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+++ Any knowledgeable investor knows that a company’s profit is only an opinion, while cash is a fact. A peculiar contractual dispute involving the luxury automaker ASTON MARTIN highlighted this difference. Ahead of its initial public offering last October, the British company published a prospectus detailing its recent financial track record. The perennially loss-making company had achieved a small 20.8 million pound ($25.1 million) pretax profit for the first 6 months of 2018. Good news. Yet that result benefited from 20 million pounds of unexpected income booked on the sale of intellectual property to a third-party automaker during the period. The unidentified buyer had approached Aston Martin about acquiring tooling and design drawings for the previous generation Vanquish sports car, as well as ongoing consultancy support. With contracts inked, Aston Martin said it expected the cash to arrive in 5 million pound twice-yearly installments. In hindsight, it was not a good sign that the first of these payments was already overdue at the time the prospectus was published. More than a year after the contract was agreed, Aston Martin has acknowledged that it may never recover the bulk of the money. A disappointing set of results published last month included a one-off 19 million pound provision for doubtful debt. The identity of the recalcitrant counter-party had always been kept a secret, despite plenty of speculation in the automotive trade press about who would want the old Vanquish designs, and to what end. But during a call with analysts, Aston Martin’s management inadvertently let the secret out. A China-based electric sportscar startup called Detroit Electric had sought the company’s help in developing a vehicle chassis system, but then failed to make the required payments. Detroit Electric is the brainchild of Albert Lam, a former director at the UK automaker Lotus. The headquarters of this aspiring Tesla are in Hong Kong, but its website boasts there’s also a “state-of-the-art vehicle development and manufacturing base” in Leamington Spa, England, which is roughly 15 miles from Aston Martin’s HQ. My various attempts to reach the company for comment were unsuccessful. The latest available accounts of Detroit Electric’s UK subsidiary show a loss and net liabilities for the 2017 financial year, while indicating that financial support from group companies remained available. Aston Martin appears to be the disadvantaged party here, but its management credibility has taken another knock. The shares have collapsed by almost 75 % since October as it’s dawned on investors that the company might not be as resilient as it made out at the time of the listing. A slowdown in sales volumes in its wholesale business has put a dent in any aspirations to take on Ferrari and to be valued like a luxury goods company rather than a straight automaker. It also makes the decision not to bolster the balance sheet with new money at the time of the listing seem reckless. The automaker generates little cash but has almost 850 million pounds of net debt and lease liabilities. Thus 20 million pounds is a lot of money to simply go astray. It’s flattering accounting in which the company capitalizes almost all of its development costs, instead of expensing them in its profit statement, can’t paper over these flaws. As with those R&D costs, Aston Martin was perfectly within its rights to book the income from Detroit Electric when it did. But it took a while to admit the contract was a bust. Next time a company tells you it has had an unexpected windfall, be sure to check the money’s in the bank. +++ 

+++ The electrified revolution is underway at BMW , who plans to launch a wide range of cars that will benefit from partial or total electrification. One model that’s tipped to join the fray, perhaps as early as next year, is a plug-in hybrid version of the new 1-Series. Allegedly dubbed the M140e, it’s expected to pack a 2.0-liter, turbo-4, an electric motor and a 35 kWh battery, for a total output of 400 horsepower and an electric range of 80-113 km. Another car BMW may be working on is the X8. The M version of the X6’s larger sibling is thought to arrive in 2022. If that turns out to be accurate, then expect it with up to 750 horsepower from a PHEV powertrain, with a V8 and an electric motor. It could also get an on-demand RWD mode, similar to the M5. Leaving the BMW M’s backyard leads us to the ‘i’ cars, and the list here is quite long, so bear with us. You get the iX3, a CLAR-based X3 with a RWD electric powertrain made for global markets in China, launching perhaps next year, the iNext that’s due one year later and i4 expected about the same time. Providing a glimpse into the i12, said to be on course for 2022, was the Vision M Next Concept, whereas the iX1, which will retire the i3 as a FWD-based crossover, is also tipped to arrive in 3 years. The i5 and i7, which will be EV derivatives of the next 5- and 7-Series, respectively, are also a few years away from being introduced. The 2-Series Active Tourer will get a comprehensive makeover in 2022, phasing out the ICE engines for an EV variant. Elsewhere, the successors of the outgoing X3, X5 and X7, believed to make their way into the market between 2024 to 2027, will spawn zero-emission versions, too. +++ 

+++ General Motors may have given the CADILLAC CT 6 a new lease of life by extending production at the Detroit Hamtramck facility until January 2020, but what happens next is anyone’s guess. As it turns out, the automaker is willing to keep the model in its lineup. Cadillac president Steve Carlisle has revealed in an interview that this depends on how the ongoing negotiations with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union turn out. According to the Carlisle, anything beyond January 2020 is “tied up, to a great extent with United Auto Workers negotiations”. As things stand right now, GM will shut down the Detroit-Hamtramck plant at the beginning of next year, effectively discontinuing the Cadillac CT6 and Chevrolet Impala sedans. GM’s contract with the UAW runs out in mid-September, and talks to ratify a new labor agreement begun last month. The automaker does not seem keen to drop the CT6, however, as the luxury sedan serves as a flagship for Cadillac. The tech-laden model was only introduced in 2016 and recently received its first facelift for the 2019 model year. Still, this likely won’t stop GM from using the threat of closing Detroit-Hamtramck as leverage in the negotiations with UAW. But even if the plant is shut down come January 2020, that does not necessarily mean the CT6 will be dropped from the U.S. market as The General has already said it was considering building the luxury sedan at another plant or importing it from China. However, the latter option seems unlikely in light of the ongoing trade war between the 2 countries. It looks like GM is keeping its cards close to the chest at the moment regarding the fate of the CT6 in North America as it juggles with the UAW negotiations and the ongoing restructuring efforts. One thing is certain, though: the CT6 will live on in China, where it is very popular. +++ 

+++ Some people love the design of the 6th generation CHEVROLET CAMARO while others absolutely hate it. No matter how you feel, the man who penned the vehicle’s design has no regrets about the design direction he took. The Camaro exterior design director, Tom Peters, who retired from General Motors earlier this year, says he has no regrets: “We had the same team working on Camaro and C7. We wanted to add more sculpture, more flavor, and more unique shape to the 6th-generatioon”. Controversy really hit the Chevrolet Camaro in early 2018 when the car manufacturer unveiled the facelifted model. The updated Camaro SS proved to be particularly disliked thanks in part to the relocation of its bowtie badge off the upper front grille and onto the center of the fascia. The internet didn’t hold back in its critique of the car’s new look and Chevrolet rushed to alter the design, premiering its Camaro SS Shock Concept just a few months later at last year’s SEMA Show. The 2020 Camaro facelift was introduced in May with the concept’s tweaked design. While Chevrolet continues to update the Camaro, it might not stick around for all that long. In fact, a report from June claimed that work was recently suspended on the 7th generation Camaro and that the car could soon be axed from the car manufacturer’s line-up. +++ 

+++ When did General Motors decide to move the CHEVROLET CORVETTE ’s engine location? It’s been a long, slow process beginning with Zora Arkus Duntov’s push for a mid-engine layout in the 1950s. Even while several mid-engine concepts were produced (primarily in the 1960s and ’70s), the walls at GM’s Design Center have continued to be plastered with drawings exploring such a Corvette. The C8’s exterior design chief, Kirk Bennion, even sketched such a car before GM hired him in 1984. “As a young man in college, I created a mid-engine Corvette” at the Cleveland Institute of Art, Bennion says. “Back then we did one-fifth-scale cars. We did them in clay and we molded them, then we made them out of fiberglass. That’s probably everyone’s wish list when you’re in college. The first year I was hired in, we were all sketching on what you know as the Corvette Indy. GM design chief Chuck Jordan opened up that entire exercise to every designer in the building”. He worked in John Cafaro’s studio on the second-generation Pontiac Fiero that never happened and began designing Corvettes in 1986, including the second generation of Hendricks Racing’s GTP Corvette race car. Bennion spent 9 years on trucks (none of them mid-engine) before he became a regular in the Corvette studio about 2000. A few years later, the advanced engineering department approached Bennion and said, “we’ve got a couple of guys working on a mid-engine package. Would you work with them?” Bennion’s team benchmarked other cars, “what was in the marketplace, the size of the Porsche Boxster/Cayman and things. Then we had to get a feel for what kind of size and package we would want this car to have. And then, we actually got into a seating buck, had a full-size clay, and then we hit bankruptcy” in 2009. “There was no more money in the checking account”. Mid-engine talk started up again about 2011 or ’12 as the new GM’s financial fortunes turned around. “We’re starting to put together a kind of bill of goods as to what we’d want to do if we could do that car”. After a dozen years officially (and nearly 4 decades unofficially) drawing mid-engine Corvettes, Bennion is proud of what he and his team designed in the face of some harsh comments, including our own. “We took the interior cockpit and we moved that forward 16 and a half inches because that gave you the same entry and egress that you have on the front-engine car. The same way people would get in and out of their front-engine Corvettes is the same way you get in and out of this mid-engine Corvette”. It’s not a minor detail, especially considering the relatively small aperture of mid-engine Ferraris. The C8 Stingray is 5.4 inches longer than the C7 Stingray, which often felt like a bigger car than it was thanks to its long hood. The C6 and C7 were slightly shorter than contemporary Porsche 911s. But the new mid-engine car’s extra length is a result of the pointed nose, which you can see easily from the plan view. The rest of the car is really much closer in overall length to the front-engine C7, which you can see by studying the overhang past the front wheels. The more compact feel of the mid-engine car is striking from behind the wheel. In previous models, the hood stretches out past your vision, more muscle car than sports car. In the C8, the front hood drops off to the point you can see only the flare of the front fenders. At the fenders’ leading edges are Bennion’s favorite detail. “We’ve got this all-new LED headlamp shape”, he says. “It’s horizontal, no longer a round projector, with a semi-circle face to it. We’re basically taking that headlamp, pushing it against the tire and down on top of the radiator, while pushing it in that corner. Getting that lamp function really enabled that sleek pattern”. The controversial black-painted rear quarter windows hide the shoulder-belt anchors. In back, Z51 buyers will have a choice of a body-color or carbon-fiber rear spoiler. Many details of the C8 that have come under fire are functional elements, to aid aerodynamics or engine cooling, including for higher-performance versions, Bennion says. Unlike mid-engine Ferraris, the Corvette targa coupe and the convertible will share the same windshield. The black “gaiters” on the rocker panels are for deflecting stones and avoiding chipped paint. In back, the sheet-molding compound vents with aluminum mesh bookending the rear window allow engine heat to escape. The rearview mirror camera at the backlight’s leading edge, the rear glass’s subtle curve and lower notch, and the Stingray badge are subtle references to the split-window ’63. Bennion acknowledges that design of all of the Corvettes through the years have been influenced by European sports cars such as Jaguar and Ferrari while deflecting comparisons between the C8 and current mid-engine Ferraris. Influences of popular culture, military aircraft, past iterations, and the needs of racing teams who will run the C8.R are key. Like most previous models (except perhaps for the overly clean C4) the C8 is designed to look like it’s doing 200 mph standing still. “The charm of the Corvette is it’s always the sign of the times. You can look at each model and it’s always reflective as to what’s happening around it. That’s what makes the car resonate, makes them popular. We talk about this car being like a jet fighter, military aircraft influenced. Those aircraft have a very assertive stance. We want to make the car assertive. Where it’s got this ready-to-pounce stance”. A few feet from our conversation, a dozen or so middle-school-aged girls swarm the C8 on display and take turns in the driver’s seat. They’re on a special visit from the You Make a Difference organization with a one-week summer sketch workshop designing emergency response vehicles. With an electric e-Ray Corvette still under possible consideration, I wonder what their drawings of that car would look like. +++ 

+++ In CHINA , sales of new energy vehicles (NEVs) fell 4.7 % in July from a year earlier, the first drop in more than 2 years, data from the country’s biggest auto industry association showed. NEV sales fell to 80,000 units last month in China. That compared with a growth of 80 % in NEV sales in June. Overall auto sales in the world’s biggest vehicle market fell 4.3 % in July, down for a 13th consecutive month, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said. That followed declines of 9.6 % in June and 16 % in May, as well as the first annual contraction last year since the 1990s against a backdrop of slowing economic growth and a crippling trade war with the United States. “The main reason for new energy vehicle sales decline in July is the switch of policies”, said Chen Shihua, assistant secretary general at the CAAM, referring to China’s move to cut NEV subsidies last month. Beijing said in March it would cut the subsidy for battery electric cars with a range of 400 kilometers and above to 25,000 yuan ($3,537) per vehicle from 50,000 yuan. It also raised the standards for vehicles eligible for subsidies, saying that EVs need to have a range of at least 250 kilometers, compared with 150 kilometers previously. CAAM has previously said it expects China auto sales to drop 5 % year-on-year to 26.68 million vehicles this year. It had trimmed its forecast for a rise in NEV sales to 1.5 million, versus a previous forecast of 1.6 million. The prolonged sales decline has made local automakers from Geely to Great Wall cut expectation on sales and profit. It has also prompted some global names such as PSA Group to close plants and adjust their workforces. China has since January been trying to boost consumption of wide-ranging goods as the world’s No. 2 economy slows further in 2019 amid the trade spat with the U.S. But its measures to spur car sales have disappointed as they included no plans to relax controls over the issuance of new licenses for combustion-engine cars in major cities. The implementation of NEV emission standards earlier than the central government’s 2020 deadline by 15 cities and provinces, which account for over 60 % of car sales in China, have spooked buyers too and hurt sales, according to CAAM, analysts, dealers and consumers. +++ 

+++ Henrik FISKER ‏has been teasing his upcoming crossover for what feels like an eternity, but he decided to mix things up by revealing plans for 2 additional models. The designer was tight-lipped on specifics, but confirmed the vehicles will be launched sometime after the crossover and ride on the same platform that underpins the upcoming electric vehicle. He also has plans for a pickup. The truck will face a lot of competition as a number of automakers have announced plans for electric pickups. Rivian’s R1T is probably one of the best-known and it’s scheduled to go into production in 2020 with a starting price of $69,000. However, they’re far from the only automaker working on an electric truck. Ford teased their electric F-150 last month in a stunt that involved a prototype pulling 10 double-decker train cars loaded with 42 F-150s. General Motors has also confirmed plans for an electric pickup, but the elephant in the room is Tesla. Their truck will be unveiled later this year and will undoubtedly attract a lot of attention and, presumably, pre-orders. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS will shut down its CAMI Assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario for a week starting September 30 and will cut 1 of 3 shifts at the San Luis Potosi factory in Mexico from August 12. What do these 2 facilities have in common? They both build the Chevrolet Equinox, one of GM’s best-selling models. The Canadian plant supplies the local and U.S. market, while the Mexican factory builds Equinox crossovers for domestic and Latin American markets. In addition, San Luis Potosi also assembles the Chevrolet Trax and GMC Terrain crossovers. “In keeping with GM’s strategy to align production with market demand, on August 1, CAMI employees were advised of an upcoming down week. No additional scheduling decisions have been confirmed at this time”, GM Canada spokeswoman Jacqueline Thomson wrote in an email. The company does not rule out additional temporary layoffs later in the year. As for the Mexican plant, GM motivated the decision to cut 1 of the 3 shifts with “variations in the industry forecast in different export markets”. While it may seem a relatively minor production adjustment, GM’s decision to cut Chevrolet Equinox production in Canada and Mexico comes amid declining new-vehicle sales in the Americas and could offer clues about an incoming drop in demand for crossovers and SUVs. Basically, GM knows demand for this type of vehicles is waning so it is preparing for it. Despite GM’s precautionary approach, the Chevrolet Equinox is still doing well in the United States, with sales increasing 11 % to 174,157 units in the first half of the year. In Canada, however, sales dropped by 17 % to 9,687 units during the same period. It remains to be seen whether the SUV boom is coming to an end, but growth rates have been so big in recent years that it’s hard to imagine they will stay the same in the long run. +++ 

+++ The first high-performance MERCEDES-AMG version of the recently launched GLB compact SUV will be revealed at this year’s Frankfurt motor show. The Affalterbach firm is developing two 4-wheeldrive versions of the GLB, in both 35 4Matic and 45 4Matic trim. The 35 version, which will feature the same 306 hp 2.0-litre petrol engine found in the A 35 hot hatch, is set to be revealed at Frankfurt, with sales starting later this year. The Mercedes-AMG GLB has previously been spied undergoing development work in both variants. It is differentiated from standard versions by its reduced ride height, larger brake discs, multi-pot calipers and four tailpipes, as opposed to the twin-exit arrangement of the less powerful GLB 35 4Matic prototypes we’ve seen previously. The GLB 45, due on sale next year to rival the Audi RS Q3, is among a number of new Mercedes-AMG models set to run a newly developed 4-cylinder engine based on Mercedes’ turbocharged 2.0-litre ‘M260’ unit. Also due to appear in the A45 4Matic, CLA 45, CLA 45 Shooting Brake and GLA 45, the new powerplant is claimed to develop 387 hp in standard guise and 421 hp in a higher state of tune. In the GLB 45, the new engine will be mated to an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox and a new 4-wheel drive system developed in a partnership between AMG and Austrian engineering specialist Magna Powertrain. It uses electrohydraulic actuation instead of the electro mechanical operation of the 4-wheeldrive system by transverse engine models built by AMG up to now. Among the developments incorporated on the new 4-wheeldrive system is a rear differential featuring 2 separate clutches. They allow it to apportion up to 100 % of power to each of the individual rear wheels in a so-called drift mode that will feature on all upcoming 45-badged models. The GLB 45 is set to crown the upcoming GLB line-up when it goes on sale in 2020. The GLB is the 8th member of Mercedes’ compact car line-up. In standard guise, it offers the choice of either 5 or 7 seats. +++ 

+++ In the most countries, MG made a name for itself during the 1960s and 1970s by selling roadsters that were equal parts fun and finicky. The convertible segment is shrinking all around the world, so the Chinese state-owned company decided to follow buyers into the pickup segment. Called Extender, its first (and, for the time being, only) truck is rolling into showrooms in Thailand. MG designed the Ford Ranger-sized, body-on-frame Extender with a focus on both commercial and leisure uses. It’s not a new model from the ground up; it’s essentially a badge-engineered variant of the Maxus T70 that parent company SAIC Motor builds and sells in China, among other countries. The differences are largely limited to an MG-like grille that falls in line with the automaker’s current design language, and a brand-specific trim structure. Buyers can choose between an extended and a double cab. The only engine offered is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbodiesel rated at 163 horsepower and a stout 380 Nm. Rear-wheel drive and a 6-speed manual transmission come standard, and the upmarket variant offers 4-wheeldrive plus a 6-speed automatic gearbox. As of writing, MG hasn’t announced plans to sell its pickup outside of Thailand, where pricing starts at about $18,000. Launching there might seem random, but it makes perfect sense. Pickups represented 43 % of the 523,770 new vehicles sold on the Thai market during the first half of 2019. The segment is dominated by Japanese models like the Toyota Hilux, the Mitsubishi Triton and the Isuzu D-Max. The Extender is cheaper than its rivals. While the Extender stands out as MG’s only pickup, the firm’s portfolio also includes a pair of crossovers and a big van. It continues to sell hatchbacks and sedans, too, but it’s not planning on returning to the American market anytime soon. +++ 

+++ In the same year that MINI celebrates its 60th anniversary, the firm has just built its 10 millionth model. The 10 millionth car is a 60 Years Edition; the model took centre stage during an event at the firm’s production facility in Oxford where MINI gathered 60 owners of 60 cars; 1 from each year of production. That 10 millionth car is marked out by its British Green paint work, black bonnet stripes, LED spotlights and unique 17-inch 2-tone alloy wheels. Under the bonnet sits a 192 hp 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine from the Cooper S. The landmark model was joined by the first ever Mini built, known as 621 AOK, at the Oxford plant. Built back in 1959 and designed by Alec Issigonis, it was built at the Oxford site where production remained up until 1968 before moving to Longbridge in the West Midlands. BMW acquired the brand back in 1994 and has invested over £2 billion into UK manufacturing sites. Production output from the Oxford plant has risen from 300 cars per day back in 2001 to around 1,000 today. Mini claims a new model rolls off the production line every 67 seconds. The 10 millionth model will join BMW’s heritage fleet, to be used for media engagments and brand events. It isn’t clear whether the car will be sold in the future. +++ 

+++ The Volkswagen Group, BMW and Nissan are among automakers in talks to bring the electric-car revolution to SOUTH AFRICA , as the nation risks being left behind in the global switch to greener vehicles. The industry is preparing a unified stance on electrification to present to the government by the end of the year, Mike Mabasa, CEO of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa, or Naamsa, said in an interview. Among the goals is persuading lawmakers to reduce or drop a 23 % import tariff on electric vehicles to help ramp up nascent domestic sales, he said. Another is to roll out a charging infrastructure in a country where the state-owned power monopoly is in deep financial crisis. Taking steps to boost the popularity of electric vehicles in South Africa is just one part of the equation. The auto industry makes up about 7 % of the country’s economy, according to Naamsa. The sector is one of the more positive aspects of an economy expected to grow at less than 1 % for a second consecutive year. “The country needs to move forward and bring new technologies”, said Mike Whitfield, Nissan’s chairman for the southern Africa region. “The rest of the world will move very fast and if we don’t get going we will be left behind”. South Africa has long been a hub for global automaking, attracting plants operated by seven automakers from Toyota to Isuzu Motors. Last year, the automakers exported almost 210,000 cars to Europe. That’s just under a third of all local production and makes up 60 % of exports. To date, there are no firm plans for full-electric or plug-in hybrid production in South Africa, but the government and industry agreed in 2018 to extend a manufacturing incentive program, creating jobs and enabling models like the BMW X3 and Nissan’s Navara to be produced locally. “The electric-vehicle play in South Africa will not be determined by the South African consumer, but by the requirements of export markets”, Martyn Davies, an auto-industry specialist at Deloitte, said by phone from Johannesburg, adding that the weaker rand is also making exports more attractive. The quality of the local plants of BMW, Ford and Mercedes-Benz are good enough to make retooling quite straightforward, he said, adding that the next product made in South Africa by those automakers could feasibly be electric. Under the terms of the new manufacturing plan, the automakers will have to more than double annual production to as many as 1.4 million vehicles by 2035, and that will not happen without making electric cars as well as gas or diesel, according to Naamsa’s Mabasa. BMW’s i3 and the Jaguar I-Pace are currently the only full-electric models available in the birth country of electric-car pioneer Elon Musk. Nissan is holding off on the launch of the latest Leaf until after an agreement is reached on import tariffs. Elsewhere on the African continent, a plan by Volkswagen to introduce an EV in Rwanda stands in contrast to a lack of other developments. Another barrier to an accelerated electric-car boom in South Africa is Eskom Holdings SOC, the power provider that last week reported an annual loss of almost $1.5 billion and requires an $8.8 billion government bailout over the next 3 years. The utility has been forced to implement intermittent rolling blackouts and is reliant on coal, which is out of step with the environmentally friendly advantages of producing electric cars, Mabasa said. Therefore, the industry paper is likely to lay out a mixture of power sources between Eskom and privately-owned renewable energy projects, he said. But the need to turn around Eskom’s financial situation is likely to be of more pressing concern to the government than using it to enable the electric-car industry, Nissan’s Whitfield said. “There is excess capacity, but quite frankly Eskom’s issues have to be addressed or we will have much bigger problems”, Whitfield said. +++ 

+++ A TESLA electric car caught fire after crashing into a tow truck on a Moscow motorway. Footage of the incident showed the car by the side of the road engulfed in flames and thick black smoke. 2 small explosions occurred within a few seconds of each other. It was not possible to tell which Tesla model the car was and only the metal frame remained after the fire. Tesla stood by safety claims for its Model 3 earlier this week in the face of regulatory scrutiny, while documents showed the top U.S. automotive safety watchdog issued at least five subpoenas since last year seeking information about crashes involving the company’s vehicles. The driver, 41-year-old Alexei Tretyakov, and his children were injured in the crash but escaped from the vehicle before it was destroyed by the fire. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA ’s performance strategy is curious. Even though the company has a rich history of sports cars, it chose to team up with partners for its last 2 projects: the GT86 and the Supra. The man behind both of them is Tetsuya Tada and I recently sat down with him to talk about the future of Toyota’s latest sports car. While the GT86 was co-developed with Subaru, who sells the model as the BRZ, the Supra was developed in concert with the third-generation BMW Z4. It’s a cooperation that took some time to get off the ground. Initially, BMW’s then-CEO Herbert Diess, now head of Volkswagen, wanted to jointly develop a successor of the i8, but Tada declined. After Diess’ departure, talks resumed. But while BMW was interested in continuing the Z4 in the form of a somewhat more lazy cruiser, Tada-san made sure the joint project turned out to be a serious sports car. And a drive in the Supra will reveal that Toyota’s tuning is more in line with its performance purpose than BMW’s convertible. I spoke with Tada-san about the reaction to his car and about where it could go next. One thing is clear: The 340 horsepower rating is not the end of the road. “With a sports car, the promise is to offer more performance with each additional version”, he said. And we can expect additional versions pretty much every year. While Tada won’t confirm actual figures, we believe that the 6-cylinder version of the Supra will get an additional 50 horsepower or so when it is facelifted in about 3 years. But even before, there will be performance upgrades, such as available carbon-ceramic brakes. Tada also told us what not to expect: There will be no manual transmission, despite an outcry in parts of the enthusiast community over the lack of a row-it-yourself shifter. His advice: “Customers who want a manual should choose the Toyota GT86”. What about a roadster version? That’s unlikely to happen as well, as there is already such a model: the BMW Z4. “The relationship between the Supra and the Z4 resembles the relationship between the Porsche Cayman and Boxster”, Tada ventures. Of course, there is more differentiation. While the Supra offers exactly 2 driving modes, tuned to perfection, the BMW Z4 comes with a vast number of modes and 2 transmission maps to fiddle with. The BMW’s steering is also overly heavy, in an artificial effort at sportiness. On the other hand, BMW is one step ahead when it comes to the infotainment system: In the interest of reliability, Toyota says it chose to stick with BMW’s previous generation. A quick spin with Tada-san behind the Supra’s wheel confirms its legitimate sports car credentials. And it makes me want more of the higher-performance future variants he hints at. He smiles: “We have many ideas”. +++

+++ UBER posted a $5.2 billion loss in the second quarter of 2019, which is the ride-hailing company’s largest ever reported loss. That’s a staggering figure, but the bulk of it ($3.9 billion) is stock-based compensation expenses related to Uber’s IPO, which is an one-time cost. In addition, the company reported that revenue growth slowed to 14 % at $3.2 billion, falling short of analysts’ estimates of $3.36 billion. The company’s core ride-hailing business alone grew its revenue by 2 percent, to $2.3 billion. “Our platform strategy continues to deliver strong results, with Trips up 35 % and Gross Bookings up 37 % in constant currency, compared to the second quarter of last year”, said Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s CEO. “In July, the Uber platform reached over 100 million Monthly Active Platform Consumers for the first time, as we become a more and more integral part of everyday life in cities around the world”. Moreover, while the amount of passengers spent on trips rose by 20 %, the amount kept by Uber after paying its drivers increased just by 4 %. Khosrowshahi said that the competitive environment was starting to rationalize and had been “progressively improving” since the first quarter. He added that this year would be the peak for investment, expecting smaller losses for 2020 and 2021. Uber saw its costs rising by 147 % to $8.65 billion this quarter, which includes a sharp rise in research and development spending. “While we will continue to invest aggressively in growth, we also want it to be healthy growth, and this quarter we made good progress in that direction”, Nelson Chai, Uber’s Chief Financial Officer said. +++

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