overhyped, says the BMW Group board member for development, Klaus Fröhlich. He said that the diesel engine still has at least 20 more years and the gasoline engine at least 30 years. Also, he toned down the general rhetoric surrounding electric cars and their impending takeover. “The shift to electrification is overhyped. Battery-electric vehicles cost more in terms of raw materials for batteries. This will continue and could eventually worsen as demand for these raw materials increases”, Fröhlich says. Needless to say, that kind of talk sounds a bit different than what we hear from Tesla and other electric car backers. So even though BMW continues to say it’s actively developing and pursuing all-electric models, doubt remains. That is clear across the industry, as everyone who produces electric cars struggles to make a profit selling those vehicles. However, Fröhlich did detail a few internal combustion engines that don’t appear to have a way forward. The quad-turbo 6-cylinder diesel offered in Europe doesn’t have a long shelf life, as Fröhlich declared it too expensive and complicated to build. He says the most turbos we should expect to see on a new BMW diesel engine is 3. Another diesel engine on the outs is the 1.5-liter 3-cylinder only offered in Europe. Fröhlich says that particular oil-burner is too expensive to try and get it to comply with emissions standards. An engine that’ll hit home in America is the 6.6 liter twin-turbo V12 found in the top-level 7 Series. Fröhlich didn’t mince words when it came to that one. “Each year we have to invest to update the V12 to new emissions regulations, particularly in China. And when the V12 accounts for about 5,000 sales a year globally, this includes Rolls-Royce, the cost of these updates is several thousand euros per unit”, he said. BMW has previously committed to keeping this engine around through 2023, at the very least in the U.S. market. What happens after that is a discussion for another day. Additionally Fröhlich says BMW is working on a market case to keep its V8 gasoline engine around. That’ll be paired with some form of electrification in the future, though, specifically to deal with countries that have heavy taxes added for high carbon dioxide output. +++ 

+++ The FORD PUMA is one of my favourite cars ever. Of course, I’m referring to the small coupé that was launched back in 1997 and will reserve judgement on the new one that’s just been revealed by Ford. The old Puma was a car that made every single journey an event. Thanks to its 1.7 litre engine, co-developed with Yamaha, cute looks and playful chassis it was just pure fun. It ticked a few sensible boxes, too. I took one down to Spa in Belgium for a weekend, I took one to the shops more often, and, of course, a colleague even had his picture taken with the car and its feline namesake. It’s a car full of memories (and I’ve still got one of the solid metal gear knobs; don’t ask why or how!) that’s a mainstay in our used car heroes lists. Now the Puma is back and it will be on sale in 2020. But it’s not a Puma as we remember it. As you can see, it’s not a Puma at all. It’s morphed into an SUV. In terms of what Ford needs right now, it hits the spot perfectly. It’ll compete in the popular and lucrative small SUV sector against a host of new arrivals like the Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur, Skoda Kamiq and Nissan Juke, plus big sellers like the Citroen C3 Aircross, VW T-Cross and Seat Arona. In short, it’s got its work cut out. But I won’t be alone in feeling slightly sad that Ford couldn’t come up with a better idea than dusting off the Puma name for a small SUV. Why not go the whole hog and christen the next-generation Ford Kuga the Capri? Sure, Ford’s design and marketing teams have managed to come up with some tenuous links to the old car, but it’s not a Puma. And yes, I know how difficult it is to come up with a name that you can use globally yet doesn’t mean something rude somewhere, but surely there were better options? So can the new SUV evoke memories of the original? Perhaps. Let’s hope the rest of the team who developed the new Puma have more creativity and originality than Ford’s naming committee. +++

+++ Although BMW will launch a test fleet of X5 and X7 FUEL CELL variants in 2021, it remains convinced that battery power is the right choice when creating zero-emissions passenger cars. “The development we expect for battery density would make BEVs (battery-electric vehicles) the most-efficient solution”, Klaus Frölich, BMW Group board member for development, said. A fuel cell vehicle is an electric vehicle where the fuel cell replaces the battery as the source of electric power. Cost is the biggest issue. Frölich said a fuel cell powertrain is 10 times more expensive than a full-electric one. The prices will not be comparable until about 2025, he said. Toyota, which has been working on fuel cell development with BMW since 2013, believes the prices of fuel cell cars will match those of hybrids within 10 years. Toyota’s fuel cell car, the Mirai, starts at €79,990 in The Netherlands. BMW thinks fuel cell technology would work better in medium and heavy trucks because the weight of the batteries in an electric-driven truck could reduce the vehicle’s payload by 6 to 7 tons. “Therefore, batteries are not a viable solution there”, Frölich said. Using fuel cells in delivery vehicles is also a viable option because they normally travel between 150 and 200 kilometers a day. Since it takes just minutes to recharge the hydrogen, a fleet operator would need just a single refueling station to get the vehicles ready during the night. This is BMW’s second leap into the fuel cell/hydrogen sector. From 2005 to 2007 the automaker used hydrogen in a conventional engine, building a fleet of 100 V12 powered 7-series sedans that could run the fuel or gasoline. The size of the hydrogen tank limited the zero-emissions range of those sedans to about 200 km. That was a milestone distance for green solutions a decade ago. Today, however, a similar-sized Tesla Model S equipped with a 100 kWh battery has a range of 632 km under the NEDC test cycle. +++ 

+++ Former Nissan boss Carlos GHOSN abruptly canceled plans for what would have been his first press conference since his arrest in November, after his daughters expressed concern it could invite retaliation by Japanese authorities, his lawyers said. “In Japan we just don’t know what terrible thing will happen next, not just limited to rearrest”, one of his lawyers, Junichiro Hironaka, told reporters outside his office. The lawyer said consequences could also include loss of bail, but did not give further details. The Japanese government’s chief spokesman Yoshihide Suga has said that Ghosn is being treated in accordance with Japanese law. Hironaka canceled the briefing at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ) only 2 hours after journalists were informed of the event. Had it gone ahead, Ghosn would have spoken as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hosted national leaders at the G20 leaders gathering in Osaka, including U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron. Ghosn’s wife Carole has called on Macron to raise the issue of her husband’s treatment in Japan. Japanese courts have dismissed appeals by Ghosn to ease a bail restriction that bans him from contacting his wife. His lawyers have argued that that condition violates Japan’s constitution and international law on family separations. Hironaka said the decision to hold the press conference came after Ghosn’s latest attempt to seek court permission for a one-off meeting with his wife failed, and was unrelated to the timing of the G20. Ghosn’s legal team have nonetheless taken note of the leaders’ gathering. Another of his lawyers, Takashi Takano, penned a statement that criticized Abe for promoting Japanese openness when it “fiercely guarded its private commercial entities, even through use of basic sovereign powers, including criminal investigation and penal sanction”. Once among the world’s most feted auto executives, Ghosn is awaiting trial in Japan over charges including enriching himself at a cost of $5 million to Nissan. Ghosn has denied any wrongdoing, saying he is the victim of a boardroom coup. He has accused “backstabbing” former colleagues of conspiring to oust him from Nissan in order to derail a closer alliance between the Japanese automaker and Renault, its top shareholder. The scandal has rocked the industry and exposed tensions in the automaking partnership between Nissan and Renault. Since his initial arrest in November last year, Ghosn has been charged four times for crimes which also include underreporting his Nissan salary and temporarily transferring personal financial losses to his employer’s books during his time at the helm of Japan’s No. 2 automaker. +++ 

+++ A number of major car manufacturers are walking away from the sedans, but HYUNDAI says it is very much committed to the class well into the future. The head of global product strategy & design for Hyundai (and Kia and Genesis), Thomas Schemera, said that rather than ditch sedans entirely, it is a smarter move for car manufacturers to adapt them to suit the preferences of customers. “If you ask my personal opinion, Ford, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and others dropping sedans in favor of SUVs and crossovers is a big mistake. Everybody is going now for SUVs, everybody thinks that the market for sedans is going down”, he said. “Our way of thinking is maybe to differentiate the sedans a little bit more in detail. Think about rugged style. If the look and feel of sedans is different, you make the difference”. According to Schemera, producing a sedan in today’s world where customer preferences are shifting towards SUVs and crossovers, you need to design sedans with a difference. “Maybe to design, to compose, or to interpret a sedan more differently. The space and utilization of a sedan is from my point of view also unbeatable. This is a nice thing”, he said. Not only does Hyundai talk the talk about sedans, but it also walks the walk as, last year, it introduced the new Accent in the United States and, perhaps more significantly, it has launched a radically-redesigned Sonata. This isn’t to say it isn’t also investing heavily in SUVs and crossovers. Far from it, as its current range includes the Kona, Tucson, Santa Fe, Santa Fe and Palisade; and soon, the small Venue. It’s just not putting all its eggs in one basket. Wise move, if you ask us, just in case the tide turns … +++ 

+++ Settling Brexit could be positive for sales for JAGUAR LAND ROVER in Britain, according to Rawdon Glover, the firm’s UK managing director. Despite a difficult sales year for the brands, both have shown upswings (driven in part by new model launches) in the UK despite economic uncertainty prompted by the ongoing Brexit negotiations. That prompted Glover to say: “There is so much uncertainty and all the indicators suggest consumer confidence is down, so there is reasonable cause to look to those concerns as a reason for depressing the car market. So, thinking positively, you could say that any resolution to the Brexit impasse could help us emerge into a more favourable mindset, possibly even with pricing advantages for anyone building their cars in Britain. It’s a one-sided view, but my job is to sell Jaguars and Land Rovers in the UK, and I can look therefore at potential upsides to us emerging from Brexit, hopefully with a clear vision for the future that gives people confidence”. Jaguar Land Rover’s overall CEO, Ralf Speth, has repeatedly warned of the damage a no-deal Brexit could cause if cars made in the UK but exported to Europe carry a tariff, or if parts required to build cars in the UK are required to undergo border checks. He has estimated the potential cost to the firm to be up to €68 million per day. +++

+++ It’s been awhile since I’ve spoken with Bob LUTZ , the product development whiz who changed the fortunes of virtually every automaker he’s worked for (BMW, Ford, Chrysler, General Motors) in a nearly 6-decade career. I recently caught up with Lutz, 87, who is not quite retired. His VLF Automotive operation north of Detroit is looking for its next product after the Corvette-powered Destino performance luxury car wrapped up production this year. I peppered the former Marine lieutenant with rapid-fire questions on the topics that are roiling the auto industry in 2019 and only lightly edited his answers. If you know Lutz, you know he is going to say exactly what he thinks, even if it rankles his friends and former colleagues. On Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Ram outselling the Chevrolet Silverado: he said: “I think the Chevrolet product could have been better. Ram has a drop-dead gorgeous interior. During my 9 years at GM, I thought I cured them of the tendency to take cost out of the interior and convinced them the interior is where you put the money, where the customer can see and feel and touch. I have no doubt the Silverado is a great truck, but it disappointed people in some respects. It does not have the visual impact of the new Ram or the F-150, and there is a uniformity of opinion that the interior is highly disappointing. I consider this a mistake that did not have to happen. I tried to convince GM that the interior is where the buyer spends the ownership period, not the outside. It’s extremely important. If you look at the quality of the interiors Ford and Ram are putting into their large vehicles now, I cannot believe that GM is trying to get away with these low-cost interiors, similar to what they were doing before I got there. On the other hand, GM maintains that Ram is heavily outspending them and buying market share. I am not close enough to the numbers to verify whether that is true or not. But the fact that the Chevrolet Silverado is in third place and is hard to sell worries me greatly”. On the Trump administration’s efforts to freeze fuel economy standards, Lutz said: “It’s intelligent. With the move to electrics, the demand for oil will no longer rise. It will stabilize. The United States is no longer dependent on Middle East oil, which at least gave us a political argument for oil conservation. But now that we are largely self-sufficient on petroleum and natural gas, you can’t make the national security argument for tighter fuel standards anymore. The only argument you could make is for the reduction of CO2 and greenhouse gases, and you are either a believer or you are not. The world splits evenly on that. I think it is time to stabilize fuel economy standards; I’m not sure it is a good idea to roll them back. Suppliers and automakers have bet on a certain level of fuel economy standards. In Europe, for instance, it is absolutely mandatory to revise the standards because the way they are, nobody can meet them without paying hundreds of millions in euros in fines”. On General Motors vs. Ford in design, Lutz said: “I am saying this for the first time in my career: I think Ford has an exquisite handle on design right now. You could first see it in the Fusion and the Lincoln version. The Mustang clearly out-designed the new-generation Camaro, and sales are showing it. The Lincoln crossovers were very well executed. The Lincoln Corsair is going to be very good. The Aviator is off the charts in every respect. But that is what you do if you want to gain market share and win against the competition. You don’t go for barely competitive and what can we get away with? You go out to kill with the interior. That is where a few hundred bucks can buy you thousands of dollars’ worth of perceived value. Ford is clearly on a roll when it comes to design. GM is used to being the design leader in the United States. Arguably a few years ago, it was true. But GM needs to pull it out. Ford is doing a great job, without a question”. On General Motors vs. Ford in business, Lutz said: “A lot of the difference in earnings between GM and Ford in the last few years is due to the fact that GM had the benefit of fresh product: full-size pickups, Colorado and Canyon, and of course, GM’s SUVs were much newer and better than Ford’s. With the Tahoe, Yukon and Escalade, GM had, I think, around 75 % of that segment. Ford’s were old enough to vote. Now Ford has the new Expedition, which is a phenomenally good vehicle, and the Lincoln Navigator, which when I look at it, I think that is what the Bentley Bentayga should have looked like. Great powertrain, beautiful, beautiful world-class interiors and a good exterior. That Bentley-esque grille never hurts, either. I think now that GM is at the tail end of its product generation and is having some trouble with its full-size pickups, it’s bound to affect profitably. In China, everybody’s profitability is a little bit off. I expect Ford to financially rebound vs. GM”. On the Carlos Ghosn affair, Lutz said: “I would not be surprised if he was innocent, but having observed Carlos for many, many years and knowing the size of his own importance in his own eyes, I would not be surprised if he did something that was somewhat questionable”. On powerful executives, such as Ghosn and Sergio Marchionne, dominating an automaker, Lutz said: “I do not think we’ve seen the last of them. In fact, there is one still very much among us today: Elon Musk. I think larger-than-life personalities are the people who get things done, who really drive change and who really have big ideas and are able to have a transformative effect on companies. The well-balanced, nice, even soft-spoken administrative types are good for managing a given situation, but they are not good at driving change. That takes people like Lee Iacocca, Sergio Marchionne, Carlos Ghosn and so forth. Are they perfect? No. They always have immense qualities on one side that are usually balanced with weird behavior on the other side. That was the whole theme of my book Icons and Idiots: how skewed some of these personalities are. But it is the good parts of their makeup that drive the company, and the other part, as long as it is not illegal, you learn to live with it”. On VLF Automotive, Lutz said: “We wish things were a whole lot better. When the Chinese took over what was Fisker and renamed it Karma, we were, despite a written agreement, deprived of the gliders: the bodies and chassis. We were not able to produce cars. We have had a number of false starts in other directions. But the company is alive, and I am hoping now that we can manufacture and achieve relatively broad distribution. But it’s hold-your-breath. The question, really, is how much more money do I want to put into it?” On president Donald Trump’s trade tariffs, Lutz said: “President Trump falls into the category of people we were talking about earlier: Iacocca, Ghosn, Marchionne. He’s larger than life. He sets his own rules. He’s brilliant in some areas. I always distinguish Trump the president and commander in chief, that is one person, and Trump the tweeter is an entirely different person. They live in the same body, and people can’t get their heads around that. Trump the tweeter does not matter. Trump the commander in chief does matter. And as far as I am concerned, if you look at the economy and what he has done on trade, what he has done on putting Russia back in the box, North Korea back in the box and finally taking on China in a trade war that somebody should have initiated 20 or 30 years ago. By the way, he is going to win it. Trump is for the American jobs, American industry, the American worker, American self-sufficiency. And to him, imported cars fall into the category of bad guys”. On Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’s urge to merge, Lutz said: “FCA has the scale to make it on their own; they are not a small company. Fiat is very large and, of course, is subject to the lack of profitability that everyone incurs in Europe and Latin America right now. Fiat in the United States has basically collapsed, folded in on itself. Alfa Romeo may pick up the slack. It certainly has some a compelling crossovers. As far as electric vehicles are concerned, that is becoming commoditized. You can go to Bosch or Nippon Denso and say, “We’d like a midsized electric crossover. Can you help us?” And they’ll say: “Sure, we’ll take you through the catalog. You order these sized motors, this control system, etc. and it will hook up to a battery pack from Hitachi or LG Chem”. There’s no deep invention required anymore, like when we did the Chevrolet Volt. The supply base today, worldwide, including China, is more than capable of giving you everything you need to produce an electric vehicle. FCA doesn’t need to partner with anyone for that. As long as FCA watches its costs and continues to get rid of stuff that loses money and invests in brands and products that are highly profitable, such as the Ram and Jeep. Those 2 are gold mines”. On the upcoming midengine Chevrolet Corvette, Lutz said: “It will be successful to a degree, but all 2-passenger sports cars are facing a limited future. The new Corvette will do well initially, but it will be rolling over the old customer base. I don’t think anyone is going to get out of a Porsche 911 to buy a midengine Corvette. One of the problems the Corvette brand has is the same as what Harley-Davidson is facing: The owner body is getting older and older and older, and there are no young people coming in. This car has been in development so long that there is a risk that the design will no longer be as new and as fresh as it should be when the car appears next month. If I were still at GM, what I would be pleading for now is, let’s not try to take Cadillac upmarket. It’s not worth more then the current price band. But the Corvette brand has unlimited daylight on the upside. If I were there, what I would do is develop a dedicated architecture, super lightweight, super powerful, Porsche Cayenne-like, only much better and a little bigger, medium-volume Corvette SUV. Target worldwide 20,000 to 30,000 units, and price it starting at $100,000. Gorgeous interior. No V6 powertrain. No low end version. It has to be the stellar premium SUV made in the United States and the Corvette brand could pull that off”. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ is preparing to launch a new petrol-electric variant of the new 4th generation A-class boasting a pure electric range of over 60 kilometres, as part of its growing range of EQ plug-in hybrid models. The A 250e retains the turbocharged 1.3-litre petrol engine already used by the A 200, in which it develops 163 hp and 200 Nm. This is supported by a gearbox-mounted electric motor that delivers 102 hp and up to 300 Nm: Mercedes-Benz insiders suggest the setup provides similar performance to the existing A 250. The gearbox used by the A 250e is expected to be the new 8-speed unit already confirmed for a number of new Mercedes-Benz compact models, including the recently unveiled GLB. It will be uniquely calibrated to withstand the high torque loads achieved by the new petrol-electric driveline. The electric motor takes it power from a 15 kWh lithium/ion battery. Considerably larger in capacity than the 9.7 kWh unit used by the BMW 225e Active Tourer, or the 8.7 kWh battery employed by the Volkswagen Golf GTE, it is claimed to provide the A 250e with an electric range of over 60 kilometres in its most efficient driving mode, as measured on the WLTP combined cycle. Top speed in electric mode is 140 km/h, according to official German transport authority documentation. As the power electrics for the electric motor take up much of the space beneath the luggage compartment floor, Mercedes-Benz has re-engineered the A-class to allow the hybrid battery to be mounted underneath its rear seat. It will sit next to the A 250e’s fuel tank, which has been reduced in size from a standard 45 litres in the A 200 to 35 litres. Further modifications have been made to the rear suspension of the A-class to help package the 120 kg lithium/ion battery, which is assembled at Mercedes-Benz’s daughter company Deutsche Accumotive in Germany. Power cells are supplied by Korean company LG Chem. The A 250e is expected to support DC charging at up to 22 kW, though details pertaining to charge times are not likely to be revealed until closer to its planned unveiling at the Frankfurt motor show in September. As well as featuring in the A 250e, Mercedes-Benz’s latest petrol-electric plug-in drivetrain is also planned to appear in upcoming B 250e, CLA 250e and GLB 250e models. +++

+++ PARIS has banned more than half of the cars registered in the region from its roads as a record heatwave worsens air pollution, the most drastic restrictions ever imposed there, officials said. The ban on older and less efficient cars is due to stay in place within the A86 second ring-road (which encompasses Paris and 79 towns around it) as long as the hot weather lasts, the city council said. Data firm AAA Data said that nearly 5 million vehicles registered in the Ile-de-France area around Paris were covered, about 60 % of total, a record number to be restricted. The city was not immediately available to comment on those estimates. Traffic was lighter in Paris, but not significantly so. Several drivers said they were ignoring the restrictions as the fines for breaking them (just €68 for cars and €135 for vans) were so low. French authorities also stepped up restrictions on water use as swathes of western Europe remained in the grip of an intense heatwave. Paris’ driving ban was imposed under the new “Crit’Air” colored stickers system, which classifies cars by age and pollution levels. Only electric or hydrogen vehicles, petrol cars registered after Jan. 2006 and diesel cars registered from Jan. 2011 (corresponding to Crit’Air levels 1 and 2 out of 5) were allowed on the roads. Car owner lobbies decried the ban, saying it is not efficient to reduce pollution. “There is a kind of hysteria about pollution. It is a bit over the top”, said motorist federation FFAC’s Julian Constantini. In the capital, air quality monitor Ming agency Airparif said pollution levels were high, with ozone levels exceeding 180 microgrammes per cubic meter. Paris is set to tighten regulations further from July 1, when cars with level 4 stickers (cars with diesel engines registered between 2001 and 2005 and trucks from 2006 to 2009) will be banned permanently within the A86 ring-road area. Trucks and cars with Crit’Air 5 registration (1997-2000-registered diesels), as well as cars without a sticker have been banned from central Paris since July 2017. The city council plans to continually tighten regulations until 2030, when only electric or hydrogen-fueled cars will be allowed on Greater Paris roads. +++

+++ At Planet Ford, which boasts it is the No. 1 Ford volume dealer in the Houston area, customers shopping for a F-150 pickup can get discounts from Ford of more than $8,000, and that is just the start. The dealership’s website lists a dozen other ways for truck buyers to get a price cut: being a student, a member of the military or a first-responder organization, a season-ticket holder for the National Football League’s Houston Texans, or a member of the Farm Bureau. “Ford is a sponsor of the Houston Rodeo and offers an additional $1,000 rebate on the F-150 to people who volunteer with the rodeo”, said Aaron Smith, general sales manager at Planet Ford. Rodeo fans would feel right at home watching the frenzied competition in the U.S. large pickup market. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), General Motors (GM) and Ford escalated a price war in June in one of the few vehicle market segments on the planet that offers substantial profits and one in which the three Detroit automakers enjoy an oligopoly, shielded by heavy tariffs on foreign competition. During the past month, dealers for FCA’s RAM truck brand, GM’s Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks and Ford’s F-series truck line have been offering discounts of up to 30 % or more off the list price. The GMC brand is promoting June as “Truck Month”; signaling to consumers that deep discounts are on offer until the close of the sales reporting period, July 1. U.S. automakers report June and second-quarter sales next week. While the heavy discounts are available in much of the country, not all dealers are offering such deals. More popular limited-production models such as Ford’s F-150 Raptor are selling for full retail price. Overall, discounts on light-duty pickup trucks in June have averaged $5,250, 11 % higher than the year-to-date average of $4,726, according to market research firm J.D. Power. The price-cutting is unusual because FCA’s Ram brand and GM’s Chevrolet and GMC brands launched new versions of their large pickups within the last year. Normally, automakers avoid major discounts on freshly redesigned vehicles. But these are not normal times. FCA chief executive officer Mike Manley said last year he wants to move the Ram pickup line into second place in U.S. sales, displacing Silverado and closing the gap with Ford’s F-series, the segment leader for 42 years. The new Ram has received enthusiastic reviews for its stylish interior and optional 12 inch display screen, and sales are up nearly 22 % this year through May, selling 22,000 more vehicles than the Silverado. “Clearly, FCA is trying to grab market share while GM is still ramping up”, said Cox Automotive analyst Michelle Krebs. FCA said in a statement the automaker will “stick with what works for us”. GM is under pressure to deliver as much as $10 billion in free cash flow in the final 3 quarters of 2019 to hit its full-year target, amid stagnant U.S. demand and plummeting industry sales in China. GM will report second-quarter U.S. sales on July 2. Insiders estimated Silverado sales fell 11.8% through May, while sales of the higher-priced GMC Sierra were up 4 %. “We will defend our franchise and we will do it the right way”, said Barry Engle, head of GM’s North American operations. “We’re not going to just roll over and allow our truck business to be taken away from us”. Engle said Silverado sales numbers in part reflect an effort to build more higher-margin Sierras aimed at buyers willing to spend extra dollars on a luxury truck. Ford, which has the oldest pickup truck in the market, had flat F-series sales through the end of May. “It’s a bit unprecedented”, said Ford’s truck marketing manager, Todd Eckert, of the heavy discounting so early in the life cycle of his rivals’ trucks. Ford will defend its position, but not at any cost, he said: “It’s about having a balanced approach”. Because incentives erode profit margins, the automakers continue to juggle discounts against diminished margins. “This is a segment that has been profitable for all of us”, said GM’s Engle. “We’d like to keep it that way”. +++ 

+++ TESLA could be on the verge of a quarterly record for vehicle deliveries, though the electric-car maker will need to go “all out” in the last few days of the month, boss Elon Musk wrote in an internal memo. “There is a lot of speculation regarding our vehicle deliveries this quarter”, Musk told employees. “The reality is that we are on track to set an all-time record, but it will be very close. However, if we go all out, we can definitely do it!” Tesla shares have slumped 34 % this year, in part due to concern about demand that Musk has repeatedly downplayed. The company has forecast it will deliver 90,000 to 100,000 cars in the second quarter after handing over just 63,000 vehicles to customers in the first three months of the year. A Tesla representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company’s previous best for quarterly deliveries was 90,700 vehicles in the last three months of 2018. As the company targets a boost to deliveries, Tesla’s head of production Peter Hochholdinger, in charge of all vehicle manufacturing at the Fremont factory, has left the automaker. Tesla had hired the former Audi employee in 2016. “We already have enough vehicle orders to set a record, but the right cars are not yet all in the right locations”, Musk wrote. “Logistics and final delivery are extremely important, as well as finding demand for vehicle variants that are available locally, but can’t reach people who ordered that variant before the end of the quarter”. Analysts’ average price target for Tesla shares has slumped to $269.39 from $342.84 at the beginning of this year. 16 analysts recommend selling the stock, compared with 8 holds and 12 buys. Some of Tesla’s skeptics, including Goldman Sachs’s David Tamberrino, are cautioning that while deliveries may beat the low end of the company’s guidance for the second quarter, the strong showing may not be sustainable. The U.S. federal tax credit that Tesla’s Model 3, Model S and Model X will be eligible for shrinks to $1,875 as of July 1, from $3,750. “We believe a downward path for shares will resume as it becomes more clear that sustainable demand for the company’s current products are below expectations”, Tamberrino wrote in a report last week. Musk, who turns 48 this week, is going to keep on pushing. When asked by a Twitter follower what his plans were for celebrating his birthday, his reply echoed his internal email. “Working on Tesla global logistics”, the billionaire wrote. +++ 

+++ Japanese automotive magazines are known to have a penchant for eye-popping rumors and the latest one is that BMW could work with TOYOTA to build its own version of the Land Cruiser. BMW and Toyota teamed up to create the new Toyota Supra and BMW Z4 and, according to Japan’s MacX, the 2 are looking at extending their partnership into off-roaders. It is claimed that Munich’s customers, especially those in Russia and the Middle East, are demanding an off-roader with similar capabilities to the Land Cruiser but with all the luxury features you’d expect from a BMW. BMW’s largest current SUV is the X7 and, while it can be taken off road, it is nowhere near as rugged as Lexus’ Toyota Land Cruiser-based LX. If BMW were to be given a Land Cruiser platform, it could create an SUV with legitimate off-road credentials that would have seating for up to eight people and all the refinement and trimmings found in the X7 and smaller X models. I have reached out to both automakers to see if there is any truth to these rumors and I will let you know when I hear back. Mind you, I’m not convinced that such a model will actually happen, and would suggest you take these claims with a handful of salt. However, it is not impossible that Toyota and BMW intend on extending their partnership following the success of the Supra and Z4. Doing so in the SUV market would make sense, given the popularity of such vehicles. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN could cement a wide-reaching partnership with Ford by the end of next month. VW is scheduled to vote on the proposed tie-up at its July 11 board meeting. In January, Volkswagen announced it had struck a tentative agreement with Ford to jointly produce commercial trucks and vans; inside sources say that measure will get top billing at the July meeting, and is expected to pass. Those in-the-know told that VW’s board is also considering voting to extend its pact with Ford to include electric and autonomous vehicles. Such a partnership has been rumored, but timing has not been previously disclosed. It’s believed that a tech tie-up would see Volkswagen offering its electric vehicle architecture to Ford while Ford, via its autonomous affiliate Argo AI, would give VW access to its self-driving technology. Look for official word to come down sometime after the July 11 meeting. +++

 

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