Newsflash: Nissan zal de 370Z nooit laten vallen

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+++ Nissan remains committed to a successor to the existing Nissan 370Z , according to the company’s design boss. The current iteration of the iconic Z-car was introduced more than a decade ago and there has been speculation that it could simply be allowed to die off in the face of ever-tightening regulations on CO2 emissions and fuel efficiency. However, Nissan’s senior vice-president for Design, Alfonso Albaisa, said that the company would “never leave this alone”. When asked if he could envisage a successor to the 370Z, Albaisa replied, “It’s easy to imagine. The Z is the car that democratised sports cars back in the sixties. The current car has been a long time in the dealerships, and so you could imagine Giovanni Arroba (Nissan’s design boss for electric vehicles) and the designers working on it. “We could never leave this alone. It’s in our soul. You can feel this in other Nissan designs, like the new Ariya; it’s not just about fuel efficiency, it wants to be driven, for the love of driving”. Albaisa also confirmed that the Ariya itself is likely to reach production soon. “When we design a concept and give it a name (a name that doesn’t start with ‘I’ or ‘M’) then it’s getting close. It’s like when you visit the doctor and they’re able to tell you whether you’re going to have a boy or a girl; it’s time to give it a name. “I can’t give you a date because it’s a global car and things could change, but obviously we’re ready. I’m already tired of carrying this thing around”. +++ 

+++ Nissan is likely to axe its DATSUN brand, drop some unprofitable products and close a number of assembly lines worldwide as it seeks to boost profits by getting smaller, 2 company sources with direct knowledge of the matter said. Known internally as the “performance recovery plan”, the proposed steps mark a sharp break with Nissan’s strategy under ousted leader Carlos Ghosn, who pursued ambitious vehicle sales targets in the United States and other major markets. The plan is the Yokohama-based automaker’s latest attempt to pull itself out of crisis after Ghosn was arrested for financial misconduct. The scandal has further strained an already dysfunctional alliance with Renault and thrown Nissan into disarray as it finds itself on course to book its lowest operating profit in 11 years. The sources said Nissan will likely kill loss-making variants for the Titan full-size pickup. Unprofitable variants include the single-cab and diesel versions. A planned shuttering of underutilized production lines will most probably hit plants in emerging markets building Datsun and other small cars hardest, they added. “We need to chart a recovery but the rot goes deep”, one of the sources said of the many problems facing Nissan. The second source said all markets with factories except China were being looked at for possible reductions in production capacity. That source also said, however, that there were no plans to close an entire plant or withdraw completely from any country. In the United States, one of Nissan’s biggest markets, the plan calls for fresh efforts to weed out the practice of buying market share by selling vehicles to rental car and other fleet operators at heavy discounts; a practice which destroyed profitability and undermined Nissan’s brand image. “We’re trying to clean up what had happened in the past”, one of the sources said, adding that under Ghosn, Nissan sought to meet sales objectives at any cost, including “practically giving away cars” to fleet customers. A team led by Jun Seki, a senior vice president and incoming vice chief operating officer, is expected to unveil the wide-ranging plan this month though some aspects are still being finalised, said the sources, who were not authorized to speak to media and declined to be identified. Seki is part of a new management team that will see Makoto Uchida, Nissan’s head of China operations, take the helm; an appointment that is expected to take effect by January 1. The new steps follow plans unveiled in July to cut headcount by 12,500 globally by early 2023 and which also flagged cuts to production capacity. At the time, then-CEO Hiroto Saikawa said 14 facilities would be affected. Overall, the plan’s aim is to free up resources to focus more on the United States and China, the sources said. To that end it will roll back an aggressive expansionist strategy Ghosn set in motion under a 5-year plan called Power 88 which aimed to raise profit margins and global market share to 8 % by fiscal 2016; goals which were never achieved. The Datsun brand, revived for emerging markets under Ghosn after being phased out in the 1980s, will likely bear the brunt of the restructuring. The models are manufactured in Indonesia, India and Russia. The sources said problems emerged after Nissan began deploying the no-frills cars in 2014 in small markets such as Indonesia, India, Russia and South Africa where it also sells vehicles under its mainstay Nissan brand. In Indonesia, for example, after a relatively good start, Datsun cars soon began eating into Nissan sales. “We ended up pushing 2 mainstream brands in a market where you have a 1 % or 2 % market share. You cannot do that,” one of the sources said, adding that there had been similar outcomes in India, South Africa and Russia. In its bigger markets, a steady supply of new or significantly redesigned models (starting with the redesigned Altima which was launched in the United States late last year) is expected to help Nissan reset the way it prices its vehicles. “Still, it takes about a year to get any sort of tangible results”, one of the sources said, adding that until then the Japanese automaker would continue to see sales by volume fall in the U.S. market. +++ 

+++ New negotiations with the EUROPEAN UNION could be an alternative to imposing tariffs on automotive imports next month, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has suggested in an interview. President Donald Trump declared this year that some imported vehicles and parts posed a national security threat, but delayed a decision until November on whether to impose tariffs, so as to allow for more time for trade talks with the European Union. “One option would be to say, ‘ I’m just not going to do anything ’, the second would be to impose tariffs on some or all countries, the third might be some other form of negotiation”, Ross said, describing options being considered by Trump. The United States has begun slapping tariffs on EU imports worth an annual $7.5 billion, ranging from British whisky and French wine to Spanish olives and cheese from across the bloc, including Italy’s Parmigiano-Reggiano. Ross dismissed criticism of the step, saying the tariffs were not imposed unilaterally and that the measure was taken with the “full support” of the World Trade Organization. Commenting separately on trade talks with China, Ross said China was following through “in good faith” on assurances given in October to press ahead with large purchases of U.S. farm products. As the Trump administration’s general license for U.S. companies to sell to telecoms equipment maker Huawei Technologies expires in November, Ross told the newspaper this was not a hard deadline and could be altered. “The deadlines are within our control, we can shorten them, we can lengthen them, we can do whatever; at this point they are being treated separately and independently from the trade talks”, Ross said. +++ 

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA) will build a new battery assembly complex in its Mirafiori plant in Turin, with an initial investment of €50 million. Batteries produced in the new complex will be used by the new generation of full electric models that the company is planning to roll out, FCA said in a statement. The investment is part of a plan announced by FCA last year to spend €5 billion in Italy between 2019-2021 to help the group to launch its first electric and hybrid models and to fill capacity utilization at its Italian plants. Work on the new battery hub will start early next year, FCA said. Between 2020 and 2021, FCA is scheduled to launch a full electric version of its Fiat 500, Maserati’s first hybrid and electric models, hybrid models of Jeep’s Compass and Renegade and a light hybrid version of its Fiat Panda. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen will start deliveries of its new GOLF in December after shaving 1 hour off the time needed to build its flagship model, the board member responsible for production at the VW brand said. Volkswagen’s main factory in Wolfsburg, Germany is preparing to make 450,000 Golf cars a year with the manufacturing time of the 8th generation model sped up by 1 hour per vehicle, Andreas Tostmann told journalists in a call. Because VW is able to re-use 80 % of the tooling for its new model, it will invest a midsized triple-digit million euros amount in overhauling production, the carmaker said. Volkswagen Group’s MQB architecture helps the automaker to keep down production costs and reduce manufacturing time. The platform, which will underpin 50 million vehicles from VW Group brands over the new, second generation, helps the automaker to keep a tight lid on costs, says Tostmann. “Through an even higher standardization in machinery and processes, we succeeded in reducing investment by more than half versus its predecessor”, he told reporters during a press briefing. “Our platform strategy is delivering”, he said. The current Golf marked the switch to MQB from the previous PQ35 platform that only underpinned compact cars. As a result of the new car utilizing the same modular architecture, Tostmann said VW only needed to replace about 20 % of the equipment needed to build the body, largely tools to make design-specific parts like side paneling. Production will be centered now in Wolfsburg. Management had decided in August of last year to shift production out of two other VW plants in Zwickau, Germany, and Puebla, Mexico, with the end of the current 7th generation. Manufacturing time could also be reduced by about 4 %, according to Tostmann, despite adding further complexity to the vehicle including another 100 meters of cables and 31 more electrical connections. About 8,400 employees will build the latest Golf at the brand’s main German factory using roughly 2,700 individual parts. More than 35 million Golfs have been built since the first model debuted in 1974, proving a huge success and setting the benchmark in Europe’s compact hatchback segment. +++ 

+++ The latest-generation HONDA Jazz will be available in Basic, Home, Ness, Crosstar and Luxe trim levels. Upgrades enjoyed by the Home model over the Basic include a genuine leather-wrapped steering wheel and natural-looking fabric seats made from high-quality materials. One step up in the range takes you to the Ness that includes water-repellent materials for the seat surfaces and soft padding on the instrument cluster. Meanwhile, Crosstar models include 16 inch aluminum wheels while the range-topping Luxe adds genuine leather seats and platinum-style chrome plating across the exterior. Powertrain options have yet to be announced but Honda has said the hybrid version will come outfitted with its latest 2-motor hybrid system also set to be used by the CR-V. All new models, regardless of trim level, come standard with the latest Honda Sensing advanced safety and driver-assistive system that combines a front wide-view camera with eight sonar sonars across the front and rear of the vehicle to provide various driver assistance systems, including a short-distance collision mitigation braking system. Another headline for the new Jazz is the implementation of Honda’s new Connect onboard communication module that allows for remote control of some vehicle functions via smartphone, a support service that connects vehicles to a support center in an emergency, and a security ‘rush over’ service that dispatches a security guard if “an abnormal situation occurring to the vehicle is detected”. Sales of the new Jazz will start in February 2020 although the company has yet to confirm which markets will get the car. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI is zooming onto the self-driving scene. Following the leads of General Motors, Uber, Apple and the like, the South Korean carmaker just unveiled bold plans to invest in autonomous vehicles and other related systems. Despite the late start, well-chosen partners and support from Seoul give it a fighting chance. The race for dominance is well under way. Alphabet’s Waymo and GM Cruise, backed by SoftBank Group’s $100 billion Vision Fund, already clocked up more than 25,000 kilometres of hands-free rides last year, according to a 2018 report by a California government agency. Catching up won’t be easy. Unlisted parent company Hyundai Motor Group, effectively led by executive vice chairman Euisun Chung, said last week it would plough some $35 billion into developing new technologies through 2025. It optimistically plans to offer fully autonomous driving systems to taxi fleets and rival automakers in 3 years. There is understandable scepticism. Hyundai shares hardly budged after the announcement. The $26 billion company, which is due to report quarterly earnings soon, is already grappling with costly recalls and sluggish sales in its largest market, China. It also has a weak track record in new discoveries: last year, it spent less than 3 % of revenue on R&D, compared with nearly 7 % at Germany’s Volkswagen. Hyundai is shrewdly enlisting outside help. It recently announced a $1.6 billion investment (the group’s biggest one overseas) into a joint venture with Aptiv, a parts supplier and pioneer in self-driving cars. Closer to home, there is potential to cooperate with local peers: only Japan boasts more driverless tech patents per capita, according to KPMG. One possibility might be Samsung, which is also developing next-generation wireless communications and software. National champion status should help Hyundai, too. President Moon Jae-in’s government has vowed to provide systems and infrastructure to support completely driverless cars by 2024. It is offering an entire city for test drives, and the country’s mobile network is among the most robust in the world: 4G coverage reaches 96 % of the population. What’s more, Hyundai has time on its side. Driverless technology is new enough that no one can claim a decisive lead. There’s room yet for a dark horse. +++ 

+++ As global automakers race to put long-range electric vehicles on highways amid stricter emission laws, rivals from JAPAN are taking a niche approach and steering towards cheaper, pint-sized runabouts to make costly battery technology more accessible. At the Tokyo Motor Show, Nissan and others are due to show prototypes of 1- and 2-seater electric vehicles (EVs) designed for short distances with limited top speeds. They are betting such EVs are best-placed for Japan’s narrow streets, cramped parking spaces and rapidly ageing society, and that the vehicles will eventually catch on globally too as the elderly population grows. But the jury is still out on whether these vehicles will work overseas. The Japanese strategy is in contrast to that of General Motors, Volkswagen and other global players who are focusing on normal-sized passenger vehicles, including SUVs, to compete with the top-selling Tesla Model 3. Toyota’s new, ultra-compact BEV seats 2 people and has a top speed of just 60 km/h and a range of 100 kilometres on a single charge. At a length of 2.49 metres, it is a little over half the size of the Tesla Model 3. Japan’s top automaker, which pioneered green car technologies with the Prius more than 20 years ago, has long argued that all-battery EVs are best suited for short trips due to high battery costs. It also believes lower-emission hybrids and zero-emissions hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, like its second-generation Mirai, work better for longer-distance driving. “It’s difficult to apply the same technology to all driving needs”, said Akihiro Yanaka, a manager at Toyota’s EV product development and planning department, at a preview for the ultra-compact BEV, which goes on sale in Japan in late 2020. “So if we can leverage the strengths of battery electric technology into smaller vehicles, we’d like to initially focus on that application”. Nissan, Japan’s No.2 car maker, too is pushing its new IMk as a futuristic expression of a “kei”, or minicar. Kei cars, which represent about a third of all Japanese passenger car sales, are the low-cost, fuel-sipping vehicles marketed almost exclusively for the domestic market and normally start around $10,000. Toyota did not provide pricing details for the ultra-compact BEV. Honda is also pursuing a “smaller-is-better” strategy with its higher-priced E, a petite 4-seater battery electric hatchback launched earlier this year. Japanese automakers are not the only ones to see smaller EVs as the short-term solution to the high-cost and limited range of battery EVs. Small EVs have been on the global market for the past decade, since Daimler’s Smart brand launched a battery electric version of its Fortwo model. But they have yet to go mainstream partly due to a starting price north of $20,000, similar to many family-sized gasoline sedans, and a lack of demand in North America. Nissan and Toyota are for now planning their tiny EV models for the home market and see the possibility of marketing them overseas in the future, as emissions regulations tighten particularly in Europe and China. While it is unclear if these pint-sized cars will be able to find traction in, say, the sprawling suburbs and highways of the United States, some industry players believe these mini EVs will help meet a need for a wider range of mobility products as more people age worldwide. The need for small EVs is already being felt in Japan, which is “facing more issues involving elderly people and mobility, due to the rapidly ageing population”, said Satoshi Nagashima, managing partner at Roland Berger Japan. The consulting firm is exhibiting a low-speed, remote-controlled, compact EV at the Tokyo Motor Show. The car is aimed at shuttling passengers around hotel and venue grounds. “Small vehicles which run over shorter distances at lower speeds are becoming a particular niche here”, Nagashima said, adding that the sector could become the next battleground for automakers and other mobility companies. +++ 

+++ Jaguar Land Rover hasn’t been shy about their intentions to launch an assortment of electric vehicles, but most of the attention has been focused on Jaguar which has already introduced the I-Pace. LAND ROVER is also planning to launch electric vehicles and the first model will arrive in late 2021. The model is being developed alongside the Jaguar XJ and is rumored to target upcoming crossovers such as the Audi e-Tron Sportback. The crossover was previously known as the Road Rover, but it is now being referred to as the “medium SUV”. As the name suggests, the crossover will be a mid-sized model that will reportedly slot between the Evoque and Velar in terms of size. However, it is slated to have a lower roof and a sleeker front end to maximize its aerodynamics. Despite being smaller than the Velar, the packaging benefits of the electric vehicle architecture could mean the model will have a roomier cabin. We can also expect a number of high-tech features such as a digital instrument cluster and a Touch Pro Duo infotainment system. Little else is known about the model, but it is expected to be based on the Modular Longitudinal Platform and be the most road-focused Range Rover ever created. However, the crossover should retain some off-road cred as it is slated to have two electric motors and all-wheel drive. There’s no word on specifications at this point, but the platform has been designed to accommodate batteries with a capacity of up to 90.2 kWh. This means the model could have a range of up to 467 km on a single charge. +++ 

+++ LEXUS will launch its first all-battery electric vehicle next year, as the luxury brand races to market a battery-operated car amid growing competition to develop zero-emissions vehicles, the head of the brand said. At the unveiling of a concept model of a futuristic EV ahead of the Tokyo Motor Show, he added that the goal is for sales of Lexus electric vehicles, including battery electrics and gasoline hybrids, to outpace sales of the luxury brand’s gasoline vehicle models by 2025. The Lexus model will be Toyota’s first full-sized, battery operated passenger car as the Japanese automaker catches up with rivals, including Nissan and Tesla, which have marketed battery EVs for years. “Initially, we will release products in China, North America, and other regions where demand for ‘pure’ EVs is high”, Lexus international president Yoshihiro Sawa told reporters, adding that the brand would announce details for the upcoming model next month. Global automakers are expanding their vehicle offerings to include more electrified models to comply with tightening global emissions regulations, but demand for more environmentally friendly cars has been growing slowly due to their high price. +++ 

+++ NISSAN says it will begin making the next-generation Juke vehicle at Britain’s biggest car plant on Monday, just before a possible no-deal Brexit which the industry has warned could bring production to a halt. Nissan decided in 2015, before the 2016 referendum was even held, to make the latest version of the sport utility vehicle at its northern English Sunderland factory, reflecting how major decisions are made years in advance. The Japanese company, which was encouraged by prime minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s to use Britain as a gateway to the Continent, has spent 100 million pounds on the latest investment in Juke with 70 % of the output for EU markets. “35 years ago Nissan decided to create a plant in the UK to serve our European markets”, said Nissan’s Europe Chairman Gianluca de Ficchy. “The new Juke represents a further 100 million pound investment in our Sunderland plant and is designed, engineered and manufactured in the UK for European customers”, he added. The factory is also due to build the new Qashqai from next year but the firm has previously said it could review that 2016 decision especially if there is a change to “free trade agreements”. Nissan’s then Europe manufacturing boss Colin Lawther told lawmakers in 2017: “As those circumstances change, and we will not wait until the end of the process, we will continually review the decisions that we take based on anything that materially changes”. Prime minister Boris Johnson has said he is prepared to take Britain out of the European Union without an agreement but is seeking a deal with the bloc, although time is running out to secure an orderly departure before the Oct. 31 deadline. The car industry fears that a no-deal Brexit will add tariffs on vehicles, engines and components as well as introduce customs delays which could rapidly stop production and risk the long-term viability of British sites. Ministers have said they are prepared for a no-deal outcome and could help affected sectors. Brexiteers have long argued that Europe’s biggest economy, Germany, which exports hundreds of thousands of cars to Britain each year, would protect that trade. Nissan is ending the night shift at the Sunderland plant and the overall headcount of staff will be a little lower at around 6,000 as it focuses on ramping up the new vehicle. +++ 

+++ The PSA Group reported a rise in third-quarter revenue on strong demand for its pricier SUV models, but the French carmaker said overall vehicle sales fell, and it lowered outlook for major auto markets. The Peugeot and Citroen manufacturer, which bought Opel-Vauxhall from General Motors in 2017, said revenue for the July to September period rose 1 % to €15.6 billion. The company said sales of larger and more profitable SUV models like the Citroen C5 Aircross helped improve its product mix and offset headwinds like unfavourable currency swings. At a time when China is battling with the impact of a protracted trade war with the United States and slowing economic growth, vehicle unit sales in China plunged 41 % in the quarter. Global vehicle unit sales fell 4 % to 674,500, hurt in part by weakening performance in Europe. PSA said it expected the broader auto market to shrink this year in all major markets, including in Russia, where it had previously projected growth. Carmakers globally suffer from a slump in demand in emerging markets and are straining to meet stringent new emission targets, pushing them to invest in cleaner models and technologies, as well as consider potential tie-ups. PSA’s French rival Renault cut its 2019 revenue forecast last week and flagged a fall in third quarter revenue, saying it was doubling down on its alliance with Nissan to make savings. +++ 

+++ RENAULT ’s growing litany of woes could nudge the French carmaker to reduce its stake in Nissan; a step that would help ease their strained relations. The possibility of a shareholding deal with the Japanese company was driven home by analysts after a tumultuous week for Renault. A profit warning and subsequent drubbing of the share price followed on the heels of a top management shake-up, laying bare how ill-prepared the French carmaker may be for a downturn in the sector. “Renault may need to consider selling assets including Nissan shares to defend its balance sheet”, Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois wrote in a note, pointing to a possible dividend cut and concerns about weak cash flow. A stake sale would go a long way in resolving the lopsided cross-shareholding structure that stands at the heart of a dispute between the partners. The tension has served to undermine a further deepening of their operational ties that could help ease investment in electric and autonomous cars. The “only positive read” into Renault’s profit warning would be that the financial problems trigger a sell-down of its Nissan holding, according to Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst. Yet this option “at a point of weakness would certainly not be very convincing”. Renault and Nissan representatives didn’t return requests for comment on their shareholding structure. Renault owns 43 % of Nissan with voting rights, while Nissan has a 15 % stake in Renault without them. The Japanese company has pushed for a lowering of Renault’s share, which the French firm has resisted. Both companies’ shares have weakened since former boss Carlos Ghosn’s Nov. 19 arrest, which deepened their mutual suspicion and nearly unraveled an alliance built on the promise of cost savings. While the head of the French state’s shareholding agency, Martin Vial, in August didn’t reject the idea of possible modifications to their ties, or even a potential cut to France’s 15 % stake in Renault, there has been no public indication progress is being made. The French carmaker set a gloomy tone for the European automotive sector by slashing its outlook for revenue and profit, saying weakening economies are weighing on car sales and tougher rules on emissions have increased costs. It has also been hurt by Nissan’s lower earnings. The bad news came less than a week after the board dramatically removed CEO Thierry Bollore, replacing him temporarily with chief financial officer Clotilde Delbos. The interim leader said on a conference call about the profit warning that the company “desperately needs” continuing cooperation within the alliance that also includes Mitsubishi in order to share costs. 2 days earlier, in a video address to staff, she called management changes atop both companies “a very good sign that we’re going to continue to strengthen the synergies between Renault and Nissan”. Ghosn built the 3-way alliance with the promise of savings including through the development of common platforms to build cars. At a time when manufacturers are racing to roll out electric and more autonomous cars, deeper cooperation between the companies would reduce costs. Tougher emissions rules in Europe have also raised investment requirements. Yet getting their cooperation back on track could be a more distant prospect. “We struggle to identify a quick fix in a depleted macro environment”, MainFirst analyst Pierre-Yves Quemener wrote in a note. Renault needs to step up cost-cutting plans and stabilize governance, with an overhaul of the alliance coming in a longer time frame, he said. +++ 

+++ SUZUKI has revised downward its earnings projections for the year through March 2020, bracing for sales and profit falls, as its mainstay Indian market remains sluggish. Suzuki lowered the fiscal 2019 consolidated sales estimate to ¥3.5 trillion from the previously anticipated ¥3.9 trillion. The new estimate represents a 9.6 % drop from the previous year, according to the company’s announcement. The automaker also slashed the operating profit projection to ¥200 billion from ¥330 billion, foreseeing a 38.3 % slump from the previous year. Its recurring profit is now forecast at ¥220 billion, down from ¥340 billion, and the net profit at ¥140 billion, down from ¥200 billion. The dismal outlook also reflected a fall in domestic sales after the company cut production in the wake of a vehicle inspection scandal, as well as the yen’s strengthening versus the dollar and the Indian rupee. +++ 

+++ TESLA is conducting trial production runs at its new $2 billion China factory for the past several weeks and will sell some of the first cars from the plant to its employees, sources told. Whether billionaire Elon Musk’s flagship company can start mass production quickly enough to hit stated targets is the question investors will want an answer to when Tesla announces third-quarter results. The U.S. electric vehicles maker is under pressure to ramp up output globally, and the Shanghai plant’s production schedule is crucial if it wants to reach its ambitious target of an annualized production rate of 500,000 vehicles by the end of the year. Tesla last week obtained the certificate it needs to start manufacturing cars in the country. But analysts contend that uncertainties around labor and suppliers make it a challenge to start mass production. “There is a lot in the equation that is not in their control”, said Tu Le, analyst at China-based research firm Sino Auto Insights. “There are some things that just need time in order to complete, like qualifying new manufacturing processes, a new battery supplier, getting the tooling shipped and set up, as well as setting up all the suppliers. Any parts that have to be imported need to go through customs, which also could mean delays”, he said. Tesla is also in the process of obtaining a key certification needed to sell China-made cars in the country, it told local media, though it is unclear when the government will grant it sales clearance. It said in April it aims to produce at least 1,000 Model 3 cars a week at the new factory by the end of this year. Analysts, though, are doubtful that Tesla will hit this target, given its patchy production record. Delays and quality issues have marred the launches of Model S and Model X vehicles in the past, and Tesla struggled to start here making the Model 3 at its California factory in 2017. The company took six months longer than originally forecast to hit a target of 5,000 Model 3 cars per week, achieving that pace about a year after launching production. Still, Tesla is taking steps to ensure a smooth launch of production, including trying to diversify its battery supplier base, sources have said. It recently bought Maxwell Technologies, whose technology could help the car maker produce batteries that last longer. At hiring events in Shanghai in August and September, Tesla interviewed hundreds of candidates from mainstream car makers in China. It also advertised on social media for battery-related production and software system engineers in Shanghai, and delivery managers in big Chinese cities. China, for its part, is helping speed up things at the Shanghai factory; the country’s first fully foreign-owned car plant, a reflection of Beijing’s broader shift to open up its auto market. State-owned construction companies have arranged extra workforce and banks are offering cheap loans, while the government said it will exempt Tesla cars from its purchase tax, a concession made amidst trade tensions with the United States. The Model 3 has fared well in China, the world’s biggest car market. Tesla sales in China likely surged more than 3-fold to 10,542 cars in the quarter ended Sept. 30, according to research firm LMC Automotive. The company expects to deliver 360,000 to 400,000 cars this year globally. Analysts expect Tesla’s third-quarter revenue to decline 7 % from the year-ago quarter. They predict a loss, excluding one-time items, in contrast to Musk’s promises that the company would break even in the quarter. Gross margins likely shrank to 15.6 % from 22.3 %. “The biggest overhang around the story is the ability to hit profitability and to achieve its ambitious unit guidance for 2019”, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a pre-earnings research note. +++ 

+++ Electric vehicles and cars designed for short trips are in the spotlight at the TOKYO MOTOR SHOW as automakers face growing pressure to address vehicle emissions and develop a growth strategy that will help them to overcome Japan’s shrinking market. The participation of fewer foreign manufactures, however, reflects the changing role of auto shows. Carmakers are turning to new ways to market to consumers such as social media while they continue to invest aggressively in research and development to keep up with evolving mobility trends. While connectivity, autonomous driving, car-sharing and electric powertrains continue to be the major trends across the industry, battery-powered cars designed for short trips are being showcased by Japanese manufacturers. Toyota is featuring an ultracompact electric 2-seater car mainly targeted at elderly drivers and an indoor mobility device in which the user is transported in a standing position, both expected to go on sale in late 2020. The company is aiming to have electric vehicles accounting for more than half its global sales by around 2025, or about 5.5 million units, including 1 million EVs and vehicles using fuel cell technology, which converts hydrogen and oxygen into electricity. Toyota also brought to the show an updated Mirai, which in 2014 became the world’s first mass-produced fuel cell car, touting a 30 % increase in its driving range. Honda is displaying its first compact EV, the E. The model can provide useful information to the driver using artificial intelligence technologies. “EV vehicles will comprise twothirds of our global sales by 2030”, Honda president and CEO Takahiro Hachigo said at a press briefing. Nissan unveiled its concept mini electric car IMk for urban transportation. It features an assistance system that enables the driver to park the vehicle remotely using a smartphone. The company, which has been struggling to rebuild its brand image since the arrest in November of its former chairman Carlos Ghosn over alleged financial misdeeds, is also displaying the Ariya concept EV crossover, which enables hands-off driving while cruising on a highway. Suzuki is introducing its concept car Hanare, which means “detached room” in Japanese. It has neither a driver’s seat nor steering wheel, with only passenger seats and a large display installed in the cabin. “We have to change ourselves in line with the changing times to create new values and services for customers”, Suzuki president Toshihiro Suzuki told. Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, and Renault are the only foreign automakers taking part in the Tokyo show in 2019. Akio Toyoda, chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, told reporters last month that motor shows “have been less attractive in the digital age as a means to promote sales”. The biennial motor show has seen falling attendance figures, with the number dropping to 771,200 in 2017 from 812,500 in 2015. In a bid to attract more families and young generations to the show, the organizer will hold an event named “Future Expo”, featuring an e-motorsports video game competition and events jointly organized with KidsZania Tokyo to give children opportunities to experience jobs in the auto industry. +++ 

+++ To make its new portfolio of electric vehicles less costly to create and more efficient to build, TOYOTA has created a dedicated platform called e-TNGA; a play on the name of the company’s Toyota New Global Architecture modular platform. But it would have to be a flexible platform. Toyota now wants a wide spectrum of EVs to compete in the market. “What I proposed was a platform idea like a radio-controlled model car, where you have a battery, motor and chassis that can be combined to produce different types of vehicles”, project chief engineer Koji Toyoshima told. “The parts of the car are all produced as modules”. Toyoshima divided the car into several modules, for the front, center, rear, battery and motor. The idea is to mix and match these building blocks into different body types. That approach will support rearwheel-drive, frontwheel-drive and allwheel-drive layouts, Toyoshima said. And the platform can be scaled up or down to create small, medium and large vehicles. The center module controls the size. It can be expanded to accommodate bigger batteries. Those batteries will range from 50 kWh to 100 kWh, Toyoshima said. They will be mated to 2 types of motors, small or medium. Motor output will range from 109 hp to 204 hp. Small EVs should achieve a fully charged driving range of 300 km. For larger vehicles, such as an envisioned crossover, the range could reach 600 km maximum, Toyoshima said. Initially, Toyota’s EVs will run on lithium ion batteries. But Toyota is also banking on a breakthrough in solid-state batteries. That technology promises lighter, more powerful and safer batteries and could spur demand for the EVs by giving them greater range. Toyota intends to show evidence of its progress in solid-state batteries next summer. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN GROUP ’s sales in China are showing signs of stabilizing. While the overall Chinese new-car market contracted 6.3 % from a year earlier, its local deliveries slid only 0.2 % to 384,100 in September. The Volkswagen brand helped VW Group mitigate the headwinds in the market. Last month, the brand delivered 287,000 vehicles in China, increasing 3.3 % from a year earlier. But Audi sales dipped 3.3 % to 63,593. The VW Group did not disclose China deliveries of its other brands last month. For the first 3 quarters, its group-wide sales in China decreased 2.8 % from a year earlier to around 2.96 million. In the period, deliveries at VW brand slid 2.1 % to 2.19 million while sales at Skoda slumped 22 % to 194,500. By contrast, sales at Audi edged up 1.7 % to top 491,000 while deliveries at Porsche increased 14 % to exceed 64,200. Despite the slide in its group-wide sales in China in the first 3 quarters, it gained market share in the overall local new-car market, which contracted 10 % in the period. “The VW Group has increased its market share to more than 19 % in the Chinese auto market”, a spokesman said. For 2018, It’s share of the Chinese new-car market was 17.8 %. +++ 

+++ YAMAHA has confirmed it has suspended all car projects indefinitely, having concluded that it would struggle to deliver a unique selling point for any of the vehicles it developed in collaboration with Gordon Murray Design. The firm showed 2 car concepts at Tokyo motor shows in 2013 and 2015, the Motiv and the Sports Ride Concept, both based around Murray’s iStream manufacturing system. The latter car stood out in particular for using carbonfibre in its construction, promising huge rigidity and an impressive power-to-weight ration for the car. Although exact details were not revealed, it was rumoured to have weighed less than 900 kg. Although McLaren F1 designer Murray had said the iStream system could be employed profitably for production volumes of between 1.000 and 350.000 cars, Yamaha spokesman Naoto Horie confirmed that the projects would not proceed, with the firm preferring to focus on smaller, more bike-like mobility concepts if it strayed from its core motorcycle projects. “Cars do not feature in our long-term plans any more”, said Horie. “That is a decision taken by president Hidaka for the foreseeable future, as we could not see a way to develop either car to make it stand out from the competition, which is very strong. The sports car in particular had great appeal for us as enthusiasts, but the marketplace is particularly difficult. We now see other opportunities”. +++

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