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+++ AUDI has revealed that its upcoming e-Tron GT will be manufactured alongside the R8 at Audi Sport’s production facilities at Böllinger Höfe, Germany from late 2020. The German car manufacturer is in the middle of upgrading the site to accommodate the electric sports car. Approximately 10,000 square meters of floor space is being added with the expanded site set to offer additional logistics halls, a larger body shop and new assembly areas. Whereas the body shop used for the Audi R8 uses a mixture of robots and skilled technicians, the e-Tron GT body shop will be highly automated. New conveyor systems are being installed by Audi and the electric vehicle’s body shop will also include an electrified monorail system. “Since the Böllinger Höfe was already created in the design phase as a small-series production facility with innovative and flexible production processes, that gives us the ideal conditions to produce the e-tron GT alongside the Audi R8”, production manager Wolfgang Schanz said. “Here a unique combination of craftsmanship and smart factory is coming to life”. Audi unveiled the e-tron GT in concept form at last year’s Los Angeles Auto Show and the car is tipped to reach production by the end of 2020. While that’s still some time away, the striking looks of the car and its promised performance should be enough to convince customers it is worth the wait. The e-tron GT concept was outfitted with a pair of electric motors pumping out 600 hp receiving their juice from a sizeable battery pack offering up a claimed range exceeding 400 km. +++ 

+++ BMW is set to name Oliver Zipse as its new chief executive, picking the manufacturing expert to help the German automaker make the shift to electric and self-driving cars and tackle new competition from technology giants. The company’s supervisory board will discuss new leadership at BMW’s U.S. plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, after 53-year-old Harald Krüger said he would not be available for a second term as CEO. Zipse, 55, is now the front runner, with 59-year-old board member for research Klaus Fröhlich also a contender, company sources told. A fluent English speaker who joined BMW as a trainee in 1991, Zipse has risen through the ranks, holding posts including head of brand and product strategies before becoming board member for production. Zipse has emerged as favorite because BMW’s efficient production network, which he expanded in Hungary, China and the United States, has helped the company deliver industry-leading profit margins despite its relatively small scale. But experts say auto industry leaders also need other skills for the new era of software-driven electric and autonomous cars. “A CEO needs to have an idea for how mobility will evolve in future. This goes far beyond optimizing an existing business”. said Carsten Breitfeld, chief executive of China-based Iconiq motors, himself a former BMW engineer. “He needs to be able to build teams, to attract key talent, and to promote a culture which is increasingly oriented along consumer electronics and internet dynamics”. Being able to cope with shorter product cycles and new technologies, and a willingness to take bold decisions, are among the qualities needed, Breitfeld said. BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz have dominated the market for high-performance limousines for decades, but analysts warn a shift towards more sophisticated technology and software is opening the door to new challengers. “Tesla has a lead of 3 to 4 years in areas like software and electronics. The millennials are much more focused on these things. There is a risk that the Germans can’t catch up”, UBS analyst Patrick Hummel said. BMW had an early lead in premium electric vehicles but throttled back its ambitions after the i3, an expensive city car, failed to sell in large numbers, leading Tesla to overtake BMW in electric car sales. Krüger’s reluctance to push low-margin electric vehicles led to an exodus of talented engineers, including junior managers like Christian Senger, now Volkswagen’s board member responsible for software, and Markus Duesmann, who is seen as a future Audi CEO. Duesmann and Senger were poached by Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess, himself a former BMW board member responsible for research who defected in 2015 to implement a bold €80 billion electric car strategy at VW. Zipse, who prefers suits and ties to open shirts and sneakers, will need to ramp up BMW’s software expertise as new players like Amazon and Google muscle into the mobility sector. “Production expertise is important, but if you want to avoid ending up being a hardware provider for Google or Apple, you need to have the ability to move up the food chain into data and software”, a former BMW board member said, declining to be identified. +++ 

+++ CADILLAC is allegedly working on a hotter evolution of the XT4 crossover, and a leak has given us our first look at the model well before its unveiling. Tentatively called XT4-V, the hot-rodded soft-roader is tentatively scheduled to go on sale in 2020. On 2 leaked photos, the back end of the XT4 is wearing a V emblem and a 2.7 T logo. There are also quad exhaust tips and a carbon fiber insert in the hatch. The V emblem’s placement corresponds to a pair of teaser sketches that Cadillac released in October of 2018. The 2.7 T logo is out of line with Cadillac’s latest naming system, but it hints the XT4-V is powered by a turbocharged, 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine already found in the CT4-V. It makes 320 hp and 500 Nm, so it could generate the same output in the XT4-V. To add context, the standard XT4’s 2.0-liter turbo four delivers 237 hp and 350 Nm. Transmission options remain unconfirmed, but it’s worth noting the 2.7-liter shifts through a 10-speed automatic in the CT4. It’s mounted longitudinally, though. Cadillac hasn’t commented and it hasn’t announced plans to add a V-badged XT4 to its line-up of models. Keep in mind V now stands for mid-range models, like AMG’s 53-badged cars, and full-fat performance models (like the now-defunct ATS-V) will likely be badged Blackwing moving forward. The Cadillac CTS’ high price tag was blamed for lackluster sales and it appears the company has acknowledged this as the new CT5 will cost $9,105 less than the outgoing model. The entry-level CT5 Luxury will have a base price of $37,890. That’s significantly less than the CTS and similarly sized vehicles such as the Audi A6 ($54,100), BMW 5-Series ($53,400) and Mercedes E-Class ($53,500). Cadillac hasn’t released detailed specifications, but the automaker has previously confirmed the CT5 Luxury will come standard with LED lighting units, active noise cancellation technology and forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking. Buyers will also find a 10-inch infotainment system and voice recognition technology. Power is provided by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 237 hp and 350 Nm. The engine is connected to a 10-speed automatic transmission and a standard rear-wheel drive system. Buyers looking for something more luxurious can opt for the mid-level CT5 Premium Luxury which starts at $41,690. The model boasts additional equipment including auto-dimming mirrors, rear park assist and a blind spot warning system. Inside, customers will find leather seats, a wireless smartphone charger and LED ambient lighting. The CT5 Sport will carry a base price of $42,690 and it features unique styling inside and out. Exterior changes include sportier fascias, a revised grille and standard 19-inch alloy wheels. The model also has rocker extensions, a rear spoiler and black accents. The sporty styling continues in the cabin as drivers will find heavily bolstered front seats and a steering wheel with magnesium paddle shifters. The model also has carbon fiber trim and Brembo front brakes. All-wheel drive will be optional, but it’s a tad pricey as it adds $2,600 – $3,090 to the base price. On the bright side, Cadillac throws in the Cold Climate Package which includes heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. The CT5 will go on sale this fall and it will eventually be joined by the new CT5-V. +++ 

+++ Key DAIMLER investors oppose Dieter Zetsche’s elevation to chairman of the automaker’s supervisory board. Zetsche, 66, was succeeded as Daimler CEO in May by Ola Källenius, 49. Daimler’s current chairman, Manfred Bischoff, plans to recommend Zetsche’s election as his successor to take effect at the end of the annual meeting in 2021, following a 2-year transition period. Some investors are resisting the plan because they regard Zetsche as responsible for problems at the automaker that include falling profits, a costly diesel emissions recall in Europe that has still not been resolved, and recalls connected with problems with Takata airbags. “A return of Dieter Zetsche to the supervisory board is completely out of the question for us”, Michael Muders, fund manager at Union Investment, was quoted as saying. Marc Tuengler, CEO of the German Association for the Protection of Securities Holdings, said it is “almost inconceivable” that Zetsche should move to the supervisory board, “let alone take over its chairmanship”. Last month, Daimler cut its profit forecast for the fourth time in 13 months as it struggles to meet costs related to diesel emissions and recalls. Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz vans unit has seen profitability plunge, with reports saying that the unit will drop the X-class pickup. Among investors’ criticism is that Zetsche repeatedly assured shareholders that Daimler, unlike Volkswagen Group, did not use any cheating software, even though Daimler is currently being investigated in Germany over allegations over such offenses. In Germany, a company’s supervisory board signs off on strategy and major decisions, hires senior managers and sets their pay. Its members are not involved in operational decisions. These are carried out by a management board led by the CEO. +++ 

+++ FERRARI enthusiasts will have the opportunity to go behind the scenes at the company’s factory in Maranello, Italy this September. A special event dubbed Universo Ferrari will be held in a vast purpose-built structure providing the public with the opportunity to see the company’s current line-up, some of its greatest racing cars, and many of its most iconic road cars from years gone by. The Italian car company usually reserves the privilege to experience its Maranello facilities to its clientele, and this will be the first time such an opportunity is offered to those without a Prancing Horse in their garage. Those attending the event will be treated to the European public debut of the company’s latest and (arguably) greatest supercar, the SF90 Stradale. Unveiled just a couple of months ago, the SF90 Stradale is Ferrari’s first series-production hybrid supercar and features a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 operating alongside a trio of electric motors. The powertrain pumps out a total of 1.000 hp, more than the LaFerrari, and will reach 100 km/h in a blistering 2.5 seconds and max out at 340 km/h. What’s particularly exciting about the SF90 Stradale is that, while it will offer hypercar-levels of performance, it will be priced like a supercar and is expected to start at around $500,000 to $600,000. Ferrari intends on announcing more details, as well as the cost of attendance, about this special event in the coming weeks. +++ 

+++ FORD has fired back over a recent story accusing the company of selling the Focus and Fiesta with a transmission defect that was never addressed via a safety recall. A report claims 2010-2011 vehicles equipped with the Powershift transmission randomly lost power on highways and “unexpectedly bolted into intersections”. Ford allegedly ignored a development engineers warning that the “car’s weren’t roadworthy”, then declined to “make an expensive change” to the transmission technology. In its lengthy response, Ford admitted that the transmissions experience “a degree of vibration, or shudder” but that the vibration is “effectively a tradeoff for the higher level of fuel efficiency” and there was no negative effect on durability or safety. The company also admits that “on a much smaller scale, a potential for the transmission to default to neutral, developed only after several years of real-world use” and the issue was eventually traced to a faulty control module. Addressing the claim of sudden acceleration, Ford says it has “not seen that occur with the Powershift transmission” and there is no engineering cause-and-effect basis for the allegation. “Ford has been persistent in addressing these quality problems”, the company said. “We have gone to great lengths investigating the issues, alerting dealers and consumers, recommending and making repairs, and extending warranties. Resolving the problems took longer than we expected. We regret the frustration and inconvenience this has caused”. The transmission problems are at the center of a class-action lawsuit that is due to be settled. +++ 

+++ INDONESIA is aiming to start producing electric vehicles (EVs) in 2022, a senior official at the Industry Ministry told, after a number of companies disclosed plans to invest in the country. Indonesia is pushing for the development of EV and battery production facilities to create a downstream industry for the country’s rich supplies of nickel laterite ore, which is used in lithium batteries. Companies such as Toyota and Hyundai have expressed interest in building EV plants in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s second-largest car production hub. Toyota has committed to invest $2 billion in Indonesia over the next 5 years, part of which will be used to produce EVs, Industry Minister Airlangga Hartarto, told reporters. “By 2022, production of electric-based vehicles should start”, said Harjanto, director general of metal, machinery, transportation and electronics at the Industry Ministry, adding that the government has targeted EVs to reach a 20 % share of national car production by 2025. Speaking on the sidelines of Indonesia’s largest car show, Harjanto said the government is finalising the revision of a luxury car tax scheme to encourage the production of cars with lower carbon emissions. The government is also offering tax holidays for companies producing EV batteries in Indonesia. “Recently there were a few battery companies which met the industry minister, but it is still an initial intention”, Harjanto said, declining to name the companies. “They see Indonesia has big potential to develop electric-based products due to the availability of raw material”, he said. Several companies are currently developing smelters with high pressure acid leach technology to produce battery chemicals in Indonesia, including China’s Tsingshan Group. +++ 

+++ LOTUS is preparing for an expansion under Chinese owner Geely Automobile Holdings that could see the British automaker open a second UK factory and target new markets by building higher-volume models in China. Lotus plans to triple output at its base in Hethel, eastern England, to slightly more than 5,000 cars a year and could reach 10,000 if it adopts a double-shift work pattern, the CEO said in an interview. Further increases might require a new plant elsewhere in the country, he said. Popham described Lotus as a “70-year-old startup” after the launch of its first new car in 10 years. The €1.9 million all-electric Evija will be followed by a solely combustion-engine model to be revealed in 2020, after which all subsequent cars will have electric variants, possibly skipping a hybrid option which the CEO said can add too much weight for a sports design. Lotus’s 10-year growth plan includes an expansion into new segments, Popham said after unveiling the Evija at an event in London where it displayed past models including the 1960s-vintage Elan and the wedge-shaped Esprit. That could include anything from an SUV through a crossover model to a sedan. The company made 1,632 cars in 2018 and expects to top 1,700 this year. Geely chief technical officer Feng Qingfeng, also CEO of Group Lotus following a takeover by the Zhejiang-based automaker in 2017, told journalists that while Lotus’s core sports lineup would continue to be built in the UK, higher-volume models could be made in China. “The manufacturing location depends on the local advantage”, he said. “The UK is good at making hand-made cars, so sports and hypercars. In China we may have more advantage in infrastructure for mass-production cars”. Popham said there is scope for Lotus to work with other Geely companies, which include Volvo Cars and Proton of Malaysia, the UK brand’s former owner, though there is no question of re-badging other platforms with the name, and neither would the same model be made in multiple locations. The CEO said Lotus has secured the first few orders for the Evija in recent weeks and expects to sell the “halo” model, which will have a production run of just 130 cars, to buyers from around the world. Despite the Evija’s hypercar credentials, which will see it vie with the Pininfarina Battista and Rimac Automobili’s Concept One, as well as top-end conventional models from automakers such as Ferrari and Lamborghini, Popham said future cars will remain within Lotus’s established €95,000 to €285,000 price bracket in The Netherlands, though there is some scope for moving upscale. Feng ruled out an early return to Formula 1, where Lotus was once a dominant force, while saying he expects the company to do more in motor sport generally. Lotus has no major concerns about Brexit, Popham said. A UK split from the European Union on Oct. 31 now seems likely given commitments from the candidates to succeed Theresa May as prime minister, he said. The company has stockpiled parts in case of a no-deal exit, but the CEO said any impact would be limited and predicted that new trade accords would be rapidly concluded. “We are a nation that’s historically one of the biggest traders in the global market, always have been, always will be, so it’s matter of time before a new deal is done with Europe and other trading partners around the world”, he said. Lotus unveiled the stunning Evija, but a number of fans had an important question: where are the replacements for the aging Elise, Exige and Evora? Lotus CEO Phil Popham is providing the answer as he talked about the company’s future. He explained, the automaker believes “that if you want to make ripples, you have to make a splash”. As a result, the first all-new Lotus unveiled under Geely’s ownership was the eye-catching Evija. Popham didn’t go into too many specifics, but confirmed a new “combustion-powered sports car” will be introduced late next year. It will go on sale in 2021, but there’s no word on what it is at this point. The upcoming model will have a petrol engine, but Popham said vehicles that arrive later will be available with an electric powertrain. The executive also suggested the company could skip hybrids altogether, but that’s not a certainty at this point. Little is known about the upcoming sports car, but it will likely resemble the Evija as the company has previously said the car “signals the start of a contemporary new design language” for Lotus. The automaker also revealed the design will “evolve and reappear on future high-performance cars”. +++ 

+++ Renault is confident that alliance partner NISSAN ’s new board will work to reinforce their partnership as it struggles to turn the page on the Carlos Ghosn scandal, chairman Jean-Dominique Senard said. Nissan shareholders last month approved the appointment of a new board at the Japanese carmaker with a more international profile as well as Senard and his Renault Chief Executive Thierry Bolloré. “There is a change”, Senard told reporters in a briefing at Renault headquarters. “We have a new board that is conscious of its fiduciary duty. Let that board work”. Senard expressed confidence that Nissan directors would see alliance cooperation as essential in the face of challenges facing the auto industry. “Necessity sometimes helps”, he said. Senard, appointed in January to replace an absent Ghosn (now awaiting trial in Japan on financial misconduct charges he denies) has had a turbulent first 6 months at Renault’s helm. Alliance relations, already strained by Ghosn’s arrest, were further tested by Senard’s failed attempts first to secure a full Renault-Nissan merger and later to combine Renault with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), a move thwarted by the French state. Renault currently owns 43.4 % of Nissan, whose 15 % reciprocal stake in its French parent carries no voting rights. While insisting the focus now was on alliance operations, Senard stopped short of ruling out either a full Renault-Nissan merger or a revival of deal talks with FCA. “I’m not pushing anything”, the Renault chairman said, but added: “If the board is conscious about its role, it will have to consider all the options”. Confronted with trade risks and the investment demands of electrification and autonomous driving, “anything that can bring synergies and cash flow is good”, he said. No tie-up talks with FCA are ongoing as of today, Senard also said, while making clear he would still support a revived deal. “Everyone has the right to dream”. +++ 

+++ The PORSCHE Taycan is edging towards its global premiere at September’s Frankfurt Auto Show and a number of new details about the car have been published following demo rides provided to journalists at the recent Goodwood Festival of Speed. The electric sedan will be sold in a number of different configurations. Sitting at the base of the Taycan family will be a model equipped with an 80 kWh battery pack and offered with either 330 hp or 385 hp electric motors driving the rear wheels. One step up in the range will land customers behind the wheel of the Taycan Carrera 4S, set to be equipped with a larger 96 kWh battery pack and available in 440 hp or 500 hp guises with all-wheel drive. The range-topping model will be badged the Taycan Turbo and include a pair of electric motors with more than 600 hp and 879 Nm and up to 1.000 Nm for 10-second periods of overboost. Prices for the entry-level models will start in the low €90,000 range while the 440 hp and 500 hp models will be priced just below the €120,000 mark. Prices for the range-topping Taycan Turbo should start at around €165,000. The Taycan Turbo will have up to 515 km of range and incorporate a 2-speed transmission. It should reach 100 km/h in 3.2 seconds. While that is slower than the Tesla Model S P100D, Porsche says drivers will be able to perform 10 full-throttle 0-100 km/h runs without experiencing any decrease in performance. Top speed for this model will sit at 260 km/h. At a later date, the Porsche Taycan may be offered in Turbo S guise with 750 hp while a lighter, rear-wheel drive Taycan GTS model is also thought to be in the works. +++ 

+++ RENAULT has teamed up with the Coscharis Group in order to produce and distribute a total of 4 budget models in Nigeria. Dacia Logan and Duster models will be build in an existing Coscharis assembly facility in Lagos starting this October, while the Kwid and Oroch pickup will be imported from Brazil. All 4 models will be distributed through the Coscharis Motors sales network that already operates in Nigeria. “With a population of over 200 million, Nigeria is a strategic African country where Groupe Renault will extend its footprint. The Coscharis Group is a recognized player in vehicle assembly and distribution. Thanks to their expertise and our products adapted to the local needs, we will be able to answer immediately to the customers demand in Nigeria”, said Renault exec Fabrice Cambolive. Currently, Renault is a leader in Africa, holding an 18 % market share. Last year, they sold more than 216,000 cars there, with the most volume being moved in Morocco, Algeria, South Africa and Egypt. Now, one of the automaker’s main objectives is to respond to the demands of a new emerging middle class in countries such as Nigeria. “This partnership is to showcase another initiative from our great organization through one of our subsidiaries, Coscharis Motors, to further create value as a key player in the automobile industry in Nigeria; we are glad to celebrate the confidence the renowned brand, Renault reposed in us to represent them in Nigeria. This milestone marks another step in the evolution of our organization towards remaining timeless in its relevance”, said Cosmas Maduka, president and CEO of the Coscharis Group. “This partnership is to further delight the esteemed loyal customers and prospects alike, especially towards providing them a bouquet of more options and value for money”. +++ 

+++ SKODA will rework its Karoq and Kodiaq for 2020, adding a range of technology, styling and driveline updates. The revised models will go on sale later this year. Both models will be offered with a revised version of Skoda’s Side Assist advanced blind spot monitoring system, which increases both SUVs detection range from 20 metres to 70 metres. The warning signals have also been made more noticeable to the driver, being relocated from the mirror glass to the insides of the wing mirrors. Skoda’s optional adaptive chassis is also now available on front-wheel-drive versions of the Karoq and Kodiaq. The electronically adjustable suspension system automatically calibrates both SUVs’ damping to the current road conditions or the preferred driving style. Drivers can also manually choose from three driving modes. The Karoq will be offered with Skoda’s turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder diesel engine, producing 190 hp and 400 Nm. The unit already features in the larger Kodiaq SUV, and will be mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and an all-wheel-drive system as standard. Both SUVs will feature “Skoda” lettering on their tailgates in place of the brand’s emblem, while the Kodiaq will be offered with a fresh set of 20-inch alloy wheels. The Karoq can be specced with new temperature-regulating leather upholstery, while an individual tyre pressure monitoring system is available as an option for all cars fitted with 18-inch alloys or larger. +++ 

+++ Every now and then, the defects of a new car are so serious that they cannot be fixed. SUBARU knows this all too well as, last year, a bunch of Ascents were recalled and, instead of being repaired, owners were given a brand new one. That issue was attributed to the welding robots at the plant that makes the SUV, and a similar problem, which affects the 2019 Legacy and Outback, has now been discovered. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) explained that “spot welds located on the duct below the cowl panel may have been improperly applied, impacting the vehicle’s body strength”. In the event of an accident, the structure may perform differently than designed, thus increasing the risk of injury and/or possible death. The campaign includes a total of 2,107 vehicles, out of which 12 % are estimated to have this defect. The Legacys were assembled between May 31 and June 5 and the Outbacks from May 31 to June 6. Subaru has already bounced the information off dealers, who will inspect each vehicle and decide whether it can be repaired or has to be repurchased. Owners should expect to hear from the company and won’t have to pay anything for the fix or for their brand new Legacy or Outback, if technicians decide that their rides must be replaced. +++ 

+++ TESLA has released its latest safety report, showing an improvement over the previous quarter. In Q2, Tesla vehicles registered one accident for every 3.27 million miles driven with Autopilot engaged. For comparison, the first quarter of 2019 and fourth quarter of 2018 both counted one accident every 2.9 million miles, while the best number was 3.34 million miles from the third quarter of last year. In the most recent period, vehicles driving with Autopilot disengaged but Tesla’s other safety systems active registered one accident every 2.19 million miles. Without the other safety technology, the fleet experienced an accident every 1.41 million miles. “By comparison, NHTSA’s most recent data shows that in the United States there is an automobile crash every 498,000 miles”, the Q2 report notes. Tesla has faced criticism for its statistics, as the company’s own accident rates are tallied using entirely different methods than the NHTSA’s data. In any case, seasonal variability likely plays a role in the quarter-to-quarter changes. The company has promised to continue posting new numbers every quarter, potentially illuminating the safety implications of Autopilot upgrades as more data is gathered in the coming years. +++ 

+++ VOLVO plans to cut fixed costs by 2 billion Swedish crowns ($214 million) it said, becoming the latest carmaker to warn that pricing pressure and tariffs arising from the China-U.S. trade war were denting profitability. Carmakers are under pressure from trade conflicts, hefty investments to develop electric and driverless cars and an overall downturn in the car industry, with warnings seen from Daimler and BMW. Volvo has rejigged its global production plans in an effort to reduce the impact of tariffs and has begun a review of costs, which CEO Håkan Samuelsson told had led to hourly wage cuts and the elimination of 750 roles, mainly consultants. He said this would lead to 1 billion crowns in savings from July, with the remainder of its promised savings expected to come from measures to be completed by the first half of 2020. Second-quarter operating profit fell 38.1 % to 2.6 billion, a worse quarter-on-quarter drop than first quarter. Volvo said market conditions were expected to continue pressuring margins but it expected volume growth and cost measures to result in a “strengthened” second half compared to the final half of last year. Volkswagen recently raised funds by listing its trucks group Traton after citing improved market conditions, but Samuelsson said reviving Volvo’s stalled IPO was not on the cards. He also said Volvo and Chinese parent Geely were no longer seeking funds for electric brand Polestar. “We have the financing required to push through Polestar cars in the pipeline so external financing is not something that is on our radar right now”. Lower profits complicate the picture for the rollout of driverless cars, with carmakers slowing deployment to well beyond 2025 as delivery of such vehicles proves more expensive than expected and technological limitations raise safety concerns. Volvo’s robotaxi project with Uber was stalled for months after a pedestrian death despite having a safety driver. Through its Veoneer joint venture, Volvo had planned to deliver a passenger car that could be autonomous on highways by 2021. When asked about that, Samuelsson said the car would be delivered “some years after 2020. Volvo will have a highway autopilot and it will be safe and it will be able to handle all situations when it’s engaged. Exactly how often you can engage it and at what speeds will be revealed later on”. Volvo also has a deal with Chinese firm Huawei, which is still under partial U.S. sanctions. Samuelsson said the actions against Huawei would have no impact on Volvo, which is using Huawei’s app store in China, while relying on Google elsewhere in the world. “We have a cooperation with Huawei, but it’s not really about technology’s access to their apps so we don’t see any influence”, he said. Volvo is actively considering expanding its line-up of SUVs to include a larger model above the XC90 and a smaller vehicle below XC40, the company’s CEO has told. The Swedish brand today reported record sales figures of 340,286 vehicles in the first half of 2019. Volvo is undergoing a cost-streaming exercise to help restore profit growth in the second half of the year and fresh production capacity, including the ability to produce the XC40 locally in China, should help the Geely-owned company to continue its progress. However, Samuelsson admitted that while the company’s strong run of sales figures has been achieved through filling obvious holes in its product line-up (completing the ‘90’ and ‘60’ series of models, and working on the successor for the V40 to sit alongside the XC40) it is also considering adding cars in new segments. “Our strategy has been growth but not through adding pure volumes”, Samuelsson said. “We have been going in hard and being better in segments where we have a really strong offerings. That is the basic assumption. And now we also have the production capacity to grow this company, even a bit beyond 800,000-unit figure that we always talked about as a first ambition. “But we are not excluding the idea of additions, especially in very core segments like the SUV. I think we are looking into this possibility now. You should not exclude the idea that there might be a bigger one, but maybe also a smaller one. We will surprise you about that in the future”. The comments expand further on Samuelsson’s admission earlier this summer that Volvo could finally start looking at models to sit below the ‘40’ range helped, perhaps, by Geely technology and the potential to lease small cars instead of selling them at lower prices. “We took one step down with XC40, which is our smallest SUV. We have a very strong line-up of SUVs. So never say never. There is a trend now that premiumness is more and more decoupled from size. Small cars can also be premium. Just because you have a small suit, it doesn’t have to be polyester. So let’s see”. SUVs accounted for 60.7 % of Volvo’s sales in the first half of 2019, up 10 % from a year ago. And the firm expects the figure to nudge 70 % once local XC40 sales take off in China. The Swedish company’s worldwide sales between January and June were up 7.3 % on 2018, despite the struggles of the global car market. Volvo sold 30,026 cars in the UK in the first 6 months of 2019, a year-on-year increase of 30 %. The firm also reported growth of 32 % in Germany and 10.2 % in China, despite the European and Chinese car markets continuing to decline. Samuelsson said the results showed Volvo was now “a real premium alternative” as a brand. Those strong sales helped Volvo achieve record revenues of 130.1 billion SEK; a 5.9 % year-on-year increase. The firm’s operating profit was down, owing to a series of cost-cutting measures and investment in research. The XC60 was Volvo’s best-selling model in the first half of 2019, with 50,946 sales. That was 0.1% down year on year, largely due to a fall in sales in Sweden. Volvo also sold 32,961 examples of the new XC40; up 88.3% on 2018. Samuelsson said the results reflected that “SUVs are the cars people are asking for right now”, and added: “We’ve never had as good product as we have now”. +++

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